An idea - The Open Project

I am somewhat tired; I have an idea I want to get out, at least in a short draft.


This year I am planning, with the help of some awesome people, to basically go out and distribute gifts to the homeless on 12/25. Planning that project/event led me to think about the whole process and, inevitably, those ideas started to mix with my geeky-professional side.

As I started to think about what I was doing, how I wanted to do things and how people were responding to me, I realized that there is a giant opportunity. Specifically, I see the need for a highly-specialized effort to combine gift-giving, social networking and real networking.

Every “Christmas” (in quotes, well, for a lot of reasons) I always see a few gift-related institutions pop up:

  • Secret Santa / gift exchanges
  • Gift collections
  • Donations

All three of these systems seem to work relatively independently and well, however, I think they could be unified, in a way.

An idea – The Open Project

The Open Project is basically my idea for a web platform which enables users to engage in giving. This is somewhat tricky to explain; I do not want to enable to give in the ways we traditionally see. Really, I want Open to actually bring people together in real life, so giving is connected with actual people. The whole process, of course, would be facilitated by a very easy-to-use, intuitive and helpful web platform.

As I see it, Open would encourage, facilitate and bring people together for two different “types” of giving:

  • *Half-circle “forward” *giving – in this arrangement a gift is basically given from one person to another one-way
  • *Half-circle “forward” *giving – in this arrangement a gift is exchanged between people; the exchange is bi-directional

The astute reader will be asking, or should be, Ok, James, then what the heck is Open really going to do?

Good question, reader.

Open would offer the ability for people to:

  • Create “projects” where half or full circle exchanges could occur - These projects could be oriented around specific groups, topics, places – whatever
  • For example, I could create a one-way gift exchange around leaving medical supplies for the homeless or, I could create a two-way exchange around giving DINOSAUR (awesome) gifts
  • Identify themselves as in a project – they could chose to wear a pin, shirt, specific color shoes – whatever
  • Encourage people to give within or out of a system; for example, it could allow people to collaborate to give gifts to random strangers
  • Offer integrations with other social platforms, such as Facebook
  • Hopefully allow users to leverage their purchasing, consumer or other power with other groups – non-profits, corporations and so-on
  • Be a strong voice and encourage responsible giving
  • Allow people to see what giving occurs (or does not)
  • Facilitate giving for any time, for any reason
  • Allow the people exchanging gifts to know more about each other through the security and controls of the platform
  • User profiles could be tied to respect, ratings or some other metric which would, hopefully, allow decent (and moderated) feedback and trust ratings for people
  • Offer users pre-defined rule-sets around which exchanges could occur

A practical example

I would love to meet someone random by exchanging dinosaur-related gifts.


I could use Open and create a full-circle exchange around giving dinosaur gifts. The exchange could be city-specific or could have parameters for long-distance exchanges. In this case, lets say I create a Seattle Dinosaur Gift Exchange for June 1, 2010.

Users could then join the exchange – we could all agree to meet at Westlake.

We could set our own rules:

  • Give one, receive one
  • Re-gifting is ok
  • All gifts have a sticker (or number) to ID who it originally came from (to assist in finding the giver of the original item)
  • Value limit is $20

Would this all work?

I have no idea. Likely with my conception of it all right now, no.

If anyone has read this and has ideas, I would love if you shared them! 😀