The World According to Tim Green: digital hitchhiking with less murder | Mobile Industry | Mobile Entertainment

The World According to Tim Green: digital hitchhiking with less murder

The World According to Tim Green: digital hitchhiking with less murder
Tim Green


Industry / November 15th 2012 at 2:00PM

Good news: you're more likely to get married than slaughtered if you travel with 'share a ride' pioneer BlaBlaCar.

Back in the 1970s we had a quaint tradition in the UK called hitchhiking. Here's how it worked. A young man would wait by the roadside and make a thumbs-up sign to passing motorists. This would indicate to them that he wanted a lift somewhere. A friendly driver would stop, open the door of his warm car and then the travellers would chat until it was time for the hitchhiker to slay the motorist in an orgy of violence.

Of course, not all journeys ended this way. Some passed peacefully. And some concluded with the driver slaughtering the hitcher.

Sadly, this kindly habit has all but disappeared `– gone the way of other innocent old-school 1970s things like space dust, flashers and lard.

Hitchhiking was buried by the self-perpetuating lack of trust we have in one another these days. Every stranger is a danger now. It's very sad. When my kids were young, I always told them to talk to strangers, just try not to go off with them anywhere for sweets. But I was swimming against the tide.

Interestingly, the digital age is making things worse and better at the same time.

In the last few days, the UK has been gripped by the alleged crisis at the BBC. For the benefit of overseas readers, one of the Beeb's flagship news programmes mysteriously buried a story alleging a deceased children's entertainer was fiddling with the kids he was meant to be entertaining.

Then, a few days later (presumably to make amends of some kind) it rushed into another investigation alleging a prominent politician was a serial abuser of boys in a care home during the 1980s. The MP turned out to be entirely innocent.

The programme didn't name him, but plenty of people on Twitter did. Not least a bunch of gloating left wing commentators who put aside their sense of justice just because the accused is a right wing politician.

They contributed to a digital witch hunt, which just goes to show that for all our technological sophistication, we're little different from our 16th century ancestors.

But didn't I say digital is making things better too?

Yes I did. And that's because this week I shared a stage in Paris and the Mobile Social and Big Data conference with the founder of BlaBlaCar, Frederic Mazzella.

His company is leading the new trend of 'collaborative consumption', which encourages people to share what they have rather than buy what they don't.

Its simple idea is to make it easy for people to share car rides. You post details of your journey on the BlaBlaCar site and other members can use search criteria to share a ride with you.

BlaBlaCar sets a limit on how much people can charge to prevent profiteering (and also stop it from becoming a taxi service, with all the regulatory baggage that would bring) and uses eBay style trust ratings to encourage responsible membership.

And it's proving hugely successful. More than 400,000 people share long-distance journeys on BlaBlaCar every month, and as of September 2012 there were 2.4 million members.

BlaBlaCar is re-introducing some courtesy back into people's lives, which is rather lovely isn't it? And unlike old-school hitching, which was a crap shoot, BlaBlaCar users can select compatible co-travellers.

They can even define themselves by how much they like to talk – Bla, BlaBla or BlaBlaBla.

It occurred to me that BlaBlaCar could evolve into a dating service in a way, with people going on unnecessary journeys just because the driver is cute and shares their interest in music and levels of talking.

I asked Frederic if there had been any BlaBla weddings. None yet, but an amazing 4,000 couples have met this way.

And not one murder.