Big Sandbox (.net) is at its core an experiment on imagination collaboration.

I just stumbled this site, and was both rewarded and discouraged at the same time.  You see, I submitted to Google's Project 10 to the 100th the above idea, which is rather like what's going on here.

What I submitted:

2.  In More Depth

Now and then, we could all use a boost to turn the banal into the exciting.

Traditional networking as practiced today (e.g. lots of contacts and self centered actions) won’t cut it. What’s needed is a more aesthetic, ethical and intellectual approach.  Nature abounds with examples of symbiosis (different species working together for mutual advantage).  Now all we need to do is figure out a way to bring thinking people together for mutual benefit.

The internet is a perfect environment for an experiment in imagination collaboration. The most powerful of all networks, and what’s missing in most people’s daily lives, is the imagination to move beyond mind-numbing routine.  Instead of leaving ideas and thoughts barren they now could be fertilized through interaction with others who have similar aims.  Simply, Big Sandbox is an experiment in empowering the imagination, one person at a time, on an unparalleled scope.

Take this proposal as an example.  Is this a mashup of a blogging community and a social site?  Is that enough?  What about community guidelines, forum topics and structure of categories, to list but three.  And while we’re at it, is solely user-generated content enough?

Which isn’t to say this is limited to new products or services; only by people’s imaginations.  For instance, if you’re a writer, writing about the near future, what would the world then look like?  If you are a bored stay-at-home parent, how can you take advantage of one free hour a day?  If you have a presentation next week and your material is boring even you, where do you look for inspiration?

We could all use a Big Sandbox to play in.  One site.  Many topics.  A wealth of footnotes.*

* URL already taken.

3.  What problems or issues does your idea address?

There is a deep hunger that permeates modern life.  We long for more connection, for release from anonymity, for not dying with the dance still in us.

For some, conformity has stifled independent thought.  For others, fear of ridicule and failure rule the day.  For the majority of us, everyday pressures take precedence over the art of living.  Helping others with a question is in itself rewarding.  Having one’s mind stimulated by many ideas at play is food for thought. Being encouraged, perhaps even finding the passion and creative life within, is priceless.

I believe some of the best that’s out there can be found on comment threads.  Its where footnotes, tangents and out-of-the-blue randomness rules.  This is also where Big Sandbox succeeds or fails.

4. If your idea were to become reality, who would benefit the most and why.

Doctors who are more stressed than their patients.  Teachers who are more demoralized than their students. Architects who can’t exercise their imagination.  Preachers who have lost their voice. Accountants who are troubled by their profession’s ethics.  Mid life professionals who are out of work.  Stay at home parents who are unbearably bored.  Bureaucrats who are, well, mired in bureaucracy.  The list goes on, and doesn’t end with college educated professionals.

As Wikipedia demonstrates, collaboration is the lingua franca, and the real treasure of the internet.  Together, by pooling resources to encourage and empower imagination, we could collectively give rise to imagination networking, and thus assist each other moving from the banal to the exciting.

5. What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground?

Seed capital.  Programming.  Bandwidth.  Exposure.

Right now, Big Sandbox needs footnotes.  Keep in mind: ideas need a dynamic, fluid and generous environment to flourish.

Again, is a community blogging site/social site mashup adequate?  A la Wikipedia, should there be a subcategory of contributed pages covering topics and links (e.g. mind mapping, data visualization, picturing a problem, idea generation, etc)?  Is there a killer app, such as real time meeting software, which could better bring this virtual network to life?*

*Tangentially, is there a non-event that can physically bring the network together?  A la Hans Ulrich Oberst, who once organized a conference with all of the typical infrastructure (e.g. lunches, informal chats, parties) but without meetings and speeches.  Or, how about a "Meet To Eat;" people get randomly paired with another for an evening of dinner and conversation, where a topic list is what’s the main course.

6.  Describe the ultimate outcome...How would you measure it?

A vibrant community with lively commentary.*  (Measured in eyeballs).

*What could cause the early demise of big Sandbox is typical adolescent snark, and worse the rude, even repugnant commentary by those who should know better but who hide behind their anonymity.  Not only are ideas fragile things, those obnoxious voices tend to drown out quiet, thoughtful ones.**

**Equally, it is true that same anonymity may embolden otherwise timid people to participate, as well as those who have every reason to guard their identity.***

***It may also be possible to jump start a positive first impression.  When registering, a profile would be requested. The profiles are expressions of what people want others to know about them, their experiences and ideas.  Hard work, I know, but what if a few willing participants were initially assisted in writing their own, then they in turn helped another, who in turn...

Please feel free to leave a comment here, or at  Big Sandbox.

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