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Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match

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Forty million people date online each year. Most don’t find true love. Thanks to Data, a Love Story, their odds just got a whole lot better.

Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match is a lively, thought-provoking memoir about how one woman “gamed” the world of online dating—and met her eventual husband.

296 pages, Hardcover

First published January 31, 2013

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About the author

Amy Webb

4 books302 followers
Amy Webb was named by Forbes as one of the five women changing the world, listed as the BBC’s 100 Women of 2020, ranked on the Thinkers50 list of the 50 most influential management thinkers globally. She is the author of several popular books, including The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, which was longlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Digital Thinking Award, and won the 2020 Gold Axiom Medal for the best book about business and technology, and The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream, which won the Thinkers50 Radar Award, was selected as one of Fast Company’s Best Books of 2016, Amazon’s best books 2016, and was the recipient of the 2017 Gold Axiom Medal for the best book about business and technology. Her latest book, The Genesis Machine, explores the futures of synthetic biology. A lifelong science fiction fan, Amy collaborates closely with Hollywood writers and producers on films, TV shows and commercials about science, technology and the future. Recent projects include The First, a sci-fi drama about the first humans to travel to Mars, an AT&T commercial featuring a fully-autonomous car directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, and an upcoming film based on Amy’s hilarious and heart wrenching memoir about data, algorithms and online dating (Data, A Love Story). Amy is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and has served as a Blue Ribbon Emmy award judge. Amy Webb “showed Comic-Con how it’s done” declared the Los Angeles Times, describing the 2019 main stage Westworld session she moderated with the show’s actors and showrunners.

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692 (36%)
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607 (31%)
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207 (10%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 356 reviews
October 21, 2018
I switched to the ebook edition. This "review" is a blog about my last bf and why I need to sharp up on online data. The review of this book after I read it is here Data, A Love Story, ebook.

Having finished with the last bf - he had started out looking like the masculine man who takes charge having an amazing job, a world-travelling Special Agent for the US Treasury and "had" to carry a gun, not the sort of man I usually go for. But he had a boat and I am mad keen to sail, especially the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. He promised to spend a year sailing the Caribbean and then make his mind up about whether to do the coast of South America or the Canal. But it was all just a hook to get me.

He was really a loud bully who got himself thrown out of Marco Island Marina for his interfering, know-it-all ways and when he found another marina, Longboat Key, he had to motor up there as his boat is in no condition to sail. It would have needed a lot of work to make it ocean-ready (but it had sailed down from my island to Florida at some point). He had looked for a marina to make his home, park his BMW and move his vast storage room. In other words, he really had no intention of sailing.

He didn't really have a wonderful job either. He had retired at 50 with a fabulous pension and lump sum, but had precious few hobbies other than watching Jeopardy and Netflix every night and drinking, until he needed asleep, a lot of rum at lunchtime. Once a month with his Coastguard buddies he'd do 'beach duty and go drinking'. He was lonely and bored and wanting constant entertaining, but on his terms.

His terms included what I should wear, what colour lipstick, how I should do my hair, even things as petty as how much space I was allowed for my food in the fridge. He even timed how long I had the fridge open! Not on his terms meant tellings-off, being shouted at, mocked, humiliated and eventually I just packed up my things from the boat, went to Tampa airport and flew home. But I don't like being alone.

Because I live so far from anywhere, thousands of miles from the mainland, I have to rely on the internet. I thought this book might give me some good tips on how to get the best, avoid the rest and live Happily Ever After!

I'm not young and I'm not a cougar, so looking for older guys who don't have big beer bellies and like propping up bars talking to their men friends about sport rather than going out chatting books and dancing with me isn't so easy. Either their married and lying, divorced and after a while (like this last one) I feel nothing but sympathy for the ex-wife or they are divorced and desperate to find a cook-housekeeper-personal shopper who will screw them once a week when they haven't fallen asleep in front of the tv having had too much beer in the sports bar.

But there must be someone out there for me, and maybe this book will help me to find him.

(Those of you I know in real life, and the rest of you, please keep your eyes open! Nothing wrong with match-making for friends).
October 21, 2018
This is a really good book. The author is a very clever woman who didn't disguise this from her dating profiles or the book reader, and thereby lacked success on dating sites and alienated those people here who think that women should be sweet, dumb themselves down, and be as entirely conventional as possible. They should also show skin.

Kim Kardashian is famous for her face, body and fantastic publicity. The fact that none of these came about naturally and cost plenty of money is irrelevant. The closer you can get to projecting that image, but preferably blonde, a bit less arse, and trying to project that you have a great sense of humour, are always up for fun and definitely like sports and everything men do, the more popular you will be. At least in online dating sites, and having a sweet profile pic and being non-confrontational won't hurt here either, it seems. (I have neither, but I have trolls!)

The author set up a lot of fake male profiles of the sort of men she was interested in and monitored the women who responded, their profiles and how their responses up to three messages. She did not 'lead them on' beyond this. From her data, she decided to lose weight, have a hair and clothes makeover, big fake smile pictures showing skin, short profiles that showed only that the person was fun, popular and liked 'adventure'. None of them showed any sign of intellect or career and all of them were short. Following this extensive research she met her ideal man, married him and now is passing on her how-to in a book. I found it amazingly interesting. I loved the author. She was annoying in a normal way. She came across as a complete, rounded person and not the semi-fake sort of persona she advises for dating sites. I'm going to try her advice.

The back story about my last bf and why I need dating sites is on the hardback edition which I originally had until I switched to the ebook so I could copy passages. Data, a Love Story. Hardback edition

Amy, catfishing, the business of Match.com etc. and Goodreads. .
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,449 reviews7,561 followers
January 26, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

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Ugh. Where do I even begin? This is not a book I'd ever choose to read . . . but I'm doing the library's "romance" challenge in order to score a new coffee mug and this was a suggested selection that I had not already read and one that didn't have a waiting list as long as my arm, so I decided to give it a shot.

Here's the problem I have with memoirs - why do average Joes think their story is the one that should be told . . . and more importantly, that people (beside their friends and family members) would ever be interested in said story????

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This book is supposedly about a woman who managed to "game" the system of online dating in order to land herself a hubby. First, ewwww. Who wants to "game" their way to a marriage? I get pissed off with authors/reviewers who want to game the system at Goodreads for crying out loud. Webb came off as a pathetic, jealous schoolgirl who thought it was soooooo unfair that all the pretty girls were getting "likes" instead of her . . .

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Second, the "gaming" of which she speaks? Not real. Oh, sure she throws in a bunch of algorithms and mathematical mumbo jumbo that nearly bored my drawers off, but at the end of the day? She really only changed her profile from a resume format into something much more approachable (you know, into one that another human being might actually want to talk to), and dropped a wad of cash on a new haircut, some make-up, and new clothes in order to make her not so frumpy. It reminded me of the gazillions of teeny-bopper flicks that have the "ugly duckling" makeover reveal . . .

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I have no clue what type of person would enjoy this book. Someone who's desperate and hoping some random tips from a stranger will help them hook a big fish on e-Harmony????

Oh, and I can't forget to mention the author has been with her spouse a whopping 8 years. Try doubling that and then adding on a few more to grow on and still end up feeling like you don't have your shit together half the time. Now THAT is reality. Also? Not compromising about some simple things like your spouse enjoying sports (or whatever the case may be) because you fear that will leave you with "too many Sundays" spent by yourself. Just wait 10 or 15 years and you'll be thankful for those couple of free hours on the weekend. And trust me when I say there's nothing wrong with being drug out to the ballgame a few times a year. Beer, brats, bags, and books????

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Don't knock it 'til you tried it.

The only saving grace for this story were the author's admitted love for George Michael . . .

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Right, the musical George Michael . . .

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(although she does claim to be a fan of Arrested Development as well), and that her ideal mate might look a little something like this guy . . .

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Sadly, that wasn't enough to make me rate this shallow bit of nonsense more than 1 Star, so let's focus on Goldblum some more : )

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3 down - 2 to go. The library challenge which does not kill me only makes me stronger!!!!
Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
July 27, 2018
This is definitely not the kind of book I usually read. If I’m reading nonfiction, it’s history or an essay collection by a writer that I’m either familiar with, or who came highly recommended by a friend. “Navel-gazing memoir by someone who didn’t do anything notable” is rarely my cup of tea; even less so is the “navel gazing memoir of a very brief time in someone's life stretched out to standard paperback length” subgenre. But this book was lent to me by a friend during one of my experiments in online dating, so at least it was relevant to my interests at the time.

The purpose of this book is clear and straightforward: Amy Webb documents her experiences on several online dating services, which were initially unsuccessful until she started thinking about how the various sites “match” people, and decided to see if she could "game" the algorithm to get the best possible match.

Published in 2013 and documenting events around 2008, the book already feels incredibly dated. Although Webb is writing about a time when online dating was becoming more common, the sites that she used (JDate and Match.com) were still in their infancy, and I don’t think OkCupid even existed yet (although Webb, who only used paid dating sites, may have excluded that one from her data pool, since it’s a free service. At any rate, it’s never mentioned). There was also some disconnect between the Webb’s experiences in online dating and my own, which made the book harder for me to connect with – Webb states plainly at the beginning of the book that her goal was to find a husband, and not waste her time on dates with incompatible men, thus her need to “hack” Match.com and find the best match as fast as possible.

Are you getting the sense that Amy Webb is a methodical, mathematically-minded, and unromantic individual? She is indeed, and most of the fun of this book (what little fun there is, really) is watching an utterly pragmatic, unsentimental person try to find love in a businesslike, research-backed manner. It was almost charming how Amy Webb behaves like the antithesis of a rom com heroine. One of John Green's teen protagonists once claimed, "Love is graphable!" Amy Webb would concur.

Less fun is reading about how Webb behaved on her dates, because she acts less like someone trying to form a personal connection with another human being, and more like Jane Goodall observing the apes. Early in her experiments, Webb would haul her laptop along with her on dates, and then bring the laptop into the bathroom with herso she could take notes on how things were going. Also, she emails recaps of every date to a group of her friends and family, which...oof. It was at this point that I texted the friend who lent me the book: “This woman is UNHINGED.”

Once Webb throws herself fully into researching the algorithms used on matchmaking sites, the book practically grinds to a halt as she bogs us down in math and statistics and graphs and uuuuggghhhh I’m already falling asleep. If you love that kind of thing, this will probably be fascinating to you. I was mostly impressed at the level of focus present - when Webb first gets her research idea, she spends a solid six hours working on it. I can’t get through a twenty-minute episode of TV without checking my phone five times.

I was impressed at the research and the sheer amount of work that went into this experiment (an experiment that was, by all accounts, purely for the author’s own benefit and not for any greater academic purpose), even if Webb's methods are, to say the least, a little questionable. At one point, Webb decides that she needs to figure out how her own profile is being presented on the site, and to whom. So she makes a fake profile posing as the kind of man she’s hoping to find, to see what kind of women she gets matched with. Okay, fine, but then she actually interacts with real women on the site, responding to messages while posing as a man. She had a rule, she assures us, that after three messages she broke off the conversations, to avoid leading the women on and creating an awkward situation. So, good for her for not wanting to catfish anyone, but still, the ethics of this part of the experiment seem…iffy.

But in the end , none of this work matters. How, you may be asking, does Amy Webb finally attract the man of her dreams? Does she deliver on the promise her book makes, that she’ll teach you to game the system and find your perfect match through the magic of statistical analysis?

(spoiler alert?)

Short answer: No. Not even a little bit.

Amy Webb finds her current (I assume) husband by doing the following: going to the gym regularly, eating better, and having styled photos as her profile pictures. That’s it. That’s the book.
If you’re a statistics/computer geek, you might be amused by the research that went into this experiment. Or just come for the joy of reading the anti-rom com. Just don’t expect to learn anything you don’t already know.
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews665 followers
November 26, 2012
Well, this was a very sweet story, but I don't think the author is taking her own advice that correlation does not equal causation.
She has a whole bunch of fun crunchy math stuff, like with equations and things, but I don't really see any evidence that her 'gaming' of online dating made much difference at all. It seemed to me she pretty much got lucky and fell in love with the first guy she went out with after she rewrote her profile.

Useful advice that exists in the book:
1) try to look hot in your profile pictures
2) don't just copy your résumé into your profile (although if you thought that was a good idea you probably have larger problems)
3) decide what sort of person you want, and go out with people who are like that.
Profile Image for Anna.
97 reviews69 followers
February 14, 2013
Amy Webb delivers a poignant, honest portrayal of the modern search for love. I was quickly captured by her first person narrative that managed to engage (and not pander to) her audience in exploring her quest for her perfect match.

Her world of internet dating is as gruesome as the one I remember, but with spreadsheets in hand she decides to "game the system." Early in the book she dates widely, trying to meet her familial obligations as well as play the numbers. If I just date enough men, she rationalized, I will eventually meet my match. Date after horrific date leads her mathematically inclined brain to come up with a rating formula. (I have to wonder how I would have rated some of my online dates... how would the guy who asked if I would like to kiss his butterfly tattoo rate? Not well I'm sure.) She decides to use reason and logic to weed out the men who would never make her happy. With the realization that they would have to like her back, she then tackles the question of what women do right when designing online profiles.

Along with the enjoyable narrative, the reader gets some interesting background on the history of online dating and some helpful hints on how to get over your ego and write a "super profile."

Because of Amy Webb's brutal honesty and charming neuroticism, what could come across as a conceited endeavor to find the "perfect man," instead reads as a modern tribute to the search for love.

Data, A Love Story is a rallying cry for every woman who has been told to settle. While her goal was to find a husband, I think it does criticize the crazy notion that, in this day and age, any mate is better than going alone.
474 reviews4 followers
March 25, 2013
The biggest problem with this book is that the author comes off as very unlikeable. And for a memoir, there is remarkably little emotion throughout the whole book.

Look, I love a good spreadsheet as much as Amy Webb. And I get that this is about online dating and your search for Mr. Right. But when you toss in that your mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the midst of all this, not only does that make it really hard to sympathize with you trying to find a date who doesn't use "irregardless" in conversation, but you darned well better be prepared to talk about how this affects your drive to get married and have children.

Because it's got to have affected you. And if you weren't interested in showing us how it affected you, don't write a memoir. Write Love in the Time of Algorithms instead.

This gets two stars, instead of one, because I actually finished the whole thing. Silly me, I kept thinking that at some point someone would have some feelings.
8 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2013
I agree with these comments offered by another reviewer: "I realized I was feeling really, really bothered by this book. I think it goes deeper than frustration with her neuroticism and lack of social grace. It's that she has a genuine disregard for other people! ...the most duplicitous turns out to be Ms. Webb, who engages with 96 women on jdate who all believe her to be a man looking to date women. ... responding to messages of unknowing women was so...mean-spirited. Almost as mean-spirited as her merciless mocking of these women's profiles, who never intended to put themselves out there for such a purpose. ...abide by these things called "ethics" - which would not allow duping all those women because you can't get a man. I was aghast at Webb's treatment of these women for her own purposes, but I shouldn't have been. In her listing of 72 traits she wants in her ideal man, she makes her values clear. Her listing fails to make mention of wanting a guy who is kind to others, who appreciates their dignity and worth. He should be VERY GOOD with money, be VERY GOOD in bed, and even care about the music of George Michael. But on human kindness, she'll take a pass."
Profile Image for Bethany Erin.
210 reviews15 followers
January 23, 2013
I met my boyfriend online.

When people are skeptical or amazed by this (especially my friends who do date online and haven’t had much luck) I tell them that online dating is easy. The hard part is being completely honest about a) who you are, and b) what you want out of online dating.

So when I heard about Data, A Love Story I was immediately intrigued. Partly because I like funny lady memoirs, partly because I’m always into people who are smart enough to game things—especially Internety things, because that requires a much higher level of math than my brain can fathom—and partly because I wanted to know how Webb was successful with online dating, since I’ve also been successful with it.

All in all, Webb’s book is a really great read: honest, funny, sad at times, and really really smart. However—the way Webb went about “gaming” online dating included making 10 male profiles and email addresses so she could scope out her female competition. Which is, you know, a little creepy, but fine. It’s fine. And then she conversed with other women on the site as a guy for “research” which bordered on Catfish for me.

Read the rest of my review here
76 reviews
April 25, 2013
Frustrated by horrendous dates with men she met online, Webb decides to approach dating websites with a new strategy. She draws up an exhaustive list of exactly what she's looking for, ranks the qualities with numerical values, creates "tiers" (think "most important," "desirable," and "would be nice") and commits to not meeting anyone who doesn't score at least 750 out of 1500. But what's really brazen is how she creates several male profiles and masquerades as "Frank" and "Ben" in order to see what kind of women she's up against in the online dating pool.

While the concept is intriguing, the book soon became tiresome. Webb went on and on about her own career achievements and the minutae of what she was wearing and the take-out food she was eating while building her online fake profiles.

The other annoying thing about the book is how mean-spirited Webb seems to be. At one point she describes a meeting in which her supervisor pronounces the state "Illinois" with an audible "s" on the end. Yeah, it's a stupid mistake, but she takes such glee in staring him down and trying to make him feel like an idiot, that instead of wanting to chuckle at the guy, I wanted to slap her.
Profile Image for Joanna.
1,474 reviews42 followers
June 23, 2015
I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like the author. Sadly, nope and nope. The author comes across as neurotic, whiny, a tad unethical, and surprisingly vicious. The book has a good project, but it never hit the mark as either advice or an interesting memoir. The author showed almost none of her softer emotions. She tells us that her mother had terminal cancer and that she felt sad. But there's no vulnerability, no opening of her heart to the reader -- just factual telling. She recounts her bad dates in funny, but detached, language.

Her method of "gaming" online dating is both overly complicated and overly obvious. She engages a complicated research project that involves creating ten fake male profiles to interact with women to inspect the "competition." This is creepy and seems somewhat unethical to me. While she creates rules for the interactions to try to prevent unethical line-crossing (e.g., no more than three interactions with any woman), I still found it wrong. Not the crime of the century, but wrong nonetheless. And she analyzes word choice and interactions to come to the completely unsurprising realization that her profile should have good pictures and be relatively upbeat and approachable.

She also comes up with a 72 point list of requirements for a partner and a scoring system. In an author that I'd come to root for and like, I might have found this list endearing if silly, but since I found the author rather off-putting, I found the list seriously ridiculous and neurotic instead.

Finally, the book suffers from the smug, happy-ending that seems to be part of the format for these quarter-life-crisis books, but that's really pretty annoying. Right from the start, she tells you that things worked out and she met her happily-ever-after husband. And I suppose she wouldn't have much credibility writing about how to game the system if it hadn't worked. But it still feels awfully smug: "Look at me all happy and married. My life was incomplete until I finally met the right man. Take my advice and you can too...."
Profile Image for Helen.
438 reviews9 followers
March 4, 2018
Can you spell "false advertising"? I kinda felt gamed after reading this - sure she tweaked her profile but I think her magical match was more of a happy coincidence than anything else. It wasn't really rocket science, even if you can go all geeky with mathematical formulas. The point of this book only really clicked when I read she founded a digital strategy consultancy. Cynical? Moi? Never.
Profile Image for Zoe Heimdal.
2 reviews
April 16, 2013
This is a true story where the author chronicles her efforts to not just sit back and let love find her -- but instead, she actively works the online-dating system to find her PERFECT match. (A man who scores very high, on the scale of things that are important to her.)

On one hand it's pretty great... I love people who are active problem solvers. And she not only does that, but does so using extremely out-of-the-box thinking and creative handling of information/data. I could not help but be impressed by her go-gettum style. And she IS successful in the end (which she states at the beginning, so this is not a spoiler!) -- which earns her extra points.

However she IS a little nuts. The way she breaks down her life in 20-min charted increments... her obsession with numerically tracking so many things... binders of spreadsheets, color-coding, white boards at home, late nite lost sleep... I'm just saying that I can imagine some people would find her too extreme to actually enjoy reading about her. To me though, she was mostly just extremely quirky... and I can appreciate me some quirky.

The parts that challenged me and my enjoyment of her process were:
1) There is a lot of comparison of herself against other women on the online dating sites... and although there ends up being some changing of herself to be a better version of herself... there's a fine line that somebody could take to become somebody they actually aren't, just to land a man.
2) One of her tactics was to create multiple fake accounts as different men, in order to analyze how they are responded to by the popular listings... and just for the sake of the feelings of the other women (although she never let the interactions go on more than three times) -- I don't like the element of deceit... and then also, the way that this will give other people ideas potentially to do similar things, and so you'd potentially never be able to trust a response on an online dating site.

That being said -- I finished the book and enjoyed it -- and would recommend it... but only for the type of people who the above sounds interesting. If you can imagine enjoying a book about a numbers/process/data-obsessed woman who uses her significant talents to "game" the system and get herself the perfect man for her -- then it's a great read. However if you're a person who would be put-off by the thought of a woman working extremely hard to find a husband -- then you will absolutely hate this book.

Me -- as a person who'd be way too introverted/private to ever consider online dating... but who really appreciates the go-gettum-factor -- I give it four stars.
Profile Image for Roz Warren.
Author 24 books34 followers
June 22, 2013
The Mary Poppins Guide to Husband Hunting! Roz Reviews “Data: A Love Story.”

Writer and data cruncher Amy Webb was fed up with dating the many Mr. Wrongs that eHarmony and JDate kept matching her with.

“You’re not casting a wide enough net,” her friends and family insisted.

But after one particularly abysmal date, Webb concluded that the real reason dating sites were sending her so many liars and losers was that she wasn‘t being picky enough.

So she sat down, drink in hand, and listed every single quality she wanted her future husband to have. The result of this midnight brainstorming session was a collection of 72 items, from big things -- he had to be smart, funny and debt-free -- to subtler qualities like musical taste (yes to 1920s Jazz, no to the soundtrack from “Cats!”) And height (Five foot ten - six foot two.) She also wanted to avoid certain annoying habits, which led to criteria like: “No high-fiving allowed.“

Webb, apparently, has a very strong aversion to being high-fived.

Further, he mustn’t mock her for loving the music of George Michaels. Or be bad at “Trivia.“ And he had to loathe chain restaurants.

Webb dubbed this her “Mary Poppins Husband List,” after the scene in the Disney movie in which the children draft an ad in song for their ideal nanny, with items like: “Never be cross or cruel/Never give us Castor oil or gruel.”

“None of the men Jdate, Match or eHarmony had introduced me to,” Webb writes, “resembled anything like the man I’d just created with this list.”

Even so, she decided not to settle for less.

But how to find him?

First Webb decided to check out the competition. She went online, disguised as her dream date. She posted a number of slightly varying profiles of her ideal tall, smart, debt-free, Arby’s-shunning, jazz-loving dude, then evaluated the women who turned up to try to win his heart. Noting their overall popularity scores, Webb studied the profiles and approaches of the most successful among them to see what did and didn’t work. Based on this analysis, Webb then redrafted her own online dating profile, replacing her earnest but boring description with one that didn’t alter the facts, but emphasized a friendly upbeat attitude, a desire to have fun… and a little cleavage.

Men who are looking for love online, she‘d observed, find a little cleavage very compelling.

This meant upgrading her photo. The old one showed her in a suit, giving a lecture at a prestigious conference. In the new one, she’s at home, wearing a cute, clingy dress, a smile on her face and a glass of wine in her hand.

“I didn’t want to hide who I was or to pretend to be someone else,” she writes. “I just needed to… present the best possible version of myself.“

The moment Webb posted her new profile, date offers flooded in. Many seemed like winners. But she refused to date anyone who, based on their profile and a few brief online interactions, didn’t achieve a total point score determined by the weighted point values she’d assigned to the items on her Wish List.

Webb, a lover of spreadsheets and data analysis, was no longer leaving anything to chance.

“Data, A Love Story” is a riveting book, if only because it’s fun to read about a tech-savvy woman who decides to take charge of her own destiny by gaming online dating.

But what I really loved was that Mary Poppins Husband Hunting List. A few of my favorite items:

“Must be from Chicago or willing to fly there often.”
“Appreciates the beauty of a well-crafted spreadsheet.”
Hates to watch televised sports. Especially golf.
“Mac person preferred over PC person.”
Must like smaller dogs, like beagles or dachshunds.
Stylish balding with high-end glasses? Great. But no “surprising balding obscured with a hat.”
“Wants to have two kids with me. This is non-negotiable.”
Doesn’t wear athletic team shirts or jerseys.
Likes Peter Sellers movies.
“Must weigh at least 20 pounds more than me at all times.”
Dislikes “long road trips, mall shopping, wine culture and hanging out in bars listening to local bands.”
“He should never feel compelled to punch a hole in the wall.”
He must “(b)e very, very, very good in bed. I cannot stress this enough. He has to be amazing.”

(Amen to this one, sister.)

And not on the list, but surely implicit? When Prince Charming eventually learned about The List, he’d better find it quirky and charming, not weird and off-putting.

So what happened when Webb finally found Brian, Mr. 72 Shades of Perfect?

“I have to admit that reading through her 72 point wish list was a little creepy,” he says, “but not in the way you might think. [That] list described me so perfectly, it was almost psychic.”

Especially, one hopes, the amazing-in-bed part.

They court. He proposes marriage. She accepts.

Not only that but she also gets a published book out of the experience.
For a writer, that’s two happy endings.

Would Webb’s method work for everybody? Perhaps not. But it’s clearly a great way to avoid dating a short dude who dons a sports jersey, takes you to a performance of “Cats!” and wants to high-five you afterwards.

(This review first appeared on www.womensvoicesforchange.org.)
Profile Image for Amanda.
8 reviews3 followers
March 4, 2013
A bad break-up and several horrific first (and last!) dates might have driven any other woman to her tiny dining room to partake of an entire pie alone. Not Amy Webb. Our intrepid heroine goes in for pie charts instead, and does for us what we have been heretofore unwilling to do for ourselves - she breaks down the system of dating into small, bite-sized and manageable pieces. The result of Webb's efforts are chronicled in Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating and Met My Match. Herein, Webb bravely documents her first hesitant but hopeful attempts at dating after the end of a relationship, all of which range from wince-worthy to beat-about-the-head-and-shoulders-with-a-blunt-implement-worthy.

After a last-straw dating disaster, Webb opens a bottle of wine and spends a maniacal weekend breaking down the data on jdate.com into bite-sized, easily digestible pieces, so she can crack the intricate code of online dating. After what she calls her "Mary Poppins List", a 72 point list of qualities in a mate (some essential, some just desirable), she realizes who she is looking for. She also decides to spend several weeks logging as "man seeking woman", so she can check out the profiles that rank as her competition. What she learns about her potential dating pool and about how to market herself therein is the crux of Webb's story, and what ultimately lead her - no spoilers here, since Webb reveals this outcome in her own title - to the perfect match for her.

As a math-o-phobe of long standing, but one who spent much of the late 90s and early 2000s on dating websites, I found the minutiae of breaking down date trending quite interesting. Even more interesting is how Webb uses her information to assess herself as she appears in her online profile and particularly how her newly discovered data rates her past relationships. After crafting this detailed list, Webb realizes that when she compares it against her past relationships - including the shipwreck that begins the book - none of her past loves had more than four of her required traits. Four. Out of seventy-two. Setting aside the trending and the rating system and how Webb would ultimately recreate herself on the site in her "super profile", Webb learns that much of her problems have resulted not from being too picky, but by not being picky enough.

Even for those of us who may never return to the world of online dating, the book offers two extraordinarily useful bits of information. The first, of course, is the Mary Poppins list. If you don't know what you're looking for, you can't possibly know how to find it. The second is Webb's discovery of what makes the "popular" girls popular (surprise, it's not just being a size zero) and how to accomplish it in her own Amy-like way.

Webb's first person narrative makes no effort to articially polish anything. From the details of the unraveling affair that opens the book, to her mother's ultimately futile battle with a rare form of cancer, she is direct and unsentimental, but still allows a warmth and vulnerability to come through. Her "loud, Jewish family" plays a large secondary role in this book, including her sister Hilary, who operates as sounding board, fashion consultant, best friend, ninja defender and thread of reason, and her parents, who are loving, but anxious to see Webb settled and happy.

I listened to the audiobook, which has its pros and cons. On the upside, Webb reads the book herself. She's funny, she's self-effacing, she's unapologetically awkward and geeky and has no trouble detailing her many quirks and singularities. One hilarious chapter illustrates her absolutely religious worship of color coding and spreadsheets when she documents her preparation to meet a therapist for the first time, and presents a three-holed binder with charts, graphs, a spreadsheet, all detailing her current emotional and psychological state. As anyone who has ever been in therapy can imagine, the therapist seems to consider this as more of a symptom than a study aid, which baffles Webb. The other positive side of the audio book is that Webb's ultimate perfect match, her now-husband Brian Wolf, weighs in with his reaction to Amy, to her system, to her Mary Poppins list (which he calls "creepy, but not for the reasons you'd expect.") He, too, is charming and warm. Given how invested we are in Webb's welfare by the end of the book, we're happy to leave her in his hands.

The downside of the audiobook is that we miss the print edition artwork - photos and graphs (I'm guessing they are in abundance, given who we're dealing with here). I am seriously considering investing in the Kindle edition, once I have some discretionary capital at my disposal.

Absent the artwork at the moment, I console myself with the "movie trailer for my book" as Webb calls it, which one can find at YouTube by searching the title of the book. Very amusing....

A very enlightening, funny book with a sad beginning, a hair-raising middle and a very happy ending.
Profile Image for Christina.
Author 2 books18 followers
June 24, 2013
Data, A Love Story is the brutally honest account of how to succeed in the dating world online.

Amy Webb had a panic attack trying on clothes in Banana Republic and her sister called the store to get the sales associate to help Amy pick out date-worthy clothes.

Amy Webb is right that a woman has to dumb down her profile and NOT lead with her accomplishments. I did this and all sorts of guys starting getting interested in me.

I read the book from the middle to the end and through the notes because I wanted to get to the good parts quickly.

Everything Amy Webb tells you to do is true.

The quality of your photos is the number-one factor in whether guys will be interested in you. It doesn't hurt if you're pretty and skinny. If you're not, you have to be shot in great photos and have a bulletproof profile and essay.

You might think only guys are visual creatures. My male friend claims women are just as shallow in wanting to date attractive guys.

Yet I can tell you the quality of your photos is a must.

Be brave, be yourself and don't lie about your height or weight. Don't tell a woman you graduated from Harvard if you barely eked out a GED.

At least, I don't want to get involved with an unethical liar. Maybe another woman might want to.

Data, A Love Story is top-shelf reading.

Memorize the key points in Amy Webb's notes. Get quality photos taken. Write a witty essay that is breezy and conversational.

You can game online dating.

Amy shows you how.
Profile Image for Helen.
1,028 reviews
February 6, 2013
This book appealed to me because I like tales of adventures and misadventures in relationships by writers who have a sense of humor (miss you, Nora Ephron!) I read an excerpt of Amy Webb's book on Slate.com and loved her description of her date with a man she found out was married when his wife called during their date. That was enough to inspire me to read the book, which is part funny personal story replete with insecurities and part factual report/analysis of the history of dating web sites and how they work. Once Amy decided she was approaching her search for the right man all wrong, she went after her goal with scientific/mathematical vengeance. Good: She defined what she wanted in a mate and created a scoring system. Over the top: she created 10 (10!) fake men with profiles on JDate to get an understanding of what made popular women popular and how they interacted with men on the web site. She created algorithms and spreadsheets to analyze this, which made her seem like a control freak if not downright manipulative. Reading this, I thought of Amazing Amy in "Gone Girl." Her research could benefit someone contemplating signing up for an online dating site, although I don't know that the results are anything particularly unusual. For example, she learned it was important to have a nice picture, showing yourself enjoying life and showing some skin. It was a quick, enjoyable read that made me glad Amy found happiness.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
283 reviews62 followers
April 14, 2013
There's nothing wrong with being on online dating sites.

But what if you create 10 fake profiles (of the opposite sex) so you can see what your "competition" is doing? Is that wrong...or a brilliant way to hack the system and learn how algorithms work?

That's what Amy Webb did when she decided that she was going to meet the man of her dreams on JDate.com. After copying and pasting her resume into her online dating profile, she discovered that she just wasn't meeting the right type of man. When she did stumble across someone she really wanted to date, she realized that there was no way he was going to go out with her.

So she got smart, gamed the system, came up with a brilliant algorithm of her own, and started an experiment that would end at the altar.

Amy's book is a hilarious, profanity-laced tell-all that is refreshing, funny, and genius. Her book reads like a how-to manual at times when she explains how and why she created the specific formulas. Ever the journalist, Amy also cites her sources and provides additional resources on how she did what she did.

I really liked this book. I had bought it at the same time as "Love in the Time of Algorithms" by Dan Slater. Where Dan's book was depressing because it revealed the slimy business side of the love industry, Amy's was heart-warming because in the end, she did meet the man of her dreams. As of publication, they are happily married.

December 21, 2012
I couldn't put this book down! This is an engrossing story of one woman's quest for true love, but it's told in a very modern, geeky way. Compared to other books written for the chick-lit set, this one doesn't pander to the audience. Instead, it's smart and fresh. It's also brutally direct and honest. I can't think of many women willing to share such incredible details about their personal lives, and especially not in this way.

I'd argue that the main takeaways have less to do with how to date online, though you'll find details in the book about that. The story is really about being fearless, finding confidence and out-thinking a system that doesn't work. It just so happens that in the case of this book, the system is modern love.

Love it. Love this book.
Profile Image for Superbunny.
443 reviews20 followers
October 4, 2018
I don't know how this fucking author expects her dates to fucking like her when she's so fucking unlikeable - even I don't fucking like her. Which incidentally is also why this fucking book has such a fucking low rating. Did you notice how often I used the work fuck in my review? That's her favorite word btw and she fucking hates people who can't say the word fuck "like a fucking grown up". I rest my case.
Profile Image for Hope.
674 reviews1 follower
March 12, 2013
This book has everything-- quantitative research, data, love... I (literally) laughed and cried. This really was one if my favorite books.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,489 reviews221 followers
June 3, 2023
A few months ago out of a sense of boredom I hopped onto some of dating apps after a decade in a relationship. At first it went pretty well: the women I was seeing were genuine babes, and when I switched to guys to scope out the competition, well, heterosexual men are not sending their best. I'm not exactly 90s Nicolas Cage in real-life, but I'm better than those mopes. But I got about two connections for all my swiping, and the quality of the matches started going downhill. If computerized dating has always been a bit of a scam, even back to the Harvard-based mainframe era Operation Match, modern monetization apps are a quagmire of dark patterns. If I were a data scientist with questionable ethics (oh dang, I am), and I controlled the horizontal and vertical via the recommender system, I could do some messed up things to get desperate people to buy-in in the hopes of finding true love, never letting them find it, while providing just enough of a drip of hope to keep them swiping and spending.

Getting laid these days requires not just good l0oks, charm, and a little luck. It takes hacking your way through a hostile platform. Webb is writing about the ancient days of 2005, but the fundamentals are pretty similar. Having skimmed the reviews, a lot of the variance comes down to how much you like Webb herself, and frankly, she is just my type: an intelligent type-A neurotic Jewish woman with wide ranging interests and a few obsessions.

Saint Motel - My Type

Webb is also nuttier than my grandma's ruggelach. She's the kind of person who when starting therapy creates a dossier of all the psychological trauma she's experienced, color coded by theme, charted by year and severity, and cross-referenced. A professional futurist and spreadsheet fanatic, she doesn't do things by halves, and after a series of absolutely awful dates, she decided to tackle this problem in a data-driven way.

Step one was to envision her ideal man, brainstorming a 70 item list of the things she wanted, and then distilling those down to 10 major and 25 minor area, along with a set of dealbreakers, all of which were given numerical point values, along with a personal promise not to go out with anyone who scored too low.

Step two was to get inside the user-experience of her ideal man via what we now call catfishing. She made 10 Jdate profiles of different versions of her tall, handsome, professional match, a variety of doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, and other professionals, and saw what kind of women messaged them. For ethical reasons and time, her interactions were minimal

Basically, the competition was a bunch of blond shiksas lying about their height; every single one of the roughly 100 women who bite her hooks was less than the American average height of 5' 4". The general vibe was a kind of Cameron Diaz girl next door, being fun and approachable without being too ambitious. Webb's current profile, with bad pictures and her insanely ambitious resume copied-pasted verbatim, looked both sad and crazy.

So, smash cut, Webb starts working out six days a week, gets a very expensive haircut, buys a whole new wardrobe, takes new photos, rewrites her profile to fit in 150 non-threatening words, and does the geek-to-glam transformation. Then she waits, chats, and meets her perfect doctor husband, and they get married and have kids and move to New York, where she runs a futurist consulting agency.

Now, Webb had a lot of advantages. She was 31, had enough spare time and cash to do a makeover, and is definitely in the top half for brains, personality, and looks (likely higher, but I'm going to draw some generous lines that more of us might fit into). And the relatively open data policies of dating websites circa 2005 made it easier for her to do her research. 18 years later, the whole field has changed, but it can still be hacked.

The biggest change is swipe-based matching. While online dating was never exactly about thoughtful analysis, these days it's entirely instinctual, decisions made in seconds. And in that very old mammalian part of our brain, guys go for looks and girls go for status. So you have to hack the other gender's swipe behavior with a visual story that communicates the right things.

And good swipes matter, because according to some reliable sources, Hinge, Tinder, and so on use a kind of collaborative filtering recommender system. Basically, you get shown people who are like the people who swiped on you, so if your profile is bad you slide down the slope from perfectly tanned people who divide their time between high profile professional life and extreme sports towards people with regrettable facial tattoos who can absolutely explain those parole violations and why their last three relationships ended in literal flames.

I really enjoyed this book, and it provided some solid background to what the other side saw. If your tastes diverge strongly from Webb's, you probably won't like it nearly as much.
Profile Image for Vicky.
284 reviews4 followers
March 17, 2016
3.5 stars
I added this book to my to-read list after reading an excerpt on Slate when it came out. In that excerpt (which is still my favorite part of the book), Amy goes on yet another bad date set up through online dating. The guy seems perfect... until she finds out he's married. You see, apparently in 2005 JDate didn't have an option for separated, so he listed himself as single. Amy storms home, drinks an entire bottle of wine, and makes herself a "Mary Poppins list", a 72-point list describing her perfect guy. Not content to leave it at that, she decides on her top 10 deal-breaker traits from the list, which become the tier 1 traits, and an additional 15 important traits, which become the tier 2 traits. Then things get a bit crazy when she assigns points to each of the traits, declaring that she won’t go out with anyone who doesn’t earn at least 700 points.

Now, as someone who also (as the author put it) “appreciates the beauty of a well-crafted spreadsheet” (and has created some for random situations in the past) and who has also tried online dating without any success, I was intrigued by the overall book, particularly knowing that the author did eventually meet her husband via online dating. However, there were parts of the story that creeped me out. Deciding on what you’re actually looking for = good (I may have to make my own lists – both for goals in online dating and in my job search to try to focus myself better). Logging in once or twice to the online dating sites as though you were the opposite sex so you can see your “competition” = a bit iffy, but not completely crazy. Setting up 10 profiles as the opposite sex to see what kind of communication your competition is engaging in and corresponding with women as the fake male profiles = whoa! We just went off the deep end.

In the end, there was some interesting information that I will use to update my own dating profile (for example, keep the text short and positive; be conversational and lead with your hobbies); however, I’m not sure I’d recommend the overall book to most people. Go read the excerpt on Slate. Laugh at some of the observations in her list of perfect characteristics. And then walk away, knowing you’ve read the best part of the book.
15 reviews14 followers
June 18, 2015
The biggest reading disappointment so far in 2015.

I absolutely adored the author's TED talk. I watched it several times and showed it to my mum. She came off as intelligent and endearing and witty, and by the end I was genuinely happy for her triumph. I bought this book hoping to get a more in-depth retelling of that same story, particularly the algorithm part - basically I wanted 'The Rose Project', but even better, from a smart (real!) woman's point of view.

Unfortunately, within the pages of this book, the figure of Amy Webb totally transformed into someone else - a supremely unlikeable someone else: Judgemental, selfish, and above all, hypocritical, she slams a guy for using the word "irregardless" on a date, and then, twenty pages later, uses the phrase "I could care less." She shows up to dates wearing the same work outfit she wears every day, going against her best friend's advice, yet thinks a guy "should care about his appearance and strive to look good for me", even going as far to specify "unusual, quirky socks" in her list of requirements.

Let me be clear: I'm a feminist who genuinely strives to support other women, instead of cutting them down. And hand on heart, I really, really, wholeheartedly wanted to like the book... but 126 pages in, I am officially giving up. Sayonara.

The annoying thing is, it's not even badly written. It's just.. the author's literary persona goes WAY beyond self-deprecating. Nothing is more annoying than a memoir/autobiography that makes its subject out to be a saint, but this book goes in the polar opposite direction, and I don't get it. Why would you choose to frame yourself so badly?

I'm reading another book about screenwriting at the moment - perhaps it was an unfortunate case of not having 'saved the cat', but seriously, I'm just blown away by how differently I can feel about the same figure in a different storytelling format.

Note to self: Don't buy into book deals gotten from viral TED Talks! (see also: 'Start With Why' by Simon Sinek, another disappointment.)
Profile Image for KOMET.
1,089 reviews128 followers
June 2, 2019
"DATA, A LOVE STORY: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match" is a testament to Amy Webb's ingenuity and sheer grit to devise, test, and put into practice a strategy that netted her 'the man of her dreams' who became her future husband.

Anyone who has tried online dating as a way to find him/herself a girl/boyfriend or prospective spouse can appreciate how stressful and at times frustrating it can be to have that good date or series of dates that could lead to meaningful, personal relationships. I admit I felt a kind of voyeurism from reading about Amy's dating experiences. I appreciated her honesty in being clear about the type of man she was seeking and the systematic way she went about realizing her goal. Some other reviews of this book, I've noticed, have taken issue with Amy Webb's methods. That didn't bother me one bit. In fact, I couldn't help but admire what she was able to do in being able, after considerable effort, to meet the man who became her future husband. Maybe some of those people who have written critical reviews of "DATA, A LOVE STORY" have a certain envy of Amy's success.

Beyond the main text of the book, Amy Webb, through the accompanying Notes and Appendix, shares with the reader the details behind the crafting of each chapter as well as the logic and quantitative methods she employed in finding the 'ideal date' for her. Anyone reading this review who may want to try online dating, I feel, would derive a worthwhile benefit from learning from Amy Webb herself through reading this book as to how she cracked the online dating code to meet her match.
Profile Image for Lance Eaton.
402 reviews30 followers
April 9, 2017
So this book is vying for worse book of the year (or the last few years--no wait, it's probably on par with Fred Saberhagen's The Frankenstein Papers). As a person, I'm sure Webb is a decent person but the book she offers up about gaming the online dating world was anything but. What she argues is that she gamed the system--but that only really works if you see winning as spending lots of money on dating websites, beauty treatments, wardrobe acquisitions, and personal training coupled with spending scores of hours collecting data, scrutinizing everyone (while missing the hypocrisy of one's own actions--e.g. getting mad at men for checking their cellphones but scuttling off to the bathroom to write friends and family emails with your laptop), and outright lying. I kept through hoping she would redeem herself or call herself out--but it just got worse.

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other reviews and writings at By Any Other Nerd /
Profile Image for Divya Rao.
45 reviews1 follower
October 25, 2013
1. I can't knock unabashed, nerdy enthusiasm in any form. This book is fun, and interesting, and I can't help but respect how complete the author was about understanding the online dating situation.
2. She claims that people don't just use the word 'beshert' in everyday conversation, but I learned it because it came up in everyday conversation.
3. I never gained the comfort level with statistics that I wanted, and I don't think that "real" math is necessary in this sort of project, but I would have appreciated more information on the things that she clearly quantified, but didn't want to address in the narrative, like physical attractiveness as a whole, or appropriate use of grammar (though, to be fair, I don't think that web browsers had built in spell check in 2005).

I agree with the critics who say that the book could have been an article, or that it's another story of "overcoming" that still starts in a place of privilege. I think I liked it a lot because I associated with the author in the overeager/spreadsheets/please-use-appropriate-sentence-structure way.
Profile Image for Lisa.
96 reviews1 follower
February 20, 2013
Amy Webb's story, for all of her anal-retentive, control-freaky, color-coded spreadsheets is a pleasure to read. Her story of travel, work, family, and online dating resonates well as a plain fun narrative. The only place if falls short is the title's hint at a how-to. Since it took 8 years to bring to its audience, its how-to component is out of date. She acknowledges this in the last pages of the book, that interfaces and options have changed in online dating, so her precise technique isn't necessarily relevant. However, her overall method, be clear and honest about what you want in a partner, prioritize, and don't waste time dating people that you know don't meet those needs. So don't read it for the how-to, which few of us would perform to her level of complexity, but for the story of a smart woman, a little heartbreak, a lovingly patient sister, spreadsheets, and finding a loving, compatible partner with whom to share your life.
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