Data by Amy Webb

I went to the HB Central Library on Saturday.

It occurred to me that soon I might lose privileges at this fab place, since I’m moving to another city. Not sure. Anyway, a friend suggested I enter a fan-fic contest and I wanted to brush up on the author’s style. I found two books and was about to check out when a book in the new section caught my eye. Cuz it was pink.

And how could I resist this title? Data, How I Gamed Online Dating To Meet My Match

I guess this poast will contain spoilers because I’m sloppy about that sort of thing, so be warned.

First, this book is super mathy, which I love. Basically, I loved this entire book. I had a few problems with it, but overall, I thought it was great. I ripped through it very quickly. It’s not that helpful to me personally because Amy was looking for a man to start a family with and even though, theoretically, her formula could be used for anyone, realistically… it just can’t. Still, I cheered her on.

I cried a lot too. Nothing to do with romance, or my lack of it ~ Amy’s mother had cancer throughout and became progressively sicker.

Even though this book is fictionalized non-fiction (a genre that sometimes annoys me), it reads like well-paced fiction. Amy has a strong, interesting narrative voice, never descending into whiny “chick-lit,” and the story moves along quickly. I think you’d enjoy it even if you weren’t into online dating. It’s really about people and relationships, including Amy’s relationship with her sister. There’s a whole sidebar about how the online dating thing started out waaay back when at Harvard with punch cards. Yep.

A few problems, relatively minor. Keep in mind that these may have to do with the fact that Amy’s online dating experience was in 2005… eight years ago.

One problem is that Amy focused only on Jdate. She had signed up for Match and eHarmony, but ended up applying her math only to Jdate. You can’t really do anything to “game” eHarmony because there’s no way to search for people there, so that’s out completely. Whether what worked for Amy on Jdate would be helpful on Match, beyond the obvious like don’t use sarcasm as a way to flirt, is an open question, since Jdate’s database is a lot smaller than Match’s.

And as far as using any math or logic to deal with the free dating sites? Gah. Moving on.

Problem two is that Amy is fixated on the “popular” women of Jdate, whom she discovers after signing on as a man. Apparently (in 2005 anyway), these are women who’d always appear first on men’s lists or something. Amy notes that they are all petite with bland profiles that use repetitive keywords. Now, I thought she was going to reveal that these were fakes to lure men to sign up, but nope. Amy signs up as a man (several men) and actually talks to these women. They’re real. They flirt. Hmm. I just don’t know what to make of all these short, slim, blonde, bland Jewish women in Philadelphia. Well, Amy believes they were real and she has a Master’s degree.

Problem three is that Amy’s big epiphanies like show some skin in your pics and make your profile sound fun rather than uploading your freaking resume are so elementary that you don’t exactly need a bunch of higher math to come up with them. And her huge light-bulb moment of ZOMG what if I looked for a guy a little bit further outside of the 25-mile radius or whatever was just silly. She seriously had never thought of this before? A woman who had lived in Japan for cryin’ out loud?

Still I enjoyed the book tremendously. People have blind spots and that’s OK. Amy wrote the story as it happened, warts and all. She showed us the crappy pics she used at first and her initial ridiculous profile. She described her awful dates and how women, even the smartest ones, end up out with some married jerk or picking up the tab. She isn’t trying to pretend she’s something she’s not. She says from the start her story has a happy ending. That’s the whole point.

3 responses to “Data by Amy Webb

  1. I heard an interesting interview by Tom Ashbook on NPRs On Point yesterday. He was talking with Alison Wolf about her book “The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World” ( She explained how professional Chinese women use online dating to find the Right husband. According to her, they are extremely specific and very demanding about the type of man they want, degrees, income, appearance….everything.


  2. My Aunt Gripe volunteers there, and I think you can maintain privileges for the princely sum of $125/yr. lol


  3. Asha, yep that’s a big thing in the book too. Be much more selective, but behind the scenes. In your profile, sound bland and fun. Blargh.

    Julia, yow! Forget it… I’ll use the one here.


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