Citizen WTF?

The Citizen app is available in NYC and the SF Bay Area. The app is designed to alert you when crime happens nearby with location-based push notifications. But, because the platform is crowdsourced, it exposes all the idiosyncratic definitions of “crime” that you would expect from its voyeuristic users.

Here are some of my favorites. If you have a good one, send it my way and I’ll add it.

We used to have Florida Man stories. Now we have Citizen.

LinkedIn Mobile Splash Page

Every time I start the LinkedIn mobile app, I always wondered about the city street featured on the splash page. I took a screenshot of it and tried Google Image search to look for something familiar. No avail.

Leave it to a Finnish developer friend to fire back a hit to my crowdsourced query. Mystery solved! Thanks Jyrki!


LinkedIn mobile splash page

LinkedIn iPhone app splash page and Google Street View.

LinkedIn Android App

LinkedIn Android App marketing creative

First Crowd-Sourced Car Company

Rally Fighter, the firsts crowd-sourced car

I just listened to a TWiST interview with John “Jay” Rogers, President and CEO of Local Motors, a Southern California company that has set up a platform for a vibrant community of car enthusiasts to share and vote on each other’s car designs. There first car, the Rally Fighter, is coming off the line and already has waiting list of back-orders. Several highlights from the interview:

– Local Motors taps into a passionate audience, “Everyone thinks they are right when it comes to cars.” It’s easy to spin up a passionate thread about a new design. The value-add of the Local Motors company is that they vet the designs and pick and chose which ones to incorporate “Not a crowd-designed car, it’s a car who’s design came from the crowd.” After a year, they have over 70,000 Creative Commons licensed designs.

– Jay paraphrases Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, described the automobile industry as a glass full of rocks. The large auto companies are the rocks and Local Motors is a niche car company that acts as sand between the rocks. There is room for a company, that is building specialty cars on spec, to be profitable with small production runs.

– Jay is good friends with the founders of Threadless (a crowd-sourced t-shirt company) and his company is built on the same model. Many of the designers in the Local Motors community come from the automotive industry which only productizes a handful of designs each year. Imagine Local Motors as a company that sifts through the best of the rest to come up with winning designs that may not meet the large scale appeal of a Ford or Toyota but still be something “game-changing.” They also provide budding transportation design students a platform to showcase their portfolio.

– Local Motors’ mission statement, We will create game-changing cars with an unprecedented level of customer service. What this means in practice is that the process of delivery and manufacturing is transparent and hands on. You not only put together your custom order, you are also asked to come to the factory and actually build your car. All designs, down to the CAD drawings and build instructions are online for review and customization.

– The US Department of Transportation allows you to drive cars that you build yourself (and register as a “Specialty Constructed Vehicle”) which is why, included in the $60k cost of delivery of their first car, the  is two long weekends at the “micro-factory” learning how to build your car and putting it together with the Local Motors team. You not only get a car, you learn, from the inside out, how your car is put together.

Local Motors Build Experience

– The Local Motors model is working so well, that they have branched out. Reebok commissioned the community to design a shoe (winning design below). During the interview, Jay mentioned that they are thinking of opening up the community to other things that need to be designed and built.

Reebok Rally Fighter

So what does a crowd-sourced automobile look like? Here’s a video of their first car, the Rally Fighter, in action.

Related Info:

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits – Wired.com
Quirky: A Crowd-Sourced Way to Produce Your Designs –  article in Fast Company about another crowd-sourcing industrial design community

Business Idea – Parking Space Net

I’m in Finland this week visiting Nokia, my new employer. The Finns use SMS for everything including late-night spot loans. Last night at dinner, one of my colleagues texted a taxi service and within two minutes he got a call from a cab that was waiting outside the door. He just texted his address to a number and the entire booking took place automatically.

Texting is their command line for physical world.

This got me thinking. With flat data plans getting cheaper and cheaper, could you set up a service which used an SMS broadcasting service such as twitter to reserve parking spots in a busy downtown area?

Need a spot in North Beach on a Saturday night? Send an SMS to a parking shortcode number that goes to a dispatcher. Dispatch then sends out a tweet using the account used for North Beach ‘reservists’ who would have a little time on their hands (homeless folks? students?). If the reservist has a place, they tweet back the location of the spot and then dispatch texts back the location of the free space to the person looking for a spot. When the car gets there, standard pricing applies (i.e. $1 for a metered space, $2 for a non-metered space).

The model can be applied to pretty much any situation where you need a temporary stand-in. Looking for someone to stand in line for your AC/DC tickets? Waiting for a new passport? Text it!

Bathed in WiFi

Via Todd Sampson’s Delicious stream comes Walt Mossberg’s review of the Autonet WiFi router which lets you get an internet connection via it’s domestic US EV-DO cell network and bath your car and everyone within 100 feet of your car in up to 800k download speeds.

Hmm, what could you do with a mobile fast internet connection – the mind wanders.

Wire up the steering wheel to servo motors and crowdsource your cross-country drive?

A traveling campervan packed with a bunch of laptops that you hand out to bored people looking for something to do while waiting at the doctor’s office and have them complete tasks on your Amazon Mechanical Turk account. Make it a game and give out prizes to the best worker.

Park your car outside major media events, rent out a bunch of Eye-fi enabled cameras and earn top dollar from major networks for your real-time coverage from your army of amateur photographers.

Any other good ideas?

Taking your finger off the button

Shares of United Airlines dropped 75% yesterday because of a poorly designed template. The Google News blog has all the gory details including screenshots of the Florida Sun-Sentinal site which included links to a old story, UAL files for Bankrupcy, in its automated “Most Viewed” sidebar widget.

The Google News robot crawled that link and because the destination page had the default header and no date stamp of when the story was originally published, Google News incorrectly interpreted the story from 2002 as today’s news. The dominos began to fall as downstream news agencies that obviously were short on fact-checkers re-circulated this old news as something new eventually finding its way on to the Bloomberg wire service.

This has happened in the past but never with such devistating consequences (UAL stock eventually recovered but still ended the day down 11% and is still down $1.50 from before the incident as of today). Recall the false Engadget-iPhone rumor and, Bloomberg again, which had been duped in the past, when a crafty short-seller found a way to mainline a fake story into the news desk of a lower tier press release service back in 2000. One can only wonder if this news will have an impact on the SEC’s recent recommendation that websites can serve as the official channel for financial earnings.

The news industry is under seige and there’s more pressure than ever to balance speed and economy of automation with the wisdom and judgement of human editors. But like riding a bicycle without your hands – you need to keep your eye on the road or you might end up looking like a fool.