Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tinder, Strava and Matchmaking For Cyclists

As a social activity, cycling has a reputation for being a bit cliquey. Maybe it’s because as cyclists we feel like a threatened minority, on the roads at least. Or perhaps it’s the strange clothing that we wear. For males it could be that we feel persecuted for having shaved legs, something that society generally deems acceptable only for females. But whatever the reasons, the fact is that cycling is fun, and it’s generally more fun with other people. 

If you’re a hardcore road cyclist, then you probably join bunch rides, which help enhance the social aspect of road cycling. Mountain bikers also tend to organise group rides to add a sense of community to the activity.

Breaking in to these groups can sometimes be difficult though, particularly if you don’t have any likeminded friends or you are new to an area. There are often barriers to entry when it comes to cycling cliques. 

So how can we break down these barriers, open up social riding to more people and share the love of cycling?

Then answer to this, as with almost any question these days, is of course, ‘with the Internet.’

There are already social fitness applications like Strava™ that allow cyclists to log their rides online and compete with each other for the best times over marked routes. Strava™ has become so important for some cyclists that a lawsuit was filed against the company by the family of Kim Flint who died in 2010 whilst allegedly chasing a downhill Strava™ KOM in Berkeley, California. As their website proudly boasts, ‘Strava provides motivation and camaraderie, and helps us prove that we’re out there doing what we love to do,’ which for Strava™ users apparently includes drawing novel pictures with their GPS devices.

Strava™ allows athletes to nurture their artistic tendencies, which has obviously led to many different depictions of cock.

Applications like Strava™ allow cyclists to connect via the Internet, sharing important statistics about their rides. But in order to maximise the social aspect of cycling it would be great if there was a simple and convenient way to connect with and find new people to ride with. Surely there’s some way that the Internet could be used to connect likeminded and proximate individuals?

Well, yes, as it turns out – it’s called Tinder™.

For those who have never used it, Tinder™ is a simple proximity-based hook-up (or matchmaking) mobile application that allows users to interact within a defined proximity and age range. Each user’s profile consists of a few photos and a brief bio – it’s very simple. There are no categories, physical attributes, relationship statuses or complicated matching algorithms. It’s simply a matter of looking at each profile that comes up on your screen and selecting ‘Like’ or ‘Nope’. It’s only once you get a match (that is, when two users ‘Like’ each other) that the ability to chat via text becomes available. Once you reach that point, it proceeds naturally like any other relationship – with the exchange of mobile numbers followed by nude photographs.

Despite there being no guidelines on what content or photos to include in Tinder™ profiles, certain common themes seem to have developed naturally. For example, there is an incredibly high incidence of photos depicting tandem skydiving.

Another particularly common Tinder™ photo genre has even spawned its own Tumblr page: Tinder Guys With Tigers. But it’s not just guys that have this mega-feline fascination.

Tinder™ is also an excellent repository for shirtless male mirror selfies as well as the occasional female entry.

There’s also an alarmingly high number of users describing themselves as ‘unique’ or ‘one of a kind’ before rambling off that old quote by Marilyn Monroe (and her aquatic alter-ego, Marlin): 

“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.”
These people are, in their own words, almost always ‘living life to the fullest’ and consistently warning you to ‘take it or leave it’ because ‘what you see is what you get.’ While the case for leaving it might be pretty strong when what you see is someone posing with a sedated tiger in some cruel south-east Asian zoo, always keep in mind that these people are living life to the fullest so you should probably feel privileged if they can manage to make room in there for you. 

What it really comes down to is which one-of-a-kind Marlin Monroe-quoting, mirror-posing, tandem skydiver is going to provide what you are looking for in a potential partner.

And with Tinder™ it seems like there is an almost endless selection of these unique daredevils.

There is also a fairly large cohort of Tinder™ users who like to provide an intellectually stimulating investigative challenge.

Take Jumiela, for example. Apart from loving dumplings, she’s also keen to test the deductive reasoning skills of any potential suitors. See if you can figure out which person she is in this series of photographs.

Try picking the common girl in these photographs.

Ok, so there’s one south Asian (or brown) girl and a blonde who appear in both Photos 1 and 3. The two Asians from Photo 2 don’t seem to appear anywhere else. The brown girl in Photo 2 is definitely not from Photos 1 and 3.  Apart from the possibility of a common brunette, it appears like Photo 4 is an entirely distinct group altogether. And who the hell is that white dude?

Perhaps this technique is the Tinder™ equivalent of playing hard to get?

Anyway, the point is that there has got to be a way of integrating the popular hook-up aspect of Tinder™ with the analysis and quantitative features of Strava™ to provide a new collaborative application that would improve the social aspect of cycling. It could have a cool hybrid name – something like Striver™ – and it would allow prospective cycling partners to judge each other’s profiles before selecting whether or not to go on a ride together. 

Like Tinder™, each profile would include a few photos and a brief bio, but in addition, it would also include all the key cycling stats from Strava™ like the number of kilometres and vertical metres clocked up in the past week and how many KOMs they have achieved on the leaderboards.

Thankfully, the two applications already share some similar branding elements. Their key colours (Strava’s Saffron Kumquat and Tinder’s Buddhist Monk Persimmon) are quite similar, meaning that a new logo should be fairly straightforward to design.

Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, the Tinder™ interface is actually a very powerful tool. For example, you might want to choose a ride partner based on a key personality type like people who ‘love having fun.’ 

With Striver™ you'll be able to steer clear of ride partners who prefer being miserable.

If you enjoy intense political conversation then you could also choose potential ride partners to suit.

Striver™ makes interesting conversation easy to initiate.

And what about partners who share your common love and respect for recently deceased revolutionary icons?

Simply swipe left or right depending on whether you like the person’s profile pics and Strava™ stats and, depending on your proximity settings, a new riding buddy could literally be just around the corner.

There are obviously a whole host of potential spin-off apps that could be based on this clever interface. Strava™ can already be used for running, but what about people who prefer walking? It's only a matter of time before we see Stalka™ – the first social networking app for walking buddies.

Hopefully this new collaboration will lead to enhancements in the original applications as well. For example, Tinder™ could definitely benefit from some quantitative tools such as Strava™-style personal heatmaps that allow you to visualise the ground you’ve covered and then share your accomplishments with friends.

A Tinder™ Index (or Tindex™) could be developed (similar to the Dow Jones) to provide a snapshot of the value of the Tinder™ market at any time. The Tindex would be computed as a weighted average of certain valuable Tinder™ stocks. It would be comprised of quantities such as shirtless selfies, gym, skydiving & tiger pics as well as the occurrence of particular phrases such as ‘living life to the fullest’, ‘unique’ or ‘one-of-a-kind.’ It would obviously need to be heavily weighted towards users who ‘love having fun’.

Obviously Striver™ won’t be for everyone, and no doubt there will still be a small group of die-hards out there who prefer to find ride buddies the old fashioned way...just like there are on the dating scene. 

With this more traditional method there’s no guarantee of finding a unique partner who has been tandem skydiving.

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