Hi everyone,

In April this year, ChangeAView.com was launched (in beta) after almost a year of development. My name is Kal Turnbull (proof) and I decided to put together a team in May 2018 to make this happen after growing and moderating r/changemyview, a subreddit I started in 2013.

I’m posting here today because both projects exist to address an important problem that I’m passionate about solving, one laid out by Stephen Fry in ChangeAView’s animated intro video: the world is increasingly polarized and social media plays a large part in driving this. We need to be having more productive discussions with those who have different perspectives.

I’m excited to answer your questions! CAV co-founder & CTO Jon Halliday is also happy to address any you have for him specifically. Some more background:

Edit: Thanks for the great questions so far. I'll be back to answer more later today!

Comments: 285 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

Rauko7513 karma

Congratulations on the site and overall success of your idea!

I am curious as to why you decided to start a stand-alone website? From a quick look, it's obvious the site doesn't get nearly as much traffic as the sub on reddit. The appeal of your subreddit, at least to me, is that it's a great place for healthy discussion, on a site that users already use.

Why would people visit your website, when they have the same content with more users (meaning more discussion) on reddit?

I have not seen ads on your website, but are there plans to monetize it in the future?

I just don't see this move as a smart decision, more of a forced departure to be able to say "I have my own website, brand, etc."

Change my mind :)

ChangeAView107 karma

Great questions and I appreciate the opportunity to answer them.

On one hand, there are some big format changes, and on the other, there are many subtleties that will become more noticeable as you use ChangeAView.com. Years of ideas have become a reality due to the complete freedom that comes with creating a new platform from scratch.

Examples include: how post ranking works, showing top responses on the homepage, removing the downvote button (which is often just an 'I disagree' button) and replacing it with a 'shine-level' system, weekly digest emails, the ability to quote sentences with a button and see quote responses in-line, improved moderation processes—the list continues and is growing, all of which adds up to a better user experience for our specific purpose.

Features and design aside, there's also the freedom to take this in new directions. For example: college professors have used the subreddit in their courses before (and for the first time at CAV a few weeks ago), and I think there's a lot of potential for further integration with education. But this is a business decision that volunteer moderators of a subreddit can't make.

We plan to create a sustainable business by offering additional services and features to paying users, hopefully avoiding the need to display ads (which often changes how a business operates).


CalvinsStuffedTiger25 karma

Can you elaborate on what shine level means

ChangeAView47 karma

Sure! In the top-right corner of comments, you will see a symbol that looks like a beacon or a sun. Clicking it casts a shine-vote, the purpose of which is to say "this shines a light on the issue", but we don't display a point score. Instead, there are five levels. It doesn't quite work this way yet, but the plan is to display a level based on an average score relative to the rest of the thread.

Rauko716 karma

Thanks for the reply!

I definitely see the opportunity to further design and optimize the website and discussion forum.

But I the main problem still persists: why will users chose to use your website?

Is this an active concern? How are you going to attract users, and more importantly how are you going to make them come back after a one time visit?

ChangeAView35 karma

It's definitely a concern, but I believe that people who appreciate the concept will enjoy a place dedicated to optimizing it—one where every design and development decision is made with this specific purpose at the center. Some of our early adopters are non-Redditors, so there is an interest for this beyond Reddit.

Which reminds me of another motivation: we can build the site so that discussions can take place in many languages. I'd love to make that happen.


Rauko710 karma

Love the point about discussion in other languages!

Thanks for all the replies and good luck with your project!

ChangeAView6 karma

Thank you!

KonyKombatKorvet19 karma

I have not seen ads on your website, but are there plans to monetize it in the future?

Notice the complete avoidance of this topic in all answers by u/ChangeAView, but if you read the Privacy Policy on their site you will see:

We may share your data with third party vendors, service providers, contractors or agents who perform services for us or on our behalf and require access to such information to do that work. Examples include: data analysis, payment processing, email delivery, hosting services, customer service and marketing efforts. We may allow selected third parties to use tracking technology on the Site, which will enable them to collect data about how you interact with the Site over time. This information may be used to, among other things, analyze and track data, determine the popularity of certain content and better understand online activity. Unless described in this Policy, we do not share, sell, rent or trade any of your information with third parties for their promotional purposes.

So more or less they hold the rights to sell your data to advertisers, at the end they say they wont share if for promotional purposes unless described in the policy... but the policy describes sharing it for marketing, and "among other things" which frees them up to do whatever they want with your data.

On top of that they are using Shopify as the CMS/platform for the shop portion of their site, Shopify DOES sell customer info to third party advertisers including but not limited to: Google, Facebook, Bing, and SourceKnowledge, specifically for use in targeted advertising.

NuttyLoads11 karma

Isn't this exactly what reddit does too? Except now the money is going to them?

KonyKombatKorvet13 karma

Yes, but the point is that he is starting his own platform, he has the opportunity to come up with an alternate monetization model that doesn't include selling its users data. At this point it doesn't seem like he is doing that, and he is avoiding questions about monetization which really bothers me when people do that on here. They try to get free advertising on IAMA, then don't answer questions that paint them in a bad light, especially for a company that is trying to push seeing things from all sides and making a decision based on that, they are hiding an important side of the info that would influence my (and many others) decision on whether to use that site or not.

ChangeAView7 karma

Hi there, I answered the question about monetization at the end of my comment here. Happy to expand on this if you have remaining questions.


KonyKombatKorvet7 karma

Thank you for responding. I don't mean to come off as abrasive or bitter about the subject, it's just something I see as a very large issue on the internet, and it's not something that will stop without the help of any and all new platforms and services.

Your wording of your plan to monetize is very vague and sounds more like you are hoping to not have to implement ads and selling user data vs. taking a hardline stance on not implementing ads or selling user data. Shopify (even though i hypocritically use it for work) sells user data and transaction history to all the big advertisers, so even if you personally are not trying to sell user data your site already is through your ecommerce platform, and you should make it clear in your legal instead of using wording that sounds like you might not be. There are a lot of great alternatives that give you more control of how your customers data gets shared, woo-commerce for example.

ChangeAView12 karma

There is some uncertainty around the business model at this stage, I admit. While I would personally love it if a premium membership offer could sustain us alone, I am not closed off to exploring other options such as sponsored discussions if necessary. However, I believe this is a far cry from selling email addresses or other personal information, which is something we will never do.

Using shopify to sell CAV mugs and t-shirts at-cost to those who want them was a convenient solution, but we will look into other options.


pleasantly_psychotic411 karma

How have your perspectives changed through this work? Have many people changed your mind since you've been so close to so many conversations?

ChangeAView486 karma

Reading countless discussions between people far smarter than me for almost 7 years now has been a bit of a blur, to be honest. I have definitely learned things as a result, particularly on issues outside of the UK, and I know that I've become better at withholding judgment and asking the right questions too. But to pinpoint my view changes is difficult. The reason is exactly why our delta system exists: it's easy to forget or absorb changes, as if you've always felt that way, unless you make an effort to explicitly acknowledge them. Due to my policy of keeping my personal views separate, I haven't participated in the delta system.


amazondrone43 karma

Why do you believe it's important to keep your own views separate, and therefore not participate in the thing you've created?

(I'm not suggesting it's a bad idea; just curious.)

ChangeAView92 karma

Trivial and obvious views aside, I think it would be a distraction and a misuse of the position I'm in to promote my opinions.

amazondrone14 karma

Even if you used another, anonymous, account to participate so nobody knew it was you and the account would have no special status?

Edited to rephrase and explain myself better:

Good points! (Just a thought... I wonder if you wouldn't get a greater insight into how the site is doing, in order to improve it, by being an active participant? I guess you could use an alt account to participate anonymously if you wanted to, to avoid the problems you mention. Of course it might be too much of a time sink.)

ChangeAView19 karma

I participate in discussions about ChangeAView: https://changeaview.com/user/kal/activity

eqleriq122 karma

I skimmed both the website and the subreddit a few times, and my lasting impression was that it's pseudo-discourse for the dunning-kruger set, you could restate it as "respond to overgeneralizations." I also don't really see how it's different than Quora or responding to people in context of Reddit posts.

That is to say, the "views" expressed are bottomlined/summarized statements that split the discourse IMMEDIATELY via not starting with a common vocabulary.

Let's see, just from skimming it today:

The wealthy are just fine with open borders because they have the most to gain and the least to lose.

How do you "change this view?" The person is overgeneralizing (who are the wealthy?) and blanket categorizing (what kind of wealth? liquid assets? holdings?).

What does "just fine" mean?

Define "open borders?" This is a weasel phrase because open borders sounds like "no laws regarding immigration" and not "possible to legally immigrate."

most to gain / least to lose is again an exaggeration based on a hyperbolized valuation. What if they (again, a mysterious fiction of demographic) were the most to the gain but the 3rd most to lose? Is that enough of a view change?

And, as I had skimmed over and over again, people try to restate or actually dig into the prose/narrative presented to figure out a "changeable view."

It seems like there needs to be an editor role that acts as traffic cop to separate out "semantic definition" from "topical discourse."

It's like saying "When a tree falls in the forest and nobody's around to hear it, it doesn't make a sound." And then you find out that it is because I believe "a sound" is something that requires an ear drum, *sad trombone*

I find the small userbase on the website to have a very narrow set of views (and view-changers) which is an argument towards leaving this sort of thing on reddit because of passers-by. Quora incentivizes you by a tie-in to search results, unfortunately this has a lot of bad faith "flagging" and "merging as similar" happening.

Anyway, my first question is do you have any ideas regarding actually making this a feasible, useful dataset? I basically have problems with those who take concepts/ideas and maybe have some momentum regarding PR or visibility but then not expand or correct the key issues with the premise.

The problem I see with discourse in the US due to two-party system, is one party dilutes itself by having discourse and the other is a tribal agreement where that level of discourse is avoided because the strength in numbers will get everyone in the tribe closer to their goals.

10 individuals all voting individually loses out to 1 group of 10 who don't publicize semantic differentiation as much.

Second question: if you split the demographic of "people willing to debate things" are you not removing the important problem of polarization from the equation?

At some point it devolves into "which facts do you believe," and instead of change my view it would be "reveal your source."

ChangeAView25 karma

Your questions in the paragraphs that follow your quote seem like helpful points to make to someone who may not realize they are being reductive. Same goes for definitions—two people disagreeing because of different understandings of a word or phrase is worth addressing. This is something I've become more aware of throughout this entire process—it's often at the very core of the hottest topics.

If you simply don't find such discussions interesting despite their necessity, that's another thing. But I would encourage you to look past these as there have been many substantial discussions since our launch, and over time I believe those will rise to the top more often.


Stopthefuckincar33 karma

What has been your favorite interaction on r/changemyview since you first started it? Also, how long did it take for the sub to gain traction?

ChangeAView39 karma

This was definitely one of my favorites. If I remember correctly, it was a slow climb for the first few months but reached ~100k subscribers at the end of year 1, and it experienced a lot of traffic in summer 2017 when Elon Musk tweeted about it.


Luuklilo29 karma

What sort of people have you found to be your main audience? How do you intend to reach those that may be less inclined to use a service such as this?

ChangeAView47 karma

Thanks for your question. Our most frequent contributors are clearly very curious people, both when they put a view forward to be challenged and when challenging others.

I've said before that ChangeAView is a place for intellectual curiosity, but it has to be one where the mostly curious aren't deterred by the mostly intellectual.

That's just a fancy way of saying that we're keen to make the idea of having your views challenged less intimidating. It's a necessary process in order to fully understand an issue, but when you've grown up in a culture that treats being right and wrong as winning and losing, then there can be some reluctance and over-defensiveness that we hope to break down over time. Doing so will require effective communication of our rules, culture, and improving the format as necessary.


ramblingrrl13 karma

Are you at all concerned that more conservative/right wing views are not going to participate, or that the environment will become too homogeneous in terms of beliefs? What steps have you taken to combat this?

ChangeAView8 karma

We definitely want to make sure that CAV doesn't become homogeneous. The concept really doesn't work if everyone agrees or has similar views/backgrounds.

One approach we've taken to highlight diversity is displaying top challenges alongside the original view on the homepage. We've also added post tags that can be unsubscribed or blocked so that the most popular interests don't overwhelm your experience of the site. We will also be mindful of this issue in future marketing efforts.


tebla13 karma

How did Stephen Fry get involved?

ChangeAView7 karma

We contacted a production company he's involved with called Pindex. We hired them to create our intro video and we sponsored one of their own YouTube videos as well. Stephen also made a CAV post.

Racefood7 karma

Hi Kal! Thanks for the AMA. What prompted you to create an entirely new website, as opposed to continuing to hone and grow your successful subreddit? Furthermore, what kind of benefits does your created platform offer that reddit does not?

ChangeAView7 karma

Hi there! I answered this here. Let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

Apero_7 karma

I'm interested to hear if you have any ideas on the best way to correct blatant misinformation that someone believes wholeheartedly.

Obviously, a lot of differences in opinions come from what things are accepted as fact. If someone truly believes a demonstrable falsehood as the premise for a belief, then trying to get them to change that belief is almost impossible without disproving the falsehood. However, a lot of extremist opinions seem to be based in the idea that information from sources we consider objective are themselves subjective because they're from the media/government/big business/scientists/doctors/politicians/lawyers/etc.

So if someone comes at me with "I don't believe September 11 ever happened": well, how do you even start? They know about media coverage, they know about the museum and the site, etc. they just don't believe it. So how can someone approaching this kind of conversation 'break through' that blatant disbelief? Or, more precisely: CAN someone break through that kind of disbelief? Another example which springs to mind is that of anti-vaccination campaigners who refuse to accept scientific literature because they believe it's all part of a campaign by 'big pharma'. How can you ever disprove the premise of their beliefs when they have already decided that every source you could reference is biased?

ChangeAView2 karma

Changing the views of a conspiracy theorist is hard, no doubt about that. I think it's vital that our website is built to highlight challenges—e.g. quote responses shown in-line—meaning: even if the recipient of your debunking isn't convinced, many who read it could be. However, OPs displaying egregiously stubborn behavior break Rule C.


SayHeyToJ5 karma

What is the effect you hope your website will have had on the country and/or world 20 years from now?

ChangeAView2 karma

Great question. My hope is that this does something to elevate our collective critical thinking and communication skills, even if it's more of a ripple effect over many decades. More listening, more understanding, less shouting past each other.


Original_Sundae4 karma

How does it feel like to create a subreddit and have a good number of people on it?

ChangeAView1 karma

I'm very proud of the subreddit and the team that now runs it—I stepped down after launching ChangeAView in order to focus on my increasing workload and remove any conflict of interest. -Kal

Cayowin2 karma

Is the new site going to follow the same tight formatting rules?

Quite a few times CMV viewpoints get put forward but the automod rejects them for some, what seems, arcane reason.

ChangeAView2 karma

Our post creation page makes it clear what's necessary, so there's no waiting to see if AutoMod accepts the post after submitting. But to answer your question: we've been able to replace quite a few of CMV's rules with design and features.

simplyorangeandblue1 karma

Is your company publicly traded? Amazing idea.

ChangeAView3 karma

Thanks! No, it's a private company at the moment.

pipsdontsqueak-6 karma

Hi Kal. Given the recent release of Dr. Sleep, how many jokes have you received about "the shine"?

ChangeAView2 karma

Hi there, unfortunately your comment has been downvoted by people who don't get the joke about our shine system, but I appreciated it! The answer is none, however.