Tag Archives: dating


I recently wrote a post for the FSF on dating as a free software issue. It’s also something I talked about at SFScon back in November. I wanted to write a bit about it for my own blog, to reflect my own ideas and not just those of the FSF, as well as provide a bit of a summary from my talk. My slides from SFScon are available on Gitlab. The talk is only 15 minutes long, so I recommend checking it out if you want to listen.

I wanted to have some fun when talking about software freedom. I feel like when we talk about the rights of users we have a tendency to focus on the extreme cases of freedom: dissidents, whistleblowers, and revolutionaries. We think about people whose lives literally depend on their technology. In doing so, we tend to ignore the less showy ways people’s lives depend on their technology — I talked about my own experiences of life-saving technology at SeaGL.

We also have a tendency to forget about the fun stuff — the ways technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives and the little ways. Some of these are joyful, and some of them are more serious, or serious in ways we might not think about.

One of the things I talked about is the opacity of algorithms. Algorithms have been shown to be racist and sexist. Tinder likes to occasionally show men to lesbians. This is one way we choose to interact with technology — and therefore is a user freedom issue, as everytime we act with proprietary technology we’re looking at a question of user freedom. The practical side to this is the question of what algorithms we’re choosing to trust. When it comes to partnering up, whether for the night or for life, we’re placing this trust into the hands of something unknown that may not have our best interests in mind.

I also talked about Internet stalking. Internet stalking doesn’t have to be a bad thing, or at least an actively negative thing. I define internet stalking as covertly looking at the life or available information of an individual. This can be creepy, of course, but it can also be harmless: watching someone with whom you went to university getting married and having children; seeing a distant family member develop their career; or checking in on an ex and their new relationships. Okay, that last one might be unhealthy, unless you’re just hoping they’re happy.

Internet stalking allows you to learn about potential partners. It gives you the opportunity to delve into their pasts quickly, which might be eyeopening and show things like their history of racism, sexism, or abuse and violence — something you would otherwise take lots of time to discover if you can find out about it at all.

There are also issues like computer mediated communication (trusting our communications to email, texting, and video chat). These filter our communications through digital mediums we frequently have little control over. If you want to trust the security and privacy of a chat app, it needs to be free and open, because otherwise there is little to no accountability in both the code and the practices of the company designing it.

The ways we spend time together in ways focused around technology: we send each other streaming videos laden with DRM on proprietary web services; we use sites like Amazon to send presents down the street and across the world; we make playlists that serve as inspiration and declarations of feelings.

These are some of the ways technology interacts with our quest and the development of love in our lives. As I stated earlier every time we interact with a computer we’re interacting with software. When this happens, we need to ask ourselves what is being given up by using that particular piece of technology.

analysis: love

On Dating in Camberville

There’s a This American Life has an episode, for Valentine’s Day, that opens with a Harvard educated physicist relaying a story about doing the math to figure out his dating pool in Boston.

So you start with 600,000. Which sounds great, except that half of them are guys, right? And I’m only interested in girls.

He’s wrong.

So, let’s be honest, a Harvard physics student or post-doc is probably not going to date someone who lives in Boston (population 645,000). He’s more likely to date someone in Camberville (pop. 105,000 and 75,000, respectively). He might go to Medford (pop. 56,000), where Tufts calls home. Arlington (pop. 42,800) is also a possibility (in as much, maybe less, than I would say Boston is), but I add it for the sake of being thorough.

Now, let’s talk about his claim that half of his 600k people are women. He’s wrong.

Dating Pool

M.’s Table of Wikipedia Data

City Total Population Men (per 100 women)*
Arlington 42,800 83.9
Boston 645,000 89.9
Cambridge 105,000 94.7
Medford 56,000 85.2
Somerville 75,700 93

*among people over the age of 18.

This general statistic (more women than men in the Boston area), has come up recently in conversation. Someone’s girlfriend moved to Boston. They broke up. “At least the dating scene here has to be better for her than [the Midwest].” Someone else considered that the last three men they had sex with were all from outside the area.

Because I like pushing numbers, let’s see some more. I’ve rounded to the nearest integer because you can’t date .428ths of a person.

M.’s Estimates on Number of Vaguely Age Appropriate Dating Pool For A Random Adult Assuming No One Is Married, They Do Not Mind May-December Relationships or Heterosexual Relationships

City Total population % Over 18 # of Men # of Women
Arlington 42,800 35.6 6,951 8,285
Boston 645,000 47.5 145,040 161,335
Cambridge 105,000 59.8 30,540 32,250
Medford 56,000 42.6 10,974 12,881
Somerville 75,700 58.5 21,339 22,945
Totals 924,500 N/A 214,844 237,696


Reviewing assumptions:

  • Everyone wants to partner monogamously
  • Everyone is into heterosexual relationships
  • Adultery is not an issue
  • Anyone in the 18-44 age range is acceptable
  • People are looking to partner only within the Greater Boston Area.

Based on these assumptions, 22,852 women are unable to couple. That’s approximately the population of Lincolnia, Virginia.

Exempt Parties

This doesn’t take into account things like married couples In Somerville, 32.3% of the 31,555 households (10,192) were married couples. This is where things are going to get kind of weird. Most of my friends live in shared apartments. SW and LR are married, but have two (unmarried) housemates. I also don’t know how many households are over the age of 44 (or under the age of 18).

M.’s List of Households

City Total Households % Married # of Married Households
Arlington 19,007 45.1 8,572
Boston 252,699 25.5 64,438
Cambridge 44,032 28.9 12,725
Medford 22,067 45.6 10,063
Somerville 31,555 32.3 10,161

Gallup estimates that 4.4% of adults in Massachusetts are gay. This does not take into any account how many of these people are men or women. There are people who are asexual. There seems to be a decent turnover rate in the population, due to the universities and growing startup culture, though that may just be a reflection of my social circles.

Personal Conclusions

It’s no wonder my female friends keep getting together with dudes who don’t live here.

Edit: 2,2945 > 22,945. Thanks, TR.