Follow the Filter Bubble

Algorithmic dating: OKCupid’s 10 most divisive questions

/ May 12th, 2011 /

As The Filter Bubble describes, OKCupid takes the logic of Google personalized search and applies it to the search for love (or, at minimum, sex). A friend there was kind enough to send me the list of the 10 questions that most evenly divide OKCupid users into groups — a key part of the personalization process. (This isn’t necessarily the order in which viewers see them.)

They’re pretty intense — especially the last, which is a doozy. But when it comes to increasing the match rate, they seem to work. Here they are.

1. What’s your deal with harder drugs (not marijuana)?

  • I do drugs regularly.
  • I do drugs occasionally.
  • I’ve done drugs in the past, but no longer.
  • I never do drugs.

2. How often do you keep your promises?

  • My word is my bond.  No exceptions.
  • Whenever possible
  • Usually
  • When convenient

3. Do you take prevention of STD transmission seriously (making sure your partner has been tested, using protection, being upfront if you’re at risk, etc.)?

  • Yes
  • No

4. If you were in a serious relationship and you learned that your partner cheated on you one drunken night, could you forgive him/her?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
  • I don’t believe in monogamy

5. Is it ever ok for a man to hit a woman?

  • Yes
  • Only in self-defense.
  • No

6. To you, is abortion an option in case of an unwanted accidental pregnancy?

  • Yes
  • No

7. Are you looking for a partner to have children with?

  • Yes
  • No

8. Is homosexuality a sin?

  • Yes
  • No

9. Does smoking disgust you?

  • Yes
  • No

10. You have just discovered that your eight year old daughter has been raped. The most important thing to do now is….

  • Punish the violator, legally or otherwise
  • Comfort the child
  • Get past this as quickly as possible
  • Handle this quietly


News on Google, then and now

/ May 4th, 2011 /

Google has learned a thing or two in the past ten years: Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan has put together a fascinating post comparing screen shots of Google search results from the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks with results following the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death on Sunday night.

The differences are stark. A full six hours after the 9/11 attacks, Google’s search results for “World Trade Center” still gave no indication that anything was amiss. The company resorted to using ad space for news updates, and its home page told users “If you are looking for news, you will find the most current information on TV or radio.”

Cut to today: since Google’s search results now include social media updates and news stories, users looking for news about bin Laden on Sunday night were able to get up-to-the-minute information.

These are, needless to say, major improvements. But it’s worth noting another big change at Google since 2001 that doesn’t advance the cause of an informed citizenry: the company now automatically personalizes everyone’s search results. In all likelihood, Sullivan’s search results for “Osama bin Laden” on Sunday night were different from mine, which were different from yours.

We might hope that for a story this big, Google would scale back the whole personalization thing a bit. After all, it’s one thing to personalize the results of two people in different cities searching for “movie theater” — it’s another to serve up different results to two people who are trying to get timely, reliable information about a news story of international significance. But while researching the book, we discovered that Google does personalize results for these kinds of Big Stories: when the BP oil spill was dominating headlines last summer, we found that one person searching for “BP” mostly got links to news stories about the spill, while another got investment and financial information about the company. And, as Eli demonstrated in his TED talk, one Googler who searched for “Egypt” during the recent protests got lots of news results, while another got links to travel sites and the CIA World Factbook.

As Eli puts it, there simply is no standard Google anymore — not even for major stories like these.






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