Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Intelligent Design.

We said it from the beginning, we didn't invent sharing, we are just making it easier. Trying to, anyway.

Every day, I think about ways to solve that problem; how do we make it easier and more worthwhile to share ownership of the things we don't use all the time?

  • Is the solution in software; does it need to be easier for people to list and search for things they need and find relevant results? Maybe.
  • Do we need to preach the virtues of sharing and what it does for communities and the planet, not to mention- our wallets? That won't hurt.
  • Do we need to build tools and mechanisms to help strangers trust each other more. Definitely. 

The more I think about it though, and the more time I spend talking with other smart folks in the space and engaging with users,  the more I am convinced that the biggest factor that will really push sharing mainstream is a new physical infrastructure; both the items being shared and the physical mechanisms that allow these items to be shared need an upgrade. They need a more intelligent design that makes it easier and worthwhile to share. 

For example; I recently "brokered" a bicycle transaction on neigh*borrow. (from time to time I get involved in a transaction to meet the folks using the site and to see how we can improve the platform). A lovely couple (from our neighbors in the attic), were visiting NYC for the weekend and wanted to borrow a couple of bikes. They knew about neigh*borrow, were able to request bikes, find two separate lenders, and everyone involved in the sharing ballet played their role to perfection. I was thrilled! Everything was perfect, except for one thing. Literally. The bike. 

THESE bikes weren't shareable. The size was off. The performance wasn't what borrower had hoped for. Locking it was burdensome.  This bike wasn't designed to be shared. But that doesn't mean bikes can't be shared. In fact, I think bikes are one of the things that can be shared best! The solution is in the infrastructure, not the people or the web.

Enter sites like SoBi. They understand the true root of the problem and are doing their part to build an infrastructure to make bike sharing easier. The bikes are one size fits all. They are more durable and weatherproof. And of course, they can be locked and unlocked, tracked, reserved and paid for using the latest in mobile technology and GPS.

Right now, things are designed not just for obsolescence as I have quoted before from WMIY, they are designed for individual ownership. I think that is changing thanks to innovators like Sobi, GetAround, and so many others.

To do our part, to highlight the "new infrastructure of sharing" and to to pay homage to the NYC CollCons folks, (Shared Squared- coming soon), neigh*borrow is proud to introduce a project we are calling Public  Cameras. Or maybe we'll go with the cheesier, "yes WE cam(ra)"! Similar to the wonderful and popular Street Pianos, we are offering free cameras for the public to use, in New York City.

You know you've always wanted to try one of those long lenses the pros use at the ball game. You don't want to buy one, and you don't want to lug it around all week, but you know you want to try it for the afternoon while you're at the Statue of liberty, or in Central Park or just people watching in Soho. With PublicCameras, you will get that chance.

These cameras are meant to be shared. They come loaded with a special memory card that tracks the location of the camera, and auto uploads the photos to a gallery, in the cloud, over wifi. There is no need to upload any files, and for now during the pilot program, there is no need to pay!

VIEW the public, collaborative gallery! 

These cameras are meant to be shared, and we are working on cameras that are designed to be shared. You will be able to pick up the cameras in convenient places all around the city and unlock it with your credit card, using technology similar to how the SoBi bikes are unlocked. The cameras will charge and upload the images (over wifi supplied by KeyWifi) to a private, individual gallery, when they are returned to their proprietary dock.

Not only designed to share, they will be impossible not to:)

Then look out for public drills. The drill, remember is the poster-child for CollCons, we buy them because the infrastructure to share them is lacking. Soon, you will be able to walk around the corner, and unlock a drill with your iPhone the same way you grab a copy of the Village Voice! The same way people used to buy their lunch, automat style!


AJ said...

It will be interesting to see what you learn about the following:

-Evaluating what you should share: it’s interesting you chose to do this with cameras, something people already carry with them today, albeit unsophisticated cameras.
-Logistics: pickup/dropoff/duration/insurance etc...
-Education: In the case of SoBi, you don’t need to teach people how to use the bike. In your case, I wonder whether people understand how to use sophisticated features/lenses etc...

Look forward to hearing about how it goes.

Good luck!

ab said...

We started with cameras for several reasons, most of them specific to this particular pilot program. I will list them separately. Once an infrastructure is built, I look forward to scores of other items residing in the "corner automat".

Logistics are much easier with these boxes. They allow for asynchronous exchange and the unlocking mechanism will allow us to take a credit card and verify identity. Duration won't be an issue, if like parking, we charge by the hour or by the day.

Education is an interesting point, maybe will have to call on another collaborative site, @skillshare to teach people how to use the items they are borrowing:)

ab said...

Cameras are ubiquitous, yes... but traditional digital cameras provide a wonderful format to demonstrate the virtues of the access economy. Especially during a hack style pilot program.

cameras are fun and social - people like taking pictures

cameras allowed us to join forces with other folks in the local collcons movement (ie we will use @keywifi to upload the images wirelessly)

cameras provide an easy way to illustrate the notion of an "impossible not to share" design... simple hacks to the battery and memory card (along with the geolocation and lock box not necessarily specific to cameras) allows us to demonstrate how it's possible to build an item that MUST be shared.. (without having to really build anything from scratch like a new drill that can only be powered in our custom, solar powered docks)

cameras are everywhere, but there is a certain aura about really GOOD cameras... the really "fast" or "zoom" or "wide angle lenses"... collcons is about quality, not quality- so after the pilot program, when we have the good stuff available... it will be case and point:)

(pls forgive the lack of formatting in comments)