I’ve nearly finished Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, and while I don't especially care for the title, the content is thought-provoking. While reading about Groundcrew (which was new to me) and Foldit, I was reminded of a thought experiment Adam Greenfield wrote about last July on how one might combine various transit data streams into actionable, real-time routing information across multiple modes of travel. Instead of relying on an algorithm, what if we turned giving directions to someone into a game?
Like Groundcrew, the game would be mission-oriented. People in need can post a request for directions, and others can help them out by replying with a suggested route. Requests could be a simple sentence like “I need to get from point A to point B by such-and-such a time, and I don't have a car.” Upon arrival, the person using the route can rate it, giving the router reputation points (and the pleasure of knowing they helped someone out).
Over time, the game would build up a database of routes that could be used as suggestions in the absence of a fresh response. Additional points can be awarded for the shortest route, the simplest, the cheapest, etc. People who have leveled up high enough would also be able to take on escort missions for extra points—if you’re already headed in a similar direction, why not make the trip with a fellow traveller?
Of course, there are myriad privacy and safety concerns inherent in this proposal that would need to be addressed. I also have strong reservations about ham-handedly gamifying reality and crowdsourcing in general. But by carefully crafting a set of rules with an interface that enables people to help each other out, we would be able to patch over the missing pieces in Adam’s hypothetical Momcomp with human intelligence and goodwill.