Crowdsourcing Online Daters

One of our Digital Media People to Watch in BC in 2008 is getting a head start on the year with coverage in today’s New York Times. With a Sunday circulation of 1.6 Million around the world, Plentyoffish founder Markus Frind is no doubt seeing a spike in traffic today. While many Vancouverites known that Frind built the dating site in 2003 as an exercise to help teach himself a new programming language, most don’t realize how popular the site is. Frind served up 1.2 Billion page views last month. Randall Stross’ article in the NY Times stresses that Frind only works 10 hours per week while netting $10 Million per year. Not a bad formula. And it sounds like Frind’s owes his light schedule entirely to successfully crowdsourcing his members.

To keep his site’s forums free of spam, Mr. Frind has refined a formula for analyzing customer feedback and arriving at a determination of whether a given forum post is spam and should automatically be deleted. He has also devised some new software twists that enable him to offload work to his customers, letting users review the photos that are uploaded to the site. Mr. Frind says that close to 50,000 new photos come in every day, each one of which needs to be checked to verify that it is an actual person and that it does not not contain nudity. The work would be costly if Mr. Frind relied on a paid staff to do it. Fortunately for him, there seems to be an inexhaustible supply of humans eager to look at pictures of other humans, and Mr. Frind taps his customers to carry out the reviewing, gratis. Some have made it their principal pastime. Among Plenty of Fish’s volunteers were 120 who last year evaluated more than 100,000 images each. He explains his volunteers’ enthusiasm for the work as an expression of gratitude: “Lots of people feel like they want to give back to the site because it’s free.”

photo credit: Bonny Makarewicz, The New York Times