The other day I saw a talk at Ignite Seattle on a tool a guy had made called PicklePost. Pickle Post is a fairly simple tool and not necessarily the most simple concept. Brought down to it's bare bones it's a method of managing and displaying static digital data from the web in a physical space. The idea for this being that by bringing the web into a physical space (by way of a fancy monitor attached to a small wifi enabled computer), you help pull the social web interaction that goes on in a coffee shop, or cafe, into real community interaction.
The problem I have with this is that I don't actually think the idea is helping to tackle the problem. I agree that it is helping bring parts of the web into the physical realm (good!), but I'm not sure I understand how it's helping build the physical communities. Communities are built on dialog and interaction, yet while Pickle Post offers a physical manifestation of the web, it does little to help turn the social web communities that exist into dialog and interaction.
So, what can we do to take what is a good statement of a problem "bring people out of the web and into physical human interaction by way of shared physical space" and help to find a better solution.
In my mind the simplest place to start would be the shared wireless connection. If you are offering an open wireless connection in your place of business, and said wireless is not so powerful as to significantly exit your premise, any people connected to this wireless network will be within the premise. So how do we shape these people's web experience while inside this physical area in order to help promote dialog and interaction amongst them.
One solution to this problem that comes to mind is by simply offering a platform by way of a DNS redirection, that provides for various social features... chat, forum, profiles etc. The idea being that if you give regular customers a place to put something they'll use it, and that if they meet people in that space then they are more likely to attempt to connect to them in real life and by keeping this network available only to the local domain (or at least sign-up), you give that web space a relatively safe starting community.
Participation would be the big problem with this kind of solution, and I can imagine some solutions to that as well... posting discussion topics for the day, repurposing some of the PicklePost technology to display forum threads, having people sign up and take a photo before using the wireless (this seems a bit intrusive but would greatly improve the ability of patrons to find each other).
Tell me what you think.