“Necessity is the mother of invention” —Somebody
Is much of our creative virtue being lost in cyberspace?
People, creative people and original people, which we all are or have the potential to become, are pouring heart and soul into their work with good positive energy and yet are receiving very little recognition or notice online. There is so much ‘talking’ in cyberspace and so little ‘listening.’
I feel the necessity to build a bridge between cyberspace, which is vacuuming our collective consciousness into oblivion, and a real and tangible platform where people can share and truly connect—face to face, in person. Some of us older folks remember what it was like to talk with one another in that way, and some of us are forgetting. Then we have the younger folks, many of whom have never really learned how to connect the old-fashioned way (sans devices).
How do we compete with cat videos? Maybe we stop trying. I don’t know all the answers.
While the web certainly provides a platform, it is starting to look more and more like a soul-less platform. Perhaps it does not have to be a matter of black and white. We can keep on using the web—it has its advantages obviously—but we also try to balance our growing dependency upon it with more time spent on actual real-life sharing platforms.
Since the bridge between the two realms has to connect to the web at some point, maybe this is the most logical place to start?
I write this hopefully, not that someone gives the internet an everlasting soul, but that more and more people unplug a little more often from the grid and get back to plugging their senses into the outdoors and into their immediate surroundings.
Empathize for a moment, if you will, the outsider. He or she feels utterly unnoticed and alone in this world. Here she is, a beautiful young woman, here he is a handsome young man: they have so much potential, but something is not right.
The idea of 15 minutes of fame seems extremely aloof to some desperate souls already feeling lost in obscurity. The temptation comes to settle for 15 minutes of infamy. A few are swept away in that idea, and regrettably take their own and/or others’ lives from us in the process.
From the lonely man’s or woman’s perspective, who feels utterly alone or useless, unnoticed and unappreciated—a human being—to see other human beings by the millions fawn over a cat video or some such nonsense: I am just saying let’s open our eyes a bit more and use our intuition to find the true needs of our society and its individuals.
I challenge you to cut at least three hours out of your week to unplug from TV and internet–a whole day would be better. Don’t ask me what you should do with that three hours or that day, so long as your face and your mind is not buried in a TV, phone, or computer screen.
Your ‘free-time’ is what I am talking about here. Time at work doesn’t count because you would not likely be on your devices anyhow. Personally, I would suggest the great outdoors as the place to be when unplugging, but that is not always practical, especially for city-oriented folk.
Maybe it is time to break the mold that has become the norm within our cities and towns.
A Bold New Business Model with Global Franchising Potential
Geno looked in through the windows of a popular coffee-shop franchise yesterday, and what he saw looked normal, and he thought “This is the way it is supposed to be.” A couple fellows reading their newspapers alone, someone on her smart phone, a couple of people talking to one another, and more busy-ness that he did not consciously register during his glance through the window.
This is how it is supposed to be, and yet Geno has this nagging feeling that the status-quo has something about it that is ominously benumbing. We are forgetting how to pay attention to those around us and how to communicate (outside of the social media platforms); and worse, many of our young citizens have never really learnt how to communicate very well without those blinding crutches to begin with.
We need to unplug a little more in order to connect a lot more.
Following is an idea that will at first seem unbelievable to most folks, (please see About page for a broader appeal), and yet those who truly consider it will also find a small spark of hope that maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and not all is lost. There is a way to unplug and connect at the same time.
Our4thWall (trademark pending) aspires to become the gold-standard of social media sharing, but in order to do that, (Gene needs to be able to hire a team of tech-folks who can build the right app), and more importantly: people, users of social media, need to learn a few basics, which paradoxically are not things that can easily be learnt on any internet social-media platform.
The proper etiquette and behavior for social media sharing in cyber-space must begin in real-life settings with real-life interactions taking place. Then that experience can be translated more or less into some form of online function.
The business model or plan that inspires Geno to believe we can do better is a brick and mortar establishment that works very much like a social-media platform, even though there may be a counter-intuitive sign on the front door saying something to this effect: “We proudly offer NO wifi and ZERO TVs. Please put your cell-phones in silent mode. And only take important calls or make ’emergency’ text messages while here. Our4thWall is where people come to unplug and connect at the same time.”
© Gene D. Boyd
I reckon I just lost over half of my readers. That is okay. They will only believe it when they see it. It is up to the rest of us to figure out a way to show them. Thank you for reading so far. Please keep going.
The Basic Our4thWall Experience
You enter the establishment. To your left there is a long wall covered with cork board or something like it. Most of the walls are covered in the same. In the right hand corner there is a table covered in community media: old post-cards, old photos taken from magazines, etc.. If you go over and look through this collection, there might be a few that arouse some emotion or some thoughts within yourself; and, just as a little experiment you do what others have done and you take those items and go pin them on the wall wherever you feel like hanging them.
Then you either begin looking around at what others have put on the wall that day or you go up to the counter to order something from an elegantly simple but eclectic menu: tea, coffee, bagels, paleo, vegan—whatever will suit your appetite, so long as it does not require overly complicated kitchen duty on part of the staff.
Speaking of staff, all employees on duty will have ‘posted’ a few things of their own choosing. This might be nice for the customer who comes in during a slow hour and finds he is pretty much alone. But he is not alone, for the staff know the routine at Our4thWall and they know it is about connecting with people in a way that breaks out of the box. If it takes a photograph or a poem or a piece of art to break the ice, then so be it.
Chairs are somewhat over-rated at Our4thWall. There may be some strategically located chairs, but if you have ordered a beverage or a plate of food, the most likely place you will be partaking is either holding it in your hands while browsing and mingling along the walls, or if you prefer to set down your plate, there are some long, tall tables concentrated toward the center of the establishment: you may use these if you wish; it is first come first serve, but the idea is to keep people moving around as much as possible.
And if the food becomes widely popular in and of itself, the establishment could be set up with more tables and chairs, and another room set up as described above for casual enjoyment after the meal.
When you are ready to leave the establishment you might take down the things you ‘posted’ but if you leave them on the wall(s) an employee will eventually come and return it to the community media table.
On your next visit you might think to bring your own photo choices or some samples of your own creative work and simply bypass the community table altogether. As a means of ‘advertising yourself’ this may be an excellent venue for informal job fairs, places for employers and employees to meet and interact: Who is who? Ah, there is the rub.
It is also a good place for:
- First-dates, where you had better not be texting or watching TV, (in my humble opinion).
- 2nd dates, 3rd dates, anniversaries, etc.
- Group social events.
- Community Art Classes
- Creativity-Encouragement Parties
Now, supposing that you came and had a good experience connecting with people, either those you came with or with strangers, chances are good that you might want to try re-creating that experience in your online media sharing habits:
- You will be more selective about what you post.
- You will show more interest in what other people have posted.
- And you are going to say more than “Like” if you say anything at all.
Posting is not mandatory at Our4thWall establishments but it is encouraged.
Because this concept seems such a radical change from the norm—the “rut”—I understand that it might take a leap of faith to realize that strangers can have a far better sharing experience than social media “friends” seem to do. And it might take a leap of faith for someone to invest in that first franchise to serve as a working model of the idea: but when it catches on, its propensity to go global might as well be called a franchise gone viral. (Please don’t think that this use of the word ‘viral’ means it is time to call the W.H.O or the C.D.C or the Health Dept.).
The business model is so simple and yet so powerfully effective that once it catches on people are going to be saying, “Why didn’t we do this ten years ago?”
Well, we didn’t. But we can start today.
As the owner of the Our4thWall domain in the dot-com sense and also the idea-man behind the brick and mortar concept of Our4thWall, Geno would obviously like to see Our4thWall branded to the concept the way that McDonalds is branded to fast food burgers and fries.
Although he can trademark a name and logo and copyright certain aspects of the affair, he is hardly in a position to create the first working model in a location that would see a fair amount of business or give the idea the chance it deserves.
Maybe it is his distance from the ‘norm’ and the ‘rut’ of the city-life that allows him to dream and believe in such things. The only thing that has come close to discouraging him so far in the development of this idea is going to town and blending in with the typical routine. While there–in the flow of normal life–it is hard to imagine anyone else getting such an idea.
Following is a more detailed list of some of Geno’s thoughts how to apply the concept to a working model.
Before we get into all that though, I just want to again thank those of you who have read these words up to this point. I realize that the doubters will have moved on by now, and that is fine because at this stage of the game doubt is an enemy that we cannot allow a foothold.
If Mark Zuckerberg doubted the need for or his ability to create a social networking site, somebody else would have invented “Facebook.” It might not be called “Facebook” but we would basically have the same exact thing we do now, and many of those I hear from are not satisfied. Again, too much talking and not enough listening.
Other Concepts and Ideas that May Apply to the Our4thWall Experience
One section of a wall, or an entire wall if need be, can be dedicated to long-term “featured” posts (maybe a week or so, depending on flow rates). Customers and employees can nominate certain items to go on this wall and then something like a vote can be taken. If a customer brings in a personal posting item that they do not wish to leave behind when they leave, they can ‘flag’ their post in such a way to say “Please Do Not Touch or Remove this Item: The owner will remove when he/she leaves today.”
“Flags” (highly visible pins with certain meanings to be provided by establishment and kept readily available upon the wall(s) for customer use):
- The flag mentioned above—a “Do not nominate and do not touch or move” flag.
- A yellow flag—Customer is saying the content of article or image may be of sensitive nature.
- A Red flag—Customer is saying the content is sensitive and may be inappropriate for younger customers.
- Modified Yellow and Red flags—for customers to put near other customer’s posts, in case they forgot.
- Nomination Flags—to indicate high level of interest and potential for the ‘featured’ wall.
In seasons and locales where very cold weather persists, customers may want to shed their coats; and since chairs might be somewhat limited in the establishment there may be a need for: 1) a coat-check function to be maintained by employees; 2) more chairs in certain seasons or locales; 3) a wall dedicated to coat-hooks (in season).
The establishment is well suited to fit a variety of privately booked functions and public events as well.
For something of a “Creativity-Encouragement Event” (mentioned above), maybe the spin of a wheel will decide what the event is to be: 1) “Speed Finger-Painting”—smocks provided to willing participants; 2) “Pick 3”—pick 3 or so ‘posts’ from the wall and give to another customer or participating employee, and within a certain time limit write a joke, a short story, a poem, etc. which combines those elements, followed by public readings from volunteers; 3) “Quick Collage”–tear photos from old magazines within a time limit and then make a collage on the wall; Customer Choice (democratically decided); 4) Employee Choice 5) Etc.etc..
Live music on occasion, as per general culture of customer-base. Maybe some spontaneous ‘jam-sessions’ with certain instruments provided by the establishment.
Concerns that arise as my imagination takes a dive into the proverbial “Shark Tank”
[Shark]: What about other people using this idea?
[Geno]: In some cases I think that is great:
- A portable “wall” and media supplies to take to home-care type places with multiple residents.
- Church socials (not to replace normal services).
- Public park events—which makes me think of Our4thWall as having a potential catering aspect to its functionality.
[Shark]: What about other businesses using this idea to generate customers?
[Geno]: Naturally I would like to brand the name “Our4thWall” with the idea. It is a good name and a great concept with global franchising potential. What an Our4thWall can provide that currently established places cannot is the floor space and the wall space needed to make this idea truly work. While other places may be able to put up a small cork board type posting area, this will probably just seem like a gimmick, whereas Our4thWall makes it the theme, (in addition to having good, simple, tasty food and beverage).
[Shark]: “I think it is a great idea. Truly a concept worth getting out there in a big way. I am not so sure it is franchise-able; or, if it is I wonder if a better name would not be in order. Where are you at in the establishment of this idea?
[Geno]: It is just an idea right now. I have acquired the dot-com and applied for a trademark. We are trying not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the idea; we just want to take the next logical step, whatever that may be.
[Shark]: So, I am guessing you are about $400-$500 in the hole so far, to get the dot.com domain and register the trademark, and you think your globally franchise-able idea is just going to magically happen by the goodwill of a few of your family and friends who read your website or blog?
[Geno]: Yes, we are in the red a little, but we, my wife and I, are looking into placing small line ads in the back of certain popular business magazines, and perhaps some web-sites as well. We are willing to “share” the idea with others who have the savvy and the right geographic location to make something like this work.
It is hoped they will procure some good karma and go with the Our4thWall trademark, but if they do not, just remember that you heard of the idea here first.
[Shark]: And what about this dot.com experience you are promising? I mean, does the world really need another social-media sharing app in their devices? According to you, people are distracted enough already.
[Geno]: It is my belief that people are going to use social-media in cyberspace as long as the world can maintain the technological grid required to do so. As stated earlier, I also believe that once a person visits an Our4thWall cafe or restaurant they are going to rethink how they post, how they pay attention to other people’s posts, and how they comment. I think a lot of people would be willing to pay .99 cents or more for an online social-media application where users are a lot more conscientious about their content and behavior.
Personally, I would like to see the scales tip in the favor of original and creative works, not so much of the “sharing” of other people’s videos, quotes, etc.. That stuff is okay to a point, but it gets overwhelming. The more closely the app aligns with the brick and mortar concept, (allowing for real conversations between those who are actually present on the site at the same time–not to be confused with those poisonous internet “chat-rooms”), the more successful I think it will be.
And while many folks are content with the widely available free apps, Our4thWall is not against charging a fee if that will keep the site from over-saturation by folks who do not really understand the value of a gold-standard in media sharing, which is what Our4thWall.com has the potential to become, (once I can hire a team of tech-gurus to tackle the development of the dot.com aspect of this business model.)
Additionally, many of the people I know are not happy with the status-quo of media-sharing anyhow: thus as Necessity is the Mother of Invention and as I have had my Eureka! moment, it is now time for others to get behind me and support this venture.
[And that is enough time in the imaginary “Shark Tank.”]
Suggested Days of Business
Definitely open on Sundays. I love Chik-Fil-A restaurants and food, but their scheduling does not fit with an Our4thWall plan.
In my opinion Sundays are an excellent day to unplug from TV, smart phone, and computer screen. If people do this very important function of unplugging (on Sundays) like I do, they either need some good outdoor recreation time or failing that then some other place they can go and not feel tempted to resume their online life.
If I had to pick a single day to close down an Our4thWall establishment I would pick Thursday, not that it must be closed. I once read or heard that Thursday is a peak day for social-media or blogging activity. I don’t know how true, but perhaps that would make Thursdays the ideal time to book private events in Our4thWall establishments.
Final Thoughts/Comments at This Juncture:
We have a great number of folks in our communities reaching retirement age. Many of these are yet full of energy and vigor, who are prepared to revisit their creative potential, the things they could not so easily pursue throughout their careers: and any sort of venue that allows for creative encouragement is bound to become a success, assuming it is not poorly managed.
Couple this factor with a high number of young folks who feel discouraged or disheartened by the current trends in social-media obscurity, and I think we may seize upon an opportunity to repair a growing breach between our disparate generations.
And those in between, the general working force, I dare say that me and my peers are generally in need of creative discovery and renewal. We are so busy working for the man on the one hand and living up to others’ needs on the other, that we have forgotten what it means to take time to nurture our own creative potential, which would go a very long ways at improving our sense of satisfaction and purpose.
As far as I, Gene D. Boyd, am aware, this idea as I have laid out is entirely original. If there is another brand or trademark already using a similar plan, I am completely unaware of its existence; plus, I can hardly imagine this concept not exploding on the national and international scene once it is properly branded (i.e. Our4thWall), and promoted.
I am aware that competitors may arise. McDonalds has its Burger King and Wendy’s, etc.. McDonalds does not own the exclusive right to sell fast food burgers and fries, but it is the original, and I believe Our4thWall is the McDonalds of this business model.
If something else, the proverbial Burger King, (“The UnPlug Cafe” ©—my second choice for a name ), shows up on the scene before Our4thWall is a household name, then I would highly suspect some level of infringement upon our model. The timing would be too coincidental. It would be much simpler and affordable, at least right now and in the foreseeable future, if entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, or business-savvy individuals negotiated a deal to use the Our4thWall trademark.
I am not overly interested in sticking my nose into the development of a Chicago site, a Beverly Hills site, a London Site, A Paris-site (really don’t want a parasite—duh)…so long as there is an agreement and an understanding to maintain a certain standard and stick fairly close to the model that we are going to design based upon these rudimentary ideas laid out here today.
At this stage of development, someone could pick up the Our4thWall brand for peanuts—not literally–assuming they have the capacity to represent the idea faithfully.
My main objective in relationship to those franchisees who maintain high standards year after year is to produce quality commercials and run effective marketing campaigns that will bring business to all involved parties, and also to make sure that the internet version of Our4thWall becomes the gold-standard in media-sharing, especially with emphasis on the encouragement of creative content with effective communication and interaction between users.
Thanks again for reading and considering the potential of this business model.
© Gene D. Boyd
Sincerely, Gene Boyd