After the Facebook fiasco and their little research on human behaviour, it seems that its time for OkCupid, the online dating service, to do the same. The service is said to have admitted that it too had manipulated what is shows users in order to see what would happen.
Three examples of the experiment are said to have been posted by OkCupid’s co-founder, Christian Rudder, in an article entitled “We Experiment On Human Beings!”. It can be viewed over at the site’s OkTrends blog.
“OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing,” said Rudder. “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.”
It is said that when talking about Facebook and its experiment that involved manipulating users’ news feeds in order to study their real-life reactions, Rudder stated the following:
“Guess what, everybody,” he says, “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.”
The first experiment is said to have happened in January 2013, when the website removed all user images and called it “Love is Blind Day”. The user count is said to have been low on that day, but those who were online proved to have responded 44% more often to messages.
The second one involved the user’s rating, a score given to them by other users. Rudder attempted to see how much the user’s profile image counts when rating someone by presenting a small subset of users with their profile text hidden. He stated to have found that only 10% of the typical user’s score is based on what they write about themselves, while 90% is based on the profile image.
The final experiment is stated to have been more “controversial”, having OkCupid tweak with the users’ “match” rating. It is basically used to show people’s “compatibility” rating based on the information given by the user.
“In the back of our minds, there’s always been the possibility: maybe it works just because we tell people it does. Maybe people just like each other because they think they’re supposed to? Like how Jay-Z still sells albums?” Rudder stated
OkCupid has then tweaked the compatibility ratings for most of its users and noticed how many single messages led to a full conversation. The experiment noted that most users do not talk to each other due to the low compatibility ration, for example 20% or 30%. Change those to a 90% and it seems that ‘weird things happen’.
All in all, what Facebook and OkCupid did are far from ethical, but it still underlines a solid truth in all. When information is available on the internet, we tend to trust it more than we trust ourselves. Do we really need a webpage or app to tell us who to love or what to believe in?