Recently in Online Resources for Sharing Category

October 2, 2009

Shareable Has Launched! Please Spread the News!

This is a huge boost for the sharing revolution: has launched!  Shareable is a new online magazine, a breeding ground for sharing ideas, and a space to develop our visions for an innovative, sharing, and sustainable world.  Please visit, spread the word, follow Shareable on Facebook, and let Shareable know your feedback!
I wrote a piece for Shareable entitled The Four Degrees of Sharing, which I see as a sharing manifesto of sorts.  I give examples of the ways people are taking sharing to new levels, creating new organizations around sharing, establishing community-wide sharing programs, and cooperating in new and amazing ways.  Emily Doskow and I will regularly contribute articles and a Q&A column. If you have any sharing questions, please send them to us!

Shareable is sponsored by non-profit Tides Center.  The publisher, Neal Gorenflo, and editor, Jeremy Adam Smith, are social entrepreneurs and visionaries. They have created an amazing space to grow the sharing revolution!

August 7, 2009

Trade Ya! My Tractor for Your Alpaca

I don't even know where to begin. There has been an explosion of new websites where people can trade, borrow, lend, share, and barter all kinds of stuff and services. I started to browse them tonight, landing first on BarterQuest, where you can post things that you have and things that you want, and look for a suitable exchange. I clicked the first category of goods, "Agriculture," and much to my delight, the first barter offer that I saw was for alpacas! I think it would be wonderful to raise alpacas, for many reasons. The listing offered to trade an alpaca for a 40 horsepower tractor with a backhoe attachment. Darn! I don't have a tractor to trade.

But my disappointment faded as I explored deeper into other swap and barter sites. I'm especially thrilled to know about Neighborrow, where you can create "Neighborrow-hoods" and borrow and lend items with people who live near you. Probably no one in my neighborhood will lend me an alpaca, but that's ok.

Next, I explored:

  • PriorAttire, where you can trade in children's and teens' clothing

  • Swap Baby Goods, which includes baby clothes and other gear, like strollers and toys.

  • Zwaggle, where you can share, trade, and swap kids gear, and receive redeemable points (or "zoints," as Zwaggle calls it).

  • SwitchPlanet for trading DVDs and Books

  • Swap a DVD, an "Online Movie Club"

  • SwapStyle, a "fashion-savvy website is for women who want to keep their wardrobes fresh and stylish, without the large price tags."

Add to this list sites I discussed in a prior blog post, including SwapTree and LendAround.

There are plenty of other exciting websites to discuss, including sites that go beyond simple trades, and foster deeper community-building at the neighborhood level. I'll have to blog about these another time, but in the meantime, take a look at rBlock and Bright Neighbor.

August 4, 2009

Picture the Sharing Revolution, Part 3: Our Streets

What will our world look like when the sharing revolution takes to the streets? First of all, in a world where there are carsharing programs, neighbors sharing cars, carpooling, dynamic ridesharing programs, bikesharing, and better public transportation, each household could probably get by with one car, as opposed to 2.28, the national average. That would mean half as many cars parked on the streets, much less traffic, and a lot of potential to get rid of some streets.

Why cut out some of our streets? There are many reasons, and here's a few:

  1. Isolated neighbors. The more traffic on a street, the less likely parents will allow their kids to play outside, the less likely neighbors are to have ever met each other.

  2. Sleepless nights. People get a better night's sleep when they live on a quiet street.

  3. Runaway water. Streets interrupt the natural flow and percolation of water by creating impervious surfaces. Fewer paved streets would allow water to penetrate the soil, reducing storm floods and polluted run-off, and promoting healthy groundwater supplies.

  4. Hot hot hot. Asphalt absorbs the heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, and tempting people to fry eggs on the pavement to see if it really works.

  5. Crash. Wider streets make people drive faster, which makes for more accidents.

In many cities and suburbs, neighborhoods have grid layout. Here is a picture of this rather uninteresting design:
Street grid graphic.jpg

Now what happens if you take that grid and plunk a park down in the middle of some of the intersections? You get a neighborhood full of fun parks that are also quiet because they are surrounded on four sides by cul-de-sacs (see graphic below). You get many more quiet streets (in grey) and relegate the thru-traffic to a few streets (in black). These aren't just typical cul-de-sacs where it feels like a private and isolated dead-end road. Pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and scooter-ers can all pass through easily. Does this look like a fun neighborhood?
Street heaven graphic.jpg
Grey = Quiet Streets; Black = Busier Streets; Green = Fun Parks!

Ready to transform our neighborhoods? Check out these great resources:

May 21, 2009

Sophisticated Stuff Sharing

Sharing can be a simple as lending a book to a friend, but opportunities are arising on the Internet to share more things, more often, and with more people, including those you don't know. There are at least two new websites which provide an interface for more sophisticated sharing of "stuff."

First, there's SwapTree, where you can obtain free books, DVDs, music, and video games from others by offering things of your own to swap. And while the word "swap" may conjure up an image of a two-way exchange, a more sophisticated "swap" might look more like this: Bradley receives a book from Max, who receives a CD from Reggie, who receives a DVD from Susan, who receives a video game from Bradley, and so on. With SwapTree, you enter information about items you have to offer, and click on items you'd like to receive, and you are then presented with a list of all the items you could potentially receive in exchange. When a swap is confirmed, SwapTree sends you a mailing label with the recipient's address and pre-calculated postage (which can be quite cheap using the media mail rate). You don't even have to go to the Post Office. In the meantime, you wait for your new goodies to arrive.

Another potentially useful website, in beta stages of development, is Lend Around. This is a system to allow you to lend items to friends, keep track of where they are, and easily find out what your friends have that you can borrow. Right now, LendAround members can lend and borrow DVDs, but it sounds like there's plan for expanding the categories of borrowed items.

What I'd love to see is a website where neighbors or friends can create a network and post all types of household items they own and are willing loan to others. This could include tools, appliances, electronics, sporting equipment, and so on. It could even include immobile items, such as a hot tub. The owner of the hot tub could indicate when they are willing to let others use the tub, and people could schedule use of it with the website. If you know of such a site or are planning on starting one of your own, I'd love to hear about it: you can email me at sharing (at) janelleorsi (dot) com.
April 27, 2009

Technology and Sharing

Sharing is an old-fashioned idea with a lot of high-tech potential. Here are some of the technologies that are making sharing more and more convenient for everyone:

  • Matchmaking Websites. Websites such as Craigslist (online classified ads) and GoLoco (a ridesharing match-up website) can be used to quickly connect people who want to share.
  • Social Networking Websites. Social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and are great ways for groups to form, communicate, and keep track of information.
  • Online Calendars. By using online calendars that give multiple users access, sharers can schedule use of a shared item, plan to take turns doing child care, or arrange mealsharing, for example.
  • Online Mapping Programs. Online mapping programs have been used to help sharers find each other. In a handful of cities, especially in Canada, people use programs such as Google Maps to make connections between people with spare yard space and people who would like a space for gardening.
  • Databases. Databases make it possible to keep track of a lot of information efficiently, which is essential where there are a lot of sharers or shared items involved. For example, a grocery buying club can use a database to keep track of inventory, orders, and club member purchases and payments.
  • Access Technologies. These technologies make it possible to control access to a shared item. For example, the bike-sharing program in Paris provides each member with a membership card and account. To access the bikes, members swipe a card. The system tracks how long the bike is used and bills the bike use to the member's account.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) Technologies. GPS allows people to know their location and to map it in relation to a sharer or shared item. GPS is being tested as a way to facilitate ridesharing by matching drivers and passengers instantly using cellular phones. GPS can also be used to track the location of a shared item, such as a lawnmower or car.
April 23, 2009

Time Banking (in a Time of Banking Meltdowns)

Here's a cool sharing concept: Time Banks. The idea is that you give an hour of your time performing a service for someone -- say, mending some clothing -- and you accumulate an hour in your time bank, which you can then redeem for an hour of bike repair by someone else, for example. This appears to be a growing phenomenon, with Time Bank groups sprouting up here and there. It's not a new idea, because it's closely related to the idea of local currency systems, such as the Ithaca Hours currency.

I love the idea of Time Banks, first, because it provides an opportunity for people to experiment with new skills or activities -- i.e., do something other than our day job. If I were to join a time bank, I'd probably offer to pull weeds or walk someone's big adorable dog -- or some other healthy break from my usual days spent in front of the computer.

In addition, as the website states, time banking "unleashes untapped community capacity." It is so true that we live in communities of people rich with skills, abilities, and knowledge. Yet, many of us have a job where we put to use only one or a few of our skills. Time banking could help us tap into that great potential, and encourage us all to grow and develop.

Then there are those people without jobs, which, unfortunately, was a large number last time I checked. Time banking provides new opportunities for the unemployed, people with disabilities, or stay-at-home parents, for example, to get some of their needs met, while feeling like they are making a useful contribution -- even without having a job.

The Time Bank website doesn't say much about taxes, but that's an important thing to keep in mind. As far as I can tell, the same tax rules apply to time banking as they do to bartering. Even in exchanges where no money changes hands, you may still have to pay taxes on the value of what you receive. In general, casual, one-time, and noncommercial exchanges are not taxed. But if one or both of the exchangers are in the business of providing the services exchanged, you'll probably owe tax on the fair market value of the service you receive. In other words, if I accumulated 10 hours in my time bank by performing legal services, and I redeemed them for 10 hours of work by a professional accountant, I should pay taxes on the value of the accounting I received. On the other hand, if I accumulate hours by walking dogs and pulling weeds, and receive a little help with bike repair and tree pruning, taxes wouldn't apply. But it can get complicated, so if you plan to do a lot of Time Banking, make sure you talk to a tax expert to find out what is taxed and what isn't.