Can a village find a phone?

I decided to ask that question in honor of Clay Shirky who had wonderful things to say during the SXSW 2010 conference. On my last day attending SXSW, I decided to go on an impromptu trip to a cowboy store to buy hats for my kids. During that trip, my iPhone dropped out of my pocket and onto the floor of an Austin Yellow Cab. Bummer. My friend and I called the company and were told that maybe I'd hear from them in a week.


I guess I could have gotten really upset, but I'm lucky to connect my phone through MobileMe. I complain about the $99/a year but it's suddenly worth it since a lot of the information I had inside that phone is also available online and in my personal computer. I lost photos from SXSW. I lost great notes I had taken in my little iPhone notes section. (Hey MobileMe - could you sync that too someday?) It's just technology, right? My friends and family are way more important. What hit me in the face was how I don't have the funding to get a new phone.

So I started a crusade in honor of Shirky. In his first chapter of Here Comes Everybody, titled "It Takes a Village to Find a Phone" he explains how a woman in New York City got her phone back from a teenager thanks to an organic online uprising of pressure that saved the day. I realize I may not have a good enough story to get an entire city to support my error. But it was worth a try. So, during my last night in Austin, I launched I Lost My iPhone @ SXSW (or I wanted to share my story, explain why I really need my phone back and see if I could awaken enough of the SXSW village to help me out.

So I tweeted about it just before I disconnected and drove to the airport. I noticed a few retweets almost immediately. My first came from Ryan Sholin (thanks Ryan).

I hopped into a car toward the airport completely disconnected and hoped for the best.

Disconnected is something I should do more often. I look more people in the face. I actually bumped into people I knew at the airport without needing phone connections (of course they happened to read my Facebook and knew I'd be in the airport disconnected - so they kind of looked around for me).

Right before hopping on board my first plane, I decided to log into the wireless on my computer and started a Twitter campaign: @sxswlostphone. It was worth a try, right? It also made it easier for me to send people to the website URL. It doesn't have many followers but it gave me a way to drone on about my lost phone somewhere other than my @jenleereeves Twitter page. Sure, I've retweeted most of the @sxswlostphone posts... But I kind of feel better separating the two.

In the end, did I find my phone? No. But it was an efficient way to get the word out that I'd be tricky to find for a few days. I currently found my old 1G iPhone (you know, the original that was 4gigs) and I'm trying to get it to connect to my iTunes and actually work. (I snagged a new SIM card from AT&T) I'm hoping to save up some money to get a real replacement. I honestly don't have the money so I started a little crowdfunding experiment with my Facebook friends. I'm collecting $.50 per friend I can see face to face (because Paypal charges wouldn't lead to much of a collection). It feels a little wrong... but with the healthcare expenses in my personal world and an already expensive year due to fun trips, I thought I'd give it a try.

Thanks to the many people who have checked in to see if I found my phone and the amazing number of people who were just curious about what the heck I was doing with this little Shirky-esque campaign.