Mindkin: Mind Over Chatter

“He said he liked opera when we met online, and then he falls asleep during every single performance we’ve ever been to!”

“Her bio says she likes programming. I meet her for the first time, and she doesn’t know what Java is! She thought it was a tropical fruit!”

Ever get tired of people pretending to be things they really aren’t on online social networking sites? Mindkin (www.mindkin.com), a new site for social networking pioneered by students from Carnegie Mellon’s own Language Technologies Institute and the CS Department, attempts to solve this problem. Instead of letting people write whatever they like on their personal bios, Mindkin defines your social profile by literally reading your thoughts, likes, and dislikes.

Users of Mindkin, after logging on, are faced with a large screen filled with what seems to be random text floating at varying speeds. In reality, it’s a “thoughtstream” filled with the thoughts of every user of Mindkin.
It’s almost like a Pensieve (a Harry Potter creation), but real — and online. Users can contribute anything at all in their mind to the thoughtstream, simply by typing it into a text box. These thoughts will then flow into the thoughtstream anonymously, where the rest of the world can see them.

But some might wonder what to do with those thoughts. Each thought can be dragged into one of two little boxes, labeled “Like” and “Dislike,” which are pretty much self-explanatory. The website then matches you with people whose thoughts you like and hides the rest.

As you like the thoughts from a person, pieces of their picture are gradually revealed to you. Eventually, when you’ve liked enough thoughts from one person, the full picture, bio, and e-mail address of the person is unveiled, allowing you to take the friendship beyond Mindkin.

The goal of Mindkin is to allow its users to be evaluated based on their thoughts, rather than what they choose to write about themselves. Still, don’t be so hasty to delete your Facebook account. It’s unlikely that Mindkin will ever replace Facebook and its kin in the world of online socializing. After all, a lot of people believe that “opposites attract” — people don’t just want friends with similar interests. Often, you’re great friends with people who you really don’t have anything in common with at all.

Right now, Mindkin is in beta testing, and open only to CMU students; however, expansions toward global membership are expected in the near future.

If there is enough support for Mindkin from the students, the LCD — on display all last week in Kirr Commons — may be made a permanent feature. Perhaps Mindkin will become CMU’s e-Fence (as one Mindkin user thought), the online version of that old rickety thing where lovers used to meet in the days of Andrew Carnegie.