February 2, 2018

Hi, my name is Erika, and I’m a math nerd.

Hi, my name is Erika, and I’m a dating coach.

Yep, same person. The strangeness of my skillset is not lost on me. When feasible, I try to combine these two sides. (I actually started my business based on data I gathered and learned from in my own online dating experience. And how did I collect this data? In a spreadsheet, of course!)

In trying to keep up with the ever-changing world of online dating, sites these days have to differentiate themselves. When every site seems like a knock-off of another (Tinder, Bumble, JSwipe, I’m looking at you), how can an existing dating site or app make itself stand out?

Hinge took a stab at it, getting rid of its “swiping” functionality and touting itself as the “relationship app” as of the end of 2016. Then, it added a series of prompts for users to answer. On apps like Tinder and Bumble, there’s simply a blank box where you can write anything you like (or nothing at all, though I wouldn’t recommend that), but on Hinge, there are now three spaces for you to write something about yourself. And each of those spaces offers the same 49 prompts. (What’s up, Hinge? Couldn’t think of a 50th choice??) Some of my favorites of these prompts are ones where a user’s answer can be truly unique:

• Fact about me that surprises people
• I’m actually legitimately bad at
• Two truths and a lie
• A secret only my pet knows about me

So many of my clients and friends say to me, “I don’t know what to write!” or “Everyone writes the same thing!” With all of those prompts, and assuming someone doesn’t use the same one twice, then there are a whopping 18,424 combinations. (In math terms, it’s a combination, or 49 choose 3.) In other words, just pick three interesting prompts, and they likely won’t be the same as anyone else’s you’re looking for. And then write something fun in them. For example:

• I’m actually legitimately bad at: Reaching high shelves… I’m only 5’1!

• Two truths and a lie: 1) I sing the National Anthem at sporting events, 2) I was born in Alaska, 3) I traveled to India and France in the same year.

• A secret only my pet knows about me: Since I work for myself, I often find myself working in my pajamas. In bed. With a cup of coffee. Or a whiskey. No shame.

OkCupid (OkC), which is owned by The Match Group (as is Tinder, OurTime, Plenty of Fish, and many others), very recently followed suit with the interchangeable, dropdown choices for question prompts. For a long time, OkC had 10 prompts, in this order:

1. My Self-Summary
2. What I’m doing with my life
3. I’m really good at…
4. The first things people usually notice about me
5. Favorite books, music, movies, shows, and food
6. The six things I could never do without
7. I spend a lot of time thinking about
8. On a typical Friday night, I am…
9. The most private thing I’m willing to admit
10. You should message me if

The site then got rid of #4 (good—everyone said “my smile”) and #9 (bad—this one generated funny responses) for new users who sign up for the site. As a note, if someone still has these questions answered, you know he or she has been on the site for quite a while.

As of earlier this month, OkC is back up to 10 prompts, and each one has six different choices, spanning from “I could probably beat you at” (ping pong for me) to “This item makes me feel at home” (my cross-stitched welcome sign that I made) to “My weirdest quirk” (too many for me to name).

To apply the same calculation as we did for Hinge, it’s a little more difficult since each question has its own set of six prompts, meaning that there are actually over 60 million combinations of prompts that someone could use. But, most people on the site aren’t going to bother changing their answers (laziness, etc.), so let’s say, they are actually choosing between the original question prompt and one of the others, all counting as the same. Then, for the 10 questions, there are essentially two choices for each—the current prompt or the new prompt—and you have a 1 in 1024 chance of answering all of the same questions as someone else.

Why should we care? Well, it’s now much easier to differentiate yourself on these sites, simply by not choosing the default. For example, I wrote a client’s Hinge profile today and used these:
– My dream job if money didn’t matter
– Fact about me that surprises people
– Do you agree or disagree that

Simply by scrolling through the choices and finding ones that best suit her life, she is thereby unique. And you can be, too. No more excuses—just dates.

A Math Nerd Tackles Hinge and OkCupid

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