Well that's a Relief

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Sir Tim Berners-Lee submitting his idea for the world wide web – he wanted to create a ‘neutral medium’ that would ‘decentralise control’ and make access to information available to all.

When I tried to think what’s been the biggest change to the way we live our lives, thanks to the world wide web I thought – I’m not the right person to write a blog about this.

But, I can write a blog on how the internet has the power to change how we might answer the call of nature….

We start off relatively seriously to provide you with some context:

The ways in which we now seek out information to help us make decisions has truly been revolutionised. More and more, we are being swayed by the populous opinions of a complete bunch of strangers, writing for online communities or user review websites.

And we seem to be mostly trusting of this type of approach – just as much, if not more so, than the opinions of those we hold dear to us.

How many times have you asked friends/ family/ work colleagues for suggestions of good restaurants – they then reel off a number of choices, to which you mutter a polite ‘Mm Hmm’ before going online later on and seeing what HouseofCardsRulesok, 34, from Weston Super Mare has to say?

Since the rise of mobile apps which we can access on the go, user generated content has risen tenfold. To the point where the simplest of everyday questions can become a decision that can be influenced by the opinions of multiple others.

Nothing demonstrates this point before than a new web app called ‘AirPnP’. This allows home owners to put their own bathrooms up for general use.  All for people who are out and about and feel the immediate call of nature, without a convenient public toilet nearby.

Go on their website and you’ll find two options – ‘Find a place to pee’ or ‘Add a place to pee’.

Their slogan is, “We take care of lavatory logistics, so you don’t have to….’

The app is being tested at this year’s New Orleans Mardi Gras, apparently notorious for something known as the ‘rogue pee’. The problem got so bad that if you’re caught urinating in public during the festival, you face a weekend in Orleans Parish Prison.

The app allows people to add details about their toilet environments so ‘users’ can make decisions based on the thickness of your toilet paper, or whether you’ve gone for Lavender or Summer Meadow in your choice of cover-up scents….for example….

People aren’t volunteering their bathrooms purely out of the goodness of their hearts – most are getting paid for it (per use). So for Mardi Gras it’s become almost a bladder bidding war with people demonstrating their best selling prowess – such as this user:

“Imagine you gazing at passing floats. Now imagine you gazing at more floats just a few minutes later. Because that’s all it will take for you to unleash your bowels in our frequently cleaned porcelain paradise.”

The name AirPnP comes from AirBnB, which is a popular website for people to find spare rooms whilst on their travels. And whilst it’s been trialled at Mardis Gras, I so hope it takes off elsewhere.

It’s an approach that relies on giving users the control, and allowing them to give good customer service the thumbs up (or vice versa). Principles which hold true to Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original intentions 25 years ago.

In Simon’s blog yesterday he wrote about how we’re all now living in a ‘connected world’ with a massive emphasis on social media. Sir Tim Berners-Lee was talking about exchanging information, but who could have predicted the way in which this information is shared socially? And you can’t get much more social than inviting a stranger into your bathroom….

Whilst I chose this example mainly down to its potential for hilarity, it does go to show how much our decisions have now become based on user feedback/ reviews – if even our convenience stops (urgent as they might be) can potentially be swayed by a five star rating.

What’s next I wonder? A website for people who are in desperate need of a cuppa and want to avoid the dreaded high street chains, who can then compare/rate the tea making skills of local town residents?