It was sunny today, and I went and sat out in my favourite pub garden with a beer and a cigarette, and mulled over my latest idea: Smokernet.
The all-volunteer International Social Impact Survey that I’m helping to set up should be able to reach several hundred smokers (and maybe even several thousand) and find out what smoking bans have done to them. In the process we’ll be handing out a website address where news of developments and progress will be posted, and where most likely the final report will be published. We’ll also be asking for email addresses of the smokers we interview, in order to send them updates of news. Something like this might serve as a new centre where smokers can go (along with Forces, F2C, TICAP) etc.
But what I was thinking about today was a quite different idea. It was for a mobile phone app in which smokers could keep the email addresses or phone numbers of other smokers they knew. If there were enough smokers with this app, and they were all connected together in a net of friends of friends of friends of friends, and it was also possible to propagate messages automatically through this network, you’d have a smokernet, which would be just like the internet, except just for smokers. The smokernet could be used to survey smokers, and send advice/information/etc.
How could it be arranged to only include smokers? Smokers would be asked to only invite other smokers onto the smokernet, and the certainty that someone on it actually was a smoker would be measured by the numbers of invites that a person had received. An invite to someone would be a way of saying “This person is a smoker”. If one person says “This person is a smoker,” then they might or might not be. But if 100 people say “This person is a smoker,” then he or she probably is one.
The concern here is that antismokers might manage to infiltrate the smokernet, and cause havoc. In fact, they would almost certainly try. But if they did manage to get on, they’d probably only be able to do so by taking up smoking, and becoming recognised as smokers. How many antis would be prepared to do that?
But if this happened, and somebody recognised an email address or phone number as known to belong to, say, Deborah Arnott, they could be denounced, and their recognition removed, and evicted from the smokernet. Maybe anyone who denounced anyone else would have to lose recognition as well, to deter casual denunciations.
Anyway, these considerations aside, what was attractive about this idea was that the smokernet could grow very quickly, and include millions and millions of people, all on a friend-of-a-friend basis. Smokernet would create a swarm of smokers, with information being passed between them. And I’m all for creating a huge swarm of smokers – preferably angry ones.
And the smokernet would have no centre. There’d be no smokernet central hub. It would just connect up smokers.
As I thought about it this afternoon, it was very much as a mobile phone app which could rapidly propagate messages. But it could equally be an internet application.
And then when somebody like Deborah Arnott says that 75% of smokers love smoking bans, the smokernet could be consulted, and the actual figure retrieved, and it would be 0.5% instead. The smokernet would allow smokers all around the world to be consulted.
The smokernet could also become politically powerful. Politicians might start to be concerned if, for example, 70% of smokers in their country were considering voting for someone else. Smokernet would weld smokers together into a political entity.
Incidentally, quite a few smokers don’t like being called “smokers”. I’ve heard it said that “smoker” is a word that was invented by antismokers. But I don’t think this is true. I’ve got a Collins English dictionary that was published in about 1980, and it’s got the word “smoker” in it. I don’t think it’s something that antismokers have introduced. And I don’t remember the word “smoker” suddenly appearing. It was always around, and I bet that if someone’s got an old dictionary (US or English) from 1920 or whenever, the word “smoker” will be found in it. It’s an ordinary English word, no different from butcher or baker or candlestick-maker. And I bet the same is true in German (raucher) and French (fumeur). So I’m quite happy to be called a smoker, and for a network of smokers to be called a smokernet.
Anyway, that was the gist of the idea. It’s one I’ve been toying with for a few weeks. Perhaps there’s some obvious flaw in it that I haven’t thought of.
Which is why having a blog that is read by about 800 people a day is so handy for tossing out ideas.
So, go on, tell me what’s so completely and utterly and laughably stupid and wrong-headed and unworkable about this idea.