The Harvard Crimson (Feb. 19, 2014) has an article entitled “Data on Datamatch.”
Over half of Harvard undergraduates awoke on Valentine’s Day morning to find a personalized list of students with which a Harvard Computer Society algorithm determined they are most compatible. A total of 3,672 students, 2,074 women and 1,598 men, participated this year year’s Datamatch, which 20 years after its founding still uses the same algorithm.
“The pairing is actually pretty complicated,” HCS President William S. Xiao ’16 said. I bet it is.
HCS meets the night before Datamatch results come out to sort all of the questions from the survey into ten personality trait-based categories. Every answer is then plotted based on the traits it tests for.
Questions are then weighted based on the intuition of HCS members, distribution of answers, and the correlation between the answers of survey participants who indicated that they were in a relationship with another participant.
“A lot of people ask if it’s random, and it’s not random,” said Xiao, who added that there is “some secret sauce in it that I can’t reveal.”
Questions for the survey are generated less scientifically. “With the questions we just think about anything that will be funny, and we think about the implications of the questions later,” Xiao said.
Aren’t you glad you did not rely on a Harvard undergraduate’s intuition to find your spouse? I found my spouse at Harvard. And with no help from HCS. In fact I doubt there were many computers on campus. We relied on the Holy Spirit–how old-fashioned! In my new novel GROWING UP WHITE (NY: Harvard Square Editions, 2014) on page 87 I describe the romance of the protagonist which was similar to mine: “Anna and I shared under a Kentucky coffee tree in front of Widener Library. I was in the shadow of one of my lovers and in the arms of another. Later that evening we shared a yellow spread blanket while listening to the Boston Pops at the Hatch Shell near the Charles River. The juxtaposition of the glittering John Hancock Building and the deepening twilight of the Charles River basin added just the right amount of ambiance to create eternal love. The next day we quietly contemplated the grace of God and one another in rapture and gratefulness as we stared at each other in the shadow of Revere Beach (p. 87).”
Life is mostly full of ordinary, predictable events, but, ever once in a while, we stumble upon those extraordinary events. The discovery of a spouse. The birth of a child. The end of a sickness. I hope your life is as full of extraordinary time as mine is . . . certainly I owe it all to my loving God–and not to HCS.