I’ve been a member of trash nothing for a while, thinking all along about how it could be more effective. The inefficiency is similar to small ads in a newspaper. The time it takes to look through all the potentially relevant ads to find ones that actually are relevant can be disproportionate. It may end up as a very ineffective use of time and attention.
What might help?
Could indexing / categorising help? An ontology perhaps? Using all relevant standard identifier vocabularies? Ideas abound; enthusiasm tends to live only in the enthusiasts.
Perhaps more promising, what if various people took on the role of knowledge manager of their favourite area of this space of reuse and potential recycling?
Or, take it further: maybe volunteers could take on actually curating donated goods? If someone knows about the demand for particular kinds of things (so many kinds of things pop up) then they would be in a good position to know if an offer really just needs to go to materials recycling, or whether someone is likely to want it, sooner or later. Any way round, it needs knowledge. Let’s distribute the curation of that knowledge.
The bits and pieces of IT
The last few days I’ve been following some intriguing discussions on the Collaborative Technology Alliance and the idea of an “Open App Ecosystem” (e.g. here or here) What comes up in these discussions is that many different groups have tried to build, or at least envisage or plan, something along those lines. What we have right now is a relatively unorganised bunch of attempts to do something that is, by all accounts, very worthwhile.
Now for the moment of (possible?) insight. What if we treated the idea of interrelating Open Apps in a way similar to Trash Nothing? I mean, we have a collaborative knowledge management task here. And underlying that, a task to agree suitable foundations for managing that knowledge in a commoner-owned, collaborative way: as a knowledge commons.
Similar to Freecycle / Freegle, it’s great to have all these offers on the table, but for them to be used needs people to be aware of what there is at the right time, and in the meanwhile, to have people curate these knowledge resources so that they are available when wanted.
Curation brings up the question of trust. Who can be trusted to do that curation? Let’s face it: none of us have the time or patience to curate the whole thing effectively. Curation of the knowledge needs to be distributed to be effective; and even more, curation of physical assets needs to be distributed and re-localised. But the curators need to trust each other, and communicate well; the users (commoners?) need to trust the curators. Curators must be accountable to commoners.
Back to my recurring theme of needing to build up trust (and mutual knowledge, respect and understanding) one-to-one, most likely face-to-face.