Minti offers a collaborative parenting advice service that ignores the one-to-many we know best style service that is the norm in this space, and instead empowers individuals to share their stories and experience.
As Michael Arrington wrote his initial review of the site in March 2006, the overall concept of Minti isn’t entirely new. As a service it sits somewhere between an advice site such as BabyCentre (a site I visited regularly when I was on the road to parenthood) and a forum. The difference is in the implementation.
Weighing User Generated Interactions
Minti is powered by the Vibe Engine, a custom built CMS owned by Vibe Capital (the majority shareholders of Minti) that also powers sites such as Refurber.
Minti has over 20,000 active registered members (as opposed to inactive or casual visitors, they are doing 7 figures in traffic) who comment, vote, tag, and contribute advice. Consider something like Breastfeeding; Minti has many user generated advice articles on the subject but it’s how they are weighed that makes the service usable and perhaps something different.
The Vibe Engine weighs votes on an article based on a number of factors. Anyone can vote, but an unregistered visitor’s vote is not weighed as heavily as a registered user. Users themselves fall into ten member categories based on the amount of activity the undertake on Minti itself. Each level has a higher weighing meaning that users who are more active have a stronger vote than those who aren’t. It should be noted that none of this is evident to the user; these are all primarily backend levels, although at certain levels users get extra privileges including the ability to mark a contribution for review/ deletion is it is not of a reasonable standard. Users at higher levels also get to vote on reviews/ deletions as well in a truly distributed management model where regular users have ownership in decision making.
Overall the model delivers user rated results that serve to filter lots of information in a more accessible fashion for all readers.
Because They Care
I can at times be a little skeptical towards sites that tap into user generated content to build a destination, particularly when those sites then go on to profit greatly from those contributions; the build it, exploit it, flip it mentality is very much alive in Web 2.0. What impressed me about Rachel and Clay Cook (Minti’s founders) was that in building Minti they built something they would use themselves, and more importantly could help others as well. As parents of young children (about the same age as my son) they’d used the net to find info in much the same way I have previously, and shared the same frustrations; generally when you’re seeking information on a parenting topic you like more than one opinion, and yet many services often only provide a limited number of views. With Minti they are aiming to provide a wealth of first hand knowledge and advice, a one stop shop for all things parenting that isn’t as perhaps lecturing as some advice you find online elsewhere.
What perhaps they didn’t see happening (to the extent that it has) is the social networking aspect of Minti. I heard some amazing stories of complete strangers who knew each other only via Minti helping each other in times of crisis, not just online but taking their online relationship’s offline as well. For privacy considerations I can’t print the stories, but they were something that I’ve not heard from a startup before. Minti has become a community focused site very much in the traditional sense of the word community, complete with relationships and friendly advice. In an age where we spend more and more time online, whilst conversely spending less and less time offline building face to face relationships, Minti provides a place where parents can connect, in effect recreating the community spirit of old.
Would You Use It?
The biggest test for any site is in using it. Obviously this is a site focused on parents so it won’t appeal to everyone. I like the ability to get different opinions quickly and easily, filtered and rated for your consideration. The inclusion of comments at the base of articles brings in one of the best features of blogs so that immediately you get a sense of how others view the advice as well. Related articles and external links means that users can easily access more information on the topic, and tagging is surprisingly done well on the site. If I were going down the path of having another child (well, I’m important initially in that process..perhaps not so much after), I’d jump straight into Minti. Now if only they had a working cure for my wife’s seriously terrible disposition in the first trimester I’d be calling for the Nobel Prize to be awarded.