Pretend for a moment that you've just come home after a brutal day at work and found a car parked in front of your apartment building with its lights on. What do you do?
a) Spend 30 seconds looking up and down the street for any sign of the owner, hoping to alert him/her of the problem.
b) Leave a note on the car offering to help jump-start the vehicle if necessary.
c) Forget about it and head inside for a few hours of Miller Time.
None are perfect solutions (although "c" isn't too bad). But if you and the car's absent owner were registered for CurbTXT, you'd have a fourth option:
d) Send the owner a text message to say that he/she left the lights on.
CurbTXT is an alert service available to anyone with a cell phone. (Since it's text-based, it doesn't require an app or a smartphone, so the potential audience is pretty broad.) Users register online, providing their phone number and license plate number (if they have one). CurbTXT then sends you a sticker to place on your car, which lets the world know that you're a member.
CurbTXT members can send one another anonymous text messages simply by referencing a vehicle's license plate. For example: "CA8675309 Sorry to bother you, but you're blocking my driveway", or "CA6060842 Your car alarm has been going off for two hours. Kill it before I do".
Sound familiar? It should: it's a lot like Bump, the social network for motorists that we mentioned a couple of years ago. And CurbTXT comes with the same set of potential problems:
- It could encourage stalkers.
- It leaves you open to harassing messages.
- Between Facebook, Twitter, and a bajillion other services, no one wakes up hankering to join another social network.
Thankfully, CurbTXT seems much easier to use than Bump and offers some added layers of protection. For starters, it's less of a social network and more of an alert service -- much like the kind you may be signed up for through your local power company or mayor's office. As a result, you may go for weeks without hearing a peep from CurbTXT.
Also, CurbTXT offers easy opt-outs for text messages. If you find that you're receiving too many, you can simply reply with the word "Stop", and the messages will come to an abrupt halt. And if someone starts harassing you, you can have them blocked from your phone or banned from the service entirely.
At the moment, CurbTXT is free, and in theory, it should work anywhere you can receive text messages. However, the company's marketing efforts are focused on San Francisco, and until that changes, the number of users outside SF is likely to be small, which minimizes the service's effectiveness.
If you're game for giving it a go, you can register at CurbTXT.com. (Note: the dodgy navigation menu doesn't inspire us with confidence.) You don't even need a car to sign up -- you can simply register as a good Samaritan.
Does this sort of service interest you? Frighten you? Leave you asking, "What's the point?" Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.