FEATURE24 February 2015

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Impact

Data analysis has changed the course of marketing, but Christian Rudder uses it to change the course of relationships. By Jane Bainbridge

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Here’s a bit of advice: use unusual salutations and avoid references to God if you want to get a response when looking for romance online. While these may sound like arbitrary self-help musings they are, in actual fact, supported by hard data and detailed analysis of more than 500, 000 first contacts on an online dating site. Apologies to those who prefer sentiment to science to unlock the secret of true love.

But who would analyse data in such a way, and for an online dating site of all things? Meet Christian Rudder, co-founder and president, and data cruncher extraordinaire for OKCupid and author of the book Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking).

A Harvard maths graduate, he – along with his co-founders and fellow mathematicians – turned his maths knowledge into algorithms and insight, to add a touch of analytics to the world of match-making.

It’s proven a lucrative venture. In 2011 match.com bought OKCupid for $50 million. ...