The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Light Rain

Matchup Inspires Online Love

By Waseem S. Daher

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

Valentine’s Day. Usually this would probably mean another Saturday night in the Athena cluster. But fear not, lonesome MIT geeks -- your prayers have been answered.

An online dating service for Boston-area college students, the MIT Match-Up has returned better than ever. Last year’s service had over 3,200 participants.

The organizers say that they have addressed the concerns over privacy that arose last year in this new version. Match-Up is under new management, and has added new privacy features including the ability to block e-mails from unwanted users.

But maybe Match-Up isn’t your thing. Fear not, there’s always the MIT Black Morbid Fling Together. Partially a parody, partially a matching service, Fling might meet your needs for something different.

Match-Up evolves from last year

Last year’s service, of the same name, was designed and run by Jonathan G. Monsarrat ’89, and was a one-time service which ran only for Valentine’s Day.

The service, while popular, also shared in a bit of controversy. Monsarrat both ran and participated in the service, matching himself up with more people than any other participant, he said.

A few Harvard students later complained to MIT and the Harvard police about Monsarrat’s e-mails. The complaints did not result in criminal charges, but to assuage potential worries, the service is under new management, with more emphasis placed on privacy concerns.

The current MIT Match-Up is run by Michael D. Sekora ’05, Mandeep Singh ’05, and David E. Kloster ’05. They intend to run the service constantly, not just as a one-time Valentine’s Day service. “The service is going to be on-going,” and is not just limited to Valentine’s Day, Kloster said.

“We plan on running the system for about a month. The plan is, though, to overhaul the entire system,” to improve the efficiency and robustness of the service, he said.

The service is in need of a revamp, because “a lot of the features and code are based on last year's system,” Kloster said.

New Match-Up focuses on privacy

Privacy is a concern taken quite seriously by the match-up service. “All of our users have our personal guarantee that we have taken every step to ensure their privacy,” Kloster said.

The service, which launched on Feb. 6, has been wildly successful, boasting a user base of over 1,200 users as of this writing.

“The purpose of the MIT Match-Up service is to increase the overall social opportunities for members of the MIT community, and members of certain colleges in the Boston area,” Sekora said.

“Students, staff, and alumni” from Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Harvard, Harvard Teaching Hospitals, MIT, Tufts, and Wellesley can participate in the service, according to the Match-Up web site, available at http://matchup.mit.edu/.

One step taken to ensure privacy is that the real contact information of the users of the service is not revealed. When a user browses the database, he or she can view the profiles, essays, and pictures of other users, but he or she only sees the aliases they have created for themselves, and not their real e-mail addresses.

If a particular profile strikes a user’s fancy, that user can send the creator of the profile an e-mail via the match-up service. Here, too, the user’s privacy is protected. “The person who is getting [the e-mail] will only know that it’s coming from your username,” Singh said.

In addition, MIT Match-Up allows users to filter out unwanted e-mails from other users. “If someone is e-mailing you and you’re really not liking that person, it’s no problem,” Sekora said. “All you do is block them, and they can’t search for you and can’t e-mail you,” he said.

Sekora, Kloster, and Singh go further by mandating that anyone with access to the actual system data cannot participate in the service, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest.

“For the most part, the service is self-running,” Singh said, but in the event that something needs to be changed in the actual user data, Match-Up has “core administrators.”

“Only the core administrators have direct access to user information,” Sekora said. He went on to say that the identities of these core administrators would be kept private, because they “don’t want any pressure on the core administrators.”

However, Sekora, Mandeep, and Kloster were all adamant that the core administrators would not participate in the service. “That is a guarantee,” Kloster said.

Volunteers get multiple profiles

To help make sure the service runs smoothly, the administrators went looking for volunteers. Signing up as a volunteer, which can be done from MIT Match-Up’s web site, allows a user to create multiple profiles, “for example one daringly sexy and one more reserved,” according to the site.

This reward is offered to encourage people to volunteer, as “a carrot to get people involved,” Singh said.

However, this should not be a privacy concern for the users of the system. When a user is blocked, all of his or her personas are blocked. “You don’t have to deal with their other personalities,” he said.

‘Fling’ parodies Match-Up

Posters advertising the MIT Match-Up have been put up around campus. Next to some of them have appeared posters for the “MIT Black Morbid Fling Together.”

According to its web site, http://fling.mit.edu/, the Black Morbid Fling Together is for you “whether you’re looking for someone to take your mind off your recent breakup, someone to distract you from your homicidal urges, or just someone to sit around naked drinking beer and shooting up with.”

The creators of the MIT Fling service declined wrote in an e-mail that “we began this service in the spirit of a hack, and feel it would be inappropriate to reveal our identities.”

The fling service began last year as a parody to last year’s match-up service. The service is hosted on a computer registered to Jennifer T. Tu ’05.

MIT Match-Up’s creators did not seem bothered by the fling service’s spoof of their site. “We thought it was pretty amusing,” said Kloster.

The last day for signing up for the MIT Morbid Black Fling is today at 5 p.m., according to the site. Contact information for the matches that the fling service generates is then e-mailed to the users that signed up.