Criticisim of Plenty of Fish Premium Dating

A reader has emailed me with a critical look at Plenty of Fish's new premium "Serious Member" upgrade, among other general faults on the workings of the online dating system. The email raises some good points and deserves a post of it's own, so here it is:


Mr. Savage:

I've reviewed nearly all the content on your PlentyofFish weblog with interest, being myself a veteran of that date site pond and many others. I disagree with some of your advice, particularly when it fails to account for the multiple kinds of goals and postures people bring to these sites. I also don't think your statistical musings rise much above speculation. But you do raise valid concerns and are spot-on regarding the "garbage-in-garbage-out" cycle which results from what I see as widespread misuse of this resource Mr. Markus Frind has nurtured.

This new enhanced profile status idea disturbs me, and it would even if charging a fee was not an issue. I'm not crazy about creating a perceived caste system on a site which has been so much better than others at providing a fair platform of self expression. I'm opposed to the notion that money equals seriousness of intent. That idea works if you're an independent contractor facing a tire-kicking client. It does not make sense for a member of a social community in which everyone is offering something very personal and slightly different. This can only excite those who judge the thickness of a wallet or purse before deigning to make a friend, which will make for ugly encounters indeed.

What I've seen time and again on both subscription and sponsor model sites is that the members themselves dictate their own "serious" behavior, and most clearly are not willing or able to put in the effort dreams often require. Among PlentyofFish's many attractions is how it sidesteps the fraud built in to the paid sites, and utterly eliminates the "closing bell panic" which may set in as yet another billing cycle ends without yielding anything to warm one's bed. I have scowled and barked for years that a majority of users have the dating site concept confused with a vending machine. Stripping the monthly fee grants the gift of time for relationships to develop on their own, just as they might in real airspace between people if online dating did not exist.

My other objection to this dubious new feature is more alarming and functional. Here is today's result of following the site's "call to action" link, a browser warning:

"- The certificate for "VeriSign Trust Network" expired Jan 7 23:59:59 2004 GMT. The webmaster should update the certificate(s). "

FIVE YEARS out of date? I'll pay to "seriously" subscribe when _they_ are serious about online security.

All said, I am not opposed to Frind charging for some premium benefit. No one outside the Billionaire's Clubhouse is immune to our current thorny financial problems, and I'm not certain how long click-through revenue was going to be sustainable in an era of phishing scams and spam gangs hogging four of every five emails. But gold stars and background colors? How infantile. This is worse by far than those gawd-awfully tasteless "virtual gift" JPEGs you "purchase" with the equivalent of arcade prize tickets. Some forum posters have suggested more constructive benefits, such as profile counseling, or identity verification.

I'm not sure yet what I would want for a monthly fee, but pictures of huggy-bears and rigged search results do not address the site's essential lack of personality, which is traced directly back to the lack of personality contained in many profiles. There may be women finding their bliss on a coin-toss percentage, but I can attest to many others who soon give up trying when they have their fill of the running theme of despair and empty gestures found throughout the membership. Perhaps the site is like an amusement park with a half mile midway and one ride. It just needs more junk to do and get people mingling, like on the nearest rival OK Cupid.


Good stuff. Thanks to the reader who sent this in and thanks for providing your 8 cents :)

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