I’ve been trying for a couple of days to write this post about the Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid, a browser add-on that flags OkCupid users who answer match questions about consent and/or violence in ways that are consistent with how perpetrators of sexual assault answer similar questions.
I’m torn, because what I really want is to dive into a bunch of speculative social theorizing about why the tool is interesting. (It’s really interesting!) But that won’t be nearly as fun for you to read as it will for me to write unless you’re familiar with the tool I’m talking about. So, quickly, here’s how to get PAT-OKC up and running on your OkCupid account:
1. Installing PAT-OKC on Your Computer
The first thing you’ll need is a userscript manager. A userscript is “programming that modifies the appearance or behavior of an application. A userscript for a Web site, for example, can customize the way that content will display in the host browser.” And a “userscript manager” is an application that allows you to run userscripts.
This is less complicated than it sounds. Basically, userscripts are like apps for your browser. I avoided them for a long time because I’m not very techy, so trying to customize my browsing experience usually just makes me feel sort of klutzy and awkward. In fact, wanting to run PAT-OKC was finally what pushed me to download Tampermonkey. But it turns out that it was super easy — like one click in the Chrome Web Store easy — and there are a lot of cool userscripts out there that are totally painless to install.
Once you’ve got your userscripts manager, you can download PAT-OKC here: Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid. You’ll be taken to a page that shows you the contents of the script, with a dialog box that says “Do you want to install this userscript: in Tampermonkey (Ok) or natively in Chrome (Cancel)”. Click OK in this dialog box, and in the next one that pops up.
That’s it. Now you’re running PAT-OKC. You can check that it installed correctly by clicking the Tampermonkey icon in your browser bar and selecting ‘Options’. The Tampermonkey icon looks like this:
You should see “Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid” listed under Name and a little OkCupid icon under Sites.
2. Setting Up PAT-OKC on Your OkCupid Account
Now that you’ve got the userscript installed, the next step is to synch it with your OkCupid account. The next time you visit OkCupid, you’ll encounter a box with some information about setting up the tool. It looks like this:
This box will pop up even if you’re not currently logged into your OkCupid account. If that’s the case, clicking “Go!” will drop you back at the login page. Once you log in, the program will pick up where it left off, asking you to answer some Match Questions. These look just like regular OkCupid Match Questions because they are:
However, what you’re answering is a series of questions specifically relate to issues of consent and/or violence. Some are newly-added questions taken from a survey called “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists” by David Lisak and Paul M. Miller, which you can read more about on the PAT-OKC developer’s blog. Others are standard Match Questions that have been in the OkCupid database for a long time. You can also submit your own suggestions for questions, or even create new Match Questions of your own to submit, but more on that later. (Incidentally, the developer writes these tools and makes their living on an entirely donation basis. If you’d like to contribute something, check out their Cyberbusking Page.)
The reason you are answering these questions is so that the tool can “see” other users’ public answers to the same questions. It then uses that information to determine which users to flag. Try not to get stuck on the content of the questions. Just answer them as honestly as you would if they popped up in your Match Question queue normally. Some (such as the ones about alcohol, roughhousing with your friends, and potentially-consensual choking) might feel out of place next to questions about e.g. forced oral sex with children — but, once you’ve installed the tool, you will be able to see which questions a red-flagged user answered and how, so you can still make a critical determination based on your personal comfort levels.
The current series includes 15 questions and they took me about 6 minutes to get through. (I had already answered some of these questions during my previous OkCupid’ing, so your time may vary.) The tool gives you occasional opportunities to pause:
However, if you try to navigate away from the Match Questions in the middle of the series, the program will dump you back to the original install screen and you’ll have to start all over. So…don’t. [Ed. This issue has been resolved in the latest version of PAT-OKC. Woot.]
Once you’ve answered all the questions, you’ll see a box that looks like this:
Voila! You’re done.
And so am I, for now, because I need some sleep. Take some time to explore and see what PAT-OKC can do. In my next post, I’ll talk about ways I’ve discovered to both use and improve the tool, and why I’m so excited about what it suggests for the future of online anti-violence work.