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Online Daters - Beware of the Ides of March
An Interview of Dan Gildor

Interview conducted by James Houran, Ph.D.

"Beware the Ides of March"– this soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar has forever imbued that date with a sense of foreboding. But in Roman times the expression "Ides of March" didn’t necessarily evoke a dark mood — it was simply the standard way of saying "March 15th." Of course, today the phrase implies a bad omen. In reference to the negative stigma associated with March, I wanted to address the topic of safety and security in online dating. Though the stigma of online dating has largely been dispensed, lately there have been a multitude of media reports and blog entries concerning the possible need for additional safety measures in online dating. Some companies advocate background checks – a concept not at all original to online dating. For example, offline matchmaking services like "The Right One" have been conducting these on their customers for years. Other companies offer a new tool in the battle for increased online safety and security – an approach often referred to as "reputation management." What this approach boils down to is online daters posting reviews of the integrity and behavior of other online daters.

While such a formal reviewing process is new to online dating, it’s not new to the online world. Powerhouse companies like Amazon and eBay, which rely on customers policing themselves, have used customer reviews like this for years. And, reviews in these contexts have worked amazingly well. There’s another clever reason why these companies incorporate customer reviews into the "sales" process. It builds and enhances customer ownership in the website. In other words, it’s an excellent way to form and foster an online "community."

Now, customer reviews are hardly original to offline and online businesses. You need only consult with your local Better Business Bureau to see that customers have long taken action when a product or service didn’t live up to its promises. With all of this background, it would seem that an effective and popular service – for both policing online daters and building a sense of community – would be offering online daters the chance to post reviews of other online daters. Well, it's turned out to be quite a controversial service. The New York Times even recently published a feature story about these services [“Watch Out for Mr. Wrong” by Lizette Alvarez, February 16, 2006]. I personally liked the article but encourage everyone to read it to reach their own conclusions about these services. One company I didn’t see referenced in the NY Times piece was That’s too bad, because the founder of this upstart is a well-spoken and insightful man. Meet Dan Gildor. He’s agreed to explain how his service works and will outline how online daters can benefit from this new approach to online dating safety and security.

As always, Online Dating Magazine brings you interviews like this for your education and awareness – they’re not necessarily specific endorsements of the services being discussed.

Dr. Jim: How new are "reputation management" services to online dating?

Dan: Reputation has always been integral to dating. Before the advent of online dating, people would date from within their social network, whether friends of friends, or through church groups, book groups, and other socially-oriented networks. In these contexts, everyone brings with them their reputation—whether they are a good person or not—because someone in the network most likely knows the person in question. As a dater, you would automatically filter potential dates based on that reputation.

Online dating, however, strips away and separates a dater from their reputation given that the profiles are all self-reported and anonymous. There is no way to tell whether anyone is telling the truth about themselves, and indeed, surveys have uncovered that many people in fact misrepresent themselves in some way online. For instance, a 2001 study found that over a quarter of online dating participants reported misrepresenting some aspect of their identity, most commonly age (14%), marital status (10%), and appearance (10%) (Brym, R. J., & Lenton, R. L. - 2001. Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada. Available here).

As a result, there is growing dissatisfaction with online dating surrounding the wasted time and effort invested in bad dates that would otherwise never have been considered had reputation been available as a check against the online profile. The development of websites that rejoin reputation with a person’s online profile, then, are simply a natural development in the evolution of online dating. Now that online dating is viewed as being more mainstream, an online dater’s reputation will become more important in everyone’s quest for finding that someone special.

Dr. Jim: Explain how these services work

Dan: After someone goes on a date with someone they meet online, they can go to a site like and anonymously fill out a survey about the date, painting a picture of the person beyond what is said on their online dating profile. Then, subsequently, when you are considering going out with one of these people, you can find out what they are really like in person. Armed with that knowledge, you can decide whether you want to pursue meeting them or whether some red flags are raised by the review.

Dr. Jim: What motivated you to start, when there are already several similar services?

Dan: In the past, I’ve dabbled with online dating. Invariably I’d be asked a question, half-jokingly, along the lines of “how do I know that you aren’t an ax murderer?” I never could come up with a good answer for that because even an ax murderer would say he wasn’t an ax murderer.

I had always thought that if my prospective dates could talk to my past girlfriends, they would readily find out that I’m not an ax murderer. I never put much thought into how I could connect my past girlfriends with these prospective dates, until one day it hit me that a site like, where people review their dates, could be the perfect vehicle.

When I looked around on the net, I didn’t see many viable solutions. Mostly, there were a few sites where people just complained about or more appropriately “flamed” their dates or their ex’s. Such emotional and subjective reviews are largely useless other than for their amusement factor. Basically, I discovered that no one was collecting useful information and if they were, it was limited to a few selected dating sites.

That’s when I came up with “” I wanted to develop a virtual water cooler around which people can congregate and discuss online dating and the dates they’d been on, warning people of certain online daters where appropriate.

I also wanted to address the data quality issue: I wanted to ensure that our members could trust the collected information. So we designed to employ rigorous checks on all of our members to ensure that the reviews on would be from real people, not frauds themselves. We also employ various proprietary checks to prevent fraudulent reviews and even more proprietary technology to help track online daters despite their changing the profile name on the dating websites. Thus, while other sites might be stymied by people constantly changing the profile names within a dating website, won’t be and will in fact report such name changes.

At the heart of it all, though, is a focus-group tested survey through which our members review their dates. On other sites, the open ended subjective questions and responses don’t provide any assurance that you’ll get the information in which you are interested. As I mentioned earlier, many of these “reviews” are simply “flames” by a bitter ex. At, however, we ask a series of objective questions that online daters have told us are important to them. Moreover, at, you can submit a review on anyone from any site. We’re completely open and extensible, unlike other sites.

Dr. Jim: Why should online daters consider these services when there are several sites that offer background checks?

Dan: While a background check is an effective means of finding out whether a potential date is a felon or has an arrest warrant out on them, a background check does not tell you much about whether the person is courteous and thoughtful, or whether the person communicates well or not, or whether they will be more attached to their cell phone than to your conversation. That kind of information, the kind of information that is conveyed solely through reputation, can only be conveyed on a site like, where real people describe what it’s like to be on a date with the person in question.

Moreover, in many circumstances, background checks are infeasible given that they are costly and require as inputs such information as name, address, date of birth, or social security number—information that’s not readily available prior to meeting a potential online date given the anonymity provided by online dating.

By contrast, at, all you need is the potential date’s profile name on the particular website on which you met. You get instant feedback, for free. In the spectrum of things that online daters can do, using a site like is a reasonable first option.

Dr. Jim: How do you address the potential problem of vindictive or dishonest posters? And, aren't your members and you at risk for libel if someone posts very negative comments that causes a person not to get dates?

Dan: The first step to controlling for dishonest reviews is to ensure that the reviewers are legitimate people and not frauds in and of themselves. Hence members are vetted before they are allowed to submit reviews.

Second, our reviews are structured to limit the potential for vindictiveness. Instead of using a free-form, open-ended review structure that other sites employ — which can be abused by vindictive reviewers — employs a form wherein reviewers indicate the level to which they agree or disagree with particular factual statements. Such a survey structure is inherently less prone to vindictive reviewers. Indeed, someone with a vindictive intent will be tripped up by the survey structure and produce an internally inconsistent survey that can be filtered out.

Moreover, at, reviewees can post rebuttals to reviews about themselves. When you join, if you tell us where sites you have online dating profiles, we’ll let you know when someone reviews you. If a dishonest review is posted, you’ll find out about it and can respond accordingly.

Lastly, any subjective statement submitted in a review is itself reviewed by staff for its appropriateness.

Yet even if a dishonest or vindictive review does get through all of these checks and controls, to establish libel, there has to be some proof of economic damage to sustain the claim. Not getting a date doesn’t count as economic damage. Nevertheless to insulate against such risk, includes a disclaimer in its terms and conditions that the site and the information contained therein may be inaccurate and is for entertainment purposes only.

Dr. Jim: What should consumers look for when deciding on a reputation management service to use?

Dan: Consumers should decide on which service they should use based on a number of factors:

One is breadth and extensibility—does the site cover the dating sites they use? Sites with just limited coverage aren’t going to be as useful as sites like that are entirely open and extensible and are able to include not only dating sites but other sites like Myspace and Friendster and the ever increasing number of niche dating sites.

Another factor is whether the information collected by the site is objective or subjective, and whether the information covers the range of topics in which the consumer is interested. It’s one thing to know whether the date’s profile is accurate, another to know how they interacted on the date.

Additionally, can you trust the information on the site? At, we vet our members to ensure that they are real people and not frauds in and of themselves. That way, you can trust that the reviews you see on are by genuine people and not by someone masquerading as someone else in order to submit multiple positive reviews about themselves.

A fourth factor is how well the site handles individuals with multiple aliases across multiple dating sites. At, our proprietary technology helps you track to see if someone has been active across multiple sites using multiple aliases and then aggregates all the reviews in one place. No other site does this.

Last, does the site offer you other resources to connect with other online daters to share everyone’s experience? At, there’s a discussion forum as well as a blog in which members can participate to share and exchange their dating stories, both the horrors as well as the successes.

I think that upon analysis, consumers will realize that is the most advanced resource out there for them to use.

Some final thoughts from your host Dr. Jim… I hope readers don’t pay attention to their safety and security only during this season of the "Ides of March." While I’m a true believer in the potential and success of online dating, everyone in the industry knows that there are predators and just plain jerks of all types out there. For this reason, please be mindful in all of your online and offline interactions. You can find some excellent safety tips and guidelines by reading Online Dating Magazine's Online Dating Safety Tips. However, I’m very encouraged by the rationale and basic approach of and similar services. Having said this, I’m also cautious about these new services. Only time will tell if these services work consistently well, and just as important, whether they help wrap a strong sense of community and customer ownership around online dating sites. I’ll be curious to see where these companies stand two or three years from now.

In any event, I strongly applaud Dan Gildor and the founders of other "reputation management" services, because they’re striving to put the control and responsibility for online experiences firmly in the hands of online daters themselves. After all, when it’s all said and done, online dating safety comes down to personal responsibility. And to me, that’s the way it should be.

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