Mathematicians aren't renowned for their social skills. But in a quest to find love, Chris McKinlay from UCLA realised he could use his analytical skills to his advantage—by hacking dating site OkCupid.
Wired has a great feature about how the 35-year-old PhD student decided he "should be dating like a mathematician." Realising his compatibility, as calculated by OkCupid, with women in Los Angeles was "abysmal," he decided to change things. Wired explains how:
While his dissertation work continued to run on the side, he set up 12 fake OkCupid accounts and wrote a Python script to manage them. The script would search his target demographic (heterosexual and bisexual women between the ages of 25 and 45), visit their pages, and scrape their profiles for every scrap of available information: ethnicity, height, smoker or nonsmoker, astrological sign—"all that crap," he says.
To find the survey answers, he had to do a bit of extra sleuthing. OkCupid lets users see the responses of others, but only to questions they've answered themselves. McKinlay set up his bots to simply answer each question randomly—he wasn't using the dummy profiles to attract any of the women, so the answers didn't matter—then scooped the women's answers into a database.
Sadly, such behaviour gets noticed—and stamped out—by OkCupid, but that didn't stop McKinlay making his bots appear more human. In turn, he finally managed to harvest the kind of data that led him to find his "golden cluster" of women: the group in which he might stand a chance of finding true love.
Image by Alice Bartlett under Creative Commons license