Sometimes, beneath the sleaze and oblivion, you get the sense that techies do want to help others. But without basics like empathy, reason, or humanity, the startup community struggles to help its fellow man—and we wind up with things like this, a business analysis of the homeless shopping cart.
The post—if you can call it that, really more of a mixed media self-diagnosis—appears on NewHive. NewHive, which is backed by a cohort of reputable, respected investors, is a site that lets you share "expressions," and this particular "expression" is the complete objectification of homeless America, penned by the CEO of NewHive, Zach Verdin.
What can we learn about good products and network effects by looking at shopping carts and how homeless people use them daily?
That is Verdin's premise, and it only tumbles down a precipice of understanding from there. The idea here is that the shopping carts homeless people sometimes use to store their things because they don't have homes or access to Crate and Barrel, can be examined—and the startup community can use this examination to build better apps:
Many of these people that live on the streets depend on shopping carts for many core necessities. It's almost as if living on the streets demands a shopping cart. This is something we've all probably noticed.
That's as close as it gets to an attempt at interpersonal relation, here. The homeless aren't a group of people who should be considered as people, but rather an abstraction: Verdin actually refers to it as "The homeless network." If only he'd spent the time it took to write this horse shit volunteering, or actually doing something. Anything. Literally anything else. No dice. Instead, by observing the indigent, software developers should draw the following conclusions:
Allow the user to innovate on top of the product: Like #Hashtags on Twitter homeless people have re-imagined how to use the product and have turned Shopping Carts into mobile storage units, houses, fire pits, plant beds, and so many other things. What started out as a product to make peoples lives better while they're shopping at Piggly Wiggly's has grown into a major asset for those living "off the grid." I'm willing to bet that Sylvan Goldman did not have this use case in mind when he created the shopping cart.
If Silicon Valley can't help the less fortunate in society—and it sure seems like it won't—it will at least try to extract absurd lessons at their expense.