There's been a noticeable trend over the last few years of in this community of writing long-form dating profiles. They have the benefit of being slightly costly signals, requiring significantly more time and attention and a much greater degree of disclosure than can be devoted to a traditional online dating profile. But they are (at present) publicized and distributed manually, sharply limiting the possible audience.

Has anyone who's written one found a date (and subsequently, relationship) by doing so?

Separately, if you've written one, regardless of whether you met anyone because of it, do you believe it was worth the effort?

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I had a super-long Okcupid profile up for about seven years minus the <1y period where I was in a relationship with someone I met irl via EA/work. I also had tinder for a period of time, where I circumvented the word limit by linking to text from my Okcupid profile. I always thought the long profile was the right approach for me because I knew that people who are soulmate-compatible with me would appreciate both the length and the honesty.

I was primarily looking for a life-long relationship, but there were times where I noted that I'd be interested in trying out more casual relationships while the search was continuing. (This was certainly a tradeoff: the long-profile approach is probably suboptimal for impressing women who are looking for a more casual relationship.)

After seven years of very little success, someone replied to me with "I've just read your profile and I have rarely come across someone so like-minded, ever. It's a little bit uncanny." It turned out that this impression of uncanny compatibility was mutual! We've been together for nearly 1.5 years now and things couldn't be better<3

So, it was definitely worth it for me, even though it seemed like the profile wasn't doing much for me for the vast majority of the time that I had it. (For instance, even on the rare occasions where I got replies to first messages, it would almost never lead to a conversation where the women would eventually comment on the parts of my profile that I was particularly fond of.) 

When it comes to online dating, it can be very useful to really think about the properties of the medium you are using.

There was a time when Tinder ran on ELO score. That means if all the people that you like also liked you back, you were shown to a lot of people. Practically, that could be gamed by getting Tinder Gold and only swiping right on partners that already matched with you. A friend of mine who is also a dating coach said that at the time he had a week where he had three dates via online dating per day. 

This means that if you ask a question such as whether long-form dating profiles are productive, it makes sense to focus on the medium in which you would write them. 

I remember one rationalist who made a fermi estimate according to which there are likely around 500 women in the world who fit the criteria of what he's looking for. He then thought about how to find one of those as his partner and went to work. He found one of the women who fit his criteria and is now happily married since 2017.

If you write a dating profile outside of a dating website you might limit the number of people who see it, but at the same time, you might still get the people you actually care about to see it.  

Community-wise long-form dating profiles make it easier for other community members to help with match-making. This is especially true in our community. It's socially awkward for a lot of people to suggest that two people in the community who are single should date. It's a lot less awkward to tell somebody: "Hey, I think you match what X is looking for and wrote in her long-form dating profile". At https://www.facebook.com/groups/898553654177315/ there seems to be the intention to make this even more efficient by putting up match-making bounties. 

A profile that's written to make the job of match-makers easy is likely a very different one that's written for OkCupid. For OkCupid, it's very important that the profile hooks the reader into reading it and makes them feel emotions while reading it. The infodump for rational matchmaking on the other hand is usually in a very fact-driven style. As an audience rationalists are likely also care more about evaluating the information. 

Caveat: I don't know what is this manual distribution method you're talking about, so I'll address the essence regardless of what technology is used to implement it. That is, I'm interpreting "long profile" as "lots of text in your profile or linked from it".

Most people write barely anything in their profile and (I guess??) care more about the photos more than the text in other profiles. However, I don't want to date most people. The mindset of choosing people to date primarily based on the photo seems to me, frankly, almost alien. They do them, but I'm not gonna do them. If I see a profile without substantial information about interests, worldview or personality, which is not completely shallow and generic, there's no chance I would be interested.

In practice, I met my spouse on OK Cupid. We both wrote a lot in our profiles, and answered a tonne of questions (99% compatibility). This is not a coincidence! So, my advice is: imagine the kind of person you want to date. Is this person going to be mostly interested in your looks? Or, they will care deeply about you-the-person and what makes you different from any other random person out there? If it's the former, don't write a long profile. If it's the latter, then obviously you do want a long profile.

Thanks for this! Just to clarify what I meant by "manual distribution", if you've written a dating profile outside of a dating app, you've basically got to share a link if you want anyone to read it (see e.g. this post).

Epistemic status: intuition and some experience, no sources.

Long-form profiles are mostly a waste of time. The two key weaknesses are 1) the primacy of photos and 2) adversarial communication

  1. Tinder made millions by realizing that many, many users make snap decisions based on photos and the rest doesn't produce as strong of results. That's not to say no one reads the profiles and decides on them, but at least a minority do (and some will just stay anchored to their impression of the photos while reading anyways).

  2. Dating is a "lemon market," where everyone playing wants to attract the highest-quality partner they can relative to their own status. That means when you write a long-form profile, you're incentivized to fluff it up and present yourself in the best possible light, and when you're reading a profile you need to take that into account when trying to evaluate quality. And even if you're honest, other readers will probably still apply the critical lens. This doesn't degrade the value of the long-form profile signal to zero, but it does discount the return on your time investment.

Now that I'm happily engaged I tend to think my pessimism on the value of online dating full stop was well-warranted and there's no substitute for in-person socializing, particularly in a group/community space where the adversarial presentation dynamics are reduced. If my current mind was thrown back in time to when I was 18 I'd skip online dating altogether and just get into more clubs and study groups and stuff in college.

I see at least two ways in which it isn't a lemon market for everyone/every circumstance:

1. If you value compatibility a lot and seek a long-term relationship, you're wasting your own time if you try to cover up things that some people might consider to be flaws or dealbreakers.
2: Some people are temperamentally quite sensitive to rejection, and rejection hurts more the more someone gets close to the real you. To protect against the pain from rejection at a later point, some people are deliberately very open about their flaws right out of the gate.

Doing a lot of 2. can be sign that someone isn't ready for a relationship (as it almost exclusively turns off potential partners), but I think it's possible for people who are temperamentally tempted to self-sabotage that way to transform it into a strength. Combined with developing self-confidence about one's good qualities, an awareness of (and openness about) one's weaknesses can seem quite appealing.

You might say "but then you're indirectly signalling positive qualities again ("awareness of flaws; the confidence to admit flaws"), so this is still about presenting oneself in the best light possible." Hm, sort of, but if you're actually... (read more)

High quality, interesting, funny writing has been a difficult to manufacture signal up till now. It's possible GPT-n will change that. But folks on LW are probably filtering for people who will filter for making real pretty with the letter forms.

2ChristianKl2mo
Folks on LW are also the kind of people who might take advantage of letting GPT-n do the funny writing for themselves if they lack the skills themselves.
3AABoyles2mo
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered it 🤣
1Randomized, Controlled2mo
But shortly after than it'll be available to everyone and we'll have lost another useful signal
4ChristianKl2mo
Most people don't even engage in basic steps like testing their photos on photofeeler right now. I highly doubt that a significant amount of online daters will use AI generated responses even if the tech is available.
1Randomized, Controlled2mo
I imagine it will get commercialized.
3ChristianKl2mo
Photofeeler also happens to be a commercialized product.
1Randomized, Controlled2mo
Interesting. Maybe you're right. I think my model here is something more like, "ML agents that can do good text generation get rolled out to the masses by google and apple, and then some amount of glue infrastructure is developed or even just you can say, "hey google, help me with my dating profile" and it'll do a thing that's 70th or 80th percentile for writing quality, diluting out those of us who were doing 85th to 99th percentile writing.
2ChristianKl2mo
Grammary already helps me to improve my writing quality and gives me suggestions on how to write better. We will likely see services like Grammary improve and that might increase average writing quality. On the other hand, I don't expect the average person to let an ML agent write their whole profile as that would feel to weird to the average person in the same way that testing photos on photofeeler feels weird to them.

Writing my dating profile was a good use of my time before I shared it with anybody. I had an insufficiently strong sense of what kind of relationship I want and why other people might want to have it with me. The exercise of "make a freeform document capturing all of that" was very helpful for focusing my mind towards figuring it out -- much moreso than the exercise of "fill in dating app textboxes in a way that seems competitive for the swiping game". (This is just a special case of "writing an essay teaches you a lot" -- something I'd like to take advantage of more often)

It took about 1 workday of writing effort to put mine together, and it's resulted in 2 high-quality dates (order of 10k micromarriages) in the past 5 months. This is competitive with the rest of my current tools for turning effort into dating prospects. 

I'm extremely morally reluctant to date anyone. I feel like neither side could be completely genuine. I have no problem being single for the rest of my life, but for the sake of my own health, especially in later life, I feel I should at least give it a chance to see if relationship would work out with the only person I've had a relationship with in the past. If it does, then we will be both better off in terms of health in later life. If not, then I will still be single, but this time, hopefully I will be wise enough to avoid running into significant trauma that might end up making my life worse.

Productive for what, exactly? There's a lot of assumed context missing from the post, including your gender, and the gender you're targeting. It's also not completely clear what kind of relationship you want, but we'll assume it's serious and long-term.

First: you're XY, looking for XX. In this case, @swarriner's post is applicable to most of the distribution. But since you're here, we'll assume the girl you're looking for is intellectually gifted, data oriented, and may or may not be slightly on the spectrum. Even in this case, pictures are still worth 1000 words, but a lengthy profile probably won't hurt (it may not help that much, though.) If you're going for someone in the bulk of the distribution, a long profile will most likely hurt, not help. In short, make sure you have good pictures, and don't rely on your own judgement or that of biased parties to assess whether the pictures are good.

Second: You're XY looking for XY. In this case a long profile is probably pretty useful, but your pictures still need to be good.

Third: NB for one, the other or both. In this case a long description is probably generally useful. Don't know enough about this case. 

Fourth: You're XX looking for anything. A long profile isn't necessary, just some pictures and a short signal that you're smart and nerdy. The pictures don't need to be that good. 

edit: what went wrong here? why is this controversial? anyone can explain? 

It's not controversial. If it would be it would get both agreement and disagreement votes. It's rather low quality. Part of what makes a LessWrong post high quality is epistemic legibility. That would mean that you not only give your opinions but explain the evidence you have for your opinions.

Apart of that the idea that XX looking for a long term relationship should orient themselves around what's necessary instead of orienting themselves around increasing the likelihood of finding a partner that has the attributes the want seems flawed and like you haven't spoken with XX who have trouble finding a desireable partner. 

1burmesetheater2mo
The post originally had several positive karma then got downvoted. The need for "epistemic legibility" is noted. Haven't spoken with? Who said I'm not in this category lol
2ChristianKl2mo
If you had trouble finding a partner, having certainty that it's just a matter of doing simple step A and B would not be warranted.
1burmesetheater2mo
You know, one can find a desirable partner after having had trouble finding one. Just finding a parter is not very hard as XX. Please think more carefully about what has (and hasn't) been said before strawmanning.
2ChristianKl2mo
I assume that the kind of partners people are seeking are partners that are desirable for them. That assumption seems at least apply to most people with whom I have spoken about finding a partner. But even if you have evidence from one step of "one person acquired one partner by doing XY" that's not very robust for making general claims about which strategies on average provide returns.

Online dating is fundamentally asymmetric as there are more than twice as many men than there are fertile age women. With long form dating profiles, men are at real risk of appearing weak. Women are more likely to respond to brief profiles that make a man look strong and capable. 

How do you know that long form profiles suggest weakness? 

-3Flaglandbase2mo
Talk (or online writing) is dirt cheap. Women are programmed by evolution to value pre-literate (and maybe even pre-linguistic) evidence of fitness that only a minority of males can provide. Not that men are any more advanced in their preferences of course, though we are willing to consider from a far larger percentage of the dating pool.
2benjaminikuta2mo
Not necessarily profiles, but intuitively I would expect a man's choice of words to form a pretty significant portion of how he's perceived by women. Surely you would agree that what happens during texting is nontrivial, right?
1Flaglandbase2mo
Yes, but a facility with words as indicated by a long form dating profile is likely to be perceived as unattractive by women, who are more interested in signs of social dominance as manifested in real life interactions. A man who has time to spend on crafting an elaborate long form dating profile is seen as being socially isolated and introverted.
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I have no answer - I've been out of the dating pool for too long for any of my intuitions about actual equilibria obtained in various groups to be useful.

I would like to point out that not only is it a somewhat costly signal (ability to write a coherent description), it's also a finer net, with more information about the seeker.  This makes it likely to attract some people who don't bother with short-form matches, and likely to completely avoid other seekers who aren't looking for that kind of up-front reflectivity.    On the whole, I'd expect fewer, but better matches.

However, this changes a lot if you don't think it's an exclusive strategy.  If you're thinking about what you're looking for, what you're providing, and able to put that into multiple search mechanisms (long-form, short-form online, real-world meetups, and openness and preparedness for non-standard meetings), you probably have a big advantage over more casual competitors.  

Perhaps not enough advantage to overcome major personality or conformity- and wealth-presentation differences with the majority of potential partners, but it doesn't need to be a majority, or even many - a few quality connections per quarter is likely enough to find good matches.  

Note that dating advice doesn't generalize well - it's a highly-dimensional space, with idiosyncratic desires and offerings.  Of course, most are close to average, but "standard" behaviors work just fine for them.  If that's not working for you, it'll take a fair bit of trial-and-error (and the error is unpleasant!) to figure out how to enjoy and utilize your uniqueness.