The discord of the online world is intimidating - enough to make you want to stick with what you know and avoid difficult conversations.
Unfortunately, wanting to avoid confrontation with people whose views differ from your own can create an 'echo chamber', especially on polarising issues. It's obviously easier to follow, listen, read, and watch opinions that you already know and already agree with. That creates a lack of balance in news and politics, and can even go further - resulting in an inability to tolerate differing views, or in automatically placing a bias on any reporting. It also results in difficulties in understanding compromise and reason, and has contributed to the rise in shouts of "fake news!" when confronted with less favourable reports and coverage.
Mixmind is a new and not-for-profit app looking to shake-up the idea of a so-called "hive mind", one unable to hear differing thoughts, by creating a platform for communication between strangers that hold opposing opinions. The app seeks to facilitate debates and to exchange views and dialogue in a fair and positive way, without abuse or negative exchanges.
Taking Mixmind for a Test Run
We here at RESET took some time to trial the app, and while there are clearly some very important political debates to get into, such as gay marriage, the refugee crisis, religion vs science, and topical issues such as legalising marijuana, American politics, and there's also some more 'fun' popular arguments such as Marvel vs DC for comic book fiends, or iOS vs Android for the classic smartphone technology argument.
Being a tech writer I waded into iOS vs Android first. The process starts with answering some questions related to the topic ("Are Apple products overpriced?") before Mixmind confirms your answers, and then asks if you're now willing to be paired with someone. Depending on your answers, you'll then wait until someone answers the same questions with the opposite answers, and then the debate starts.
Given my natural tendencies towards more liberal answers, at first I found it hard to find someone to debate. Going with much more right-wing answers, I was quickly matched with a progressive person who was open to debate. The platform is quite rigid, which is a clever way to try and keep things on a level playing field. It debates topics in distinct 'sets', only allowing statements, sources, and questions as openers, which are followed up by a point from the opposing side. There are set options for the response, such as agreeing/refuting/asking for a source, or asking for an opinion on something within the topic and listening further.
There's also a reputation system based on points called Mixpoints, that are earned by being good and fair in a debate and receiving a good rating from your debate partner. The points are used for 'Modpowers', which are special actions that can be taken in the app designed to try and get things back on track or keep things on track in a discussion. For example, you can force someone to restate a statement in a more respectful way, use a power to send multiple consecutive messages instead of waiting for a reply, or even force the other person to research, where you can demand your debate partner presents you with a link that contains a supporting fact for a statement they've made.
I spoke to one user in the app who wondered how I found it because they'd attempted to start 10 debates but hadn't actually managed to have a discussion yet. It's quite possible that this app has more appeal to younger demographics and therefore natural tendencies towards more progressive politics. The app also requires a Facebook account which may hinder some interest.
The app was created by Felipe Grinsztajn, a Brazilian formerly based in Rio de Janeiro before moving to Israel, who started it as a social experiment. Grinsztajn has said publicly that he took inspiration from Pink Floyd's album "The Division Bell", which deals with themes of insufficient communication.
"'All we need to do is keep talking' is the phrase that kept in my mind for a while," said Grinsztajn on ProductHunt.
We couldn't agree more. MixMind is available on both iOS and Android.