Home » How I Gamed Online Data to Meet My Match: Amy Webb at TEDxMidAtlantic (Transcript)

How I Gamed Online Data to Meet My Match: Amy Webb at TEDxMidAtlantic (Transcript)

Outside the restaurant, he tried to shake my hand and I said, “This is interesting, thank you.” And I started to walk towards my car and Steve ambled laboriously behind me and as he’s walking, said, “Do you smoke?” and I said, “No, I don’t”.

“So do you mind if I do?”

And I thought, “At this point, am I going to be able to stop him?”

So he pulls out of his pocket this thing, this giant thing that didn’t quite look like a cigarette and didn’t quite look like a cigar; it was in fact a giant joint a roadside flare of weed. And out in the middle of everybody he lit this thing up and asked me if I wanted to take a puff. Okay. So obviously this was a terrible date but it’s one of just many many terrible dates and after each I would go home; I would call my mom, I would call my sister, and tell them what an awful time that I had had, and they said every single time, “Stop complaining! You’re just being too picky.”

And I thought,”That’s ridiculous”. Right, I’m gonna start showing them empirically that these are really terrible dates. So I’m going to do three things. I agreed to continue with my grandmother’s advice to date everybody until ‘least expect’ my way into true love, but I did that with some parameters. I would only meet men at bars that I knew had wi-fi. I carried a giant bag with me and my laptop inside where, once we were at the date they would invariably go terribly terribly wrong. I would pull out an email template that I had created in advance where I had different data points that I would track so that, when the date went bad I could show with empirical evidence and quantitatively why this entire thing was a ridiculous exercise.

So I would send out these email templates and I was tracking things like the number of times the guy tried to high-five me. If you want to touch me, by all means, touch me, but don’t force me to stick my hand in the air. And the number of times he abused the English language and over time I had amassed quite a bit of data. And that allowed me to make some correlations. For example — For example, the number of times I got high fived the more times that guy was to abuse the English language. The more shots he ordered, the more likely he was to lie about his job.

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And speaking of alcohol, for some reason, and I still can’t figure out why, Scotch drinkers were more likely to immediately talk about kinky sex right when we sat down, than anybody else. And this may not be surprising, but lawyers were 62% more likely to pull up their mobile phone and stare into it than me, and compared to some of the other people that I went out with.

Now listen, these weren’t necessarily bad guys; they were just bad for me but the problems, actually were the dating algorithms that we’ve all come to rely on those of us who are online. Now to be sure, algorithms in dating are actually not a new thing in history; we’ve had matchmakers in every culture and my culture is Jewish and we had matchmakers, too and the matchmakers for us would be looking at things like whether or not the girl and the boy would get along, what the rabbi would say, whether the community would agree, whether or not they’d have kids and even I, in the process of setting up my friends and coworkers when asked had sort of my own formula that I was using.

Would they have the same interests? Would they get along? And what was the probability that this entire thing was gonna become a pain in my ass for which I’d be paying later on. So I want to fast forward to the worst date ever and I’m gonna spare you the details but let’s summarize by saying I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes and went through a whole bottle of wine in a short amount of time.

And then in my drunken state called my sister and I said, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m finished with online dating sites.”

And she said to me, “Don’t do that. Don’t you remember Mary Poppins?”

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I said, “What are you talking about? Mary Poppins?”

And she said, “Remember in the movie how the kids had gone through all of those nannies and none of them worked and what did they do?” Does anybody remember? They made a list. Right? Those two kids started writing down every single possible thing they could want in a nanny and once they had that list it wound up going up a chimney and poof! Mary Poppins appeared. And I thought, “That’s it, Hillary You’ve nailed it. I’m going to stop “least expecting” all of this. I’m going to create my own Mary Poppins list to find a husband.”

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