Kathryn's Blog: True.com

See My Views on True.com Sponsored Legislation

I’ve written extensively here on True.com’s efforts to essentially legislate their business model.  They are trying again here in Florida, and I have testified against the bill, as well as written this op ed piece which is in today’s local paper:

In the Tallahassee Democrat:

Article published Apr 20, 2007
Saturday My View: Law would promote careless online dating
By Kathryn Lord

I am a romance coach with an international Internet-based business here in Tallahassee. I work with singles to find partners using Internet dating sites. I’m concerned that our Legislature is considering a new law that could endanger Florida singles who use Internet dating services. House Bill 531 and Senate Bill 1224 would create a false sense of security by having the state endorse an outdated and ineffective way to keep convicted criminals off of online dating sites.

The main proponent of these bills is True.com. I have been watching and writing about True.com’s attempts to legislate its business model for more than two years (read more on my blog: https://find-a-sweetheart.com/blog/C37). True.com has come up with a clever strategy to get publicity and hamper its competition: True.com asks state legislators for a law that requires dating sites to disclose whether they screen members for previous felony convictions (True.com claims it does).

That sounds like a good idea, until you learn that True.com’s screening is based only on the name given by a potential member, without any serious attempt to verify the person’s true identity. That’s never going to identify a convicted criminal who simply uses another name.

What’s more, the True.com screen looks only for felony convictions, intentionally avoiding the cost of checking for misdemeanors, which would pick up convictions for assault, stalking and sexual violence.

True.com encourages a false promise of security in singles, and now it wants Florida’s Legislature to hold it up as an example for other dating services.

Not only does True.com’s screenings appear to be woefully inadequate, but also, any criminal or would-be criminal with some intelligence could easily figure out how to get past the screening. I worry more about the smart folks with bad intentions, rather than the ones who have already been caught at least once. This kind of legislation encourages singles to believe that they are safe and drop their normal and reasonable precautions.

In my work, I coach Florida singles to use online dating services that I believe are wonderful resources to find a partner. I met my now-husband nine years ago on Match.com. He lived in Mississippi, and because I had never been west of Pensacola, we never would have met otherwise. When I was Internet dating, I worried about safety, but I never had an experience where I felt threatened.

If Internet dating is really as dangerous as this legislation seems to suggest, then why would singles be flocking to online dating sites in such huge numbers? Internet dating sites are more profitable than just about any other online business. Singles talk to each other, and they are telling about what a wonderful - and reasonably safe - resource the Internet is in the all-too-human quest for love.

Online dating services are inherently safer than many other dating methods. Singles remain anonymous in their own homes while asking as many questions and learning about potential dates at their leisure.

Ineffective background screens such as the one True.com offers would remove the element of Internet dating that encourages proactivity and would falsely give people the impression that their correspondent is not a criminal. Currently, many existing online dating services provide safety guidelines to their customers that are common knowledge. As well, Internet dating is rapidly evolving its own safety guidelines and rules that ironically are making traditional dating safer, too.

No other dating venues that I am aware of perform or require notification of background checking. When was the last time you went to a bar or singles social at church where warnings about background checks were posted? Yet we all know that you can meet dangerous people in bars and in church.

Again, this legislation would falsely give Florida singles the impression that they are fully informed on the background of the person they are interested in dating and would eliminate singles’ initiative to ask questions and exercise caution. True.com should not need legislation to succeed in the online dating business.

All Floridians need to take a proactive role in their safety and security online and offline and stand against this legislation by informing our legislators that HB531 and SB1224 are the wrong way to protect Floridians. 


Top Dating Sites in US by Usage

Top Dating Sites as measured by ‘Unique visitors”:

In December 2006 --

Total Web users in the U. S. (age 15+) 152,350,000

Personals Total 20,555,000

Yahoo! Personals 4,153,000

Match.com 3,970,000

True.com 3,086,000

Spark Networks 2,504,000

Singlesnet.com 2,173,000


Compatibility Testing Comments

I found this comment below on Mark Brooks’ Online Personals Watch.  It’s from James Houran, Ph. D. who used to be associated with True.com and now is not.  I don’t know the “why’s” of either.  Regular readers of my blog know that I don’t think much of True.com.  But Dr. Houran does sound like he knows what he is talking about, and if you are interesting in compatibility testing or have taken them (a la eHarmony, True.com, PerrfectMatch, etc) you should read his comments here and the article he sites at the end “The Truth About Compatibility Testing."

Despite their potential power and value, all assessments have limitations. Both online dating sites and their customers need to have realistic expectations about what types of information assessments can and cannot deliver. The strengths and limitations of a given assessment are based on its technical and theoretical underpinnings.

Below are some important points to remember in this respect:

1). Assessment feedback is derived from mathematical extrapolations of behavioral data. As such, feedback reports describe statistical predictions of what attitudes and behaviors a given test taker will likely exhibit. Mathematical models are consistently more valid than subjective observations, but even the finest assessments are never 100% percent accurate 100% of the time.

2). The validity of a report is limited by the reliability of the test taker’s responses. Test-takers may answer assessments unreliably for a myriad of reasons: lack of motivation or interest due to less than ideal testing conditions or test taker’s mood, fatigue from answering a long set of questions, an attempt to answer questions in a socially-desirable way or difficulty understanding particular questions for linguistic reasons (e.g., when English is not the test taker’s first language).

3). All test scores are statistical estimates. Thus, each score is accompanied by its margin of error [also called a confidence interval or standard of error (SE)]. However, properly constructed employee assessments provide information on the statistical reliability of a particular test taker’s test scores, as well as measure the degree to which a test taker seems to be answering the assessment truthfully.

4). Finally, the quality of an assessment (and hence its feedback) is associated with its methodological and statistical principles:

Self-referential vs. normative instruments: Some assessments provide feedback based simply on how a test taker perceives him or herself. In other words, these instruments describe individuals only in a self-referential way, i.e., against themselves. Examples of self-referential instruments are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (the inspiration for PerfectMatch.com’s test) and the DISC assessment (offered by Thomas Technologies). By contrast, normative instruments are inter-individual because they describe test takers against a reference group. This approach is significantly more valid than the self-referential approach.

Classical test theory vs. modern test theory: Most assessments on the market today are constructed and validated using classical test theory, which essentially treats all assessment questions as equally weighted “points.” A great example is the assessment offered by eHarmony.com. Such assessments consequently provide a total score that is the sum of those points. This approach has been outdated since 1960. Today, test and measurements experts rely on modern test theory (Item Response Theory and Rasch scaling), which yields unbiased, scaled scores for test takers. Modern test theory is the same gold standard statistics used in such well-known assessments like the GRE, MCAT and LSAT. This approach can identify and remove response biases related to age, gender, cultural background and employment level of the test taker. Besides greater technical precision and the protection of meeting legal requirements, modern test theory also yields richer information that traditional approaches miss.

For detailed scientific information on the realities behind compatibility testing, see:

Houran, J., Lange, R., Rentfrow, P. J., & Bruckner, K. H. (2004). Do online matchmaking tests work? An assessment of preliminary evidence for a publicized ‘predictive model of marital success.’ North American Journal of Psychology, 6, 507-526.

For a lay-person’s guide to the subject, see:


James Houran, Ph.D.
Online Dating Magazine


Consumber Reports, But Unreliably

I along with lots of others grew up with Consumer Reports being regarded as close to the bible as a reference book.  So I was interested to see that Consumer Reports has taken on the Internet dating industry to review.  I even mail ordered a copy to see it.  “Should be good,” I thought.

Well, I could have written a much better analysis.  Take a look at what they wrote for yourself.  What’s really creepy is that they infer that True.com is safest and nicest: If Internet dating gives you pause, try True, whose screening of members and customer-friendly privacy policy make it especially reassuring. Not what I have heard, about the niceness anyway.  I’ve written about True.com a number of times here on this blog.  Take a look at some of my entries.

I don’t want to sound too snotty, but you’ll do a lot better reading my blog entries about the biggest of the dating sites.  Consumer Reports?  Shallow.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


True.com's Criminal Checks Have Holes

True.com has based it’s marketing to singles on background checks and safety for singles.  I’ve written extensively about True.com before.  Robert Well, a convicted child molester and registered sex offender, made it onto True.com under the surveillance radar.  True.com did sue Well and got Well banished from the cyber dating world in the settlement.  (I do wonder how that ban will be enforced?) But even True.com’s owner Herb Vest admits that his own background checking firm has only about 94% of the USA felony convictions.

This is a good example of the problems when sites offer safety, either directly like True.com or indirectly, like the religious-based sites.  Singles cannot assume that those others on a site, no matter what the site says about screening, are safe.  And in fact, those assurances can create a false sense of safety and encourage singles to relax their vigilance.  Be careful, be suspicious, ask questions. 

From YOur Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


Dating Services and Sites and Numbers of Members

Two articles came out recently about exaggerations of membership by dating sites.  “Great Expectations” is being sued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General for inflating their numbers of members and success rate.  See the details here. I have not heard good comments from my clients who have used “Great Expectations.” Their prices are steep: as much as $3,500 a year.  Sounds like they are big on expectations and low on results.

True.com, which seems to have a gift for overstatement and headline grabbing, states their membership at now over 10,000 10,000,000 in a press release. But industry insiders doubt the numbers.  See Mark Brooks’ Online Personals Watch and the comments connected to the entry for more.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


News from the Trenches

My loyal correspondent “The Geezer” sent the following report from the dating front lines:

Hi Kathryn--

Hope your new digs are fitting you well.

I signed up for a 5 day freebie, knowing that wimmin’ attracted to True.com would not be sufficiently risk takers for me, and would be overly cautious.

So, I went to cancel and got an offer for a month free.  You can’t cancel on line, you have to talk to Mr. high pressure.

So, I told him no is no, and behold, the next day I start getting “thanks for winking at me” emails.

From wimmin’ with NO picture.

First, I do not wink. It is cheap, tawdry, and suggests those looking for low hanging fruit, which may be ok if ya just wanna gits laid, but not my style.

Second, I do not have ANY communication with wimmin’ who don’t show the goods, by posting a pix.  Any woman who knows so little of men as to not know they are VISUAL does not warrant my time.  There is someone for anyone, so it ain’t about being ugly.

So, where does this faux activity come from????

I smell a rat.


BTW, The Geezer is not as ancient as the name implies, nor is he really as cranky.  Thanks, Geez.  He’s actually kind of cute.  Take a look.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


Online Dating Watch Interviews James Houran

If you have wondered about the personality profile testing done on some of the dating sites like eHarmony and PerfectMatch.com like I have, you’ll want to read Online Dating Watch’s interview of Dr. James Houran.  Houran designed the testing used by True.com, and while I have my issues with True.com, I have always thought that True.com likely had the most valid testing.

BTW, I would never have thought that James Houran would be so cute!  See his picture with the interview.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lore


Facts On Internet Dating Safety Refute True.com's Scare Tactics

From two more articles about True.com and attempts to legislate background checks on Internet daters:

“In his more than six years with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Computer Crimes Center, Special Agent Supervisor Bob Breeden has not seen a single online dating-related case, he said.

“By comparison, he’s seen many crimes resulting from Internet chat room meetings. Those sites would not be regulated by the bill, which would only apply to matchmaking services that charge a fee to members.

“The center reviews many of the state’s computer-related crimes, but there is no definitive tally of dating site-related incidents in the state, Breeden said.” From

“A spokeswoman from Match.com, which doesn’t offer background checks, dubbed True.com’s campaign ‘a thinly veiled PR ploy.’

“She told a news wire that True.com was trying to make its mark by implying that there’s a problem that doesn’t exist. ‘... We’ve only had a handful of cases in our 10 years of operation.’

“The Florida police’s Computer Crimes Center agreed saying that in the last six years they had not seen a single online dating-related case. Most of the crimes across its desk were from internet chat rooms which would not be regulated by the bill.” “Florida wants to regulate online dating” by Nick Farrell

Sounds to me like plain old dating sites with no criminal records checks are far safer than chat rooms.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


Better Analysis of True.com's Campaigns in State Legislatures

I wrote in earlier blog entries ( February 28, March 1, March 4, and March 7) about True.com’s activities in various states to legislate criminal background checks by Internet dating sites, or to clearly state that they do not do so.  Two excellent articles about the efforts came across the wires this morning: Sean Mussenden’s “Is dating-servce legislation just another marketing ploy?” for the Orlando Sentinel, and Mark Ranzenberger’s “Bill requires background check disclosure” for the Morning Sun.

Mussenden’s article is particularly clear and revealing.  Mussenden leads with a discussion of innovative marketing tactics to get products noticed, and specifies that True.com has put a unique twist to the approach: getting state legislatures and the media who cover them to provide publicity. (According to a third article, the idea for the bill was brought to Representative Kevin Ambler by a lobbyist for True.com.)

Mussenden reports that companies often try to get friendly legislation passed, but try to dissociate the company from the legislation.  True.com has not shied away from the associated attention.  Herb Vest, True.com’s founder, is quoted:  “I’m a businessman.  Of course, publicity is good.  And we have had quite a bit of publicity, negative too, from this also; I don’t know on balance whether we have gained or lost.”

Reminds me of the old saying “Negative attention is better than no attention at all.” True.com has really pulled a fast one with these actions.

BTW, legislation was actually introduced in six states.  The bills have stumbled or failed in every state except Michigan, where it is still poking along.


More Questions About True.com's Motives

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee has written an interesting aricle about True.com’s being behind attempts to legislate background checks on Internet dating sites. Walters digs deeper and writes about questionable practices by Rapsheets.com and it’s owner ChoicePoint. True.com uses Rapsheets.com to do criminal records checks on True.com clients. Read Walters’ article for more detail.  And see my postings (2/28, 3/1) for more of my observations.


I wish I could recommend eHarmony, True.com or PerfectMatch, but I can't!

Why are the three top sites that potentially have so much to offer so flawed? All three say that they are “relationship sites”—places for serious singles to meet serious partners. Serious means wanting a long-term, committed relationship or marriage. eHarmony has led the way in differentiating “dating sites” from “relationship sites”—Match.com would be a traditional dating site, where you can meet for friendship or casual dating as well as more serious, long term relationships. All three use some kind of “compatibility testing” for matching singles—long sets of questions that each poster fills out, and then the sites’ computers match one with another, using some sort of formula. All sounds good, right? No wonder so many are flocking to join up.

But I’ve got reservations about eHarmony, and I am not alone. Jennifer Hahn writes extensively about eHarmony’s founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren’s evangelist Christian roots in her article “Love Machines” for LA City Beat. I, like Hahn, think there are lots of problems in the site and how they match singles. eHarmony’s largest black mark is that the site will not work with Gays and Lesbians. And it doesn’t take much of a Google search to come up with more fodder. The site also TURNS DOWN one in five applicants: Can you imagine getting this message after you screwed up your courage to sign on in the first place, and then spent several hours filling out the questionnaire?

“Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching system is not suitable for about 20% of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply would not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand that we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time. “

I’ve written plenty lately about True.com and their questionable practices. Here’s the message you get on their home page:

“Married people will be prosecuted. Because we care, we screen members against public records to check marital status.”

Isn’t that cheery? And for some odd reason, , not women, for posting. That is really strange, since these “relationship sites” tend to attract far more women than men.

That’s PerfectMatch‘s problem (eHarmony’s too) and does PerfectMatch ever have it bad! PerfectMatch is now offering men two months for free, just to get more to sign up!

PerfectMatch’s ratios are now two women for every guy. Well, at least they say so. Getting gender ratios for other dating sites is nearly impossible. I must say, that other than the poor numbers for women, I have no other complaints about PerfectMatch. Pepper Schwartz is their resident expert and designed their compatibility profiling. I’ve known of Pepper Schwartz for years and respected her work, so I am assuming she is doing a good job here, too. But if the guys would only sign up there… Hey, guys, it’s free, for heaven’s sake! And the numbers are great, for you, anyway. Git on over!


VA Legislators "See the Light" on True.com's Efforts

Two articles came down the wire today about efforts I have been writing about (2/28, 3/1) by True.com to legislate background checks of singles by Internet dating sites. FINALLY I am seeing some clearly written analysis of the issues involved. The Washington Post one was dated 1/31/05, and the other on was published today.

Here’s a quote from the TechWeb article:

“We believe this legislation would save lives and prevent rapes, robberies and assaults,” Herb Vest, chief executive for True.com, said Thursday. “I believe this raises the bar on the industry and it would bring many more single people, currently not using online-dating services, into our industry, once it’s perceived as safe.”

To the rest of the industry, however, True.com is seen as trying to legislate its business model. The site is one of very few, if any, that checks members for criminal records and marital status.

“It’s special-interest legislation whereby you are taking a market differentiator of a particular company, and, through legislation, enforcing it on the rest of us,” said Kristin Kelly, senior director of public relations for Match.com, which is among the largest and oldest online dating services.

Yahooee! Finally, somebody said it!

Take a look at both articles for extended discussions about why background checks are not the answer.


Gender Ratios and Internet Dating and Relationship Sites

Dating and matchmaking sites are having to compete harder and harder for your dollars. More than 850 different sites now crowd the wires, and the fast pace of visitor traffic has slowed from the red hot growth of the past five years. One of the ways some of the larger sites are trying to differentiate themselves from the pack is to define themselves as “Relationship sites” as opposed to “Dating sites.” Serious daters are to become paying subscribers than more casual singles. eHarmony, PerfectMatch.com, and True.com are the top three calling themselves “Relationship sites.” YahooPersonals is trying to straddle the fence with it’s new “Premier” designation (see my blog entry). Match.com, the industry biggie, is moving in that direction as well.

eHarmony, PerfectMatch, and True all use what they call “scientific” means to pair folks with the best matches. That means questionnaires for subscribers to fill out and some sort of matching procedure that takes place behind the scene (read: the computer somehow “reads” the questionnaires and then pulls out “matches” based on some kind of formula). These sites tend to appeal to women, because of the purported seriousness (a relationships-only orientation), the safety (True’s background checks and attempts to keep married people out), and the highly structured, more active role of the dating site in doing the actual matching and communicating (eHarmony). Men tend to find the sites irritating: They don’t like the long questionnaires, they don’t like being matched by the computer, and they don’t like not being able to cruise through the profiles and pick for themselves. Guys particularly don’t like not being able to see photos (eHarmony).

This trend plays out in the gender ratios. Dating sites have tended to mirror the gender ratios of the Internet in general --around 60/40, male to female.

However, in these “Relationship sites,” the ratios tend to be just the opposite, or even more skewed: More like 60/40 female to male, or worse at PerfectMatch. A reader (male) just sent me this from PerfectMatch: “Thanks in part to our new relationship with the Lifetime television; women now outnumber men on PerfectMatch.com two to one! Men, for a limited time, you can receive 3 months for only $59.95 on PerfectMatch.com. That’s right, a full three months, all access premium subscription, for only $59.95, a savings of over $100!” (PerfectMatch got partnered with Dr. Phil. He did a show about online dating around Valentine’s. PerfectMatch gave away 1,000,000 free memberships before 2/28, and 90% of those who signed up are women. )

These gender ratios are probably even worse for older single women. The male to female ratios even out around 40 and 50, then tip towards women outnumbering men as the ages go up. And of course, we have the issue of men looking for younger women, which tilts the tables even more against older women.

So guys: The numbers favor you at those “Relationship sites.” Particularly if you are older. If you are tired of no or low response, you might want to try one of them out. Ladies: Even though “Relationship sites” may feel more appealing, the numbers are not great for you. Particularly if you are older. If you must, use one of these “Relationship sites,” but hedge you bets and also sign up on a big site where the odds favor you more. My current favorite is YahooPersonals. Sign up for the Premier version and get the best of both worlds.


More Hysteria and Puffery from True.com

Am I psychic or what? Here’s yet from True.com about trying to legislate background checks. and get a sense of the of True.com’s attempts to appeal to fear and paranoia. Even though I expect press releases to be exercises in puffery, True.com is going over the top. In the first sentence, the release claims that True.com is “the premier online relationship service.” “Premier” means first in position, rank, or importance. Mark Brooks’ Online Personals Watch ranks True in 7th place.

Of course online dating has some risk attached. Plain old traditonal dating is dangerous, particularly for women, and Internet dating is not exempt. Singles have flocked to Internet dating sites over the past few years, dating sites have become big money-makers, and the press has noticed. As you know, in the media, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Blood, danger, and risk gets readers and viewers. So you’ve seen lots of stories focusing on the dating danger associated with the Internet.

What you haven’t seen as much are tales of the success stories: Like 12% of marrying couples now meet in cyberspace. Or the research coming out of England that indicates how successful Internet dating is. Take a look at my collection of the more optimistic stats connected to online love.

So read scary material about Internet dating with caution. You can do online dating and be safe. It’s not that hard. And keep in mind that scare tactics like True.com are using are meant to separate you from your money.


True.com Gets Publicity, but Is it Worth the Price?

I’ve been reading press releases from True.com for months now about True.com’s attempts to get states to pass laws requiring Internet dating sites to conduct criminal background checks. Evidently, the plan has yet to succeed, but True.com’s efforts have certainly gotten them press. And as we know, any press is better than no press at all. An article today on News.com by Declan McCullagh sheds more light on the shenanigans.

If you don’t know it already, the Internet dating market is getting fiercely competitive. More than 850 now compete for your business. There’s money to be made from all you singles out there, and the dating sites are trying desperately to come up with a marketing edge that will help each to stand out from the crowd of others.

True.com came up with a dandy plan: compatibility testing (think eHarmony), criminal background checks, and a message on the home page of “Married People will be Prosecuted.” Think “paranoia.” Nothing like scaring people to get them to part with dollars. And nothing wrong with that. It’s a good gimmick. But what I really had problems with is True.com’s using attempts to legislate. McCullagh’s article points out the effects the legislation would have, and it doesn’t sound good to me—and while you are reading the article, take a look at the first comment posted in response—from Dan Vest—related to True.com’s owner Herb Vest perhaps?

True.com, use what you have come up with to tout your site’s advantages, but lay off the attempts to smack other sites through legislation. It’s a cheap trick to get publicity and you know it. It feels slimy, and slimy techniques tend to stick to the initiator.



Contact Kathryn by phone at , by email at


home | resources for romantics | kathryn's romance newsletter | kathryn's ebooks | workshops with kathryn | test yourself | find-a-sweetheart stuff
new, fun, free | deals on dating sites | email articles | facts
about kathryn and coaching | who is kathryn lord? | kathryn's own cyberromance story | what is romance coaching? | are you ready for romance coaching? | what kathryn's clients say | want to try romance coaching?
kathryn's blog | contact kathryn


Copyright 2003-2007 Kathryn B. Lord