A Vision for ‘MeetingofMinds’

Our vision is to create a social network which encourages mutually beneficial networks for the research community. This will start from the earliest point of a researchers career, supporting them through the stages of post-graduate education, and then onto a career in professional research.

Designing a Social Network for Todays World

Our site will be preferred by our targeted user groups  because it is perceived as highly trustworthy and useful to them.

As a type of matching site, it will support optimal stable student-supervisory matches, and as a social network it will also offer a number of other options/benefits to student and academic users.

‘MeetingsofMinds’ will be designed to improve the student experience, and so reduce the level of drop outs, and support students to make contacts and access important flows of information and resources. This includes those students who are more likely to be at risk of ‘research isolation’.

We will support our users to pursue the activities that research on academic social network users suggests would considered being of the greatest benefit. This including publicising their work, getting feedback on ideas, hosting multiple profiles, and finding collaborators.

Supporting Diversity and Positive Personal Outcomes  

We recognise the diversity of the populations our social network will be serving.  Students and academics can be from any background and vary in their personal characteristics.   Research suggests this can impact on their use of academic social media, but behaviours will still vary dependent on the individual user and their circumstances. We will not seek to profile or channel users using stereotyping, but rather allow users to personalise the way they use of the network – as far as it is possible to do so.

Our social network will be there to support users to do what they want.  Not to fill them with anxiety, or try to manipulate them. We want to build a relationship of  trust with all our users.

We will specifically address Web users concerns over the current practices of many other social networks, and in the process also meet new regulatory requirements.

A True Social Enterprise

“The myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points we need to be a little more creative,”  Tim Berners-Lee quoted by Solon (2018).

So the social enterprise model for our network will not rely on digital tracking or selling data commercially for targeting advertising.  More detail on this model will be set out in our business plan, and will draw on alternative models used by existing digital businesses. But care will also be taken not to fall foul of copyright, and other legal and regulatory requirements.

We want to support  good scholarship, so will also donate a small percentage of our profits to university scholarship funds in a way that is financially sustainable for the enterprise.

Privacy and Trust

We recognise that our users will be a highly educated population, and that our research suggests that such populations are likely to be more concerned about their privacy.

Studies also show that it is important not to make lazy assumptions about users privacy concerns, as these can vary depending on context and situation.

The research that we have collected on how academics view social networks shows that they need to feel that the social network offers them privacy and security, and clear benefits that makes it worth their while to spend the time using it.

We will not use manipulative techniques to extract data from users, such as poor navigational design, or lengthy content about privacy and security which is meant to distract rather than inform the user.  

Rather a clear summary privacy policy will be visible to users when they first access this site.  This will simply state the main reasons we are collecting information and how we will process it (i.e for research to improve user experience and personalisation), before gaining their consent for this. 

We will inform users when we make any major changes to our data policies (e.g in response to changes in legislation) and commit to refraining from selling data for commercial usage. This will restrict the potential options for monetisation, but should increase trust amongst our specific user groups.

Keeping The Context Intact for Users and Retaining Trust

We will  seek to avoid context collapse.  This has alienated users from several social networks in the past.  For example ‘Friendster’s’ faced major technical and social difficulties as its popularity surged and there was a collapse in ‘social context’.

Such context collapse has meant that people who communicating informally suddenly found themselves visible to people who potentially might use the information against their interests.

Academics and students will need a university email address to access this network.  This should help address some of the user groups concerns around privacy, security and relevance.   For example, UNiDAYS  (who provide student discounts)  ask students to validate their accounts through a university email address.  

Further trust could also be established through information provided in an individual’s account i.e their publications and recommendations from academics they are connected to (similarly to the approach being  delivered by  ‘LinkedIn’).  This could be a form of reptuational trust.

The application will also allow users to personalise their settings, and so filter their contact with others when engaging in informal conversations that they would not want generally visible.

We will also give careful consideration to expanding this network –  at each phase of its planned development. We will slowly expand our market, and for the foreseeable future we will stay within the university sector, with our users will be limited to students and academics.

The use of a staged business plan will also allow us to build up functionality on the Network over time, rather than try to create an all singing, all dancing platform from the start – which would be technically difficult and expensive to achieve.

Being Transparent to Encourage Trust

We will have clear policies, and be transparent in how we are collecting and using data, raising finances and income. We will also provide broad information on any algorithm we are using, including research findings on its effectiveness in supporting optimal results for users.

Encouraging Critical Thinking and Diversity

Homophily is likely to affect the dynamics of this network, especially in the early stages, but we also want to challenge this.  We recognise the importance of cross-disciplinary working, and many universities want to support this.

So although users will be able to personalise their profiles, they will also be encouraged to engage with those outside their disciplinary field.

As part of this we will take steps to encourage critical thinking.  This will help combat some of the negative aspects of homophily such as fake news.   Over time this could include a mixture of providing advice on how to spot fake news, argument technology, and use other tools.


This vision document pulls together material from other posts on this sites (see links), so does not contain unique referencing.  It would not be usual to include detailed referencing in a business vision document.

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