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PucaTrade is a Collaborative Way To Trade Magic Cards

15 Apr

Image © 2013 PucaTrade

It’s been well-established by this point that I am a fan of Magic: The Gathering. There’s just something about shuffling up your deck and launching a barrage of monsters, weapons, and sorcery at an opponent’s tender, innocent face. The only downside is that the cards themselves, the fundamental building blocks of the entire game, are not cheap. It’s not uncommon to see highly-played cards for some formats valued at $100 each.

PucaTrade.com aims to change the game by making the process of trading cards between players crazy simple, and it’s doing it through crowdsourcing. The driving concept is that of Collaborative Consumption, where people share things they own instead of maintaining permanent ownership. Zipcar has used this concept to great success with their car-sharing service, and PucaTrade extends the concept to Magic cards.

With PucaTrade, users mail out cards they own that other users also happen to want. In return, they receive some amount of “PucaPoints”, which in turn can be spent on cards the user wants. It’s dead simple, and PucaTrade plays fair by keeping a constant eye on card values and making sure no users are getting ripped off by uneven trades. In another act of crowdsourcing, the site developers have teamed up with the users to create PucaBot. The site-owned “user” identifies and buys surplus cards in order to even out the economy and make a little money to keep the site running.

It’s a solid concept. People who play Magic often have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of unplayed and unwanted cards in their collections that would be better off in the hands of someone who’d actually appreciate them. PucaTrade also circumvents the entire economy of online card shopping, where prices can vary drastically and shipping snafus can prevent cards from arriving for days. With PucaTrade, the grassroots approach means its users can send and receive a steady stream of cards to each other at no cost except postage. Brilliant.

PucaTrade is growing quickly, and has already traded over $80,000 worth of cards between its users. They are currently doing an Indiegogo project to get out of beta and add some really great features to the site, including a redesigned interface and more tools for user interaction. If you’re as into Magic as I am, or if you just think these cards are getting crazy stupid expensive, donate to the campaign and/or register on the website and start trading. You get free PucaPoints if you share the campaign on Facebook or Twitter, too!

Casey Armstrong: Saving The World, Going Open-Source, Turning People Into Robots

23 Jan

Casey Armstrong, VineStove founderCasey Armstrong has been a busy man. Formerly the content director at Daily Crowdsource, Armstrong has recently founded his own company, VineStove. A crowd labor/ microtasking site at heart, VineStove’s general essence is similar to that of Amazon Mechanical Turk, ShortTask, or Fiverr. People post jobs or tasks for others to carry out, and pay them a small amount for doing so. These are tasks that can typically be completed in the ballpark of five minutes; example tasks on VineStove’s homepage include photoshopping an image or researching payment plans.

The thing that sets VineStove apart from those sites, however, is the fact that all the work is done on a strictly volunteer basis. Payment is still rendered, but instead of going to the person doing the work, it’s donated to a charity or nonprofit organization of the worker’s choice. And according to Armstrong, the companies are “doing some pretty cool things. I just added the SENS Foundation, for example; they work on longevity research. Channeling money to them means we all get to live a little longer!”

Casey’s Gift To The World

There’s another layer to Armstrong’s world-saving scheme. In addition to providing labor and funding for these foundations, he intends to eventually make VineStove open-source, allowing anyone with adequate interest to have access to the entirety of code he uses to run his site.

“The end game for me is really the open-source project,” Armstrong affirms. “I want to see microtasking get big and mature faster. I am addicted to sites like mTurk and Quora,  and microvolunteering sites like Sparked; I want microtasking to become a part of everything, really.”

He sees the open-source release of VineStove to be an important step in the process. “It might seem like a gutsy move, but I firmly believe that a crowdsourcing platform is about what you put into it, and not its clever construction or web development. I had struggled to build a microtasking site for years. It took me a lot of effort to learn web development, research my options, and plan it all out… I wish VineStove could have gone up in three clicks years ago.”

By releasing VineStove’s source code to the public, Armstrong’s intention is that anyone with a reasonable amount of dedication will be able to build a platform to serve their purposes, with minimal technical knowledge required. Like a true altruist, he hopes to render the hardships that he himself encountered in building his platform obsolete.

Right, But What’s This About Turning Folks Into Robots?

Getting a site ready to go open-source isn’t an easy task. It takes money, and for a small team like Armstrong’s, a certain amount of extra hands. And oddly enough, the solution to those problems can be found in the form of a crowdfunded robotic intern.VineStove campaign

I discussed crowdfunding a little bit last week; it’s the process of soliciting funding for a project from good-hearted denizens of the Internet instead of trying to get a big corporation or fatcat to bankroll the whole thing. Armstrong’s current project on RocketHub intends to do just that, providing the capital to make VineStove open-source through donations by people like you and me.

The robotic intern is the reward. Donate at least $5, and you’ll earn the ability to join Armstrong in his team on the project by piloting the robot as a proxy. You’ll be able to freely move around the VineStove office, interact with the staff, help out with the website, or even just drive the thing into Casey’s foot for half an hour (if that’s your thing).

While the ability for VineStove to get a different intern with a different skill set each day is one that will undoubtedly add some flexibility to Armstrong’s team, he also states that the project has an aspect of novelty as well. “The robot idea is mostly just fun. I don’t know where it will lead. However, I’m a believer in the internet spilling out into the real world, and I think we’re going to see more internet controlled robots in the future,” Armstrong says. He went on to reference similar projects in the past, particularly one in which mTurk allowed people to remotely control a robotic arm to perform common household tasks.

Become a Member of Team Armstrong

If any bit of this sounds appealing to you, know that there is more than ample opportunity for you to join in and help Casey save the world. With a little more than two weeks left in the funding campaign, there’s plenty of time to donate and help bring microtasking to the masses. If you’ve got a unique set of skills, you can put them to work by signing up to be one of the robotic interns, or just using VineStove itself to do some good-old charity work; all you need is a Facebook registration.

Whether you want to live forever, build your own thriving online community, or just mess around with a robot for a few hours, Casey Armstrong has you covered, and the world is better off because of it.

WeGoLook Will Scope Out Anything Before You Buy

3 Aug

Out of the blue, I received a Tweet from WeGoLook.com, telling me about their platform because they thought I’d be interested. Well, they got my number; I looked at their setup, and it’s pretty freaking cool.

WeGoLook

WeGoLook is essentially a research service run by crowdsourcing. Their aim is to provide detailed reports of items, places, or people to potential buyers, so they don’t waste their time and money on a product/outcome that is less than desirable. The crowd is composed of “Lookers” across the nation who, when they receive requests, will personally trek out to wherever they product or place is. They answer some objective questions, take pictures of the object and any relevant labels or product numbers, and give details on the working condition and appearance of the item.

This seems simple until you consider the wide range of activities this could be applied to:

  • check out a new apartment halfway across the country before you move
  • make sure the guy selling you a laptop on Craigslist isn’t ripping you off
  • get reports on every car dealership in town to find the lowest prices
  • check the condition of a house or town after a storm

Heck, you can even send a Looker to check out a potential date to make sure they look like they do on their dating profile picture. Borderline morality, of course, but you can bet there are people who will want to take advantage of this service.

The sample reports on the website give a good idea of what the service will provide. Something I liked is that WeGoLook vigorously screens its Lookers to make sure they’re reliable. This makes sense; for a service like this, report accuracy is something to live and die by. And for people who don’t have a need for the service itself, being a Looker could be a pretty sweet deal. With payment for reports starting at $25 and reports assigned based on geographic proximity, you could get paid pretty well for a ten-minute drive.

The downside of this service is that its utility isn’t as accessible as I would like. Turnaround on reports is 2 to 3 days, but there’s no guarantee it will even happen in that time. And the $50 price tag on even the most basic reports is steep; I understand it’s probably to make sure there’s enough incentive to make the Lookers happy, but for that money the service is best used only for expensive or important things. And while WeGoLook offers many useful extra services, I can’t understand why measuring an object’s dimensions is an extra $8 instead of coming standard.

The bottom line is that whether you’re on the buying or selling side of WeGoLook, it’s worth looking into. The service can put your eyes, ears, and a voice anywhere in the country, and it shakes off the technological limitations of internet research by supplementing it with real-world knowledge. I’ve already applied to be a Looker, and you can bet that my next major purchase will be thoroughly scoped out by this service beforehand.

Zaarly Opens Up The Goods and Services Marketplace

24 Jul

Online “quest board” Zaarly is a neat way to get your overwhelming tasks done with the help of your fellow man. It operates similar to Milk.ly in that people who desire help will post their task on the site’s collaborative crowdmap, and other users who choose to help will get paid the listed amount for it.

Zaarly

I like apps like this that crowdsource small tasks to local help. It’s a get way to enhance both local economies and communities, and it’s a good opportunity for someone who’s a bit of a specialist to take on some relevant jobs and show their town what they can do.

This is why I’m excited to see what comes out of Zaarly’s new “Zaarly Anywhere” API. The update would refocus the app on products in addition to tasks. For example, if you were browsing Pinterest and saw a really great carved wooden chair, the Zaarly API would give you the option of posting a task asking local craftspeople to make a similar chair for you. If you see one you like, you pay the price, and the chair of your dreams is in production without you ever leaving your seat.

I see a deep well that this technology could draw from. The advent of sites like Etsy has made us all too aware that there are talented artists and producers literally right down the block, and I’m sure they’d love another opportunity to showcase (and sell!) their skills. And I can already imagine this will have some impact on the tech support / computer repair industries if it catches on; people will stop using these services once they realize their neighbor’s kid will do it in half an hour for a fraction of the price.

Personally, I would love for applications like Zaarly to create some sort of money-free economy where people simply trade help for other help. But until then, getting a few bucks for helping someone set up their LinkedIn profile isn’t bad.

Neat Idea: Crowdsourcing to Locate Silence

6 Jul

Have you ever just wanted to be able to hear your own thoughts for a few minutes? Noise is everywhere, and sometimes we don’t even notice it until it drowns out everything else. And if you live in a city, it’s practically impossible to escape.

So where’s a good place to read? To meditate? To enjoy a peaceful moment without the ever-present wail of the real world? Jason Sweeney hopes he has the answer with the Stereopublic project, which simply uses crowdsourcing to find areas of silence within a bustling city.

Crowdsourcing is at its best when it allows us to do things like this. A silent space could be no more than a few cubic feet in size, located anywhere, or otherwise difficult to find. Mass collaboration is the only efficient way to gather such data.

Additionally, there are benefits for autistic or disabled people who don’t handle loud noises for extended periods well. Indeed, this entire project is Sweeney’s way of helping the “sonic health” of cities worldwide, in addition to encouraging their residents to go exploring to find new silent bastions of solitude.

Sweeney has tapped into the creative power of the crowd before, so I’m confident that he has the know-how to push this project in the right directions. The concept is still new, so if you’re interested, setting up a Google Alert might not be a bad idea. Let me know if anything interesting develops!

Milk.ly Assigns Real-World Quests and Rewards For Local Errands

27 Jun

If you’ve ever played a role-playing video game, you are familiar with the concept of a “Quest Board”. Townsfolk post their problems for you, the Hero, to solve and consequently collect the reward.

Milk.ly is attempting to replicate this in the real world. It’s currently in beta, and mostly limited to the UK, but it’ll open up when more people sign on.

Milk.ly

The concept is simple, fun, and will likely prove effective. If you have a small, local task that needs doing, but you don’t want to do it, you post it to the website. “Pick up my groceries from the store.” “Bake some cookies for our Bake Sale tomorrow.” “Help assemble this IKEA table.”

Along with the task, you post a reward, the remaining time left to complete it, and some location and description details. The site lists prices as “suggested”; Milk.ly accepts on-site payments through credit cards, but I think it’s more likely that users will simply resort to cash in cases where it’s required that they meet face-to-face.

This platform could get a lot of traction. Many users will both post and complete tasks, creating a veritable barter-based local economy for minor labor. It’s great for kids and teens who have lots of spare time and not a lot of spare money, or for grown-ups who have the exact opposite problem.

I’m personally very excited for Milk.ly. I’ve had this exact same idea in the past, and now I’m somewhere between excited that it’s a reality, and disappointed that I wasn’t the one to bring it to fruition. I signed up for the beta because I want this in my neighborhood for when I’ll eventually need help moving. You should sign up too if you want to see it in your community!

Cash In With Crowdsourcing — Phone Apps Edition

12 Jun

10 Phone Apps That Can Help You Make Money, by Dana O. Crandell (SavingAdvice.com)

Cash in Hand

Right off the heels of my summer money-making advice post the other week, I found this post on SavingMoney.com. Dana Crandell outlines a multitude of ways to crowdsource your spare time for some extra coin, particularly involving iPhone and Android apps. My post mainly covered webapps and the like, so some ways to make dough on the go are more than welcome.

Field Agent, Gigwalk, Checkpoints, WeReward, Shopkick — All these apps are similar in function and reward. Businesses provide what equate to “quests” for users to complete; go to Establishment X, do Task Y, and get rewarded with Z dollars/points. Rewards vary, anywhere from gift cards to straight cash, and the tasks are typically low-impact work like scanning and item or taking a picture.

eBay Mobile — Smartphone apps have only made it easier to sell your and others’ possessions online, so if you have junk lying around that someone else could want, eBay is still the solution. You can also resell locally bought items that you think may be able to turn a profit, or buy “lots” of items and resell them individually. There are lots of ways to game the system, so I won’t get into them here.

AppRewards — This one isn’t as much of a “get-up-and-go” pastime, but if you like trying new iOS apps and writing reviews, this app can make it worth your while with cash and gift card rewards.

If you’re feeling poor and have some downtime, check these apps out! They’ll get you out of the house and pad your spare funds a bit, and who doesn’t like that?

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