A recent statement on OKCupid’s blog unapologetically shows its contempt for its users. According to their own statement, “we took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.) Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible.” They intentionally misinformed users, they observed that users acted on the misinformation, and rather than apologizing, OKCupid founder Christian Rudder is bragging:
We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook “experimented” with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But 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.
For Rudder, dishonesty is the norm. It’s “how websites work.” Annoying and intrusive as Facebook’s manipulation of its feeds may have been, it’s unlikely to have inflicted real harm on anyone. OKCupid, on the other hand, subverted its primary purpose just to see what would happen.
On Salon’s website, Andrew Leonard points out why OKCupid’s “experiment” is contemptible:
There’s a big different between straightforward A/B testing — presenting two different versions of a site to different groups of users in order to see what works better — and consciously presenting false information or otherwise skewing emotionally laden data. One is completely acceptable tinkering designed to improve usability, while the other is irresponsible behavior that treats human beings like lab rats and their emotions as play toys.
Not that I’d expect anything better from the company that led the witch hunt against Brendan Eich. Maybe that started out as just an “experiment” too?