Monday, January 23, 2017

Evolution of the online dating business

The NY Times and Consumer Reports bring us up to date on dating.  And (at the end of this long post) making dating great again in the new political environment..


Here's the NY Times:

For Online Dating Sites, a Bumpy Road to Love

"Not many people have heard of Spark Networks, but far more are familiar with what it owns: JDate, ChristianMingle and a host of other sites like SilverSingles.com and BlackSingles.com.
...
"according to Spark Networks’ 2015 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the number of paid subscribers to its Jewish networks declined to around 65,000 last year from a little over 85,000 in 2012. Its total for all networks dropped by more than 55,000 people, to under 204,000.
This comes at a time when an increasing number of Americans are trying to find partners online. According to the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of Americans have used online dating sites or mobile apps, compared with 11 percent in 2013. Spark Network’s revenues fell nearly 22 percent from 2014 to 2015.
...
"There are about 4,500 online dating companies, according to a report by the market research company IBISWorld, but the majority are tiny. The largest player in the field is the Match Group, with 51 dating sites; over the last few years alone it acquired such high-profile companies as Tinder and Plenty of Fish.
“It’s never been cheaper to start a dating site and never been more expensive to grow one,” said Mark Brooks, a consultant for the internet dating industry who also runs Online Personals Watch. Part of the problem, he said, is that 70 percent of internet dating in the United States is now on mobile.
"Dating apps usually start by offering their services completely free to bring in new users. There are then two ways for the services to make money: advertising and turning free users into paying ones.
“It used to be 10 percent of those who registered converted to paid,” Mr. Brooks said. “Now it’s more like 2 to 3 percent.”
Advertising can be tough to get, said Tom Homer, editor of the website Dating Site Reviews, and on a mobile device it does not pay much because there is less real estate available than on regular websites.
...
"Some also see a move toward ever more niche sites like MouseMingle.com (Disney lovers) and GlutenFreeSingles.com (the name says it all). But, when you slice the pie ever thinner, “you’re also slicing your membership base,” Mr. Homer said."

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And from Consumer Reports: Online Dating: Match Me If You Can
"According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of American adults have used online dating sites (web-based platforms like Match.com) and/or dating apps (location-based smartphone apps like Tinder).

Participation by those 18 to 24 has almost tripled since 2013, and boomer enrollment has doubled. In fact, people over 50 are one of the fastest growing segments. “It’s a product of the growing normalcy of using social media apps,” says Moira Weigel, author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Online Dating” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). “Our real-life and online identities are more and more interwoven.”
...
"Our survey included many people who at some point had used a dating website or an app, as well as a subset of 9,600 respondents who used them in the past two years. The more recently active group rated specific sites.

"Our findings tell an almost contradictory story. On the one hand, the numbers indicate that these sites are helping people find mates. A whopping 44 percent of respondents who tried online dating said the experience led to a serious long-term relationship or marriage. That kind of connection rate would shatter Hall of Fame records, at least in baseball.

But the responses from the more active group suggest they’re highly frustrated. They gave online dating sites the lowest satisfaction scores Consumer Reports has ever seen for services rendered—lower even than for tech-support providers, notoriously poor performers in our ratings.
...
"Michael Norton, Ph.D., a professor at the Harvard Business School who studies consumer behavior, thinks so. Online dating is different from shopping for, say, a sweater, he explains: “Once you decide on the sweater you want, you can get it. But with dating, the sweater has to agree, too.”

Another reason for the low satisfaction scores may be that “most dating sites have some misalignment between profit model and user experience because they are financed through subscription fees or advertising,” says Scott Kominers, Ph.D., a junior fellow in economics at Harvard University. In other words, there’s no incentive for them to make the experience speedy. If you find your life partner on your first date, the site doesn’t make much money off you. Our survey found that among respondents who stopped online dating, 20 percent of men and 40 percent of women said they did so because they didn’t like the quality of their matches. Perhaps that’s why, among those who said they had used multiple dating sites, 28 percent had tried four or more.

But our research also found that online dating, however painful and time-consuming, often does produce the intended result if you use it well—and persevere.
...
“You’re generally going to be best off starting your search on the ‘Big 3’: Match.com, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish,” says Scott Valdez, founder of Virtual Dating Assistants, which helps people write their profiles and then manages their accounts. “Those are among the most popular dating sites in the world, and when you’re fishing, it just makes sense to drop your line in the most crowded ponds.”

That’s generally true unless you have a particular guiding factor, such as religion, race, or politics, in which case you can go to a niche site like JDate or BlackPeopleMeet.
..





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Finally, Could you date someone whose politics you couldn't stand? Could your political views get you a date?  Have I got the dating site for you...
https://trumpsingles.com/  making dating great again...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bestiality: legal in some states and illegal in others

Here's a repugnance story from the Guardian:
'A great victory for animals': bestiality may finally be outlawed in Ohio
A bill banning sexual abuse of animals passed the state legislature as a result of a campaign by an animal welfare charity is aiming to prohibit bestiality nationwide

"Ohio has moved one step closer to outlawing bestiality after a bill banning sexual abuse of animals passed the state legislature.
...
"The bill is the result of a lengthy campaign by the Humane Society of the United States, an animal welfare charity which is aiming to ban bestiality nationwide.

“The passage of animal sexual abuse legislation is a great victory for the animals of Ohio,” said Leighann Lassiter, animal cruelty policy director at the Humane Society.

"Lassiter and the bill’s sponsors, Ohio senators Jim Hughes and Jay Hottinger, have stated that animal abuse can often be a precursor to the abuse of children.
...
"The bill prohibits a person from “sexual conduct” with an animal, but also targets what Lassiter described as “organized sex rings”.

“There are people out there who train animals for sex,” she said. “You can give them your dog and they will train your dog to have sex with a human and send it back to you. And they get paid for it.
...
"States where bestiality is illegal do have animal cruelty laws, Lassiter said, but these are often inadequate when it comes to people sexually abusing animals. A person sexually abusing an animal might only be prosecuted if the animal is injured, while livestock or wild animals may be exempt from existing law.
...
"Lassiter said some states are lacking specific bestiality laws because animal sex abuse was covered under historic laws that also banned gay sex. In some cases when those laws were repealed bestiality was not reintroduced as an offense.

"Bestiality is currently legal in Vermont, Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Nevada, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico and Ohio, and in Washington DC."
***************


Cash for places in college admissions

In England, The Telegraph is shocked to report
'Cash for places’: leading private schools accept six-figure sums from rich overseas parents desperate to get their child admitted

"One of Britain’s leading private schools is exposed for being prepared to accept vast donations to secure places for the children of overseas parents.

"David Fletcher, the registrar at Stowe until this week, was filmed saying a six-figure payment would be helpful when there was a “marginal decision” over whether a pupil should be admitted.

"Mr Fletcher, 60, told an undercover reporter that one overseas family had recently given £100,000 towards a project at the school, in order to help secure a place for their child.
...
"Anthony Wallersteiner, headmaster at Stowe, said he was “shocked” by the suggestion a donation would have any influence..."
****************

Perhaps they should read the 2006 book
 The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates  by Daniel Golden

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Some interviews on (mostly) market design in Argentina and Brazil

In the magazine of UCEMA: Market design


In the Brazilian magazine Exame.com:
Um vencedor do prêmio Nobel defende a mão visível do mercado
Para Alvin E. Roth, vencedor do Prêmio Nobel de Economia em 2012, a ciência é a arma para corrigir as falhas de mercados que não funcionam livremente
[Google translate: A Nobel Prize winner defends the visible hand of the market
For Alvin E. Roth, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2012, science is the weapon to correct the failures of markets that do not work freely]

Here's one in which the questions focused less on what I know about:)
Roth, Nobel de Economía: "Los bonos de EE.UU. serán menos atractivos con Trump"
Distinguido en 2012, comenta el peso que pueden tener los matching markets para un mercado como el argentino. Además, su visión sobre un posible default estadounidense.
Por Santiago Lilo
[Google translate: Roth, Nobel laureate: "US bonds will be less attractive to Trump"
Distinguished in 2012, comments the weight that can have the matching markets for a market like the Argentine. In addition, his vision on a possible American default.]

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two minutes of advice for President Trump from Economics Nobel Laureates

One of the few occasions in which I get the last word (at least in this video):

Who Gets What and Why in Chinese, traditional characters

Chinese translations come in two versions, simplified characters (primarily for the mainland) and traditional characters, primarily for Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The traditional character version of Who Gets What and Why has recently come out in Taiwan, here's a link and a picture:

創造金錢買不到的機會:諾貝爾經濟學獎突破市場經濟賽局的思維

Who Gets What-and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design

 .

Google translate renders the top title as "Create money can not buy the opportunity: the Nobel Prize in economics to break through the thinking of the market economy game."


(You can compare it to the version in simplified characters, below, but this isn't a good way to learn the difference, since the two books have different translators, and the translation of the title into simplified characters apparently says something about the "sharing economy.") Who Gets What - and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design(chinese edition) Paperback – 2015


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trade secrets: obstetric forceps

The Atlantic has an interesting short article on the history of surgical forceps to aid in difficult births:

The Family of Surgeons That Got Famous by Secretly Using Forceps
The metal tools have saved many lives since the 1500s, but they’ve also come to reflect slow progress in women’s health care.

"Obstetric forceps were invented in the mid-1500s, when bloodletting was still a common medical practice. They predate the stethoscope and the germ theory of disease. They were also, for many years, a closely held trade secret. For more than three generations, as Randi Hutter Epstein writes in Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, they were used exclusively by a single family of indifferently educated surgeons, the Chamberlens, who hid the steely secret of their success.
Forceps were a vast improvement on previous emergency-childbirth practices, which were more or less limited to breaking the mother’s pubic bone, performing a Caesarian section (procedures that could save the fetus but often killed the mother), or stabbing or cutting the fetus in utero (which invariably killed the fetus but sometimes saved the mother).
The Chamberlens and their forceps ended this ongoing zero-sum tragedy, and became famous as the best “man-midwives” in England. To maintain their reputation and boost their business, however, they concealed their forceps in medical bags and under surgical draperies. Not until the 1700s did they release the design of their invention, and the original instruments remained within the family until 1813, when a pair of Chamberlen forceps was discovered under the floorboards of a country mansion where the family once lived."
...
"

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The legal Alaskan market for walrus ivory

Unlike elephant ivory, there's a legal market in walrus ivory, which can be crafted and sold by "Alaska Natives (Indians, Aleuts, or Eskimos) who reside in Alaska and dwell on the coast of the North Pacific Ocean or the Arctic Ocean".

But the protections given to elephants limit the demand for walrus ivory.
Alaska Despatch News has the story:
Effort to save African elephants hurts Alaska Native ivory artists

"African elephants, targeted by poachers and trophy hunters, are listed as a threatened species. The United States this summer strengthened rules into a near-total ban on any trading in elephant ivory.

"The Pacific walrus is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but climate change is the big threat to that species, not poaching. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Native hunters can target walrus, Native artists can harvest, buy and carve their ivory, and anyone can purchase the art.
...
"Yet some states concerned about decimated elephant populations have banned walrus ivory too, creating anxiety for Alaska artisans, uncertainty for buyers and an agenda item for politicians."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Market Design and Operations Research: an interview by the journal Mathematics of Operations Research

The journal Mathematics of Operations Research, where the main paper from my dissertation was published in 1976, has published an interview with me in their Author Spotlight section: In Conversation with...ALVIN E. ROTH.

Here's the first question and answer:

INFORMS:  Your first published paper, “Subsolutions and the Supercore of Cooperative Games,” [2]based on your doctoral thesis, appeared in MOR in 1976. The paper was handled by Nobel winner and MOR Founding Area Editor Robert Aumann. Can you share with us how your first experience with the peer review process went?

ROTH:  I recall that experience vividly. Aumann, in his editor’s letter, told me to ignore the referees, but to revise the paper along the lines he would describe. One revision he wanted had to do with the proof of my main theorem, for which I had used Zorn’s Lemma. He advised me to try to construct a proof which instead used transfinite induction. I didn’t know what transfinite induction was, so I was very skeptical, but I grimly trudged to the math library and got a copy of Hausdorff’s book Set Theory [3] to repair this gap in my education. I still remember how my hopes lifted when I opened the book and saw that it had been translated from the German by…Aumann. It turned out that he knew what he was talking about, and the proof that appears in my published MOR paper uses transfinite induction.
...


At the Author Spotlight page they also link to the several papers I published in MOR:



  • Roth AE (1976) Subsolutions and the Supercore of Cooperative Games. Math. Oper. Res. 1(1):43–49.  
  • Roth AE (1977) Individual rationality and Nash’s solution to the bargaining problem. Math. Oper. Res. 2(1): 64–65. 
  • Roth AE (1982) The economics of matching: Stability and incentives. Math. Oper. Res. 7(4):617–628. 
  • Roth AE (1985) Conflict and coincidence of interest in job matching: Some new results and open questions. Math. Oper. Res. 10(3):379–389.*  
  • Roth AE, Rothblum UG, Vande Vate, JH (1993) Stable matchings, optimal assignments, and linear programming. Math. Oper. Res. 18(4): 803–828. 



  • Since becoming a notorious economist, I've had a number of conversations with operations researchers that begin with a question like "Why did you switch from OR to Economics?"

    My usual answer is that I got my Ph.D. in OR in 1974 with a dissertation in game theory, and it looked at that time as if OR would be a natural place for game theory to flourish, particularly since Bob Aumann was the founding game theory editor of MOR. But, as it turned out, game theory grew first and fastest in Economics. So I just stood my ground, while the disciplinary boundaries shifted around me. Today, market design has become the engineering part of game theory, and it's time for OR and Economics to reconnect around market design. And indeed at Stanford, many of the Ph.D. students in our market design classes in the econ department are OR students from our MS&E department or from our Business school, both of which in turn have market designers on their faculty.  So I'm optimistic that my dual identities as an economist and operations researcher may soon seem seamless.
    ****************



    *Beware, my 1985 paper contains an error about the lattice structure of stable matchings, that was noted and corrected by
    Charles Blair (1988), "The Lattice Structure of the Set of Stable Matchings with Multiple Partners,"  Mathematics of Operations Research 13(4):619-628. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/moor.13.4.619
    and also by
    Jianrong Li, (2013) A Note on Roth's Consensus Property of Many-to-One Matching. Mathematics of Operations Research 38(2):389-392. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/moor.1120.0576