ONLINE DATING: A Lesson in Big Data Volume

Big Data isn’t all about big business.

Online dating is a great example of the Volume principle of Big Data. Dating itself is a data challenge: physical attributes, personality, relative location, income, and interests. Is it the high school sweetheart? Love at work or play? Love at first sight? Or years of hits and misses?  Who and where is the Soul Mate?

Sharif Corinaldi, a Berkeley theoretical physics graduate student, put his computer hacking skills to the test for his heart. He recently shared his online dating experience both as a post for The Guardian and as an algorithm on

The Set Up

Basically (if I understand him correctly) Sharif created an algorithm to use a computer to search for potential dates in his stead because he determined that given his requirements, the time involved to actually search himself was too lengthy. (Too little Return on Investment)

After letting the initial program run, he was disappointed with his results. Between his

female pickiness” (fem_Pck) and “creepiness tolerance” (creep_Tol), my model had determined I’d have to look through 600-700 profiles a night to have any hope of being exposed to Ms Right before she got fed up, burnt out and sequestered herself off in a nunnery, or at least got back with her ex.” – The Guardian 

Let It Go

The beauty of Big Data Volume kicked in though when he left the program to continue browsing profiles, inadvertently removing the specified likes and dislikes.

views didn’t pay attention to body type, race, or age, and mostly visited women that had just joined the site, or women that were high matches for me, many of them left wanting for attention by the usual online meat market. – The Guardian

With the filter removed, in one night he got more attention than 3 months of searching. By allowing ALL the data to flow through, he broke the biases that had formed within the dating sites … and his own ideas on date prospects. In the chaos that ensued, a signal appeared. He went from zero to 3 or 4 dates per week.

What exactly was the high volume?

On the first date with his future girlfriend, the jig was up. She pointed out that he had viewed her site over 100 times a day, which might have been creepy … but for the same was true for her roommate.

His successfully repeated the algorithm experiment with close friends, one of whom found out he was attractive to nurses.

As for his new girlfriend, she actually lived two blocks down from him in San Francisco and worked at a coffee shop around the corner.

Pulling the Filters 

Before Big Data, placing filters in data was often necessary because of the limited capability of human understanding and computer computational capacity. With Big Data processes and tools, the shift to total data ingestion provides richer solution sets.

Just by showing a little interest in women I would have otherwise ignored, an algorithm changed my romantic life

In Sharif’s search for love shows, quite possibly the right answer is in front, hidden only behind our own preconceptions.