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Brief Published: 30 Jul 2014

OkCupid Experiments on Humans

OkCupid founder Christian Rudder's Dataclysm book

Since 2011, when it stopped publishing, the world has been waiting for an update from OkTrends, the irreverent data-mashing blog from US dating website OkCupid. This week, the blog sparked into life again, with a post mocking Facebook’s recent admission that it manipulated news feeds in a bid to gain psychological insight into user behaviour.

OkTrends writer Christian Rudder – the company’s founder – is typically blunt about the outrage that followed Facebook’s confession: “Guess what, everybody: if you use the internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.”

Rudder explains that OkCupid's own, somewhat controversial, experiment with its users involved pairing up "bad" matches, telling them they were actually highly compatible. "When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other."

As Rudder explains to US content marketing website Contently, despite abandoning the blog after three years, the work has not been left to languish in the archives. Rudder is publishing a book in September entitled Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking), which he describes as a “superset of all the stuff I did on OkTrends”. The book delivers “intriguing analyses of human behaviour gleaned from [a] wealth of social data”, according to Scientific American, and reflects the explosion of big data now driving insight across business, entertainment and marketing.

For more on big data, consumer behaviour and privacy issues, see our reports Cannes Lions 2014: The Brains Behind Better Ads, SXSWi: Privacy, and DLD 14: Rethinking Data.