Friday, September 27, 2013

Online Dating Basics: Know Your Rights

I know many people who have used dating websites. Although dating websites often don't get the respect they deserve (well, Ashley Madison doesn't deserve respect) for their commerical and social success. I know many people who have used online dating with mixed results. Unlike offline dating, people don't talk a lot about the ins and outs of online dating widely nor has the practice permeated our popular culture for everyone to have developed some streetsmarts about it.

So even though online dating has been around since at least the 1990s, it can still feel like navigating through the wild. Or so I've heard, as I've been with my spouse since I first got an Internet connection - and she will probably wonder why Ashley Madison is now in my browsing history.)

A friend has an matchmaking business focusing on helping people navigate the world of dating websites and online courtship. She recently posted on her company's blog, Junia Blog, fundamental tips for online dating to form an Online Dating Charter of Rights. She has kindly allowed me to repost it here:


A lot of the people I talk to seem easily frustrated by their dating website experiences. I often think that’s because they're worrying about matters that really should not concern them. In this yenta's opinion, some clarification is needed around some pretty basic issues. I'm drafting an Online Dating Charter of Rights so that we can all stop wasting time on the unproductive behaviours that lead to internet dating burnout.

You have the right to remain silent.
Opinions on the matter vary, but I don't write back to people who don't interest me. Not for myself, and not on behalf of my clients. Even if they seem really really nice, or have clearly taken some time to craft their message to you. On the few occasions I've bothered to write a nice let-down message, it's bitten me in the ass and fast. Unless you think they'd be perfect for someone else you know, just don't bother. It’ll save everyone time in the long run, even the person you’re rejecting. You also have the right to refuse to answer any question that makes you uncomfortable. You can choose to ignore it, or you can simply say, "I'd rather not share that with you right now, if you don't mind" and carry on nicely, if you like everything else that's happened so far. But you are never obligated to respond, ever.

You have the right to know what you like.
Do you prefer tall women? Are you utterly opposed to dating a police officer? Do non-drinkers make you as nervous as raging alcoholics? Have you got lots of male friends with goatees, but couldn't stand the thought of kissing one? Well, go right ahead and say it! There is utterly no point to being coy about these things. But make sure that you say it nicely, and not in the threatening "you'd better not send me a message if" fashion that so many people seem to employ online. Stating your preferences as a warning, like a bitter Buffalo border guard on the graveyard shift, doesn't exactly invite others to get friendly with you. In my work I have sometimes avoided messaging potential matches because even though my clients did fit their criteria quite nicely, the way the candidate laid out his or her parameters was simply off-putting.

You have the right to expect a picture.
There is absolutely no reason, at this point in history, for anyone to be ashamed of the fact that they are online dating. If you are, you probably shouldn't be doing it. I don't care if the person promises to send pictures later on. You’ve got a picture up, why don't they? (Please tell me you have a picture up.) Worried their mom/boss/neighbour/ex is going to see it? Well, just what are they doing there themselves? Seriously, the people who don’t have pictures online – or who only share pictures of animals, cars, or cartoon characters – are hiding something. I don't know what it is, but I guarantee you won't like it. Don't bother with these paranoid Luddites because they're probably married anyway.

You have the right to change your mind.
After one message, after three messages, after twelve. (Please don't let it get to twelve messages before you meet somebody though. See below for more clarification.) You don't have to answer any questions you don't like. You don't have to come up with excuses as to why you didn't write back immediately, or jump on the offer of a meeting. It's really important to trust your instincts when it comes to online dating. It's not "shopping for people," but when you're at the pre-meeting stage, you are allowed to hit pause, rewind, or erase at any point. Most dating sites have a "hide" or "block" feature; use it if the person doesn't take your backing away well. While it's preferable to be upfront about it and not just disappear on someone you've been messaging, if they've done something to upset or offend you, you owe them nothing.

You have the right to request a meeting.
If you've been messaging back and forth with someone, and things are going reasonably well, then it does not make sense to keep playing pen pals. Three messages sent and three received is about as many as I feel comfortable with before I start to get antsy, and too much literary foreplay can result in greater disappointment if the real-life encounter is a bust. Why wait? Unless your schedules are mutually very crazy, there's no reason to prolong that coffee (even though you know I don,t suggest coffee). You’ve all heard of the Catfish thing by now, right? Well, this is just how it starts.

You have the right to keep looking.
There is no such thing as "exclusively messaging." Anyone who tries to glean whether you're also chatting with other candidates – on the same site, or others you may be using – is best avoided. Even after you've met in person. I advise all of my clients to avoid any suggestion of exclusivity before at least a couple of weeks (and several good dates) have passed. (Note: this is true no matter what you personally get up to on a first date!) If the person you're seeing immediately expects you to disable your profile – or does this to their own – after a successful meeting, I don't think that's a good sign. I think it's needy, impetuous, and demonstrates a lack of discernment that could lead to relationship problems in the future. You both need to approach the situation with care, and taking yourself offline every time someone turns your head makes you seem flaky. It'll be noticeable to other users, too.

I’m now opening the floor to comments. What other internet dating rights (or responsibilities) do people need to respect? And as always, be sure to visit to learn more about my work and available services.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hashtag Hell!

I have nothing against hashtags in theory - they are a great way to distinguish tags. And I love tagging - in fact I have tagged 1000 articles with my tag "net news" for bookmarking on Delicious and to share the stories I find particularly interesting and useful about Internet and digital media. These items are then displayed on the left of this blog (----> check them out ---->).

The thousandth article tagged was a story highlighting Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Falon's parody of insane tagging practices on social media. Their video really describes one of many reasons why I dislike Twitter.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Wonder What the App Developers Were Thinking?

Every year, we take our daughter to an amusement park to celebrate her birthday.  This year we went to a nearby amusement park, Canada's Wonderland, after the summer break in the hopes of avoiding jam-packed crowds and endless lines. We didn't.

We went the past couple of years and have always found it difficult to find one's way around the park. There are almost no way-finding aids such as signs in the p0ark. Even the mountain in the park central that used to be a reliable landmark for years is no longer visible from much of the park.  So we rely on the paper map that Wonderland distributes (at the front gate). The map is more of a stylish map with a high-level artistic rendering and listings of restaurants and shops.  It's not great for finding the rides as, for example, the entrances to rides are never indicated on the map and are often difficult to locate.

Considering that one wants to get in the maximum number of thrill rides and that easily 80% of one's visit (even on a good, less-busy day) is spent waiting in line (there are lines even for the men's bathroom). Time is of the essence and thus the need to plan an optimum route and get from ride A to ride B in the shortest amount of time possible is essential.

My daughter passed a height restriction milestone recently so she was now able to go on some wild rides. My wife hates rides, so I've had a thrill ride drought lasting decades.

So it was clear that this year pre-planning our trip was mission critical.

Our first stop was Wonderland's website to read up and prioritize the rides. Their website is good but not fantastic. I tried to download their mobile app based on a QR code they provided. But once I scanned the app instead of commencing my anticipated download of their app it took me to their mobile website and a pop-up message said I should download their app. When I clicked it nothing happened. It would have been easier if they just linked to the app on the various app stores.

Their mobile website is actually pretty good - and would serve the needs of most visitors. I'm a big proponent of the mobile Web, particularly when does not need to interact with a business/service very frequently. Most apps that people download never get used more than a couple times and the habit of endlessly downloading apps is not sustainable for users - so eventually we are all going to have to embrace the mobile web.

But the app promised to have GPS Enabled map, which I thought would be invaluable and would be difficult to do with only a mobile website. So I had to go to my device's app store and find the official app (annoying - as they should have had a link to it in the first place and it's difficult to find the official one).

After installing the app, I realized it is not significantly different from their mobile website. Mostly, it offers brief static content - most of which is useful, if not spectacular. The have an events feature that doesn't appear to work as it has pulled up nothing for September or October (despite at least a couple of events that I know are occurring). There is a "Friend Finder" feature that seems promising (as I frequently lose track of my wife) but they have no description of what it is anywhere and one need an individual and their friends PIN numbers before it can be used.

But the worst disappointment is the map function. Granted, they do have their illustrated map, which is handy as users can look up an attraction and have it flagged prominently on the map. But it has flaws: it's not completely accurate, it does not the ride entrance, and it does not zoom to a high level. Despite the claim that it is "GPS Enabled" it does not indicate where one is in relation to the desired attraction, as one expects with GPS-enabled maps. I can't see any GPS functionality whatsoever and it doesn't even have a manual way to highlight the route between two points.

Of course, there is even more they could be doing with their app - not only with maps such as showing where the nearest snacks or bathrooms are or where one parked their car - but also buying tickets to their attractions that cost extra, or delivering geo-targetted promotions.

What I'd like most is an excellent planner feature that would let me plan my day on their website and then view it on their app in a timeline or map. I'd also love it if they had dynamic information on the wait times so that I could hustle to a ride with short lines and avoid those with killer waits. Hell, since no matter what I'm going to be waiting for a long time - at least give me some content to pass the endless time!