activating the hypothetical

Applications have been emerging that enable us to activate the hypothetical. For example, Fundable lets people pledge payments for new ventures, and once enough pledges are collected, translates them into payments that are sent to the venture's organizer. The venture simply hangs out in a hypothetical space until it either expires or has enough backing to actualize itself. Similarly, [insert name of app I can't seem to remember] enables people to pledge their willingness to participate in a political demonstration around some issue, and once enough pledges have been made, notifies pledgers that it's time to hit the streets. Again, the demonstration hangs out in the hypothetical until it has a critical mass of demonstrators. (And indeed there's great potential for activating the hypothetical, perhaps anonymously, in politics.)

So, I wanna nuance this a little bit. Take social events. Why we go to one event instead of another is largely based on who else is going – are any of my friends gonna be there? What's the male/female ratio? This makes social calendaring awesome, because you can see who is (and isn't) going, and it makes the 'Maybe Attending' option even awesomer, because you can see who's sitting on the fence. But the fence is so ambiguous and there are so many folks sitting on it, that it doesn't really help you make a decision either way. Here's where some nuancing could add value. Instead of RSVPing with a mere maybe, give the system some conditions for saying yes, e.g. you'll attend if at least 8 of your FB friends are also attending, or if the ratio of male/female is between 0.9-1.1. If conditions are satisfied, the system changes your RSVP to “Attending,” notifies you of the change, and accounts for its effect on other peoples’ conditions. The mass of maybes goes from being a dead sea to an active solution, with yeses precipitating out.

Applied to new ventures and political demonstrations and elsewhere, just imagine what might be sitting in solution, and what could precipitate out...


"I got a Crush.... on the entire Obama administration."

Considering its inability to appreciate the brilliance of my previous slogans, I can hardly believe I'm still making an attempt with this crowd. Call it determination, call it stubbornness, but I have my eyes on that $400 prize + $100 worth of, um, t-shirts.

branded utility as public service

Barbarian Benjamin Palmer and Anomalous Johny Vulkan define their concept of branded utility as "brands being genuinely useful to their customers, employees, suppliers and the people they touch." Although this concept his been around for a few years, surely I'm not the only one who'd venture to say that its reality is old-school, e.g. the proverbial friendship with your oh-so-useful shoemaker. (Ok maybe there's no proverb about being friends with your shoemaker, but what about your horse's shoemaker? I.e. your blacksmith?)

Anyways. What I really wanted to say about branded utility was not how actually historic I think it is, but how obvious/ingenious it is as a purveyor of public services. Essentially, if the utilities brands provide are services traditionally provided by governments, like education or healthcare, branded utility starts resembling the provision of public services. Brands already sponsor stuff in order to have their names plastered all over it, but what if brands were integral players in the public service landscape? Sounds scary and ludicrous, I know, but many so-considered public services - like healthcare, education, and even military - are already offered by private actors. So I find it somehow obvious/ingenious that your friend the shoemaker, big poppa Nike with lots of money/resources, could provide you with health services to cultivate your loyalty and help you keep running in his shoes for a long long time.


subsidizing Love with mouseclicks

As too many of my recent posts indicate, I've been making Threadless T submissions, thinking I'd swiftly take the $500 prize that accompanies a winning t-shirt slogan. (Sad but true: Threadless has dominated this shower in the dark as of late, and I'll now return to blogging about topics of greater sophistication like ping pong songs.) I thought some of my slogans were pretty fantastic. "If you think I'm cute, you should see my dog." Fantastic, right? Wrong. At least, according to the Threadless crowd, which as I've come to learn, is a damn tough one. Or a damn tasteless one. Or something, but anyways. Meanwhile, I'm madly in Love with someone who lives very very far away. It costs lots of money to see each other. Like $500. [Light bulb sound effect!] So why not submit a slogan that says, "I voted on this shirt so that Nathaniel could visit Stephanie," blast it out to our friends, and defeat (i.e. become) the Threadless crowd! Which is what we did. And we made a Facebook event for it and got adorable scribblings on the wall and people downvoted other slogans and suggested creating aliases to vote multiple times on ours and even those who didn't attend the event voted for it (note: there was nothing to attend).

Too late into this whole thing, I realized we didn't do it right. We should have submitted a stand-alone awesome slogan that wouldn't have smelled fishy to Threadless (Who are Nathaniel and Stephanie? What's up with all these first-time accounts voting for this slogan?), and would have gotten votes regardless. What started as an impossibility became a possibility, but we should have treated it as such from the beginning. Hmph. Polls closed. And the verdict was...........a rockin 82%!!!!!!! Which means, well, we don't actually know what it means. Because, says Threadless, "we look at the top 300 designs every couple of weeks and pick out around 10 designs that we want to print based off of the designs score, comments, and the number of i'd buy it's. Ultimately the decision of which shirts get printed are left up to us." Every couple of weeks? Ultimately the decision is up to Threadless? How absurdly anticlimactic. At the very least, threadless should fork over the $500 for driving so much new traffic to their site.

But hear hear, imaginary audience: if executed wisely, this could be (as one voter/attendee/friend put it) "the stuff of legends." And if you go for it, lemme know. We can cut a massive vote-swapping deal.


human flower chain

At any given moment, all city intersections have at least one crosswalk available for walking, if not four (like 4th and Folsom in SF), or even more (a la Shibuya Crossing, above). That means you could hang out in a street intersection perpetually, because there’s always somewhere safe to hang – as long as you keep migrating to the available crosswalk. And crosswalks are connected to each other by sidewalks, also safe places to hang. Imagine a flower chain of people, holding hands through an entire city from sidewalk to crosswalk to sidewalk. Now take a bird’s eye view, and watching sidewalkers and crosswalkers fluctuate like swinging doors. I wonder if there are enough homeless people in SF to make a human flower chain from the Presidio to Hunter’s Point. But even the scaled-down version of a perpetual street hang at the 4th and Folsom intersection would be dandy.