I stumbled upon the niftiest thing this morning on Boing Boing Gadgets. I’d summarize it myself, but Joel Johnson did a much better job than I could possibly do myself at 7am on a Sunday…

Despite having nothing to do with Cheap Trick at all — except for the cheap trick we all play on ourselves believing there is anything unique or selfish about the need to love and to be loved — “I Want You to Want Me” is an interactive art project built from data mined from various dating sites, organizing into a heart-achingly beautiful touchscreen presentation where each person is represented as a balloon.

I find this serendipitously wonderful for so many reasons.

I’ve had ideas of doing something akin to this even before I took my first of two jobs in the online dating industry about five years ago. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of “the wisdom of crowds” and this project appears to have elegantly portrayed both the strength of the collective and the significance of the individual. Usually I’d be bummed out thinking, “DAMN! Somebody’s taken my idea before I could do it!” But this looks so darned wonderful I’m happy they did it first, because they certainly appear to have done it right.

I’m especially drawn to the way they related the fundamental human emotions back to the underlying data. One of the biggest challenges faced when making decisions in the online dating business is that the people making those decisions are inherently clouded by their own experiences, philosophies and emotions about relationships. It’s not uncommon to hear things such as these in meetings:

  • “Women always prefer a man in a nice suit.”
  • “Since this product is for women, we should make it pink.”
  • “I like guys who are athletic and I think most women would agree with me, so…”
  • “OK, so it’s agreed that we’ll build this so it matches up men with women 1-5 years younger than themselves?”

Undoubtedly, statements such as these do rely heavily on “majority” opinions of the populations they are analyzing, but at the same time, they could lead to decisions that possibly alienate certain segments of the population which may not be all that insignificant. I’m sure we could each come up with a pile of examples of people whose relationships wouldn’t fit within the classifications outlined above. (And I’m sure all of the Bruce Springsteens and Mia Hamms and Zach Braffs and Ashton Kutchers of the world are relieved.) It’s virtually impossible to strip those biases out, so I love the idea of relying strongly on objectively collected data about highly subjective subjects such as these.

Also, the Cheap Trick reference makes me giddy in a totally geeked out way. There’s something really humanizing and individually touching about the sentiment it portrays, despite being such a mass-market arena rock pop song. (And a damn fine one at that.) It fits the concept in a way that’s just too damn perfect. Personally I found a way to sneak a shout out to that line into just about every variant of my profile I ever filled out. (And gals who picked up on the reference were immediately about 10X cooler right off the bat.)

Anyway, watch the YouTube video. It’s nifty.


Amy · 20 April 2008 at 11:23 AM

I must have been feeling particularly sappy today since this made me teary… or maybe it was other online dating industry horrors, either way this is awesome and I love it!

I did giggle when they used the example of women in their 20’s and men in their 60’s, somethings never change!

Clare · 20 April 2008 at 8:16 PM

Wow. This is really amazing… and mesmerizing… thanks for posting!

seeamap · 26 April 2008 at 10:07 PM

I was totally hypnotized and touched by it so I sent the link out to other folks who work in the “real time” dating world. (Amy and I must have been tapping from the same tree!)

SIDEHIKE.NET » Blog Archive » Twistori is what’s so beautiful about the internet · 28 May 2008 at 3:45 PM

[…] MacArthur’s net@night podcast while burning the midnight oil plugging away on some code. As I’ve mentioned before, I absolutely love it whenever you can get a peek into the “hive mind” of the internet […]

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