Renowned journalist Andrew Blum took to the stage at The Next Web Conference 2013 in Amsterdam today to talk about his inspiring journey to discover the physical infrastructure behind the Internet.
Blum used to write about architecture by visiting beautiful buildings and documenting their structural innovation. But following the release of the original iPhone, he found himself experiencing more and more of these places through a screen.
“I was spending all of my days – as most of you do – sitting in front of the screen, and then at the end of the day I was getting up and looking at this smaller screen in my pocket,” Blum said. “My attention was divided.”
The writer became hung up on the lack of physicality associated with the Internet. The journey to find exactly what places support and connect with the Internet was triggered following an unusual interaction with a squirrel in his backyard.
“My internet broke and the cable guy came to fix it,” Blum said. “He followed the wire from this dusty clump behind my coach, out to the back of my building in Brooklyn, and there he saw a squirrel running along the wire.”
“He said something to me that changed my life. He said ‘I think a squirrel is chewing on your internet’. And this of course seemed preposterous, because as all of you know the internet is the great changer of everything, it has changed revolutions, and dating and shopping and anything that you might imagine.
“But I got a very clear image in my head, and I realized that if I yanked the wire from the wall, it had to go someplace.”
Blum went on an adventure to find the buildings, installations and people who make the Internet what it is today. The results were extraordinary and in many ways, completely unexpected.
Blum also took the time to speak with The Next Web one-on-one after his keynote presentation. Check out his comments below, along with all our other #TNW2013 coverage.
Image Credit: Julia Deboer/Flickr
The idea of matching prospective dates based on shared interests is about as old as dating itself. But understanding how one set of interests relate to another, certainly at scale, is arguably something that machines can do a lot more efficiently than humans, so why not harness that capability for match-making purposes. Loveflutter, which soft-launched in New York last month, and gets a UK push today, aims to do just that.
Powered by Freebase, the 37-million strong open database of people, places and things acquired by Google in 2010 and now part of the search giant’s Knowledge Graph, the online dating site connects people based on shared interests.
After importing your Facebook “Likes” or entering interests manually, Loveflutter goes to work to show you matches who like the same kinds of music, books, movies, TV shows, and sports, in addition to utilising standard demographic data and your location. If you like what you see, you can click the “smile” button on someone’s profile or take the first step by messaging said person, although the latter requires paid-for credits or a subscription.
If the attraction is reciprocated, Loveflutter can suggest places to go on a date, based on local venues it pulls in from Foursquare.
So far, so “me-too”, you might rightfully argue.
However, the site’s use of Freebase allows its interest matching to go a little deeper. When an interest is added to your Loveflutter profile (e.g. your favourite band, book or movie), by tapping the power of Freebase, other structured data is also included, such as genre, author, or director. This is then used to make “semantic connections” between users, which provides the framework for Loveflutter’s interest-matching process.
It also enables a more flexible level of granularity when employing a user’s “interest-graph”. On the first level, exact matches of shared interests are sought e.g. two users both like the band “The Black Keys”. But the system can also zoom out a little to use broader interest criteria, such as both users like the same genre of music. That way Loveflutter is able to offer up more matches than it might otherwise, which is pretty crucial for a dating site not to feel like a ghost town (or perhaps an empty night club).
Other features of the dating site include “Verified Profiles” to denote when a user has signed up via Facebook, thus helping to reduce spam and fake profiles, something that plagues the online dating industry. There’s also Instagram-style photo filters, and badges — 24 in total — for various achievements, such as listing enough films to be deemed a movie lover and so on.
Lastly, it would be remiss not to mention the rather silly Facebook campaign that kicks off to coincide with the UK launch. For a limited time, Loveflutter says it’s only allowing “interesting people” to sign-up. To find out if you’re interesting enough to join, you’re required to take Loveflutter’s QI Test on Facebook and receive a Quirky-Interesting score.
Loveflutter is co-founded by David Standen and Daigo Smith. The startup is based in London and currently bootstrapped.
(Note: For readers interested in trying out Loveflutter, I’m told that the first 1,000 who sign up using the code TECHCRUNCHLOVE will get 15 messaging credits free as well as bypass the “QI” test.)
See the original post here: Loveflutter Is A Google Freebase-Powered Dating Site
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Category: IT & Programming > Web Programming
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Let’s Date, the iPhone dating app founded by Suicide Girls co-creator Sean Suhl and backed by Los Angeles incubator Science, Inc., is releasing its first significant update since the app’s national launch a month ago. The big focus — allowing friends to recommend potential dates to each other.
First of all, regular users will now be able to make these recommendations. If you find someone who might interest a friend, you can share that person’s dater card (that’s Let’s Date’s distilled version of a user profile) as a link via SMS or email.
Curiously, you can’t actually share recommendations within the Let’s Date app itself. I wondered if this was a strategy to recruit more users, but founder Sean Suhl said, “We wanted to make it part of the real way you communicate with friends.” After all, to make the sharing work entirely in-app, Let’s Date would have had to build an entirely new social layer — one that probably isn’t necessary, since you already know plenty of ways to reach your friends.
There’s also a new ability to designate an account as a “Wingman,” a setting for people who aren’t looking to date, but enjoy making recommendations for others. (To be clear, a Wingman can be either gender.) Their dater cards won’t ever be shown to other users, and they can’t message people in the app. They can, however, browse dater cards and send links to friends.
And regardless of whether you’re a regular user or a Wingman, Let’s Date will track the success of your recommendations. If they actually lead to dates, Suhl said you’re more likely to see the dater cards of new users as they enter the system, while other users will have to wait a bit longer.
Suhl also revealed that the main metric that his team cares about — the number of dates set up through the app — continues to grow. Let’s Date set up 32,000 dates in February (which Suhl pointed out is a short month) compared to 25,000 in January (when it was available in Los Angeles only). The company also says that the basic task in the app, hitting “Let’s Date” or “No Thanks,” gets performed 1 million times per day.
Let’s Date is sharing few other pieces of interesting data. For example, it said that Los Angeles ranks the highest for dater flakiness, with nearly 10 percent of people missing dates that they set up through the app. (The app’s national average is 4.5 percent.) It also said that the most hated diet preference is paleo.
I’ve actually become a pretty regular user myself, even though I haven’t made it to the dating stage yet. (God, when I write it out, that sounds pretty sad.) And TechCrunch’s Leslie Hitchcock has some ideas about why the app can be so addictive.
One thing I’ve been a little dissatisfied with is the app’s tendency to ignore some of my preferences. It never actually asks you what kind of person you’re looking to date (which does make it easier to get started), and instead you can just cross out the things that are unappealing when the app recommends someone to you and you say “No thanks.” However, no matter how many times I crossed it out, I noticed that Let’s Date was still recommending people who were more than a decade younger than me (or, occasionally, more than a decade older).
Suhl said another upcoming update should fix that — it’s an update to the app’s “backend logic,” so it doesn’t require a new download. Basically, he said the threshold for moving certain types of people out of your recommendations has been lowered, and the app will also get smarter about your preferences. For example, if you say that you don’t want to date an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old (and you identify the ages as the reason you’re not interested), it will be able to figure out that you’re not interested in 19-year-olds, either.
You can download the app here.
View original post here: Let’s Date Adds A ‘Wingman’ Feature For People Who Just Want To Recommend Dates For Friends
Dattch, the lesbian dating app, has moved up a level to provide a solid beta for invite-only users.
The earliest version of the app launched last November and Founder Robyn Exton says that there have been weekly adjustments led by the reaction of its community.
The app lets gay women know about other ladies looking for dates in their area. At the moment it has a focus on London but Exton has big plans for international expansion once things are up and running to suit the audience in the UK.
As with most good ideas, Dattch came from personal observations at the right time when Exton was looking to do something new.
“I used to work in a branding agency and we had a dating business as one of our clients so I knew a fair bit about the space,” Exton told The Next Web. “We were in the pub, a friend had just broken up with a girlfriend and most of us had signed up to some kind of online dating at some point but it wasn’t working.”
Exton says that gay women tend to use Internet dating a lot more than heterosexual women because it’s harder to meet other gay women, but that the experience is never quite right. “It works in the sense that you can chat to other people and maybe go on the odd date but they were all faulted quite seriously in a number of different ways,” she says. “I was interested in programming personally and I’d done the dating stuff before, I’d looked at doing other dating apps and I thought this is it, this is the one.
“When we started it, there was the problem of helping women find other women they fancy or could go on a date with, but the biggest problem was the number of guys who create profiles on lesbian sites,” Exton explained. “They are full of fake profiles and no one’s taking the time to go in and make sure it is a genuine profile. A lot of the previous lesbian sites were just add-ons”.
Exton says that many of the current lesbian dating sites are an extension of sites originally created for gay men and that this doesn’t serve the intended community.
The idea of men making fake profiles to browse a lesbian site might sound spurious but Exton has been surprised at the rate and extent to which this happens. “Daily, we have about five guys registering for an invite and it’s unsubstantiated but the emails have a guy’s name on them. We’ve seen fake Facebook accounts set up to try and get invites. You’ll see they set up an account yesterday, have no friends but they like Dattch and something like ‘Lesbian and bi girlies of London’. It’s amazing. The fact that people will go to that extent to try and check out gay women or convert them or meet up with them.”
Dattch currently verifies profiles manually, so each person is checked out at least to make sure they are female. From here, profiles will be linked to Facebook to see if applicants are women and if their profiles are well established.
Exton assures us that the Facebook links are discreet. Though it would be a fine world if everyone could be out and proud if they chose to be, not everyone wants to be identified by their sexuality. She says that the Facebook verification process is only to check if users are female. Users will be able to pull information from other profiles if they choose, but Dattch doesn’t use or keep any of the data.
The beta testing so far has provided a rich seam of information about the gay female market that will help to fund the app in future. Exton says that gay men have some of the highest browsing figures on dating apps and that gay women tend to want to browse and talk even more.
This level of engagement leads to a strong area for advertising and a targeted group of women that marketers will doubtless have an interest in.
The relationship between sex and technology is a strong one that has led to innovation in payments mechanisms, viewing habits and more, so it’s no surprise that an app like Dattch could also lead to change for a wider market.
One of the problems that Exton is also looking to solve is that of the endless inbox. Solving the email problem is a project that many people are trying their hand at, and the inbox on a dating site is not so different.
“We’re working out how we are going to deal with inbox management,” says Exton. “It’s a really big problem on straight apps, where you’ve got guys inundating women with messages. It’s always a problem based on different users, some are getting overwhelmed with messages and we’re working on a way to deal with that, not limit it, but manage it.”
If she manages to crack that nut, the solution could be valuable to anyone managing an inbox with varied contents.
For now Dattch is free to use and Exton has a premium version on her roadmap. Rather than restricting the functionality of the current app, she aims to add value and additional features. Geographical expansion is also ahead as the app is currently focused on London.
Exton has spent a lot of time with the London startup and gay communities doing her research. So far the reaction has been mixed, “When I first started talking about this so many people are familiar with Grindr and how it works that as soon as you say you’re making a dating app for gay women, they say, ‘they won’t use it, it’s never going to work because women don’t want to just hook up immediately’”, she says.
“But that’s mainly because you’re talking to guys. I think that’s the problem of why it hasn’t been done before. You need someone who understands the market and gets tech, to be able to put all the piece together. It’s a male-dominated space and few people understand the gay female market. So, to know how women behave and how they want to use apps would probably take a woman in the first place to do it. I’ll probably get bollocked by men for saying that,” she laughs.
Exton has been earning her coding stripes via General Assembly and Decoded in London. She says that she would tell anyone considering leaving their 9-5 for a digital startup to get working on this first.
Although she has worked with developers and designers to get the app up and running, it has been an important step in understanding the nexus between gay women and technology.
“I go to gay geek meetups and it’s normally dominated by guys,” says Exton. “Sometimes there’s one other girl.”
That’s a slim selection of people to try to create something with a very specific audience. But if the current services leave so much to be desired and so few people are training their focus on finding a solution, Exton and Dattch might just have the right combination to provide what is needed for an underserved market.
Hat tip: @CBM