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Date Sites Liven Up Harvard Love Lives

By Tova A. Serkin, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS

Gone are the days of passing notes in class or asking out crushes through the grapevine. For the love-shy Harvard student, three new Web sites offer the opportunity to tip off a crush anonymously. As Valentine's day approaches, students have flocked to these sites-and some have even found their match.

DateSite.com

Subject: Someone likes you...

This message has been sent to you because someone likes you! It could be anyone from a good friend to a casual acquaintance.

We can't tell you who put your name in our system unless you show a mutual interest. Go to http://www.datesite.com to see if your feelings are mutual. It's simple and completely free!

Sincerely;

The DateSite Docs

Hundreds of Boston-area college students have received this e-mail from a modern version of Yenta the matchmaker. It is sent by DateSite.com, an on-line dating service started by a group of Winthrop sophomores that promises to spark action in the usually languid Harvard dating scene.

What first started as a dinner table conversation on Nov. 8 has expanded to become a comprehensive Web site on dating that now occupies much of its creators' time. During its first two weeks, the site has grown exponentially. The word of mouth and the temptation to log on have attracted over 1,200 users.

But it does not stop with matchmaking. The self-proclaimed "Love Docs," Edward S. Baker '01, Arthur E. Koski-Karell '01, Jacob E. Fleming '01 and Joshua J. Wilske '01, offer suggestions for restaurants and activities in the hope that one date will turn into many more.

"We're just trying to have fun and help people," Barker says.

While most users hail from Harvard, MIT students have also used DateSite. A smaller number of Tufts, Boston University and Wellesley students have signed up, and Fleming says that he hopes to expand the user base, mostly through word of mouth.

The four roommates worked for over two monthsbefore launching the site. The effort drew on thecomputer skills of two roommates, and the researchand writing skills of the others. To theirsurprise, the Web site is booming with minimalpublicity. The "Love Docs" are happy to be playinga larger role in Harvard's dating scene.

"Mostly we talked to people who talked topeople, and I went out last weekend wearing ourT-shirt," Koski-Karell says. "I'm just excitedthat people are excited."

The e-mail message students receive when asecret admirer enters their name givesinstructions for logging on. Users, whose e-mailaddress must end with .edu, enter a list of peoplethey would be interested in dating. If someone onthis list logs on and lists the person who namedhim, then both persons receive an e-mail message.Simply press update on your browser, and a matchis made.

The one kink is that not everyone uses DateSiteto find a match. Some log on merely to find outwhich of their acquaintances are so needy as touse the site. Thus, some matches have been madebut not in heaven.

"I don't know if it's something we cancontrol," Baker says. "It is the reason we limit[the people you can list] to seven."

DateSite's other fluke is when people send amessage to more than just a little crush. Someusers seem to want a whole lot of love goin' on.Pho-Ho Open, a mailing list for residents ofPhorzheimer House, was the lucky recipient of the"Somebody likes you..." e-mail message lastSunday.

The site's creators are trying to ensure thatpeople, or groups, are not alienated by the e-mailmessages.

"Whenever we get a complaint we put the e-mailaddress on a list so it can't receive e-mail [fromDateSite] and there is also the disclaimer at thebottom of the e-mail," Barker says.

Their success rate speaks for itself. As ofMonday, 175 couples had matched through the site.According to Baker, some have gone beyond thematch.

"We might add something to the page so thatpeople can e-mail us their success stories," Bakersays.

DateSite Love

One of the first couples to make the loveconnection through DateSite.com matched up withinhours of the site's inception. Katherine R. O'Neil'01, who is good friends with the Winthropsophomores, says she typed in a list of possibledates one night and received a confirmation of amatch the next morning.

"I got the anonymous e-mail," says Paul A.Stephano '99, O'Neil's match. "At first I thought,'This is kind of childish,' but eventually Icouldn't resist."

Stephano says he thought over the possibilitiesand decided there was only one person who couldhave sent the message. He put O'Neil's name intothe blank list and pushed the "Update!" button.

"Bam! It was a match," he says.

Stephano says the planning that went into hisdate with O'Neil added a fun twist to anordinarily stressful experience. It helped to knowO'Neil was enthusiastic as well.

"You have to strategize a little bit. It hasthe feel of a game as opposed to just going up tosomeone and asking them out," Stephano says.

When O'Neil saw the match e-mail message in herbox she says she was excited and nervous at thesame time.

"It was a surprise. I knew all of the people Ihad put down," she says. "I was like, `Oh myGod!'"

There may have been a mutual attraction before,but both O'Neil and Stephano agree DateSitehurried the dating process along.

"I could just call her up [and] say we shouldgo out," Stephano says.

The say their date last Saturday was a success.After going out on a romantic dinner-for-two, thecouple caught a showing of "Shakespeare in Love"and ended the evening at a party in PforzheimerHouse. At the party, the couple ran into one ofDateSite's founders.

"I definitely told him he's a genius," Stephanosays. "[The date] was great and it's all thanks toDateSite."

The Dating Network

The online dating fever has spread, openingother options for lovelorn consumers. On Monday,the Harvard Computer Society (HCS) unveiled itsonline crutch for dating in the 90s, DataMatch.

In the site's fourth year, students can use thesite for free. They fill out a survey on the siteand on Valentine's Day will receive a list oftheir top 10 matches. Formerly a cooperativeproject between HCS and the Undergraduate Council,DataMatch is now completely automated.

The survey includes questions about a range oftopics, from views on relationships, "Who shouldpay on a date?" to personal opinions, "What bookdo you reach for when you go back to your room?"Survey writer Ashley M. Eden '02 says the team ofwriters tried to create questions that wouldreveal personality type.

"There are answers for the artsy people,computer geeks and heavy drinkers," she says.

Their unscientific theory is that the peoplewith the most answers in common will also make thebest couples. In past years 800 to 1,000 studentshave logged on to find their matches.

Bolen says the nearly random DataMatching doesnot have a particularly high success rate. Bolensays people rarely take action--the most he hasheard of is a friend who received calls from twoof the people on his list last year.

The newest addition to the on-campus computerlove industry is Cupid. Cupid, which workssimilarly to DateSite, is part of a satiricalsite, theSpark.com. Founders Christopher R. Coyne'99 and his roommate Eli W. Bolotin '98-'99 alsolaunched the site on Monday after spending morethan a month developing it. Coyne and Bolotin,however, were motivated by more than justmatchmaking.

"We wanted a college site that was hip andcool, and about dating," Coyne says. "But it alsohelps publicize the rest of our site."

The Cupid creators also rely on word of mouthfor publicity--with success. Cupid has had morethan 4,000 hits, and more than 500 people haveentered their list of crushes. About one personvisits Cupid every minute.

According to Coyne, one difference betweenCupid and DateSite, which Cupid's creators did nothear about until the day before they launchedtheir own site, is that everyone can use the site,not just students.

"We're all inclusive," Coyne says. "We loveeveryone."

The Millenium Love Bug

Students attribute the success of dating sitesto the difficulty of sparking relationships.Rather than dealing with blushes and sweaty palms,hopeful singles can ask each other out through themask of a computer screen. Stephano, optimisticbecause of his own success, says he sees greatthings for DateSite.

"Eventually it could be huge, especially amongjunior high kids," he says. "Somebody's going tomake a fortune on this."

Although the "Love Docs" do not plan to chargeusers, they may sell advertisements to cover thesite's costs. Barker says he and his roommateseventually hope to make a profit fromadvertisements on the site.

Coyne and Bolotin claim that after only 60hours of service theSpark.com has received so muchtraffic that they might have to invest in adedicated server.

They are on to a trend, as most studentsenthusiastically log on to dating sites. Themajority, though, are only there for kicks.

"I only signed up because I was intrigued tosee who it was, then I left the site," Jared H.Beck '99 says of his own foray after receiving ane-mail tip.

"I don't think anything real will come of it, Ijust thought it would be fun," says Andrea E.Bowen '01.

This apathy could be a letdown for those whosee the popularity of dating sites as a sadcommentary on the Harvard dating scene. Dostudents have so little hope for love that theydespair of even an anonymous match?

"It's a sad indicator of impoverished datingscene if people need to resort to a datingservice," Beck says. "It's not a resource I'd beinto."

So Beck has chosen to ignore his secretadmirer. The "Love Docs" (three of whom aresingle) and their friends, though, see no harm ina little fun, or even a date.

"What do you have to lose?" O'Neil asks.

The four roommates worked for over two monthsbefore launching the site. The effort drew on thecomputer skills of two roommates, and the researchand writing skills of the others. To theirsurprise, the Web site is booming with minimalpublicity. The "Love Docs" are happy to be playinga larger role in Harvard's dating scene.

"Mostly we talked to people who talked topeople, and I went out last weekend wearing ourT-shirt," Koski-Karell says. "I'm just excitedthat people are excited."

The e-mail message students receive when asecret admirer enters their name givesinstructions for logging on. Users, whose e-mailaddress must end with .edu, enter a list of peoplethey would be interested in dating. If someone onthis list logs on and lists the person who namedhim, then both persons receive an e-mail message.Simply press update on your browser, and a matchis made.

The one kink is that not everyone uses DateSiteto find a match. Some log on merely to find outwhich of their acquaintances are so needy as touse the site. Thus, some matches have been madebut not in heaven.

"I don't know if it's something we cancontrol," Baker says. "It is the reason we limit[the people you can list] to seven."

DateSite's other fluke is when people send amessage to more than just a little crush. Someusers seem to want a whole lot of love goin' on.Pho-Ho Open, a mailing list for residents ofPhorzheimer House, was the lucky recipient of the"Somebody likes you..." e-mail message lastSunday.

The site's creators are trying to ensure thatpeople, or groups, are not alienated by the e-mailmessages.

"Whenever we get a complaint we put the e-mailaddress on a list so it can't receive e-mail [fromDateSite] and there is also the disclaimer at thebottom of the e-mail," Barker says.

Their success rate speaks for itself. As ofMonday, 175 couples had matched through the site.According to Baker, some have gone beyond thematch.

"We might add something to the page so thatpeople can e-mail us their success stories," Bakersays.

DateSite Love

One of the first couples to make the loveconnection through DateSite.com matched up withinhours of the site's inception. Katherine R. O'Neil'01, who is good friends with the Winthropsophomores, says she typed in a list of possibledates one night and received a confirmation of amatch the next morning.

"I got the anonymous e-mail," says Paul A.Stephano '99, O'Neil's match. "At first I thought,'This is kind of childish,' but eventually Icouldn't resist."

Stephano says he thought over the possibilitiesand decided there was only one person who couldhave sent the message. He put O'Neil's name intothe blank list and pushed the "Update!" button.

"Bam! It was a match," he says.

Stephano says the planning that went into hisdate with O'Neil added a fun twist to anordinarily stressful experience. It helped to knowO'Neil was enthusiastic as well.

"You have to strategize a little bit. It hasthe feel of a game as opposed to just going up tosomeone and asking them out," Stephano says.

When O'Neil saw the match e-mail message in herbox she says she was excited and nervous at thesame time.

"It was a surprise. I knew all of the people Ihad put down," she says. "I was like, `Oh myGod!'"

There may have been a mutual attraction before,but both O'Neil and Stephano agree DateSitehurried the dating process along.

"I could just call her up [and] say we shouldgo out," Stephano says.

The say their date last Saturday was a success.After going out on a romantic dinner-for-two, thecouple caught a showing of "Shakespeare in Love"and ended the evening at a party in PforzheimerHouse. At the party, the couple ran into one ofDateSite's founders.

"I definitely told him he's a genius," Stephanosays. "[The date] was great and it's all thanks toDateSite."

The Dating Network

The online dating fever has spread, openingother options for lovelorn consumers. On Monday,the Harvard Computer Society (HCS) unveiled itsonline crutch for dating in the 90s, DataMatch.

In the site's fourth year, students can use thesite for free. They fill out a survey on the siteand on Valentine's Day will receive a list oftheir top 10 matches. Formerly a cooperativeproject between HCS and the Undergraduate Council,DataMatch is now completely automated.

The survey includes questions about a range oftopics, from views on relationships, "Who shouldpay on a date?" to personal opinions, "What bookdo you reach for when you go back to your room?"Survey writer Ashley M. Eden '02 says the team ofwriters tried to create questions that wouldreveal personality type.

"There are answers for the artsy people,computer geeks and heavy drinkers," she says.

Their unscientific theory is that the peoplewith the most answers in common will also make thebest couples. In past years 800 to 1,000 studentshave logged on to find their matches.

Bolen says the nearly random DataMatching doesnot have a particularly high success rate. Bolensays people rarely take action--the most he hasheard of is a friend who received calls from twoof the people on his list last year.

The newest addition to the on-campus computerlove industry is Cupid. Cupid, which workssimilarly to DateSite, is part of a satiricalsite, theSpark.com. Founders Christopher R. Coyne'99 and his roommate Eli W. Bolotin '98-'99 alsolaunched the site on Monday after spending morethan a month developing it. Coyne and Bolotin,however, were motivated by more than justmatchmaking.

"We wanted a college site that was hip andcool, and about dating," Coyne says. "But it alsohelps publicize the rest of our site."

The Cupid creators also rely on word of mouthfor publicity--with success. Cupid has had morethan 4,000 hits, and more than 500 people haveentered their list of crushes. About one personvisits Cupid every minute.

According to Coyne, one difference betweenCupid and DateSite, which Cupid's creators did nothear about until the day before they launchedtheir own site, is that everyone can use the site,not just students.

"We're all inclusive," Coyne says. "We loveeveryone."

The Millenium Love Bug

Students attribute the success of dating sitesto the difficulty of sparking relationships.Rather than dealing with blushes and sweaty palms,hopeful singles can ask each other out through themask of a computer screen. Stephano, optimisticbecause of his own success, says he sees greatthings for DateSite.

"Eventually it could be huge, especially amongjunior high kids," he says. "Somebody's going tomake a fortune on this."

Although the "Love Docs" do not plan to chargeusers, they may sell advertisements to cover thesite's costs. Barker says he and his roommateseventually hope to make a profit fromadvertisements on the site.

Coyne and Bolotin claim that after only 60hours of service theSpark.com has received so muchtraffic that they might have to invest in adedicated server.

They are on to a trend, as most studentsenthusiastically log on to dating sites. Themajority, though, are only there for kicks.

"I only signed up because I was intrigued tosee who it was, then I left the site," Jared H.Beck '99 says of his own foray after receiving ane-mail tip.

"I don't think anything real will come of it, Ijust thought it would be fun," says Andrea E.Bowen '01.

This apathy could be a letdown for those whosee the popularity of dating sites as a sadcommentary on the Harvard dating scene. Dostudents have so little hope for love that theydespair of even an anonymous match?

"It's a sad indicator of impoverished datingscene if people need to resort to a datingservice," Beck says. "It's not a resource I'd beinto."

So Beck has chosen to ignore his secretadmirer. The "Love Docs" (three of whom aresingle) and their friends, though, see no harm ina little fun, or even a date.

"What do you have to lose?" O'Neil asks.

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