In case you couldn’t tell from all the numbers, algorithms, and equations going on over at OKCupid, the website is experimenting on you. They admitted as much in a blog post titled We Experiment on Human Beings! that was posted on their site blog earlier today. From OKCupid:
I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website. It’s not like people have been building these things for very long, or you can go look up a blueprint or something. Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out…
We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook “experimented” with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.
Did you know that UPROXX started as an experiment to see if it were possible to breed a chicken that came pre-fried? Results were ghastly and everyone involved decided to start a site talking about Justin Bieber instead.
The experiments conducted ranged from removing profile pictures for a short period of time to seeing just how powerful an image could be when rating a personality. The best by far is the final experiment where everyone finds out that bullsh*t sells better than anything. From Mashable:
The final experiment examined the power of suggestion in the site’s matchmaking process. The site changed the results of its match algorithm to tell users who were actually judged to be incompatible that they were, in fact, highly compatible. The study found users who were told they were well-matched were much more likely to exchange messages and interact with one another, even if they were actually incompatible by the site’s own metrics.
While this may seem counterintuitive for a site that purports to give users personalized recommendations based on their personality traits, Rudder says the experiment revealed that while actual compatibility is ideal, the suggestion of compatibility can be just as effective.
“If you have to choose only one or the other, the mere myth of compatibility works just as well as the truth,” he wrote.
In light of the discovery that Facebook experimented on its users recently, you would think that users would be upset and disgusted by basically being turned into lab rats. You be wrong, of course, but it’s still nice to think that for a moment.
Based on the few comments on the blog, users are thus far neither creeped out nor upset by OkCupid’s brand of human experimentation. They found the data to be funny and “kinda depressing.” (via)
Some point out the difference between experimenting for a third party and experimenting for your own use. It’s a little less shady the way OKCupid does it, but it still raises some alarm bells to me. I guess people will be deleting their profiles now? Or is that just another experiment, showing your users that it’s kind of a sham and seeing if they’ll stick around anyway.