I am going to try to look at new ways to hook up in this post. No it is not a story of wild adventurous sex but rather a woman’s description of a mobile app experience with way too much geekyness thrown in. I do not wish to infringe on anyone’s personal life so there are no identifiable information in this post.

I installed Skout about a month ago. I am only talking about the free version here not the 4$ one. I learned about Skout from a BBC 3 program called Websex: What’s the Harm? I am fascinated by how teenagers grow up into adulthood… or rather how all the powers that be work together to keep young people immature for as long as possible (teenagers are the best consumers so it behooves marketers to keep young people teens until 30) In Websex, Nathalie Emmanuel follows teens who use the Web and mobile technology to hook up. It is a very interesting documentary if you can find it. It took a whole year for me to get around to installing Skout on my Android phone!

I created a profile description and was rejected for being explicit. Since the app message was robotic in nature I suspected that the system simply flagged me for an inappropriate word. I therefore changes my description to reflect that I am a ‘s3x educator’ and all was fine from then on! I used my domina handle wondering if someone would look past it and Google me. None of the 20 or so guys I chatted with did any background check… Surprising (but not in a good way.)

Skout is a mobile profile-based chatting system with the usual dating site features such as picture gallery, backstage (I assume for sexier photos) descriptions, about me and a status update. Other features are comments on the photos, gifts, a hot list and blocking feature as well as the ability to search by distance, age, city and gender.

Skout is based on a points system. As with other mobile apps you can get additional perks or points by downloading other apps or games. In app points can be used to buy access to other people’s backstage photos and by that same logic, the points you spend on access to a backstage go to the other user who set up a backstage. The fact that this is not gendered is good because I have a huge thing against all types of system that deceive men into paying access while selling them the female user-base as the product (The main scam of most online dating services.) Points can also be used to send pictogram gifts to others which is cute. If you want to know the relative popularity of a user on Skout, you can look at how many gifts they have. That is only a partial indicator of popularity because giving a gift is pushed when you add someone to the hot list and therefore not an endorsement of someone talent as a conversationalist.

One of the more informational aspects of the system is looking at the comments men make on women’s photos. These can usually give away a lot of information about someone’s motives or level of class 🙂 I find online comments of a sexual nature by strangers to be very off putting but since I do not sell myself online (literally or figuratively), I don’t have to delete any of those… Yet men still find a way to make very inappropriate comments on my Facebook photos… this is weird to me.

I find the medium of Skout to be too similar to SMS and too asynchronistic (not in real-time). Meaning that it takes too long to get a reply for it to be a conversation. I take for granted that all users, especially the younger ones are involved in another activity or many chats so I do not expect a reply but unfortunately, the system does not always update the screen when a new message comes in. You have to leave the conversation and come back in order to view the reply.

Skout is super invasive as it will buzz about every hour of the day or night. In order to keep Skout on my phone I have taken to putting it on Airplane mode when it’s time to sleep (That is easier than changing the notification setting in the app every time.)

Other than that the geolocation seems accurate enough to be useful. I enjoy the fact that I can use the app to direct attention to people who are conveniently located. I am not specifically looking for someone but if I do meet a like minded person it is better if they are close by or reachable without long-distance charges. I get the impression that the system is not as awesome for guys because I get a lot of messages from men who are in the US, which is not a place I find myself very often.

The user base of men is mostly under 30. As usual the oeuvre that is American Pie continues to deliver to women my age an endless stream of attention from young men 18-25. But be careful with Skout. While it is open to users over 18, a lot of the young users are actually UNDER 18. Some say it in their profile which is helpful. As a mature adult who often finds herself doling out love advice and answering sex-related questions in great details, I am weary of the fact that the receiver might be under 18 and it open me up to issues with inappropriateness. Of course SEX ED should be doled out in great details to kids 12+, something I have outlined in great details before. But I am more worried about people using this system to target young women in their area in order to stalk them, or create relationship with huge power imbalances, the kind of relationships older men conduct with younger women in their early twenties. Young women are not very clued into the tricks that older men (often married ones) use to scam them out of time and sex with no intention of creating a lasting relationship. Skout would be an efficient boost on productivity for creepy guys.

I plan to meet maybe one or two guys I have chatted with on Skout. Having a spouse and lover means that I have to consider really hard where I give my attention. I cannot take on a new relationship without considering the time it takes to give it proper attention and create something that is lasting. I am always up front about my poly situation and what it means in terms of everyday life. All my relationships are between 2-20 years long 🙂 I plan to remove the application because my success rate with men is so much greater with those I meet in person inadvertently or by chance or though common friends. I find myself entertaining men with funny/unusual/sexy banter on such sites but it rarely turns into a situation where I am ALSO intrigued in return so it can only be a pastime and not a love finding tool. Still there are a lot of truly adorable guys on Skout.

So I give Skout 3 out of 5 stars. It is intriguing and has the right parts even though the UX is lacking and the app design only 50% of the way there. I hope Skout, Inc. improves it in the next few months.

So let’s move on to the advice.

Much of the profiles for men in my age range (40+) seem fishy. As with any system that is somewhat anonymous, there are plenty of people who misrepresent themselves on Skout. I am not talking about the married-but-saying-he-is-divorced type of emotional lair but rather fake profiles purposefully created to separate women from their money.

AVOIDING SCAMMERS ON SKOUT (An aside)

Men often tell me that most women on dating sites are fakes or ‘professionals’. I truly wonder how efficient it is for women who charge a retainer for being your girlfriend and if that was a good deal for the men who partake. I would love to hear some of your experiences. But here I am simply talking about he usual scam of faking emergencies and asking for money online.

The Great Thing About Skout is that it is location based. I am using an example I have observed first hand here, this is not a stereotype. Cell phone use is growing in Africa. This is absolutely wonderful for millions of people and kids who will have access to so wikipedia, Google, net radio and video. I expect great things to keep coming out of Africa in the next 5 years, including mobile startups as mobiles are recharged and not as susceptible to spotty power availability like desktops. Much of Africa doesn’t have landlines, the only viable and practical solution for connectivity in Africa is cell phones. They have less moving parts who can fall prey to dust intrusion (sand in Northern Africa is not like beach sand, it is a very powdery substance that gets into everything!) so expect Africans to be the driving force behind mobile usage trends in the next 5 years.

So, finally, here’s my explanation of why Skout inavertantly gives up people who are lying…

– If a user in Lagos, Nigeria creates a fake account.
– He copy-pastes his usual description which is long-winded and makes the following statements. It includes what seems like a real name. It makes the statement that he is a widower or unfortunately divorced (abandonned), well-to-do, Christian looking for a God-fearing woman with some form of urgency in the message. All of these statements are meant to attract sincere, nice and sweet women as they are the most easily scammed out of money. I do not knw of anyone who would call themselves God-fearing… I mean it doesn’t really make any other statement than iviting others to co-opt the word of God in order to manipulate you. So any profile that specifically request a God-fearing person has to be flagged as the most obvious scam attempt in online dating history. At this point a profile photo is submitted and approved by the staff along with the description.
– Then the person uses the system and uploads more photos. HOWEVER, these photos are geotagged and Skout can now properly display the user’s distance from you. So his profile shows weird discrepancies… If you are a New York City businessman, then why are you uploading pictures from 5981km away?

This is the joy of mobile technology… It is possible to fool a system’s geolocation abilities BUT it’s too hard to do for confidence scammers without deep understanding of how their phone works. Also, it’s hard to pay constant attention to the behavior of the GPS and IP geolocation system.

It is always important to see the person’s profile and read it carefully. I am always annoyed when I see profiles of service men which are written in an obvious non-American way and are most likely fakes using the good human capital of service men to scam women out of attention or money. Women do not mention publicly how this scam is prevalent on online dating sites for the past 10 years!