A Brief Review Of That New Female-Designed Dating App

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So the CEO of Siren got tired of seeing the endless floods of abuse that tormented women on OKCupid.  She asked, “If I were going to design a dating app to be friendly to women, how would I do that?”
Her answer was fascinating.  And when I read about it, I said, “Let’s download the app and give it a shot.”
Which was a little weird: it is only an app. The old-school dude in me is like, “…where’s my web page?” and Siren says, “Fuck your web page, man, we all work off of mobile anyway, just love the app.”  Okay, sure, not a big deal, since everything at Siren is designed to work in 140-character snippets.
(Cue the usual foaming rants of Twitter-length writing restrictions. Yet remember, I like Twitter. 140 characters is enough to get precisely one (1) point across, which forces people to be succinct and encourages witty brevity – two things that are good for a dating app where people are browsing heavily.)
The app starts out strong: you create a user account (which is relatively painless – you have to give it a phone number to avoid spam and sock accounts, then email/password), and then you enter a 140-character description of yourself. (I went with “Polyamorous, science-fiction-writin’, nerdy-ass punster.”)
And it asks whether you’re a man, woman, or nonbinary.
And it asks whether you’re trans and/or willing to date trans people.
So hey, SJW credentials: established.
Yet asking for trans and nonbinary stuff is pretty trivial database stuff.  So here’s the first major digression from the norm:
If this was OKCupid or some other dating site, I’d give you a link to my profile.  But on Siren, people’s profiles are not visible to you unless you fit their criteria.  Even if I could link to my page – and remember, this is a mobile app, so I can’t – you would not be able to see me unless you were, in my case, a woman between the ages of 21 and 66 within 250 miles of me.
Which is a protective screening, really: You can’t even know I exist unless I’m specifically looking for someone like you.  Which means that dudes can’t go around looking for every pretty lesbian within 250 miles and spam the shit out of them.
…Well, actually, they couldn’t do that anyway, because you can’t search users.
“So how do you find people, Ferrett?”, you may ask.  And Siren’s organized around one central feature: The Question Of The Day.  They get some pseudo-celebrity to ask something like, “If you could only eat one meal for the rest of eternity, what would it be?” or “Which dead author would you want to take to dinner?” – and you get to see the 140-character answers from people only who match both your criteria and theirs.
Answering these little snippets is reasonably addictive.  It’s fun – well, for me, anyway – seeing how witty you can be in such a small space.
The intent is that you’re trying to start a fun conversation, and you only choose the people who have answers you like. If you enjoy someone’s answers, you ping them and start chatting in private…
Or try to.  Currently, Siren is only marketed to Seattle, so when I selected “Within 50 miles of Cleveland,” there was only one person answering questions – or, to be more precise, only one person answering questions who I was potentially compatible with.  Pushing that out to a thousand-mile radius got me up to about 44 answers, but I suspect most of those people are West Coasters.
Which is the only thing that makes me suspicious of Siren’s success – it’s a numbers game, the same way some towns have a lot of restaurant ratings on Yelp! and so Yelp is super-useful in those towns, and in others nobody does a damn thing and so Yelp is this broken, pitiful tool.  And while Yelp is a place where you can go to be a social media star, where people fawn over your witty reviews, Siren closed-mouthed nature discourages stardom.  You can be popular to a narrow set of people who want to know you, but your audience is always limited.
Which is a good thing for the sorts of conversations they want to start up – I just wonder whether it’ll allow the app to get to the point where it has the critical mass of a usable user base in any given town.
And the QOTD seems to be, like, Twitter, very in the moment – if you’re not answering today, you might as well be forgotten.  That seems to be something by design, though, so people who aren’t actively participating won’t get continually pinged.
That said, I currently have no idea how well the social aspect of it works!  As of this morning, I have no emails – though like I said, the user base is small out in my neck of the woods, and I just got started.
What we have with Siren is a different sort of dating app.  There will be a lot of people who read this experience, doubtlessly, and go “Ugh. That sounds awful.” And great! Let it be awful, for you. But a successful user experience doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, or even a minority of folks – just a large enough swathe of people to gather the right folks together to start smoochin’.
I like the idea of Siren, anyway.  I’ll probably answer some more questions.  And if they ever roll it out in my city, which I presume involves advertisements and a fresh wave of PR, I’ll give it a fresh shot even if I’ve forgotten about it, because it’s all about those user numbers.
In the meanwhile, it’s a solid experiment.  I like the idea.  Let’s see where it goes.

3 Comments

  1. Alexis
    Dec 21, 2015

    I could totally see the appeal of an app that doesn’t spam you a ton of dick pics. Whenever I see the nightmare that’s okcupid, I’m reminded how thankful I am to be married. Though I did meet my husband on chemistry.com.

  2. PDV
    Dec 21, 2015

    Nice, thanks for writing this. This seems much closer to what I want in a dating app. (This + filtering for kink interests and more granularity to the ‘what genders would you date’ question would be my optimal app, I think. I’d date nonbinary people but I haven’t been attracted to a trans woman yet, if that changes it won’t be for a stranger.)

  3. zos
    Dec 30, 2015

    The spammers of dick picks I have know were bored women who were waiting to get to drinking age in abject boredom and a single slightly older lesbian woman with elaborate theories about how this was part of a plan to deprogram women rather than her lashing out at any woman she met out of a really strangely intense anger over previous relationships. Honestly the dick pick is new toilet papering an adults yard…. Men are usually targeted with something more as they can be expected to provide entertainment directly through interaction (the fake personal in ghost world…) I guess maybe at some point a dick pick has been sent to a stranger by an adult man as a come on but I am guessing most are from bored teenagers impressing their friends

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  1. “What’s This Social Network Do For Me When I Get Bored?”: A Follow-Up On Siren | Ferrett Steinmetz - […] couple of days ago, I wrote about the fascinating new dating app Siren – designed by women, to encourage…

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