The data behind dating is fascinating (and valuable), but for years it was limited to anecdotes on blogs. It's only in this millenium that sites like OK Cupid, Badoo and Plenty of Fish have made information based on massive data sets available to everyone; showing successful strategies in everything from photos to first messages.
Badoo is a dating app built on data, which it uses to form better matches between users. Product analyst Weiting Xu, who will speak at Computing's Data Management & Analytics Live! conference next month, was the first official member of the data team.
Xu's background is in tracking, having worked at companies including Zoopla and Shazam, and she joined Badoo to work on data capture and modelling - which she is obviously passionate about:
"If you're interested in people and social sciences and understanding how people behave, but you also like facts and logic, I think that data is the perfect intersection; it's a good industry to work in, because you get a bit of both."
When she joined Badoo, though, the product team were really going blind, she said:
"They weren't really making their decisions based on anything, it was just going by feeling - but that was four or five years ago. Now we A/B test everything: every design change and feature...and obviously we're doing data science and a lot of modelling and algorithms to optimise our payments. Really, in every area that you can think of, there's some kind of data involved."
The team collects all sorts of (anonymous) data about how people use the app, like where users click and what photos they're looking at, in order to improve the service.
Last April, Badoo redesigned its app and removed a flag showing who was online from the discovery feature, which displays nearby users - but this had some repercussions:
"We saw some of our metrics drop a little bit, and we were investigating why chats were dropping," Xu said.
"We were collecting data about, when people chat, which sections of the app do they go to Chat from - because people can access it in a few different ways. After some investigation and some testing, we had made some of these changes that had caused fewer people to use this [discovery] part and as a result they were chatting less - so we put that back in. People are interested in talking to other people who are online."
Pulling out her phone, Xu showed me an experimental feature, which the team added based on data that they collected: "We used to have a dedicated chat button [on peoples' profiles], but we found that actually if you send a wink, or a gif or whatever, people are more likely to reply to that. So, instead of just the chat button where you click it and you can't decide what to say, we can send a smile or some sort of image, just to be an ice breaker."
Badoo uses its own analytics tools to extract value from the data that it collects, and this will be the topic that Xu will talk about next month.
"Badoo has so many talented developers, who build amazing things. One of the things that I love about working in my team is that we actually have all in-house tools for analytics… My talk is going to be about some of the in-house tools that we've used, how they help to improve the business and improve our own lives in day-to-day work - it's really cool…
"I'm going to talk about some of the challenges that we faced, and some of the problems that we were trying to solve."
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