Amidst the furor over the recent Ashley Madison data breach was the noticeably lopsided demographic of the sites userbase. The site was predominantly used by men, with what few women there were on the site appearing to be rather dubious in terms of their authenticity.
Aside from the ethics involved either in using the site or releasing the data, this may say a lot about how women approach online dating. It may well be something therefore that the founders of Bumble are hoping to tap into.
A classier form of online dating
The makers believe that their algorithms have found a way to find the idiots that make loiter on the site, and ensure they’re kept well away from you.
In an interesting shift from the dating norm, it is only female members that can initiate conversations, with the hope being that it cuts down on unwanted advances and places power firmly in the hands of the woman.
Every interaction on the site is tracked, with good behaviors rewarded with an enhanced status called VIBee, which is a strong signal that the person is a decent sort.
Whereas other dating sites might apply filters based upon ones income or education however, VIBee status is purely based on how we act on the app. The hope is that it provides a truer reflection of who we are as characters.
“Their pre-vetting is based on what you do outside the app and where you went to school, our pre-vetting is about how you behave in the app,” the founders say. “If you didn’t graduate from Harvard you can still earn your way in.”
The hope is that by rewarding good behaviors, it allows us to make slightly more informed and deeper connections with potential mates. These good behaviors include responding promptly to messages and judicious use of your swipe. Whether these are accurate enough indicators as to the suitability of someone of course is very much open to dispute. It’s something the product team are confident about however.
“We were able to look into user activity and see who was consistently responding to messages, people who have never been reported for inappropriate behavior, people who made sure their profiles were a fun reflection of themselves, etc,” they say. “VIBee was really created as the first step to rewarding these users.”
There are roughly one million users signed up to the site, with slightly more female members than male at the moment.
The app is part of a rapidly growing trend towards understanding people based upon our digital behaviors. Compared to the inputs from other such projects, I’m not convinced that the Bumble project has a rich enough data set to really do that.
After all, a recent study from the University of Kansas found that the most reliable factor in choosing a successful date (for women) was the ability of the man to make you laugh, partly because it acts as a proxy for intelligence, and partly because it indicates you’ll have a good time.
“The idea that humor is a signal of intelligence doesn’t give humor its due credit,” the authors said. “If you meet someone who you can laugh with, it might mean your future relationship is going to be fun and filled with good cheer.”
So, for all the big data smarts behind Bumble, it can’t really provide much in the way of insight into the humorous connection between a man and a woman, and for that reason, I’d say the jury is still out on how effective it will prove to be.