Chris McKinlay

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Chris McKinlay is a software engineer with a PhD in applied mathematics. He is well known for hacking OkCupid's matching system to make himself the most eligible user on the site. [1]


McKinaly has a degree in Chinese from Middlebury College. He also has a PhD in mathematics from University of California, Los Angeles. He's a highly skilled software engineer and data scientist and is fluent in LaTeX , C++ , Python, R, Linux, SQL, Scala, and TensorFlow.


While attending college McKinlay was a visiting research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research where he implemented wavelet compression and coherent vortex detection algorithms for Vapor, an open-source project for visualizing terascale data sets on commodity hardware. McKinlay has been a Chinese translator at various times and was also a teaching assistant at UCLA while he was attending college. He was even able to rake in upwards of $60,000 a year counting cards and playing blackjack.

Fresh out of college McKinlay spent two years in the University of Minnesota Computer Science Department as a postdoctorate research fellow. He then spent some time leading a team of 6 engineers implementing machine learning pipelines and distributing backend services in Scala and Spark as a senior data scientist at DataScience Inc.

In 2017 he joined AI powered marketing platform Formation as a senior data scientist, leading the development of Formation's machine learning platform. He also spent some time as director of engineering before focusing on Formation's reinforcement learning pipeline as principal software engineer.


In 2014 McKinlay was profiled by Wired for his unconventional online dating strategy in an article called "How A Math Genius Hacked OkCupid To Find True Love". OkCupid's matching algorithm had left him with fewer than 100 eligible options from a city with 80,000 OkCupid users. So McKinlay decided he would have to game the system. He set up 12 OkCupid accounts and wrote a script to manage them and scrape the profiles of his target demographic for every scrap of available information. Since OkCupid only lets users see others' responses if they've answered the questions themselves, McKinlay began harvesting answer data using his bots. OkCupid began banning the bots so McKinlay had to figure out how to train them to seem human. [3]

At this point McKinlay called up his neuroscientist buddy Sam Torrisi and together they developed a more human seeming bot and let it run 24 hours a day. The experiment yielded 6 million questions and answers from over 20,000 eligible women. McKinlay began looking for patterns in the data, coding up a modified Bell Labs algorithm called K-Modes he was able to divide the data into 7 distinct clusters. After culling the data into two clusters that really appealed to him, McKinlay started appearing at a 90%+ match for thousands of profiles. McKinlay wrote a final script that visited the page of each profile that matched his, thus sending them a notification and putting him on their radar. After that, the messages started flooding in.

The results weren't immediate, he still had to make the actual connection. However, McKinlay fell in love with Christine Tien Wang on his 88th date. [3]

Youtube Video
"I Hacked OkCupid"
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