A “body-odour” matching engine

Almost all of the world’s popular matchmaking websites use some kind of a personality matching algorithm. iBluebottle’s matching engine, CHARMM, analyses your responses to a personality test to come up with compatible matches for you.

These matching algorithms utilize psychographic research to determine which personality types will be most compatible with each other. Although the scientific evidence for the efficacy of such algorithms has remained inconclusive, they have been shown to have a good deal of ability to predict a successful long-term relationship.

Recently we read about a interesting matching engine featured in the April 1924 issue of a scientific magazine called Science & Invention. This article talked about “certain basic tests which can be made today and which will give one a reasonable assurance of married happiness.”

The four tests are:

  1. The physical attraction test – You and your partner both have electrodes attached to your wrist and tapes across your chest. Then you embrace and kiss. If your pulse rate rises or your rate of breathing goes up, it is taken as an evidence of physical attraction, the most important determinant of marital bliss.
  2. The sympathy test – Your partner undergoes a mildly traumatic event, like having blood drawn, and if you get excitable enough as measured by your muscular contractions and catching your breath, you are deemed to be sympathetic to your partner.
  3. The body odour test - As can be seen in the picture above, the couple is made to smell each other (an unpleasant task, the author of the article conceded). If they do not find each other’s smell too disagreeable as indicated by the measuring devices attached to their bodies, it augurs well for their relationship.
  4. The nervous disorder test – This test is to ascertain if at least one of the partners remains calm under pressure. A sudden gunshot is supposed to be delivered in the air and if both the persons are found to be startled, they should not marry.

As happens with most of the outdated scientific speculation that didn’t survive scrutiny, these tests do manage to raise an innocent chuckle but how relevant would these tests be today?

It can be plausibly argued that all but the body odour test  (which you can probably game using deodorants or perfume) could possibly result in at least some valid assumptions. Maybe it is stretching the imagination too far to infer that today’s personality tests could be somehow mapped to the above tests but they do illustrate our continuous quest of defining and measuring romantic compatibility.

Maybe in future we will develop some kind of a foolproof DNA-based compatibility matching system that would render the present personality-based tests as comical as the tests above!

 

Exploring a woman’s heart

Our intrepid traveller was all set on a journey that could well turn out to be the most rewarding but he knew that it was certainly the most perilous. No man had ever been able to fully explore that treacherous territory – a woman’s heart.

The elders did their best to dissuade him. One old charlatan who claimed to have studied their soul for 30 years told him that even he failed to understand what women wanted. Another philosophically-inclined curmudgeon warned him that women were like elephants who everyone liked to look at but no-one liked to keep. It was impossible to convince a woman that even a bargain cost money, lamented another wizened soul.

And then there was the warning about the fearsome DMALBIT question which, unbeknownst to our hero, was potentially the most hazardous but which he, in the eagerness to start his journey, simply overlooked.

Our hero now carefully laid open the secret map of a woman’s heart to decide upon the best approach to the City & District of Love, situated roughly in the centre of the heartland. And then he clicked on it to see the details (which you can as well – it opens in a new window).

He could cross-over into the heart from the Country of Eligibleness but that would mean traversing the high grounds of matrimonial speculations – always a scary prospect. And there was a chance that he might get stuck in a male trap found in the Province of Deception. Even if he managed to get onto the fast railroad through Coquetry, he still could end up in the jilting corner for no fault of his. Didn’t look very promising.

Another approach was from the country of Solid Worth but this involved a never-ending passage through vast regions of Sentimentality, never our hero’s strong point, even though he had packed a few Mills & Boons.

The third option looked the most feasible and he decided to go for it. He arrived from the Sea of Wealth and swiftly made deep inroads through the Jewelry Inlet, thanks to a family trinket he had inherited. He was careful to avoid the twin rivers of Wilful Waste and Drain the Purse that subsume many unwary travellers in the Land of Love of Dress.

There were now only some Satin Plains to cross but this was the Land of Dress and pretty soon he found himself facing an interminable array of changing rooms. As he was plotting a swift escape, he was confronted with the dreaded question : DMALBIT ?

Our hero had no idea what the appropriate answer for this seemingly innocuous question was. He responded truthfully, believing it to be the best course of action. Before he realized what was happening he was flung violently out of the heart into the Land of Oblivion to crash and burn.

And the woman’s heart remained unconquered.

PS: Please scroll down for an important message.

DMALBIT : Does My A** Look Big In This ?

Break-up in style (use dropdown menus)

One of the most frustrating situations in the process of finding a partner occurs when your prospective match suddenly becomes unresponsive.

Picture the scenario. You have had a couple of dates and you are starting to like the guy. You think he is interested as well and you are looking forward to meeting him again. You wait for him to confirm your next date. Nothing. You don’t want to come across as too eager so you force yourself not to text him. After two days you call him and leave a voicemail. No callback. Then you send a text. Still no reply. By now you are stewing in a mixture of unequal parts self-pity, resentment, confusion and rage. Then an email – sorry have been busy at work, will call later. And then nothing. Total silence. You are left wondering where it all went wrong.

Wonder no more and ask him directly but in a more impersonal way. Check out www.wotwentwrong.com and its specialized dropdown menus of breaking-up reasons. Using this website you send him a “feedback” request and then all he needs to do is select the most appropriate reason from the 149 choices and voila – you have your answer. How nice and convenient! You couldn’t make this stuff up.

This is how it works. First you choose how you want to sound regarding the whole thing. You could select cool, confused, philosophical or sincere from a dropdown menu. If you chose “cool” then you get to send a supposedly coolness-exuding email template :

So it’s a bummer things didn’t work out between us.  But that’s the way it goes. I’d appreciate it if you could do me a favour and let me know, from your perspective, where things went wrong.”

When he receives this “feedback” request, the-guy-who-vanished is invited to select a reason for the break-up from a really exhaustive dropdown menu. The reasons are thoughtfully grouped under categories like Physical/Sexual, You are too much, Lifestyle, Something is missing, It is how you treat me etc. Each category then has a number of reasons which range from the delightfully descriptive “Bad in bed” to the more prosaic “You are too nagging”.

A note of caution though for people planning to send a “feedback” request. There is a fair chance that someone perusing these 149 reasons for breaking-up might be tempted to select more than one. It is not known if the website does allow multiple selections but you would do well to grow a thick skin!

 

Are Indians ready to marry firangs?

Recently we received an interesting email in which the sender wanted to know if it was mandatory to be an Indian to register on iBluebottle.

We replied that nowhere did we explicitly bar non-Indians from registering if they met the membership criteria. However we did expect members to have a substantial Indian connection. But are Indian professionals ready to marry foreigners? Expats

Let’s first look at Indians abroad. Based on limited data collated from a quick poll of our Indian friends abroad, a plausible hypothesis emerges. If you are single and have lived in a foreign country for more than ten years, you have a 20% chance to marry a native of your adopted country.

And the younger you are when you move, the higher is the probability that you will marry a foreigner. Probably a certain level of education coupled with extended living in an open society makes it socially acceptable to marry outside your countrymen.

But how likely are Indians to marry a foreigner in India?

Not very it seems. It is difficult to come by any official statistics and surprisingly we couldn’t gather any first-hand anecdotal data either. Surprising because a large expat influx along with the CV value of an India stint has resulted in a fairly substantial presence of eligible western bachelors (though less of bachelorettes) who are mostly keen to integrate into the Indian society.

What does google have to say about this? A few searches did throw up two distinct, but ultimately both uninspiring, streams of results.

One was the discussions on India expat forums about the legal issues involved if a foreigner wanted to marry an Indian. An eager Dutch national in Pune concerned about an advance notice before the court ceremony. Another French guy fussing over the documents that he needed to present at the marriage office.

The second stream was how-to-marry-an-Indian-if-you-are-a-foreigner advice columns written by foreigners who are presumably married to Indians and are offering their experiences as a guide.

Some of these search results were from as far back as 2005 – a sure sign that there is only sclerotic activity in whatever your search term was.

So it appears that even though people no longer stare open-mouthed at a gora talking in Hindi, it will probably be many years before it becomes commonplace for Indians to tie the knot with the firangs.

Why is online matchmaking uncool in India?

Recently iBluebottle started its marketing campaign on Facebook and we asked all our friends to spread the word. Many of our friends are already married but we figured they would have friends and relatives who could be our target market. Most of them have been gracious enough to help us out.

But a few refused to oblige. They did not say as much but we deduced that they somehow thought it uncool to admit any connection with a matchmaking website. Specially so when they themselves were single. And specially, specially so when they were already registered on all the biggest matrimonial websites!

There was another manifestation of this sentiment. One of the comments a friend got after she wrote about our matching engine on her wall was: “makes me shudder”.

It is unclear what made her shudder but we can safely assume that pleasure wasn’t probably the source of her convulsions. Most likely she wouldn’t want to be caught dead having anything to do with an online matchmaking website. Maybe she is a “love-marriage types” who can’t comprehend how people can’t just bump into someone interesting, fall in love and marry. Or maybe she is totally against the institution of marriage.Not cool

So who or what made online matchmaking uncool in India? The world over people do not have any qualms about finding a partner on dating websites and admitting it. But ask any Indian and he is likely to admit it only under severe duress and that too with a grin a sheep would be proud of.

It cannot possibly be the revulsion for “arranged” marriage because online matchmaking is far removed from the traditional “arranged” marriage setup. There is nobody arranging anything for you. The parents are mostly reduced to occasionally badgering you and forwarding you profiles from the neighbourhood marriage bureau run by Sheela aunty.

Maybe it is just semantics – dating as opposed to matrimonial - that people find uncool. Or maybe it is some sort of a misplaced inadequacy syndrome that tricks you into thinking that if you can’t find a match offline you are a loser.

It appears that a third factor could probably be the main culprit – the downmarket reputation of the existing matrimonial websites. This reluctance-to-be-associated is analogous to what brand-conscious people experience if they are forced to carry a cheap brand shopping bag in the full view of their more exalted peers.

Unfortunately the crappy reputation is not entirely unjustifiable. If you are a top professional with good academic background and earnings, you are likely to get drowned in a sea of unsatisfactory profiles that have expressed interest in you. This is a natural consequence of millions of average profiles trying to get attention of the far fewer top ones.

Also there is no way of knowing if the guy who says that he has an MBA from a top school is not just a prankster angling for some unsavoury fun at your cost. On all of the existing matrimonial websites you could damn well choose to be whoever takes your fancy and start browsing. This misrepresentation coupled with the Indian tendency to embellish credentials makes for a disastrous experience for the genuine candidate.

Here at iBluebottle we are trying to re-establish what online matchmaking really is – a platform with unsurpassed reach that helps you find compatible matches with similar education and professional background. Cool or not we aim to be the flag-bearer for the genuine candidate who is rational enough to realize that serendipity in your love-quest is overrated.

Dating with a spreadsheet

Chalk it up as a rare triumph for Microsoft Excel in the world of dating. Apparently a financial-services guy was so overwhelmed by the number of suitors that he resorted to making an expansive spreadsheet to keep track of all his dates.

The spreadsheet had status updates, detailed date commentary on every meeting, how each girl was to be monitored (closely or casually) and a possible pipeline. Colour coded for easy referencing. Never before was so much romance captured in the  cells of Excel.

So why would you do such a thing? You can claim that you are a super organized person. That you want some kind of logical markers to help you track your relationships with all the girls you are meeting. Fair enough. Logic is good.

Imagine you are such a guy going on a date. Even before you reach the venue your minute-taking mind is taking over. The starters arrive but you are already thinking about the most succinct description for the cell D32 of your glorious spreadsheet. Refining and reformatting. Maybe you don’t like wrap-text and so would need to be more concise. By the time the mains are dealt with, you have already visualised the entries for the whole row for this hapless girl. And dessert brings the tricky bit of thought about the final, concluding remarks that you will write in bold. The subjugation of feelings by data is complete.

But is it any worse than keeping all this information in little neat squares in your mind? Does the fact that you have written it down for easy collation make you a jerk? What if you need a little help with your memory?

There is no easy answer and people will invariably take sides on this one. If you are at a stage where you need to keep written records of your dates, you are probably dating too many girls at the same time. It is unlikely that you have the emotional bandwidth to deal with all of them fairly.

No offense to Excel, but there is something irremediably rotten when you start treating a potential life-partner nothing more than an entry in an Excel cell.

 

The modern swayamvar

An Indian professional living and working in a metro is likely to meet 16 prospects and take more than 2.5 years on average to find a match. An ordeal almost as tough as shooting the fish in the eye and claiming Draupadi (even though that was way cooler).

Technically speaking there are no more “arranged marriages” in the sense that there is no one arranging anything for you. There are no parents or relatives with great, ready-made matches for you. Mostly it is you alone who has to do the hard work of filtering hundreds of profiles, shortlisting a few prospects, meeting them for the first time, deciding with whom to go ahead and writing diplomatic rejection emails to others. If you are lucky you might strike gold soon enough but be prepared to rinse and repeat many times.

The average time taken by a typical professional to decide upon a match has been rising rapidly. This appears to be a function of a cornucopia of choice. With the advent of online matchmaking, you perceive a large supply of potential matches and the relentless forces of inflation take over. The value you ascribe to a particular profile diminishes rapidly and pretty soon you fall into the seductive but ultimately fatigue-inducing cycle of “let me check out the next profile, might be better than this one. There is no hurry”.

Swayamvar

But abundant choice is not the whole story. A weightier factor could be the realization that you can continue to defer your decision without any major consequence.

With most of the professionals living away from their parents, there is reduced societal and familial pressure to get hitched. The crazy work schedule does no favours to your search. And after you have met about half a dozen prospects, you are no longer sure what you are looking for in a match. So you allow yourself to drift. And if you live outside India, add in the  fiendishly complicated scheduling problem worthy of a supercomputer.

No wonder many people take a few month’s break from the whole rigamarole and come back with a grimmer determination if not with some more fish-eye shooting practice.

Another trend is more evolutionary. People are discovering that they do not mind staying alone and are increasingly becoming more comfortable with the idea. Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University, recently published “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”. He thinks that “the human species is developing new ways to live.” But not to love apparently.

The modern swayamvar is indeed a formidable enterprise. As we have said before, iBluebottle does not promise a magic wand but we are trying our best to help.

 

The morality of matchmaking

Is matchmaking an intrinsically moral act ? Does the matchmaker deserve moral praise for bringing two individuals together?

It is fair to say that here at iBluebottle we are not losing sleep over examining the morality of matchmaking. Nevertheless it is an interesting question and deserves some probing.

Philosophically speaking, to determine the morality of an act we could either use Mill’s & Bentham’s utilitarianism or Kant’s moral theory.

The utilitarian approach, sometimes called the “greatest happiness principle” postulates that an act is moral only if it maximises the overall happiness. Further the moral worth of an action can only be decided if we know all the resulting outcomes.

The outcome of a matchmaking act could be either a happy marriage (for the two individuals involved) or an unhappy one. It is likely that a successful marriage would lead to a “total happiness” which is greater than the happiness resulting from an unsuccessful one. This is primarily because the family, friends and other well-wishers of the married couple would contribute greatly to the “total happiness”.

But this is by no means certain. Firstly defining a successful marriage is tricky. Secondly, what if the married couple had fewer friends but more detractors who would be unhappy by their successful marriage? A few spurned lovers or jealous relatives perhaps? In such a case the matchmaker would be decreasing the “total happiness” and not maximizing it. So it would appear that using the utilitarian theory we have insufficient information to decide one way or the other.

What does Kant have to say about matchmaking being a moral act ? It depends
on the matchmaker’s intentions. If the matchmaker is acting from some
ulterior motive (say for personal gain), he does not deserve moral praise, even for an action
that otherwise appears morally good.

Now iBluebottle does plan to charge for its services even though it is free at this time. We are indeed acting for personal gain and thus would probably fail the Kantian’s moral test.

So there you have it – a score of probably half out of two on morality. Not very edifying but we will take it. Bringing together two compatible persons who might not have had the chance to meet otherwise is reward enough. Plus the fact that we might get paid for it.

 

5 things not to do on your second date (for guys)

For the purpose of this post I am going to assume you are a guy. Nothing against the girls of course; indeed they merit their own post which will follow soon.

So you have scored a second date. Congratulations! According to our ongoing research project, The Great Indian Matchmaking Challenge, only 23% manage to go on a second date.

Assuming you are amongst those lucky ones who were given the benefit of the doubt the first time around, get ready for the crunch time.

Your second date is most likely to be a decisive one. During the course of your lunch/dinner your date would either start wondering why on earth did she agree for the second meeting or you two would get along so famously that you risk resentment-glances from other patrons in the establishment.

StopHow can you have a great second date ?  By (not) doing these five things :

  1. Do not wear the same shirt you wore on your first date. Yes, you read that right. Even if all your shirts are the same shade of blue. And even if your first date was two weeks back in a restaurant where the light was so dim that you had trouble eating your dim-sum. Girls notice these things.
  2. Do not take her to a vada-paav or falafal joint. Just because she agreed to come on a second date doesn’t mean that you start treating her as one of you best buddies.  “He was taking me for granted” is one of the most potent arrows in the rejection arsenal.
  3. Do not swear. Some poor guys have this misguided notion that if they acted cool and swore a lot nonchalantly, they raise their cool quotient. Girls start thinking of long division if you do that and you will be left looking like a sad remainder.
  4. Do not let her pay. Some girls will absolutely, occasionally in a militant fashion, insist on sharing the bill or worse, even paying for your portion. Be forewarned that this is a test and you need to negotiate it with finesse. First of all, do not panic. Pretend that you have agreed to share the bill and take her card in your hand so that you can hand it over to the waiter. When the waiter approaches , magically produce your own card and pay the full amount.
  5. Do not let her feel stranded after the date. Offer to drop her wherever she wants to go. If she is taking public transport, accompany her to the station and wait till she boards her train/bus. All girls love to be treated like proper ladies – be a gentleman.

Here’s wishing you good luck for your second date. Let us know how your “encounter” goes and we will publish the most interesting (and educational) ones.

Playing the matchmaker

We at iBluebottle believe that most of us need a little bit of help in finding that special person in our life.

Many of the so-called “Love Marriages” are made possible only by an introduction or a chance encounter at a common friend’s place. Or it could be at a college fest where you meet this girl who has been invited by one of her friends who also happens to be your batch-mate (guess who met his partner this way). So technically there is a matchmaker involved even though we may not recognize her explicitly.

Our aim is to play the role of a consummate matchmaker, by which we simply mean that we will try to maximise your chances of finding a compatible match in the shortest possible time.

PS: Along the way we will equip you with our pearls of matchmaking wisdom, make you a jedi master of the dating craft and develop your inner magnetism to attract even the most iron-hearted guy/girl. And erm…gently help you to your feet after the inevitable fiascoes.