Terrible first dates come in many flavors. There are bad friend dates, bad blind dates and the ever-unpopular no-show. And then there are internet first dates, those frustrating, sometimes creepy, sometimes fun meetups that – almost impossibly – seem to lead to marriages more and more often.
But what if you could take the creepy factor out of online dating? What if there were no detailed online profiles, no website-based inboxes, no carefully arranged you-might-be-an-axe-murderer first dates?
The founders of WooWho
WooWho, a new graduate of The Brandery
, started a private alpha two months ago and launched a private beta a month or so ago. With feedback from a few early users, the trio is currently refining the final site. Users who accept an invitation (available upon request) submit a biographical blurb and small photo, then submit an age range, gender preference, location and scheduling availability.
People are matched based on basic preferences, not availability. Like Amazon’s recommendation engine
, WooWho suggests matches based on the preferences of users who have similar interests. This technique, loosely deemed “clustering,” is different from basic categorization.
“If you ask people what they like [in a potential match], they don’t tell you very accurately," says co-founder Andy Zhang. "What we’ve learned from observing other sites is that categorization is exceptionally difficult for these types of things…clustering tends to be more reliable in real life; it’s also something that machines are really good at."
So, rather than creating a complex profile and emailing a potential fit, users simply select a friendly looking local and request a date. If the person accepts, WooWho automatically sets up a time and local business based on scheduling preferences.
The site is free to join, and there is no cost for the first three dates, with a $5 charge per set-up after that. The idea is not to have folks linger on the site, Zhang says. “We want to get people off their computers and out meeting people. We think a great way to do it is to discover and enjoy the other local small businesses out here.”
By Robin Donovan