Ok, so you might have seen the previous howaboutwe / Twitter project I spawned off the other day and blogged about here — and I thought since I’m not actively using howaboutwe anymore, but still found myself with a paid membership for a few more weeks, how about I (ahem! :D) play a bit more with their website and see what other (geeky) things I can come up with around that.
Navigating the site, an interesting idea came to mind and I had to follow on that: (bear in mind this is a dating site, and as such, I don’t care what you say or think, but profile photos are important!) how many of these people / profiles are actually real? I remember when I have used the site properly and messaged a few persons I never got even a flinch back, which I thought unusual. I am not discarding here the possibility of some people not being bothered to message back as little as “thanks but no thanks”, but in most cases from my experience one seems to get back at least that from other users. So when this didn’t happen, it has crossed my mind that perhaps the users are no longer active… or are they actually real? Or is it the case that some profiles are maybe created just to make up some numbers?
I seem to recall one particular girl whose photo looked incredibly like Liv Tyler — to the point where I’m still convinced that photo was Liv Tyler. (As it happened, the profile disappeared very quickly, which made me believe that it might have been some spammer that created that profile and then s/he got caught and the profile removed.)
Either way, there is no way of knowing just looking at a profile (oh, and the photos, of course!) if you are dealing with genuine person. Even more, just looking at the profile does not paint a clear enough picture — and when stepping into this online dating game, it’s always better I think to have a lot more context upfront in order to help you with decisions about actually meeting a person or not.
So the (so simple!!!) idea came to mind: Google nowadays offers the reverse image search — open up Google Images in a browser and you can drag an image into the search box and perform a search based on that image! Google will bring up similar images or links to pages which contain either that image or something very close to it. This opens up a whole new world of applications to this — simply dragging a photo of me in there brings up right away my blog, my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter and whole bunch more! Sooooo….. (I’m sure you can guess where this is going) what happens if I pass in a profile image from howaboutwe.com? Yup, you got it — if that person has a facebook/twitter/linkedin or any other social media presence, in most cases Google will bring those back in the results. From there on you can have a quick scan of their activity and figure out whether you’re just about to go an meet an axe murder or not 🙂 Ok, granted, that’s extreme, but I guess to the point really, you might get an idea in their interests, likes and dislikes and as such make a more educated decision as to meeting them or not.
That’s pretty much the idea behind this project: a simple Firefox add on, which offers just a button in the Firefox toolbar — when clicked while looking at someone’s profile on howaboutwe, this plugin will shove their images in Google Images and present the search results in a new tab. What’s interesting about this though, I found out during testing a few profiles which were clearly fake (I’m not going to give up the details here, as I’m not sure what the legal implications of that would be): the search in Google Images based on one single images brought back actually 5 (five!) different profiles, all on howaboutwe, each one of the profiles having different profile details filled in! It was done rather craftily too, as each of these profiles were in different geographical regions so one user would not see 2 of these profiles normally and as such won’t be able to spot the profile as being fake! However, as I said, a Google Images search brought back all the 5 of them — and since they were indexed by Google already, it suggests that those profiles have been “active” for a while now, though I cannot venture to guess who or why would create these, just that I’d be putting good money on the fact that if you spend any time reading those profiles and messaging them, you would never get a reply back.
So in the light of that, if you’re going to use the plugin, I recommend you do this on every profile you’re looking at before you set off to message them — it might turn out based on the results rendered that the profile is a fake one and you’ve just saved yourself some time and effort (not to mention the disappointment).
For now this extension works for just Firefox and also only works if you’re on howaboutwe and you’re either looking at a user profile or using their “speed date” facility. The extension simply grabs the address of the user profile photo and passes it to Google Images search and opens a new tab with the results — from there on you can navigate the search results normally as you would do with any Google search, click on links and so on.
Project is on github here: https://github.com/liviutudor/howaboutwe_google_search and I’ve used my Helper for Creating Firefox Extension script for creating the scaffolding for this project. Current released version is 0.0.1 and you can download the XPI from github too — though I will submit it to the Firefox Extensions repository. As and when I do that I will update this post, don’t worry.
In the meanwhile simply download the XPI file from here: https://github.com/liviutudor/howaboutwe_google_search/blob/v0.0.1/haw_google_search.xpi — save it locally to your computer then simply drag and drop it in your Firefox and select “Install” when prompted. (Unfortunately this is not a signed extension so you will get the warning message about it — as I said, once I upload this to the Mozilla official website, that problem will go away and you will then be able to install the plugin as you would normally with any other Firefox plugin.)
I will hopefully at some point put some more effort into making this more user friendly, if there is interest out there for it — by all means drop me a line here or contact me on the project’s github space if you have feedback on this. Meanwhile though, good luck with your dating 🙂