5% BACK ON DISCOVER AT CHEVRON AND TEXACO: In case you weren’t aware, you can sign up here.
TELECOM / PREPAID MERGER CONTINUES: Picking up on the theme from earlier in the week, Tracfone Wireless apparently has something called the SecureCash card. Level of difficulty: Bancorp Bank. Here’s a very brief Flyertalk thread.
Speaking of Bancorp: Has anybody noticed that you can load funds into its deposit accounts via credit card? Is anybody brave enough to try, the 2.5% fee notwithstanding?
SMALLEST PUBLICLY TRADED COMPANY EVER: Nate at Oddball Stocks has discovered a very small publicly traded company. How small? Here is the entirety of the company’s assets:
It’s three acres of land and half a duplex. Not the whole duplex, just a half. If you’re curious about why and how this thing is publicly traded, read on.
HOW TO HACK OKCUPID: Since it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a fascinating article in Wired, “How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love.” Check out what this guy went through:
McKinlay programmed his bots to simulate Torrisi’s click-rates and typing speed. He brought in a second computer from home and plugged it into the math department’s broadband line so it could run uninterrupted 24 hours a day.
After three weeks he’d harvested 6 million questions and answers from 20,000 women all over the country. McKinlay’s dissertation was relegated to a side project as he dove into the data. He was already sleeping in his cubicle most nights. Now he gave up his apartment entirely and moved into the dingy beige cell, laying a thin mattress across his desk when it was time to sleep.
For McKinlay’s plan to work, he’d have to find a pattern in the survey data—a way to roughly group the women according to their similarities. The breakthrough came when he coded up a modified Bell Labs algorithm called K-Modes. First used in 1998 to analyze diseased soybean crops, it takes categorical data and clumps it like the colored wax swimming in a Lava Lamp. With some fine-tuning he could adjust the viscosity of the results, thinning it into a slick or coagulating it into a single, solid glob.
He needed one more step to get noticed. OkCupid members are notified when someone views their pages, so he wrote a new program to visit the pages of his top-rated matches, cycling by age: a thousand 41-year-old women on Monday, another thousand 40-year-old women on Tuesday, looping back through when he reached 27-year-olds two weeks later. Women reciprocated by visiting his profiles, some 400 a day. And messages began to roll in.
“I haven’t until now come across anyone with such winning numbers, AND I find your profile intriguing,” one woman wrote. “Also, something about a rugged man who’s really good with numbers … Thought I’d say hi.”
I’m pretty sure a non-trivial percentage of my readers are rugged men who are really good with numbers, so have at it, gents! Meanwhile, Business Insider has some advice on fine-tuning your online profile to produce better results.