Filtering and selecting

graphic - pick twoEvery day, people try to use a set of rules, hopefully unambiguous ones, when choosing dates, friends, or colleagues. What are the rules?

Maybe some of the online dating sites must have figured out a few. Finding out how couples met can be interesting if they used an online dating site because I’m curious about the steps dating sites use for filtering out bad matches and recognizing good matches.

I haven’t used an online dating site, so it’s fun hearing what couples thought was useful information to them in making their selections though each couple always has unique requirements.

Once you put yourself out there in cyberspace the dating pool is deep and wide. And there’re tips that can help with the filtering, both ways. The data from several top sites has been mined for trends and pitfalls for optimizing your chances. Doing yoga, surfing, watching Homeland, having a flat stomach (for men and women), using good grammar, and looking at the camera  while smiling  will help you to do better than someone discussing their cats, taking selfies, referring to women as girls, and claiming their eyes are their best feature.

Dating aside, the set of rules dating sites use for filtering are probably also useful in making friends. We don’t meet that many people in our lives and we don’t live forever so it’s important to filter out incompatible acquaintances quickly if you sense there’s not much of a connection. And don’t feel guilty about it because you’re not only saving yourself from wasting your time but you’re saving the other person’s time too. You don’t want to waste time trying to develop a relationship that just sputters along and collapses after a few months. Saying no to one person lets you say yes to someone else.

Look at a small university like Caltech. It’s the number one university in the world, 123 years old with 32 Nobel laureates among its faculty and alumni. Caltech only has 300 professors (Harvard has around 2,400). Over the decades, a crucial factor in Caltech’s success is their extremely selective academic recruitment strategy.

Because there are so few faculty members, a mismatch in hiring a new professor can be a major setback for a department. One department member put it this way, “If you ask me what’s more important, to get $100 million into my division or to hire 10 faculty members who are the best, I would say to hire those 10 faculty members.”

Selecting dates, friends, and colleagues comes down to filters, and the person with the best filter or access to it will probably be the best off.