Monday, February 21, 2011

My Beef with eHarmony

I am sorry if this whole post comes across as bitter. I am enjoying the process of eHarmony for what it is worth, but there are some very glaring problems I see with this way of dating.

So, I've been subscribed to eHarmony for about 6 months; I signed up after my previous relationship ended, and I was looking for a way to alleviate the loneliness I was feeling at the time. I admit, it was probably not the best thing for me to do at that moment, but I was looking for a way to ease my way back into the scene and it seemed like a great way to meet people. So one late night (probably after a few beers) I took the personality test, and figured what the hell, let me sign up for a year and see what happens.

Let me say up front that eHarmony is not a great way to meet people. I have had various degrees of success with the model. I dated someone seriously during some of my tenure, I have sent numerous message requests, gone through the hand holding "guided communication" and had entire email conversations with people that eventually evaporate. There are artificial barriers up all over the place that actually prevent potential matches from communicating with each other, rather than getting people together. My main gripe is that by the time two people jump through all the hoops and stages of communication, reading reports on their personality, and speaking in messages, there is very little left to talk about between the two people; all the potential small talk has been smothered out of the equation. It is almost like I saw how the sausage was made before actually trying it.

One thing that differentiates eHarmony from other dating websites is the 29 dimensions of compatibility system that you are matched with other people. The matching system sends you several people per day that the system has matched you up with based on the personality profile you completed. After about 6 months, at a rate of ~6 matches a day, I now am matched with 340 women. I looked at that number one day, and thought "Wow this is depressing. There are 340 people that either I don't find particularly interesting or attractive, or they don't feel that way about me; either I am being way too picky, or there is something really putting off about my profile." I think self consciousness always sets in before rational thought, but now that I think about it, I am pretty sure the matching system isn't as good as they advertise.

When you set up your profile, you can setup a profile of likes/dislikes as well called "Something to Talk About." These are things like, what sports do you follow, what kind of music do you like, are you a dog/cat person etc. This profile is just the little goofy things that everyone likes/dislikes; It resembles a mini profile of you. What bothers me is that the system will match me with someone, and most of my matches will have zero or few matches in this mini profile. I would assume that if the system is matching me on 29 dimensions of my personality, almost every profile would have at least some of these little things line up as well.

The website also makes you choose your "Must Haves/Can't Stands" so that you can communicate to people you are matched with the things that you are unwilling to compromise with. I like this idea in theory, but I come across people that I start communicating with and as soon as I read their list and compare it with mine, I wonder why I was matched up with this other person in the first place. Is the model wrong? Is the model comparing or measuring the wrong things?

In fact, every other profile starts to look like a cookie cutter of the last one after a while. After looking at all the profiles I have seen, I can predict what the next girls are going to say: I love my friends and family, I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had in my life, and I want to meet someone who I can laugh with. It is starting to sound like these girls are writing to Santa. I think it has to do with the personality test that they give everyone to begin. You answer about a half hour's worth of questions and almost feel sedated at the end of it, so by then you brain can't really produce anything unique or expressive about who you are. Ok, maybe there is some hyperbole in there, but there also may be a kernel of truth.

There are some things that the website does pretty well. It is great at being a non-threatening place where singles can let a computer program take some of the burden off their shoulders in terms of looking for a date; however getting you in contact with another person is not one of those things that it does all that well. In fact I would argue that it does the opposite. I don't think that eHarmony has a real incentive to match people up with each other. They are a business after all. One of their motivations must be to make money at some point in the process. After 6 months in the system, it feels more like a trap than a place where I am supposed to be meeting others. Here are a few reasons why:

1) The system finds people for you, rather that letting you search out and filter people based on what you are looking for. This seems counter-intuitive to me.

2) The system delivers you a few new matches at a time, which keeps you coming back to the website every day, or at least frequently. It also delivers new people to you even though you may be getting to know someone, which could make you think the grass is greener somewhere if your current match starts to lose his sparkle.

3) The guided communication is actually a barrier to communication. It is fun the first few times to send lists with checkboxes back and forth the first few times. After you have been through it enough though, it get very tedious and starts to feel like jumping through hoops.

4) It is expensive. It can be argued that the cost of the service keeps it for people who are serious about finding a relationship, and keeps the lurkers out. I think that is very true, but it does cost much more than other services.

I would argue that the website has an incentive to keep you coming back to the website, impede the communication between people, and not allow you to browse and search the other people in the database, simply because it keeps you subscribed to the service and paying a monthly fee. Neil Clark Warren aint cheap.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Did Cataclysm shoot itself in the foot?

My spider sense is tingling lately about this expansion so far, and it boils down to the spectrum of difficulty in all of the content. It's not that the content is really hard, but that a LOT of the content is hard, and there is not much that one can coast and have some mindless fun.

My hat goes off to Blizzard. They did everything they said they would. There are no face roll player rotations anymore, heroic dungeons require a lot of attention (at least on the first few times through), raids are tuned and balanced (with some glaring exceptions on 10man) and the world and the stories are told where every zone is a nice complete package.

I was very excited going into this expansion. Things are going to be difficult again, things are going to be challenging I told myself. 10man and 25man are going to be equal progression paths, and I can lead a 10man with much less headache than I led our 25man in ICC. It's going to be great! I won't be a stressed wreck raid leader, and I am going to have a lot of fun!

While I am having fun with the raiders that I play with, I am already tired out by the raiding content. I am tired out given I am continuously recruiting replacements for raiders that flake. I am tired out by hotfixes and changes to classes and encounters that need to be relearned regularly. I am tired out by my complex rotation that I have to theorycraft and change when patches hit (I'm looking at you Holy Power CS/HOTR fuckery); compounding the problem is learning my new game pad which I specifically bought to combat the lack of real estate for all the new goddamn buttons that I have to push not just for my main spec, but for my offspec and my shaman's main and offspec. I'm tired of feeling like an inadequate raid leader when other guilds progress faster than we do, and I am tired of letting down my raiders when I fail.

So what changed? Why does this, the introductory tier of raiding, feel insurmountable? I think is has to do with the spectrum of difficulty in comparison to previous introductory tiers. In Vanilla and TBC, there was a LONG "training" you had to go through (leveling up) to get into dungeons and raiding and it was learned ad-hoc based on who you happened to come across in the "Looking for Group" chat. You have new abilities to learn and integrate, but the learning curve was pretty slow. I remember it taking months before I could call myself ready to step into a Karazhan.

Wrath took a little quicker pace. The leveling time was quicker than TBC, everyone got shiny new toys, learned how to use them and then jumped into raids. Rotations were more complex than TBC, but that was buffered by the ease of the first tier or raiding. A player could learn and hone their skills in an actual raid environment while getting that sense of fun and achievement.

I think where the breakdown for me is that Cataclysm is challenging for me on all fronts. Everyone got shiny new toys, and we got shot up the express lane to 85, reducing the time to acclimate to all the new hotness. Raiding has become juggling a 5+ button rotation/priority system, while managing your resources, while paying attention to boss mechanics and moving out of the bad. It is not that those things individually are terribly difficult, but doing them all at the same time is exhausting, not to mention the addictive nature of content progression "Oh grats everyone we killed that boss, now we learn the next boss".

I'm not sure what this means for the game as a whole. I'm not sure this translates to fun for the average player. If I am frustrated right now, I am not sure what this means for people that used to faceroll to loot.

I am having fun playing with my friends. I'm not sure I am having more fun raiding.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Failures of a Raid Leader

We pulled heroic Atramedes last night and failed. I think everyone was on top of their game and we did all we could, but at the end of the night my John Madden strategy just wasn't good. We all decided to stack the raid and move between two points to avoid sound discs. The problem with this was that if we were on the move avoiding discs and Atramades picked someone for Sonic Breath, that person had literally nowhere to go and either they died or the raid died. We even tried giving that person a speed boost and run it to safety, but even that did not work.

It really sucks to see something you thought about so hard literally go up in flames. I thought about it very hard, drew it up on a white board, heck I even put it up on Youtube for all my raiders to see. We all checked it out and thought it would lead us to victory. It also sucks when we tweak the bad strat and not get through the fight at all.

I felt really low at the end of last night. I felt like a failure, not only as a person, but as a leader. I didn't want to play this game ever again. I let myself down, and I let the people I play with down and wasted everyone's night. Nobody likes to fail. It stings even more to see other guilds downing content and bragging about how easy it is, when we struggle and have nights full of wiping. It's depressing how bad I feel right now because I feel like I wasted everyone's time.

Raiding is really starting to burn me out. I am taking way too much responsibility on my shoulders, and it the needle is getting dangerously close to the work spectrum of this game. Making raid strategies is really fun, and it is satisfying to see them work, and it grinds everyone's gears to fail repeatedly doing the wrong thing. I guess this is the part that frustrates all of us the most.

It's also fucking annoying when your 2nd in command yells at everyone about not fucking up, and the proceeds to wiping the raid with Sonic Breath. Good Job Burble.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Life and Love

This is probably the first time in my life where I don't have any interest in a relationship, and I am okay with that. I've loved, been loved, hurt lovers, been hurt, played the game, been played, been patient, been hasty, thought about children, thought about 5 years from now, thought about moving, rearranged my life for someone, considered changing who I am for someone, laughed, cried, given rings, had them thrown back at me, broken peoples trust, had my trust broken, had one night stands, had relationships not reach first base, had soul fulfilling great sex, had sex for the sake of fucking, had bad sex, had dry spells, been jealous, been not jealous when I should have been, been reckless, been needy, worn my heart on my sleeve, pretended like everything was okay, been naive, overlooked people's faults, been too critical, clammed up, held a grudge, felt rejected, been in a position of power, escaped, lied, been lied to, felt lied to, listened, not listened, not cared, had adventures, had unexpected adventures, cared for someone else more than myself, carried the weight, been a burden, been obsessed, been infatuated, and it seems like it was all for naught.

Would I do it all again? I am not sure. Would I have done things differently? Probably. Has it left me a better person? I don't think so, but I don't think I am any worse. Do I wish I still had love in my life? You betcha. Am I optimistic? Romantically yes, practically no. People get into new relationships because their previous or current ones suck.