Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cool Idea: Online Exchanges That Build Community

I'm not sure how often anyone aside from sociologists think about the negative effects of a society where people don't know their neighbors and aren't involved in their local community. That is us - we are often fractured. I'm sure the effects range from economic to psychological (this got me thinking....) I just read about a way that computing is being used in a really ingenious way to  engender and encourage community.

The idea is online gadget and service exchange, share, rental services. But not from some unknown entity that drops out of the virtual sky from who knows where. You sign up for something you'd like to borrow, or a service you'd like, and then you connect with someone local who has that to offer. For a small fee you get the object (or service) for a short period of time - to use, to test out. Then you return it (the object or the person :).  In the process you meet people who live near  you because you have to meet F2F to exchange the item or arrange for the service to take place. This nifty arrangement serves a need (obtain an item or service much cheaper than if you bought it outright) and in the process gets people to meet other people. There is incentive for everyone to be friendly - we both win.

I think that this is a very creative idea. It tackles a societal problem that many of us just take as "the way life is" because we are so busy. (Who lives downstairs? When was the last time I talked with people in my neighborhood?)

I'd love to have a Roomba for a day. Get this place clean and have fun at the same time. In fact I could use a Roomba, a Blackberry, an iPod, an iPhone, a newer model printer, a Kindle... I would love to check them out and play with them  to see how they  work real time. And who knows what fascinating people I'd meet! Much more fun and productive than reading a bunch of online reviews. Cool Idea!

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