For McKinlay’s plan to work, he’d have to find a pat­tern in the sur­vey data—a way to rough­ly group the women accord­ing to their sim­i­lar­i­ties. The break­through came when he cod­ed up a mod­i­fied Bell Labs algo­rithm called K-Modes. First used in 1998 to ana­lyze dis­eased soy­bean crops, it takes cat­e­gor­i­cal data and clumps it like the col­ored wax swim­ming in a Lava Lamp. With some fine-tun­ing he could adjust the vis­cos­i­ty of the results, thin­ning it into a slick or coag­u­lat­ing it into a sin­gle, sol­id glob. He played with the dial and found a nat­ur­al rest­ing point where the 20,000 women clumped into sev­en sta­tis­ti­cal­ly dis­tinct clus­ters based on their ques­tions and answers. “I was ecsta­t­ic,” he says. “That was the high point of June.” […] Most unsuc­cess­ful daters con­front self-esteem issues. For McKin­lay it was worse. He had to ques­tion his cal­cu­la­tions. […] “I think that what I did is just a slight­ly more algo­rith­mic, large-scale, and machine-learn­ing-based ver­sion of what every­one does on the site,” McKin­lay says. Every­one tries to cre­ate an opti­mal profile—he just had the data to engi­neer one.

How a Math Genius Hacked OkCu­pid to Find True Love — Wired Sci­ence

I’m not sure if I should be awestruck or creeped out.

The most enjoy­able part of this sto­ry is that for all the advan­tages McKin­lay has over most daters thanks to his math prowess, once it gets to the point of live inter­ac­tion with anoth­er human he is back on equal foot­ing.

Download my travel-time map

I am a bit ner­vous about doing this, but since sev­er­al peo­ple asked, here goes: You can now down­load the trav­el-time map of the Nether­lands I made in Pro­cess­ing. I have export­ed appli­ca­tions for Lin­ux, Mac OS X and Win­dows. Each down­load includes the source files, but not the data file. For that, you will need to head to Alper’s site (he’s the guy who pulled the data from 9292 and ANWB). I hope you’ll enjoy play­ing around with this, or learn some­thing from the way it was put togeth­er.

Some notes, in no par­tic­u­lar order:

  • Please remem­ber I am not a pro­gram­mer. The vast major­i­ty of this sketch was put togeth­er from bits and pieces of code I found in books and online. I have tried to cred­it all the sources in the code. The full write-up I post­ed ear­li­er should point you to all the sources too. In short; all the good bits are by oth­er peo­ple, the bad code is mine. But who cares, it’s the end-result that counts (at least for me).
  • Relat­ed to the pre­vi­ous point is the fact that I can­not fig­ure out under which license (if any) to release this. So the usu­al CC by-nc-sa license applies, as far as I’m con­cerned.
  • If this breaks your com­put­er, offends you, makes you cry, or eats your kit­tens, do not come knock­ing. This is pro­vid­ed as is, no war­ranties what­so­ev­er, etc.
  • Why am I ner­vous? Prob­a­bly because for me the point of the whole exer­cise was the process, not the out­come.
  • I can’t think of any­thing else. Have fun.