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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Online Personals Watch Founder Interview 3

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

 


Interview with Online Personals Watch founder Mark Brooks - Part 3

This is part three of my four part interview with Online Personals Watch founder Mark Brooks of. To see part 1, click here. To see part 2, click here. Scroll to the end of this interview to access a link to part 4.

From your own comments on OPW, you seem like a big proponent of technology and how it can be used to improve the online dating experience. If you agree with that characterization, what do you see as the most promising trend or trends that user can see or expect in 2009?

I think in 2009 and for the next 20 or 30 years we're going to see considerable improvements. I would like to think that we're going to see some considerably improvements on personal profiling systems because I'm very excited for the first time that academics and people who put together these tests have the ability to gather data from millions and millions of people and test the hypothesis for personality profiling against millions of people. Are they really being successful? Does it really work?

I think in 20 or 30 years these tests are going to be very effective. I think these days there is limited research to really prove that they're effective. So I'm most excited because if you look back in time internet dating improved on personals and newspapers in three ways. First of all, it improved because for the first time you didn't have to actually search through millions of profiles in a newspaper. You could just say well here is what I want and up pops a list of all the people who met your criteria. So the first area of improvement was search. The second area of improvement was communication. Okay you found them then what? Now you can instant message them, you can go on a forum or you can even go on a live video chat. So they improved the modes of communication available. You weren't forced to just send a letter into a P.O. Box. So communication was vastly improved and the timeline was vastly improved. That is a great improvement on service. But ultimately okay you found them, the people you think you want. People often don't know what they really want actually until it's in front of them but you found them. You've talked to them. But what happens if you have a six month relationship… have great chemistry but they turn out to be completely incompatible? And if you're looking for a long term relationship, which most people in the back of their minds at least are looking for a long term relationship. They would like to find their soul partner. And ultimately personality profiling is what will help fulfill that promise.

I'm most excited for the long haul and for next year about the developments with personality profiling tests. I think most people don't understand how they work. I think there are huge differences amongst the key top players. You've got the likes of Chemistry.com that is headed by an anthropologist, you've got Perfect Match headed by a sociologist and you've got eHarmony headed by a clinical psychologist. Well those are entirely three different worlds with entirely three different philosophies. Who’s right?  Who knows, it's really up to if you look at the person heading the service and you buy into them. Do you really trust them? There needs to be a little more transparency. There needs to be more, you needs to open up the hood on the car to show what is going on with those engines that are supposed to be providing the perfect matches. So I'm very excited about that. I also think in terms of technology I'm surprised that dating sites haven't offered the ability to connect people via the phone. That seems to be a huge gaping mission for the services. I think the reason they haven't done that is it kind of speeds up the communication loop and shortens the retention time, which isn't good for them. But ultimately it's good for the users if they can talk anonymously, more quickly, safely, securely and so I would like to see some calling. There is still some room for improvement with communication products.

The communication, the mobile dating, what we're seeing here is the lack of this being seized upon. Do you see it primarily as a US or North America phenomena? Is mobile dating popular in any part of the world?

I think mobile is funny because ultimately we're all going to go mobile for everything. Look where we've gone, we've gone PC, now we're mobile because we're using laptops. How do you define mobile? Okay the phone is mobile phone and that is the key, if you're on a mobile phone it's classified as mobile. But ultimately all the functionality in a laptop that we enjoy today is going to be pushed into a phone anyway. So we're all going to be mobile using the same sort of power of a laptop in our mobile phones in 5 or 10 years anyway.

Look at iPhone and its perfect branding experience. I think all phones in the future are going to have similarly beautiful screens with high resolution, with similarly easy and functional and usable, “browsable” experiences. So we're all going to be mobile anyway, so it doesn't matter if it's online. The trend will come and the USA has been a laggard in terms of scrunching the user experiences onto small phones but that is not going to matter because the USA loves the iPhone and loves all the other myriad of phones which are copying that browsing experience. The iPhone has been a leader and we're all going to be on mobile anyway, it doesn't really matter.

So the iPhone arguably has been a game changer. What used to be the direction that dating site companies were headed  has been changed now you think because of the iPhone interface?

Well the reason the USA is a laggard is it's been spoiled. If you look at the likes of India and China, the only way can get online and enjoy those improved information retrieval and communication tools was on the mobile phone. So they got used to and were willing to settle for the compromised experience. The USA was spoiled from the start. The USA had fast internet and low speed on an all you can eat plan before everybody else pretty much. So everybody jumped on their computers and got used to those big beautiful screens and they don't want to settle for the confined experience of a squished internet on these small screens, low resolution phones. So you can't blame the USA for want of being a laggard.

Europeans similarly, I mean the UK, I remember being in the UK and didn't want to spend per minute prices on the internet. That is just not the way the UK mindset works anyway. So we'll settle for the phone. But they're all homogenized to the same deal, the iPhone experience around the world. Everybody wants them; everybody is buying them in droves.


 

Click here for part 4 of this interview.


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