Strict Mode

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of people in r/OkCupid complaining about OKC ignoring their preferences (mainly search radius) and showing their profile to people all over the world. Now, far be it from me to come to Match Group’s defence, but OKC is not ignoring your preferences; you just don’t understand how preferences work (and have always worked).

It’s really quite simple.

Your preferences are YOUR preferences alone, not anyone else’s.

They determine which profiles the platform shows YOU.

Other people have their own preferences, which determine which profiles the platform shows them.

If you match someone else’s preferences, but they don’t match yours, OKC will still show your profile to them. Equally, if someone matches your preferences, but you don’t match theirs, OKC will still show their profile to you.

It’s always been this way.

A little over twelve years ago, I received a message on OKC from a woman in Tel Aviv, despite my search radius being set to no more than 250 miles (Tel Aviv, for the record, is over 2,200 miles away from where I was living at the time).

And it’s the same on every platform.

Okay, Plenty of Fish is an exception because it does just outright ignore your preferences and shows you people outside of your preferences (as documented here).

The platforms only look at your preferences when determining who it shows you.

Maybe it’s just more apparent now on OKC as it’s been haemorrhaging users in the West, leaving just the users in Kenya and the Philippines filling up your likes.

Still, it’s something people really seem to care about, so I wrote some code for something I call ‘Strict Mode’ on my still unnamed dating platform (getting close to a name, by the way; I’ve just got to decide if the domain is really worth £11,700… and then find £11,700 to buy the domain).

Premium members will have the ability not to be shown to users who don’t match their preferences.

Now, every user already has the ability to filter messages. When activated, messages from users outside of your preferences will be put in a spam folder instead of your inbox. However, Strict Mode goes a step further.

Strict Mode doesn’t even show your profile to people outside of your preferences, even if you’re within their preferences.

And it’s not just location that Strict Mode works with. It’s nearly every preference you can input to the platform. If someone’s younger than you’re looking for, they won’t be able to see you. If you’re looking only for men, women won’t be able to see you. If you’re looking for monogamy, people who are looking for non-monogamous relationships won’t be able to see you. If you’re looking for single people, people in relationships won’t be able to see you.

The only preference Strict Mode cannot do (yet) is relationship type. The problem I’m having with it is whether we go inclusive or exclusive. Like, as long as someone’s looking for at least one of the relationship types you’re looking for, do we include you in their results, even if they’re also looking for a relationship type you’re not looking for? Or do we exclude you from their results because they’re looking for that relationship type you’re not looking for, even though they’re looking for at least one of the relationship types you’re looking for? Or, alternatively, do we only include you in the search results of the people looking for all the same relationship types you’re looking for (which could potentially eliminate you from everyone’s search results)?

At the moment, Strict Mode works with the search function, but, since the search function (coupled with your preferences) determines who shows up in your newsfeed and various places around the platform, it’s more or less site-wide. There are a couple of exceptions, however.

Firstly, if they have a link to your profile (for example, if you’ve messaged them before or someone shared a link to your profile), they will still be able to get to your profile from the link. But we can put a condition on the profile page that runs the check and redirects the user if they’re outside of your search criteria. It’ll take five minutes to code and I’ll get on to that as soon as I’m done with this blog post.

Secondly, it doesn’t work with location spoofers. If someone is spoofing their location, well, it looks to the search query like they’re in the location they say they’re in. Now, since we have some code that helps determine if someone is a spoofing their location or not, we can implement that into the aforementioned check on the profile page, but we can’t work it into the search query (I mean, technically, we can, but, my god, it would make search queries (and, thus, page loading) incredibly slow), so, while location spoofers might be able to see your profile in search results, they won’t be able to get to your profile.

Finally, you might be wondering why we don’t make it available for all users. Well, there are two reason:

  1. Sometimes it’s good to broaden your horizons. I had a great time in Tel Aviv with the woman who messaged me in 2011, despite it being almost 2,000 miles outside of my search radius. So, really, we want to deter its use in the hope of people having adventures.
  2. No other platform has anything like this. Our platform is already packed with free features that no other platform offers (even for paid members), so, we need to keep some things behind the paywall to make premium memberships appealing and help pay for the upkeep of the platform.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this, feel free to leave them down below.

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