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Play the Field"It's important to be in more than one community," Davis says."It's like being in more than one social circle." She suggests joining one mainstream site (say, e Harmony or Match.com) as well as one niche service, such as Cupidtino, which brings Apple-product obsessives together, or the unapologetically elitist Sparkology (the site's men—but not its women! "Changing sites from time to time, and then revisiting, is the best strategy," says Davis. Ace Your Profile"Your user name is going to inspire them to click," says Davis, who suggests a terminology mash-up (e.g., Sporty Smile).

"Yet here I was, husband hunting and armed with only a handful of half-assed bullet points."Online dating is now the third most common way couples meet, with 30 to 40 percent of singletons logging in to some 1,500 services.

In the marvelously titled (Current), writer Dan Slater tracks a phenomenon that started in 1965 with "computer dating"—essentially a digital compatibility test, dreamed up by two lovelorn Harvard undergrads desperate to meet Radcliffe girls—and mushroomed into an estimated $2 billion a year industry.

According to Slater, it's one of the few business models in which clients' failures are the company's win—the longer we seek, the more money they make.

Aiming to short-circuit this cycle, "e-flirt expert" Laurie Davis' hyperprescriptive (Atria) instructs us in a level of detail that is by turns grating and illuminating on how we should be "marketing our singledom." Here, the authors' best advice on joining—and enjoying—the mixer:1.

But such lightweight openers are disarming, approachable.

"If someone said to you 'I'm uncomplicated, generally in a happy mood, and I like to do stuff,' you'd want to hang out with him or her, right?

" Webb found that the most successful profiles were purposefully casual, under 500 words, and just detailed enough—­specific, but not to the point of alienating someone ("like" HBO dramas, but don't zero in on ). Davis cites psychological studies that say the mind can easily grasp groups of three: "So stick to three ­interests, three words to describe your ideal match, or three favorite movies." Webb advises against mentioning your job, using foreign words, or referring to yourself in the third person.

At 30, after a breakup that involved spotting her boyfriend draped around ­another woman, digital strategist Amy Webb ­decided to try meeting men online.

And she did: On JDate, Match.com, and ­e Harmony, she met guys who were six inches shorter or 30 pounds heavier than advertised; who picked expensive restaurants and passed the check to her; and who told her, mid drink, that they were married.

One night, after another bad match and a solo bottle of wine, Webb rejoined JDate—this time posing as a man, to check out her competition. Webb crafted 10 male profiles so perfect they had to be fake (sample code name: Jewish Doc1000) to gather data: what the site's most popular women looked like, which keywords they used, how they timed their messages.

(Duffon), one of three new books about online dating out this month, in which she ­recounts how she cracked the online dating code to meet her now husband.

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