A call to action.
One of our team members lived abroad during the late 90s, right around the same time home internet access was becoming popular. In the world of dial-up and “America Online,” there wasn’t a lot of information for expats to understand or challenge the idea that it was possible to utilize “America Online” without dialing an American number. Aside from the timezone difference, the sheer expense of getting online while abroad meant that time online had to be used wisely. Connecting with family members in time zones 6-8 hours behind meant timing was also a factor in engaging with one another. (The cost aspect of this problem was solved pretty quickly through TCP/IP connections after dialing to a local internet access provider, but the timing challenge still remained.) The solution became an interesting behavioural change. If the grandkids abroad or grandparents on-shore wanted to chat with one another, they would call one another’s homes, let the phone ring once, and hang up. The signal became a means to communicate and take action, and subsequently since phone lines were occupied with the dial-up connection of accessing the internet, if a caller tried to signal and the line was busy, there was a good chance the intended recipient was already online and engagement between family members could be pursued.
This solution went on to be the means of signaling between family members for over 5 years. Effectively we had invented our own bat-signal: throwing up a means to say “your attention or self is needed” and if the signal was seen (by Batman) or heard (by family members) they could then choose to take action. There wasn’t ever a real feedback mechanism for Batman to acknowledge he was going to take action, just the one way communication of “you are needed” was thrown up in the sky. Likewise, if the grandparents called once and hung up, regardless of what the grandkids were doing, they may not have been available. There was never really a means to provide feedback other than to say “I am doing this activity and I want you to join me.”
This same problem presented itself decades later, amongst friends and co-workers in Chicago. At the time, many of what would later become Double Bear Rolled team members lived in the Logan Square neighbourhood of Chicago. Individually and on an ad hoc basis as a group, there was one bar we all frequented a lot, Smallbar. We used this bar as our staple for starting out our weekend, relaxing on the patio, or just catching up over adult beverages. As friends, we tried using group-text conversations to coordinate between one another. This presented a problem for individuals who were not able or interested in joining friends who an evening at the bar as they had no means of opting-out of a group text. So a Facebook Messenger group was created. Since Facebook provided the tools for users to mute conversations, participate or leave conversations, and had no restriction or real direct cost to be utilized, it provided a means for group members to say “I am doing this activity and I want you to join me.” (Though not in so many words.)
As more and more of this group of friends started removing their presence on Facebook, the group chat was no longer becoming effective. As Facebook’s product strategy evolved to require users to download and maintain a second application exclusively for messaging, usage of this group chat nosedived off a cliff. Without going back to the group texting model, we needed a way to signal one another that would also enable members to opt in and out of receiving a beckoning cry to a bar.
How did things go?
What was the result?