In the modern world of dating, there are plenty of apps to find your match: Tinder, Grindr, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, the list goes on. But sometimes, UCLA students want to find a fellow Bruin. Last Valentine’s Day, Maique Vo and her team matched up Bruins. But here’s the catch – they did it by hand.
Playing matchmaker without an algorithm may seem like a logistical nightmare, but the team had a method, ample patience, and key data to help match people up.
NANAYAKKARA: This is “Statistically Yours,” a podcast where we bring you stories through data. I’m your host, Priyanka Nanayakkara. Today we’ll take a quick look into a Google Form sent around the UCLA community, and revisit Cupid’s favorite holiday. Maique first started the Valentine’s Day Google Form tradition last year, as a joke. To set the scene, she was on the Free and For Sale page on Facebook.
VO: The Valentine’s Day Google Form started last year … Because I have a lot of fun matchmaking my friends, so out of a joke, I commented on the section where someone was advertising themselves. I was like, “Fill out this form to be matched on Valentine’s Day.” I only expected like 30 people to sign up. But it was crazy because within a couple hours it totally blew up and we got more submissions than expected.
NANAYAKKARA: How many submissions did you get last year?
VO: A lot … I think 600.
NANAYAKKARA: With such a large reaction last year, Maique reduced advertising this year to reduce the number of responses, and make the matching process simpler.
VO: This year we did not really advertise the Google Form, because last year I think we over advertised so we had way too many responses, and that was just a hassle to match. This year we had about 180 Google Form submissions. And about 150 people were matched.
NANAYAKKARA: Maique had already graduated, but found two current students to join the team. Last year, Danny Wong was a fourth-year biology student. In order to match students, Danny relied on reading the questions respondents answered. It took a few weeks to get through everything.
NANAYAKKARA: What are the types of questions you ask on the Google Form?
WANG: On the Google Form we basically look at their ideal hobbies, what they describe themselves, what they’re looking for, what are some ideal dates, their preferences. These are standard, but it’s so open ended that people can provide as much or as little as they want. And then we will take everything that we can and infer what would be a good option for them.
NANAYAKKARA: So I’m looking at some of these questions, and they’re kind of interesting. What is your ideal match? What is your ideal date? What are some of the responses that stand out to you that you remember?
WONG: Oh, ideal dates. We have a lot of coffee, a lot of beaches. There are some unique ones that I remember. The ideal dates… Some of them give an actual calendar date… So that’s a very funny play on words.
NANAYAKKARA: Oh, so they just say, “My ideal date is February 13, or maybe 14.”
NANAYAKKARA: But not everybody wants a romantic date. About 20 prcent of responders said they were looking for a friend.
NANAYAKKARA: And how does it work for the roughly 20 percent of people who said they were only looking for a friend? How do you match the friendships up?
WONG: We try to match those between people who are seeking friends with those who are also seeking friends. Every once in a while if we see a really good potential match we will pair a person seeking a friend with someone who maybe isn’t. And then we’ll let them take it from there. If that’s their preference that they are only looking for a friend, they’ll dictate that during the meeting.
NANAYAKKARA: Oh, so sometimes it’ll be someone looking for a friend and then someone looking for more than a friend. Wouldn’t that lead to something awkward, or does it work out?
WONG: We don’t do those often, because it’s a sad situation. However when we see many similarities… Not all of them are going to net result in a relationship. Some of them will never see each other again, some people will become acquaintances, some will be friends, and good friends …When we see people that have similarities … and the only drawback is the looking for a friend part, we still try to match them, if possible.
NANAYAKKARA: But how does the team even begin to separate between people looking for friends and those looking for more than friends? It starts with simple sorting.
NANAYAKKARA: How do you logistically go through all these responses?
WANG: We number them. We give everybody a number in our spreadsheet, and through the different columns we’ll sort them… We’ll also sort based on gender, preference, on whether they’ve been matched or not, whether they applied to email confirmations.
NANAYAKKARA: So you get an Excel spreadsheet? And then you’re able to sort it, and then zoom in on the sorted bits of information?
WONG: Not so much zoom in, but just being able to sort it so it’s easier if we want to look at, say, all the males that are seeing females we will be able to see that. Then we can put that on a separate monitor and re-read all through the things and see what similarities and what matches come up.
NANAYAKKARA: It’s not a question that manually going through responses and finding matches takes a significant amount of time. Though, it’s not dull work.
WONG: I joined because I thought it would be something cool… I’m a huge K-Drama fan… I guess it’s a passion, a lot of matchmaking fun things. So I thought, “Oh that’s a fun thing to try.” So I decided to help out.
NANAYAKKARA: Maique and her team also tried setting up a dating website to make matches using an algorithm. But if you’re looking for a match made by a matchmaker, you might just have to wait for Valentine’s Day 2018.
Thanks for joining us on “Statistically Yours.” If you have any questions, or data that needs exploring, send us an email at [email protected]