Misguided Matchmaking “Platform”


There seems to be no end to the bad ideas that accrete to cryptocurrencies.

Matchpool” is a new app with its own cryptocurrency. Matchpool aims to “disrupt the dating industry”, by providing a platform for anyone to set up as a matchmaker.

They have a cryptocurrency and blockchain which they use for micropayments to encourage sign ups and participation.

What problem do they think they are solving?

They believe that people need digital matchmaking, but they think the current apps suck. “We think the future should look like the past (The distant past) . We enable anyone to help his tribe or similar people to break the ice with his or her potential partner….

Basically, they want to recreate an imaginary state where young people were introduced to each other in “trusted” environments, such as their home.

“in a nightclub or in a dating app- youre [sic] not acting naturally there. The reason for that is that you are not feeling its familiar and hence put yourselves layers of protection which decrease the chance for you and for the other side to truly [sic] like each other and moving to the next phase.

We can see problems with this analysis already. I’ll grant the discomfort in the untrusted venue, but I’m not sure that anyone ever acts “naturally” when hoping to meetup, nor is it clear that acting naturally will improve the meeting. And it is extremely telling that the situation is described as an effort to “move to the next phase”—extremely tactical.

The developers imaging a better world.

Imagine a state that feels exactly like in your friends house -only in the internet.

They spin out this fantasy in a sketchy history of matchmaking. Their history is naïve and revealing. They have little understanding of history or anthropology, and certainly know little of the history of dating (see Weigle [3]) For that matter they seem to have little understanding of contemporary dating, which they propose to “disrupt” (see perhaps Ansari [1]).

Their basic conclusion is:

We think the future should look like the past (The distant past) . We enable anyone to help his tribe or similar people to break the ice with his or her potential partner, and get rewarded . Anyone can open a pool and set its rules . The most important part: be a matchmaker .

While they talk about history, I think they are actually more interested in “Disrupting the Dating Industry via Blockchain,” regardless of whether this actually does anyone any good or not.

What this turns out to mean is creating a platform “that allows anyone to open his own mini dating site”. The solution to sucky dating apps, they suggest,  is a million tiny dating apps, each curated by someone. You find a matchmaker your trust, and join his or her pool. Their white paper [2] claims that “[m]atchpool solves these game-theoretic problems”, which certainly gives us an idea of how they think about the world.

The cryptocurrency is used to incentivize participants and, probably to cover costs. One technical feature uses Ethereum “smart contracts” to implement “matchlock”: “which keeps a 50:50 ratio between x and y. If a certain number of x users enters the pool, then the matchlock will stop more x from entering until the same number of y’s arrive.” [2]

(I guess curators are too busy making matches to implement a complicated rule like this.)

It is early days, so no one is really using this cunning app yet. We’ll have to see, but I’m not expecting it to work very well.

First of all, everything depends on finding matchmakers. It should be noted that the historical precedents sited by the company are extremely small scale: a given matchmaker (or team of matchmakers) would operate for a pool of people they know personally, which would be no more than dozens. Indeed, Matchpool sets a limit of 144 people in a pool. At this scale, there will need to be thousands of matchmakers in a city, and a given user will use one or two.

To be a matchmaker, you need to have a pool of people you know, and who you can stake your own reputation on. If Matchpool works via digital connections, it may be difficult to reliably recommend people. So a matchmaker should do due diligence, which will be time consuming and difficult.

Alternatively, matchmakers may be tempted to play a more commercial game, and simply run their own mini-match.com. Aside from the questionable ethics of this kind of “monetization”, it won’t necessarily work well unless the pool is very large. Commercial dating sites work by having large enough pools so you have a chance of finding “the one”.

I note that there are well known shortcomings of the pre-digital matchmaking process that Matchpool ignores. While the connections might be “safe” (e.g., vetted by elders), the matchmaker usually has his or her own agenda. Arranged marriages are notoriously unhappy.

Matchmakers are also a force for self selection. The pool is “safe” because it is a pool of “people just like you”. Indeed, one of the common agendas for matchmakers is to make a match that is good for the group. One of the few really good things about Modern Romance is that it is very possible to break out of your isolated in-group.

In the digital incarnation, this selection will take the form of many tiny “market segments”, which will promote yet more self-selection. This platform not only does a poor job of finding matches, it encourages social segregation of the most corrosive kind.  It is designed to select a very narrow group.

We are sure to see pools that play to all kinds of prejudices. They will offer “safe” people to meet, people who are just like you. This is only increasing the destructive isolation and self selection of the social Internet.

Now, if I were to invent an app to “solve” this problem, I might think about the following:

  • Use tracking, etc, to detect “good” behavior: meeting and conversing in person. Ideally, offer help to be authentic, etc. Extra points for turning off you phone during the meetup!
  • Use a digital platform to anti-select, to deliberately find (nice, interesting, etc.) people that don’t fit your preconceptions of who you want to meet
  • Use micropayments to implement some kind of “karma”. The idea is to give away all your coins to help others. In the dating case, you spend your own coins to match others, the person with the least karma “wins”.  (Paying people to participate is extremely counterproductive in this game.)

Anyway, we shall see.

Kids will be kids, love will happen.  I don’t think Matchpool is going to make much difference.

  1. Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance, New York, Penguin Press, 2015.
  2. Philip Saunders and Yonatan Ben Shimon, Matchpool. Matchpool White Paper, 2017. http://matchpool.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Matchpool_Whitepaper_140117.pdf
  3. Moira Weigel, Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

Cryptocurrency Thursday

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