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Seen & Heard: Online service lets friends strike a match

Polka Dots Band photo for Las Vegas.JPG
Ray Sands and the Polka Dots will play in Las Vegas Feb. 11-13.
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Hoping to capitalize on February, the busiest month for online dating, Hayfield native Tony Kramer recently launched a new dating service, SparkStarter.

The idea came after Kramer met his wife-to-be through a mutual friend who had looked through Kramer's friends on Facebook and realized the two had a lot in common.

Kramer's idea was simple. Users sign up to find "sparks" for themselves and/or to match up friends. It is believed to be the first online dating site that encourages people in committed relationships to browse it for connections for their single friends.

"We want people to feel comfortable being a matchmaker and to help their friends," said Kramer, the company's founder and CEO. "It's a key difference from other dating sites, when you are single and feel like you are still by yourself, no one is helping you and you don't know all these other people that are out there.

"On SparkStarter, you are always going to be connected through a mutual friend, and using our algorithm through Facebook data is a great way to find out what that person is really like and what they are doing," Kramer said. "Our data is based on things you really like and are doing. Are you working out every day? Going to coffee shops? A big sports fan? Our data shows a picture of what people are actually doing versus a paragraph they wrote about themselves.

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"SparkStarter sifts though users' single friends on Facebook and friends can impact the compatibility score of people, so if a spark shows up, but it only shows a 25-percent compatibility, but I say wow, these people have more in common than that and would be a good fit, by me liking that or starting a spark, the percentage will go up," Kramer said. "If others like that same match, it goes up more.

"It creates a way that even bad compatibility scores could end up being a good match for each other," he said. "The exact opposite could happen, too, where you see something show up at 98 percent but you think, 'Whoa, there is no way those two people should ever go on a date.' People can vote no, so the percentage can go down."

The website launched locally last month and soon will launch nationally. To check it out, go to sparkstarter.com , or find SparkStarter on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Las Vegas Sands

Ray Sands and the Polka Dots have been entertaining area polka fans for 65 years, but soon, they'll be on stage for three days in Las Vegas.

Sands, 83, of Kenyon, is the personable accordion player, only recently retired from farming. He got his first accordion when he was 9 years old and is the only original band member still playing.

He took over as band leader in 1963 and says the Polka Dots still play quite a few gigs every year. They've been featured twice on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show, played at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and have played in Europe twice.

"I've had a lot of great experiences, and it's been a lot of fun," Sands said. "I can't complain a big about my life and my adventures. This festival in Vegas, I think it will be quite a show — just a blast!"

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Although Sands has attended the Southwest Polka Party a few times, this will be the band's first time performing in it. The Southwest Polka Party, which draws crowds from all over the United States and Canada, is Feb. 11-13 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The Polka Dots will be joined on stage by Julie Lee & her White Rose Band from North Dakota, the Softones from Canada, Barefoot Becky from Iowa, the Alaska Polka Chips from Alaska, and Just Us Two from Montana.

For details on the show, check out www.southwestpolka.com.

Related Topics: INTERNET
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