I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Outernet, about 3 questions:
- If this is “Humanity’s Public Library”, what do people generally use public libraries for?
- What is the pattern of how people tend to use the internet, with the content currently on Outernet as an example?
- If I moved off the grid, what would it take for Outernet to be my primary data source?
On question number one, let’s ponder why people go to libraries and what they do while there. In my local public library, I’ve noticed that the places that get the traffic are: The computer room (i.e. software), the auto repair manuals (because that information is still hard to get online), the novels and other entertainment such as DVDs, and the research sections.
I’d say 50% of people go to the library to be entertained, the other 50% go for either research or because they don’t have a home internet connection or computer. Some young adults only have a mobile data connection, while other people can’t afford the $60 a month or so it takes to get decent internet in non-urban areas.
Entertainment is a valid reason to visit a library, because people seek to be happy by passing time in interesting ways, and also because things that are entertaining can also be educational. Also, sometimes people choose the library because it’s free or just because it’s quiet.
On question number 2 and 3, I’ve been pondering associated content, or hyperlinks. I was listening to this week’s music selections, to the first track of the Jamendo collection, and I’m like “Gosh, this artist sounds like the same artist that did Suntoucher. I wonder if that’s who it is?” My first instinct is “Hmm… I bet the Wikipedia page for this artist has that information.” Also “Who the heck is Jamendo? Is that an independent label?” and “This Radiators concert is from American Music Hall. Where is that? Is it a large venue?”
So as a crazy idea, what if when some music comes down from Outernet, the Wikipedia page for the artist and the venue come down with it, and they are linked by ht (hypertext)? And if it’s a collection of songs from a particular label or festival, what if some information about the label or festival comes down as well?
Another idea: What if the text for a book came down from Gutenburg, and the audio for the same book came down from Librivox? That would allow people to read the book at the same time they are listening to it, or switch back and forth between the two mediums. It might even help people learn English.
I realize this would be a lot more work than just bundling requests. But it would also, in my opinion, make Outernet really rad, and make it fit a model closer to how people use the internet.
And while I’m at it, a couple more suggestions:
What about having the Outernet website as part of the core content of Outernet? It would allow people to answer the question: What the heck is this Outernet wifi hotspot I just connected to? Also, a PDF user manual for the system would be useful. That’s a chicken and egg of course, but it would allow diagnosing issues with upgrades and things like that, for people without internet connections. It would also allow using the information from a neighbor’s Outernet to set up your own Outernet.
My two cents.