Borrow a lawn mower, lend a video game, offer a ride to the airport or find a babysitter. Favortree is a new favor-trading app for smartphones that rewards its users for helping people in their neighborhoods. All users of the app have a virtual tree, and the more they help their neighbors, the more this digital tree grows. Favortree has launched in a beta version and is is currently looking for communities of at least five people to start playing this ‘play-it-forward’ game.
Using Favortree is pretty easy. Send out a message with your call for help through the social networks of you and your friends. Wait for someone offering help and make an appointment to exchange the service. The virtual credits (to grow the Favortree) are exchanged, the digital reputation of the helper growth and everybody is happy.
We have seen more games and apps that try to stimulate sense of community by offering services for peer-to-peer rentals of products, hyper-local crowd-funding or easy food-sharing. Favortree, however, introduces both the play element as well as the digital trading element, introducing an alternative digital currency for neighborhood services. When a complete neighborhood would decide to play Favortree, all local payments could be done with these virtual credits — a great way to lower prices to locals or avoid paying tax collectively.
Although the game says to be social and community-minded, Favortree also has less social aspects. When you lend a textbook or help a neighbor plant a garden, would you ask for virtual credits? Over centuries people just did this to help, not to earn digital fruits for their virtual tree. I don’t know whether I should consider this service to be optimistic or rather cynical. Does Favortree help to set up a innovative alternative favor-trading economy for neighborhoods, or does it kill the true basics of community sense?