Journalist and digital-strategy consultant Amy Webb has written an account of personal data collection and analysis in a forthcoming book called Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match. After some disappointing online-dating experiences, Webb decided to collect data to improve her chances, by creating fake ideal-male profiles and analyzing what female profiles were popular in response. The story is interesting both as an example of personal data in pop culture, and for ethical questions surrounding the endeavor as she collected her data via misrepresentation:
Posing as these men, I spent a month using JDate. I interacted with 96 women, cataloging how they behaved and presented themselves online and scraping data from their profiles (such as the language they used or the number of hours they waited before emailing back one of my profiles). Wanting to learn everything I could about my competition, I kept a detailed database, and I recorded which female profiles were popular. While JDate doesn’t publicly release its algorithms, at the time of my experiment I observed that the more popular profiles come up higher in search results, allowing one to get a quick-and-dirty ranking of who’s hot (or not). I quickly realized that the popular women seemed to know something I didn’t; they were clearly attracting the sort of smart, attractive professionals who had been ignoring my profile.
Read more at Hacking the Hyperlinked Heart, Wall Street Journal Online, 1/14/2013