DoMyStuff.com actually launched in April, but it represents an interesting dovetail with some of the ideas that knock around among some of the younger metarati. In particular, a few people have been talking about wish markets: marketplaces that let buyers announce what they’re looking for and receive offers from vendors, rather than the normal course of commerce as we’ve come to know it, in which vendors announce their products and receive offers from buyers. Wish markets are cool not only because they tend to promote competition if they’re broad enough, and thus lower prices (as on Priceline), but also because they allow you to shop for the thing you actually want, rather than having to choose from the limited number of things that are already out there. You can tell a wish market that you want something that might never have existed before, and if you’re willing to pay enough for it, the market will create it for you. Just like having a wish fulfilled (for a price, of course).
DoMyStuff has created what’s more or less a wish market for chores and other small tasks. It’s not terribly unlike Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, where employers crowdsource small tasks, for small change. But DoMyStuff services involve either “local tasks,” which include stuff like Clean My House and Do My Laundry, and Yard Cleaning, or “global tasks,” which are more like Upgrade My WordPress Blog and Find Me Clients, that can be done from anywhere (similar to several sites that list small jobs for programmers and designers). The listings are essentially RFPs, or Requests for Proposals, and are even referred to as such in the php script that runs the site. What that means, of course, is that competition for jobs drives the price down, instead of competition for products driving the price up in an auction market like eBay.
My favorite thing about DoMyStuff, though, is not necessarily the market mechanism. That’s been seen before, here and there. It’s the fact that this market is designed for face-to-face meetings, to create a more dynamic market for chores, of all things. (Isn’t there a Cory Doctorow chapter about a similar system?)
Wish markets are a cool idea, but few of them have taken off in a huge way. One crucial component seems to be some kind of reputation system, so that you can be confident you’re going to get what you pay for. DoMyStuff includes a ratings system, and, more interestingly, an escrow system, so that payment for a task is stuck in escrow while the work is being performed. You can even personalize an RSS feed of tasks being listed on the site. This is potentially very cool. Unless I’m making up the Cory Doctorow chapter from whole cloth (you can thank me later, Cory), I seem to recall it involving a similar system, where someone gets a message notifying them of a nearby task that needs doing. How cool would that be, if people could walk around getting RFPs on their mobile phones, then drop by to clean someone’s fridge or mow their lawn. (A mapping component wouldn’t be bad either.) Considering the popularity of other social networks that promote rambling itinerance — like Couchsurfing.org, for instance — I’d bet such a service could prove fairly popular. Hm, what needs doing in my apartment at the moment. Anyone want to mop my floors?