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Interview with David Hagege (Myndpage)

Myndpage is a social network that connects people who think the same way.

I interviewed David Hagege, Myndpage founder to find out more. This interview is the seventy ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to David for the interview!

How would you describe Myndpage in under 50 words?

Myndpage is a social network of brains. Put your brain on the Internet, compare yours to others, rediscover your friends, find people thinking about the world as you do.

Why is Myndpage so different?

Myndpage is different from other social networks in multiple ways. I’m not trying to reproduce the experience you have on Facebook or Twitter. You’re not looking at your friends’ pictures at their last party, or seeing what they’re doing right now. You are showing to others what you are “thinking” right now. This is something far more personal. You are building your myndpage, the page that defines yourself, it’s your brain on the Internet. And you can’t imagine how much you can learn from that. Twitter is something ephemeral. A tweet is not something that stay for long. Your Myndpage is here to stay.

But that’s not all. Myndpage uses machines for real. We are computing a similarity ratio between our users so that you can find people thinking like you. Even on specific themes. This is nothing like the “You should follow” feature of Twitter. We are linking users only by their mynd. Not by their current connections. Compare yourself to celebrities, friends, colleagues, your significant other, discover new people thinking like you, access everyone’s mind for the first time.

How does it work?

On Myndpage, the user creates an interactive representation of his mind by “mynding” words. We ask our users what are the 4 tags they associate with any given word. They’re then free to explore their friends’ or even strangers’ minds. For each set of two users, we compute a similarity ratio called the Myndness. It’s a fun way for our users to compare themselves to friends or meet people who think like them.

What made you decide to start working on Myndpage?

I always wanted to start my own company. I didn’t want to be an employee anymore, it depresses me. To me, Myndpage had a lot of potential, so I jumped into it.

How did you come up with the name?

My father did. Myndpage is the contraction of My mind’s page. It was easy to remember, domains were available, seemed perfect to me.

Do people who aren’t used to writing with tags need persuasion to use Myndpage?

The concept and the use of Myndpage is not easy to explain to everyone. This is a really new way to use tags. In people’s mind, tags are usually used to define something in order to find it later easily. On Myndpage they are just used to define words. Which seems to be pretty disturbing to some people. It can be even more disturbing when they realize that they are in fact tagging their tags with other tags! But I’m persuaded it’ll not be a big problem for too long. Twitter isn’t any less complicated but they are still successful.

What technologies have you used to build Myndpage?

Ruby on Rails on the frontend. Mostly ruby and erlang on the backend. A Membase NoSQL solution, and RabbitMQ (especially for the timeline).

You say Myndpage aims to change everyone’s life. How?

Everyone has a different meaning for each word. Myndpage helps us to find people with the same meanings on the words as ourselves. So that when you talk with them the conversation is really fluid. Like C.S Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!'”. Is this important? Yes. I think it can change everything.

Most of people don’t have best friends. There are altercations all the time, especially because of the different meanings they are putting on the words they use. Myndpage fixes that. Now you’ll be able to understand your enemies better, your actual friends, your family. You’ll discover a ton of new things on their view of the world. It’s a door to a better future where people would be actually capable to understand the others.

How long did it take to put together Myndpage?

Around 5 months for the first beta in July 2011. But the current version is much better!

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

I have a ton of cool things which are coming. In fact, this is just the beginning of my project. When people will have their brain on the Internet, we can do a ton of great things to make your everyday life better. Machines will be able to use your brain to adapt the user experience. But that’s a second part of the project, I still want to keep that as a surprise, it’s too vast.

In the near future I want to develop a mobile app, to be able to tag words everywhere easily (we already have a mobile version of the website, but that’s not sufficient to me!). I also want to develop browser extensions, where users would be able to tag words on web-pages they visit. And soon a javascript plugin you can add to your written content (e.g on your blog posts), to dynamically show how you mynded the words present in your text. So you are not just showing one text, but in fact one text + the profound meaning for you behind it! It has never been done before.

What’s your background? Have you always been interested in software development?

I’ve always been interested in technology and computing. When I was 11 I got my first IBM computer. Software development was just a dream for me at that time. I just tried to understand the internals as most as I could. I started to use linux around 14. And did some basic programming at around 16. But I really jumped into programming at University.

Everyone should learn to program. This is going to be an indispensable skill in the future. And basically, it gives you the power of God. You can make absolutely anything with some code, you are talking to the machine, she does the hard stuff for you. Imagination is your sole limit. And it costs nothing. That’s the beauty of it.

You say you’re always working in a “Worse is Better” state of mind. Tell us what you mean by this.

“Worse is better” is a concept part of the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). It simply means that you mustn’t over-engineer what you do.
You must keep things as simple as you can. If it’s sufficiently simple you can change it easily. The technical debt is at its lowest level. You don’t need something too smart. You need tiny things doing the job well. Your watch doesn’t have a calendar? Maybe it’s better that way. Simpler, easier configuration. You have a ton of other ways to get a better calendar elsewhere.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Somewhere between Twitter and Pinterest. Why Twitter? Because the way you use their system is similar to mine. When people are tweeting something, all their followers receive the tweet and know what you are doing right now. On Myndpage, when you mynd a word, all you followers receive your mynd, and they know how you are thinking right now. The more people use Twitter, the less they are using Myndpage to me. Because twitter is a time-eater. And like I said before, tweets are ephemeral, they give some information, right now, but that’s all. Nothing really quantifiable is done with it.

Why Pinterest? A pinterest page is a way to understand what the user is interested in. It’s not their mind, but it gives some clues. Myndpage in that way is much better. You can post pics/videos too, but the 4 tags you add are invaluable. With these words, you can make the computation of the Myndness, the similarity ratio between the users. Pinterest is a good way to find a present for someone. Myndpage is a good way to understand and discover new things in the mind of others. Myndpage is also a wonderful way to find people like you, which is impossible with Pinterest.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

The chicken vs egg problem. It’s pretty prevalent in these social networks, but it’s even more of a problem with Myndpage. To find people like you there needs to be a fair amount of users tagging words.

We need the growth of a Twitter. This is not easy, especially when it’s your first startup, but it’s getting better everyday.

Can you convince the reader to start using Myndpage in under 50 words?

Put your brain on the Internet, for you and others. Find people like you, your perfect match, someone you can talk to easily, someone who sees and imagines the world as you do. Imagine a world where all your friends are your best friends. Welcome to my brain

Finished reading? Check out Myndpage!

This entry was posted on Monday, March 26th, 2012 at 8:25 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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