Today Ashley Madison released a statement saying that I couldn’t have figured out how many active women are on the site based on the data dump. The company is right about that. It may still be true that a relatively small number of women are active on Ashley Madison, but the evidence that I thought supported my claims means something else entirely—more on that below.
What I have learned from examining the site’s the source code is that Ashley Madison’s army of fembots appears to have been a sophisticated, deliberate, and lucrative fraud. The code tells the story of a company trying to weave the illusion that women on the site were plentiful and eager. Whatever the total number of real, active female Ashley Madison users is, the company was clearly on a desperate quest to design legions of fake women to interact with the men on the site.
Commentary: WOW! This story just gets weirder and weirder. Quite a long geeky read about bots, data dumps, and what we still don’t really know. Worth the time if you have 10 minutes to delve into just how such an elaborate ruse or SaaS Ponzi Scheme gets perpetrated for over 5 years. Again we don’t have a hard answer about how many women used the site, but to me that was never really the issue. What is at issue is how companies like Avid Life Media (the parent/holding company) or even Facebook report their statistics when they are trying to get an IPO, impress their shareholders, or concentrate a PR blitz around what isn’t quite quantifiable.
There is a great part in there about women-seeking-women section that was very fascinating too. Kudos to such great reporting on this subject. Really hope that one day, either through Federal level, congressional inquiry, or at least the FCC open a file and audit the hell out of their records.
Later there will be references in this space to how a lot of apps operate in a not so different eco-system, how this is actually the new normal, but this being an outlier case about one hack makes it stands out. It is lurid, people will titter, but what is at stake here is if we had looks at social engagement. How do we measure that? Each platform uses its own ruler, and tells us what they think we should be concerned about. I’ve never bought it, and won’t.