Christian Rudder is an American writer, musician and entrepreneur. He attended Harvard University, graduating with a degree in mathematics in 1998. Rudder was the creative voice of TheSpark.com, which was the viral content arm of SparkNotes during the site's early rise to popularity. Rudder joined the company in October 1999, a few months after its founding. He became TheSpark's Creative Director in March 2001. During Rudder's tenure at TheSpark it was one of the most popular humor sites on the web. Soon after the site's sale to Barnes & Noble, Rudder and the SparkNotes founders - Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan, and Max Krohn - left and began work on OkCupid, a dating site. OkCupid launched in February 2004. Starting in 2009, Rudder maintained a blog on a subdomain of OkCupid named OkTrends. It featured statistical observations and analysis of members' preferences and connections. Rudder's blog went on hiatus between April 2011 and July 2014 while he wrote Dataclysm: Who We Are, a book based on the same ideas that inspired the blog. On February 2, 2011, Rudder's hometown newspapers in Little Rock reported that Match.com had purchased OkCupid for $50 million in cash.
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Hey reddit. My name is Christian Rudder and I am a co-founder of OkCupid, the person behind the OkTrends blog, and the author of the newly released book, Dataclysm. In Dataclysm I look at Big Data (from OkC, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and, yes, Reddit) in order to investigate larger questions about human behavior. I'm ready to answer anything - so AMA!
Just wanted to say that I met my husband on OkCupid in 2011, and what initially attracted me to the site was OkTrends (I'm a stats major!).
What would you say is the most interesting thing you've learned about human dating from OkCupid?
Hey, congrats (belatedly.) Um, I think the thing that surprised me most was how much cut-and-pasting goes on in messages on the site. And that it actually works pretty well to send the same message to a bunch of people. To beat the machine...you must become...a machine.
My NEXT OkTrends post will be about that. (and there's a chapter in the book about it, too.)
I don't do online dating now that I'm married, but I used OK Cupid for a couple of years. I had a nice, weekly routine of bad dates going for a while, a.k.a. the "Afflo Buys Single Ladies' Dinners "Fund. One of my takeaways in speaking to women is that they are constantly pelted by messages, many obscene at worst, and low effort at best.
Has there been any consideration given to limiting the shot-gun blasts of messages that men send on the site? Perhaps a down-voting type of system that would limit the ability to send out new messages? Women have told me that they considered dropping it simply because their inboxes would fill with garbage and they would miss messages that they genuinely would have liked to see.
(Alas, I met my wife through Meetup.com, which is ostensibly NOT a dating site, but worked out well enough for me.)
Funnily enough, our new Chief Product Officer came to us from Meetup, and I'm really excited about her.
But as to your question: men overwhelming women (verbally/with messages) is one of our biggest concerns on the site...a reddit-style up/down system would be really interesting. Though we already have that, in a sense, with QuickMatch (and messages have an implicit up/down vote built in--the reply).
We've tried giving people (women) message filters, but it's a weird thing, because if you make the filters powerful for some people then people who don't need as much filtering can very likely wreck their experience by setting the filters too strictly. It's a delicate balance, and something that we still need to work on.
What do you think of the /r/okcupid subreddit and what goes on there?
We check it all the time here. It can be pretty insular/in-jokey, but we don't always get a chance to watch people talk about the site like that. So it's good.
I'M SO EXCITED FOR MORE OKTRENDS
Yeah, me too.
Can you add an A-List search feature that only shows the girls that are definitely willing to go out with me?
You mean "readPeoplesMinds.js"? Yeah, that's only a super-premium feature.
What have you have discovered from looking at Reddit's Big Data?
I plotted the "interconnectivity" of all the subreddits--how much (or little) the posters cross-posted elsewhere and made a map of it. It's like a mind-map of Reddit's collective id. It's one of my favorite parts of the book...
Can you give me 1 day of a-list so I can see these alleged 15 people who like me? I'm too poor to pay for a month
You know what, no problem. Give me your username, and I'll hook you up with six months.
Have you seen better okcupid pictures than my profile?
hahaha. No. They're sweet as hell. Do you get lots of messages?
Are there any systematic differences in OkCupid's user's behaviour in other countries outside the US and Canada?
To what extent are you mapping human behaviour, vs US cultural ones?
Except when it comes to race, user behavior on OkC is pretty much the same in the U.S. as it is everywhere. Horniness doesn't really speak one particular language, you know?
HOLY SHIT! I loved everyone of the "projects" on thespark before it became the study guide type site it is now. I loved listening to you talk your sister down from completely losing her shit on you after the Date My Sister Project. I've read and reread that site so many times, and laughed my ass off every time. I also enjoyed the band you were in (sorry, I can't remember the name). So what other creative projects do you have going on these days, aside from the book?
Hey, thanks man. It was really fun to work at TheSpark. Right now, besides OkC and Dataclysm, I don't have time for much else. Getting ganked at Dota2? Is that creative?
Have you ever used online dating yourself?
Also, how do you feel that users of your website are responsible for a majority of r/creepypms?
No--none of the founders have, in fact. It's like the reverse of this guy:
Can you cofound GOODcupid? I’m sad that I’ve been at it for a few years and don’t seem to be able find a life partner.
I just check, and lifepartnercupid.net is available. We'll be getting that going soon.
Will you keep on updating oktrends like before, or was it just a one off post for Dataclysm promo ?
I just put a new post up about 30 mins ago. There'll be more, for sure.
What academic degree do you think is most useful for analyzing big data-- computer science, mathematics, statistics, physics...etc? I've seen alot of people in the field who have varied quantitative backgrounds.
Really, I think it's something any smart person can do. The math involved doesn't need to be that hard, and in fact you can easily over-complicate things. Analyzing data for OkCupid requires a person know at least as much about human nature as about chi-squared or machine learning or whatever.
A recent 60 minutes episode highlighted the growing number of "data brokers" selling our information on the internet. As this is a grey area for most of us, could you explain OKCupid's relationship with data brokerages? Do you sell our "answers to questions" directly to data brokerages?
We don't sell answers to questions to anyone.
> Except when it comes to race
Ergo in racially different countries, usage could be different (albeit I suspect your user base in, say, Japan, is not huge). But across similar racial-backgrounds in major Western countries you see no major difference? Is that the correct interpretation of your statement? Racial lines supercede national ones? (which is in itself an interesting conclusion).
Yes, that's how I'd put it.
how many OKC success stories do you meet?
do you feel your percentage grades correlate with compatability?i.e. 93% is an A, 84% is a B...
I meet people who met on OkCupid almost every day. Pretty much any time somebody learns I'm associated with the site, they have some story, either about themselves or their friend or whatever.
As a long-time user, it feels as though the emphasis of the site has become less oriented towards the creation of an OkCupid community, with the removal of things like chat rooms, journal posts and the forums, and more around straight-up matchmaking between individuals.
Was that a conscious shift of direction for the site's development, and if so, what was the thinking/reasoning behind it?
Well, it was kind of conscious shift. There were just too many features on OkC. And those ones weren't the ones that people really came to us for. We need (and needed) to be a dating site above all.
Two part question from your sparknotes days. 1)Having a large range of literature to cover, how did you pick and choose which ones to cover first?
Second, how did you make the transition from book printing sparknotes to the inclusion of a website. Did you guys contract a specialist firm to upload the content for you or did you manually type it yourself? Thanks!!!
So funny to read this. SparkNotes were online before they were printed. B&N bought us BECAUSE they wanted to make real books out of the website.
Also, though I was there very early on, I wasn't a founder of SparkNotes (my other three OkC cofounders were.)
Do you think if you went to Harvard a few years later that you and Zuckerberg would have been writing algorithms on the windows?
He's much smarter than me, I'm sure. But Chris Coyne and Max Krohn, my OkC cofounders did most of the algorithms for the site. And I'm sure they could hang with Mr. Zuckerberg.
Is Nate Silver a friend, a rival, or neither?
I really admire Nate's work. And I've had lunch with him a couple times. So more friend than rival, for sure.
Given the experiments conducted altering match percentages for OkCupid users, would you say that compatibility is more a matter of perception than shared attitudes and preferences?
Well, we found that it's a little of both. I also want to point out that there are MANY different ways to match people up. OkC uses something like "birds of a feather" which we essentially tested against "opposites attract." But, for example, Match.com uses a network-graph-based. We've tested it, too, and in some places it actually out-performs our tradition algorithm.
If you had to choose one thing for everyone to remember from reading your book, what would it be?
Well, I guess that data is a good thing. And that while the world is kind of a fucked-up place, we're understanding it now better than we ever have. Hopefully, with that understanding, we can also make it better.
And yeah there's lots about sex and race and politics in there, too.
I think I get my fair share. It's fun. Thanks for making okcupid for us.
It's all our pleasure, for real.
You ever been to Madiba's in Brooklyn? Best South African Food around. Heading there now.
UPDATE PLEASE? Do they have good vegetarian options? What apps have you ordered?
Got any stats at how many people get guilted into throwing a donation when they see that ad that pops up when the site knows you have Ad Blocker on?
Hahaha. Yeah, the guilt doesn't really pay. I don't have a specific number at my fingertips, but it's not that much.
Two things, as a fellow mathematician:
What mathematical techniques/algorithms do you find using again and again when analyzing large data sets? What do these techniques tell you about your data sets?
What is a mathematical field that you'd like to learn more about?
I studied algebra mostly in college, and I wish I was better at that for sure. As far as what we use here at OkC and what I used in the book, it's really pretty simple median/mean type of stuff. Basically just counting up the data. The hardest part is trying to set up the controls correctly, so there isn't some garbage thing (selection bias, a weird quirk of the interface, etc.) polluting your numbers.
I met my current boyfriend on okc and he's the first man I've ever considered marrying. Thanks!
Now an answer to this question would be appreciated: If you turn a left-handed glove inside out, does it fit your left or right hand?
Right hand, right?
Why should users pay for a-list when it was you yourself who argued against paying for dating a few years ago on OKTrends (if I'm not mistaken)?
If anything there isn't such a huge improvement using A-list. One of the features - being able to see if your message was read - may bring closure for some who don't get a response. For others it just heightens their antagonism and sense of entitlement. It's not your job to police people's behavior, but still thought I'd ask if you're going to bolster A-list's "benefits", or if this is it.
Anyway, OKC is still the best. I will probably buy your book :P, if for the only to see what data shows how fucked up humans are online.
Whether you pay for a-list is totally your call...OkCupid obviously works well either way. I will say this about that blog post: in the years I've spent working with people from Match, I have a lot more respect for (and understanding of) how they run the bring people together. So I'm glad we decided to take that post down...
I actually met my fiance on OkCupid. We are getting married next October!
Have you ever took a stab at dating via OkCupid? If so, how did it go?
Congratulations!!! I've never used OkCupid myself (I was dating my wife when we started the site.)
Do you have your own OkC account?
Yep. My username is "okcupid"
My husband and I also met on OKC, been together for almost 4 years (married for 2). Thank You! Guess I have to ask a question though, hmmmm, is match.com stat about like 1 in 4 marriages happen because of online dating true?
I don't know the stat you're quoting...but I'm sure it is. First, those guys are very careful about what they say. And, second, OkC alone sets up something like 30,000 first dates EVERY DAY. That turns into a lot of marriages. (and, okay, fine, lots of napkins ripped into little tiny bits while you check the time.)
If you had to choose a new animal to domesticate what would it be?
My wild-ass dog.
I was an avid follower of the spark and loved the articles of losing fights so the other goes to jail and all your fun stuff, I was wondering if you ever were going to return to that kind of comedy mischief? I understand that your a big boi now but we would all love to see more sister dating experiments and such!
Haha. Yeah, I miss those days. Life was janky and awesome. The book is a little more serious, but does have some high-quality jokes (if I do say so myself.)
Thanks for the response. One final question. What technological trends are you most looking forward to? Driverless cars, superintelligent machines, nanotechnology, etc, etc? How would you like to see these technologies change the world?
I look on a lot of this stuff with dread, honestly. As someone who spent four hours on the Long Island Expressway last Friday, I have come around on driverless cars...