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Haverford Conversations: DateSpaces.com

Larry Bomback, Eric Acton, Jason Coleman and Charles Curtis (clockwise) all graduated from Haverford in 2004 and have teamed up to create DateSpaces.com which they hope will become the must-visit site for finding and sharing information about places to go on a date – for single people as well as those who've been together forever (note to married alums: you can still go on a date with your spouse, ya know!).

Currently, the site is focused exclusively on New York City dating; more locations to come. Division-of-labor-wise, Jason is a web designer; Larry manages the New York Youth Symphony and teaches music history at Hunter College; Charles is a writer; Eric is a Research Associate for KidsOhio.org, a non-profit education organization.

We invited them to unpack their idea, and reflect on how the Haverford dating scene influenced their planning.

Jason Coleman: I was brought on board a few months in. How did DateSpaces.com start up?

Larry Bomback: It was in November of 2007. I was dating a girl who I really liked but I was troubled because I really wanted to impress her and I couldn't think of good places to take her and I said to myself, "I wish there was a website that would just tell me where to go" so I wouldn't have to stress about this stuff. So I searched and I searched and couldn't find a thing. The closest stuff I found on the web were sites like "Bob's website for great date ideas" which were far too general and then directory sites like citysearch and yelp but citysearch and yelp don't tell you whether or not a particular location is a really good place for a date.

Charles Curtis: And I remember you called me up all excited.

Larry Bomback: So yes I called you Charles, the first person I called in fact and pitched an idea to you.

Charles Curtis: I was really excited by the prospect -- there really was nothing out there that was so specific to the dating world.

Larry Bomback: A directory website that told people great date locations in the New York City area –

Charles Curtis: -- but I think it was our philosophy that made the idea so special.

Larry Bomback: We tried to assemble a team and we both agreed Eric Acton was the next logical choice -- one of our best friends from the 'ford and smart as hell.

Charles Curtis: Somebody who shared our philosophy of bringing back the art of dating. Young people don't "date" anymore in the traditional sense of the word. Our parents for example "dated" when they were our age.

Larry Bomback: Exactly. "Dating" today seems so limited to bars and restaurants. There are other things to do out there! Fun, interesting, original things! Eventually we came up with a more structured idea to tag great date ideas and locations along 5 specific criteria. Some locations are better than others to take people on dates because they fit these criteria. The criteria are: 1) originality -- one of the best ways to get someone to remember you is to do something with them that stands out in their mind so that they always associate that activity with you. That's why taking someone on a Roosevelt Island tram ride is a great first date. No one ever does that. It's so unique.

Charles Curtis: Or just getting away from the places EVERYONE goes to.

Larry Bomback: So. Criterion #2: low-pressure. In my interviews with men and women over the past year one thing that stood out was a sense of obligation. Women, in particular, hated it when guys took them out on first dates to super-expensive restaurants. They felt a natural human emotion of obligation, as if they owed their date something for him having spent so much on their meal.

Charles Curtis: Welcome to New York City...here's a date at Nobu...look at how rich I am!

Larry Bomback: Exactly...and it scares women off. Humans feel the law of obligation all the time. Just think about when you're in a store and you get offered a free sample you're so likely to buy something at the store right afterwards because you want to shed that law of obligation. So, especially on first dates, low-pressure situations are crucial.

Charles Curtis: I love the analogy…

Larry Bomback: A low pressure first date in NYC is a walk-through central park for example. That would be rated very high along that criterion. Alright #3: rapport-building. The reason we're attracted to anyone is because we've built rapport with them. We are attracted to our friends on a platonic level because we've built rapport...attracted to our family on a familial level because we've rapport...and attracted to our lovers because of the rapport we've built romantically. The faster the rapport is built the faster the attraction, so activities and dates that build rapport quicker are more likely to be good dates, especially if you're hoping to build a relationship. Take kayaking for example. Every Saturday and Sunday there is free kayaking in the Hudson river -- what a great way to instantly build rapport, because you have to work as a team to get that kayaking moving: you each have an oar.

Charles Curtis: So how does DateSpaces.com do that? Well we help you find places that fit the kind of rapport that you want to build. (Honestly, that's amazing - that's the first time I've heard that.)

Larry Bomback: Plus, kayaking is certainly an original idea.

Jason Coleman: Surviving a trip through the Hudson River is sure to build rapport.

Charles Curtis: Absolutely. Especially without falling in one of the most heavily trafficked rivers in the world.

Larry Bomback: lol!

Larry Bomback: And it's low-pressure. Since it's totally free there's no sense of obligation. OK. Criterion #4 -- conversation starting. Dates that cause people to talk to one another have a high success rate. Part of the reason dinners are such bad first dates is that they leave so much room for awkward pauses and if one person is shy, then it can be a total disaster. But a date that gets people talking, like a provocative movie followed by coffee at a nearby cafe is perfect to get the conversation going.

Charles Curtis: (chew-chew-chew) So...where...(chew-chew-chew)...did you go to college?

Larry Bomback: A movie gives you 2 hours to think about things to say, plus it gives you an entire movie to talk about! People love talking about movies, especially movies they just saw!

Charles Curtis: That's part of why we picked NYC as the launching pad - there's endless amounts of things to do every day and there are so many things people just aren't informed about.

Larry Bomback: Any date really that takes environmental cues as a departure point for conversation is great. And lastly #5...the obivous one...romantic potential. Sure, not all dates are going to be romantic. You might go out an a date with a group of friends for example but most people do associate dating with romancing. So, in all great dates, there is a hint of romance. It may not be obvious but its there on a subliminal level.

Charles Curtis: Right.

Larry Bomback: I'm thinking of a cute Japanese yakitori restaurant in the East Village. It's very well lit, the food is cheap, and the atmosphere is pretty blah. BUT...and here's why this thing is so great...at this restaurant, pretty much all the tables are for 2. So almost everyone there is in a couple situation and you may not notice it, but you can feel it.

Charles Curtis: There's romance, even if your date is at that concert where you can't really talk. It's a vibe.

Jason Coleman: Charles, concerts are a great motivator for impromptu hand-holding.

Charles Curtis: And let's not forget dancing. So with all these elements, we needed to design a website that would allow users from all walks of life and all types of relationships and to separate us from the Citysearches of this world.

Larry Bomback: Absolutely, any place that allows to people to sit next to each other in the dark.

Jason Coleman: Larry, that's the best overview of the criteria I've heard yet. If the website falls through, I think you can write a book. :)

Larry Bomback: It's funny because when I think back to my Haverford dating life I realize that the best dates i've had are the ones that stand out in my mind because they were original, rapport-building, conversation-starting, low-pressure, and romantic. I remember during freshmen year, me and my date (who shall remain nameless) snuck into the faculty pool. That's certainly an original date that built huge rapport because we had to work together to get ourselves over that fence and into the pool...and it was romantic --after all we were both in our bathing suits!

Charles Curtis: I found that Haverford was good for meeting people since you see the whole campus all the time but when I suggested going in to Philadelphia for First Friday, I thought some people hadn't thought to leave campus which is why I came back to NYC and thought that we needed to bring the good old fashioned date back into society.

Jason Coleman: Quite an image, Larry. You need to make sure you log that date in your Datebook at DateSpaces.com.

Larry Bomback: Let's talk about some of the other stuff the site does in addition to providing graet date spaces. One of the best features of the site is the personal profile that the user can create to keep track of his or her date spaces. We call it MyDatebook.

Larry Bomback: Say I heard about a restaurant from a friend. I can go to its DateSpaces.com location page and click add to MyDatebook.

Charles Curtis: It's sort of like a Facebook profile but very dating-specific –

Larry Bomback: -- then it's stored there forever. So when i'm stressing out about taking a girl somewhere good for dinner all i need to do is go to MyDatebook, look at my "future date spaces" and voila. I have a great date idea

Jason Coleman: It's one of the main ways people will "share" on the site, and social networks (which this is) are all about sharing. Larry seems to have a handle on how to build a great date, I'm going to want to follow his dating life to get some pointers (even though I'm married!)

Larry Bomback: It's for everyone, Jason.

Charles Curtis: Jason, I agree.

Larry Bomback: Even couples married for 50 years are looking for exciting ways to rekindle their evenings.

Jason Coleman: It's a GREAT site for established couples as well as someone trying to wow a new boyfriend/girlfriend.

Charles Curtis: They all need The Date (I put it in caps to make it almost an academic term for all the seniors out there writing their thesis this year.

Larry Bomback: Yup.

Jason Coleman: Because the main focus is on finding someWHERE to date rather than someONE. Though I don't doubt we'll be hearing stories of DateSpaces hookup success stories.

Larry Bomback: And we have advice columns on a weekly basis to answer more specific date-related questions like "where are some good places to go on double-dates?" This is not a personals site.

Charles Curtis: That's part of the hope - many people complain there isn't enough creativity in dates, so they'll use our site not only to find dates but to find each other.

Larry Bomback: And we want our users to be creative. Sure, we've posted over 2,000 great date spaces but we want our users to be creative and add things to our date-abase that aren't there yet.

Charles Curtis: We all know how much internet users love to change things (see: Pedia, Wiki)

Jason Coleman: Definitely. NYC is a big place. We need people's help adding and managing content (date spaces) on the site. That's very web 2.0ish!

Larry Bomback: Datespaces.com will be a one-stop dating resource.

Jason Coleman: Did I mention that http://www.datespaces.com covers it all?

Larry Bomback: For date ideas, relationship advice, and personal dating management!

Charles Curtis: Not to mention that we're looking to "Save the Date" (that's our motto): save the dating art form!

Larry Bomback: Alright guys, well get back to work.

Charles Curtis: Absolutely. We've got more romance to create.

The Strawbridge Observatory at Haverford College houses 12-inch and 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes which are actively used by students in Haverford astronomy classes.

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