community swapping website

FROM: Paolo

What NEED does this meet?
Most of us live in a world where our neighbours are strangers.

Most of us have a stack of DVD's/videos/books/computer games/kids toys, getting dusty on our shelves.

My concept is a free website for your local community that helps you meet your real world neighbours, by listings and swapping your dusty read books, exchanging your seen dvds, and trade your played computer games or kids toys.

What is the APPROACH?
Have already developed an advanced swap group engine and website. I want input from you people. The website is of course free:

Check it out and please, let me know what you think and which way I should develop it, and promote it.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Save a fortune on Books/dvds/computer games/kids toys/anything else.

Meet your neighbours! We all know that its good to have friends in your neighbourhood.

What is the COMPETITION?
show me... them?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
£50k to bring it up to 'broadcast standard' and initiate a PR campagain.

November 19, 2003 in Connecting People, Leisure, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


FROM: neil yashinsky

What NEED does this meet?
The need am I serving is enabling every day home and community maintenance. It is always easier with the right tools, think of a community snow blower used by people in the neighborhood vs one person using his snow blower and all his neighbors using their shovels.

Sharing tool enables personal and community productivity and development. It is built off a common practice used by people everyday aronud the world. A recent example is I bought an expensive ergonomically designed shovel that moves snow well while not causing you to hurt your back. I lend it to my neighbors, because as long as they don't misuse it they cannot use it up.

Another example is sharing a broadcast spreader used to spread grass seeds or fertilizer. This can't be used up, and actually everyone's property values will grow up because all the lawns in the area are likely to improve if it becomes easier to maintain a nice lawn.

If my neighbor shared his paint sprayer back to me I could paint my house more easily and might not let the appearance get so run down before paying someone to paint it. The money I save from not needing a painter I might use to fix up my porch.

What is the APPROACH?
It lends itself from napster of course, which showed how sharing can become very popular with music, because it can not be used up. My approach extends that plan to tools that cannot be used up either.

They do wear down and need replacing eventually which is why I might suggest a very minimal usage fee to be collected for purchasing more collective tools to be shared. This might be optional because in most situations people won't mind sharing, in fact they probably would already be sharing if there was something to enable sharing.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
By sharing tools that will make work easier, everyone becomes more productive. That will naturally benefit everyone involved. Common interests and areas such as property values, side walksand interests are improved. It might be the opposite of the tragedy of the commons which said that it should be expected that an unregulated resource will be used in an unsustainable manner. Instead toolster works to share private resources in a more efficient and thus sustainable manner.

What is the COMPETITION?
None that I know of.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
You will need to develop some software, but the functionality is very basic. I would imagine this be either centrally hosted like a yahoo discussion group or run locally by each tool community or group of tool communities.

The hardware required to centrally host would not be too expensive and might even be considered a shared tool for which user pay a minimal fee to maintain or not. The processing power needed to run such a simple application could easily be handled by a pc ala napster

November 15, 2003 in Connecting People, Helping Your Community, Matching System, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

UK version of

FROM: Sarah Walstead

What NEED does this meet?
Retired people are younger than ever - 62 for men and 59 for women, according to the BBC - but as the population of the UK and the EU ages, it's important to get retired people, and their skills, back into the workforce. In addition, the average 60-year-old these days isn't usually ready to potter around the house knitting booties for grandchildren: they're active, vital, and ready to learn new things.

Meanwhile, businesses - small and large - have a need for temporary or part-time employees, and would love to hire the experience and skills of retired people instead off having to take sullen 19-year-olds from temp agencies - but they don't know where to find them. In addition, if an employer only needs someone for 3 days next week to stuff envelopes, it's not cost-effective to post a job on Monster (£250 per job) - but it is on Retired Worker (£25 or less per job).

So we launched Retired Worker ( it's an employment website, sort of like or, except it's been designed especially for retired people who want to work on a temporary or part-time basis - and we made it friendly for these users, who often aren't - yet - expert web surfers.

What is the APPROACH?
Our approach is distinctive simply because nothing like this currently exists, as far as we know.

In terms of our specific approach for this demographic, we've designed Retired Worker with a typical 60+ person in mind, and addressed some of their specific issues. For example, retired people often haven't created a resume in 20 years, and they are apprehensive of doing so. They are also sometimes unfamiiar with 'attaching' documents to emails, as they would have to do to send a resume to a job site. Retired Worker, on the other hand, is a point-and-click system, that allows users to create profiles (selecting various skills, and skill levels) without having to write a resume or attach files.

Employers create their job postings in the same manner, identifying skills and skill levels they need.

The system matches Employees to Employers automatically; Employers get an email telling them who in the Retired Worker database matches their requirements, and then Employers contact Employees directly (using a secure method) to arrange inteviews, work, etc.

The best part is that the cost is much lower than regular job sites!

What are the BENEFITS to people?
For retired people who want to work, the benefits are clear: they don't have to submit a resume or have the sophisticated search skills they need to find an appropriate job on typical employment websites; they don't have to check the site every day because the system will automatically match them to jobs which require their specific skills; and they can participate in a community with other retired people like them. Most importantly, the response we've had from Retired Worker users so far is that they feel 'welcomed' by the site - it's not cluttered, it doesn't require sophisticated computer skills, and we've included details like the ability to large-size text if required.

For businesses, the benefits include more cost-efficient job postings; avoiding email inboxes filled with resumes from people who aren't qualified for the position (our matching system prevents this); quick turnaround (employers know who matches their requirements within 24 hours); and most importantly, access to a wealth of skills and experience they haven't been able to tap into before.

What is the COMPETITION?
We don't think there are any other services like ours out there, especially in the UK.

We think our idea should win because it meets all of's mandates:

1. It is founded on electronic networks (the internet).

2. It has real-world impact beyond using computers. There is increased social capital, bridging between groups, and reduced social exclusion, because we are facilitating the integration of older workers back into the workforce, where they can use and teach their skills and experience with/to younger workers. The government and the EU have predicted a crisis in the workforce in the next 25 years, as the population ages and the younger workforce shrinks - Retired Worker is a way to alleviate this.

3. This has VERY low cost scalability. The database and system is already built and running in Canada. It only has to be adapted to the UK marketplace, and is not restricted to a specific neighbourhood - heck, we could cover the whole EU for only an increased hosting cost.

4. Development community: We think that this project would attract development communities, but more importantly, it would foster a community of its own. We'd like to see Retired Worker have discussion boards, education tools, etc. that would help retired people get back to work and keep working as long as they want to.

5. Retired Worker is very low maintenance. Yes, there are initial requirements such as PR efforts to attract attention to it, but in Canada we've had absolutely no trouble doing this on a 'we did it in our basement' kind of way - we call newspapers and television stations and they have been more than happy to run stories about Retired Worker. The challenges of an aging population are foremost in many people's minds.

6. Things people already do, done better: Well, people have already done employment websites, so I guess you could say we're just doing it better for this demographic.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It's not difficult to build the idea, since it's already been done.

Logistics, however, is where we would need some help. We'd need to find someone, preferably from within the demographic, to be the 'face' of Retired Worker UK, and there is a certain amount of effort required in terms of making calls, emails, etc. to businesses and the media to get sponsorship and PR for the site, but this has not been difficult in Canada, and judging from the amount of British media coverage of the challenges of an aging population both in the UK and in the EU, we don't think it would be difficult to get Employees, Employers, and advertisers on board. Depending on the revenue model desired, government might also want to be involved.

Cost for this: We think it can be done on a shoestring (as we've done it in Canada), especially if we have the support of an organization like MySociety. Ideally we'd have an office and server in the UK, which could be as little as £500/month, plus a salary for the 'face' of Retired Worker, and possibly some part-time or temporary staffers who could help attract initial attention/PR. So it could probably be successfully launched for £10,000 over 3-6 months - though of course a little more wouldn't hurt, mostly for marketing!

November 13, 2003 in Connecting People, Matching System, Money, OAPs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Internet charity shop

FROM: Simon Bates

What NEED does this meet?
Charity shops sell second-hand stuff, but its a bit of a lottery as to whether they have anything you want. If you were taken straight to the availability of something via the internet, then there would be a higher chance of you buying a second-hand item that would benefit a charity

What is the APPROACH?
This is not a very wacky idea, more an extension of what is already going on...

ebay and amazon give you the opportunity to sell second-hand stuff on the internet. What about either:

a) Easing the way for a charity to get a slice b) "Giving" the item to a charity to sell.

I put giving in quotes, because you wouldn't actually take it anywhere, you would simply despatch it when it was sold, but the charity would get the cash

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Don't have to seek out a charity shop, charity shops don't have to waste time and staffing sorting and cataloging items

What is the COMPETITION?
Not aware of any

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
You would need to find a way of offsetting the postage costs, this could be by returning it to the seller, or the seller could tick a box waiving the fee (which would mean more money to the charity)

November 7, 2003 in Giving stuff away, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

FROM: John Naylor

What NEED does this meet?
One man's junk is another man's treasure. So instead of throwing away those 5 year old stereo speakers, maybe there is someone nearby who would love to take them off your hands for free. We will cut down on waste and give a financial break to those who probably need it the most.

What is the APPROACH?
There is no rocket science here, just a site where the haves can share their old stuff with the have nots. Imagine a free ebay.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The rich can get rid of what they consider junk and the less rich can save money. We can also cut back slightly on what we send to landfills.

What is the COMPETITION?
I am not sure.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I built a site last year ( with reusable java components that performs well and is highly scalable. The new site could be built from these components for nothing. All we would need is someone who can pretty up the front end. For about $200 per month (dedicated server) we could be up and running in less than six months.

November 3, 2003 in Connecting People, Giving stuff away, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (2)

Favour Trading

FROM: Chris Preager

What NEED does this meet?
People that could offer something in return, needing something done that they cannot do. For example I am a computer developer with a broken washing machine. Next door there might be a plumber with a broken computer. Almost everyone has skills that are useful.

And it needn't be such a selfish trade. I would be over the moon to pop down the road and fix a child's computer, knowing that that might inspire a plumber to pop down the road and fix an old lady's dripping tap.

What is the APPROACH?
Probably best added to your great UpMyStreet site under postcode, if there are sufficient numbers of people registered. You have a profile under which you post skills if you have them and needs if you have them.

When needs are matched to local skills (eg, within a mile someone can meet a need for a 30 minute or less job), a website message or email is sent to the person with skills and they decide whether or not to respond.

Maybe a ratings system would be good to show people that other people are doing favours.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Silly little jobs that turn in to a big hassle, like fixing a computer or mending a leaky pipe. If carefully designed, it needn't be just practical ideas either - I am writing a funding proposal for a Bolivian NGO and want someone to sanity-check it, I am returning faulty goods to a company that has dissappeared and trading standards aren't helping. Favours should be explicitly limited to 30 minutes or less, but surely almost everyone would be happy to give that little amount of time and save your neighbour such hassles?

What is the COMPETITION?
I have not been able to find anything remotely similar - your UpMyStreet inspired it.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I couldn't really guess the costs but technically it is all fairly simple to program once you have your postcode geographical bit working well, which you seem to. I suppose it is about 7 web pages to code and 6 DB tables to track skills, requests, matches and responses, and to display results or comments from grateful favour receivers.

Just the design would have to be careful, steering people in the right direction not to abuse people that can't say no or feel pressurised.

(That is why I think requests shouldn't be targetted and matches between need and skill are revealed by the person who has the skill if they want.)

November 3, 2003 in Giving stuff away, Helping Your Community, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (1)

Abandoned car notification

FROM: Andy Sutton

What NEED does this meet?
This would beneift people who have had their cars stolen, people who have abandonded cars lurking near them that eventually get smashed and burned, and the hard working police

What is the APPROACH?
This is an idea I had ages ago, that there should be a website where people who notice what appear to be abandoned cars log the reg number somewhere, then people who have had their car stolen can look and then find out where there car is. Studys show that abandoned cars don't get vandalised straight away, but the police don't have the resources to retrieve cars or even notify owners where they are, so cars lurk until they are vandalised and often burned. The insurance value is never as much as the car is worth to the owner, so we just need some speedy way to macth cars with owners. The location of cars would not be public - the owner would have to be validated somehow before they were told where the car is.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
People get their car back, not the insurance value - fewer burned out cars in residential and other areas - police freed up to d other things

What is the COMPETITION?
I have no idea. I'm not trying to champion this. If there is a better way then that should be done. I don't feel remotely competetive about this. If it's useful it is worth doing.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It needs server space and programming. Maybe I could do that myself though I'm no pro. It needs publicising to make it work - it will be useful only if it is widely used. I guess it will need some kind of police approval, and mechanisms for validating owners could be difficult if done through official mechanisms, or it could just be a question of giving some identifying features.

November 3, 2003 in Matching System, Perhaps Government Remit?, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (8)

Blood Network

FROM: Nishad

What NEED does this meet?
Some years ago, the government of India banned professional blood donors from selling blood (There are people in India who live by selling their blood. The Government banned this practice as as a vast majority of donors were found to have deseases that could be transmitted through blood). Ever since, there's been a shortage of blood needed for emergencies and for patients undergoing surgeries.

What is the APPROACH?
If we could set up a database of blood donors who are willing to donate at short notice. (Donor's Name, Blood Group. Location, Contact Number, Date Last donated) If someone needs blood, the family can just log on to the network and find donors easily.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Currently people have to search a great deal to find donors in the right blood group. This adds to the trauma that a family is going through at a time of a medical emergency.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are people out here, in India, volunteers who have phone books full of numbers of donors. If these numbers could be collated on to an easily searchable database, things would become very simple.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
With pro bono help, I don't think it will be very difficult or expensive.

We will have to reach the network down to small towns and villages, where the shortages are even more of a problem. Here, we may need to provide computers and networking at hospital level so that people can access the database easily.

We will also need to set up a system where we can contact people and urge them to donate blood and get listed on the blood network. This is a "Brick and Motar" (If I can call it) operation, which could become phase three of project.

November 3, 2003 in Giving stuff away, Health, International, Matching System, Perhaps Government Remit?, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (2)

Web Calendar auto-generated from mailing lists

FROM: Peter Groves

What NEED does this meet?
Web calendars (specifically activist calendars) have a significant problem in that every event must be manually added to all web sites the poster wishes to advertise on. As a result it's rare that they are actually up-to-date and contain much useful info. In contrast, mailing lists for various groups have lots of up to date info for people who have specifically asked to receive updates on the activist group, sports club, band, etc, that the list is about. The information is there for people who know to ask for it. There is a chicken and the egg problem, though: how do people know to request info on your events if they don't know what your events are? On a college campus, for instance, hundreds of groups are having events all the time, from weekly meetings to speakers to protests, but often the only ones who know about them are people who are already in the group.

What is the APPROACH?
Information extraction (related to information retrieval - the broader category web search engines fall under) is the process of filling in a database with information found in text. There's quite a bit of research in this area in Universtities, but little commercial applications (one company makes software to pull out name, skills, yrs. experience, etc from resumes submitted electronically). If you could get a few volunteers to search the web for every mailing list that might announce events, you could sign up some central email address to receive the mails. Then as the emails came in, an information extraction engine could automatically populate a calendar by pulling out the date, time, location, and event title (more likely it would be a summary because the exact title is difficult to identify, but that's a technical issue to be worked out later). This could be combined with some sort of geographic information backend (some such projects have been submitted, such as "collaborative cartography system") so that people could even do geograpic based queries. If we wanted to be ambitious, we could even create personalized feeds based on where people live and what they're interested in that could be handled by some open source calendar software, and people's calendars could be updated automatically.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Currently, people announcing events must manually submit the info to each calendar site they want to be seen on. If the sites were using this technology, the mailing-list operators could simply add them to the mailing list and the information they sent to their members would automatically get displayed. If many groups started doing this, the quality of community web calendars would increase significantly and people would be more likely to visit them, or even request an rss feed for events in their area.

What is the COMPETITION?
The competition is every web-based community calendar that requires you to fill out a form to submit an event, or requires the calendar-maintainer to do it themselves from information in an email they receive.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
There is a decent amount of open source code that could be exploited (the data-base backend, mail management, html calendar display, etc). There is some information extraction code (like GATE from the University of Sheffield), but that's usually written in java, and this may be computation-intensive enough to warrant rewriting in a different language (like ocaml, I have no interest in dealing with C/C++ code).

If we wished to simply write/maintain the application, the only cost would be developer time. Existing calendar sites could simply use our application. Running a server wouldn't be hard, however, it would just take a machine to do the processing and another machine to be the actual web server. It would probably require someone to fix incorrect postings, which may be a full time job if thousands of emails are being handled.

November 3, 2003 in Matching System, NGO Tools, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (108)

The Tipping Point or The Hundredth Monkey .com

FROM: Jim O'Connor

What NEED does this meet?
Many people would like to help their world or community in some way, such as by using public transport instead of driving, or contributing to a charity, or helping in a local scheme, or voting for a certain political party, or protesting against something, BUT, they know that doing so on their own without massive numbers of other people also following the same course of action would be a waste of time and/or effort and/or money.

In this way, even though large numbers of people would like to do something, enough to make a difference, they never do it due to the absence of some mechanism by which they can co-ordinate their activities.

What is the APPROACH?
This site would help by allowing people to pledge to carry out one of the actions above (or something else) IF a certain number of other people do the same. They will enter the pledge, or pick an existing one and specify the threshold number of other people that they would require to also make the same pledge before they would be prepared to actually carry it out.

The system would hold all the pledges, email addresses and thresholds in a standard database and when the threshold was reached for a particular pledge/group of people, it would email all the people to let them know so that they can begin carrying out the action.

The system would need a database, a bit of math and an intelligent way of categorising pledges so that people can find the one they are looking for. Some pledges would be global, some local.

The site could also contain sections with expert analyses outlining how many people would be required to carry out some course of action to make it beneficial. This would allow people to make an intelligent choice of threshold for any particular pledge.

To answer the question, I think the approach is distinctive not only because it could co-ordinate any conceivable beneficial activity but because it will allow everyone to set their own personal threshold level. You could, for example, say I will begin to "recycle household waste in the London area" but only if 2 million other Londoners also do it. You don't then have to begin recycling until 2 million other people also agree to do it - and of course if that many people did agree to do it then the government would be forced to make recycling in London much easier than it is now. So by setting the threhold figure you are basically stipulating a level of inconvenience that you are willing to experience.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
More participation in beneficial activities as people know they are not doing it alone and therefore wasting their time and/or money.

I remember once reading something by Noam Chomsky in which he said that if one person were to make the decision to use public transport instead of driving to work they would put themselves at great inconvenience and therefore lose out, but if everyone were to do it together then the extra investment would allow such an improvement in services that we would all get to work in half the time and in greater comfort. BUT, it needs everyone to do it together for the benefit to arise. This is the type of thing that the site will facilitate. Co-ordinated action. He said it had something to do with Game Theory.

What is the COMPETITION?
I don't know.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The system would need a database, a bit of math and an intelligent way of categorising pledges so that people can find the one they are looking for.

System would be pretty cheap I think. Some bright student could probably knock up a prototype in a couple of days.

Would need an administrator.

November 2, 2003 in Connecting People, Helping Your Community, Matching System, NGO Tools, Pledge Banks, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3)