If a profile like Christian Rudder's turned up in an OKCupid user's search results, it would certainly merit a deeper look. As a Harvard graduate, who's helped launch and sell two successful companies (SparkNotes, in 1999, which sold to Barnes & Noble; OKCupid, in 2004, which sold to Match.com) and an indie musician who's appeared in the romcom, "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," he'd be a catch by most standards.
Download.com caught up with Rudder, who's also OKCupid's General Manager and Editorial Director, to discuss his company's app, competing hookup apps, and his favorite app for wiling away the hours on a long flight. As a bonus, this online dating expert even doled out some advice for new users.
So what's so special about the OKCupid app?
The specialness is that it's a gateway from the OKCupid site to your phone and OKCupid is by far the best dating site; it's free, we have the best people, and it's truly a very special key to unlock a fascinating experience.
Talk to us about some of its best features.
We have location-based stuff that you can only do on your phone as opposed to the desktop. We have a way to meet the most attractive people nearby. Compared to other dating apps, we have deeper profiles--even on the app; that's something that our design team did an amazing job with...cramming in as much information as possible on the people that you're thinking about meeting up with. I think that's why we managed to be successful in the mobile space, too, as opposed to some of the more superficial apps like Skout.
Any thoughts on other, more hookup-based apps like Grindr, Tindr, and BangWithFriends?
I obviously think OKCupid is the best by far and I obviously don't resent their existence if that's what you're asking. They're totally fine, but the thing about dating is that everyone thinks about it in a different way. Some people are looking for a quick hookup, some are looking for someone to date, and some are looking to get married, so there's a huge range of possibilities and why you see so many dating apps--and OKCupid's app offers you the opportunity to find all of those things; On the other hand, Grindr is the perfect example for taking a specific group of people with a specific thing in mind and making it easier for them to find each other.
Do you think that an app like Grindr could ever work in the hetero world?
In theory, yes, but I think that there are challenges that make making it work in the straight world very difficult. It's hard to solve the gender...the difference in how men and women see personal security and to balance the fact that in a straight dating situation guys are almost always the initiators and women are always expecting people to come to them. When it's all guys, then everyone is out there looking for people and they're all initiating, which makes it a much more balanced situation, so it's hard.
How have mobile apps changed the online dating space?
The location-based factor. The goal of any dating site is for people to meet up in person, and this makes it a lot easier, to know if that's a possibility, because there's no reason to be chatting with someone who's like two hours away if I want to meet someone who lives in Williamsburg. It solves it and bridges that gap much better than on a desktop.
I know you run the OKTrends blog on OKCupid, which uncovers insights gleaned from user surveys and interactions on the site. So I'm curious: If two people meet on a mobile dating app versus meeting at a bar or church social, is there a way of predicting the longevity of their relationship?
Honestly, I don't think it's that different, because either way you still have to get along with someone in person. There are differences where you don't get to evaluate personal chemistry right at the beginning, but you do pretty quickly. Anyway, there's no sure way to predict, because it comes down to whether you hit it off or you don't, which could never translate digitally. We can help find you more people you're likely to like, but there's no guarantee.
OKCupid has always had more of a hipness to it than some of its competitors.
Yeah. It's a younger more coastal, more tech-savvy, more urban group of people.
How did OKCupid capture that much sought-after market?
Not intentionally. I think it's because we designed the product to be savvy and more cutting-edge, to how we approached dating, and I think people who approach it online, in a more cutting-edge way, tend to gravitate toward that. Also, the editorial voice of the site doesn't do a lot for people who'd join Christian Mingle. I don't think we ever set out to conquer Brooklyn, but I think it's a natural extension of how we made the site.
What software is involved in collecting data for the OKTrends blog?
Nothing off the shelf. A lot of different tools, Python, C++, MySQL databases, a lot of different things that we've cobbled together; and then the code for the Web site, itself, folds in all that. In terms of the analysis for the blog, MySQL, Excel, and Python.
I know that offline you're a member of the indie band, Bishop Allen. What are your favorite music apps?
I've done a little bit of GarageBand on an iPad. I use Guitar Toolkit all the time, as a tuner. I think, for a guitar player, that's the craziest thing, that you can tune your guitar through your phone. I also use the voice recorder on the iPhone to record song ideas all the time.
If you were on a long flight and wanted to kill some time, what app would you use?
Duels of the Planeswalkers by Magic: The Gathering, on my iPad. I love that game, so that's a good way to do it. It's a nerdy Dungeons and Dragons card game, and it's awesome.
Before co-founding OKCupid, you co-founded online study guide SparkNotes, which was later sold to Barnes & Noble. Out of curiosity, do you ever use their app?
No, I don't see myself as needing a study guide at this point in my life. Hopefully I'd never find myself in school again. That [idea] sounds terrible to me.
What advice would you give someone who's just starting out on OKCupid and looking for that perfect match?
That's a tough question, especially without resorting to cliché--I think because OkCupid is essentially an open dating platform, you just have to be honest with yourself about what you're looking for in a match. Is it true love? Is it a fun, casual relationship? Is it a hookup? If you tell us what you need, we'll find it for you, for sure.