0240: /lost.and.found


The decentralized 21st century lost-and-found that we deserve

You are attending the PAX East conference and stop to talk to a YouTuber who you are a fan of.  You put your backpack down, grab a shirt out of it and get him to sign it.  After the convo you are elated, having just found and talked to one your idols.  This elation turns to hunger and you go look for a place to get something to eat.  As you are standing in line for food, admiring the signed shirt you just got, it hits you.


Your backpack.  It’s back in the middle of a convention hall that’s a 10 minute walk away.  Or at least it was.  It’s gone now.  Left backpacks just don’t stay left for long.  What are your options?  Suck it up and try not to let it ruin your day, even though it will?  Or try to find someone who knows where the “lost and found” is, if such a thing exists, and hope that someone saw your backpack and took 20 minutes out of their day to find this lost and found and put your backpack there too.

There is a third option.  Get your phone out and check localweb.is/lost.and.found.  There people who find lost items immediately take a photo of it and post it, then take the item with them, so nobody else takes it.  You quickly see that your backpack is one of the most recent posts and you reply to the post to retrieve it.  He responds with a question about what is inside, just to verify, and you agree to meet up at a spot that is only a few minutes from both of you.

Crisis averted.

The centralized concept of a lost-and-found is some 20th century technology that doesn’t fit how we live our lives today.  If there is considerable friction to returning a lost item, people won’t want to do it and the item will remain where it is until it’s stolen.  But thanks to the local web, returning an item is as simple as taking a photo of it, so the good Samaritans, who always outnumber the thieves, usually will get the first shot.

The traditional lost-and-found hasn’t been functional since grade school.  Many places – bars, restaurants, clubs – just don’t keep that stuff around for long and other places like parks, play grounds, and other outdoor spaces don’t have a central lost-and-found at all.  But with the local web, everyone becomes their own receptacle for lost goods and you can move to meet the owner as well.

Lost items are usually discovered as lost by their owners within minutes so time matters.  When the digital lost-and-found is accessed on mobile phones and /lost.and.found can be dialed down to a few hundred feet, it allows both the owner and finder to connect much sooner.  If the finder collects the item, then waits until they get home to post it to Craigslist, the owner might be 45 minutes of rush hour traffic away, increasing the hassle all around.

The local web is enabling people to solve their own problems in their own way using the tools we already have in our hands.  It doesn’t matter if you have lost something or you are lost yourself, the local web is your connection to those who can help.

Note: PAX is not officially affiliated with the local web.  The above is just an example of what could happen when the local web launches at PAX East in April.

We are building the local web and sharing a new way to use it each day.

Signup at localweb.is

Image via Paula Izzo