Jeff Bonforte’s discussion of Anger as a driver of product adoption keeps resonating.
My friend Matthew Gast lives in San Francisco, and it seems that folks in San Francisco have a problem that makes them angry. The problem is that the surface routes (in Matthew’s case, the “M” Streetcar) do not run in conformance to a schedule. In response to this, a community of commuters created NextBus.com. What NextBus does is affix a GPS transceiver to the roof of surface transit vehicles, and allow that data to be retrieved form their website. The theory is that you can look at the route that you are on, and attempt to predict when the next vehicle will arrive at your location. The problem with this, of course, is that people are often not near a PC when they want this information. To address this, Matthew developed an application that allows him to call an Asterisk system at his home, which will pull the information from the NextBus website and relay it to him. The system does not know the schedule, but based on where the vehicles are, it can predict when the next one will arrive. This is a cool application, but why did Matthew create this? Because he was angry.
The reason I found this so interesting is that in Toronto, the route information is presented in very un-cool, boring text files, and there is no publicly available information as to what vehicles are where. The thing is, since the buses and streetcars almost always run on time, there is no anger. Lacking the motivation, there seems little chance of someone creating a website like NextBus for Toronto. No pain; what’s the point?
Anger and innovation.