On PlantCatching, it’s of course possible to offer any plant (this is even the platform’s main feature), and you will be happy when grabbing what other gardeners give. But there is also a third base feature that is less mentioned: plant requests. It doesn’t mean it’s not known and used since so many red markers flourish on the map, especially during this long winter we endure in Quebec where gardeners rightfully think more about their needs rather than what they will be able to offer. However, this feature is quite misunderstood by many users (or badly explained, hence this article) and I often receive these 2 questions by email:
- I saw on the map someone who is looking for something I have but I don’t know how to contact him...
- And inversely: I am registering a request but it seems like nobody can contact me. How does it work?
Despite a paragraph on this subject in the FAQ, I have to remind you about what requests exactly are. PlantCatching must not be seen as a classic classifieds web site. Before all, this service is a way to connect gardeners together in order to create a huge communal resource of plants, seeds and materials mainly (and food if you take into account the Incredible Edible geo-referencing and surplus produce sharing). The keyword is “communal”, which means that when something is shared, this is for all PlantCatching visitors. Making a precise request of plants or seeds in this context becomes something far more personal. I don’t say this is bad, far from it. Incidentally I have registered some requests on the site. I’m just trying to explain that asking something is almost a luxury. This feature takes all its meaning when one thinks about it this way:
When creating a specific request (let’s say some seedling trays) on PlantCatching, it’s as if you were shouting to all visitors something like "Is there someone who shares some seedling trays, preferably close to me”? Users with an account see the latest requests in their area on a small dashboard. They can react right away by offering the items that are requested, simply in the usual way. This is up to the enquirer to pay attention to the recent offerings and, here again, a dashboard shows them to him almost instantly. Proceeding like this has several benefits:
- Everyone has a chance to get shared items.
- This helps to build a balanced and increasing offer and demand on a platform that is, don’t forget it, young and fragile. A publicly shared plant, as opposed to one that is shared over the phone, is an additional marker on the map and another motivation for the visitors to use the service. Think about it when a citizen tries to seed PlantCatching in a new city where there are no markers at all on the map...
- This also saves me the painful development of a private messaging feature (time and cost). All this is voluntary, please remember it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, PlantCatching is not a robotic and inhuman system, and it’s totally understandable that someone may wish to offer an item to the person who requested it. Without my intervention, users often find their own solutions. This morning, I was monitoring the activity and saw a listing in Belgium, near Brussels, starting with: "In response to the request of a neighbor nearby [...]" which clearly specifies the aforementioned preference. Myself, I have a listing that reads "[…]. I saw a request at 7km from me on the map, so I’m proposing […]".
I hope you understand this principle and will embrace it. I say it again: Together, let’s build a huge resource of plants, materials and food, for us gardeners.