What is it?

Check That ID is a graffiti style reporting tool for attaching a history to anything. Literally anything. Look around you. If you can write on it, apply a label, or even just tape (in which to write on), you can give it an ID and store it here. In doing so you have opened up an eternal record that you or others may use around the globe in perhaps some practical way. And, you have done so with no UPC codes, serial, model, or other formal designations. This is completely free-form. You can use those if you like but really, use anything out of the blue.

I imagine this has uses in tracking personal property across people (hand-off situations for something that you want to know about), sales of tangible goods, or, whatever. Call it a blogging system for stuff instead of people.

For example, let's say I want to give this old keyboard of mine a history. First, I come up with an ID, check to make sure that it's available, and, if it is, I then apply it to the keyboard somehow. I could write on it directly if I didn't really care and it worked, but since the keyboard is as black as my ink, I'm using duct tape. In time I imagine people taking this so seriously that they will use decals or even engravings.

Here's a keyboard I want to give a history to. Just sayin'.

Here's an ID that I give it. In this case "2YX001".

I also write 'checkthatid.com' so folks will know what the hell that number is.

Once the ID is created and applied to the object via whatever method, one notes that the ID is a "Check That ID" identifier. In this example I simply write as such right on the duct tape. From this point on, anyone can now look it up and add a bit of history to it. Of course, being the originator, you will want to most certainly be the first person with a comment like "This is my old keyboard. I am using it to exemplify this online tool."

You may also continue to reference your thing's history from a URL. In this case:

Now, anyone who comes in possession of this keyboard, and, knows enough to check out that ID at CheckThatID.com, can do so and see where it has been and what people have been saying about it. Why would anyone say much about a keyboard? They probably wouldn't. But the different owners of the same car or whatever else of considerably more fiscal tangibility, might. And truth be told, there might be plenty to say about a keyboard. If only for novelty. Imagine someone picking this keyboard up 5 years from now on the other side of the planet. They will know exactly where it came from. The cool factor is in there.

This is a tool for things as of yet unimagined. Think about swapping books, clothes, or, perhaps even giving IDs to restaurants and businesses as a way to review them. It might strike one as trivial until the possibilities begin to unfold.

What is "graffiti" reporting?

Check That ID relies on "graffiti rules" of input. Once you have opened a record for something, you and anyone with an Internet connection can log something about it. No controls. Totally low-to-no-barrier. If someone walks by your desk and spots a "Check That ID" number on your stapler, they can go to their computer add something about it. "Just saw this stapler walking by Bob's desk".

This works because it makes providing a documented history for stuff easy, portable, fluid, and fast. For this I don't think any other model would be as effective. But yes, it also means that there could be extraneous "noise" (bullshit if you will). Much like this is a problem for open contribution tools like Wikipedia, it is also what creates its value. Value that in time if not short-term will outweigh any residual chaos.

How do I create an ID?

You just make one up. Come up with a unique name/number/alphanumeric string. Anything like "Yowza123" or "89800980890-90" or "BabyScotch888" - whatever. If you want the world to be able to track a person or place, give it a name or address. If you prefer, give something an existing formal ID like a serial number or UPC code -- being sure to add something extra to make it unique to Check That ID.

Note that intangible IDs work too. For instance:

  • Telephone numbers (track telephone numbers - who else is getting bothered by a particular one?)
  • Screen names and e-mail addresses (anyone written anything about that creepy IM you got from 'likesithot')?

If you log an intangible, it might not hurt to create multiple IDs, each covering the specific format they may wind up in, and then, in all the ones you consider peripheral, make an entry pointing to the true one.

Once you have something, check it to make sure that it isn't already being used. If you make it weird enough it shouldn't be. The mere act of checking an ID opens a record for it in the database (don't worry, if you want to use something else at the last minute, you can do so...the one that's been opened doesn't hurt anything). If your ID is already being used you can simply modify yours a little more and try again. Of course nothing prevents you from attempting to hijack a particular ID, but if the history is long established by other comments, it wouldn't make much sense.

Future Development

I know a lot of people are thinking this "might" be a cool idea with a little more refinement, which to me is the irony. The utility here is enhanced by scaling back what the other similar applications do, and, as a result, taking a hit in certain areas for gains in others. A lot of other folks have actually created similar tools but in the end use an overly specific database with controls that sometimes even require extra physical apparatus. I've talked with enough people to understand that, yes, there should be a way to use an iPhone with a bar code scanner, and some interface to a professional inventory system, etc., etc. And, I'm aware that once this things grows there's a lot of stuff that can be done through an API to really make this super useful. But, in the meantime, the core idea itself has so much merit in my opinion that I see no reason not to launch it with 101 code skills and a simple MySQL back end. It's the concept of no control infringements and the hardware-free functionality that make this interesting, not the presentation or the maximized feature set this project might certainly work towards in time.

If you'd like to follow development and evolution of this thing, you can refer to the project ID link ("CheckThatID"), or, via Twitter.

About Me

This is just one of several projects I've been working on. I do projects under the moniker"Dave the Web Guy", and, because I'm kinda low-end in my actual programming skills (and of course hosting resources), most of my shit is actually of mere proto-type scale. Just to show off concepts and to learn from. This project is no different, though, I will say, I think this is probably the handiest yet simplest thing I've done for the world yet. If it ever takes off it's probably just a matter of adding a bigger server. It's really that simple. ;)


(c) 2010 - David Pinero