The Null Device


The OKCupid people have been running a free online dating service, backed by psychological matching algorithms driven by user-written tests, for many years, and have build up a huge corpus of data about how people interact. Now they have started a blog, where they discuss the statistical findings that may be gathered from comparing people's profiles and message counts.

One blog posts looks at how well different profile attributes predict whether two people will match. Not surprisingly, the zodiac signs of any two people have no effect on their actual personalities, and thus on how well they would get along:

Race has a slightly greater influence (of a few percentage points either way), presumably because of uneven distribution of cultural backgrounds, but it is still fairly small. (Keep in mind that the match scores are computed from how users answer others' questions, and not from explicitly asking questions like "would you date a Virgo/Polynesian/Buddhist".) Religion, however, turns out to be a lot more telling:
According to this, atheists, agnostics, Jews and Buddhists seem to get along just swell (in fact, Buddhists appear to be slightly more compatible with the nonbelievers than with other Buddhists), whereas the Christians, Hindus and Muslims tend to be somewhat more contentious, not only not getting along with other religions as well but also with each other. Additionally, the more seriously one takes religion, it seems, the less likely one is to get along with others.

Looking again at the issue of race, while race doesn't seem to affect actual compatibility scores, it does affect how likely people are to get responses:

Love may be blind, but it also seems that it, or at least attraction, is deeply racist.

On a lighter note, OKCupid have crunched the word frequencies of successful and unsuccessful opening messages and discovered what to write if you want a reply. Netspeak and "hip" misspellings ('u', 'luv', 'wat') and physical compliments are out, whereas mentions of specific interests are helpful. Unsurprisingly, mentioning religion is generally a bad idea as well.

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Things aren't looking good for ZFS, Sun's jaw-droppingly impressive next-generation filesystem, used in Solaris and once slated to appear in OSX; now Apple have abruptly shut down their open-source ZFS project. There is speculation here that it has to do with (a) Oracle, who bought Sun, already being behind a competing (if currently somewhat less developed) filesystem, Btrfs (which is being developed on Linux), and planning to kill ZFS development to rationalise costs, and/or (b) server manufacturer NetApp suing Sun over patented technologies used in ZFS.

Apple, meanwhile, are hiring filesystem engineers, which suggests that they're planning to build their own next-generation filesystem. Until then, Mac users will have to make do with HFS+.

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The BBC looks at the sociological phenomena behind the rising popularity of cupcakes:

The humble cupcake has even been linked to political culture. Ms Twilley sees cupcakes both democratic - one each - and libertarian - there is no imperative to share and everyone chooses a flavour - in marked contrast to the communal cake.
Dr Smith believes there could be something behind this theory. "There are more diverse kinds of families now," he says. "These social changes could have an impact upon the type of baking we're producing. Quantity could have changed - it might be that we prefer lots of little cakes to one huge one now."
Cupcakes as a symptom of social atomisation/the bowling-alone phenomenon/the decline of collective institutions?

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