You're at the airport and your plane gets delayed 20 minutes. What could you do with that "found" time that would be productive?
That's the question Volunteer Now (a new project from Mobile Voter) is seeking to answer. Yesterday I went to a Netsquared meetup, hosted by the talented Britt Bravo, where the founder of Mobile Voter explained the concept.
The idea is simple - if you are a lawyer, review a document for a nonprofit. If you are a doctor answer a medical question sent to an anonymous "Dear Abby" type account. Or if you speak another language, do five minutes of translation. No matter what your skill - you can probably donate a little expertise to somebody who needs it to further a good cause.
It reminded me a post I did for Spot Us on the "gift economy." In it I was essentially asking how big the gift economy is and how much of it could be tapped to support journalism?
Well, how big is the "bored out of my mind" economy? Take all those 20 minutes and add them up. I can only venture a guess as to how many hours we spend standing in line. As the mobile phone becomes a tool to be productive the spare volunteer minutes could be racked up. The trick would be finding a way for people to volunteer in a meaningful way in just five minutes.
This brings me to an amazing video from Clay Shirky. I have listened to this lecture six times or more now.
Now, if you watch the whole video, you should be able to tie this post together in your head instantly. If not - I'll try and summarize but will urge you to take 10 minutes and watch this video, cause it's mind blowing.
We are slowly awaking from a period of "mass boredom." Before the Internet (and I am old enough to remember) when my father came home from work he sat right down in front of the T.V. and we knew not to bother him for at least an hour and a half. Understandably so - he needed to unwind. This unwinding period was followed by dinner and then more television watching, because there was nothing else to do. Thank god for "The Simpsons," a show we could all watch together.
The routine today is a bit different. After dinner he doesn't return to the television - he goes straight to the computer. Some of his activities on the computer are passive, but some are active. He has changed his daily pattern and has removed some passive media consumption time and replaced it with active media participation.
Now imagine how that shift could work with our spare minutes waiting in line or on a train.