I’m toying with an idea…

Here’s the scoop… I belong to a motorcycle forum. In fact it’s not only vendor specific, it’s make and model specific. These are not uncommon.

One of the things this forum has put together (or rather someone on the forum) is an ‘Assistance List’. Similar to the phone book of people you get if you join the BMW MOA.

The primary idea behind it is simply this: You break down in the middle of nowhere, you whip out your list (or BMW MOA Book), look for someone willing to help, in the middle of nowhere and you get back on the road. Or you’re riding home from a long trip and get hit with some really nasty weather. (I don’t know, maybe it snows or something), you whip out said list and perhaps you find someone willing to put you up.

While thankfully I have not needed to use my list, some folks have. I’m listed in the list as having a trailer, tent space, able to put up a bed for a night, have tools, etc.

The *problem* is simply this:

Keeping all this information up-to-date is a very manual process. People email one person who keeps this list in Excel or an access database or something. Every so often the list gets pushed out to the subscribers (manually I might add). You might get a copy and see that you dropped off the list, or that something’s wrong. The cycle repeats, but it’s all very manual.

But what if…

What if there was a website/service that managed this stuff. What if you wanted, or were able to be on more than one list? I currently have two bikes, neither of which are a BMW, but if someone needed help and had a BMW (or even a Harley for that matter) I wouldn’t turn them away.

What if all you had to do was sign up for your list one time, then add yourself to other lists as needed? The site/service took care of notifying members based upon their preferences. With each update, or once a month, or what have you?

Will people use this? Would they trust the entity to keep their info private? I’m not thinking about this as a business. I honestly don’t see a business here. This thing would not make money, and it would be work on top of that. But if we leveraged the technology available, it would be far less work on the long run than maintaining one list manually.

I’ve mocked up the site somewhat, here’s an example of the personal preferences:


I would join the list of FJR brethren, and if there is a group of ZX/11 riders I’d probably put myself on that list too.

This could be used for multiple purposes. But before I put any blood/sweat or tears into it I’d want to know if it makes any sense. Currently being on the list I’m on doesn’t cause me much pain, other than I have to make sure I keep the latest copy around. If I were heading out on a trip I’d really like to be able to log in to a site and get the absolute latest list. But maybe that’s just me.


3 Replies to “I’m toying with an idea…”

  1. It doesn’t look good for this project.

    Apparently a significant number of folks “feel” as though this will put their information at risk.


  2. Hmmm… so you would like to keeping the project idea alive, while maintaining a level of security or privacy.

    My first question is: What information (other than name, address and phone) does the project need to store that might be considered at risk?

    Second: Do you absolutely need to have a printed list of names and address, etc? I can see why that make people nervous. How about accessing the data/website/service via cell phone, using WAP or something?

    So try this on for size:

    Member Signup:
    1.) Rider wants to join the list.
    2.) Rider creates a simple, but secure and password protect user account.
    3.) The required (non-identifying) fields: username, password and email address; then a list of MADs proposed options (checkboxes).
    4.) Rider enters geograhic info for lookup purposes, city, state, zip, areacode.
    5.) A large text field is provided that allows the Rider to enter their more personal information, Name, Address, Phone, how they can be reached, etc.

    This last field would have a recommend format. But when the Rider/User submits the data over an SSL connection, the data would be encrypted, then stored.

    Member Request:
    1.) Rider broke down on road.
    2.) Rider whips out cell phone and enters the MotoList.com address.
    3.) Rider enters his user name and password over SSL
    4.) Rider enter geographic info, hits search, a list of local helping members is returned, each one with a Request Help checkbox.
    5.) Rider select one or more checkboxes and hits submit.
    6.) MotoList.com emails each of the selected members a help message from the requesting Member.
    7.) The recipient member can then open the help email, login to MotoList.com to view the requesting members information, then OK the release of their info to that requesting rider, or just call the Rider directly on his member listed cell phone number.

    Something like that. Bounce back to you. :o)

    Wanna be Rider,

  3. I’ll have to buy you a beer to discuss.

    The reality is, people just are skeered of having their info in a list.

    As a rider, yes a portable printable list is probably best, we tend to go places where coverage is non-existent still.

    As described, the current method is email your information (in the clear) to a person, who you may or may not really know. Then that person maintains the info in a speadsheet or database on their home computer. No one can really validate how secure this computer is. If it’s used by more than one person, or if it were stricken by a virus that emails files around, this list could go with that.

    Then periodically the list is emailed to everyone on it without verification that they are still ‘them’.

    That process (outside of it’s manual nature) is wrongfully considered to be secure.

    But what do I know? 🙂

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