Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fiction - Game-Changing Dating Website!


What follows is a work of fiction.  That doesn’t, however, make it a short story.  I had a reader complain about a fictional albertnet post that didn’t have the traditional story arc of exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution.  My defense was that I never said it was a story.  My reader acknowledged the error of her assumption, but I think she was still pretty pissed.  So:  you’ve been warned.


Pitch to Investors – Game-Changing Dating Website

As described in our binding Non-Disclosure Agreement, albertnet productions LLC seeks funding for a new venture, and we are excited to invite you in as an early investor.  The venture is a revolutionary website, Vali.Date, that will finally deliver the full promise of finding love online.  We are confident that when you read this proposal, you will see that Vali.Date is a game-changer.  We are not presenting a specific funding target as that could limit the amount you decide to invest.  We believe the potential of this venture is virtually limitless.

The central shortcoming of existing platforms

Based on our extensive research of existing online dating platforms we have identified the central shortcoming common to all:  there is no way to vet the profile information provided.  This leads to wasted time, disappointment, and an encroaching sense of disillusionment that leads many singles to abandon not only the platform but even their quest for love.

The sad fact is, no mechanisms currently exist to prevent users from posting misleading content to their profiles.  Here are some examples:
  • Outdated photos that deliberately fail to capture the user’s age-related physical shortcomings;
  • Exaggerated income and wealth data;
  • False claims about level of education;
  • Subjective self-assessments (e.g., “intelligent,” “funny”) that are impossible to substantiate online;
  • Disingenuous claims about what traits the user is looking for in a mate, based on what the user presumes others want to  see (e.g., user claims to want a good guy but is actually looking for a “bad boy”);
  • Various ways in which a user can painstakingly create a great profile without being able to “back it up” in person.
The current generation of singles deserves, and demands, better.  Until now, no dating website has delivered on the full promise of meeting your soulmate online.  Our Vali.Date platform will bridge that gap.

The Vali.Date principle

Our driving principle stems from the impulse to ask, “Says who?”  When you see a restaurant called “Best Happy Family Restaurant,” do you automatically take your family there?  Of course not.  What about the slogan, “You’ve tried the rest—now try the best”?  What assurance do you have that this “best” claim is anything but window dressing?  Such assertions are the commercial equivalent of a guy saying, “Women pay to go out with me.”

The e-commerce industry has made great strides toward solving this “Says who?” problem.  How?  By equipping web storefronts with utilities that capture nonbiased input from third parties—regular consumers like you and me.  This democratizes the process of delivering qualitative product information to consumers.  Such feedback can be the entire raison d’être of a website (e.g., Yelp, Chowhound) or just a valued-added feature (e.g., Amazon).  Why hasn’t this capability been extended to dating services?  Lack of vision—nothing more.

Vali.Date takes the value of consumer-generated feedback to a new level by removing one of its endemic flaws:  cognitive dissonance.  Copious studies have shown that most dissatisfied consumers lack the resolve to demand a refund.  Of course they don’t want to admit this to themselves, so they manage to find satisfaction in the products they buy, and this delusion of satisfaction is then reflected in their reviews.  Thus, consumer ratings tend to be skewed toward the positive—which unfairly benefits product manufacturers at the expense of consumers.

Fortunately, we have discovered that this pitfall does not extend to dating!  Singles do not perceive a “sunk cost” with a date; i.e., there is no product to “return,” per se.  Users of dating websites readily embrace their freedom by making sure that if their first date is ho-hum, that prospective partner will never get a second date.  Since there’s no cognitive dissonance, our third-party feedback is candid, honest, and incredibly powerful as it can save singles the hassle of wasting valuable time on a sub-par relationship candidate.

The Vali.Date user experience

Let us take you on a tour of the Vali.Date experience, starting from your first query straight through to the end zone where you’re finally paired with your true soulmate.

The query

This mate selection query engine provided by Vali.Date is, at first blush, not so different from the existing state of the art.  But there are important differences in play.  First, you can limit your query by average user rating.  We’ll get to the ratings in more detail later, but the point is, you can weed out a lot of the chaff by limiting your ratings to, say, 3 hearts or better—at least when you’re starting out.  (Of course concessions can be made later, as necessary, by tweaking your query.)  Second, you can optionally limit the results to only those profiles that surpass a user-defined threshold of user metrics—that is, profiles with multiple user reviews, user-submitted photos, and so forth.  This will spare you from sifting through unsubstantiated profiles posted by “wallflowers” (i.e., low-engagement users).

The photo

As with existing platforms, you’ll start by viewing the profile photo that was selected and uploaded by the dating candidate.  We make sure it’s a useful photo:  Vali.Date requires a minimum file size of 2 MB; analyzes photo metadata to disqualify non-recent pix; and employs proprietary graphics-analysis algorithms that reject photos on the basis of poor focus, soft-focus, gimmicks (e.g. sepia effect), or too much “noise”—e.g., pets, landscape, or other features intending to distract the viewer from a fair appraisal of the subject. 

But that’s only the beginning.  Vali.Date also enables other platform users to post their own photos, snapped during actual dates with the relationship candidate!  Don’t worry, not just anybody can post a photo; Vali.Date qualifies that the photo is submitted not only by a registered Vali.Date customer, but one who has actually dated the person featured in the profile!  Needless to say, these photos are much more candid and “honest” than the painstakingly “curated” profile photo other platforms are limited to.  Never again will a user meet a candidate in person only to realize that he or she only looks good from certain camera angles, with just the right light.  “Warts and all” means you won’t find yourself on a date with anyone who has a wart (unless, of course, you’re okay with warts).

User ratings

User ratings radically increase the value of the platform and are a core feature of Vali.Date.  Let’s say you’re a heterosexual male user looking for a bright, attractive, gainfully employed, college-educated, tall, thin, blond woman between 18 and 22 years of age who loves dogs (especially King Charles spaniels) and is interested in craft beer, hiking, sailing, and binge-watching “Game of Thrones “ while scarfing Chinese takeout.  You’ve narrowed your filter to capture not only these characteristics, but a minimum 3-heart user review across a minimum of 3 reviews, with at least 3 user-provided photos.  You’re on your way!  Now it’s time to sift through your results.  Fortunately, there are only about 20 of them, instead of 50.  See?  Vali.Date is already saving you time and effort!

You click on the first profile in your Inbox, a young woman named Wanda.  Now is when you start to appreciate the full magnitude of the Vali.Date difference.  Wanda’s profile photo is clear, hi-res, large, and she isn’t half-obscured by her dog.  Then you scan the user-submitted photos and she looks reasonably attractive in all of them.  So far, so good!  Now you browse Wanda’s third-party reviews:

♥♥♥   Pretty good date.
By kewldewd22 on January 13, 2017

Wanda was pretty good.  She looks a lot like her photo and smelled good.  I’m surprised she has a degree in Communications though because she seemed kind of quiet LOL.  We went for Philly Cheesesteaks which was my idea and I think that was kind of cool because Cheesesteaks wasn’t even in her profile.  It was kind of a short date because I had to work later but pretty fun.  I got half her fries.  She kissed me on the cheek at the end.  I might date her again if I have time.

♥♥♥♥  very cool chick!
By gnarlyhiker on January 12, 2017

i really had fun with wanda.  we went on three dates, all good.  1st we saw the new star wars movie, as a matinee, and though i liked it, wanda afterward was all ‘that was lame’ and just goes off on it, and she was funny as hell and i'm like ‘this chick is smart, woah!’ second date we go to a bar and man she knows from beer but isnt like a snob about it. third date was amazing, we did this big hike on tam and were looking over the view and the moment is just perfect but then i guess i got this michschevious streak lol and i'm all, ‘wanda, what color is your hair really?’ and she’s like ‘natural blond’ so i'm like ‘what about yoru dark eyebrows’ and she’s all ‘i dye those.’ man shes got balls and i was so impressed i finally kissed her, right there, and we totally made out. awesome. i'd give her five hearts except shes a bit clingy. like just because we made out she can text me like 3 times the next day? yo, desperate much wanda? so i didn’t text her back. still, a cool girl and i’m keeping her as a ‘back pocket’ date if you know what I mean lol

♥♥♥♥  Go Wanda!
By oscarnogrouch on December 15, 2016

Wanda has her own boat! It’s just this little inflatable Aquaglide thing, a bit cheesy, but actually really fun too. I wasn’t used to it and got all sideways and next thing you know we totally capsized her boat!! But we were laughing and laughing, even though we froze our asses off and Wanda lost her sunglasses. She was really cool about her lost shades, I’d have been so pissed. So she is laid back and fun. But I’m back together with my girlfriend now so I guess me and Wanda were not meant to be.  Have fun!

Bitch stood me up!!!
By doglover2012 on September 28, 2016

I waited and waited like a jackass and she never showed.  Guess she got cold feet or a better offer. She gave me a bunch of lame excuses but I’m like: don’t make me laugh.

So, you decide you’re definitely interested in Wanda but you’re still not sure.  You have a few lingering questions … but you’re in luck, because Vali.Date has thought of that!  You go to the Q&A section to see if other users have wondered the same things.

Site User Questions & Answers

You immediately see that three questions have already been answered:

Q.  Anyone met her dog?
A.  Yes, she has an adorable King Charles spaniel named George.  And he’s a good boy!  Very obedient, she is great with him too.
        By gnarlyhiker on November 10, 2016

Q.  By any chance is Wanda a virgin!?
A.  Maybe she was, but not anymore LOL!
       By doglover2012 on September 30, 2016
A.   You can ignore that first answer, that’s the guy who was so mad that I stood him up.  We never even met!  As for my virginity, maybe we can talk about that when you get to know me better! ;-)
       By wandapsyched on September 30, 2016

Q.  Anyone else been stood up by Wanda?  Any idea why?
A.  “Doglover2012” never gave me a chance.  I texted him three times telling him my dog got out, and he’s still young and was lost and I ran all over the neighborhood looking for him.  It was over an hour before I got him back, and by then I was psychically exhausted and so was my dog. I just wanted to stay home and be with him after that, and if this jerk really loved dogs like his profile said, he’d have understood.  I’m relieved, though, seeing what an a**hole he is.  Can you believe he called me a b****?  I feel like I dodged a bullet by standing him up!
       By wandapsyched on September 30, 2016

Note how Vali.Date gives all site users, including the one whose profile is being reviewed, the chance to weigh in.  This enables users to help “control the narrative” and safeguard their personal brand.  The Q&A section also enables users to pose questions to the entire Vali.Date community, which some will feel is “safer” and less presumptive than reaching out to the candidate directly.

Suppose your main question was why Wanda stood that guy up, so now you’re feeling pretty good about her as a prospective mate.  But suppose, too, that in the back of your mind you still have this nagging doubt that somebody out there might be even better, and you haven’t even looked at the other 19 profiles in your Inbox.  You’re kind of eager to move from the online world to the real world, but you’d hate to saddle yourself with a second-best kind of girlfriend.  You’ve been here before—and this is where the clinical, prescribed, scientific basis of the whole online dating scene may beg the question, “What happened to mystery, to random chance, to serendipity?” Well, Vali.Date has thought of that, too!

Customers who dated…

Are you looking for the dating website equivalent of the Hyperspace button in Asteroids?  But one that isn’t actually completely random?  Well check out this feature!

Vali.Date customers won’t be spending 90% of their time browsing prospects … the query and third-party validation tools are so good, our users will be getting lots of dates.  And that gives us terabytes of data to cross-reference, so each profile can now show you other romance candidates based on your candidate’s dating rivals! 

Here’s how that works.  Maybe you were looking for someone who loves dogs, craft brews, sailing, and hiking, and Wanda is all that.  But maybe some other guy found Wanda by looking for someone who loves comedy clubs, jogging, pizza, and origami—and Wanda is all that, too!  And maybe this other guy who found Wanda also found other great women who aren’t much like Wanda but who might appeal to you for the very reason that they’re so different from what you thought you were looking for.  So in a way, with Vali.Date users are getting on optimized version of the perfect date-finder, and also a what-the-hell, caution-to-the-wind counterpoint, for when they’re feeling capricious!

But for this exercise, let’s assume you browse the several “Customers who dated this person also dated…” candidates and they only reinforce for you how special Wanda appears to be.  So you go out with Wanda, and have that great date you’ve been dreaming of.  Shortly after, you’ll get an e-mail:  “Joe Blow, did Wanda meet your expectations?”  You’ll be able to rate and review your date … but you won’t, not right now.  You’re going to hold off, because after all, you don’t want anybody else dating Wanda at this point, do you?

Unless, of course, you get a chance to peek at the other 19 candidates in your Inbox and decide to purse one (or more?) of them instead.  In that case, you can cut Wanda loose, with a great review so there are no hard feelings.  Whatever you choose to do, you’re well on your way, all thanks to Vali.Date!

Call to action

As you can see, Vali.Date picks up where other dating websites leave off, addressing crucial gaps in the existing technology.  While our specific monetization scheme has yet to be worked out—whether it’s advertising, premium paid memberships, or a combination of the two—the growth in subscribership is expected to be dizzying.  Our pace of growth, in fact, may be limited only by our ability to scale the infrastructure.  Please contact us right away to obtain a copy of our working business plan.  Then we can meet and discuss funding of this exciting and promising venture, which is poised to revolutionize the way people fall in love.


A note to my readers

Remember, that was fiction—a satirical look at matchmaking in the digital age.  I hope it’s obvious I wouldn’t actually support such a website.  I also want to say that if it turns out a site like Vali.Date actually already exists, please don’t think I plagiarized the idea.  Chalk it up to insufficient cynicism on my part.

The fact is, I’m completely out of touch with the modern dating scene.  I haven’t been on a first date since spring of 1992 (my first date with my wife), and I have never visited a dating website or used a dating app.  My entire picture of this modern Internet dating world comes from a) Aziz Ansari’s excellent book Modern Romance, and b) the charming Polish movie Planeta Singli, which I saw on an airplane.  If I’m way off base with my social commentary, well—blame my sources!

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

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