The Spectrum Project Update 4 : CoffeeRoulette

As Chelsea and I mentioned in our previous post, we made a pivot to focus on getting strangers to come together over common interests. As we came to a consensus on our vision, we needed a way to externalize this and test it with participants. So we made the analog version of our ideal service:

Initially,  we had imagined a site where users could be matched based on their common interests and exchange their knowledge.  After receiving some feedback from the community, we decided that the stress associated with being a mentor as well as the number of steps between a user signing up and getting to their first meeting were unnecessary barriers.

We believe that at the core of this iteration there were some fundamental assumptions and issues which needed to be addressed. The initial interaction between two strangers can be harrowing, so how can we make that first meeting go more smoothly? Even more fundamental than that, can we get two strangers together for coffee?

So we tried it out! We grabbed some friends and participants and had them meet in a coffee shop. We recorded the session and took notes on the participants’ feelings of how they felt about how the meeting went and any shift in the feeling of trust they had in the other person before and after the meeting.

Two of the key takeaways from this test were that trust started high and remained high if both participants had a reliable third party to vet the relationship, and that the meetings, while pleasant, were lacking something. Our intuition guided both Chelsea and I to believe that what was missing was purpose. A common purpose can unify disparate groups and peoples. For our purpose(promoting safe relationships within the trans* and gender variant community), we chose to have our participants play games as they are lighthearted, social, and fun.

Games can be useful for so much more than idly passing time. But don’t take my word for it, Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken, had this to say about what games do to build trust between strangers during her TED talk :

There is a lot of interesting research that shows that we like people better after we play a game with them, even if they have beaten us badly. … Playing a game together actually builds up bonds and trust and cooperation and we actually build stronger social relationships as a result.

With that in mind, Chelsea and I have decided to make a few tweaks to our design which take this into account. Instead of forcing users into mentorships which they may not feel comfortable with, while providing for a common purpose which builds trust, we are now having users select which games they would like to play.

We’d like to try this new idea out and have participants share with us their feelings on the experience. While we’re lining up participants for live testing, we are also looking for participants to join us in a group study where we share scenarios with you and get your feedback.

Following Chelsea’s storyboarding process, we have illustrated a few scenarios which we would like you to critique.

If you can donate an hour of your time, please email us at and we will contact you with a list of sessions to choose from.

Thanks for following our project and we hope to hear from you soon!