Yes All Women

Yes All Women

I have a sort of low information diet. I don’t really keep up with the news, so most of the time I just see what’s been surfacing a lot from my friends in my Facebook feed. So I tend to be a few days behind. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about Elliot Rodger and his manifesto and the stuff people have been posting with the #YesAllWomen hashtag the past few days. I hadn’t really had the chance to look at much of either until yesterday, but now that I have I’ve felt sort of unsettled about the whole thing all day.

I think part of the uneasy feeling is the fact it reminds me of past experiences, and that I’ve been deliberating on whether or not I should post about them. But the fact that I was sort of afraid to even share makes me think I should. But then I realized there’s really no way for me to fit all of these into 140 character sound bytes. So I’m writing it as a post instead. These are the scattered things I’ve been thinking about today after reading through the #YesAllWomen tag:

Happening around me

- A few weeks ago I was walking down Valencia street in the middle of the day. There was another girl walking a few feet ahead of me so I saw her walk past this group of guys. One of them started cat calling and asking her to join them. She said no thanks and kept walking. He then starts walking after her shouting at her, calling her a slutty white bitch among other things. His friends are laughing. He stops at the edge of the street as she keeps walking but he’s still worked up shouting at her as I take a wide path to get past him quickly. After I’ve passed him I hear shouting again. When I turn around I see there’s a group of girls walking behind me with one guy. He’s yelling at this guy calling him a fag and then suddenly starts hitting him. The girls start yelling to leave him alone while trying to pull him away, his friends come in to break it up at this point.

- In college I knew a guy who was generally “good with computers.” His roommate had computer issues (likely some viruses from porn sites or something) and asked him to fix it for him. While clearing stuff out he finds a collection of secret up-skirt photos his roommate had been taking of random girls around campus. He reported his roommate for it, but I don’t know what happened to the roommate after that.

- After discovering a collection of covert photos of girls’ short skirt asses my friend took on his phone, I had to explain why this was not acceptable behavior. Defensively he says “it’s not like I do anything with them, I just takes the pictures” I explain that if he is doing it without their consent it’s a problem. He says “I guess you’re right…I’ll delete them.”

Happening to me

- In high school for a few weeks there was a guy who would constantly try to grope me on the bus. It seemed like a game to him, trying to get a hand up my shirt or down my pants before I would push him away. I would try to avoid him but we rode the same bus every day. I think I was also confused at the time and wondered if this meant he actually liked me. So I asked one of his friends but his friend said that he wasn’t actually into me but liked some other girl, so that was confusing. But he got mad when he found out I was going to a dance with another guy, and left me alone after that.

- A few years ago I was standing on a crowded bus and got cornered by a creepy old dude. He had one hand on the bar over my head and the other in his pocket, which he was clearly using to stroke himself while staring at me. Even though I squeezed away as quickly as I could he watched me as I move across the bus.

- One guy tells me about the one time an older lady tried to grab his ass while dancing. I tell him that always happens to me at least once a night when I go dancing, in total more times than I can count. I keep a mental blacklist of the guys I have to avoid. Also there was the time that someone tried to lick my neck while dancing. But now that I go with my boyfriend the creepy dudes leave me alone.

- A few weeks ago a guy tells me something along the lines of this: “I can’t keep a girlfriend for very long. To be honest, women are like toys to me. It’s fun when they’re new, but once they start to like me more I get bored of them and pull away and start looking for a new toy. You can judge me, that’s just how it is.”

Happening to those close to me

- A relative tells me this story. It was late at night the guy she had been dating was leading her out to an empty field. I’m sure he thought it was going to be romantic. She says she was afraid something terrible was about to happen and no one was going to be around to find out. But to her surprise he was actually proposing to her.

- A few years ago a close family member’s (now ex) husband, who is much larger than her, threw her across the room, which banged her up pretty badly. His mother (her mother-in-law) blamed her for being argumentative and getting him riled up in the first place.

This sort of stuff happens. 

This is just some of the stuff that comes to mind. I’m sure there are other incidents that I’ve forgotten because these sort of little things happen a lot. These little things sort of vary on the gross out scale, and luckily none of them as extreme as some of the things other women have been posting. But I do think that cumulatively they are representative of the type of stuff that still happens to us and those around us. I think it’s better that people are aware of it.

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Why I happily keep paying Blue Apron over $230 a month

As an art school trained designer, I honestly never really learned much about the business side of things. It wasn’t until I started working at a small startup that I was really exposed to and gained an appreciation for various business strategies. As I’ve watched our company try to figure things out it’s been interesting for me to study how other companies get it right. Since Blue Apron is the only startup service I’ve been willing to pay so much for I thought it was worth a little analysis.

Target market

I’d like to learn to cook, and occasionally I’d find recipes online and follow the directions reasonably well. But as a busy 20-something I don’t really have the patience to make a habit out of planning meals, buying groceries, and cooking dinner. It’s just too easy to find a variety of restaurants and distractions in every direction and I go out for dinner all the time.

I don’t know what their parameters were for the Facebook ad I clicked in my newsfeed but they did a great job at targeting me. The images showed couples around my age and some good looking dishes. The marketing copy was something along the lines of “Great recipes and all the ingredients you need delivered to your door.” It was immediately obvious to me this offered a solution to a problem I was already aware I had.

Value

At $9.99 per serving it was a no-brainer, especially since living in San Francisco means eating out for dinner almost always costs me way more than that. Other companies’ per meal prices were mostly over $10 which starts to become comparable to eating out and makes it a lot less appealing.

I recognize that people who are good at planning and shopping can bring their per serving cost down a lot lower. But for now this is a good baby step towards spending slightly less money eating out and wasting less money on groceries I that go uneaten in my fridge. I’m trying to just create a habit and get more comfortable in the kitchen, I’ll optimize and refactor later.

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Lifelong Learning

I have seen other food subscription box services but I’ve always felt like their positioning made me feel guilty. Pre-prepared ‘just heat it up’ type meals never appealed to me because it would make me look lazy and I can’t build upon it. Other companies only highlight saving time, but just being saving time only appeals to my logical side and not to my emotional side.

Blue Apron on the other hand clearly positions themselves as a way to learn and grow:

“Originally worn by apprentice chefs in France, the Blue Apron has become a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking.”

I think this is a big differentiator. Their approach makes learning to cook a lot more fun as opposed to making me feel an anxious newbie. Looking at all the little labeled components my roommate called it a Dinner Lego set. It sort of feels like that, but the recipes are interesting enough that I don’t feel like I’m in remedial home-ec.

Simplicity & Quality

When I first signed up there were only two types of boxes, omnivore or vegetarian. Check one box and you’re done. This is perfect for me, because I’m really not a picky eater. I just want something good and reasonably healthy. And the quality really has been great. I’ve had an occasional meal here or there that I thought were just sort of okay, but for the most part I’ve been really impressed.

I’m not just paying for groceries or recipe cards but chef expertise. It’s the convenience of trusting a more qualified person to make decisions I don’t want to be bothered with. Some other companies let you pick the meals you want every week, but the paradox of choice is part of the very problem I’m trying to solve.

I’m sure this also makes the logistics a lot easier on the business side too. Not only do they get to buy in lots of bulk, they deal with customers like myself who are generally not too picky and happy to let them auto charge me $60 a week.

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Feel Good Viral Distribution

After a while they give you invites to send some friends free boxes of meals. This seems like a great customer acquisition strategy. I get to feel good by giving my friend a gift that costs me absolutely nothing. I don’t get any sort of referral kickback for new sign ups, just the intrinsic joy of sharing something I like. They get a new customer that has learned about the company through a trusted personal recommendation. I’ve sent out several already and the people who accepted a box went on to subscribe and invite their friends and family as well.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure there are other reasons why I’ve been hooked for the past few months, but those are the main things that come to mind. Of course, eventually I plan to optimize and wean myself off my culinary training wheels. But by then they’ll already have made a couple thousand bucks off me so that’s not too bad for them. And I’ll walk away with some new cooking skills and a fat stack of saved recipes I’ll already know how to make. But that’s probably not going to happen any time soon.

Oh and let me know if you want to give it a try, I’ve got a few extra free boxes to give away.

Dancing the night away

Looking at the blog I realized I hadn’t written since April, and I stopped to think.. “why?” and then I realized by the end of March I had re-discovered my love for Salsa and Bachata dancing, and was going out dancing 2-3 nights a week. And by early May I had joined a Bachata performance team.
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And then by the end of May I met my boyfriend at a dance night, and we have been together since then. The past few months have been filled with lots of adventures.

“Lean In” and reflect

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I just couldn’t resist photoshopping Sheryl’s head onto Lena’s body.

I feel you.

I find it strange when semi-autobiographical work is bashed for being so based on personal experience that others can’t possibly relate to it. Let’s compare Lena Dunham’s Girls and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for a second.

I know these are on fairly opposite ends of the media spectrum. One is a mostly-fictional NSFW show about 20-something women stumbling awkwardly through life. The other is a self-help-career-manifesto about an extraordinarily successful 40-something woman. But both have been criticized for being about privileged white women with elitist problems while also ignoring the experience of women of color. There has also been a ton of other criticism about both in relation to their particular flavors of feminism. (Lena Dunham Made Me A FeministMaybe You Should Read The Book: The Sheryl Sandberg Backlash)

But both are written from their personal perspectives and neither of them are claiming to be speaking for all women. Instead both offer their unique perspectives in hopes that others may be able to relate in some way, which I feel encourage others to share their own as well.

To be clear, this is where I’m coming from

I am a single, 27 year old woman working/playing as a designer in the tech bubble of San Francisco. I am a first-generation Asian-American who grew up in the upper middle class midwest. I  had a healthy dose of Women’s Studies and Asian-American Studies in my undergrad, so I’m a feminist that’s also hyper aware of racial representation in the media.  I have spent the majority of my (relatively short) career working in fields predominantly filled with men (first motion graphics, then interaction design).

What follows are a few quotes I bookmarked from Lean In, which I recently finished (via audio book). I also include some comments about how I personally relate to the advice from my perspective (which is a lot closer to the 20-something stumbling awkwardly through life side of the spectrum). And a few drawings, to break up all those words.

Self-evaluation

“When women evaluate themselves in front of other people, or in stereotypically male domains, their under estimations can become even more pronounced. Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities or skills. Ask a woman the same question and she will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she worked really hard or got lucky or had help from others.”

I think about this a lot in relation to learning to program. Some of the people I admire most are those who have both visual and technical skills so whenever I meet a designer/coder unicorn I ask about how they made that transition to the other side. Most of the time I get some version of the “I’m just good at it and figured it out myself” story, which is drastically different than how I feel about my code journey. It has been a slow journey and I definitely attribute each programming-skill-level-up to the help many empathetic men (I haven’t been around many women who code) who could explain complex new ideas using metaphors I could relate to. But I also recognize the driving force behind this journey is my innate curiosity and nagging desire to make things exist in the world. I think there’s a healthy balance between gratitude and self confidence.

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Taking initiative

“Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.”

One of my favorite pieces of advice from my dad  is “If you want it that badly, you’ll make it happen.” I hear that in my head all the time and feel it’s a super empowering mantra to have and has guided me through a lot of my life.

Potential energy

On seeking out positions where there is a high potential for growth vs stability:

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat, you just get on”

Having worked for both huge and tiny companies, I’ve found that I generally prefer the pace of smaller teams. Of course sometimes it’s so fast that it seems like the slightest breeze can change our direction. But generally I feel like the speed makes it a very efficient way to learn the skills I’ll need to adapt to whatever life throws at me later. And while working at a tiny start up right now might be relatively higher risk compared to a larger corporation, I feel like at this stage in my life it’s exactly the best time to be digging in and betting on the higher potential for growth rather than just playing it safe.

Overcorrecting

“Trying to overcorrect is a great way to find middle ground. In order for me to speak the right amount in a meeting, I have to feel as if I’m saying very little. People who are shy will have to feel like they are saying way too much.”

Max started our improv class by having us react to each other with extreme (and often loud) levels of emotion in order for us to develop more emotional range on stage. Being naturally reserved & mild-mannered this was really hard. I hate shouting. But he kept pushing me to react bigger and eventually I at least felt more comfortable reacting more emotionally (but still not great at it). It also helped me realize I needed to work on that off-stage as well. In most cases I have to actively overcorrect my tendency to be reserved and un-reactive to others.

Shifting our thinking.

“In internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100% of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60% of the requirements. This difference has a huge ripple effect. Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it’.”

In grad school we often wondered, “How will these weird projects help us find practical jobs?” Our faculty would reassure us that it’s not always about looking at a job posting and seeing how you can fit into their list of requirements, so you shouldn’t just focus on learning the things you can just check off a list. Instead, work on the type of things you’re curious about and what excites you, while developing a unique point of view.

Some companies will see the value in your unique perspective and skill set. Maybe they didn’t know they needed someone like you until you came along, so they didn’t have a specific open position for you to fill. But sometimes they will create entirely new positions just so they can hire you to keep doing the very things you like doing so much anyways. Or alternatively, if you know what excites you,  just create the kind of company that does the kind of work you would want to do.

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Mentorship

“Searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for prince charming.”

Yes, this entire section is supposed to be about mentors, but as the first quote implies, I feel like all the advice below applies to both potential mentors and potential romantic partners.

“Because it is harder for young women to find mentors and sponsors, they’re taking a more active role in seeking them out. And while normally I applaud assertive behavior this energy is sometimes misdirected. No matter how crucial these connections are they probably won’t develop from asking a virtual stranger “will you be my mentor?” The strongest relationships spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides.”

“We need to stop telling them ‘get a mentor and you will excel’ instead we need to tell them ‘excel and you will get a mentor’.”

“The word mentor never needs to be uttered. The relationship is more important than the label. The label itself is open to interpretation.”

I have been fortunate enough to have several people take me under their wings over the years, even though I’ve never formally asked someone to be my mentor. I would agree that mostly it just develops naturally and it never really occurred to me to go looking for someone to call my mentor.

For some reason it seemed to take longer for me to learn these same lessons as they related to searching for romantic partners (replace the word mentor with boyfriend). I tend to be fairly assertive about making things happen in the rest of my life, so it has taken me a while to realize I should just chill out and let things develop at a more organic pace. Meanwhile I should just continue doing what I’m into, meet people along the way, and not set unfair expectations for arbitrary and highly subjective relationship labels.

Worrying about trade-offs

“From an early age girls get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good mother. By the time they are in college women are already thinking about the tradeoffs they will make between professional and personal goals. When asked to choose between marriage and career, female college students are twice as likely to choose marriage as their male classmates.”

“Since women start this mental preparation well before trying to conceive, several years often pass between the thought and conception, let alone birth….By the time the baby arrives the woman is likely to be in a drastically different place in her career than she would have been had she not leaned back…By not finding ways to stretch herself in the years leading up to motherhood she has fallen behind.”

My mother had me when she was 35, which I suppose is relatively late but seems fairly common these days. But basically that meant she had lots of adventures before she had me (and became a stay at home mom). Her advice to me was always to go do all those things I want to do before having a family. And my dad has always encouraged me to pursue my career so I’ll be able to take care of myself. As a result, instead of scaling ambitions back in preparation for making trade-offs for an imaginary family, I have more of a “what can I fit into the next couple of years while I still can” mentality. Maybe that’s not the right way to think about it, but it’s not that I don’t want to have a family, it just seems silly to worry about any of that at this point.

This is one of those cases where I feel like parental advice has a huge impact on the way we prioritize our life and how independent we are. I have female friends with parents who pressure them to hurry up and get married (which seems so old-fashioned to me, but I guess it’s still common). Sometimes I feel like that leads to a sort of overly dependent mentality.

Looking for life partners

“When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated, and ambitious.”

Fair, smart, opinionated, and ambitious are equally important to me. I would also add “playful” as an equally important requirement. It just seems like if you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with someone you would want them to be a little goofy and not take every thing so seriously all the time.

Wrapping up

The last few chapters were more specifically about family related things, which I thought was interesting but at this point I don’t have much to add to that. But overall I thought it was pretty encouraging and useful for me because it made me reflect a bit more about where I am and what I’d like to go from here.

Curiosity Compass

I am not very good at posting in a timely manner…At the end of February I had some people over for the first Curiosity Compass. This was the description that went out with the Facebook invite:

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Myth Lab* presents THE CURIOSITY COMPASS v1.0

What’s on your mind lately? What’s currently inspiring you? Where do you want to go next? What are you working on now?

Come over and give us a taste of what’s got your curiosity compass moving lately. It can be about anything, really. It’ll be Pecha Kucha format which means it’s 20 slides that auto-advance every 20 seconds, so a little under 7 minutes per talk. I swear it’s usually pretty enjoyable!

I’m planning on sharing some stuff. Let me know if you’d be interested in sharing something too and we can load up all the Keynote presentations on one laptop to airplay from. I’m also happy to help with making presentations if you’d like.

Pretty low key, but we’ll have some drinks of course, and I’ll try and get together some food too so let me know if you can make it so I can plan accordingly…

I thought it went fairly well even though there were just 3 of us presenting (7 of us total). Jenny presented about User Personas in UX design and Ben presented about breaking the 4th wall and his experience prototyping game shows in the UK. Both were really great and I was really happy they presented . I talked a bit about an idea that I have been sort of thinking about and marinating over for a few months. After each presentation everyone sort of commented about what we presented. I think I was worried that it might be too small an event but I think the smaller group made it feel more intimate and friendly. We also had lots of wine. That helps.

This is the keynote from what I presented, though it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without me narrating.. but it will give you an idea of what it was all about.

It was a really nice night. And I definitely plan on doing it again. Perhaps it’s an every other month type of thing though. I also need to iron out the getting people to participate bit as well.

TEI Conference Talks

A few weeks ago (Feb. 10 – 17) I went to Barcelona, Spain for TEI (The Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction) and for a little personal time off. I have been wanting to go to TEI for a few years and this year I was fortunate enough to be able to take a week off from work to check it out. Due to a blizzard in NY my flight out got delayed a few days so I missed the workshops on Sunday and was too jet lagged on Monday to comprehend much, so this is mostly from Tuesday and Wednesday, and grouped by the themes from the talks.

Cultural Perspectives

Michael Horn talked about the role of Cultural Forms in Tangible Interaction Design, basically how cultual forms and social constructions affect the way we relate to objects. This may be physical but it could also be entirely based on patterns of a social activity. He briefly shared this project that he’s working on that aims to teach programming by combining story books, stickers, and animation. I got really excited about this project and would love to get involved or build upon this somehow.

Some of his conclusions:

  • Think about the types of activities and interaction you want to create
  • Think about cultural forms that match your goals
  • Design tangible systems to evoke the desired forms

Read more…

— On ignoring your skills

Sometimes you have to make trade-offs…

I was really good at the illustration part of it, the drawing, but I struggled at the graphics part of it, the typography. But it was really the graphics that interested in… I was really keenly aware of what I was good at… I knew I needed an aspect of challenge. So I focused on what I wasn’t good at….And at that point just stopped drawing. So for 2 years in that program I didn’t draw, I just threw myself into making really ugly work and struggling with kind of re-inventing myself and learning a new way of thinking that I could apply hopefully to my career….

And it became very clear that I had like this binary system of things I knew and the things I learned and it was just about applying these two things. Applying what I was good at to kind of solve the struggles.. to solve the problems that I was presented and the things I wanted to learn. So it’s not like I was ignoring my skills, it was just using my skills as a bridge to learning new things to pushing myself and improving on what I was doing.

Geoff Mc Fetridge

http://www.dolectures.com/lectures/why-companies-need-you/

Curiosity and attention

Satiating an overwhelming curiosity is I suppose the driving force in my life. It seems I wouldn’t know what to do next if it weren’t for my interest in these little mysteries. It is odd to me that some people could go about their life without this internal curiosity compass guiding them. Drifting at sea just sort of staying afloat and letting the waves take them wherever. Maybe even more than a compass. Like one of those water finder things. Dowsing is apparently what its called. Or Doodlebugging apparently.

Lately I have been thinking a bit about the things that are important and what I’m prioritizing. I need to pay attention to what I’m paying attention to. Sometimes I think I get caught up on sort of daily to-do type things and forget to think about bigger picture type things. Like, what I’m paying attention to right now is all fine and good but how will this help the future-me get closer to what I’m actually curious about? So I thought maybe it would be a good exercise to list out all the things I could possibly be caring about, like they’re features. If I were a product and I had to make decisions on which features to work on, what would I prioritize and what trade offs would I be willing to make in the mean time in order to accomplish them? This is very similar to what we do at work for product development except normally we get a whole group. But basically I just feel like lately I’ve been on drift mode when I should be on navigate mode. So this is my current list.. subject to change..

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Sharing Self improvement.

After making my list I found myself wanting to talk to other people about it. To share it with them to get some advice / feedback. To find out what their list would look like. And I think it’s this combination of things that makes me want to turn this into a larger project… I feel like it’s an evolution of the dating site idea except better because it focuses on the independent character choices so it is useful to the individual even without a network of other people.

Repeating a mantra.

In our improv class we had an exercise about building characters based on internal motivations. So before every line we would say out loud what our motivations are and react to what’s happening based on that motivation. Perhaps forming our actual life goals in the form of a mantra statement of sorts will help. I imagine it’s also similar to the way we write user stories at work. Where we say try to get into the character of the user.  Perhaps we need some little reminders what our preferred self is motivated by so we can be mindful of our priorities.

Love on the line. Part 2: The Speculative Thing

So after doing all the online dating site research, I started thinking, what kind of site I would build if I could build one? What sort of features would it have? But as I started sketching I noticed a lot of it seemed to be following the sort of standard patterns in terms of the online profile and the overall feeling. And as I thought about it more I realized the common problem with a lot of these things is the way they sort of turn people into products. You lose that sort of human connection after browsing through all these profiles.

I felt like I didn’t want make just another standard profile site. I also felt like I hadn’t made any sort of “critical media” project lately. Then I saw a friend’s status update on Facebook: “If there was an Amazon product review for me as a person, I wonder what it would say.” And so, Amazon Cupid had to be born:

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It was surprisingly enjoyable to hack up an existing Amazon page and create my own, partially because of how REAL it felt. I was going to do just a photoshop mock up or something, but actually doing s semi-working prototype gives it a completely different feeling. The fact that it responds when you resize and hover over links and things. It’s just real enough to trick myself into believing it actually exists (make & believe!).

I had my friend write the BFF review for me. The rest of the reviews are basically slightly tweaked from The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales, the book I used as a starting point for the entire page.

It was also great studying amazon’s product pages in such detail. Normally I skim over a lot of stuff so I don’t really notice how much stuff is actually crammed into one of these pages. Mostly I felt like I had to make it because I thought it was a funny idea. But also it seems like a good exercise in pushing something to an extreme in terms of what I wouldn’t want to actually make for a real site, a way to sort of encapsulate all the things that make online dating sites so un-human.

 

Love on the line. Part 1: The Research

A few months ago I hopped back onto OkCupid to meet some folks. And then I had this idea that maybe it would be fun to make my own dating site as a way to learn how to make a web app of some kind. I figure making a profile and adding information to it is a pretty standard sort of web app thing to do. So I proceeded to sign up for a bunch of other sites to see how they were doing things, only to conclude that for the most part they weren’t doing things very well at all. From the user interface to the user experience, mostly I was amazed at how awful things are in the online dating world and yet how profitable they continue to be despite their serious flaws. I guess connecting with people is always in demand. Here’s some thoughts on how I felt on various sites. I didn’t pay for any of them, so these are based on being a free/unconverted user.

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