Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Week in Useless Statistics


Last week, popular dating site and useless information distribution point OKcupid.com released the most non-scientific study ever: They correlated sexual promiscuity by smart-phone usage. Their study showed that iPhone users saw more amorous action than their Blackberry or Android phone counter parts. The findings were as follows: 

  • Female iPhone users averaged over 12 different sexual partners by age 30 (men only 10). 
  • Female Blackberry users averaged 8.8 different sexual partners by age 30 (men only 8.1).  
  • Female Android users averaged 6.1 different sexual partners by age 30 (men averaged 6.0).
    So where did this empirical data originate? What complex mathematical equation was utilized to generate these numbers? The results are from 10,000 registered users of OKcupid.com, who just so happened to use a profile picture taken by a smartphone in their profile, and just so happened to answer a questionnaire in which they identified the number of partners they have had.
    Now if that is not a comprehensive view of the American populace, I don’t know what is. Utilizing the same data, one could easily draw several conflicting conclusions. For instance, does owning an iPhone encourage female promiscuity amongst registered users of OKcupid.com or are promiscuous female members of OKcupid.com disproportionately attracted to the iPhone? 
    Not only is this irresponsible static analysis, it is dangerous journalism as well. Unverifiable studies like this can give birth to stereotypes and we have only begun to see the repercussions of this data. I can only imagine the pick-up lines that will be endured by women who own an iPhone thanks to the inferences of this study.

    •          “Hey darling…..I couldn’t help but noticing your data package.”
    •     “Your mouth is saying no, but your handset choice is saying yes.”
    •     “You look lonely baby. But don’t worry I have an app for that.”
    •      “I heard that you are pretty good with a touch interface.”
    •      “Would you do me the honor of allowing me sync my iTunes with your library?”
    •       “I would really love the opportunity to get to know your coverage map.”
    •       “Hey beautiful, I foresee you, me, and the nation’s fastest 3G having a good time tonight.”


    The ridiculous info doesn’t stop there. OKcupid then conducted a study on, and this is the actual title, “Photo Attractiveness by Camera Make and Class.” Unsatisfied with the rudimentary “hot or not” rating system so prevalent on the Internet today, they rated the “attractiveness” of users based on a decimal scale with 0.30 being most attractive and - 0.25 being least attractive. Presumably this was done to confuse frat guys who have long relied on the 1 -10 scale for esthetic ranking of potential mates.
    They then cross-referenced the solid “.30’s” with the type of camera used to take the photo used in their profile. The results are enlightening:

    • Users that use higher-end cameras featuring an inter-changeable lens system tend to have more attractive photos than those who used less expensive point and shoot cameras.
    • People whose profile pictures were taken by cell phone tended to be less attractive than member’s whose photos were taken by a dedicated camera.
    • People who used Motorola cell phones to take their picture were the least attractive (-.20) and those that used Panasonic Cameras with interchangeable lenses were the most attractive (.30)


    What strikes me the most is that iPhone users (who did not make the top 10 in attractiveness) can still rack up a baker’s dozen in carnal encounters. I would hate to see the numbers from the OKcupid members totting around a Panasonic DSL with a telephoto lens.  The other, more reasonable explanation is that members who own high-end cameras are more likely to have a copy of Photoshop. Presumably, people with access to Photoshop are more likely to know how to use Photoshop and people who know how to use Photoshop are more likely to utilize Photoshop on the pictures of themselves that they take with their expensive cameras.
    I believe what the statisticians at OKcupid.com are trying to tell us is this: If you are standing in line at a camera store and the hot girl in front of you is purchasing a lens for her Panasonic camera while talking to a friend on her iPhone about being locked out of her OKcupid account, she is a prostitute.

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