Wish I'd done this--oh, wait, I did. But from a "participant observer" standpoint. Amanda links to OK Cupid and this little experiment:
Ok, here’s the experiment.
We analyzed over 500,000 first contacts on our dating site, OkCupid. Our program looked at keywords and phrases, how they affected reply rates, and what trends were statistically significant. The result: a set of rules for what you should and shouldn’t say when introducing yourself online...
#1 – Be literate.
Netspeak, bad grammar, and bad spelling are huge turn-offs. Our negative correlation list is a fool’s lexicon: ur, u, wat, wont, and so on. These all make a terrible first impression. In fact, if you count hit (and we do!) the worst 6 words you can use in a first message are all stupid slang.
I essentially did a little gedankenexperiment on just this topic nineteen years ago in order to meet Mr. Aimai. I read and analyzed all the male and female personal ads in the local free newspaper and determined for myself that I thought the most sucessful ad to run would be the one that brought the most responses from people who were likely to like the kind of person you were. That would give you the widest field of choice and the best chance of finding someone who was prepared to be a good match. I was turned off by the typical ad that described no one, or described a person who was fixated on trivial details (car, hair, height). And I reasoned that anyone I'd be interested in would be too--that there would have to be something in the ad that reflected who they were for them to be intrigued enough to respond. The way to do that, I thought (and boy was I right) was not to choose anodyne descriptors that would be good for anyone, but to essentially figure out what kind of person I would like, that I thought would like a person like me, and describe that person. That way people reading the want ads would *see themselves* in my ad, feel safe responding, and would have a good chance of being a good match.
I wrote the ad in the hypothetical. I began "you are..." and then described myself and all the things I thought were pretty typical of me: education, argumentative, short, etc... I got 88 responses, dated 12, married one. Of the ones I dated all were connected to me in some way-had gone to my school, knew a family member, crossed paths with me or people I knew. Or were short. Or both.
I thought at the time it would be a fascinating field to study. Now I wish I hadn't lost my notes on those 88 guys and what they said on the messages they left me. But it was more or less as the Cupid blog describes. My ad was extensive and it linked the respondent to a telephone message (this was twenty years ago! come on! we were still using those tin cans with string!) where they could listen to a short message and leave me a message. There were a certain number of just plain nutty guys out there who hadn't read or thought about the content of my message. One guy named "Juan" kept calling back, barking out instructions for me to call him. But others were, as it turns out, really good matches and I did end up meeting and dating them. The very first guy I dated, who sounded like a good match, turned out to be a drip and it didn't work out but a year later he called me for a date when I was already shacked up with Mr. Aimai and confessed sadly that he'd run my ad in reverse, for himself, and only two women had replied. The rate at which men respond to women's ads, as you might expect, is much higher than for women responding to men's ads but I was still surprised. It was a damned good ad.