The late two-thousands were all about geo, local, and social experiences. The iPhone had unleashed new capabilities for seeing and connecting the people and places around you to the masses.
An Army of Duckness
Collectivus, a small, bootstrapped project emerged from this and launched on this day in 2010. The concept: To create serendipitous connections between people through interactions with physical objects, which we called “Thingies.” People could find them, leave them, move them, or gift them and record their adventures and encounters. It was like geocaches that are always on the move. We selected customized rubber ducks as they were cute, all-weather durable, floated, and were partially inspired by this story of over 28-thousand bath toys lost at sea.
The initial MVP was simple: Each Thingie carried instructions to record your encounter with it on a mobile website. These encounters were sharable to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Gowalla — some becoming highly-rated entries.
To launch, we mailed a bunch to friends and family and gave out the rest at SXSW 2010. Then they started turning up all over the world. Things were off to a promising start.
For a good time, use this code.
The second phase was the addition of Digital Thingies. This predated virtual object concepts like Pokemon Go and NFTs by years! These were different variations of digital items which could be acquired from physical locations with your phone. These were entirely tracked, found, and traded within the platform. While the physical — or Analog Thingies as they became known — were fantastic, it was hard to scale due to the collectability-factor, as well as attrition from them being lost, tossed, forgotten in a bag, or consumed by household pets. Digital Thingies were quicker to develop and distribute and was the more efficient way to scale – although we had planned to continue adding and supporting Analog Thingies.
While we had a great cult following, after 4 years, the project had to be put on hiatus. So what happened? The short retro version: