DIYcity launched a little over six months ago, as a place for people to reinvent their cities with technology. The idea was not to simply create a place where people would talk about what you could do with technology, but to make a place where people actually build that technology, launch it, and give it to the world to use.
In that six months the site has grown more than I expected, and in ways I wouldn't have guessed. Yet for its relative success, it has yet to become a place busy with product development and launches. In its half year of existence, DIYcity has launched just two projects, both still in v1 as of now. At that rate, the challenge posed on the home page, can we build the Do-It-Yourself City, is a long way from being satisfied.
This needs to go faster. I want to see a thousand DIYcity projects launched, not two.
Having worked for a few months with the people who are doing DIYtraffic and SickCity, I've gotten to see the problem with developing all of this do-good, open source civic software: it's that there is no payback for it. People love the idea of it, they love reading about it, they love thinking about it, they even love working on it. But in the end, it just doesn't make sense to keep slaving away at it, at the level required to build products that actually make a difference in people's lives. Especially when the people working on those projects are barely making ends meet with their regular, paying jobs. Or when those people are getting laid off from work and having to move to other cities in search of new work. In the face of all that, it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep putting in the hard work on a project that only satisfies your urge to do something for the public good. There has to be more reward in it than that. And there should be more reward in it.
That's why I think if this whole thing is going to work, it's got to pay. It has to pay YOU, the person who (ostensibly) gives your valuable time to the project. We have to complete the circuit, create a feedback loop for people.
So with that in mind, we're trying a little experiment here on DIYcity. We're going to build open source code together in ad hoc groups (like we've been doing), make it free and open to all, BUT, we're then going to build iPhone apps on top of that code, sell those apps for money, and distribute that money back to the people who built the code in the first place, dividing it up in a way that is fair to all.
We're going to pay you to help reinvent your city.
Well, we're not going to pay you, the market's going to pay you. Hopefully it will pay you a lot, and keep paying you.
To make this work, I'm setting up an llc this week through which we can channel the proceeds and distribute them to people. Once that is set up, we'll be out the gate and running.
In the meantime, I'll be starting a few discussions about the details, and I'd love people's feedback on them, to hone this idea and give it a better chance for success.
This is an experiment. There will be bumps along the way, which we'll get smoothed out as quickly as possible. But I think this can work, and produce some very good, exciting results. If it does, we'll roll it out further.
And maybe then one thousand DIYcity projects wont be so far off.