If you’re a long-time reader, you may have noticed that I’m a tad obsessed with bumper stickers. I’ve been thinking lately about why that is, and I think I know why. I recall talking with my dad when I was younger about bumper stickers. He’d sometimes discuss the merits or problems of a particular idea someone was expressing, but more often still, he’d point out the correlations between the stickers. He loved to ask my sister and I if we could find the common ideological assumptions that tied the stickers together. I still do that to this day, almost automatically.
Lately I’ve been wondering if I could somehow make a website out of the question of “How are certain bumper stickers ideologically tied to other bumper stickers?” Someone already made a website out of a fascination with the question “Where has this dollar bill been,” so this doesn’t seem that crazy.
I want to be able to make a short list of bumper stickers from a car I saw this afternoon, for example, enter them into this website, and have it show me a sticker cloud (hmm… stickercloud dot com is available…) of all the other bumper stickers that would be most likely to be seen on a car with the ones I saw. It could even show me the stickers that are least likely to be seen on that car, so I could see the ideological opposites of those stickers. It would save the data I had entered, too, and as more people used it, the ideological ties would become clearer and clearer as more data was entered in.
There are two big problems with this idea as far as I can tell. First, it would be difficult to associate the same sticker (or an extremely-similar sticker) seen by two different people unless there was a finite set of stickers to choose from. You’d have to have some kind of search mechanism that only displayed known stickers, but that would artificially limit how the cloud could grow. That’s hard to solve.
The second problem is that there’s nothing stopping multiple people from entering the same car over and over again, and making those ties seem stronger even when they only really represent one car or one person. I figured I’d have to allow users to also enter license plate numbers to keep that from happening, but I don’t know what the legal implications of collecting license plate numbers are. That’s the other issue.
What do you all think? Interesting idea or useless waste of time? Any help with the two difficult parts of the idea would be much appreciated. We’ll see where this goes.