Nervous On Dates? Lost For Words? Crowdsource It!

Lauren McCarthy has come up with a modern solution (crowdsourcing) to an ancient issue (dating). Is this a good idea?

We crowdsource our knowledge (wikipedia), opinions (yelp), media (reddit) and purchases (groupon), so why not our dates? Actually, I can think of several reasons, but one brave soul, artist and programmer Lauren McCarthy, is giving it a try.

How the crowdsourced date works: McCarthy props her iphone up on the table of the restaurant where the date is happening and begins livestreaming the date. Sometimes her date knows what's going on, sometimes not. Then, through Amazon's Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing tool in which users can complete tasks for small amounts of money, often less than a dollar, random people on the internet advise McCarthy on what to say, vote in polls and provide general commentary. For this, they earned $0.25 for their troubles, so presumably they were getting more out of it than just the money.

McCarthy claims that, when it comes to dates, she could use the help:

"Meeting new people is the #1 thing that terrifies me, which is one reason I wanted to do this project and one reason why I felt like I really wanted to vomit on my walk over," she wrote after her first date. "Oddly, knowing that the workers are watching me made feel a sense of reassurance, like I’m not all alone in this situation."

Well sure, we could all use a cheering squad/winger sometimes. The in-date comments suggested lines from "Why did you move to Portland" to "You remind me of my father. Wanna make out?" and, "All the creatures of the sea love you Charlie."

For my own amusement, I hope she took their advice. On the other hand, this is inducing some old man instincts in me.

"One [date] told me he felt very uneasy because he was never sure when I said something if I had chosen to say it or I was being directed at that moment," said McCarthy. Right, that's a legit concern, and, while I tend to hate "slippery slope" arguments, I wonder where this could lead. Let's say a dedicated group of commenters follows McCarthy through several dates with one guy, and into a serious relationship. Would she cut them off at some point? I don't mean for sexy time (though now that I mention it, I'm sure someone would take it there), more just Lauren and Larry are sitting around talking about seeing a movie. Will Lauren's followers be chiming in with "he never lets you pick!" and "the new Star Wars was okay"?

And maybe that's not a bad thing. If our modern connectedness leads us gives us these possibilities, maybe a little anonymous coaching can help people through life's awkward moments.

I just can't decide what combo of thrilled, amused and terrified is appropriate here.

Send me your thoughts, internet, is Lauren McCarthy crazy, genius or both? And what should I talk about tonight at the party I'm going to?

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