Melody Kramer

Good Ideas For Jury Duty

22 Mar 2015

Hello hello,

I love how this newsletter is becoming a boomerang for good ideas.

In a previous issue, I relayed some ideas for improving the jury duty experience — and then asked for everyone’s thoughts, which were really good. They ranged from creating a Tinder-like experience to let people swipe to help nonprofits while waiting in line to making sure people in the jury room are registered to vote. Throwing all of your thoughts back out there:

First, Dave supplies us with the number of people who are called for jury duty in DC who NEVER LEAVE THE JURY DUTY ROOM. Extrapolate these numbers across the country on a daily basis. We’re talking thousands of people.

From Dale:

Why not take submissions for TED talks and let jurors entertain/educate each other?

From Darlene:

This is dated but here’s a related post/idea:

From YPalomo

Great idea. It’s as if the 0.01 % of the moneys of all the banks account of the USA rolled in on one account would make a big account. Time is a commodity we shouldn’t let go unused. Never thought about it like it and it should be.

From Aidan:

Will be thinking about this when I’m at jury duty on Wednesday. Thanks for planting the ideas!

From Lisa:

I’ve been a reader of your newsletter for the past few weeks and have loved it! My idea for making line time work harder would be having access to something like the Crisis Text Line from your phone where you could respond to someone in need from wherever you are. That, or an app that loads up one of those Grains of Rice-esque click-to-give games. Or one that allows you to crowd source editing help on paragraphs or short written pieces like blog posts.

From Sonya:

What about a mobile game with similar mechanics to Tinder, but a different, civically useful purpose? Some kind of image evaluation. The process is segmented in tiny bits, easy to do a little here and there. Could be good for psych research, although I’m not sure how would be best to convince people that it’s valuable to participate. I guess just asking counts for a lot, as evidenced by your approach, Mel :) Definitely game-ify the process – “you have achieved 100 swipes!” etc. Even better would be something concrete and community-focused, like “you have assisted in research for 2 papers by [scientist’s names]!”

From Emaleigh:

The waiting room would be a good place for a Textizen series of questions (I also think they should be posted in bathroom stalls since so many people use their phones in restrooms). I would totally take some city-focused surveys.

From Marc:

One suggestion only: let me preschedule when I’m readily available; I might have much higher odds of being drawn, but I’d know it was at a time when I’d be the least disrupted. OK, I lied - one other - let me predefine how long I can comfortably serve.

From Sue:

For waiting jurors:

  • blood donation
  • Voter registration forms
  • Voter/civic info - interactive kiosk or tablet that explains the process, maybe gamified civics lessons, w/ reward for finishing
  • stuffing envelopes for charity group

Waiting in line:

  • the civics game from above list on tablet
  • respond to a customer/participant survey on tablet

From Christine:


From Kelly:

This made me think of the recent podcast series Bored & Brilliant, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.

It’s shocking to me that there are so many people in the jury duty waiting areas who are just staring off into space! Are they really? Is it weird that a part of me is sort of impressed by this? Like, good for them! To be able to have that ability to just be bored with their thoughts for a while.

But I see what you are saying – probably most people can’t stand the monotony of waiting and most probably kill that time on their phone anyway, on mindless games or flicking through social media. So it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have productive activities that might even help other people. I like the meditation guidance idea. Could also have Rosetta Stone set up on ipods are something, people could learn some of a new language…

I don’t know what these spaces are like, but wonder about if org’s who have free meal programs for the homeless could do drop-in’s with the food supplies and set up on a table, people could help assemble sandwiches/lunch bags. Maybe this isn’t realistic, but your email got me to start thinking! =)

From Emily Kennedy

Fellow Philly native, former NPR intern & long-time admirer (“64 Ways To Think About a New Home Page” has been on my mind non-stop since you published it).

This question is one that I’ve thought about often, especially in the context of these small moments of wasted time. I spend a lot of passive time on Twitter & Facebook while in line. But I always feel like I have a 30-second to 2-minute window, and that’s generally not enough time to give anything any meaningful attention. Unless, of course, it’s a small task—one that’s easily abandoned and picked up again at will.

The solution, I think, is—sorry—the gamification of short tasks on your phone. My best friend’s on Tinder, and while I poo-pooed it SO HARD for SUCH a long time, when we started playing with it, some innate instinct in me to order the world took over, and I was hooked. What if we used the Tinder model for social innovation/problem-solving? Swipe right for yes, swipe left for no?

There is a HUGE space open for organizations large and small to innovate. I’m thinking something like Free Rice, or reCAPTCHA. What small problems could be solved by small, collective scaffolding? What kind of data-cleaning could be done? I’m so with you that I’d love for all of us to get off our phones at jury duty, but I’m thinking about leveraging the Power of the Smartphone.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I feel like it would work best if there was one central app that provided a platform for these kinds of tasks. Then, based on my location or interests, I could choose to help an organization (or even local government!) with a particular task? Things like: Assisting with mapping projects; helping with weather updates in small communities; reporting infrastructure problems directly to the relevant department (i.e. overflowing garbage cans, graffiti, garbage in the street?) WOW. So much potential here.

From Casey:

I write with very mixed feelings about your ideas for how to spend time while waiting for jury duty. It could appear to be government paternalistically pushing us. Putting stuff out that could help others might cause some to ask ‘Why is government spending $ to direct this at me?’

As in; @thehill: House bill seeks to relax Michelle Obama’s school lunch standards

If I wanted to knit, I would. If I wanted be on line, I’ve got my phone.

You get my drift. The whole operation might really bother some people and appear directive or inappropriate. Books and magazines — like a medical waiting room — could be really nice. But, and I think this is a problem with the whole idea:

it (including books and mags) requires management, money and a real attention to cleanliness. I think of those hundreds of hands touch the knitting needles, the keyboard etc. I’m not Tiny Tim, but it would be awful if the project spread bugs….

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