Company Ethics Database

FROM: Jeremy French

What NEED does this meet?
If information about what unethical & ethical practices companies are involved in was available in an easy to access database then consumers would be able to choose and companies they purchase from and companies would need to be more accountable

What is the APPROACH?
A user updateable database of companies and their working practice. These can be categorised and searched through. Links to relevant reports and news storeys can be posted for verification.
The database will also keep track of the ownership of companies so that conglomerates are easy to identify.
The database can be expanded to brands and products so that consumers can be aware of what they will be supporting with their purchases.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
People will be able to easily base their purchases on practices they believe are right. So if someone didn’t agree with animal testing they could avoid companies that are involved in that. Sometimes an ‘ethical’ company is owned by a larger ‘unethical’ one and it is difficult to tell what you are supporting when you buy things.

What is the COMPETITION?
No competition that I know of.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
There is a little development work involved in the front end, servers will need to be hosted and sponsored. Depending on the popularity bandwidth may become costly but there may be interested contentious parties that will help with the posting (guardian/BBC/NGOs).

Can be run on open source software linux/apache/php/mysql

November 4, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems | Permalink | Comments (13)

Fair Traders

FROM: Rob Beattie

What NEED does this meet?
Rather than choosing someone to fix my roof, taps, lights, windows, walls or damp problem based on their advertisement, I'd like to choose them based on personal recommendation. If they did a good job for someone else, they'll probably do a good job for me. I suspect there are millions of people who feel the same.

If the initial site was a success, it could be extended to include all sorts of other types of businesses - estate agents, surveyors, financial advisors, solicitors (well, maybe not...)

What is the APPROACH?
When you come across someone who does a good job for a fair price, you type your comments into a database; similarly, if they do a poor job. The result is a bit like the feeedback an eBay user gets. Over time, it becomes clear which traders are doing a good job and which ones aren't.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Finding and paying someone to work on your house is a stressful experience, and it shouldn't be. By pooling our knowledge of local traders we can help everyone to get the job that they pay for. User feedback like this also allows smaller traders to compete with large ones on more equal terms.

According to the DTI: "In the current market it is clear however that the average consumer has little chance of distinguishing between good builders and bad builders." Fair Traders would help to even things out.

What is the COMPETITION?
Not that I know of. Certainly a number of sites will offer lists of local tradespeople but doesn't 'review' them in any sense.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I don't know anything about coding but I'd have thought it was pretty straightforward. You'd need to be able to search by post code and the type of work you need doing. Apart from that, the site builds itself, as people share their experiences.

November 3, 2003 in Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (5)


FROM: Chris Ewels

What NEED does this meet?
Connecting potential passengers and drivers - enabling car pooling and reducing transport costs.

What is the APPROACH?
It's a bit like eBay. Drivers and potential passengers register. You type in your proposed journey (or text it in), possibly like '' you can enter your flexibility in start/arrive time and location. Then there's a range of choices. Initially it could link passengers and drivers 'for free' - using route finder info it could also link passengers who may only want a part of the route being driven, i.e. they needn't have the same start and end destination. Could also propose a 'fee' the passenger pays the driver based on the mileage, pitched so the cost would be roughly half that of coach travel. Alternatively the eBay approach could be used and the driver could post up the voyage with minimum bid rate and passengers could 'bid' to travel in that vehicle. All financial transaction would (initially) have to be done between driver and passenger as logistics of organising website to handle this would be nasty. Otherwise it could just be a free service that connects folks.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
It could kickstart hitchhiking once again. There's an added level of security over conventional hitchhiking since both passenger and driver have to register at the site so there's at least one level of check possible if anything happens and, for example, the police need to be contacted. Currently lorries aren't normally allowed to pick up hitchers for insurance reasons - if there's way that firms can make money through an easily managed scheme such as this then maybe this will encourage them to change such regulations. If eBay is anything to go by, people may even start running 'private' services between places if they can get the passengers and an unofficial needs-based private 'public transport' system is born!

What is the COMPETITION?
Never heard of this working yet. It'd need good publicity to encourage take-up, maybe getting agreement from national coach etc carriers to enter their data (so if there's no private car low cost bid available, the passenger can at least be offered a more expensive coach or train option - could bring more passengers to the coach companies).

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Depends on the level of complexity built into it. Maybe eBay could be encouraged to do this for you? If it ever really took off and payment was exchanged between driver and passenger via the site then the site could cover costs with a 2% surcharge or similar.

November 2, 2003 in Matching System, Reputation Systems, Transport | Permalink | Comments (24)

The Source to Out Out-Sourcers

FROM: Andy Button

What NEED does this meet?
Within the UK economy a large number of corporations are moving work overseas as quietly and transparently as possible. People want to prevent this but no-one really knows how, on company accounts it looks great and those cuts in credit card interest rates look so appealing.

The jobs being lost are British jobs, this isn't about race but people want to do something and need accurate information about who provides a service while still managing to employ British people.

What is the APPROACH?
At the very least there needs to be a mailing list to inform people about companies that move jobs overseas.

An anonymous account/product checker that can analyse your accounts/products telling you who is out-sourcing and offers suggestions of alternative accounts/products that are comparable but employ in the UK.

As a further step it would be ideal if visitors could add their support to an online petition for active lobbying of parliament and/or petitions to the board of offending companies.

A review section of the site could reward companies that are open about their stance against out-sourcing and to keep subscribers up to date about companies who have brought work back into Britain.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Most people care about the future of their jobs and would appreciate some assurance that their job is not going to be given to lower paid staff overseas.

The only way to give people this power is to coordinate their opinions into a market force that can dissuade companies from choosing the easy option.

What is the COMPETITION?
I know of no similar services.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The front end of the web service would be relatively inexpensive with obviuosly the bare minimum of a mailing list being the ultimately scaleable solution.

I would very much like to see the account/product checker functionality implemented and the obvious solution is to use affiliates. I do, however, think that the policy for choosing affiliates would need to be strict as subject such as web site advertising should be appropriate to the message the service is providing.

Longer term, the site should maintain it's own database of products and services to provide an unbiased view.

November 1, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (2)

Goods and Services Database

FROM: Brad Evans

What NEED does this meet?
Since the end of the cold war, the globalized economy (with all it's pluses and minuses) has taken over to become the most powerful system in the world. My idea is attempt to address the 'minuses' of globalization and to provide a balancing system to keep it in check.

Right now the majority of consumers base their purchases of goods and services based on price. They ignore the problems that their choices cause to societies and the environment. People buy the cheapest rugs not knowing that this causes child labour in the third world, or people buy product X not knowing that it requires that harmful chemicals are used in creating it.

Also the informed bargaining power that consumers once had in purchasing has been lost in a complicated obscurity. I cannot choose product X over product Y because I know that the CEO of the manufacturing company is a disreputable person. We have gone too far from the marketplaces of old, where haggling kept prices in check and more than just money guided our purchasing.

What is the APPROACH?
My plan is to provide more information to consumers by using freely available databases on the Internet. The price of apples in Toronto can be compared to the price in London. If I want to buy product X, I can find out who makes it, what is used in building it, in what countries is it manufactured. How do those country rate in their labour and environmental laws.

This idea will require technical people, information providers, information arbitartors, some sort of online court to judge with information is most truthful and what parties providing mis-information.

The glut of information compiled in these databases will be too much for one person to understand. Consumer groups would have to step forward to interpret it for particular people in particular regions.

As a consumer I would pick a consumer group that reflected my personal tastes, philosophy and region. I would join the Urban-Middle-Age-Environmentally-and-Politically-Concerned-Christian-Slightly-Right of-Center-Male-of-Southern-Ontario-Canada-Consumer-Group. My group would tell me what the best car for me to buy would be and where to buy my groceries.

These consumer groups would probably become a shaping force in future economies and political landscapes.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
I believe that the global society that we have needs a balancing force. This force is to be found in informed consumerism and not in political idealogy.

Consumers will join primarily to gain marketplace power. To find the best buys and to set proper prices. They can also rest easier that their consumer choices are not causing suffering in other parts of the world and to our environment.

By careful purchasing consumers vote on changes that bring us all a better world.

What is the COMPETITION?
There may be other such databases out there, but they are regional or for a certain area of products. Consumer Reports Magazine has information but it is not as complete as I would like and requires that I subscribe to their information. Other databases are available only to certain groups.

I think an open source non-commercial idea has to work. It is an idea to counterbalance the commercial world where there is a lot of mis-information, vested interests and money is king.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Well since it's an open source project, peoples time and expertise will not be a cost. I see this as a good opportunity to bring non-technical people into the open source world. This idea will require legal, political and commercially minded people. It will need information providers from all over the world. It will need organizers to make all this work.

Ways of handling the Global Goods and Services Database need to be devised and control by a central but unbiased authority.

I think most of the development will occur in an evolutionary manner. If we start building regional goods and services database and provide a standard for their construction and the sharing of information. Then the governing of these resources will develope afterwards in a hopefully democratic manner.

The consumer groups that interpret will be self funding and governing. However, information packages and advice will have to be provided to these groups, so that they can make the most of the GGSDB.

I can only anticipate the early stages of my idea. As it must be nurtured by many people, the direction it would take, I cannot predict. I think that to start the project a forum of interested people need be created. From their, the GGSB can take form.

I for one would be glad to contribute to the discussion, to the design of the GGSDB. I can also offer my techinal expertise as a Network Administrator and as an amateur sociologist.

November 1, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3)

Judgment Machine

FROM: James Nickson

What NEED does this meet?
In many situations the people leading, managers, politicians, candidates, exhibit appalling judgment.

From our field, when Steve Balmer of Microsoft called open source a "cancer" it served no one's interests, least of all Microsoft's, this is appalling judgment in action. Tony Blair has had some examples but very few compared to the Georges Bush and Bill Clinton's use of the historical Oval Office for bio-entertainment.

In the computer field I watched my own career take a downturn and also sixty thousand other people's at DEC when in 1978 Ken Olsen decided not to ship a desktop prepared for manufacturing and to delay desktops until 1985 to do them on VAX/VMS. This decision took the company shipping more computers than anyone else and rendered them a non-player, wasting many people's plans, careers, retirement funds and expectations. At the time, many people at DEC were advising to immediately ship desktops, the thinking based upon profits, market stance, historical DEC imperatives, strategic positioning and survival.

Ken Olsen killed Dekstop RSTS and when the IBM PC shipped in 1981 DEC no longer had a future. Appalling judgment.

The components needed to build a system that could rank people according to judgment on issues are available and inexpensive. Having such a system would serve to heighten the quality of governance and management.

What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to make internet questionaires and database of questions that regarding testable future events with a clear termination and answer. Then ask people to state in their judgment what is the answer. Then use the answers to rank people on 'judgment'.

A question might be "Will Tony Blair be P.M. on Jan 1, 2005?" and accept answers up until Jan 1, 2004. People would answer based upon their predilictions, intelligence, flight/flee balances, and information, which en masse may be 'judgment', ignoring for the moment less founded concepts such as group minds, thought fields & cetera.

"Will the US still have troops in Iraq on Jan 1, 2005?"

"Will the UK have troops in Iraq and Iran on Jan 1, 2005?"

Of course it does not have to be politics:

"Will the SCO suit against IBM be dropped by January 1, 2004?"

"Will the cost per kilowatt/hour from solar panels drop to below $.02 (1990) by July 1, 2004?"

"Will England win the World cup in ???"

"Will Michael Schumacher get another F-1 title in 2004?"

The questions do not have to be long term, e.g.

"Will the Dow Jones be over 10,000 on December 1, 2003?"

"Will there be a major worm affecting more computers larger than SoBig before December 1, 2003?"

Once a person has answered about thirty of such questions and the results have been tallied one can establish a ranking (perhaps a Kendall ranking, I am stat-rusty).

Rankings could be general and/or in fields of specialisation.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The present case is that the world has leaders based upon the criteria charisma, wealth and connections, and often knowledge and intellignece are tertiary requirements. In some areas control of munitions is the only criterion.

Analysing and making public judgment rankings would help to get those with appallingly bad judgment out of senior roles.

About results: It is not difficult with statistics to describe the likely error envelope for a measure.

Suppose Ken Olsen had been ranked with only a few questions, the ranking might look like [22 - 82] indicating a wider variance (few answers). Whereas if Linus Torvalds had answered many questions the ranking might look like [96 - 98] indicating enough meausures to reliable estimate.

Error envelope rankings prevent all sorts of startup problems and complaint problems.

What is the COMPETITION?
No competition.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Phase 1: Prototype and Initial Testing $45K/annum

In the short term requirements are a living wage, acess to an internet server with PHP and MySQL at least, Perl and secure connections would be better. None of these are costly.

Phase I objectives would be prototyping the MySQL databases, attaching them to a web application to allow

  • login and browsing of the current questions and
  • selecting one to answer,
  • recording any answers given by a user,
  • Screens to display result rankings with various searches.

For startup the questions should be about things determinable in a short time so that people see results. Perhaps sports or politics. Perhaps based upon technical matters and count on word of mouth among we dweebs and nerds to get started.

P1 Organization chart: Me. A volunteer statistician, I have two in mind.

Phase 2: Testing specializations and specialized rankings $45K /annum other funding from other sources.

Organize two volunteer teams to evaluate questions to be added by area of speciality.

I believe there could be some very interesting things done with cluster analysis applied to result information so one could say, e.g., show me the top ten in chemistry and African Politics. Phase two is time to get a statistician proposing not too controversial models for queries and analyses.

Start duplication with built in error incursion checking. Multiple servers each of which can record answers and then communicate every 'evening' to check that previous answers have not been altered and that the new aswers are correctly uploaded to each other.

Organizational: With a demonstrable prototype and results from Phase 1 and some initial results two efforts should be initiated: fund raising and establishing speciality boards for approving questions. Organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust ought to be interested in further seed funds. Phase 2 should sets up as an NGO, non profit organization and starts to consider staffing. If funding and staff are arranged, Phase 2 moves to Phase 3.

Phase 3: NGO staffs for separate functions: Funding from MySociety $0

  • Staff to coordinating boards for specialities - invitations, rules, squabble resolution, . . .
  • Fund raising and education: presentations on use to other organizations
  • Server Development - heightened commuications, results vaults, and security
  • Interlingua - Translations
  • Shadow Board - Well recognized people whose job is explicitly to propose alternatives to and to critique the board's decisions and directions. Two year appointments.

    We should be so lucky as to get to Phase 3 on this plan.

    The idea is entirely mine, James B. Nickson, from Summer, 1973, and is a twist on the universal poll that was written about in John Brunner's works, I think it may have been "Shockwave Rider".

    The twist is of course, instead of just a poll, record and analyse personal results which combined Brunner's description with reading I was doing at the time on statistics, cognition, and mind.

    Those concepts combined with dissatisfaction of the judgment or almost total lack thereof used by Kissinger, Johnson, MacNamara, Westmoreland, and Nixon in perpetrating a lot of disinformation (lies) to continue a crappy war in Vietnam.

    The era gave many examples of appalling judgment in leadership. Any two grandmothers chosen at random could have done better than the presidents we had at the time.

    With current internet facilities the judgment machine is inexpensive to instantiate.

    November 1, 2003 in Political, Reputation Systems | Permalink | Comments (3)

    mobile phone location car sharing

    FROM: David Vanes

    What NEED does this meet?
    This would make car sharing much more dynamic and feasable. This would have environmental benifits It could be used commercially by a combination of bus / taxi /train companies to link transport.

    What is the APPROACH?
    most car sharing is "static" you find a friend on a web site and you are stuck to the times. Routes may not be available. Here we use mobile phone location to identify the users position and text messages of the destination (post code?) to identify the needed tranportation. Users are registered to a web site so the system is secure. Users requesting lifts can be matched dynamically to the movement of users offering transport. So the lift share you get in the morning can be separate to the lift share in the evening - and lift shares from day to day can be at various times and with different people. This can be used comercially to share taxis and utilize busses. Easiest to explain with the dispersal of a plane load of people from an airport. Users are all in one place and can be contacted by txt msg. The are directed to busses which disperse along major routes. Taxis can "rendevous" with the busses to take smaller groups off at strategic road junctions. Everyone gets door to door service. Costs are shared, less road use, user costs are cheaper, very dynamic,fast and efficient. Use blue tooth technology to pay and make the system cashless. It's a bit like using that lift thumbing device used in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

    What are the BENEFITS to people?
    Less cars on the road Less pollution Ability of non drivers OAPs to get to places not served by public transport. Public transport becomes cheaper and more efficient as it uses more direct routes. You can use special TRUSTED systems to make shared school runs and solve a major traffic problem (30% of traffic in the morning).

    What is the COMPETITION?
    There are many patents out there with user location, guiding to public transport, avoiding traffic congestion etc. Nobody yet has applied mobile phone location (only just becoming available in europe) to makeing shared transport possible.

    What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
    Mobile phone companies are beginning to offer an application programming interface for mobile location.
    There are the beginings of pay by mobile phone for commercial users. I am not an application programmer so I have no idea how it would be built. I do know bus companies are building Buss tracking systems Road transport (especially security vans) have tracking and delivery systems. Geo plan data is available with many web sites offing route planning
    I think it may be a case of putting it together rather than inventing the wheel.

    October 31, 2003 in Connecting People, Environmental, Matching System, Reputation Systems, SMS, Transport | Permalink | Comments (8)

    Database of Private Landlords

    FROM: Geoff Burgess

    What NEED does this meet?
    This is a resource to help tenants of private landlords make an informed choice when choosing their next property. A lot of private landlords are inept and uncaring and I believe they should provide a quality service - for which they are generally paid very well! Legislation will not change this, it is market forces that can make a difference. With a database of landlords' behaviour and attitude, expressed through personal experience of past tenants, we can praise the best and deny future business to the worst.

    What is the APPROACH?
    The approach is distinctive because no-one is really shouting for the private tenant. Social Housing and Council Housing have a lot of support but there's an odd smokescreen of 'enforced gratitude' with private tenancies - as though we should feel lucky to have anything. I am playing with ideas on this theme at

    The format is simple: a searchable database of landlord's name, agent's name, property address, and personal experience. There must be equal space for the people in question to reply.

    What are the BENEFITS to people?
    The more savvy tenants are with which landlords they enter into contracts with, the more the remainder of the market will be forced to improve.

    What is the COMPETITION?
    There is nothing I have found so far for the bunch of housemates, small family or urban couple who aren't interested in their local community or tenancy associations but just want a decent flat to live in for the money they pay.

    This isn't about extreme disputes or major legal battles - it is a gentle push for improvement in quality, civility and happiness. In a way it is the least important factor in the housing arena and that is why no-one is representing it.

    What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
    I know nothing about databases but it shouldn't take long. We may need legal representation for each occasion we are taken to court but with the right guidance the database should be such that we never lose a case.

    October 31, 2003 in Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (12)

    Good driver / bad driver

    FROM: Mark West

    What NEED does this meet?
    A web site for people to enter the number plate of a driver who nearly caused them to crash that morning, or was driving stupidly or right up their bumper on the way to work... or alternatively a driver who was especially nice and let them pull out or go first. People can then look up their own number plate and see if other people think they're a good or bad driver, hopefully making them think about driving safer if they find that lots of people have submitted them as being bad!

    What is the APPROACH?
    A simple web site with a database of number plates, number of positive votes and number of negative votes. The user just enters the number plate, and clicks 'bad' or 'good'. No email or login is needed, but an IP check ensures that no one can vote for a particular driver more than once.

    What are the BENEFITS to people?
    If you look up your own number plate and find lots of 'bad driver' votes and no 'good driver' ones it should make you really think about driving better. If you find that people say you're good, it'll make you feel good! It also gives people who have had a run in with a bad driver a chance to feel like they've done something about it.

    What is the COMPETITION?
    I don't know of any...

    What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
    Cheap and easy - just need a server with a big enough database behind it.

    October 31, 2003 in Reputation Systems, Transport, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (15)

    Brand Facts

    FROM: Jake

    What NEED does this meet?
    We live in a branded, logo-fied world. Brands are used to enable economies of scale and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with them. However, what we need is 'perfect information' which economics tell us is the key to free markets. Without this, we are constantly being duped into buying products we netiher need nore truly want. Or what if we don't agree with a company's ethics, policies and history? We need information about products other than the marketing and PR talk the companies want us to hear. And we want to find it fast.

    What is the APPROACH?
    Introducing A database of brand names, companies and products. Make a search 'colgate' and the site will find user-submitted text about the brand. There's information about the company: who owns it, what other products it makes, its profit or loss, its ethical practice. There are also several categories enabling scores out of ten such as 'environment', 'ethics' and 'innovation'. Search for 'toothpaste' and you can rank the results by numerous categories such as those just mentioned. Prices are listed too, but hopefully will not be the most important issue to most people.

    Ideally, whilst being based around a main website, it will also be possible for citizens to get the information when they need it: whilst shopping. i.e. by texting 'toothpaste ethics top 10' they'll get a list of the top 10 toothpaste brands/companies by text. Or maybe a small-browser version of the site for other mobile devices.

    What are the BENEFITS to people?
    When shopping, people will be able to make decisions not just based upon price and adverts they've seen. They can shop ethically, or environmentally, or perhaps boycott companies which pay ridiculous fat-cat pay checks, or those which invest in weapons or oil. This will encourage companies to clean up their acts and act as socially responsible entities.

    What is the COMPETITION?
    Let me know if I'm wrong, but I haven't found another site that does this yet. and others do features on certain companies or industries, but importantly they aren't targeted at the casual shopper who needs information on something they're about to buy right away. On all products, not just the major brands.

    What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
    Most submissions to the site will be made by users and moderated by users who have different rankings and warnings based upon quality and accuracy of information they provide. A system for making this work without any/too much 'staff' admin is crucial to the working of this project and will be the most expensive issue in terms of development costs. Some full time staff will be required to promote the site and moderate user submissions (sometimes by thorough and expensive investigative research) - however it is hoped that in the long run algorithms and systems will be developed to enable greater autonomy.

    October 31, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (17)