Crowdsourcing Commuters and Talking on Trains

Tim Davies posted up something that caught my eye a few days ago…

“What if we could find some way of harnessing that cognitive surplus – and providing volunteering/pro-social crowd-sourcing opportunities that commuters could dip into at five-minutes-to-nine, just before they got stuck into their nine-till-five?”

I  love this idea- crowdsourcing commuters…. how could it work…?

If people wanted to participate in the SETI grid or Oxford cancer screensaver idea …as they certainly did… then maybe there’s some mileage in this social idea…

I’ve often thought in the morning on the dreary train journey into Waterloo that it would sometimes be nice to have a social carriage – where people who fancy a bit of a chat could meet up and talk in the 40 mins or whatever it takes you.  It would work better in the mornings when people haven’t woken up enough to be reserved or self-contained… when they’re a little sleepy and therefore haven’t crawled into their commuting shell so entirely as on the way home when they encase themselves in ipods, books, or the temptingly vacuous freesheets.

There could be rules of conduct to avoid the real weirdos* taking over… I’m imagining a volunteer facilitator might be helpful in keeping the peace…


Volunteer Facilitator... cc Darz Mol

And of course, another benefit other than general social good would be a constituent audience for volunteering. After all, commuters are some of the most time-pressed people, and therefore one of the hardest-to-reach groups despite being generally  quite affluent and well-connected. They are time poor and disconnected from their surroundings… this needs to change! Its crazy to have those people who are driven, confident and ambitious to be cooped up on trains for 2 or more hours per day just wasting all that lovely social capital… ;)

The initial group leaders or local voluntary groups could set up discussion spaces in the carriage recruiting for (or actually carrying out using wifi/mobiles) different activities local to the train stations passed through…

However, I’m not sure that model would work so well on the tube! It’s a bit squashed.

Tube hell

Annie Mole : Tube hell

* (For those of you who don’t live in London, just to point out that pretty much all strangers here seem to think you are a dangerous lunatic if you talk to them on public transport. I found this out the hard way, but still persevere. Am beginning to wonder if this does now qualify me as an actual weirdo… hm….)



  1. Pingback: Commuters Connect « Involve4ip

  2. folowed on from tim’s post – love it – and your analysis – kind of like group brain training. ages ago me and a mate wanted to go and sing ‘happy and you know it’ on the tube on monday mornings in february, but chickened out when faced with all those grizzled frazzled urban faces…

  3. Revisiting this concept, with aspects of this in mind

    Maybe if we don’t restrict the meme to the tube, we have more chance of extending into this space onto the tube (as pretty much everyone in london uses it)

    Perhaps a meme and a symbol attached to that meme, that people who are willing participants can identify (ideally should also communicate to non participants what it is about).

    Or in simpler language what about a badge that says, you can talk to me.

    If two people are wearing the badge, it’s clear it’s ok for them to talk to each other. If only one is, then it’s up to the person not wearing it to start the conversation.

    There’s only 2 modes, open to conversation, and not open to conversation.

    With respect to dealing with weirdos, reality is we have to start engaging with them, weirdos tend to thrive in silence and isolation. The ones we have to worry about are dangerous weirdos, and to be honest those ones don’t care whether you talk to them or not.

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