The Faint Whiff Of Desperation

The term is over, I have some time on my hands and I don’t really meet many girls that I’d like to date (none, truth be told) at my college.

[Before you suggest I look inwards: Ruskin girls are, broadly speaking, a bit too much of the roll-ups, ill-considered radicalism and the generally overly hirsute variety for my liking.]

Whilst sitting at my desk I was conscious of hearing a Match.com ad on Spotify, whilst into a heavy Def Leppard session. Why not, I thought? After all, all you are paying for is someone else to use a technology platform to aggregate a bunch of folks in the same boat. Sounds very logical in the cold light of day and it reduces the chance aspect somewhat as it is merely an aggregation and basic sorting service. But oh no, it isn’t that. It is a way of collecting all the people we don’t even realise are out there into a seething mass of weirdness. That and a few of us fringe normals. Like moths to a lightbulb the weirdoes seem to have flocked here.

But before I explain about what makes them weird, the Match.com people need a mention for their callous exploitation of the eagerness of their customer base. They must coin it in so monetising their service is not hard when you charge people looking for love. After all, I paid up but now keep hearing this in my head – “I’d buy that for a dollar“. Visions of the Match team laughing at yet another hopeful.

The platform feels about five years out of date – a lifetime in Internet terms –  and little thought or investment in the GUI has been made. It is clunky, inconsistent across platforms and a pigging nightmare to use. It remembers little, refreshes in an untimely manner and shows a general contemptuous towards customers. If Twitter, Facebook , iTunes or Google were even half as bad they would have tanked by now.

I want to up my chances of finding a similar person to me. One that I gel with, have fun with etc etc. I am, however, pragmatic. This is reducing the randomness and increasing the odds, sure, but expecting something different because a bit of tech has been involved? Many of the people on this seem to think that the magic of the silicone chip is either to be feared or it gets invested with power it doesn’t actually have. Let me e x p l a i n … computers are just really really really fast calculators that handle Ones and Zeros at speeds you can’t imagine.  This means we can give them more complex tasks like removing the non-sport participants from my search, calculating BIG sums fast etc, that’s it.  They cannot match you with The One. The whole vibe feels pre-scientific revolution when belief in magic was a big thing.

But back to the weirdoes though. I have emailed with and met a few of the normal ones and they have shocking stories to tell regarding the guy to girl requests. From total strangers; please could you post me some tights that you have worn and haven’t washed? Please can you send me a picture of your arse, just your arse? Please can you send a photo of you naked and smoking? And so on and so forth. I didn’t think I was particularly shy or repressed. However, I am sadly lacking in a decent brass neck so I can’t imagine treating a woman in such a degrading manner. I cringe. I guess that is what comes from being raised largely by my mother or perhaps it is just manners?

I have yet to meet someone face to face that I have really hit it off with. I have made a couple more like-minded girlfriends, which is nice. I do not go into an encounter expecting the magic of the silicon chip to have sprinkled the Internet fairy dust around ensuring that if the computer says we are compatible, then there will be sparks, fireworks, swooning, tumbling into bed locked in a sweaty embrace etc etc. (I think I may need to go and lie down for a moment. Do excuse me)

I can’t speak for other chaps but allow me to dispense a little advice regarding some of the pitfalls when creating profiles. This is not exhaustive but just my own simple observations from one week of using the site:

  • If you are on Match to find a partner then how about making an effort with your profile?
    • Pictures – decent full length ones. We are all judges of others by appearance first. We all have a type. This is science speaking.
    • Put several up. No picture = no look. Simples.
    • Not grainy selfies that have been screwed with in Instagram. What are you trying to hide and why?
    • More than three pictures. Really, lack of openness starts alarm bells ringing.
    • Focus – obviously a novel and elusive camera feature for many. Blurry = hiding stuff.
    • Fill out the entire profile. it’s what it’s there for. I am an atheist. If you are a devout Catholic then lets both smile and move on. I do not appreciate being hooked in to find out you are, in my opinion, a lunatic.
    • Use the phase, “to be honest”. I’d fucking hope so. Now I am left wondering what you may not be being honest about.
    • Curvy is not how I’d describe clinically obese. Athletic and toned does not count if you think seeing a piece of exercise equipment from afar occasionally means you are an athlete and Very Attractive? Not vain at all are we?

 

  • Here is selection of a few of the astonishing remarks on some profiles:
    • I basically work to live – hmm, illiterate AND boring. Goody.
    • Curling up in front of a log fire – if suburbia had this many log fires then I’d expect to see much more smoke belching from suburban chimneys of an evening. Just to be clear this is in the top five most overused clichés.
    • I don’t like reading books – goes well with the next one…
    • I love watching soap operas. KMN for both.
    • I’m possessive – this reads, “and in my spare time I refine my bunny boiling apparatus”
    • My friends say etc etc – possibly my all time pet peeve. If you lack the ability at 40 to be self-aware enough to write about yourself and instead have to rely on a biased audience for comment then shame on you.
    • Basic grammar mistakes. They and they’re etc etc… If you are wondering what the others may be, then it’s you.
    • Eating out – who doesn’t enjoy a nice meal out? Do you mean Nando’s or Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons.
    • And travel – oh my god, trying to sound so very cosmopolitan by levering travel in. Travel is good and it broadens the mind but nearly every profile has it and most read like a list of places to go before you kark it. Just sounds a bit contrived.

At the risk of sounding even more like Mr. Angry – and I had to work myself into a proper froth to write this – do fill out your profile, don’t lie, don’t obfuscate, don’t try to pretend to be someone you are not, put some decent informative pictures up. What do you expect if you are crockfulla shite? Similar respect is likely to be accorded in return. It’s just a pre-selection service. Get over it. And when I make the effort to send you an email after trawling through the scammers (oh yes, you are very obvious), sparsely written, and grasping ones then at least have the decency to send a one-liner saying thank you for making the effort but no. Back to manners I guess.

 

PS: Some good comments – read on.

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Blovember #6 – Why wait for poor service?

I have just read a rant on Facebook where a customer of BestBuy in Calgary felt very hard done by because the staff in-store were rubbish and despite nothing else to do they ignored them whilst standing around doing nowt. They waited 5-9 minutes apparently. Not only does such a statement imply that the complainant is pretty bad at judging the passing of time it also says to me that they had nothing better to do than wait and work themselves up whilst plotting their punitive retaliation (embarrass them using social media). there is nothing to suggest they even attempted to escalate the issue at a store level.

Whilst this is just rubbish service I don’t think you have earned the right to complain if you did nothing. There will be a manager on duty and I’ll bet that summoning them – the mere act of – will be a bit of a rocket to the lazy assistants. As a manager I’d dearly like to know if my customers are not receiving a level of service that delights them. As a manager I can’t improve it for you or other customers if you wait, bottle up your unhappiness and then snipe at us using Facebook (despite the dire threats to splash the entire world of social media with this example of egregious treatment they posted it on the US BestBuy page and not the Canadian one. BestBuy politely pointed this out. I only saw it because a contact reposted it.).
Staff make mistakes, staff are sometimes lazy, offensive, bring personal issues to work etc etc. All to be avoided but the fact is they do happen. There is a difference between a one-off and repetitive crap behaviour. Maybe the manager needs replacing? Who knows if you don’t bring it up.

By all means expect and demand high levels of service but don’t shy away from bringing it up with first-line  management if you don’t get it. Being a customer in the real world isn’t a completely one-way track. Do your bit before you take to the airwaves to shout about your unhappiness. Try being part of the solution and not just part of the problem. No change will come if you shirk your responsibilities as a customer.

Context is Everything

Contextualising data with software is making me ponder. Doing this well has got to be the Holy Grail at the moment and I have yet to see someone shout from the rooftops that they have a good algorithm for doing so. If I had sussed it I’d be keeping schtum as well though.

“You’ve taken my remark out of context” is an often heard device used when arguing. By making this challenge you are implying that whomever is challenging your statement fails to understand the fundamentals, making it a powerful form of rebuttal. By taking a piece of data out of context when the user is web browsing or shopping is an opportunity that has been wasted forever. It feels intrusive and annoying and at best is just ignored. Just imagine being able to get it right more often than not. £££

When serving ads or upselling to people by using an offering that is timely, relevant and not intrusive , by accurately contextualising the data you hold, is a very tricky process because there is more than one type of context. Personal, cultural, political, social and so on and so forth. it’s a minefield. Presently this is a practise in it’s infancy and what the end user gets is pretty generic. I don’t think it’ll be that long before we see software trying to address the challenge of determining how to contextualise a piece of data by using one or a combination of the types of context.

Trying to do some research using – what else? – Google I typed in “software for contextualising data and serving ads” and was just presented with Ad’s for ad serving software and “experts” to help you (spend your hard earned I daresay). The interesting thing was the images that lead me further in. The point is that w. Google dominating the search market (65% of all searches apparently) then Google are big influencers of context. Cultural, political, social etc. I know of the famous Do No Evil statement. What about unconscious bias thought?  This is an interesting paper by Christian Fuchs in Fast Capitalism – albeit a bit too Marxist for me it raises some interesting points.

Now that’s got me wondering about something entirely different. Hmm, my brain is aching.

Contextualisation – the Known Knowns & the Known Unknowns

Suddenly there is a lot of noise  about contextualising data. I was trying to explain this to someone when I realised there was a very personal explanation, and it highlighted the dangers of doing this badly

Prejudice. Good and bad.

Prejudice occurs when you take a (often small)  piece of initial data, generally visual, about another person or thing and then add previously acquired data to form a view, right or wrong. We all do it on a daily basis, we’re human and it’s how we work. The problem comes from the quality of the data added to the only bit of absolute visual- in this case – data. Our brains are stuffed with opinions and experiences related to the image and we happily add them. The result takes a piece of raw data, and by contextualising it with additional – possibly poorly sourced and referenced –  data can lead to a very skewed and often dangerous conclusion.

For an example of good and well intentioned prejudice think of the example from the Highway Code about seeing a football bounce into traffic?  The point is to influence how you contextualise that data. The aim is for you to see the ball and immediately think that it means that there is a higher than normal chance that a child will appear chasing the ball. The idea is that inexperienced drivers make not make that connection soon enough so it is a blatant and worthy  attempt to prejudice their thinking. Ball=kid=cover the brakes.

Businesses are slowly waking up to the fact that it’s not how much data they hold but what they do with it that matters The skill as a person or a business is understanding more about the data that we are turning into facts. The integrity of the data source, how many iterations it has gone through, if it’s been tested, is there enough of it, are all factors that can influence the quality of the contextualisation process. This means not only does the base data need to be clean, well collated, de-duped and generally of a high quality the same holds true for the additional data and processes used to contextualise it. As sentient beings this is an example of how much more sophisticated our brains and programming are over any software program. Think how fast you can take a piece of visual data and contextualise it and then in an instant test your hypotheses, inbuilt prejudices, additional inputs and prior experience and that of others. In an instant you can re-contextualise that initial data and form an entirely different view.

We are seeing the first attempts to do and sell this ability with reference to customer data. The aim is to understand your customer at that moment in time so you can target your offerings or even choose whether you even compete. This is so cool and the people that nail this are going to be v. rich. Why do you think Facebook and Google are valued so highly? It’s not only the data but what the market believes they’ll be able to do with it.

In the meantime, I miss Bush and Rumsfeld mangling the language. It was an easy way to raise the spirits and now they are gone.