Glenn Fleishman, in his first cover story for The Economist
, tracks how technology is making it easier to share everything from bicycles to basement bedrooms
—for a price.
Such peer-to-peer rental schemes provide handy extra income for owners and can be less costly and more convenient for borrowers. Occasional renting is cheaper than buying something outright or renting from a traditional provider such as a hotel or car-rental firm. The internet makes it cheaper and easier than ever to aggregate supply and demand. Smartphones with maps and satellite positioning can find a nearby room to rent or car to borrow. Online social networks and recommendation systems help establish trust; internet payment systems can handle the billing. All this lets millions of total strangers rent things to each other. The result is known variously as “collaborative consumption”, the “asset-light lifestyle”, the “collaborative economy”, “peer economy”, “access economy” or “sharing economy”.
The flies in the ointment: insurance, liability, and laws that favor incumbent industries.
BurningManRides.com is a carpool site that helps attendees share rides to the Burn. Created by the rideshare service Ridejoy, the site allows users to easily request or offer a ride and get matched up with other Burners going along their route on the same date and time frame.
For those lucky enough to snag a ticket to the annual celebration of "radical self-expression" held in the desert of Nevada (which are largely sold out), finding a way to transport themselves along with their food, water and gear can be a daunting task so carpooling is a big help.
The Ridejoy founders, themselves Burners, launched the first version of the site in August of 2011 where over 1200 rides (including 5 plane rides) were posted. You can read the full story here.
To promote the relaunch of BurningManRides.com in 2012, they are offering a "gift-away" of a free ticket to two randomly selected winners.
I'll be there this year, camping again with Liminal Labs on the Esplanade. See you there!
Share rides to Burning Man 2012
Share or Die is a new anthology from Shareable.net (whose mandate is to promote sharing in all its guises), written by 20-somethings struggling through austerity and econopocalypse, who find in sharing a solution to some of their problems. I was privileged to write the book's foreword, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can buy a copy or get a PDF for free -- all the book's publishers ask is that you tweet the fact that you've gotten a copy yourself. Here's a snip of my foreword:
This was supposed to be the disconnected generation. Raised on video-games and networked communications, kept indoors by their parents' fear of predators and the erosion of public transit and public spaces, these were the kids who were supposed to be socially isolated, preferring the company of video-game sprites to their peers, preferring Facebook updates to real-life conversations.
The Internet's reputation for isolation is undeserved and one-dimensional. If the net makes it possible to choose to interact through an electronic remove from "the real world," it *also* affords the possibility of inhabiting the "real world" even when you've been shut away from it by your fearful parents or the tyranny of suburban geography.
Even as entertainment moguls were self-servingly declaring "content is king," they failed to notice that content without an audience was about as interesting as a tree that falls in the deserted woods. Conversation is king, not content. If we gather around forums to talk about TV shows or movies or games or bands, it's because we enjoy talking with each other, because "social" is the best content there is. Content is just something to talk about. That's why telcoms -- the industry that charges you to connect with other breathing humans -- is 100 times larger than entertainment.
Which is to say that our "disconnected" generation is more connected than any generation in history -- connected via a huge, technologically augmented peripheral nervous system of communications technologies that gives them continuous, low-level insight into their peers and the world they inhabit. Which is not to say that being wired up to the net's social radar is an unadulterated good: adding capacity and velocity to your nervous system can be a recipe for disaster, creating race-conditions in which minor disagreements snowball into vicious fights, where the bad as well as the good can find itself magnified through positive feedback loops that ratchet minor stimuli into feedback screams.
Download a Complete Copy of Share or Die
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's staff technologist Peter Eckersley writes in "Why We Need An Open Wireless Movement" about the positive aspects of sharing your WiFi with your neighbors and passers-by and about the tragedy of the commons that is puts those of us who generously share our networks with the world at risk. He proposes future direction for protocol and hardware design that allow us to share while keeping our traffic private and while maintaining a minimum amount of bandwidth for our own use.
The problem that's really killing open WiFi is the idea that an unlocked network is a security and privacy risk.
Why We Need An Open Wireless Movement
This idea is only partially true. Computer security experts will argue at great length about whether WEP, WPA and WPA2 actually provide security, or just a false sense of security. Both sides are partially correct: none of these protocols will make anyone safe from hacking or malware (WEP is of course trivial to break, and WPA2 is often easy to break in practice), but it's also true that even a broken cryptosystem increases the effort that someone nearby has to go to in order to eavesdrop, and may therefore sometimes prevent eavesdropping.
It doesn't really matter that WiFi encryption is a poor defense against eavesdropping: most computer users only understand the simple message that having encryption is good, so they encrypt their network. The real problem isn't that people are encrypting their WiFi: it's that the encryption prevents them from sharing their WiFi with their friends, neighbours, and strangers wandering past their houses who happen to be lost and in need of a digital map.
(Image: WiFi signal, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nnova's photostream)
Shareable.net's Mary Fallon has a nice article called "Should Products Be Designed for Sharing?" that explores the current state of design for items that are intended for use by multiple people (such as shared-use short-hire bicycles) and looks at what the future might hold for them. Zipcar has just gone public and is looking to source cars that are specifically designed for their kind of use (as opposed to retrofitting standard cars to be used in car-share schemes).
This prototype station-free public bike-sharing system uses mobile communications, GPS, and a big secure lock that can be attached to any bike or bike rack. The appeal of a sharing system like Sobi is that you can deploy it anywhere and the start-up costs are minimal compared to other standard bike-sharing systems. The implication is that such technology can make bike sharing more scalable, and penetrate beyond major metros.
Should Products Be Designed for Sharing?
(via Beyond the Beyond
The latest in a series of reversals from Brazil's new government is an attack on open WiFi. The Brazilian telcoms regulator claims that it is empowered to raid the homes of people with open WiFi networks and seize their routers and then issue hefty fines. This is part of a general series of attacks on sharing and openness in Brazil, including attacks on free content and open culture -- a heartbreaking turn from a nation that has led the world in respect for the open Internet, shared culture, and freedom for most of the century.
On January 27 , Anatel (Brazil's National Telecommunications Agency), the regulatory agency responsible for regulating, executing and supervising the telecommunications sector, seized equipment and fined an internet user R$ 3,000 (approximately $ 1,810 USD) for sharing his wifi connection with neighbors in the city of Teresina, Piauí state (Northeast of Brazil). [GV note: one of the poorest states in Brazil.]
Brazil: Criminalization of Sharing Internet via Wifi
(Thanks, Gmoke, via Submitterator!
(Image: Anatel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from hapoptosis's photostream)