Crowdsourcing (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

Back in college (and we’re talking about the early ’80s), I’d thought little about crashing at someone’s pad – even someone I didn’t know when backpacking around.  You meet some people you like, and you’re somewhere you’re not too familiar with – so what better way to get to know the place than hang out with some “locals” (even if they too were visitors to the place) – and take advantage of the convenience of being able to flop somewhere and leave your backpack while you’re out investigating.

Nowadays I can’t imagine doing that – and I chalk it up to aging and parenting.  Enter AirBNB. This is the peer-to-peer service you’ve heard about whereby you can rent a spot on someone’s couch for the night. Would I do this now?  Probably not – but apply that concept to using a car, and maybe I would.

That’s what Getaround is about. Need to use a car? There’s a car rental (peer-to-peer sharing) option that’s essentially a network of personally owned vehicles wired to be accessible for procurement via their smartphone app.  Think Zipcar, but in a form that lets car owners leverage the downtime of their own car.  Also in the space is Wheelz, which is similar to Getaround, but is focused on sharing within a known community (i.e. students on a campus), and now has Zipcar as an investor/partner.  Yet other geographically focused services are RelayRides and Car2Go.

Somehow I see myself more likely to be a user of the crowd-car before the crowd-couch. I guess I’m just more comfortable with the concept of peer-to-peer in this form – perhaps because I’d be awake, conscious and on my own (versus asleep and vulnerable).  Call me old fashioned – but I’m trying.

What’s next?  Renta-potty?

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Every now and again, I’m asked why one post or another of mine seems to be off on a tangent from “the usual”.  In these cases, it seems that while I’ve stayed true to the theme of connecting ideas to create value, the exchange for that value isn’t as obvious or direct.  To me, these are the times that are most interesting – involving translation of the currency, whether to or from knowledge, experience, or goods.  It is that value translation that is at the heart of the Second Integral.

I’ll speculate now that this will likley prove to be one of those times.

While walking through Maplewood, NJ last weekend, I came upon a new store in place of one that had recently closed.  I ventured in to see what it was about, and discovered it to be an art/craft boutique, with lots of hand crafted and nicely made/decorated items.   A woman approached me and asked if I needed any help, and I asked if these were all things made by people locally.  She was Cate Lazen, and she turns out to have been the founder of Arts Unbound, the organization that opened this “pop-up” store.  She answered my question, saying “well, yes, and everything in the store was made by people dealing with a disability of one sort or another.”

With a part of my brain dedicated full time to triangulation, I found myself automatically thinking about the coalescence of purposes here.  On the one hand, people with disabilities, engaging in artistic work as physical therapy, an expressive outlet, to perhaps generate income, while gaining pride, satisfaction, experience… all through their creative art.

Art as therapy itself is clearly valuable – but what struck me as particularly interesting was its combination of it here with (at least) two other constituencies.  According to Cate, the shop also employs people with disabilities, so it satisfies many of these same therepeutic purposes for the workers as it does the artists.  And of course, being a shop, it brings customers into the mix.

The simple combination of manufacturer + shopkeeper + consumer may not, on the surface, seem so interesting – it is just how a business works.  But the dynamic in this case yields some additional benefits beyond the traditional.

Along with the direct purposes noted above, for the artists and workers, and obviously filling customers’ needs, there are some more subtle byproducts as well, and they’re accentuated by the season’s spirit, due to the timing of the shop’s materialization just in time for the holidays.

Those who find their way to the shop will undoubtedly gain awareness of the overall purposes being served by the organization.   Additionally, buying a gift from this store provides the giver the satisfaction of giving twice (at least) – to the recipient of the gift, to the artist, to the shop worker, and even the good feeling of having contributed in some small way.  All this can even make you feel a little better about buying something for yourself.

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Morning FogImage by Nick Chill via Flickr

I have a tendency to think on the edges or outskirts of domains – in the interstices – where domains overlap with one another.  When the morning fog clears, I typically get brainstorms that result from word plays that bridge multiple domains that may be on my mind.

For example, while attending a meeting this week on Usability in the context of Agile development, I had the thought that there ought to be an application of the methodology within the realm of cooking – and the Scrum component of agile could be referred to in this context as “Scrumtious”.

Another of these hit me while walking out of the grocery store, and no doubt subliminally having picked up “low cal” while thinking about communities and marketing within them, that a calorie conscious faction could refer to their region as a “Low Cal Locale”.

On the heels of my wife’s latest marathon (her fifth), I’m thinking there ought to be a womens’ triathlon called the “Iron Maiden”.

The Scrum project management method. Part of t...Image via Wikipedia

If I had a nickel for every one of these wordplay thoughts, my pockets would bulge each day! My kids tend to be my reluctant test-subjects for these sometimes painful ideas.  As I trust their untainted minds, they are sometimes the end of the line; sometimes though, in the spirit of Agile development, they’re the beginning of an iterative process.

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relayImage by matsugoro via FlickrI talk a lot about the most interesting parts of life being where things connect – where seemingly distinct topics run into each other.  Not so much that they abut, but in their doing so, they reveal or allow tendrils of overlapping elements to lap out to one another.

This past weekend, I filled-in on a team that was running 92 miles across the state of New Jersey, in the 13th annual River to Sea Relay.  The day was the embodiment of connecting:

  • Each 7-person team came together through any number of connective threads – around family, work, geography, life, death, marriage… (one team was called “Runaway Bride” – I guess this was their idea of a bachelorette party).  We were the “Village Idiots”, and while we could easily have passed for the sister team to one called “Beauty and the Beasts” (we had plural of the former and singular of the latter) I think our name served us well.
  • Each team handed off to their next runner with a swipe of the hand or high five (or waive across a busy road) – connecting step-by-step, and hand-off by hand-off from the western border of the state, on the Delaware river – to the beach on the eastern side of the state.
  • Every runner ran two of the 14 legs that comprised the course – getting back out there after having a few hours to stiffen up on their way to their second leg, while chasing and supporting their teammates.  Since most of us don’t run twice in one day, each person connecting their two runs provided a unique opportunity to see how it feels and to realize that you can in fact do it.
  • A hundred separate teams came together around one “basic” objective (and many unique ones), and greeted each other with competitive spirit and supportive friendliness.
  • At interchanges, people from different teams discovered they knew each other through someone else, had gone to college together, had worked at the same place, that their daughters are in the same singing group at college – that they share another common element (and a swig of water, thank you, or directions at a turn…) besides just being a nutty runner/adventure seeker.

When you take a trip like this, as I did with these six women (yes, my wife knew – in fact she was one of them) who made up the rest of my team – a 29 hour adventure, including a road-trip, hotel stay, dinner out, sleepless night coupled with a really early morning, countless switching back and forth between chase cars, 14 back-to-back legs of running with all the interchanges and support encounters, a finish at the beach, something to re-nourish yourself at the end, and the trip home – you discover you’ve gained, (groaned), learned, (ached), enjoyed (maybe griped).  I won’t repeat what I heard one runner say, because you get to say things out there knowing that they won’t be repeated – “honor among nut-jobs” and all.

Everyone worked hard – really hard, dealing with the heat, sun, each other, silence (course rules prohibited use of music players), rain (on two legs, the sky opened up), lightning…  As the race director summarized, “Despite a short howling storm that raced through central Jersey at around 12:30pm ( thunder, lightning and ferocious rain ) for about 20 minutes,100 stalwart teams-of-seven successfully navigated [the] 92 mile course from Milford on the Delaware River to Manasquan at the Atlantic Ocean. Teams started [on a staggered basis] from 6:00am to 10:15am…”.  The fastest team (not ours) was going at a clip of 5:18 per mile!  Teams took anywhere from eight- to fifteen hours to finish the course.

People connected – with each other, with each others’ ideals, with group and individual goals, one border to another – town-by-town and county-to-county – even connecting with elements of yourself along the way.

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Cuneiform was the first known form of written ...Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being guest speaker at Seton Hall, where the TLTC (Teaching, Learning and Technology Center) held a session as part of their Summer Series. Not every university has the tech research focus as does MIT, for example – so I really like that the objective of this group is to help their faculty understand and take advantage of available technology to aid in their teaching efforts.

The event was called “Web2.0 Day”, so maybe you’re wondering why they wanted to hear about the semantic web. Part of the point of the day was to clarify some of the language they may hear thrown around about the web, and (pardon the web versioning references) part was to help define and classify the memes – and of course, part was to expose faculty and staff to specific tools they may want to use.

The interesting part of putting the the talk together was in taking a subject around which most conversations are focused on its technical underpinnings, and explaining it in a way that is NON-technical. While this slide-deck doesn’t impart the spoken words during the session, viewing them might still give a decent layperson-sense of what the semantic web is/will be. See presentation below:
(use the control buttons in the window below to page through the slides)

(click “view” if slide pane doesn’t appear above)

We had quite an electrical display in the sky last night in Maplewood, NJ – along with some high winds and torrential downpour – for about fifteen minutes. Here are a few pictures I took around town:
(use the control buttons in the window below to page through the slides)

(click “view” if slide pane doesn’t appear above)

Update – Following the overnight drone of a generator, the sounds of chippers and chainsaws continue. Related stories:

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