My new favourite social network

It’s called Ideapod and combines some of my favourite things: ideas, people from all over the world, and succinct writing.

The concept is pretty simple. You have 1000 characters to present your idea. (You can also use videos, graphics or images). People can share their thoughts in the comments section and link related ideas. The ultimate aim is to enable people to collaborate to implement some of them in real-life.

In a recent blog post, Richard Branson said Ideapod¬†“can only increase the chances of society coming up with more game changing concepts.”

Ideapod results in a network of thought-provoking, easily digestible and thematically linked posts – some of which actually contain some pretty good ideas about how to make the world a better place.

For the moment, I’m going to be writing my “big idea” posts on Ideapod. (The 1000-character limit is so much more appealing right now than the idea of writing a whole blog post!) For those of you who don’t feel like joining up, I’ll be posting links to the pieces in the “Big Ideas” section.

Happy Friday! I’ll be back to conventional blogging soon! ūüôā

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That middle-class guilt at the recycling centre

I can’t seem to make it all the way to the recycling centre in Charlottenburg.

The first time I tried I was carrying a broken television. Like all people who ferry things in the belief they are personally curtailing the effects of global warming, I was feeling pretty smug.

But as I approached the centre, I was accosted by a teenage boy.

“Are you dumping that TV?” he asked.

“Yes!” “Can I have it?”

“Unfortunately it’s broken.” “That’s okay. I’d still like it!”

“Well, sure,” I said brightly, handing it over, pleased not to have to lug it the final few meters to the entrance.

Some weeks later, I found myself in the unfortunate position of having to question my smugness.

It was all because of a report produced by one of my colleagues about how German electronic waste (even that brought to recycling centres) often ends up in scrap heaps in Africa. The workers there endure hazardous conditions sifting through the rubble, all while breathing in dangerous fumes produced by burning metals.

The protagonist

The protagonist

(You can watch that report here: Dumped in Africa: The final journey of a TV )

My second attempt to make it to the recycle centre took place this morning. This time, I had a broken Hoover in tow.

I’d inherited it from the previous occupant of my¬†flat but decided its time had come when it began¬†emitting smoke. I pulled it by its nozzle all the way down Schlossstrasse, attracting the bemused interest of passers-by.

As I turned into the street where the recycling centre’s located, I was approached once again by a teenage boy, possibly the same one.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you dumping that vacuum cleaner?”

“Yes,” I said. “But it’s broken.”

“That’s no problem,” he said. “I’d still like it.”

“What do you want it for?” I asked.

“To send to my people in Bosnia. There is lots of poverty there.”

“What are they going to do with a broken Hoover?”

“The people there are very poor. They will find a use.”

“In principle, I don’t mind giving you my broken vacuum cleaner,” I said. “But what I don’t want is for it to end up being transported to a scrap heap in Africa.”

Um Himmels Willen, nein!” he said, not without irony. I think we both realised that I didn’t really know what I was talking about.

I thought about what a truly ethical person would do in this situation. Even I knew that the chances of the broken TV bringing a glimmer of hope to the impoverished in Bosnia was slim to none.

I could have refused to hand it over, gone into the centre to enquire about the kids hanging about outside and demanded to be informed  of the fate of a conventionally dumped Hoover.

But I didn’t want to be that person. I tried to justify my inertia by thinking about all the potentially criminal things other teenagers not at school could be up to.

Hanging around outside a recycling centre soliciting¬†passers-by dumping their used electronics didn’t seem to be the worst way for teenagers to spend their time.

So I handed my vacuum cleaner over and toddled home, feeling that oh-so-familiar blend of middle class guilt and inertia.

Three socially awkward situations we urgently need to address

1. Sneezes that happen in quick succession

Or more specifically, how to acknowledge them. We’ve all been there: you’re in the¬†office and¬†a colleague sneezes. There’s a chorus of “Bless Yous” or “Gesundheits.” Then they sneeze again. Half of the original well-wishers¬†say “Bless You” again. This time though, it’s a little less enthusiastic. By the third Achoo, the¬†afflicted¬†is lucky if they’re acknowledged at all.

Here’s the question – what is the appropriate way to respond to continuous sneezing? Do multiple well-wishes draw undue attention to the sneezer?¬†Do they feel maligned if you pretend you didn’t hear their second, third and fourth outbursts?

This needs to resolved as soon as possible.

2. Giving up your seat on public transport

I’ve had women I thought were old snap at me for offering them¬†my seat and I’ve been glared at by those I deemed not yet to have passed the giving-up-your-seat threshold. I’ve¬†felt the sharp sting of guilt when the person next to me¬†successfully¬†gave up their seat¬†to someone¬†I was¬†on the fence about. I am at an utter loss as to the appropriate behaviour.

Please, someone, put me out of my misery.

3. Holding doors open: a question of duration

Look, I’m not the only one who worries about this. This cartoon I found on Reddit¬†¬†says it all. Where is the line between being a nice¬†person¬†holding the door and a nasty¬†person playing mind games?¬†I mean that absolutely literally.¬†How many meters away from the door is a-okay?

Answers on a postcard, please.