ne of the (many!) cool things at the TED Conference was the 'mass-customization' Conference Bag by Rickshaw Bagworks. 32 design fabrics, five body colors and five binding colors ( 32 x 5 x 5 ) meant a total of 800 different color/design combinations, and with 1600 attendees, each design was used just twice so each attendee's bag has a 'twin' somewhere else in the audience.
We were invited to 'find your twin' - but given the daunting sea of faces in Monterey and the fact that it seems over half of those who picked up their gift-laden bags immediately FedEx'ed their souvenirs back home, searching for one's twin felt like a fool's errand, after that first day of excitement. I never found my twin in Monterey - and from what I heard of others I asked, nobody else did either.
Fast-forward six months - as part the planning committee for a major conference here in San Jose, I remembered fondly the experience in Monterey, so after several phone and email exchanges, found myself in the office of Rickshaw Bagworks, negotiating with Rickshaw's founder Mark Dwight to purchase a large block of their exquisite bags for our event.
I asked if they heard of anyone who *did* in fact find their bag twin, and the answer was no. During a sidebar brainstorm, I suggested they open up their website a directory that allowed attendees to set up an account for the purpose of uploading a digital photo of themselves with a closeup of their bags to something like http://www.rickshawbags.com/TEDTWIN so orphans can find their counterparts - and perhaps if we hit some critical mass of 'bag twin' matches (say 100), get Virgin Airways (a major TED supporter) to sponsor a raffle giving the twins a flight to meet each other anywhere in the world. Macy Allatt (the business development director at Rickshaw) sounded quite jazzed by the idea - so we're going to see where that goes.
A week after, I found myself at TechCrunch's annual soiree at August Capital, where my pickup-artist skills were put to the test with Wired Covergirl Julia Allison (itself another story - perhaps not fit for public consumption).
It was there, also, where a friendly bespecled guy approached me near the end of the party - points at my bag and says "Hey! You're my Bag Twin!" Guy turned out to be Josh Klein, one of the speakers at TED2008 who presented a delightful talk on the intelligence and adaptive/learning capacity of crows.
Josh and I never met at the conference, but have since enjoyed a few high-energy communiques as a result of the 'bag twin' serendipity, just four days after I mentioned the idea of helping lost twins find each other.