The Fishy World of Internet Dating

The Fishy World of Internet Dating

I wrote this article on 30th April 2013 but never published it. I think it makes sense to share an updated version now.

In 2013 I read a blog post by someone who bravely shared a horrible experience of online dating and this inspired me to write about my experiences. I do know people who have had positive experiences of online dating, but anyone entering into into this world should do so cautiously, whether they are male or female.

Looking back, online dating was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. You may first welcome the idea without realising how vulnerable you might be naturally at that point in your life! If you decide to stop, you don’t realise that you may be continually pestered for payments from the sites you subscribed to, and other sites to which you never have subscribed but are affiliated to the main one.

Online dating is a billion pound industry. The Business of Online Dating was explored in an article in 2012 and is probably even greater today.  I note in 2013 the formation of the Online Dating Association in the UK, although comprising board members and directors from the sites I had poor experiences from. I hope this is not just another scam to make themselves look credible.

Anyhow, here is what I experienced.

Process for Joining a Site

You create a profile, enjoy a free subscription, but then you soon realise you cannot browse and certainly not contact any suitors until you have paid a fee. So you generally chose the shortest time period – 3 months, which then automatically renews.

On one site, it was only after I’d paid – generally around £50 for 3 months – that I realised there were few people on the database, but it was too late and I’d lost my money.

So you’d search the internet for another site of suitable people. For example “Jazz lovers” seemed reasonable. “Classical music lovers” seemed reasonable. So I joined these two, created profiles, paid money, to then realise they were then same single database of fellas, run by the same parent company. In fact a third site I joined was also part of this, and some people I chatted to had subscribed to all manner of different websites (Single Dads, Guitar Lovers etc etc). Different website (front ends) all attached to one database – but you paid money to subscribe to each one.

TIP Look at the “terms” of the websites and you will probably find they are operated by just one or two large companies, Global Personals Limited in this case.

I also checked out the Times (The Dating Lab) and the Guardian (Soulmates) and fortunately before I paid money realised they too were the same database.

I did join as was promoted heavily at this time. Again I paid money, and although was at least a new and separate database of fellas from what I had seen elsewhere, there was very little in the way of any communication (either by an online message or email). What I didn’t know is that my profile would then be passed to affiliate company, and this company too decided to start taking fees from my credit card registered with

Trying to Unsubscribe

When I did start unsubscribing to the sites – I don’t want you to think I was a tart – but joining sites advertising my different interests seemed reasonable! When I did unsubscribe from Global Personals, I had to do three separate phone conversations with the same lady on the end of the phone, who would not admit at any point their websites were linked or indeed being misleading.

The mechanisms to unsubscribe are also reasonably well hidden on the sites and not at all transparent. It was not always possible to do so directly online, and other required several hours of waiting to get through on the telephone. I would imagine there would be quite a backlog of users who simply cannot get off these platforms.

The trouble really started months later when I thought that I’d cancelled subscriptions that additional payments were coming off my credit card from some of the affiliate sites. I phoned the bank and cancelled all the remaining payments. Looking back at my bank statements I probably lost something around £1500 over this time period.

Scams within scams

Moving beyond the unethical operations of the companies themselves, we can delve into a further layer of scams derived from the people participating. I’d suspected that many people on there did not exist, perhaps were put up there by their mates for a joke, and also were probably already married. By searching in my local area, in fact, there were people already in relationships, but that was their business. I was delighted to see Orlando Bloom on one occasion but he suddenly disappeared when I said hello.

Scams within scams within scams

Then we begin to read about the large-scale operations behind the scenes by employers of the agencies creating fake profiles. A dating agency in Scotland was creating fake profiles to encourage people to subscribe. In online dating platforms such as this, people are charged for sharing individual messages, and I certainly recall being charged extra to obtain someone’s email. At other times, the exchange of phone numbers and personal information was blocked by the platform so you could not contact the individual outside of the system should you so wish.

A further article in July 2013 alludes to the mass purchasing of stolen data for the creation of fake profiles. After reading Online Dating Sites Use Stolen Data I think you might agree that the entire industry is out of control.

But then came the fish men!

Not to leave the readers of this post in an unhappy state, there certainly were some highlights. I met someone who described themselves as an “organ impresario”. “Aren’t they all” I thought. But indeed he was a concert organist and a lovely individual, and we corresponded for some time. Also there was an extraordinary large number of fellas who thought it desirable to be photographed with large fish! One evening I had several possible fishy suitors; “fwar look at the size of my trout”. Of the few men I met in person it was surprising how many had lied about their height! And the crème de la crème – the number of fellas photographed dressed in tiger costumes kept my Facebook friends more than amused. “He’s grrrreat Viv”. “He’ll bring out the Tiger in you”. Fortunately I never got close enough to find out.

Then I realise the extent of the fish-men thing. Tumblr shares it beautifully on Guysholdingfishondatingsites. And then there are the Fish Men of Tinder.

Want to go internet dating – here are my recommendations?

  • Be extremely careful of these websites. Maybe use a site that you know a friend uses, and certainly if you are going to subscribe to more than one, look at the company details at the bottom of the page and make sure the parent company is not the same.
  • Be cautious of everyone you are in contact with – can you verify they are for real?
  • It goes without saying, be very cautious if you chose to meet up – have a friend nearby, or certainly let someone know where you are going. I did have one frightening experience believe me.


Article update 22nd December 2015

Well the extend of the dating industry scam has taken on new fishy dimensions more recently to my knowledge. An individual can join online dating and build social media profiles to falsely portray themselves. I suppose the more we readily share photographs, videos and recordings of ourselves these days, the more we are all at risk. Anyone can take this content and produce a false profile. Like bank fraud, I imagine there is a certain feeling of violation if they are photographs of you, or someone is using your personal details. The perpetrator will gain trust from different suitors and perhaps demand money who knows. For the suitor who may themselves be vulnerable, there will almost definitely be an emotional cost if not a financial one.

Here are two well explained articles on so-called ‘cat fishing’. Alan’s account in Catfishing is Not Love is horrible in that his persona has been used several times over possibly by one individual to create multiple false accounts. Alan has endeavoured to contact Facebook but this has not resolved the situation, so he has taken to promote his ‘real’ self online in the best way he can – No You Can’t Use My Photo.

Alec’s account of Identify Love and Catfishing is also dreadful in that it uses the identity of his family members also to create a credible story.

STILL want to go internet dating – here are more recommendations

I’m no expert but here is how you could check anyone out:

  • If they have a Facebook or Twitter account – is it recent? Something set up in the past few months is a little suspicious these days.
  • Is there much activity – tagging of photos or comments from other friends? Anyone who hasn’t had much ‘chatter’ with friends and relatives again is slightly unusual.
  • Do a reverse image search – drag and drop the image into ‘Google Images’ and click the camera icon. Or see these instructions how to retrieve the image from elsewhere on the internet to verify it (

Closing note

It still feels uncomfortable to think back over these experiences. It seems ironic that I met someone soon after that purely by chance on a boat sailing around Vancouver Harbour. He was 11 years younger and lived over 150 miles away. I’d never have found him by clicking a load of search boxes. And with permission…..

And I asked David to find a fish to hold up, and he came downstairs with a BASS.

And I asked David to find a fish to hold up, and he came downstairs with a BASS.


“I knew an old Higher Education sector that swallowed a fly”…

There was another nail in the coffin of the UK Higher Education (HE) sector today as we know it. I see the arena in which I have worked for 10 years undergo such recent policy changes that the underlying principles that drew me to work in HE are fading away. I didn’t sign up to a sector that cares more about league tables than learners. But perhaps because I’ve worked also in the private sector, I’m just not familiar with the comings and goings of education policy, infrastructure and investment. Perhaps this level of turbulence, poor economic management and lack of long-term vision is normal. In industry we used to say it was a “moveable feast” which at least brought welcome images.


CC BY-SA 3.0. Cara Chow. Feast.



Today the HEA announced the delay of the 2016 National Teaching Fellowship scheme, quite understandable really as a result of financial pressure and insecurity of the future of HEFCE. It is beginning to sound like the song “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly”. The implication of each announcement sends ripples through the community and I feel now we are a few steps away from swallowing the “horse”. Here are some other notable ripples.

Higher Education Academy

To become a self-sustaining organisation by 2017. Well all I can say is that I wouldn’t be sitting here now if it wasn’t for the Higher Education Academy (HEA). I bring no baggage and memories of whoever or whatever was there before. I walked straight out of industry in to a lecturer job and I knew nothing about students and teaching of science. The HEA – subject centre for bioscience – offered an instant community. It was fast-food professional development – like pouring hot water onto your Pot Noddle and getting an instant meal – you attended the bioscience events and got an immediate sense of the profession and set of skills and resources on which to build your career. I was also participant in other subject centres, which was vital to observe approaches from other disciplines. You could pick the best thinking – the ‘designing out plagiarism’ materials from 2005 the subject centre for ICT I still refer to today. But for me the Bioscience Subject Centre was the ‘Bombay Bad-boy’ of them all. The community, expertise, research methodology and skills. I wrote for the first time, I published in my first peer-review journal and I presented at my first education conferences. I gained some funding. I got my first promotion to Senior Lecturer and then to Principal Lecturer. I have three National Awards.


And then there was TechDis who provided technological support and guidance to support the needs of all learners. The team of staff were employed by the HEA, and from January 1st 2015, Techdis has been languishing helplessly on the internet archive. That the government can think so little of the education requirements of the general population is beyond belief. Some 6.8% of undergraduate learners who decide to draw down Disability Funding Allowance (excluding postgraduates and parttime learners and likely to be an underestimate) contribute to the diversity and richness of our learner population. That is still around 82,000 students in the UK. We commonly then also think of also of dyslexia – 10% of the population. So without even thinking too deeply about other differences and needs that our learners (and always overlooked staff) may be experiencing, the idea that we do not invest centrally to support the full TechDis service and the specialist expertise therein is incredulous.

It is deeply worrying to see the lack of visibility of the importance of diversity in universities across the board – gender imbalance, lack of BME participation. A quick Google search will direct you to a wealth of information including such from HEFCETimes Higher and Parts of the sector are toxic with discrimination. And the most staggering thing for me in the last week or so was a colleague saying if a learner can’t spell by the age of 18 year that it is tough, they are an adult. You can pick up professional skills and knowledge relatively easily with a bit of training and investment. However, once discriminatory attitudes become entrenched, I would think it would be hugely challenging to change the culture and recreate a positive environment once more.


And what about Cetis? Not that I understand much about technology but I know enough to appreciate you need standards of practice and uniform ways of working. Again, a small group who pack a big punch – they have provided the ‘brains’ behind educational approaches toward learning, assessment, diversity, new technologies and much more. Again I cannot understand why they are not supported through a little investment to recognise the essential work that they do. However I do believe they are presently holding their own and have become a sustainable organisation despite their transition in May 2015.


Jisc have weathered an immense storm and undergone dramatic organisational change that in itself has to be an impressive success since the announcement to funding changes in 2013. However I do worry at what we are left with, and whether the education sector needs the newer commercially-focused organisation as opposed to passionate and expert staff who responded to the technological needs of the sector. The annual Digifest seems to position Jisc as a technology-broker, and through lack of project funding and the loss of those valuable networking opportunities, the result is the feeling of lack of engagement with academic teams.

I welcome the excellent online resources and few networking opportunities, there isn’t any support for digital innovation or professional development that we saw previously. I would think this will have a major impact on the competitiveness of the UK HE sector against global players. Jisc is nowhere in significant areas of activity including participation in open education, and has been noticeably silent in responding to major areas of challenge for the HE sector including the Teaching Excellence Framework.

National Teaching Fellowship Scheme

The NTF scheme has awarded around 700 fellowships to outstanding education professionals –teachers, librarians and professional support staff. Very different to the UK Professional Skills Framework (UKPSF) that rewards four levels of professional competency, the NTF scheme is a reward for excellence based on an annual quota and attracting a small amount of funding for those awarded. These individuals are often the champions within their institutions, leading innovation and questioning decisions that impact on their colleagues or jeopardise the spirit of their learning community. In a time where there is practically no research or project funding to support education endeavours, the funds are a welcome life-line for staff who otherwise would not be able to financially support projects or attend conferences and events. I dearly hope the announcement, now delayed until the Spring brings good news, but deep inside I don’t feel so optimistic.

So we’ve swallowed the horse.

But will we die?

By next year we will know not just about the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, and the fate of the HEA and HEFCE. This period of lack of investment and the prospect of establishing new professional organisations and regulators will take its toll on our education sector – ramifications not just for Higher Education but ripples across schools, college, adult and community sectors. The challenges ahead:

  • Rebuilding communities of practice and changing mind set and cultures will take time and investment.
  • New staff are reinventing the wheel and not sharing across their subject disciplines; they don’t know that a body of literature and practice reports are out there and why should they?
  • The lack of visibility of learner diversity in universities and support could be significant.
  • Lack of investment has pulled the rug from under our feet in terms of evidence-base – who is exploring urgent topical issues and informing the community?
  • What university – even now – is going to prioritise investment for learning and teaching over discipline research, and show me one already not investing in the next REF?
  • The poor curation of our literature-base and sector reports is a travesty and waste of public funds.
  • The loss of networks will erase sector ‘memory’ of past work, people and practices?

There is room for optimism

At least we have social media and new networks and communities can pop up in an instant. Great ideas such as the Wednesday evening #LTHEchat on Twitter is one example. However we cannot sustain a sector that increasingly relies on home-working and self-funding to participate. This maintains connections but does not fuel innovation.

Will the Teaching Excellence Framework bring optimism and provoke genuine change and recognition for learning and teaching in universities, or will it join the other key performance indicators on the league-table scrap heap? As observed in a keynote session at a national conference last year, do we need any more metrics, aren’t there bigger problems to solve:

Add the shoe sizes of VC’s into league tables! Would be just as accurate.

What can we do?

This is what I think and feel free to Tweet to me more or respond in the comments box:

  • We can respond to online e-petitions and provoke parliamentary debate.
  • You can gather your communities – professional bodies – institutions or even individually to blog, lobby and shout.
  • You can respond to parliamentary committee inquiries individually or as a group.
  • You can lobby your institutional leaders and decision makers.
  • You can lobby your students!
  • Form pedagogic communities within your institution.

And now for a poem

Being a Compleat & Poetickal Account Of RECENT EVENTS at the COMMITTEE of BIS

OpenEd15 Soup

#OpenEd15 Conference Reflections
Vancouver 18-20 November 2015

I don’t quite know how to start this rather daunting task of summarising all that was nourishing from OpenEd15 this year. The conference community of open education practitioners, advocates, teachers, instructors, librarians, policy makers and commentators, simply continues to grow. What struck me this year was the diversity of the delegates and like a good stock, there were several strands of inquiry that had simmered over the years and that were coming into fruition. Of course there were high-profile projects and areas that attract current investment. That is typical of any innovation at any moment in time – there will always be the big shiny projects, the luxury croutons floating bobbing about in the open education soup. What also was apparent were corners of the open education movement starkly absent – no mention of open courses or massive online open courses at all. So for me just yet, the seasoning is not quite right, because we are all in this soup together, and we all need to be.

BC Campus – Open Text Book in 4 Days

Arthur Gill Green Clint Lalonde Barbara Rühling

Additional information:

This session blew me away and we’d barely started. The BC Campus team organised a sprint and produced a draft on an open textbook in four days. What interests me is how open text books have had no traction in the UK with the assumption that students do not purchase books, or teachers do not adopt one book and focus in this way. The reality is, we just don’t know. It is also impressive that a number of the textbook projects aren’t just working within one institution – this project involved faculty (teachers) from 4 post-secondary institutions in British Columbia with the aim of writing a first year Geography textbook, and that is what they did. I liked the careful choice of the team – teachers, librarians, instructional designers and a facilitator. It must have been an exhausting but exhilarating process. The draft book underwent peer review with further colleagues to engage them in the process.

Those involved said it was an interesting experience to pass their writing on and let go of the ownership of it. The book included presentation slides and a question bank, because a recurring barrier to faculty adoption of open books is the lack of ‘goodies’ that come with texts. What would they have done differently? More pre-work to identify background material to reuse. Everything was CC licensed.

Web Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning in OERs

This was a core theme to the conference and it is good to see that accessibility is being discussed in the context of open practice. There are parallels between aspirations of openness and accessibility, and I realise in the UK this is a space where academics / teachers often lag behind, purely because we don’t have university structures that immerse us in the principles of learning design, and there often is not the expertise to go round. So I found the basic level advice in this presentation really useful:
  • State learning goals up front.
  • Help students not feeling overwhelmed.
  • Time management and help students with their perception of time and how long something might take.
  • How to manage independence rather than dependence on tools. Get them to find things that are useful to them.
  • Tools might disappear!
  • Video – with transcripts.
  • Hard to retro-fit.

Project 1 – BC Campus is using open textbooks with students with print disabilities, leading to a toolkit on accessibility for those wishing to author books.

Project 2 – CAST – a project with colleges to develop OER aligned with Universal Design For Learning (UDL) guidelines. This includes the Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Center.

Project 3 – FLOE –  also striving toward inclusive open education.

Open, sez me: The Demands and Rewards of Open Pedagogy

Paul Bond
Library Instruction Coordinator, University of Pittsburgh

Paul based some of his thinking on the open pedagogy work of Bronwyn Hegarty and Grainne Conole. Paul made the distinction between digital literacy and information literacy, and how open education can be a doorway in to discussing these tricky topics with learners, a group often overlooked. By linking open pedagogy to information literacy, Paul has been running sessions to talk to students about awareness, collaboration, finding, evaluation, understanding and the need to be safe.

Paul presented this as his open pedagogy playlist of ideas which was awesome. He talked through how engaging students in open exploration on the web helped build some fundamental skills, and that often the emphasis is on the technology and tools. In reality we should be helping learners and teachers explore the more social and human-facing aspects of interacting online, creating social media profiles and what it means to be socially responsible.

He epitomised the central role of library services in developing the open agenda through learner-facing sessions, and running open courses immersed in open practice and tip-toeing toward the exploration of open pedagogies.

The Publication of Self in Everyday Life

John Maxwell SFU

The presentation of self in everyday life” by Erving Goffman in 1956 is a lovely exploration of what is self and how we promote or ‘perform’ in different contexts. Goffman examines what behaviours contribute to our social identity and status, and what forces come into play. John rather beautifully drew parallels with the online world, and some of the approaches he takes working with learners and teachers to explore their ‘online’ self in everyday life as part of a publishing course PUB101. Where better to start to learn the principles of modern day publishing with trying to publish yourself.

John’s approach with his students reminded me of the epic John Coltrane piece where Coltrane starts off with the solo and ends up with the theme – not very conventional and very much playing the piece backwards. John’s approach with students is also quite radical where they are let loose with their own digital devices and tools, and work from there to build identify and collaboration. Rather than presenting students with a formal structure – it must be so – the learning is enriched from their experimental approaches. Challenges for John were in how to assess and align with institutional requirements without quashing individual expression. He achieved this by assessing the writing level and not the content. Learners were given free reign to build anything but only their reflective writing was assessed.

Questions that emerged:

  • What are we publishing online – ourselves and our lives?
  • Who is your audience, voice, audience, ownership of you and your brand?
  • How do you measure audience interaction and responsiveness?
  • How to validate user generated content?

Creative Commons Open Business Models Case Studies and Findings

Paul Stacey and Kate Connors

Paul and Kate talked through a new 2015 initiative exploring how CC licenses can have impact in businesses yet still operate in socially acceptable and sustainable ways, in the ‘spirit’ of open. Some points:

Open Business Model

CC BY-SA 3.0 Paul Stacy Open Business Model

Paul has since gone on to apply the business model principles to a series of open tools and design platforms as a feel for their social value proposition and stance on openness, e.g. Flickr, Hubert Project, YouTube, Lumen, and many other examples. This is part of on-going work and he is looking for other business volunteers, and what is emerging is a fascinating picture of how open and business can rub shoulders without losing the social values and principles of open.

Application? This is going to give us clues of how open can be scaled and sustained across a wider range of business models, and that multiple means of open is acceptable.

Paul ended on an impressive booklist:

Value Proposition Design – collaboration between multiple authors across the globe.

Open Innovation – Henry Chesbrough

What Money Can’t Buy – Michael Sandel

Reclaiming the Commons – Heather Menzies

Think Like A Commoner – David Bollier

Governing Knowledge Commons – Brett Frischmann et al


When conferences collide!


A delegate Tweeting from #cmd2015 about lack of reading activity in residential homes just at the point I was listening to Hugh McGuire’s amazingly fantastic work to produce an open audiobook resource Librivox.


One I didn’t Attend – Assessment of Blogging in Higher Education

Laura Gogia


Finding more cool stuff! Go to the conference archive:


And the reason there is a conference archive:

Seven steps to MCQ heaven

MCQ Title ImageHere are some details of a workshop that I’ve developed to help teachers and instructors think about INCLUSIVE AND EFFECTIVE multiple choice question (MCQ) development.

I would not by any means consider myself an expert because there are so many nuances and technicalities to writing good quality questions that do not discriminate, and that actually test knowledge and understanding and not just examination technique.

This guide is licensed under CC-BY-SA and I fully advocate people developing their own versions and examples with their programme and teaching teams.

Right mouse click the links to download them and have fun.

MCQ Training Guide Doc

MCQ Training Guide PDF