Before the meetup, students downloaded a 1.4 GB raw data set—or three million
Betabeat confesses that most of Mr. Shron’s presentation was way over our heads, and several students had to help get Betabeat back on track on more than one occasion. While Mr. Shron’s work is essential to OkCupid’s operations—“someone might want to know… how many lesbians there are in Topeka or something”—the only visible way users are able to see what he does is through the popular OkTrends blog that Mr. Shron helps co-founder Christian Rudder write. “Christian and I sit down and hash out how we can [realize] his vision,” Mr. Shron said. “We try to find what some basic ideas are and then I go ahead and try to reduce it down into something that’s useful for him and then he goes ahead and puts it together and writes something great out of it.” But that hasn’t happened since April when OkTrends published “10 Charts About Sex”— over nine months ago. The OkTrends blog has been inactive for nearly as long as Betabeat’s LiveJournal. We pressed Mr. Shron as to when we could expect something new from OkTrends, but he wasn’t budging. “We’re working on it,” Mr. Shron said. “I can tell you that we’ve got a couple things in the pipeline, hoping to get some stuff out soon. But it’s just been a busy time at OkCupid. I’m just really happy with the success of the blog… Both of our goals is to produce something great that helps people.” That and the data analysis. Mr. Shron said despite the fact that OkTrends is so popular it’s not about the notoriety or exposure for him. He just loves the work. “There’s really not a lot of personal motivation in it. I know the blog is popular, but I think about it as just something I do that people happen to know about.” When Mr. Shron is not working on the blog, he works on longer-term statistical and business projects, answering internal questions to calibrate the website’s functionality and creating and maintaining tools that allow him to answer those questions more easily. Mr. Shron, who used to do freelance data analysis for professors and journalists in Chicago, has been at OkCupid for about a year and a half. “I had a bunch of friends send me the job link for the OkCupid blog and I was like, ‘Oh, sounds like a good match, and they liked me,’” Mr. Shron said. “I’ve had to develop tools for dealing with the quantity of data we’ve got. It’s nice to work on things for long periods of time. Previous things I’d worked on had been maybe a couple weeks at most… it’s nice to draw those things out.” But this hiatus on blog posts has been drawn out enough. Give us something new for our chart hungry brains to snack on.
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