Project leaders are faced with challenging decisions when designing community involvement approaches for planning projects. In some situations, online engagement can provide a cost-effective alternative or complement to traditional forms of engagement. Choosing the most appropriate online tool to meet the needs of the project can be difficult since many tools seem similar.
MetroQuest and MindMixer are two of the most popular tools and many people ask how they differ. The short answer is MetroQuest is a survey tool and MindMixer is a crowdsourcing tool.
Crowdsourcing tools, like MindMixer, encourage participants to generate their own ideas and vote on each other’s ideas so the most popular ideas rise to the top. The content is primarily text-based questions and responses.
MetroQuest, as a style of survey tool, collects very specific input from participants to inform decision-making for the planning process. It’s also a highly visual and educational tool that helps people learn about the choices and their tradeoffs to inform their input.
Next are some key differentiators to help determine which tool is right for your engagement needs.
What are the Key Differences Between MetroQuest and MindMixer?
1. Breadth and Level of Public Participation
How important is it to engage the widest demographic and attract the most participants possible?
MindMixer: Attracts the most enthusiastic and motivated stakeholders.
Tools like MindMixer, which require people to register before participating, attract about 90% less participants compared to tools that allow users to participate instantly. The reason is simple: on average only 10% of visitors (typically the most motivated stakeholders) are willing to register before participating in a planning project. On projects where both MetroQuest and MindMixer were used, MetroQuest collected input from approximately 10x the number of participants compared with MindMixer.
MetroQuest: Attracts a large number of participants from a broad demographic.
To maximize participation visitors can begin contributing instantly with MetroQuest as there is no mandatory registration step. The result is typically 10x the number of participants compared with tools with mandatory registration. To avoid the possibility of people abusing the system, MetroQuest has a sophisticated fraud detection capability so it’s easy to identify and eliminate any abusers. MetroQuest collects demographic information and email addresses at the end when people are most invested in the project.
2. Type of Public Input
What type of input do you need from the public?
MindMixer: Public provides open-ended ideas.
With crowdsourcing tools, participants create their own content or ideas. Input is open-ended and text-based in most cases. It can be freeing for participants to have this flexibility but it can be difficult for planners to analyze the results for reporting.
MetroQuest: Public provides specific input that can be tabulated and analyzed.
With a survey, the project team creates specific questions for participant response. These can include a wide variety of input types, such as priority ranking, image rating, comments on maps, scenario rating, and budget allocation. Quantitative outputs can be easier to analyze and summarize in planning documents.
3. Level of Interactivity
What functionality and types of interactivity are needed?
MindMixer: Idea generation and voting are needed.
MindMixer has a standard format and can be deployed out-of-the-box. Its functionality is focused on idea generation and voting.
MetroQuest: Various types of interactivity are needed.
MetroQuest is the only tool available that has an extensive toolbox of screen types to satisfy diverse needs. As such each MetroQuest configuration is tailor-made by the MetroQuest team in collaboration with project personnel to best meet the needs of the project.
4. Flow of Dialog
Is it more important that participants communicate with each other or with the agency?
MindMixer: Dialog flows from participant to participant.
In crowdsourcing, dialog is between participants. They generate the ideas and vote on each other’s ideas in a collaborative exercise.
MetroQuest: Dialog flows from participants to the agency.
In a survey, the dialog is from the participant to the agency or planning team. The planning team defines the questions and participants respond.
5. Level of Education
Is community education a key requirement (e.g. learning about options & tradeoffs)?
MindMixer: No, education is not critical on this project.
In MindMixer, the content is created by participants. They can offer any idea they wish. It’s up to users to consider those ideas and make their own conclusions.
MetroQuest: Yes, education is a key component.
In MetroQuest, the content is created by the project team and is presented in a way that can be quickly and easily understood by the public. Learning is up front and built into the interface to help ensure the input being collected is informed.
Throughout the course of planning projects there is often a time to generate ideas followed by a need to develop and refine alternatives. We are thrilled to recommend MindMixer to assist with the former and we stand ready to assist with the latter.
Check out what professionals are saying about MetroQuest:
“We chose MetroQuest over MindMixer for the Oasis Rail Corridor project for two primary reasons. First the project called for an extensive and inclusive public outreach effort. We felt that MetroQuest would attract broader participation since it does not require participants to create an account and is very fast for people who only have a few minutes to spend. Secondly, the project required very specific information from people to inform the planning process. MetroQuest’s extensive data collection capabilities provided the project team and partners with demographic information and preferences that facilitated an informed decision-making process. We were very pleased with the impressive number of responses and the data that we were able to collect.” Richard Dial, Oasis Project Manager, HDR
“We have used MindMixer in previous studies, and find it can be helpful to generate new ideas; but, as comments are open, it can be difficult to interpret relative priorities or identify a desired overall direction. We prefer MetroQuest in situations that call for an in-depth exploration of planning issues. Its ability to present planning alternatives, educate about tradeoffs, and collect informed input on scenarios sets it apart. We also like MetroQuest’s ability to be adapted to the needs of each phase of the planning process and collect specific input relevant to each phase that can be used directly in our planning documents. Our clients also appreciate MetroQuest’s ability to support other engagement applications like interactive workshops and kiosks.” Paul Glasgow, Senior Planner/Project Manager, MIG