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Frequently Asked Questions

This is the help text and set of FAQs. We hope it's exhaustive, but if there is anything that is not clear, or if you would like additional help, please send Cupid a message, or contact the team.
Please select one of the following topics for more information...

Introduction

Privacy, Anonymity, Security and Ettiquette

Userguide: explanation of features

Miscellaneous topics

Legalese



Introduction


What is OxfordRomance.org.uk? - an Introduction

OxfordRomance.org.uk is a Love, chat and personals site set up specifically for students of Oxford University. It currently has 14 active members, and since we began, 15614 people have signed up! Members have exchanged over 5,049,000 messages so far. It is the most popular student web site in Oxford by some margin, getting around 15,000 page-views per day. The site is Completely Free to use. We hope you enjoy it......

There is an Introduction for New Members here.

Why is online Romance so important?

Love is the most important thing in life... and it's so hard to find that many spend their lives searching. But it's quite improbable that you'll meet your soul-mate just by chance. There's even an academic paper on the subject, based on the Drake equation.

Finding Love in the modern-world is even harder than it used to be: technology and social-networks connect us to our existing friends in remote places, while often excluding the potential for making new friends who are nearby. Meanwhile, the "stranger:danger" paradigm, combined with typical "British reserve", conditions us to be wary of approaching that handsome/gorgeous boy/girl in the street/shop/lecture/workplace and just asking them out. One can be lonely in a crowd, and once the pool of of colleagues, and "friends-of-friends" is exhausted, the non-nightclub-goer needs a technical solution: OxfordRomance.org.uk.

Some may demur I'll just meet someone in The Real World ™, but the options aren't mutually-exclusive: using a computer to assist your search doesn't reduce your chances offline!

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Who pays for OxfordRomance, and why do you do it?

OxfordRomance is the Oxford University branch of ruo3.org, which is run in Oxford by and Cupid. RUO3.org itself is based in Cambridge.

We do it because we enjoy it, it's a challenge, and we get to meet new people. It's also good CompSci fun, and is our contribution to student welfare and happiness. We hope it helps - we know it can be rotten being single :-(    If you find it useful, we'd very much appreciate your help running it.

What's the catch? There really isn't one...we're just being nice :-) There is no "data-mining" or advertising; we won't sell your data, and there are no "premium features" (such as the common bait-and-switch tactic of 'join for free, pay to communicate').

OxfordRomance is a non-profit making student society, run philanthropically, and at no charge. Initially, the costs were not large, although with the purchase of a server and our own domains, they have now risen significantly! These have been met in Cambridge by Richard and John. Posters and fliers for publicity are expensive and we are also meeting these costs ourselves. Nevertheless, if you feel tempted to contribute, we would appreciate it a lot!

For more details, please see the about us page, or you can contact us via the feedback page.

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Signing up: Nicknames and Email addresses

Signing up is easy! We are delighted to welcome you: join here. Please read the terms of service first (they're very short and friendly).

  • Your nickname: This is your online pseudonym, and can be anything you choose. Some people like to use their first-name (eg 'John'); others prefer a nickname (eg 'Cookie Monster'), or a fictional character (eg 'Romeo'); others prefer a descriptive phrase (eg 'Friendly Thespian'). Be inventive!

    Please choose your nickname carefully, since it cannot later be changed without closing and re-creating your account from scratch. Don't use your full name (or an identifying code eg CRSID). It's also a good idea to consider grammatical context (consider writing a message which begins "Dear Chocolate Lover..." vs. "Dear I love chocolate..."). Nicknames must be unique, so you may be prompted to choose an alternative.
    [Technical details: nicknames must be 3-30 characters long, and can't contain the following characters: semicolon, comma, full-stop, angle-brackets, ampersand, single/double-quote, backtick, backslash.]

  • Your email address: We ask that you use an email address ending in '.ox.ac.uk'.
    If you want to use the LoveWeb, which matches people up according to whom they mutually say they fancy, then your email needs to be guessable by someone who might fancy you. So, it is in your interest to sign up with your most 'obvious' email address, if you have more than one.
  • As it can cause us problems, please do not use your 'herald.ox.ac.uk' or 'maillist.ox.ac.uk' or 'ecs.ox.ac.uk' or 'physics.ox.ac.uk' email addresses. (This is problematic because it allows people to create multiple accounts. It also makes it very hard to guess the right unique address on the LoveWeb.)

  • Your gender: Not everyone fits neatly into the traditional ("heteronormative") male-female dichotomy. If this affects you, you're still very welcome here; we ask you to please choose the most nearly-appropriate option at the point of signup, follow through the basic profile-wizard, and then elaborate within your profile (which supports many more options). [more: technical.]

  • Security: Your initial password is generated by a concatenation of two words. This should be easy to remember, and relatively hard to guess, but it is a good idea to change it. Your password is sent to you by email, so as to authenticate that the person who logs in is the owner of that email address. N.B. Don't let other people have access to your email account. [security info]

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Email addresses

We are sorry if this restriction of only '.ox.ac.uk' email addresses is inconvenient. We have decided to do it so that we can guarantee that people are members of the University, in the interests of security. If you think this is unreasonable, or if you think we should make an exception, then please do email one of the Oxford University team who will do their best to help. (For instance, visiting members of the University may not have a University email address.) We will, of course, keep your email addresses confidential.

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For whom is OxfordRomance intended?

OxfordRomance.org.uk exists "specifically for students of Oxford University." The raison d'être of the site is to help Oxford students to meet other Oxford students, and OxRo's greatest strength is that people can actually meet each other in person, because of the localisation. OxfordRomance is principally intended for undergraduates and postgraduates, but is also open to any other members of the University, and to recent alumni, currently resident in Oxford. The site is not intended for residents of Oxford who are not associated with the University, nor for members of other universities. We believe that we owe it to our members to insist upon this.

  • For University authentication, please sign up with your '.ox.ac.uk' email address. If this causes you problems (for example, visiting fellows and exchange students), please do email one of the Oxford University team who will fix this for you.
  • We are launching sister sites at other Universities. So far, these can be found at https://ruo3.org. If you would like one at your own University, please email Cupid. (We will do the website; you will need to organise the publicity.)
  • We apologise to anyone disappointed as a result. We think that it's for the best. Also, try GraduateRomance.org.uk.
  • Of course, everyone is welcome, irrespective of diversity in non-heteronormative gender, or other modes of courtship.
  • To clarify: senior members of the University are, of course welcome here, as are Alumni; please do mention this explicitly in your profile.

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How does OxfordRomance support gender/courtship diversity?

Introduction: Falling in love is really hard and confusing, even for the people who fit into the the traditional "blue-for-boys; pink-for-girls" roles (if falling in love were easy, this site wouldn't need to be here at all!). But it is far more complex than that. The diversity spectrum is very great; some examples include:

  • Not everybody self-identifies strictly as "male" or "female" (known as "gender normativity"): there is a whole spectrum of masculinity and femininity, gender and sexuality.
  • Attraction is extremely complex, and fluid: there are at least 4 dimensions (Biological Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Sexual Orientation), and all of these are linear, rather than boolean. It's explained lucidly with this diagram of the Genderbread Person.
  • Different people have very different models of courtship, including those who are Trans* [transexual or transgender], Ace [asexual] or Poly [polyamorous]. Ace (non-sexual romantic) is not necessarily the same as Platonic (just friends)
  • Some Trans people identify with as "trans-and-{male,female}" while others identify as "trans-and-not{male,female}". The terminology for "conventional-{male,female}" is Cis-, while the common, but mistaken assumption that all people are either Male or Female in "standard" roles is known as heteronormativity.
  • Sometimes a person's boundaries and limits are very different to what might be expected... for example, a hug at the end of a date might be intimidating for certain people, though others would consider it usual.
  • People change over time, sometimes quite substantially. Not everyone is willing to reveal their inmost thoughts and feelings - sometimes they are shy, uncertain, fearful, or victimised.

Community: we want to be absolutely clear: everyone is welcome to use and participate in OxfordRomance.

  • The key points are understanding, communication, respect, tolerance, and kindness.
  • Please do observe the etiquette, and remember that, especially in a textual-medium, tone-of-voice is difficult to convey, and so if you have something you need to say, use your words to do it. If you do feel uncomfortable, say so: obviously, "stop" means "Stop!"
  • While it is completely wrong to discriminate against people on grounds of sex/sexuality, it is of course perfectly reasonable to select your choice of partner by these attributes - which brings many of these issues into much sharper focus: the best way to check one's own assumptions, and gain empathy is to consider philosopher John Rawls' veil of ignorance principle.
  • Lastly, please understand that wrong-assumptions are sometimes made, by other members of the site, and sometimes even by us, the authors of it: if we get things wrong, help us to see through your eyes.

Userguide: if your situation is uncommon, then please don't be offended by the (over-)simplification of some of the categories. Please pick the nearest match, then use the free-text part of your profile to explain more about who you are and what it is that you seek. You will probably want to use these settings (on the edit/settings page), in order:

  1. Sex: pick the nearest match (male/female) as a "base-class", then follow the profile-creation wizard. [Note that the base-class cannot be unset (this is a technical limitation), but it can be overridden.]
  2. Seeks: choose male,female,either; useful for straight/gay/bi people, defines the main 6 categories available in list and search.
  3. Gender: choose free-text names for how you identify and what you are looking for. "I am: ___ seeking ___".
  4. Category: {Cis, Trans_AND, Trans_XOR}. For trans people, this can override the {sex,seeks}category above:
    • Cis: "I wish to be categorised according to the setting of {sex,seeks} above."
    • Trans (AND): "I wish to be listed both as 'other' and under {sex,seeks}. My trans-ness is a part of my "[fe]maleness".
    • Trans (XOR): "I wish to be categorised only within 'other'. I reject {sex,seeks} as inappropriate for me."
    • Trans (≡): "I am trans and wish to be recognised as {sex,seeks}, not other". → Select the 'Cis' option.
      [Note that this is a choice of your identity, not biology, so the 'Cis' option includes both "I am cis" and "I am trans and wish to be recognised as {sex,seeks}, not other". People in the latter category are choosing not to distinguish themselves from the former, so we don't draw an internal technical distinction either.]
  5. Pronouns: change the pronouns we use about you. E.g. "Name has set xyr photo to be private".
  6. Relationshiptype/Looking-for: what relationship you seek. Helpful for Ace (asexual) and Poly (polyamorous) people.
  7. How-to-date-me: explain your own needs and desires. Useful for Survivors who may wish to establish different norms.
  8. Profile text: everything else, including your personality and interests. Not everything in romance is to do with gender :-)
  9. Privacy and anonymity: if you are not "out", we will protect your privacy/identity as well as we can.

Technical: When Cupid originally wrote the site many years ago, he didn't know or understand sufficiently. Therefore, we have some outstanding bugs which we are working through. This technical section may also be of use to explain exactly how and why it works as it does. We ask for your understanding and patience. If you have a suggestion for how we could/should do this better, please do tell us. We do try to do the right thing; if we fail, it is because we need help to see better though the eyes of others.

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I've just joined...what do I do now?

Welcome to OxfordRomance.org.uk! You will have a great amount of fun here! There is an introduction to this site here, and further help is available on the rest of this page. Hopefully, everything is reasonably self-explanatory. You probably want to begin by clicking 'Edit' and filling in some details about yourself. Then, choose 'View profiles' to browse through the the headlines in each category. If you click on a person, you'll see their full details, and have the option to send them a message. Messages are sent through the site, and are optionally forwarded to the recipient by email. Your identity and email address are never visible to other members of the site.
Good luck...

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What should I write in my personal description?

The most important thing is that you do actually write a description - if you don't, you are far less likely to be messaged by other members. In the immortal words of 'Little Miss Leprechaun', "blankness begets blankness". Should you wish, you can later choose not to display the profile. Here are a few of our tips:

  • You should definitely describe yourself, what you like, what interests you, and what you are looking for: a paragraph or two is a good length. This is your chance to "sell" yourself, so don't be too modest! People usually want more details: to say "contact me and I'll tell you more", or to leave your description blank is not usually a very successful approach.

  • If you need inspiration, click the Inspire me! button. This will give you some suggestions.

  • If you have a sense of humour :), demonstrate it! The best approach is to make people laugh. Also, use Smileys if you like to convey expression. E.g.   :-)    ;-)    :-D    :-P   d8=   [These mean, respectively, Happy, Winks (devilish), Laughs, nyahhhh! (sticks out tongue) ,"Your pet beaver is wearing goggles and a hard hat." [more].

  • Do say what type of relationship you are looking for. You can use the "how to date me and make me happy" field to expand on this. Unconventional relationship types are also welcome; this is a good place to explain what you seek.

  • If what you say is tongue-in-cheek or ironic, it is usually a good idea to telegraph this fact with a smiley. Otherwise, people may read it literally. Think psychology!
    Women: if you write something risqué, even though you're just being flirtatious, the men will use their wishful thinking, and take you literally!
    Men: when girls write something risqué, they are usually just being flirtatious: don't take them at their literal word: that's wishful thinking!


  • It is unwise to include a phone number/email address/ICQ number initially. Messages through the site are far more secure.

  • The 'Either' category is intended for those seeking anything that doesn't exactly fit MsF, FsM, MsM, or FsF; the 'Other' category is for those who don't identify themselves as being cis-male or cis-female.

  • You may use HTML in your description. Also, if you include a photograph, you'll get far more responses. It is also worth adding perhaps 20-30 key-words or phrases to describe yourself: these are searchable. The "additional attributes" section contains some specific options - please fill in as much as you wish. The range of options is limited in order to facilitate matching, however feel free to suggest extra options.

  • You may find this guide to flirting (written especially for us, by flirt-coach Peta Heskell) helpful.

  • What not to do: UserFriendly demonstrates the perils of a generic profile.

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Why is it so important to write a personal description?

Whatever you do, write something about yourself, and what you are looking for. We cannot stress how important this is! Seriously, those people who "don't want to have a profile" are the very ones who would most benefit from doing so. Here's why:

  • "Blankness begets blankness". If you don't write anything, you'll miss out on all the interesting contacts. If you really adore puppies, how will another dog-lover find you, unless you say so? If you're a talented cellist, and someone is going to a concert, how would they find you to ask you on a date?

  • If you're just "window-shopping", you're likely to have some very dull conversations beginning with "Hi, tell me about yourself". You'll waste lots of time typing the same stuff! Put some of it in your profile, and cut to the chase.

  • Writing about yourself is a great way to filter potential contacts. For example, if you really can't stand heavy-metal, then perhaps you don't want to converse with a Goth; likewise if you smoke, an ardent non-smoker will be wasting his/her time setting up a date. OxfordRomance is designed to help you find a few really good matches, rather than lots of irrelevant ones.

  • OxfordRomance works for you 24/7, even when you aren't logged-in: other people browse profiles and search for keywords. Make it easy for them to find you!

  • You don't need to write a lot; it doesn't have to be perfect; you can always change it later. It's not your biography or your CV. Just say something.

  • Do say who and what you are looking for. For example, a common problem is that people receive overly suggestive messages. If that's not what you want, then say so, otherwise people will assume it's OK to ask.
    [Psychology being what it is, readers tend to mentally fill in the blanks!]

  • For some guidance on what to say, and some really helpful hints, see above, or use the template or inspire me button on the edit page. Now that we've convinced you, you probably want to go here...

  • Technical note: in order to guide new members when they first write their profile, we use the HTML5 "required" attribute on the most essential fields. The browser will only submit the form when these fields are filled in. There's no need for an essay; just a few words will do. Null-profiles are no good to anyone, least of all their owner.

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What is the policy on content?

  • Please avoid writing anything in your description (profile) that may cause offense. Please be aware that some members are more easily offended than others. If you feel something is offensive, please point it out to us, and we'll ask the author to modify it. Profiles may be seen by anyone, and must be decent and in good taste.

  • Messages are private, and what you write is entirely within the discretion of the correspondents. However, when writing messages, especially a first contact, please try to be sensitive to the context of the recipient. While it is acceptable to send 'robust' language to those whose profiles are along such lines, if the profile is not, then you should be sensitive about what you write.

  • Please note that we *will not tolerate* hate mail of any kind, and if requested, will act against the sender wherever possible.

  • Remember, this is a personals site. It is not for selling second-hand cars, lecture notes or Norwegian Blue ex-parrots. If your profile abuses our hospitality in this way, it will be deleted without mercy, and you will be blocked.

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Privacy, Anonymity, Security and Ettiquette


Privacy and Anonymity

  • Members of OxfordRomance.org.uk do not have access to each others' real names or email addresses. Except in the case of a complaint, we, the administrators, do not know either. (Although, if you give out too much information, people might guess.)

  • You can control exactly what information is visible to other members, depending on whether or not they are logged-in. You can also hide your profile from a specific friend or ex-.

  • We believe very strongly in protecting your privacy, but we will not allow abuse of this site. When accounts are closed, we do not retain the personal details of ex-members, such as their profile, photo, age, religion, or sexuality.
    However we do keep just a very few details, in case of abuse: [more].

  • Please read the the terms and conditions of use, and the information below on personal and computer security.

  • Cookies: we don't participate in any form of user-tracking (eg 3rd-party analytics, targeted-advertising, etc). While you are logged-in, we use a temporary session-cookie (PHPSESSID), which we discard after ∼ 24 minutes of inactivity.
    A session-cookie is a long, random number like: PHPSESSID=pea45p10bjcb6p3221; they are harmless, essential, and exempt from the EU cookie regulations.

  • We store only hashed, salted passwords, using pg_crypt().

  • The site itself is indexed by various search engines, such as Google. These can read, index, and archive any webpages that a (non-logged-in) human can see; we specifically request that pages containing profile data are not crawled, and so your profile cannot be found using a search engine. Messages (and non-public profiles) are only visible when logged in, so can never be indexed.
    All major search engines are well-behaved, and respect meta tags. We use "NOINDEX NOFOLLOW" on the personal pages (details.php, list.php, and search.php), to instruct Google, Yahoo, Archive.org etc not to crawl them. (Try it for yourself: do a site: search for part of your profile, and you won't find it.)

  • We support public-key encryption of messages: if you use this, the message plain-text is never transmitted to our server.
    Or, you can use GnuPrivacyGuard,or an off-the-record messaging protocol.

  • We use only secure (encrypted) connections to the website using https:// and wss://. Outbound emails are encrypted where possible.
    We select ECDHE SSL-ciphers to ensure perfect forward secrecy in browsers that support it. TLS encryption of email is supported by some mail-servers, but not all: test yours here.
    Of the EFF's web-encryption best practices, we get 5/5 correct. SSL Labs rate us an A+ for best SSL practice.


  • We host all our content ourselves: we don't use 3rd-party content-delivery networks (eg Google for hosting web-fonts). Likewise, we don't use the pervasive "Facebook Social" API.
    This avoids one more potential avenue for privacy-leakage; it also happens to improve reliability.

  • We welcome feedback, suggestions, researchers and scrutiny. If you think there is anything we can do better, tell us. If you want to know any other details, please ask.
    The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) recently wrote an article: "The Heartbreaking Truth About Online Dating Privacy". Of the 6 issues they raise, we get them all correct.

  • Caveat: Logfiles and database backups exist: we promise to be good with these, but we'd like to point out that they do exist (as is the case for practically every site on the Web). Also, though we hope to be worthy of your trust, you should know that the system-administrator of any website's server, including ours, can in principle read the clear-text traffic that flows through it.
    If anyone can suggest a technical workaround for any of these issues, please tell us: we think this problem is (logically) insoluble, but would be delighted to discover otherwise.

  • In the light of the recent (June 2013) revelations about the vast extent of US/UK government snooping (NSA/Prism, GHCQ/Mastering the Internet), we wish to express our horrified disgust: Orwell's 1984 was intended as a warning, not an instruction manual! To oppose this, please consider joining the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
    Although we do our absolute best to protect your privacy and your data, it is unlikely we can defend you against this, maybe not even with https; in particular, most email is being slurped up by the dragnet, and robots.txt and meta tags are ignored. Our site is hosted in a datacenter in Stevenage in the UK (so it is not subject to US law which has even weaker safeguards than the UK), and our Ubuntu system is open-source, which provides strong protection against official malware. We have never received any legal demands for data or censorship. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for improvement, please tell us.

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Safety and Security

Safety and security for the users of OxfordRomance.org.uk consists of two parts: personal safety (anonymity, arranging meetings) and computer security (passwords, spoofing etc).


Safety and Security - Personal

We are in consultation with, and have taken action as a result of recommendations from the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory's Security Group to give the best possible protection of members' anonymity and privacy. As a result, OxfordRomance is, by some margin, the strongest link in the security chain. Please see the disclaimer for the "small print". We would like to offer the following advice:

  • Nickname selection: be careful about the nickname you choose. If you choose a sexually provocative nickname be sure that you can deal with the type of messages you're likely to receive!

  • Your identity and email address are anonymous. They will not be revealed to other members of the site. However, if you reveal too much about yourself, it may be possible for people to guess.

  • Play it safe - be careful about the kind of information you give out and *never* give away any personal details such as your email address, last name, or phone number to strangers!
    Be wary of giving out de-anonymising information via "social engineering".  •   We recommend that you don't use the same photo here if you have published it elsewhere, as it is now possible to search the web by image file.

  • On a similar note, if someone shares personal information with you, which is not in their profile (for example, their college, course, photograph, or interests), please don't discuss this with other members of the site, as the person may wish to preserve their anonymity from others.

  • Don't believe everything you read - although we expect all members to use the service sensibly (those who do not will have their accounts deleted), the onus is on them to provide accurate information, and we have no way of checking unless you inform us.
    The vast majority of people are truthful and decent. However, a few are not.

  • Be careful when arranging meetings - be sure you feel comfortable meeting the type of person you are chatting to. Always choose a public place with which you are familiar, or invite a friend to join you!
    Good meeting places include coffee shops, restaurants, the theatre, or a college. Car parks, fields, and airports are a bad idea!

  • "Defensive dating" is like defensive driving: think and plan ahead; be aware of what might possibly go wrong. That way, you can relax and enjoy yourself, without taking any unnecessary risks. Tell someone you know where you are going and when you will be back. Consider setting up a code-word with someone whom you can call, in case the date turns bad. This code word will alert your friend that you are in trouble or uncomfortable with the situation. Never leave a drink unattended; don't allow your date to buy you a drink without your seeing it.

  • Communicate: when you meet in person, it is important to respect boundaries; be aware that, for some people, their limits/personal-space are much more cautious than others, and that not everyone has the same model of courtship. Communication is the key: remember to pay attention to, and listen to the other person, and, critically, remember that the other person is not telepathic: if you do feel uncomfortable, or you think that they might be, use your words. If you only send non-verbal "signals", they are rarely as obvious to the other person as you think they are. Obviously, "stop" means Stop!.

  • In the unlikely event that something bad does happen, please tell us. That way, we can stop it happening to someone else. We will kick people off the site, and block them from returning. We take a very strong line on abuse or harassment. Please report such cases promptly.

  • If you are no longer interested in someone you have met/chatted to, please tell them so directly. The other person almost certainly won't perceive a "subtle hint" if it's not what they want to hear. If they continue to contact you against your wishes, please do complain about it, and we will help.

  • Notwithstanding the above, meeting people on OxfordRomance is generally a very safe and pleasant experience. Because we know who people are, it's generally safer to meet people on here than to meet "random" people (for example, in a pub, nightclub, or even a college-bar).
    We insist that people join with a valid Oxford University email address ('.ox.ac.uk' or ), and there is always an identity trail, to prevent abuse by anonymous strangers. We do keep minimal logfiles and IP address records, even after accounts are closed.

  • To summarise: be wary, but don't be paranoid: have fun, but get to know the person in a public place first. Enjoy OxfordRomance.org.uk, and have fun, safely.

Safety and Security - Computer

Here are a few points about computer security. This is written for OxfordRomance, but it's applicable generally.

  • You should choose a good, strong password. This should not be a dictionary word as these can be easily guessed (it's easy for a computer program to test 20,000 words!) Don't reveal your password.

  • Don't let others have access to your computer, especially your email account. If they do bad things, you will get the blame, because it is assumed that you did it! Our signup-confirmation validates your identity by knowing that you are the only person who can read email sent to your address.

  • Log out of the site when you are finished. If you just allow it to time-out, you may no longer appear logged-in, but the next person to use that web-browser (for example, on a shared computer in a library or internet cafe) may be able to continue to be "you".

  • We restrict the HTML tags that people can use in profiles and messages for security reasons. Remote images and external links can be misused to obtain someone's identity - this is why they are not permitted. We aren't just being awkward!

  • You should be slightly wary of opening external webpages/images whose URL is included in someone's profile or message. If the webpage lives on a server that they control, then they could possibly log your computer's internet (IP) address, from which your identity may be derived.

  • We will lock your account if you enter the wrong password 9 times consecutively. This is just like a bank will do if you repeatedly type the wrong PIN. Contact Cupid if this happens to you.

  • Your browser must accept session cookies [test]. The session-cookie looks like "PHPSESSID=pea45p10bjcb6p3221". It stores your login credentials; it is discarded once you log out (or after ∼24 minutes if you don't log out.)

  • You may wonder why some of our error messages are vague. This is to prevent information leaks. For example, if you already have an account, and you try to sign up again, on screen you will be told that it succeeded; but by email, you will be informed that you already have an account. This prevents an attacker from finding out whether a given person has an account on the site or not. Likewise, if someone repeatedly tries to log in with an invalid email,password pair, the account will be locked, regardless of whether it actually exists!

  • HTTP transmissions are unencrypted (usually, so are emails), and could potentially be monitored by other computers on the network: this is unlikely, but you should be aware that it can happen. Unencrypted (open) Wi-Fi networks are far easier to 'sniff' than wired networks or secure (WPA) Wi-Fi: use Wireshark to see for yourself. You should use HTTPS instead.
    [Update: as of mid-2012, we exclusively use the encrypted (https://, wss://) protocols, and opportunistically encrypt outbound email (if the server can accept it).]

  • Some organisations deploy SSL “HTTPS Proxy Appliances" to snoop on personal web access within their systems. If you are using a web-browser on a system that you do not administrate (such as a corporate computer), then there is a possibility that your secure browsing actually isn't actually secret. We can't protect against this, but you can detect it. For more information, see GRC's article on SSL Fingerprints and compare what your browser thinks is our certificate's fingerprint, with our actual fingerprint.
    A rule of thumb is that, if you paid for the computer yourself, and downloaded the web-browser yourself, then you're probably OK; on the other hand users of centrally-administrated corporate computers are implicitly trusting the honourability of their system administrator not to apply a corporate monitoring policy (aka man-in-the-middle). Some proxy services (eg Opera Mini) do this for performance reasons; they are up-front about it, and it's your choice whether to trust them.

  • Some general advice for improved privacy online is given here, here, and here. A good start is to use a Free Operating System (if you can), an Open source browser (eg Firefox), Block ads and Flash by default (Adblock-Edge, FlashBlock), Enable "Do not track", and use a privacy-respecting search-engine (eg DuckDuckGo).

  • See also the section on Anonymity and Privacy.

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Why is there a box around messages and profiless?

The box which appears around the text of each message and profile on the site is not just there to look pretty.

Text enclosed in a box like this means that its contents are written by a regular user rather than by a administrator.

For example, an administrator will never tell you to log off in a message sent through OxfordRomance - if, as happens very occasionally, an administrator needs you to log off to administer the server, it will be announced in the banner at the top of the page. Also, just like a bank will never phone you up and ask your for your credit card details, no administrator will ever contact you asking for your e-mail address, password or any other personal details. [Such actions are known as "social engineering".] Please also read the FAQ on computer security.

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Etiquette

The "Netiquette" of using OxfordRomance is largely based on "Do as you would be done by." However, there are some things which are specific to an online forum, and which are worth mentioning:

  • This is a website for online romance. Thus, it is acceptable (and encouraged!) to ask people out. The fundamental design is that, if you like each other, you should be able to meet up in real life. Meeting people "offline" is normal, and there is usually very little cause to be wary of so doing.

  • Be direct and honest. If you are not interested in someone, please say so. It is simply a waste of time (yours and theirs) to converse with somebody you have no intention of ever meeting.

  • It is a paradoxical result of anonymity that it can sometimes allow much greater freedom to be honest. You will find that people speak very freely in most regards here. However, please do be sensitive to the type of person you are messaging. Do not write messages that are clearly inappropriate to the recipient.

  • Provided that a message is courteous, one ought to answer it! It is far better to send a reply on the lines "Sorry, I'm not interested", than to simply ignore an invitation to correspond. Nevertheless, don't necessarily expect answers to messages right away: people are sometimes busy, or have received a deluge of messages, and do not have time to reply properly to all of them.

  • If someone has not replied to your message, it is ok to send a single polite follow-up after a suitable period of time, perhaps a day. Be aware that they may not yet have logged in and read your original message. Alternatively, they may have simply not had time to respond, or have overlooked it. Some people do receive quite a lot of messages! [See also the faq on read-receipts.]

  • Since typed messages cannot convey the tone of voice in which they were written (smileys sometimes help here), both the author and recipient should be aware that some statements are ambiguous. This is especially true of irony without a ";-)". Don't type in ALL CAPITALS, because IT LOOK AS THOUGH YOU ARE SHOUTING. However, please try not to attribute to malice what can be explained by folly. Sometimes, situations can arise in which far more offense is taken than is intended.

  • Be careful when flirting. Sweeping generalisations notwithstanding, it's frequently the case that a woman writes something flirtatious (not expecting to be taken seriously); the man reads it literally (and takes it at face value). When he responds to what she said; she is upset, because he couldn't telepathically infer what she meant!

  • Rude behaviour is never acceptable. Be polite: remember that the other person is a human being, not a PHP script on a webserver. Those who are discourteous may be barred from the site without warning. If someone offends you, please tell them and they will usually apologise. However, please do report such behaviour to Cupid using the "Is this message rude or offensive?" link given on the right hand side below each message.

  • If you arrange to go on a date with someone, then don't fail to show up! If you change your mind, it's better to tell the other person, and cancel.

  • When you eventually leave the site (which we hope will be because you are riding off into the sunset!), you should send messages to your correspondents to say goodbye - and, where appropriate, to give your contact details. It is otherwise quite distressing for people to discover that a friend has suddenly evaporated!

  • Please also see the FAQ on acceptable behaviour. [You may also find the more general guidance of Emily Postnews to be of interest.]

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What constitutes acceptable behaviour?

Online, one's instincts for social norms are slightly hampered. This is partly due to the nature of the medium (in text, no one can perceive cues from e.g. body-language); partly because people are anonymous; and partly because, since this is a personals site, it is perfectly normal to "chat up" strangers. Fundamentally, the most important thing is to be polite, and to behave in the same way you would "in real life". Remember, you are talking to real people, with real feelings! Do as you would be done by.

Likewise, you have to use your judgement, and read the person's profile. If they say they are looking for 'flirtation and more...', then it's OK to 'flirt' back. If they are not, (or if the profile is empty), then you must not.

For example, consider the site as being like a virtual jazz club. It is the same as the real version in every way except two: talking to strangers is encouraged, and people (usually) have a description which you can read before you begin to talk to them. The threshold for approaching a stranger is much lower, but the person you are talking to is just the same as in "real life".

Note: It is not acceptable to send messages with random offers of sex, not even polite ones, unless the recipient's profile makes it very clear that she would appreciate such a message. You won't get a positive answer, but you will diminish her enjoyment of the site, and this in turn will reduce your chances. You may be kicked off for offensive behaviour. Should you receive such a message, please don't just assume it's normal. Such behaviour is unnacceptable; if it does happen, please do report it.

Offline interactions with people you meet here are outside of our control and supervision. However, anyone whose impeccable deportment on this site serves merely to mask less-than-perfect behaviour offline will be unwelcome to continue to enjoy our hospitality. Gentlemenly behviour is expected!

When you meet in person, it is important to respect boundaries; be aware that, for some people, their limits/personal-space are much more cautious than others, and that not everyone has the same model of courtship. Communication is the key... remember to pay attention to, and listen to the other person, and, critically, remember that the other person is not telepathic: if you do feel uncomfortable, use your words rather than hoping that your "signals" are being picked up, however obvious they may seem to you. Obviously, "stop" means Stop!.

You should also read the policy on content, the etiquette, and remember that obnoxious behaviour will be dealt with, usually by bannning the offender from the site.

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How do we deal with obnoxious behaviour?

We really hate to say this, but, now that the site is so large, it is almost inevitable that there are some instances of "inconsiderate" behaviour. We trust members of our site to be courteous, civilised and honest. All members are effectively our personal, albeit virtual guests, and we expect them to respect our hospitality! Regrettably, this trust is sometimes breached, for which we are very sorry. Because we cannot review each profile, (and your messages are private!), if something is offensive we will not necessarily know about it. That is why there is a link "Is this profile/message rude or offensive? Please tell Cupid" on each profile/message. (You can only see this if you are logged in.) Please do report things - we are a community, and it is in everyone's interest - the administrators will act as soon as we can. Fortunately, such instances are rare, and OxfordRomance should usually be highly enjoyable for everyone :-)

In the event that you receive an offensive message, we ask that you let us know as soon as possible. This is important - we can only act if you tell us, and otherwise a very few people can spoil things for everyone else. Please don't delete the message so that we have evidence. Ideally, please use the "Is this profile/message rude or offensive? Please tell Cupid" link, which will automatically preserve a copy. We will then, as quickly as we can, ask the sender for an explanation (we try to be even-handed); depending on their response, we will consider what action to take. As appropriate, we will ask the sender to modify their behaviour, or we will delete the offender's account and block them from the site. Once a member is barred from the site, then (unless we have made an error), the ban is permanent.

  • Unkind, obnoxious, hurtful or crude messages are not acceptable. The senders of such are likely to be barred.
  • If you see anything offensive in a person's profile, please tell us - we'll review it, and request that they modify it.
  • If a profile is misleading, false, or placed in the wrong category, the account will be terminated and the user will be permanently barred from using our site.
  • We also take a very dim view of pranks and "practical jokes", because they very often cause serious offense, even if "meant in fun".
  • We really despise hate mail, and will (if asked by the recipient), trace the sender: there are appropriate legal channels for doing so.
  • Bullying of any sort is intolerable - and will result in a ban. It can only continue if it goes unreported - so please, tell us if you see it happen.
  • In the extreme case, there is also a clear University policy on Harassment: at both university and college level.
  • Please see the legal bit for more details. You may also email us at: abuse@ruo3.org.

It is also possible for you to block messages from a particular person: please see how to decline.

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How to decline ?

Naturally, not everybody is compatible with everyone else. So, you may find that having met/chatted with someone, you no longer wish to continue. In this case, it is always better to be direct and say honestly "I'm sorry, I'm no longer interested", than to drop subtle hints or fail to respond. This is kinder to the other person, sparing them from hanging on in uncertainty; it also prevents you from being nagged because they assume you are just busy, and persist unaware.

  • If you receive an opening message from someone and you are not interested, it's best to decline. You can use a pre-written standard message for this purpose. (To do this, click the "Reply with standard message" link below the message; then edit if desired.)

  • If you receive a message which is obnoxious, harrssment, or inappropriately explicit, then please do complain to us about it.

  • It is also possible to block messages from a particular person. If blocked, that person will be unable to contact you again, and any messages (or pokes) they do send will be automatically discarded into your trash. The sender will not be informed that they have been blocked. To do this, click the link "Block future messages from [sender]" below the message concerned. Please remember, it is usually much better to tell the person if you are not interested, rather than to "killfile" them!
If you are simply receiving more messages than you can cope with, you may wish to become invisible in the top bar. You may also choose to accept messages only from people whom you already know, and have already corresponded with.

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But I didn't sign up - what's going on?

Occasionally, we receive perturbed emails from people who did not join OxfordRomance.org.uk but are surprised to discover that "they" have an account. Here are the possibilities:

  • Case 1 - New account notification email: If you receive an email with the details of your new account, and password, but did not request it, you can simply ignore it. Alternatively, log in using the details given, and delete your new account. Before an account can be activated, we confirm that it has been set up by the owner of the email address, by sending the password to that address. So such an account will never become active, and there is no cause for alarm. Usually this happens as a result of a typo (when someone else mistypes their similar email address); sometimes it is the result of a friend trying to sign you up.

  • Case 2 - An active account, in your name: If your account has been activated without your permission, this means that somebody was able to read your email, and discover your password. Most probably, you left your computer logged in and unattended, while a friend tried to do you a favour, or play a practical joke on you. Fortunately, the solution is simple: log in, take control of the account, and delete it if you wish. (If you need to retrieve the password, you can have it re-sent on the log-in page). You may also wish to change passwords on your computer, and email account, if you believe them to be compromised. Of course, since you're here anyway, we'd recommend you stay for a while to look around :-)

  • Case 3 - A spoof account, pretending to be you: These are almost always "practical jokes", but the email address used is not yours, and so you cannot control it. Of course, if the joker has used his/her own email address, it's easy for us to discover who they are. We will deal with this for you as soon as we can. For more information please see here.

A word to friends and would be practical jokers. If you want to encourage your friends to sign up, this is very laudable, but please recommend the site to them, rather than actually signing them up for an account. Would-be jokers, please refrain: such jokes inevitably fall flat, and the resulting complaint wastes a significant amount of time.

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Spam and viruses appearing to emanate from OxfordRomance

If you receive spam, or email viruses appearing to emanate from OxfordRomance or @ruo3.org, it isn't from us! The sender's address is being spoofed - and unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about this, except to warn you that if you get email with executable or zip attachments from "us", don't open them. The SMTP email protocol inherently trusts the sender to give their real address - unfortunately, this means that lying scumbag spammers and virus authors can fake the sender. It is common for compromised (virus-infected) computers to be used as spam relays, and usually, they scan the victim's address book for email addresses to set as the sender. Unfortunately, because so many people have received genuine email from us, and we are in their address books, that means that a lot of the spoofed email "comes from" us too. So please, just delete any such messages that you receive, and if you are one of the people with the misfortune to have a "trojaned" computer, please get it fixed before it sends out even more spam.

You can often identify the address of the real sender of an email by clicking on 'View -> Headers'. Their IP address will usually be visible as the first (lowest) entry under "Received:". You can trace IP addresses by doing a whois query. Genuine messages from us will contain our name and IP address within the received field: it will look something like this: Received: from ruo3.org (78.118.18.178.in-addr.arpa [178.18.118.78])

[An aside on email viruses: Outlook Express, especially on earlier versions of Windows, entirely deserves its reputation as a virus delivery agent, which happens to also act as a (not-very-good) email client. If you are stuck with MS Windows, please keep it patched, run antivirus software and a firewall, and use an email client such as Thunderbird or Eudora instead of Outlook. Ideally, you could switch to Linux instead.]

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What is a spam-block?

Since we don't especially enjoy the Internet version of a particular type of canned meat, we have munged our published email addresses to prevent them from being harvested by "spambots". This is done in one of 2 ways: either by requiring you to press a button (most spambots are not that intelligent), or by appending a version of "no spam please" onto the email addresses given: please simply remove it when you mail us. Sorry for the inconvenience.

[Trivia: "Mung" is defined by The Jargon dictionary as "Mash Until No Good." It later became a recursive acronym, meaning "Mung Until No Good."].

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Userguide: explanation of features


How does the email notification system work?

In the Edit your profile page, under 'Advanced Configuration Settings', there are 3 choices for email notifications:

  • "Forward messages to my e-mail address". If you choose this option, messages will be forwarded to your email address. [HTML formatting will be removed]. You still need to log in to reply to them. Please do not try to reply by email: it will not work!
    • Forward except when logged in means that messages sent to you while you are logged in won't clog up your email inbox.
    • Forward including when logged in means that every single message will be forwarded to you.

  • "Notify me once by e-mail if I receive messages.". This means that after you log off, the first time you get a message, we send an e-mail to you to let you know that you have new messages waiting. If further messages arrive, you will only be notified if it has been at least 24 hours since the last notification email, or if you have logged-in in the meantime. If you receive a message while you are logged in, you will also not be emailed (although you will see a message in the header at the top of the page). Therefore, it is important that you log out properly when you have finished.

  • "Rarely email me". We won't send you new message notifications, so you need to to log in to OxRo regularly to check whether or not you have received a message. However, we will still send you occasional items of OxfordRomance.org.uk news, and alerts.

There are some occasions where emails will be sent to everyone, whatever the value of this setting. These are:

  • Automatic reminders (approximately once a week) if you have a new, unread message which has remained unchecked (i.e. the message is more recent than your last login) for over a week. [If you selected "rarely email me", this delay is increased to 2 weeks.]
  • Automatic reminder if your account is about to expire (i.e. become inactive).
  • OxfordRomance.org.uk news and updates, sent occasionally to all members of the society.

You will not be notified by email if you receive an "uninteresting" system message such as "User X has deleted their account".

If you are not receiving any mail from us, please check the section Why am I not receiving email?.

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HTML formatting of profiles and messages

HTML formatting tags can be used to add variety to descriptions and messages, by changing colour/style/layout, adding smileys: , and àçcéñtèd characters. Tags can either be entered directly (e.g. "<b>bold text</b>" ) or, for the most common ones, use the HTML "widget" (click the B button). Accented characters are entered like "&eacute;". Use the spell-checker to preview your HTML.

The HTML guide has an explanation of HTML, a complete list of possible tags and smilies, and a test area. All invalid tags will be rendered as literal plain text.

Tags:<b>  <i>  <u>  <strong>  <em>  <sup> ; <sub>  <strike>  <s>  <pre>  <tt>  <big>  <small>  <font (attributes: face, color, size)>  <h1> - <h6> (attribute: align)  <hr>  <br>  <p (attribute: align)>  <center>  <blockquote>  <ul>  <ol>  <li>
Smileys:<smile>  <laugh>  <happy>  <grin>  <sun>  <glasses>  <heart>  <heart2>  <hug>  <wink>  <tongue>  <frown>  <sad>  <surprise>  <shock>  <annoyed>  <mad>  <devil>  <dizzy>  <sleepy>  <bed>  <jester>  <party>  <birthday>  <xmas>  <pumpkin>  <rose>  <cat>  <cat2>  <cat3>  <dog>  <tux> 

Photographs may be uploaded and stored on our server; you can then choose whether to embed them in your profile.

Note: certain tags cannot be used, because they pose potential security risks. For example, </table> (breaking out of the user-content area), <mailto:> (email), <img> (image), <script> (javascript) or <a> (links). These tags will be treated like pseudo-tags (eg '<irony>') and rendered in plain-text. For more details, see the HTML guide.

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Photographs

A Photograph can be displayed with your profile if you wish. This is a great way to stand out from the rest, whether you are male or female. In the words of one female member of the site:

"Since the photo has been up, S[...] has indeed been a very popular girl...I recommend it to anybody who wants quick results. It also serves as a good screening mechanism (the guys who have been replying have, on the whole, been a LOT more attractive than the ones before I posted the photo!)"

Furthermore, in a recent poll on this site, only 5 out of 463 members (1.3%) selected the option that "physical attraction is irrelevant to me".

People who have photographs are denoted by a "camera" icon next to their nickname in the list of profiles:

has photo - This person's profile has a photograph, and it is visible to you. (Hover over icon for preview)
has photo, not visible - This person has uploaded a photograph, but it is not visible to you. You can see it on request.

Photo privacy: in a poll, 205 out of 463 (44.3%) asked for the option to restrict photographs to other members, other members with photographs, or to specific other people. We did as you asked, and so once it is uploaded, you can choose who may see your photograph. The options (in the settings page) are:

  • All: everybody, even if they are not logged in (this gains you the most attention).
  • Members: other logged-in members of OxRo (non-members cannot see you; this is the default).
  • Mutual: other members of OxRo who also display a photo. (encourages other people to "play fair").
  • Private: only those people you send it to (you can enclose your photo with any message).
  • Hidden: nobody (this is as if you had never uploaded a photograph).

If the photograph is private or mutual, then you will have an option to "attach" it to messages you send through the site. Tick the "Include my photograph with this message" the checkbox on the sendmessage page to attach your photo.

The photo visibility setting also controls whether or not you appear in the photo gallery, and who can see your photo there. Your photo is a part of your profile, so if your profile itself is set to be non-displayed, then the photo will not be shown.

Photos hosted on OxfordRomance are always excluded from search-engines, however, if you have used the same profile picture elsewhere, you should know that it's possible to search the web by image file.


Details: please see the photograph upload page. Photos must be approved before posting: here's why. Uploading multiple photos isn't currently possible (it's planned soon). However, you can combine several pictures into a single composite montage.

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Key-Words

Key-words allow people to search through profiles, looking for things you have in common. It's also a good way to mention all the random things that you didn't write into your profile because they are unrelated to each other, and would disturb the flow of your prose! Your keywords can be searched by other people, and will appear below your profile.

If you have keywords in common, they will be highlighted in bold. Please enter keywords and phrases separated by commas. (The order is unimportant: the keywords will be sorted alphabetically). For example: "raindrops, roses, kittens, copper kettles, warm wollen mittens, brown paper packages, string".

Keywords are also searchable, so, for example, if your profile mentions that you like cats, include 'cat' as a keyword too. It's OK to duplicate information.
The Keyword comparison is quite clever: it knows that 'kitten' and 'kittens' are the same, and that a 'Dog' is also a 'dog'. But it doesn't know that an 'Echidna' is similar to a 'Hedgehog', nor that if you 'skydive', you have survived the experience of 'skydiving'.
When you view your own profile, you will notice that all your keywords are in bold, because you (the viewer) have keywords which all match yourself (the profile).

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Organising messages

  • Message boxes. You have 3 message boxes, namely Inbox, Sent, and Trash. You can move messages between them, and also (permanently) delete messages. Your message boxes are listed like this:
    Inbox (5, 73)                    i.e. 73 messages, of which 5 are unread.
    You can choose certain messages by ticking the 'Select' boxes, or by clicking 'Select All'/'Select None'; these selected messages can then be processed by clicking 'Move to trash', 'Delete', or 'Send to me by e-mail'. The latter concatenates the messages of your choice and forwards them to you in a single email .

  • Flags. You can flag and unflag messages as a way to mark them for your attention. For example, you may mark a message flagged Flagged to remind yourself to re-read it, or reply to it later. Messages which are not flagged are shown thus: Unflagged. Click on the flag icon to change its state. (For greater clarity, the message boxes show to mean "no flag is set", and Unflagged to mean "you just unflagged this".)

  • Correspondence. If it is "your turn to reply" to a person, this icon is shown: 'Reply owed', just like the correspondence page.

  • Status. The status field for a message contains information about what happened to it, passing through (some) of the following states:
    Received messages: New -> (Read) -> Replied -> Deleted
    Sent messages: (Sent) -> Reply received -> Deleted
    Note: 'Replied' means "you replied to the other person"; 'Reply received' means "they replied to you".
    Note2: As with email, there is no way to find out whether the other person has read your message.

  • Threading. This is a way to follow the sequence of a conversations. Some messages contain "Threading" information (with the quote icons). Links to 'earlier message' and 'response' are for the sequence of a conversation; and are not necessarily chronological. (The ordinary 'Next message' and 'Previous message' links are in strict chronological order.)
    Note that if you delete a message, threads attached to it will 'break'. For example, the original message's status will still be 'Replied', but instead of a link to read the (deleted) reply, it will appear crossed out like this: response.
    If you reply more than once to a given message, the thread 'branches', and the 'response' link takes you to the most recent one.

  • Quota. We do not impose a quota on the number of messages you can store, but we do ask you to delete old messages - this keeps everything running smoothly, and also means that your Inbox will load much faster. The easiest way to empty your trash is to go to Messages->Trash, click 'Select all', and then click 'Delete'. If you have very many messages, you may need to click 'View all messages at once' before 'Select all'.

  • Deleting messages. Please note that you will be asked for confirmation before (permanently) deleting mail. Also, unread messages will never be deleted from your inbox, unless you first send them to the trash. (You can delete your sent-mail without reading it, though).

  • Blocked messages. Messages from a blocked sender will be delivered directly into your trash. They will have a status of 'Blocked, Unread'.

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Correspondence with one particular person

The correspondence page allows you to review your entire correspondence with a particular person, ordered chronologically. You can also have this thread emailed to you, or move the entire correspondence with a person into the trash.

In order to help you keep track of messages, your correspondents are highlighted when it is "your turn" to write back, i.e. the most recent message in your correspondence with them was sent by them, not from you. The icon used is a tennis ball: 'Reply owed'.

Note, the correspondence page only displays (and counts) messages in your inbox and sentbox, but not your trash. However, it does check your trash when calculating whether it's "your turn" to write back. (Once you have permanently deleted a message, the correspondence page no longer knows about it).

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Reply-quoting in messages

In the course of a detailed conversation, it is often useful to be able to quote all, or part of the previous message in your response. To do this automatically, please choose the link "Reply, quoting original message " on the read-message page. This will pre-load a copy of the original message into the message-editing form, after indenting it using '>'. You can then delete the lines (or parts of lines) which you don't want to quote, and insert your reply. When you send the message, the server will automagically interpret which lines are new, and which ones are quoted; it will then format the original parts differently, leaving your additions unaltered. In order for the server to know this, please assist it by ensuring that every block of your new text is separated from the quoted blocks by at least one blank line.

There are two different options for reply quoting: "conventional" quoting and "re-flowed" quoting. The message-editing stage (which you see) is identical, but the server's automagical re-formatting of the original part of the text (for the message recipient) is different:

  • Conventional quoting, wraps the lines of quoted text at 80 characters, and use multiple levels of '>' for indentation. This is the same way that email works: it is very precise, but can be ugly.

  • Re-flowed quoting prevents line-wraps, and removes all the '>>'. It is simpler and clearer, but it shows only one level of conversation "history".

When you compose your reply, the only thing to remember is to put the blank lines between the new and the old text. It isn't necessary to manually re-wrap the quoted text after editing it. (If you use html, avoid '<font>' and do not break a tag over a line. Also, don't insert stray '<' or '>' characters). Here is an example:

  • This is what you might write in the message-editing form:
    > This is an original part of the message.
    > So is this line

    Now, I am inserting my reply (Note - there is a blank line on
    either side of this reply.)


    > Here is some more of the original


    And here's another reply...
    Hopefully, that all makes sense!
  • Here is how it will appear to the recipient, if you have chosen conventional quoting:
    > This is an original part of the message.
    > So is this line


    Now, I am inserting my reply (Note - there is a blank line on
    either side of this reply.)


    > Here is some more of the original


    And here's another reply...
    Hopefully, that all makes sense!
  • Here is how it would appear with re-flowed quoting (note the differences in how the original text is presented):
    This is an original part of the message. So is this line

    Now, I am inserting my reply (Note - there is a blank line on
    either side of this reply.)

    Here is some more of the original

    And here's another reply...
    Hopefully, that all makes sense!

Note 1: if you forget the blank lines above/below your message, the server will guess that the edge lines are part of the original, not the reply.
Note 2: HTML tags are removed from the quoted text. So when you reply-quote someone, all of their original formatting is removed. (You can still add tags to your reply.)
Note 3: for convenience, the 'Reply' links automatically default to re-flowed quoting (unless you choose 'unquoted').

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Encrypted messaging

Introduction

On every system that exchanges messages/email, the users must implicitly trust the administrator of that site (and of all the network devices and ISPs en-route) to respect their privacy, and not to read their messages. Snooping on messages is deeply unethical, and we recoil at the idea. We don't do it, [except when specifically asked to intervene by the recipient if a message is reported as offensive], and we think we are worthy of your trust. But it's a power we are reluctant to have, and don't want, not even in principle. We believe in protecting your privacy... but you shouldn't have to just take our word for it: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? The solution is to use public-key cryptography: (specifically PGP, implemented by GPG).
Messages are encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the recipient: our site then has no access, not even in principle, to the private text of your conversation.
Likewise, if your messages are forwarded to your email account, that mail-server cannot read them. Encryption protects your privacy with mathematics, not just law and personal morality.

This is rather technical! If you do take no action, everything will work normally: the site will behave exactly as it always has, and you just won't be using the optional encryption feature.
For most people, most of the time, you just don't need to worry about this: your private messages are perfectly well protected even without encryption. PKI is a way to iron-clad your privacy, not a requirement.
Typically, messages on this site are confidential, but not "super-secret". Encryption could be important in conversations between people who choose to keep their sexuality private (i.e. are not "out").

Sending encrypted messages

Sending encrypted messages is simple: just use the "encrypt" button on the send-message page. This option appears when someone has configured their profile for inbound encryption.
Before sending the message, remember to save a local copy of the plaintext (on your own computer) if you want to keep it.
Once the message is encrypted, only the recipient can decrypt it; nobody else can (not even the original sender). This means that your sent-box/correspondence will contain only the encrypted text, not your original message. (We could change that, but it would then defeat the whole point: though the recipient's copy of the message would be secret, we'd be able to access access the sender's unencrypted copy!). [In the case where both parties have public keys on the site, this problem is solved, by encrypting a copy for both parties].  • Don't use the spell-checker: it sends the uncencrypted text across the network (though it isn't stored by us).  • Optionally, you can use the recipient's public key and your own copy of GPG, and copy-paste the encrypted text.

Receiving encrypted messages

To enable your account for receiving encrypted messages, just add a (dedicated) public key on your settings page (see instructions below).
Note that certain features of the site are incompatible with encrypted messaging: notably reply-quoting and HTML-formatting; it also means your correspondents won't have convenient access to their sent-messages.

Technical Details

GPG instructions:
• First, install GNU Privacy Guard: this is free software, downloadable for Linux/Windows/MacOS. Look at the instruction manual.
• Create a public-private key pair with GPG: gpg --gen-key. You should create a dedicated key-pair for your use of OxfordRomance.org.uk, even if you already have one. Your user-ID for the key can be seen by everyone, so we recommend that you use: "Your OxRo Nickname (OxfordRomance) <your_oxro_nickname@example.com>", so as not to reveal your personal details.
Email addresses "@example.com" are intentionally un-routable, so you can use them disposably. If you choose to use your real email address, that's fine (if it's intentional): it will allow you to sign the keys with a keyserver, but you'll lose pseudonymity.
• Once you have a private key, export it in asci-armored format: gpg --armor --export. It should look like this:
• Then, save the key in your settings. (You can remove it later by deleting the key). We'll share it with anyone who wants to send you an encrypted message.
• Don't lose your private-key, or you'll never be able to decrypt your messages.
• To manually encrypt a message: import their key, encrypt the message, and copy-paste the ciphertext into the send-message box. Remember to keep your own local copy if you want, because your OxRo sentbox will only contain ciphertext, which nobody but the recipient can decrypt.
• To decrypt messages, use gpg --decrypt --no-mdc-warning. (the modification detection code isn't supported by the javascript library we used).
• Recommendation: test everything in correspondence with yourself.

Theory:
Public-key encryption, with current versions of GPG and algorithms is unbreakable [as far as anyone knows: if you could find a way, you'd probably win a Nobel prize for mathematics]. But the system is only as good as the implementation; here's what you need to consider:
• Because your identity is pseudonymous, you have to delegate key distribution to us. That means that we could, technically, engage in a man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting, decrypting, and re-encrypting text. You have to trust us to pass on the same public key that you provide to us... of course, feel free to verify this for yourself at any time.
• When you provide a public key, this contains a textual identifier, such as "NAME (COMMENT) <email@address>". You should create a dedicated key-pair just for your use on this site, and not include your real-name or email-address. Otherwise, you are giving out your personal information to everyone (which is OK if you want to do it, but don't do it by mistake!). On the other hand, if you do use a widely-known key, which you publish on a keyserver, this can mitigate the MITM problem. If you use this key elsewhere, people can google for it, so it "leaks" information.
• We still know who you are, and which members you choose to communicate with. Your profile (necessarily) remains unencrypted, and visible to other members.
• PGP is a perfect system for secure communication between two people who already know each other, and have physically exchanged keys. We're using it between two initially unknown, anonymous contacts: in this context, it's good, but not perfect (see above).
• Assuming that you trust us, we can guarantee forward-secrecy, protection of the server and backups (even against theft of the physical server), and security against snooping (aka "lawful-intercept").
• Our in-browser PGP encryption is based on this: feel free to view-source to see the javascript we use.
• Encryption using Javascript in the message form (rather than explicitly using GPG and copy/paste) has some further caveats: use your own copy of GPG if you wish.
• Note that our server only ever stores a single copy of messages: a given chunk of text is stored once, and only the metadata is duplicated between sender and recipient. So we don't store an encrypted copy for the recipient, and an unencrypted copy for the sender! [If we have public keys for both parties, the text is encrypted once for each.]

What are the catches?
• There is a trade-off between security and convenience. If you use encryption, the sender must perform the extra step of encryption, and the recipient must decrypt.
• Senders must keep a separate copy of your sent messages: once you've encrypted them with someone else's public key, you cannot decrypt them again. [If we also have the sender's public key, this problem is resolved, by encrypting for the sender too.]
• Some features of the site will work slightly less well: automatic reply-quoting, spell-checking, and HTML message-formatting will break, and the correspondence feature will be awkward to read (especially for sent-messages).
• If you receive an offensive encrypted message, you needn't reveal your private key to report it; selectively reveal a single one-time message key with gpg --show-session-key; gpg --override-session-key {key}.
• If you lose your private key, you can't (ever) decrypt the text.
• Adding a public key is just a request to the sender that they encrypt the message; they may choose not to do so.
• If we (in future) write a text-search feature, this won't be able to search within encrypted text.

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Spell checking

For your convenience, there is a spell-checker. To use this, click on the link "check spelling" that appears next to the text-input for a profile or message. This will cause a new window to pop up, containing the text of your original message, with the errors highlighted. When you have read this, close the new window, and return to the text you were editing. For example: .

If you are having difficulties, please note that the new window requires Javascript [test] to be enabled in your browser. Also, some broken pop-up blockers block pop-up windows even when you have explicitly requested them by clicking on a link. If you manually attempt to open this in a new tab/window, it won't work. The spell-checker also acts as a preview, to help validate any HTML tags you include. The spell-checker is set to British English, and is occasionally wrong!

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How does the Invite system work?

This is great fun (and the piece of code of which we are most proud :-) ). If you have a crush on someone, but don't want to tell them just yet, use the invite system. This invites them to join OxfordRomance.org.uk - they will receive an e-mail saying that somebody (they will not be told who...) has invited them to join. It is exactly like sending a Valentine's card, but the recipient has a chance to respond to the anonymous sender by sending you messages on the site. The way that this works is that an anonymous communication channel is set up between you when they reply - not even your OxfordRomance nickname is revealed. [show maths]. You can include a short message with the invitation, if you like. Good luck, and enjoy....
N.B. Your invitee must have a '.ox.ac.uk' email address. For more information, click Invite.

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How does the LoveWeb work?

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For more information, click LoveWeb. This is a centralised "flirt register" of who fancies whom. If a match ever occurs, we put you in touch. If you list someone who is also a member of OxfordRomance, they will be notified "someone fancies you", but they will NOT have any way to identify who fancies them, except by listing the people who they themselves fancy. [show maths].
Note: To use the LoveWeb, both you and the object of your desire must have an email address ending in ''.ox.ac.uk''. It is to your advantage to sign up with your most obvious email address, if you have more than one.

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What's the difference between the Invite system and the LoveWeb?

One is a game, the other isn't. If you Invite someone, then they are always notified (non-members are emailed), and they can reply to you. If you use the LoveWeb, then you both have to correctly guess each other before any contact can be made. Also, the Loveweb only notifies current members of OxfordRomance, or those who subsequently join; it does not send out emails. So, flirt with the LoveWeb; send flowers with the Invitations !
Update: There is now also the Valentine Code which is for writing into actual Valentine's cards.

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What is the Valentine's Code?

This is a one-time code for writing into Valentine's cards. Have you ever received a Valentine's card where, despite wanting to, you couldn't guess the sender? Then this is for you.

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How does the (magnetic) Photo Gallery work?

The Photo Gallery
Some people belive in "love at first sight", and this is for them. The photo gallery contains pictures of all current members of OxfordRomance.org.uk. who have uploaded photographs; simply browse through the pictures. Remember, though, that not all people choose to display a photo, and you may find some very interesting people in the list of members or by searching.

  • Your photograph settings control whether you appear in the gallery; likewise, in order to view the gallery, you must have a photo with at least 'mutual' visibility.
  • Click on a person's nickname to view their profile (in a new window). Firefox users should middle-click for a new tab.
  • For the curious: the ordering of photos within the gallery is random, yet persistent. If you keep clicking 'Next', you will see every photo exactly once, but the ordering is random.

The Magnetism feature

Magnetism is that ethereal quality of mutual attraction that initially draws people together. Thus, the magnetic photo gallery provides a way to test for mutual attraction. For each person, you can decide yes/no/maybe as you browse through the gallery.

People can also see who has said 'yes' to them, but they cannot see who has said 'no' to them (by design, a 'no' is indistinguishable to the viewee from someone having simply not looked at their photo yet, [show maths]).

There are a few different icons used: here is a key:
magnet The other person is "magnetically-attracted" to you i.e. has said 'yes'.
magnet with keeper Mutual attraction: you have both said 'yes' to each other. What are you waiting for?
yes You have said 'yes' to the other person. (click the image to cycle yes/no/undecided, and its border will be highlighted appropriately.)
no You have said 'no' to the other person. Note that they can't distinguish between your 'no' and 'undecided'.
undecided You haven't yet decided about the other person (you don't have to tick either box if not sure).

Filters can be used to show only specific cases, e.g. click 'attracted, undecided' to view only those people who have already said yes to you, and whom you now need to consider.

Magnet icon in profile: If someone has said 'yes' to you, then the "magnet" icon will appear in their profile when you view it (this is private: it only appears when you are the one looking at their profile.)

Notifications are not sent out when you click 'yes' to someone (though this may change). They must either look at the magnetic gallery page, or view your profile to find out. Notifications will never be sent out when you click 'no' to someone.

Tooltips are frequently used: if an icon or link seems unclear, hover the mouse over it for an explanation. Try it here.

Credit: The modification of the photo gallery into the magnetic one was inspired partly by www.HotOrNot.com.

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Real-time chat

The chat system allows real-time chat between members of OxfordRomance. Click the "Chat" link and a new window will open, containing the chat program. You should then see a chat area which is gray - at the bottom is a bar into which you can type. You will be able to invite other people who are online to join you by clicking on their names. If you can't see everything, please scroll down!

  • Chats are not recorded - if you would like to preserve a copy, please copy and paste it somewhere.
  • Also, you will "time-out" in the main site after 20 minutes of inactivity - but please do not forget to log out when you leave.
  • Note that cats are not visible in the online list, hence they cannot be the recipient of a chat invitation.

Technical: The chat system uses Websockets, a feature natively included in all recent browsers: test.

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Poking and Tickling

What's a Poke?
No, we don't know what it means to 'poke' someone, any more than Facebook do. We do, however, let you arbitrarily Verb people. The link to poke/hug/tickle/verb a person is located on the same page as their profile. Pokes do trigger email notifications, just like normal messages.

What's a Poke War?
A poke war is the online equivalent of a pillow fight. You can normally only poke someone twice in a day, unless they reciprocate, in which case, you may indulge in poke-warfare. Scores will be kept.

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Public discussion and debate

This is based on the discussion forum at Slashdot, although it is much more basic. The aim is to allow members of OxfordRomance.org.uk to publicly discuss a topic. These topics are currently chosen by Cupid (although suggestions are welcome), and the principal aim is to obtain your feedback, suggestions and ideas as to how we can make the site even better for you! Please contribute your thoughts!

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Advanced tips for using OxfordRomance

Here are a few tips that may make OxfordRomance easier for you to use:

  • Stealth Mode/Fluffy Mode: In stealth mode, the pink banner, the OxfordRomance logo, and the flowers are all hidden. This is useful for discretion if you are at a public terminal! We also recommend text-mode web-browsers for this. [NEW: secret mode: by making the text contrast very low, it is much harder for someone to read over your shoulder from a distance. It is based on the fact that dark on pale is easy to read from afar and pale on dark is easy to read from close up.] To change mode, click the link on the left hand side of the page; you can set this permanently on the Edit page. You can also directly login to stealth mode at https://www.ruo3.org/ox/stealthlogin.php. Note that Stealth Mode has nothing to do with visibility.

  • The top right contains links to the people who are currently logged in, and it is very tempting to focus all your attention on them. This is generally not a good idea, because usually they are in the middle of a conversation with someone else! It is better to respond directly to the profiles of people who are not logged in at that moment, because you are more likely to get a reply. This "rule" has its exceptions.

  • When viewing the profiles, if you click list of all members, you will see a list of ALL current active members, not just those who have created a profile. You can send them messages.

  • When viewing profiles by category, they are normally shown in a random order. However, you can change this by clicking on "last logged in", "nickname", "age" or "most recently updated". The reason for this randomness is so that the people who logged in in the last few days don't get all the attention - it's not fair!

  • When you are logged in, you can see if you have new messages by looking in the top right of the screen. This status is updated each time you request a new page. You can also refresh the home page by clicking the OxfordRomance logo on the top left. Alternatively, you can use the Autocheck function.

  • Often, an image or link has an associated tooltip: hover the mouse over it for a few seconds, and you will get an explanation of what it does, or some more information. [Try it here.]

  • When replying to messages, if you use the reply quoted link, you can view the original message while you are writing a reply to it. You can then delete the quoted part if you don't want to include it in your message.

  • The URL of the site is http://oxfordromance.org.uk OR https://ruo3.org/ox. Alternatively, https://ruo3.org. This will always work. (At the moment, the server is located at www.ruo3.org. There have been other, temporary URLs. So if you are having problems, you are using the wrong URL.)

  • The site is designed to be browser agnostic - and is widely tested (Lynx, Links, Mozilla, Firefox, Chrome, Konqueror with/without cookies/javascript.) We recommend the Firefox web browser.

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Changing the style of OxfordRomance

  • New shoes, new hat, new scarf, and a new style for OxfordRomance to match! You can change the look-and-feel of the site by choosing Change style in the menu.

  • If you particularly like a certain style enough, you can personalise it as your default for every time you log in: this is controlled on the Edit page.

  • Styles include: 'Fluffy Mode', 'Claret', 'Stealth Mode', 'Jazzy Style', 'Chocolate Flavour', 'Rose pink', 'Aqua', 'Pop Style', 'Unix Terminal', 'A Random style', 'Secret (obscure)', 'Mobile Device Mode'.

  • Some styles have special functions, while others simply look pretty. For example, Stealth Mode is designed to make your display less recognisable to passers by in a public computer room; Secret Mode is designed to make it hard to read over your shoulder; Mobile Device Mode is for PDAs, Androids, Smartphones and Zauri with small displays.

  • In some web browsers, you can change the style by selecting 'Use style(sheet)' from the 'View' menu.

  • If you would like to add your very own style, (or perhaps you just have better colour sense than Cupid!) please download the fluffy stylesheet and the style test page, change it, and send it to us. If we like it, we'll make it available to everyone!

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Top Right: How do I become Invisible? Busy? What's all this about felines?

Normally, when you log in, your name will appear listed in to top bar. The advantage of this is that people are likely to strike up conversations with you. The disadvantage of this is that people are likely to strike up conversations with you!

Naturally, everyone wants to be talked to, and there is a lot to gain from the serendipity of chatting to people at random. But the problems with real-time conversations, especially if your category is outnumbered, is that there is a lot of pressure. Some people receive more messages than they can respond to, and are prevented from writing fewer, longer messages to the people in whom they are most interested, or having the time to search the profiles properly. Essentially, it turns the site from 'E-mail-like' to 'Instant Messaging'. As a result, we decided to make this customisable for each user: you can change the settings from the 'visibility' option in the left-hand menu. There was a lengthy discussion about this, which you can read more about here.

  • Invisibility: if you wish other members not to know that you are logged in, please change your visibility setting to 'invisible'. At this point, you will 'disappear from the radar' of other members. In turn, you will not be able to see them: this is only fair. (Administrators cannot become invisible, and can always see everybody.) A further consequence of 'Cat' mode is that you are not visible in the list of invitable members in the chat-applet: thus you can join a chat yourself, but you cannot be invited into one. Cat-mode can also be selected as a 'custom login option'.

  • Busy: if you wish to be denoted as 'busy', your name will appear without a link (but with a tool-tip, when you hover the mouse over it, like this: [Nickname]). 'Busy' people are listed as being online, but this denotes that they are already responding to messages, as opposed to seeking a new chat. The "Busy" setting reverts to normal when you log out and back in again. If another person is denoted as 'busy', of course it doesn't mean that you mustn't talk to them; it merely indicates that they are already involved in a conversation or in replying to their correspondence.

Why are we talking about Cats? Well, we needed a name to describe people who are present, but move around silently and unobserved. This is a perfect description of a feline! We did consider "ghosts", but they aren't as cute. And, apologies to dogs, but wonderful though dogs are, subtlety is not their strong point.

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What do the icons (Flag, Quotation, Tennis Ball, Magnet, Champagne,...) mean?

We use some icons to show message status etc. These all have an explanatory tooltip, which appears when you hover the mouse over it: [Try it: ].
In stealth/secret/mobile modes, the icons are replaced by simpler versions, such as [F] or *.

Icon Alternative Meaning
Flagged , Unflagged [F] This message is/isn't flagged. You can choose which messages you want to flag: click on the flag icon to change it.
Tennis ball: reply owed [R] "The ball is in your court": it's your 'turn to reply' to this person.
threadedthreadthreaded ... This denotes a thread of conversation: go to an earlier, or later message in the sequence.
threadedbrokenthreaded ... This denotes a broken thread: the next/previous message in the chain has been deleted.
horse-shoe magnet [M] This denotes that the person is "magnetically" attracted to you.
horse-shoe magnet with keeper [M+] Magnet with iron bar: this denotes that the attraction is mutual. (Can you tell that this was chosen by a physicist?)
champagne glass [@] This denotes that the person is listed with an invitation or a request in the May Ball section.
has photo, not visible [c] This denotes that the person's profile has a photo, and that you are able to see it. (Hover over this for a preview)
has photo, not visible [?] This denotes that the person's profile has a photo, but that it is private, and you must request to see it.
no file This denotes an error: the expected photograph file cannot be located. It shouldn't normally happen.

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Help! I'm getting more messages than I can cope with!! What can I do?

It's great that people are interested in you, but sometimes good fortune can also be problematic: itt can at times be very difficult to cope with a large volume of messages, so here are a few things you can do. If you are writing to someone who is in this situation, please read the following to understand the setting they have chosen. Options:

  • Write a more descriptive profile. This should clarify what you are looking for, and should help to ensure that you receive fewer, but more relevant messages.
  • Organise your messages by flagging the ones you want to look at again. Ruthlessly delete anything else!
  • Become invisible, so that people cannot tell when you are online. This has its advantages and disadvantages.
  • Decline messages from people you do not wish to chat to. This is how.
  • Opt to accept new messages only from existing correspondents. See below...
  • Take a break, and temporarily hide your profile.

If you wish, you can choose to correspond only with people you already know; other people will be unable to contact you. This is far from ideal, but it is a much better alternative to rushing away entirely because of the volume of new messages. You have 3 options, controlled by the "Do you welcome new messages from everyone" setting here. These are:

  • 'Yes, permit all'. This is the default case: all messages will be accepted. We strongly suggest you leave this setting unless you are feeling deluged!

  • 'No, restrict'. In this case, only people with whom you have already corresponded will be able to send you messages. Everyone else will receive an error message "Sorry, [Nickname] is not accepting new correspondents", and an explanation. This is, ideally, an option you should not need to use!

  • 'Just one message of introduction'. This is not quite as severe as 'No': new people are not turned away immediately. They receive the notice "Note: [Nickname] is only accepting a single message of introduction" and an explanation. This effectively gives them just the one chance to impress you; unless you write back, they will be unable to send you further messages.

These settings do not effect your existing correspondents who are able to write to you as normal. If you are receiving messages from them, and are not interested, you should decline.

For the curious, here are some fine details, which you can safely ignore. Correspondents (for these purposes), are considered to be anybody to whom you have ever sent, or from whom you have received a message. If any copy of the message remains on the system (even in your trash, or in their trash), it counts. If you are accepting 'Just one message', then if they have sent you exactly one message [only messages within the last 6 months count], they cannot send more; if they have sent none, they get one chance to impress; if they have sent more than one, they count as a correspondent and can continue to write. However, once all copies of a message have been permanently deleted (by both sender, and recipient), the server no longer knows it ever existed. [In contrast, the correspondence page only cares about your own copies of the messages.]

Administrators are, necessarily, unaffected by this restriction; they also cannot reject messages. This setting does not apply to channels. There is one slightly odd consequence, which occurs if you switch from 'No' to 'Just one', or vice-versa: anyone who has sent you exactly one message, and to whom you have not replied, will find that their permission to write to you is inverted.

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Degree-rescue mode: limiting the time chatting online

Like all good things, OxfordRomance.org.uk does have a tendency to become somewhat addictive. And, as even chocolate may loose its charm when enjoyed to excess *, thus also for some people with this site. Help, however, is at hand, in the shape of something weirdly similar to a Westminster parking meter [i.e. useful, but also rather annoying]. If you check the "Parking Meter" mode box on the Edit page, then your online sessions will be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time, with return prohibited within 1 hour. Once this time has expired, you will be automatically logged out. Note that this setting, once invoked, is irrevocable, for what would be the purpose of a temporary aid to willpower?

We also have created a "Degree Rescue" mode, intended to assist with revision. This allows you to block youself from logging in again until a certain date of your choice, eg the day after your finals. This setting is also irrevocable.

You may also wish to change the other controls, also on the edit page, and set some, or all of: 'Online Visibility'='Cat-like'; 'Display your Profile'='Unlisted'; 'Email Notification'='Rarely email me' and 'Accept New Messages'='No'.

* "If Music be the food of Love, play on. Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die." - Shakespeare

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How do I hide my profile from a particular friend, or an ex- ?

Sometimes, people are wary of bumping into a particular friend, or an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend on OxfordRomance.org.uk. As a result, they are reluctant to write a detailed description of themselves, which in turn reduces their enjoyment of the site. To help with this, you can now control precisely who may (and may not) view your profile.

The options, which may be selected from the 'Display your profile' setting on the edit page are these:

  • Yes displayed to everyone: Everyone may see your profile, including non-members. This is the default setting, and maximises "visibility".
  • Only to members of OxfordRomance.org.uk: Only other members, who have an account, and are presently logged-in can see your details.
  • No, unlisted. Your profile is completely hidden - only your nickname remains visible. (useful if you want to take a break)
  • Custom: everyone but: [ -list- ]. Hide from people with certain email addresses. (and everyone who is not logged in).

What is an 'email-stem'? An email-stem is the part of an email-address before the '@' sign. For example, an address of 'r563rg@example.com' would have the stem 'r563rg'. To hide from multiple people, simply give a list of email-stems, separated by commas. The reason for using the stem is that often, people have multiple valid addresses; for example abc12345@cam.ac.uk and abc12345@hermes.cam.ac.uk are the same person. We match on an email address rather than a name because we don't necessarily know people's full names when they sign up; also email addresses are validated when we send out the initial password, whereas we can't check a given name is correct.

What information does 'hiding' actually hide?
This hides pretty much everything, except your nickname. Your profile page will say 'Sorry, NAME does not have a profile at the moment'. You won't appear in the list of members in a given category, nor in any search results. Also, if your entire profile is hidden, then your photo (which is part of the ad) is also hidden.

What information does 'hiding' not hide?
Your nickname is still included in the list of active of nicknames. It is still possible for anyone to send you a message. Also, the site admins can see your full profile. Lastly, your name is still listed in the top right when you log in, unless you change the (separate) visibility setting.

Aside: this is designed to preserve anonymity both ways. You can't make use of this feature to discover or verify someone else's identity: it won't leak information as to whether the block is active, or latent. So, for example, you can't use it to match an id number to an email address, or to check whether someone else is actually a member. All you can do is specify that if person X uses/used OxfordRomance.org.uk then they can't/couldn't see your profile.

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How do I change my Nickname?

By design, the nickname on the site is immutable, since it would be a huge source of confusion for people if the names of their correspondents suddenly changed! However, if there is an exceptional case, or you've only just logged in for the first time, or if the change is just a typo, please ask Cupid, and he will manually change it for you in the database.

Normally, the only way to change your nickname, is to deleting and recreating your account. If you are going to do this, we suggest you take a copy of your profile and any messages that you want to keep. Also, we'd advise you to mention this to your correspondents.

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Deleting your account and Nickname

If you do not log in for 24 weeks, your profile will time-out, or 'expire': it will no longer appear in the list of profiles, or the list of all members.
Your correspondents will still be able to read and reply to your messages, although you will only receive one email notification). Unless you hide your profile, correspondents may see it when linked from a message, but others will not.
If you hide your profile at any time (by setting 'Display your profile' to No' in the settings menu), it will not appear in the list of profiles, nor will anyone be able to view its contents.
Your name, alone, will be included within the list of all members.

If you delete your account, this will remove (almost) all your details, for EVER. Upon deletion, everybody with whom you have corresponded will, if they have retained any of your messages, be informed that you have deleted your account, and will have that correspondence consolidated into a single archival message. It is good netiquette to inform them first that you are leaving!
Please do give a reason on the deletion page - this is read by Cupid, and allows us to monitor how we are doing, so we can improve. Your old nickname will be reserved for you for 3 months, so you can have it back if you change your mind; also this prevents confusion if somebody else should choose the name you recently used.

You can export an archive copy of your data as a zip or tar file. This is designed to help couples eventually tell their children the happy story of how they first met :-)
This collates the same data (with the same access permissions) that you could obtain by sequential screenshots, but with greater convenience and improved formatting.

Note: everything about your account can be changed, except your Nickname and Email-address - if you want to change that, you'll have to delete the account and recreate it.
(This is for security reasons, and to prevent confusion; ask Cupid if you think we should consider an exception.)

The menu for deleting (permanently closing) an account is in the configuration settings of your profile (next to the email preferences and password-change). For the deletion policy, please see below.

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Miscellaneous topics


Common mistakes to avoid

There are a few mistakes that we have seen people make. These aren't strictly errors, but they are likely to cause you to get less out of the site than you otherwise might.

  1. Focussing all one's attention on people who are in the top bar on the right. It's very tempting to only chat to people who are currently logged in, because they are the ones who are most visible, and because they are the ones who could reply right away. This is fine, but remember that everyone else will be talking to them too, so you may be less likely to receive a reply. Furthermore, there are a huge number of other people who are not logged in at that moment, some of whom will be perfect for you! It is worth taking the time to carefully read the profiles, and write a long message to someone who is "just right". Or, use the search function.
    Also, some people simply forget to log out (but just close the window); they will remain in the top bar for up to 15 minutes before timing-out.

  2. Not writing a profile, or only a very short one. This means that you are less likely to find what you are looking for, because it cannot find you! It really is worth taking the time to write a few lines about yourself (or even just list some keywords) - because that way, people whom you will like will contact you. The extra clarity will also help to filter out what you are not interested in. For ideas on how to avoid blankness, here are some tips on what to write.

  3. Not giving us feedback. Whether you have a suggestion about how we could improve, trouble to report, or a success story to share, please tell us! That way, we can continue to improve. This also goes for technical errors: Cupid is regrettably not omniscient, so if you see something failing to work, please shout!

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Access from a mobile phone or PDA

If you use a smartphone, you may prefer to access the mobile-version of OxRo, which is optimised for a smaller display and lower bandwidth. The site is the same, but the layout and style is optimised and simplified.
For example photographs are displayed as thumbnails; only the first few messages in your inbox are shown; there is less CSS/Javascript, and the layout is designed for a smaller-screen. A few features are simplified, though you can still access the regular site from your device. Mobile-mode is designed for a modern (2010-era or newer) smartphone, such as an Android, iPhone, or Windows-Mobile; older devices with really tiny (<3 inch), non-touchscreen displays won't work very well.

If you go straight to the home-page, mobile browsers should be automatically detected; otherwise you can bookmark this link:
  https://www.ruo3.org/ox/login.php?email=ME@EXAMPLE.NET&style=mobile (obviously, with your own email address!)
[This long URL takes you directly to your login page with the least typing, and the greatest speed.]

If you have an Android device, we have an app for you. Feedback is most welcome.

Feedback on the mobile site would be really helpful. If you can develop an iPhone app, or can find a way of programatically sending SMS messages inexpensively, we'd like to hear from you!

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Troubleshooting problems and weird behaviour

There are some things that occur on this site that may appear weird. Sometimes, they are bugs (in which case, please let us know immediately, so we can fix them!) However, there are some things that may be unexpected, but are not exactly errors at our end:

  • Some web browsers wrongly cache stale, out-of-date pages, contrary to the instructions in the header. This means that a browser will show you the outdated web page it "remembers", to save it the bandwidth of fetching the latest version from our server. Since our web pages are dynamically generated, this is bad! A symptom is that you may need to log in twice. You can test it with this browser cache test.

  • If your inbox "doesn't appear", or the screen goes blank, it may be that you have far too many messages in it. Eg, if you happen to have 2629 messages in your inbox, the webpage will be very large, and may take up to 30 seconds for the page to load. (It is also possible to crash Internet Explorer this way.) The solution is to wait until the page eventually loads, then delete some of your messages!

  • If the correspondence page looks odd, it may be that one of your correspondents has written bad HTML. For example if a message includes the opening '<font color="#FF0000">' tag but wrongly omits the closing '</font>' tag, then all of your correspondence from that point on will show up in red. Delete the problematic message to fix this.

  • If a profile or message appears to contain 'junk' characters e.g. rectangles or question-marks where you don't expect them, this is a result of the so-called 'dread question-mark disease'. For example: "Microsoft?s misuse of ?smartquotes? doesn?t look very impressive."[sic]

  • Email doesn't always arrive when you expect it. Please see below.

  • Sometimes, links open in a new window, rather than the existing one. This may sometimes appear disorienting, since in the new window, the 'back button' doesn't work. We do this in cases where you might lose data otherwise. For example, if you are editing your profile, and click the html-guide link, that will open in a new window, so that you do not lose the text of the profile on which you are working. You may prefer to open such links in a new tab, in which case, please see here.

  • The site is very slow at around 3:45 a.m. This is a result of automatic housekeeping tasks performed by our very own Cron Daemon. Every night, the database is vacuumed, then the entire database is backed up over the Internet to a different machine. There is over 400 MB of it, and despite improvements in speed thanks to rsync, and compression, this still takes a while. During this time, our bandwidth is really saturated, so performance may not be so good. Of course, any sane person is asleep at that hour!

  • We believe that you should be able to use OxfordRomance with the web browser of your choice. We do not rely on anything browser-specific, and we do extensive testing with Mozilla, Firefox, Konqueror, Lynx and Links. Nevertheless, we can't test with every browser, and the site may look rather odd in early versions of Netscape or Internet Explorer. (Internet Explorer is especially bad at following the published W3C standards; it also can't display .png images correctly) If you find a layout bug, do tell us so we can fix it. We recommend Mozilla/Firefox, since it has the best features, and it's stable, standards-compliant, and free.

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Why am I not receving email?

Emails from OxfordRomance do not always arrive when you expect them to. This can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them:

  • No email was actually be sent. This may be because of your choices in the email notification system.

  • We have your email address recorded incorrectly. [If you log in, we can display the value we have on record.]

  • Your email account has a misconfigured, or over-enthusiastic spam-filter. Some filters have a nasty habit of misclassifying genuine mail ("ham") as junk ("spam"). Please check your spam-box for email from server@ruo3.org. Unlike most email failures, when an email is classified as spam, no delivery-failure message is sent, and the sender can have no idea that anything went wrong.

  • Your email account has expired, or has filled up, or is rejecting mail, or has failed to forward email. This usually means that Cupid is getting the bounces.

  • The email is late. Email usually arrives within 30 seconds, but please allow up to 10 minutes in some cases.

  • There is something wrong with our email system. This is relatively rare, but it does happen, and if so, we want to know about it! Please email Cupid.

  • You can test your email delivery here.

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Reporting Bugs

We do test OxfordRomance.org.uk extensively. However, it is continuously under improvement, and things change. If you see something untoward, broken, unclear, or that could be improved, please let us know. Cupid always tests everything, and never releases anything until he is sure that it is correct. So if you spot an mistake, or the site prints an error message, you can be certain that we don't know about it (or we'd already have fixed it). Please, please tell us.
[For the curious, here is why computer errors are known as "bugs".]

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Browser requirements

We believe that you should be able to use OxfordRomance with the web browser of your choice. We do not rely on anything browser-specific, and we do extensive testing with Mozilla, Firefox, Konqueror, Lynx and Links. The browser functionality requirements are therefore rather straightforward. We aim to make the site fully functional even with a basic web-browser, such as Netscape version 3 (!), although we use many newer technologies to enhance it. If possible, we recommend you enable all of the following:

  • Javascript: Used in several places to make life easier. There are no places where javascript is absolutely necessary (and we want to keep it that way!). [javascript test]
  • AJAX: A subset of JS, used to allow things to change (eg flags) without a full-reload of the webpage. The site will always 'degrade gracefully' if you haven't got a sufficiently capable browser. [ajax test]
  • Websockets: used for the chat system (was originally a Java applet). [websockets test]
  • Cookies: for keeping track of your login session. PHP automatically falls back to transparent_session_id, if you have cookies disabled. [cookies test]
  • CSS: for styles and presentation. The site will look ugly without CSS support (in very ancient browsers), but it will still work. [css test]
  • Frames: we use an iframe on the Autocheck page, never elsewhere. [frames test]
  • Email: you need to have a working email account, which does not reject messages, and doesn't have a 'crazy' spam-filter. [email test]

Tabbed browsing and Mozilla/Firefox

On OxfordRomance.org.uk, sometimes clicking on a link causes it to open in a new window. This is for your convenience: for example, clicking the "HTML help" link when writing a message will cause it to open in a new window so that you do not lose your current message composition. However, in most web browsers (Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, Chrome, Safari, and (finally) even Internet Explorer), which support Tabbed Browsing, you can do even better: simply middle-click (or Ctrl-click) on a link, and it will open in a new background tab. This is really useful if you have a list of pages to visit, and wish to select certain ones. For example, when viewing the profiles, middle-click those of interest to you. They will all load in the background, ready for you to look at in sequence. It's easier to demonstrate than to explain.

Some other reasons why we like Mozilla-Firefox are that it is standards-compliant, has a great email program, has pop-up advert blocking, supports extensions (Adblock/Flashblock in particular), it's fast, stable and secure, and it is Free (as in both beer and speech). It also uses less bandwidth, since tabbed-browsing means less re-loading, and, unlike M.S.I.E., it caches stylesheets (css). This makes everything faster. Firefox is freely available for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh: download here.

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But how did it get that way? (Controversies)

Some of the design choices for the site have been slightly controversial: while we do our best to make things perfect for everyone, there are a few cases where we cannot. In such instances, there are valid reasons for each of the alternatives, and we've simply had to choose. Here, we shall try to explain why it got that way.

Hiding from the Top Bar / Invisibility / 'Cats'

One of the most common requests we received was for people to be able to hide themselves from being visible in the top right when they are logged in. This feature was originally discussed at length, publicly debated, and we decided against it. However, upon further reflection, we decided to implement it as an experiment. This experiment proved to be a success, and as a result of collecting your votes, we have decided to keep the feature. Over the course of a week, a total of 337 people voted, with a split of 49%-51%. However, by category, there was a marked difference, with 75% of Females in favour, and 75% of Males against. Furthermore, although it has been contentious, only 2.5% of people are actually using the feature! Therefore, we've decided to keep it. Here are some of the arguments:

Arguments against an invisibility option
Such a feature would be useful, but was discussed at length, and has several disadvantages. If we were to disable the top-right list entirely, people would lose a very useful feature, and it would make it hard to chat online to people currently logged in. If we were to make it optional, the feature would become confusing and complicated (and inaccurate); it would also focus even more attention upon those who did not opt out. [Exception: on their very first login, new members are initially invisible to give them a moment to look around and create a description before messages arrive. Once they send their first message to someone, (or when they log out and in again), this "cloaking device" permanently deactivates.]

Here are a few of your selected comments:
* "During the odd idle moment, I've been able to chat with some fantastic people whom I might not have talked with simply on the basis of their profile. Removing it altogether would take away the spontaneous fun that just can't be had browsing through the long lists of the 'View profiles' section." * "By introducing the option of invisibility, you'd find that fewer people were logging on because they can't see that their friends are online - it would make for a much less direct means of communication, at best." * "Let people decide for themselves what works best for them. There's nothing to be gained from removing functionality that some people find useful." * "There is a 'tipping point': at the login screen, you can see who is online and who is not; part of your decision to log in or not may be based on the number of people online. When numbers have increased beyond a certain 'tipping point', more members are willing to sign in in the expectation of a conversation. Introducing an invisibility option may actually decrease the number of people logging on."

Arguments in favour of an invisibility option
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to the top-bar display. It can create significant pressure upon the people in the current minority category, sometimes causing them to leave as a result. Also, because people tend only to chat to other people who are logged in, fewer people are encouraged to produce detailed profiles, and those who are not logged in all the time tend to be ignored. Also, while chatting is pleasant, it is often a very inefficient use of time: it might be more fruitful to search for someone perfect by looking through the profiles! Sending messages only to people who are currently logged in is a common mistake. Also, people should have the choice to use the site in their own way; whereas some people have chosen to leave entirely because of the excess "pressure". Here are a few of your selected comments:
* "Well, people who are hiding simply have to take the initiative and get messaging people who they actually want to message. I can see their reasoning - who hasn't been in the 'oh, so-and-so's online, I want to go online to speak to Bloggs but i don't feel like it now I know so-and-so's there' situation?" * "It might even prove beneficial to remove the top-bar display entirely." * "...I am much more interested in replying to people's ads and looking for a boyfriend than chatting, and have got little out of spending ages corresponding randomly with people who happen to be online when I am....I think it is crucial for the female users of the site to have the option of not disclosing their online status. Because there are usually so many more men online, logging in can feel like dipping your toe into shark-infested waters...I find the site more pleasant when I can conceal my identity at will..."

As a result of the votes, and of your opinions, we are going to keep the invisibility option as it now stands. Cupid would still welcome your opinions, but please bear in mind that there is a very large weight of arguments on both sides!

Ordering of profiles defaults to Random

When you look at profiles in a particular category, the default ordering is now random. It used to be ordered by most-recently logged-in [you can still choose this if you click the link]. This is so that it is fairer, when you browse through the profiles. Otherwise, the people who log in most regularly get all the attention. This is unfair to those who haven't logged in most recently, and may be unhelpful to those who have (because they may receive more messages than they can reply to.)

The "Category mismatch" warning

If you are in category MsF, and try to send a message to someone in FsF, (or if you are MsM and try to send a message to someone in MsF), you may be interested in them, but they may well not be interested in you. Therefore, when you send a message, there is a notice to this effect. Social interactions are usually well received, however romantic attentions are usually very unwelcome across a category mismatch, hence the request to consider carefully whether the message will be wanted before you send it. In most cases, this works well, and has been helpful, however, we have received one comment to the effect that this is discriminatory. We respectfully disagree: while we despise gender discrimination, this is after all a personals site, and it would be unreasonable to expect people to set aside their own gender preferences in this context! As to which categories constitute a mismatch, for example, MsM -> FsM is not a mismatch, while FsM -> MsM is not usually a source of annoyance for the recipient.

Account deletion delay, aka "deletion goggles"

Accounts cannot be deleted immediately: there is a delay of 24 hours. We'd like to explain why we do this... it's not just to annoy you!

  • It gives you time to say goodbye to your correspondents, and encourages you to do so. It also gives them time to reply to any outstanding messages from you.
    (People often find it very hurtful if their correspondents suddenly evaporate without a trace.)

  • In case you've had any technical problems with the site (or difficulties with other members), this gives us a chance to address them.
    (Note that cyber-bullying is very rare: perhaps once in 3 years; but account-closure deletes information; tell us first before departing)

  • The time-limit is similar to Google's "Mail Goggles", i.e. time for consideration.

  • It's not in the best interest of your own trans-temporal self to be able to vanish instantly.

It is perhaps worth expounding upon that last point. If it's too common for people to suddenly vanish, this hurts their correspondents. The entire community becomes more reluctant to invest time and emotional energy in making connections that might snap at any moment. In turn, this harms you, or at least, your past self, as someone who wanted to use OxfordRomance.org.uk to meet someone.

For example, consider that A invests a lots of time coresponding with B. One evening, in a moment of 'alcohol-fueled clarity', B decides to 'give up on love' or 'meet people in the real world' or 'devote herself to her work'. B hypothetically immediately closes her account, vanishing permanently without even saying goodbye. This hurts A, who, becoming once-bitten-twice-shy, is less likely to again take the emotional risk which is necessary as the first step in falling in love. (This in turn, indirectly harms future-C and past-B.) The delay exists to strongly encourage B to say goodbye (and perhaps exchange contact-details) before leaving. Hence, we must slightly inconvenience you now (as B'), for the reflected benefit of your own past-self (A).
[...and yes, this explanation was written by a physicist.]

Please feel free to send Cupid a message if you have any thoughts about this process (or the trans-temporal externalities): your feedback is always welcome. We do value our members, but this policy isn't because we're desperate to hang onto you! It has been quite carefully considered, as a way (albeit imperfect) to balance the needs of different people. Should you need to close an account urgently, please ask for assistance.

Alternatives: make your profile invisible (set display your profile = no on the settings page); reduce email-notifications, or decline new messages. Or use degree rescue mode.


Joining the various websites - why not?

It is sometimes suggested that we should merge, for example, the Cambridge and Oxford sites. The reason we have not done this is because we think that locality is important. In our view, the entire point of chatting to someone is to then be able to meet them - and this is far more practical if they are a 5 minute walk away than if they are 3 hours away by train!

Photographs have to be approved before they can be displayed

When you upload a photograph, it doesn't go live immediately, but must first be approved by a moderator. We didn't originally do this, but now do. The vast majority of photos submitted are perfectly fine, and are approved instantly. But occasionally, despite very clear guidance on the file upload page, people don't upload a photo of themselves that clearly show what they actually look like. This would be especially unfair given that some people choose only to make their photo visible to others who also show their photo. Other problems include photos that are very indistinct or zoomed-out so far that the person cannot really be seen, attempts to upload avatars (we've had a tesco shopping bag, and a very cute duckling), use of a celebrity photo, infringement of someone else's copyright (where the photo is obviously watermarked), or, very rarely, something indecent.

There is no indication of when a message has been read (read receipts)

Sometimes, we are asked to provide the sender with an indication of whaether a particular message has been read by the recipient. This would indeed by nice for the sender to know. However, it is often information that the recipient would rather not provide, since it pressures them unduly. A similar situation is the use of automatic "message-read receipts" in email: we find such requests to be impolite, and always set our email clients to discard them unanswered. If you have not received a reply to your message, it is acceptable to send a follow-up ("did you get my message about..."), after a suitable delay. [See also the faq on etiquette.]
For a similar reason, we don't display the exact times when a person was last logged in (on the view profiles page), but we introduce a degree of jitter.

Why is the set of options for 'additional attributes' limited?

In the Additional attributes section of the profile, options are chosen by a , which has about 8-12 possibilities. We are often asked to add more options: why not?
This question has also been asked as:
  • Please add "Computer Science" to the Subjects list. (The nearest match is currently 'Engineering'.)
  • Please add "Anglican" as a middle-way between Catholic and Protestant. (Theologically, Anglicanism is not a subset of Protestantism.)

The intention of this feature is to divide people into 5-10 roughly equal-sized groups on each category, for the purposes of searching, and having relatively common groups. Categories can't overlap, and it has to allow for searching by pre-defined criteria. Otherwise, it would become unwieldy and less useful. For example, consider searching for someone interested in "The Arts". At the moment, the search criterion is Subject='Humanities'. It wouldn't be fun having to run 6 consecutive searches for Subject='English' OR Subject='History' OR Subject='Music' OR Subject='French' OR Subject='German' OR Subject='Classics' (...and oops, we missed out the unfortunate student of Italian!)

That said, you can always put more details into the main text body of your profile. Also, we do always welcome your feedback, and we will always consider ideas, especially if you have an idea for a new category.

Why do we only have traditional "male" and "female" options for gender, rather than a broader spectrum?

Firstly, if this applies to you, let us be absolutely clear: you are welcome and valued in the OxfordRomance community. For information about people, please see the section on diversity; for technical information about the technical (programming) issues, please read on...

Not everybody self-identifies strictly as "male" or "female": there is a whole spectrum of masculinity and femininity, gender and sexuality. So, why do we use the labels "male" and "female" rather than embracing the full spectrum of gender possibilities?
When Cupid originally wrote the site many years ago, he didn't know any of this, and so, for historical reasons, we have the underlying dichotomy of sex={Male,Female} and trichotomy of seeks={Male,Female,Either}. We're very sorry we got that wrong, and have worked to fix it. (This fix is now mostly complete, but there is always more we could do.)

Furthermore, we also want to be inclusive of Trans (transexual/transgender) people, which adds complexity, because some trans people consider trans as an "alternative" gender to M/F, while others consider it an additional dimension. This means that if we made "other" an alternative to M/F, we would deny the identity of the second group. On the other hand, we don't support "unspecified", because we would ultimately have to display unspecified somewhere, which would be, de-facto, under "other".

That's why we now offer the following settings, which are not necessarily mutually exlusive:

  • Sex: {Male,Female}  [boolean, required]    → for the heteronormative defaults. Also used as a "base class" (in programming terms).
  • Seeks: {Male,Female,Either}  [ternary, required]    → for straight/gay/bi people. {Sex,Seeks} form the main 6 categories available in list and search.
  • Category: {Cis, Trans_AND, Trans_XOR}  [default: Cis]    → for trans people, overrides category above. E.g. MsF, TransM_sF, Trans_not_M.
  • I identify as  [free-text x2, optional]    → allows you to change the words on your profile where it says "Category: ___ seeking ___".
  • Pronouns  [optional]    → allows you to change the pronouns we use about you. E.g. "Name has set xyr photo to be private".
  • Relationshiptype, xattr.looking_for  [free-text, recommended]    → what relationship you seek. Helpful for Ace (asexual) and Poly (polyamorous) people.
  • How-to-date-me  [optional]    → to explain your own needs and desires. Useful for Survivors who may wish to establish different norms.
  • Profile text  [required]    → where you talk about who you are, your personality, and your interests. Not everything in romance is to do with gender :-)
  • Privacy and anonymity  [inbuilt]    → We protect your privacy and anonymity as well as we can. This is particularly important to those who are not "out".

When signing up, you should pick the most nearly-appropriate choice of male/female for yourself, and then elaborate on the details subsequently. The settings above allow you to override the M/F default in most cases.
You can change your gender from M ⇆ F on the edit page, but you need to request the administrator to enable this for you; unfortunately admin-intervention is necessary, because occasionally people think it's amusing to masquerade as a fake profile, and that can cause significant distress. Also, please understand that the T&C requirement to "sign up with your correct gender" is directed at those who would create fake accounts for the purpose of "trolling". It isn't intended in any way to catch out those for whom heteronormativity doesn't apply.

How might it be completely fixed? It would be very tricky to do, because gender is such a complex topic, and we could easily fall into the trap of trying to solve the problem of putting people in the wrong box by infinite proliferation of boxes! Therefore, we try to provide a reasonable set of common options and a degree of flexibility, and encourage people to use free-text to describe themselves more fully. In addition, there are some mathematical problems that would need to be solved (example: if the default complement of 'straight-male' is 'straight-female', and the complement of 'gay-male' is 'gay-male', then what is the complement of an arbitrary shape in a 4-dimensional coordinate system?), and some remaining technical ones to do with logic, code-structure, SQL, and user-interface, and then testing it from all perspectives. Finally, there are some historical reasons: the software contains over 500 locations where sex is assumed to be a boolean variable (i.e. that "Not-M" implies "F" and vice-versa), and re-factoring this would be exceptionally time-consuming (and probably not entirely helpful - given that some trans-people identify as "trans-ness is a subset of my [fe]maleness" while others identify as "trans-ness is an alternative to [fe]male-ness"). Also, if the range of categories became too large, nobody would ever be able to search by category, or to get a near-match. [Similar granularity problems arise in the boolean field "smoker/non-smoker". What about the person who just smokes very occasionally? Other, common wrong-but-useful assumptions occur with names and email addresses.]

Our design principles here are:

  • Humanity - welcome, respect and value everyone. Make sure people can express their identity and their needs.
  • Boxes - have enough options to ensure no-one is mis-represented, but not so many that it becomes confusing and un-searchable.
  • Practicality - the code must actually be implementable, correct, understandable, and usable. Developer time is finite.
  • Feedback - we listen to what you say. Please tell us how we can improve.

Outstanding bugs related to gender:

  • Other is orthogonal to Male-Female rather than on the same line. Can't fix this, without limiting the options of Trans_XOR people.
  • Signup requires a decision of Male vs Female. Selecting "other" or "unspecified" leads only to a (helpful) error message. Workaround: sign up, then configure the details. To do.
  • Minor: colours etc. People in Trans XOR M/F still get the M/F colours. We'd like to fix this. First step: what colour should represent "other"? Then, fix the multitude of places it is used.
  • Have we missed something? Tell Cupid.

The # "favicon" for stealth mode

OK, we admit it: it's a very geeky in-joke. It's meant to signify invisibility, and be at least fairly unrecognisable to passers-by, especially when the window is minimised. In computer programming, "comments" are parts of the program intended only for the programmer, but effectively invisible to the computer.
/* For example, this is a comment. */
# This is another one.
We're not going to spoil the hidden reference on the Correspondence page by revealing it here...

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Asymmetry and Game theory

A short mathematical diversion into Game theory may be of interest here (for those who haven't encountered it yet, this is fascinating), as it is informative about dating strategies. More directly, consider the following cases:

  • You can opt to show your photograph only to other members who have a photo. Likewise, you can set your profile visibility only to other (logged in) members.
    Why would you do this? It reduces the number of people who can see it, and therefore reduces the chance of your being seen by your soulmate.
    However, this provides a strong incentive for other people to sign up, and display their own profile/photo. So it actually improves both the size of the pool, and the signal/noise ratio.

  • There is asymmetry in the invite system, the valentine's code, and the loveweb: the invitor (usually) knows who the invitee is, but not vice-versa.
    Anonymous channels are created, but one person usually knows more than the other: that's unfair: it gives the first person more information than the second.
    However, if the information were symmetric, it might prevent people using it, and some potential happy couples might not get together. For example:
    Alice and Bob are good friends; Alice is in love with Bob, but doesn't know whether he feels the same way about her. She also knows that, if she asks outright and he says no, it will be awkward and could spoil their friendship. So, she uses the OxRo invite-system to talk to Bob, via channel #xyz. (Alice knows that #xyz is Bob; Bob can't know (though he might guess) that it's Alice. Now, she can discover (carefully) how he feels, without revealing her own identity at first. If she thinks he doesn't fancy her, then she can close the channel, and Bob will never know that it was Alice: she has "plausible deniability". This means that Alice can take a chance on love, without also taking a gamble on their friendship.

  • There is asymmetry in the magnetic gallery: you can see everyone who says 'yes' to you, but not those who say 'no'.
    This information-hiding is simple tact. In the gallery, you cannot distinguish "said 'no' to you" from "didn't answer yet".
    Why? Nobody wants to hear that someone doesn't find them attractive (and most people are kind, and don't wish to cause hurt to another by visibly declining). So, if we didn't hide that information, either people would avoid the feature entirely, or they would say 'yes' when they meant 'no'... which would then trigger a mutual-match flag.

In general if Alice and Bob both use the above features of OxRo here are the possibilities:

  • Alice fancies Bob and Bob fancies Alice: we tell both of them; much happiness results.
  • Neither Alice nor Bob is attracted to the other: both of them know that, but no harm is done to the feelings of either party.
  • Alice and Bob are friends; Alice fancies Bob but Bob is not attracted to Alice: Alice has complete information (she knows her feelings and Bob's decline) but Bob does not (he knows he doesn't fancy Alice but, having said so, cannot discover that she fancies him).
  • Alice and Bob are strangers; Alice fancies Bob but Bob is not attracted to Alice: Bob knows everything, but Alice is spared an unnecessary "I don't find you attractive" from Bob.

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How can I ever thank you?

Well, thanks for asking :-) Here are some things you can do:

  • We always need more publicity. Please tell your friends about us, in person, or via email. If you'd like to get involved with publicity, or just help put up posters, that would be wonderful. Please also tell your friends about the sites in other universities.
  • We are always looking for new people to join the team. If you'd like to become involved with running OxfordRomance, please do let us know - we'd appreciate it! Here are some things for which we need your help.
  • Please, tell us how you get on. We want to hear your success stories: knowing that we are making people happy makes it all worthwhile! We'll add them to the testimonials page. Also, please give us feedback about what we can do better, and fill in the survey.
  • If you find a long-term partner, please remember us - *hint* we like wedding cake *hint*. Actually, if you really feel grateful, a small financial contribution would be nice :-) The long-term running of RUO3 is costing Richard a significant amount of his personal money!

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How should I link to OxfordRomance from my website?

Thank you very much - that is most kind. Please make sure that you link to the correct web address, which is: http://oxfordromance.org.uk (the 'www' is optional). You are very welcome to use our logo for the purpose of linking to us. (Obligatory legal bit: this doesn't give you the right to misuse it out of context in any way you wish.) If you email Cupid to let us know, that would be appreciated too. Thank you.

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Suggestions, Feedback, and Feature Requests

If you have a suggestion, we really want to know about it. Tell Cupid your idea. If there is a feature you'd like to have implemented, we'll consider doing it.
(A recent example of such a feature is the new archive export page. In this particular case, the user who requested it agreed to sponsor it by donating £60 to Amnesty; we like combining our interests in this way).

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I have a question that isn't answered here.

If you need more help, then either send us a message though the site, or you can email Cupid. We'll do our best to help you, and respond speedily. If you have any ideas for additions to this FAQ, please do pass them on. You can contact us via the feedback page.

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Legal


Legal

Terms and Conditions of Use

Welcome to OxfordRomance. We hope you enjoy it.

  1. OxfordRomance is provided for your enjoyment, and made available to you at no charge. In return, we expect you to respect our hospitality, and follow the etiquette.

  2. Do not create profiles or send messages which are offensive, obnoxious, misleading, crude, cruel, false, or "spam". Serious abusers will have their account terminated without warning; they will be blocked permanently, and will not be permitted to return. We do try to be fair; however our decision is final.

  3. You are expected to provide accurate information. In particular, you must sign up with the correct gender, and using your own, personal email address. If you upload a photograph, it must be of yourself.
    [The "correct-gender" rule is aimed squarely at would-be trolls. If you are non-heteronormative, transitioning, etc, you are, of course, explicitly welcome.]

  4. Communicate clearly, honestly, and with respect. In other words, "be excellent to each other". Note that people have different models of attraction and of courtship, and different boundaries; conventions don't always apply.
    [Listen to the other person. Also, remember that the other person is not telepathic, so use your words rather than relying on non-verbal "signals" (which the other person may not correctly perceive). The word "stop" always means "stop!"].

  5. Copyright: we don't require copyright-transfer, or assert ownership of your data, but obviously, if you post a profile, message, or photograph, you are implicitly giving us the right to store and publish that content in accordance with the normal functionality of the website.

  6. Do not create spam. If you misuse our site to send bulk messages, we may publish your name and email address so that complaints may be directed to you. Likewise, we may do this if you abuse the site with false information, or otherwise cause distress to other members.

  7. Data protection: by giving your data to us, you implicitly consent to its use for the purpose of this website. We take great care to protect your private data (and so we are compliant with the data protection act). [We are exempt from the notification requirement of the DPA, as a not-for-profit: we still comply with the rules (we would do so anyway on principle), but don't have to pay a yearly fee to the ICO.]

  8. Cookies: we don't participate in any form of user-tracking (eg 3rd-party analytics, targeted-advertising, etc). While you are logged-in, we use a temporary and benign session-cookie (PHPSESSID), which we discard after ∼ 24 minutes. [This cookie is 'strictly necessary' for the site's core functionality, so the ICO sensibly considers this exempt from the requirement to nag.]

  9. If you are successful, please let us know - this is what makes it all worthwhile. You could also consider helping out on the team, or making a small financial contribution.

  10. In the event that you get married, we think it's only fair that you send us a piece of wedding cake :-)
    [Seriously, Cupid likes cake... we're not kidding about this one!]

  11. We welcome your opinions and feedback. Please do read the documentation first though :-)

Disclaimer

  1. This site is not in any way affiliated with Oxford University or any other organisation. All correspondence regarding the site should be made directly to us (see the feedback page for details).

  2. This site is provided "as is". We accept no responsibility for issues arising from your use/misuse of it, including but not limited to:
    • Relationship or conflicts which may arise between members.
    • Offensive content or inaccurate or defamatory information in any profile or message on the system.
    • Damage to your computer through any virus, software or files that may be transmitted through this site.

  3. There is no warranty of any kind for this site, including but not limited to the fitness of this site for serving any purpose, its reliability, its availability and its functionality.

  4. We trust the contributors to the site to be honest and the onus is on you as a member to provide accurate information. In cases where this trust is breached, we reserve the right to take appropriate action as determined by us, the administrators of the site.

  5. Please note that comments posted on the site, whether they are profiles or private messages, are 'owned' by the poster. They do not represent our own views, and are not explicitly authorised by us. They are enclosed in a box to denote this. We cannot read all profiles when they are posted, therefore we may not be aware of any abuse that they may contain. If you would like to report abuse, please email abuse@ruo3.org and we will investigate as soon as we can.

  6. Reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that confidential information (private messages and e-mail addresses) are not available to other members. However, no liability can be accepted for the consequences of information theft.

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