Public Private Property

Imagine Couchsurfing…for drills.


A platform with profile pages, ratings, and social networking for any physical objects, be it household appliances, office supplies, or exotic and rare rentals. Users upload information about objects they own, which can be searched and requested by other users. The objects are lent out to members of the community, circulating, say, a projector to a college student giving a class presentation, to a start-up CEO traveling to a trade fair to pitch her company. The goal is to help individual users: you can borrow commonplace, pricey, or obscure items for a limited time, while also ensuring that things on your shelves don’t collect dust unused.

That’s the idea behind Public Private Property, a concept recently presented at openeverything berlin. The platform runs on trust and transparency, just like many communities like Couchsurfing do. In the same way that nearly a million people offer their couches overnight, free of charge, to perfect strangers, Public Private Property relies on trust systems, openness, and reciprosity for its success.

Objects are stickered with QR codes, linking to profiles and giving you a quick overview of the object’s history, owner, and lending conditions. Backing the system are standardized contracts that operate on layers similar to Creative Commons, so users can easily understand the terms of use, and so can lawyers and machines.

I’m very curious to see where this project and idea go. The future of hyperlinked objects is upon us — let’s see if it’ll take your couch on a journey instead of you.

Image: “Couchsurfing Drill” by thornet, remixing “A 1960s Bridges electric drill” by bowbrick both available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License.

Comments (3)

  1. Pingback: Street With a View « = thornet =

  2. I’ve had the same idea once and after thinking about it, it seems to me it is not feasible. The technology part is solvable, but the human part is difficult. For many tools, it would be too “costly” to have to go far to get them, so you’d need a very dense network. Which forces you to network with people other than friends, whom you might not want to lend a tool? Also tools break, some system of insurance would be necessary. This is doable in principle, There are probably ways to do bottom-up insurance (that have already been developed 100+ years ago!) but, again, has not been done in practice.

  3. @tarkowski, thanks for bringing up two very good points. The guys running Public Private Property are toying with delivery and insurance as well. The delivery, as you suggest, could be solved by a dense network, and with an efficient coordination that tasks people with pick&up and drop&off (say, for instance, you’re in Kreuzberg, and you can grab Item X for User Y on your way home to Friedrichshain).

    As for the insurance, the PPP group is also looking to develop a shared insurance model, where members contribute to a collective pot, and if anything breaks in use or in transit, the repair money comes out of this shared account.

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