[Book review] What’s Mine Is Yours by Rachael Botsman and Roo Rogers
22 February 2011
A number of years ago I was at an online financial services conference that James Alexander, the then CEO of Zopa, was speaking at. I can remember his talk more than any other over the course of the three day event and in particular aslide that illustrated the revolutions we have lived through.
The point of the slide was to highlight what we were on the cusp of. This was of course the social revolution - a term, that I got the impression, most of the bankers there had no idea what to do with (...be social with our customers, what?).
With Zopa being very early to the market with their online P2P lending service, the presentation is something that I have always thought back to. Since then (and probably prior to this) a number of books have been written around the social theme - a term that is increasingly being overused in the online world.
However, after having discovered Rachael Botsman’s Collaborative Consumption talk on TED (which also mentioned Zopa) it gave me freshhope that James Alexander was right after all and that a new revolution was upon us (rather than just a series of buzz words for agencies to pounce on). So I went to the Collaborative Consumption site and requested a copy of Rachael Botsman’s new book (co-written with Roo Rogers) to find out a bit more.
About the book
What’s Mine Is Yours is a detailed look at the growth in shared schemes from sharing power drills to spare beds. It’s a discussion on what Collaborative Consumption is and what it means for the future. But to say it’s just that though, is a little unfair.
What’s in an introduction?
After reading the first 90 pages or so, my feeling was that they should be packaged up separately and distributed across schools, businesses and homes as a “must read”. Quite simply, the insights served up hammer home the fact that the planet, and the humans who try to control it, is heading in the wrong direction. Some of the facts presented are truely quite compelling.
Alas however, there is hope for a world riddled with waste and ignorance. And it’s called Collaborative Consumption; a time where we don’t buy but share; where we don’t throw away but donate; where we don’t act carelessly but take responsibility.
Collaborative Consumption is a better, cleaner and smarter way of doing things.
So who’s it for?
It’s definitely for anyone who has ever thought that there’s something not quite right about mass production, plastic goods and consumerisation.
Don’t get me wrong, this book isn’t going to make you sell up and ship yourself off to a remote island for a life of peace and a clear conscience. However, it will get you thinking differently about that power drill you bought and have only used once or that set of golf clubs you bought yourself when you shot two under par at Tiger Woods Golf 2010 that now just lie under the bed.
Can you honestly say that you need a vegetable slicer?
One of the nice things about the book is that it is full of wonderful quotes and anecdotes that make you pause and think. For example, my favourite quote used is:
Have you ever noticed that other people’s shit is shit and your stuff is stuff?
Very true. And no, you don’t need a vegetable slicer.
Ultimately, the book focuses on two things; waste and what people are doing to reduce this waste. So if you’re of a curious mindset or you’ve made your decision that things have to change then I recommend you go and buy the book.
The problem with critical mass
My main concern from reading the book was that the authors discuss how shared schemes like Street Car, Santa Rosa Tool Library, AirBnB and Barclays Cycles need to reach “critical mass” to work. This still sounds like a lot of waste to me.
What I mean is that it seems that in order to get Collaborative Consumption working you still need to produce a lot of stuff in the first place i.e. a lot of power drills.
When I think about this with an example a bit closer to home I wonder how long a Barclays Cycle sits in the bike park unused. They don’t strike me as the most environmentally things to produce and yet there are always plenty parked and available. Only yesterday I was walking by a row of around 30 bikes near Old Street watching a man who was on a Barclays Cycle (that had obviously come from another area) struggle to find a space.
He cycled on.
There is no doubt there is a move to a more community and collaborative way of life, but I remain unconvinced about the saving from schemes like Street Car (I am a member), Barclays Cycles and schemes where a lot of products are required in the first place (second hand or otherwise). So I’m not sure that some of the schemes necessarily offer a better way of doing things. Maybe just a different way.
But hey ho… overall, less is more.
What’s in it for you?
It really depends in what your looking for. This book can, and will, make you think. For some, it will inspire change, and for others it will be forgotten about the minute it is finished. But these are the people that will need more books or more schemes or more evidence or more bashing over the head on new approaches that offer a more sustainable future. For us all.
Ultimately, the book is worth the money. The first third is utterly compelling, and whilst it slows down only to pick up again, it will leave you with things to think about. And hopefully things to act upon.
My key observation and final thought from reading the book is that it takes smart people to make collaborative consumption work - just in the same light that it took smart people to make the industrial revolution, consumerisation and other movements work.
Collaborative Consumption will take some time however to bed in. My hope is that this is indeed the next revolution and that it lasts much longer than the revolutions before it.
Tags & categories: collaborative consumption, rachael botsman, roo rogers, | Categories: Collaboration, Community, Crowdsourcing, Social & Publishing, Trends, Book Review,