“Online Dating” For Researchers, Clinicians, and Educators

Online Dating

Tomorrow starts Enriching Scholarship 2012, a whole festival week of classes about innovations and trends in higher education, with a special focus on technology in support of our core mission areas: education, research, outreach & service, and creating new intellectual content. The sessions I’m teaching or co-teaching include social media for scholarly publishing (Books Born as Blogs); emerging technologies (Tech Talk 2012); storytelling (Top 10 Tools to Tell Terrific Tales); social learning environments; digital curation tools (Paper.li and Pinterest and Pearltrees: Oh My!).

At the same time, in various communities across campus, I’ve been hearing conversations about how to make it easier to discover colleagues with similar interests; find people with skills you need for your own work; learn who else is doing related work to yours. Part of the focus is on how to create tools and visualizations to reveal existing professional relationships, collaborations, and opportunities for more of the same. Yet another focus is on how to make it easier for faculty to take advantage of social media, open educational resources, and online social learning environments in support of their educational, research, and clinical activities.

That’s the background, the context. Now, a different context. Recently I’d read all kinds of rave reviews about the clever interface for HowAboutWe, a new online dating site. What was supposed to make it interesting was the premise was not focused on finding a mate but a date, and that they didn’t have you fill in long personality questionnaires, but just a few simple questions. I have never joined an online dating site (despite having been single for a long time), but I’ve joined such a variety of new clever online social media sites that I thought why not? I did the same thing I usually do for testing a new site. See how far I can go without an account, make a free account and see what I can learn from that, and then usually ignore the site unless something exceptional happens. I just don’t have time for all of them. Usually, if they are interesting, I report out on them in the Cool Toys blog.

I joined HowAboutWe, agreed the interface was clever, intended to blog about it, but never got around to it. They kept sending me emails, which I mostly ignored, but to make a long story short, I ended up getting sucked into the site and actually gave them some of my money. I just don’t do that. Flickr I give money. A couple of sites I support via Paypal donations. But as a rule, I don’t become a paying subscriber. And for an online dating site? You have to be joking! But I did. So now I think the design was far more clever than I thought at first, and am really looking hard at what did the site do that inspired this. What can I learn from their design, management, interface, process?

I think there are some valuable lessons science social network sites could learn from online dating sites. What inspired me to join HowAboutWe was the brief glimpses of messages I was receiving from some of the other members of the site. I heard that they had read through my profile and found it exceptionally well developed and interesting. I hadn’t truly taken a good look around the site, so I did that now. They were right. My profile had gotten fleshed out because the site asked me what I thought were interesting questions, fill-in-the-blank types. I answered them, and I enjoyed answering them. Basically, they helped me tell my story, and my story was interesting to the other members.

Could we help professionals (scientists, researchers, clinicians, educators) tell their stories in more interesting ways if we used a similar interface and offered them interesting prompts? Perhaps that might be easier than blogging. Or perhaps a social network with these types of “dating” social prompts might make a wonderful little database of great quotes from the actual experts.

What sort of questions might do this, might inspire them to tell their stories in candid interesting ways? I’ve been brainstorming just a few, to get things started. What are questions that you think would make a great starter set for a scientist, clinician or educator new to blogging?


The (health or research) challenge that I’d love most to fix is:

If I won the lottery, what I’d really love to do as a research project would be:

The event or person in my life that inspired me to love science (research, healthcare, teaching, etc) is:

Tips and warnings I’d like to share with new professionals in my field:

A person I really respect is:

Skills I wish I had to help my research along:

Someone I wish I knew (better):

My dream project:

The book or article I wish someone would write:

The most important trend I see coming is:

My first important project was:

Something I wish people had told me before I started this line of work:

The work I’ve done that I’m most proud of is:

Something I’ve helped with (or am working on) that really made (can make) a difference is:


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