Coding Connections

By

This year’s Datamatch strives to bring a smile, new friends, and free food to Harvard students.

 

Year in and year out, February consistently presents a poor showing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Winter break bliss has rapidly evaporated and shopping week never seems to allow for that much shopping. These days are filled with frozen-toed embarkments between classes, the occasional frustrating spring weather tease, and a sobering lack of comfort food in the dining halls. At this point, when spring break seems light years away, there are a few bright lights of hope on the bleak horizon. Among these are included the celebratory hours of Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Leap Day. February 29th does not come often, so cherish it we will. President’s Day, however, is an old friend who provides relief and precious time when we need it most dearly. And finally, Valentine’s Day is filled with hope, great shows of affection, and an alarming amount of the color pink. The strange hope I write of comes in the form of Zinnekin’s, Pinkberry, El Jefe’s, Clover and newfound love. Tis true, tis true – in its 22nd year, Harvard’s beloved Datamatch brings new partnerships and new code.

This year, 2016 (also known as The Year of The Monkey), Datamatch leader Raynor Kuang ’17, who began his work with the Harvard Computing Society and Datamatch last year – writing almost all of last year’s questions – has a specific vision for Datamatch. After improving the website and producing miles of code, he hopes students this year will both have fun with the survey and realize that the algorithm is real. No random matching, no joke. The survey questions and answers were written by the writers of Satire V to provide ample entertainment during a well-deserved study break. However, the creators of Datamatch consulted not only their historical data but also the mind of psychology professor Steven Pinker. Therefore, one’s matches have real potential. That does not mean that anyone should regret filling out the survey at your blockmate’s weekly wine-night, nor during a problem set-induced vegetable state. Rather, it means that love is in the air (and it smells like waffles)!

Two decades ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Harvard students answered Datamatch questions that seem to us 21st Century residents, “pretty dated”. The questions referenced “stores that don’t exist any more or professors that have left”. And though Kuang as been unable to “find any hard copies of results from 1994”, he has had the interesting opportunity to speak with people who began a relationship through Datamatch. Kuang says that students and alumni alike have contacted him in the hopes of learning the secret recipe to Datamatch’s and their relationship’s success. Kuang and his team, however, will keep this mystery a Harvard secret it seems, for years to come. It does beg the question, how do the comical questioning and psychological data combine to create supposed matches? Regardless, Kuang believes “the important thing is dispelling this notion that it is completely random.” Students, of course, are not told to take it very seriously, but encouraged to appreciate the team’s work with an emphasis on “current psychological research on affection”. Students have the chance to do just that before the survey closes at midnight, Valentine’s Day.

In all, the team that brought us Datamatch worked tirelessly to do so. At each step of the process, whether it was reaching out to the humor publications, coding for days, or working with local businesses to bring Harvard student’s their hearts’ desires (no, not a killer internship, but free food). HCS President Harnek Gulati and Sam Oh of the HCS Board, specifically, expanded the rewarding options of reaching out to one’s matched by adding more local businesses to the partnership.

February may be filled with the tension that follows quiet desperation and boisterous radiators, but Valentine’s Day does not have to be. It is traditionally the day in which people stop to appreciate the ones they love. At Harvard, we might at least stop to enjoy ourselves, take a chance on a Datamatch result, and go for waffles!

 

Caroline Cronin ’18 ([email protected]) wishes you all a happy Valentine’s Day!