The Origin of 23 Things

The Cambridge 23 Things programme will begin in less than 2 weeks and, like the rest of the project team, I’m currently preparing the blog posts that participants will read each week. As blogging is the first Thing under my personal watch I began crowdsourcing material today on the value of blogging from my Twitter followers (receiving immediate assistance as usual) and conducting some web searches to see how other 23 Things programmes had covered the topic. This latter activity soon set me off in another direction entirely (nothing new there) as instead I found myself investigating the origin of 23 Things terminology…

I already knew that the original 23 Things programme was constructed by Helene Blowers, Public Services Technology Director of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina back in 2006. What I didn’t know was that she had been inspired by reading an article written by Stephen Abram in Information Outlook called 43 Things I Might Want To Do This Year which incorporated a list of library and information-related Things that he urged his readers to register on the 43 Things website (Helene had very sensibly decided that 23 was more achievable for herself and the programme participants than 43).

I hadn’t come across the 43 Things website before, maybe its better known in the US (or maybe I’m not as well informed as I’d like to think!). In essence 43 Things is a place where people all over the world can list Things (tasks/goals/dreams/ambitions) they’d like to achieve, such as ‘lose 20 pounds’, ‘have my first kiss’, ‘learn how to type fast without looking at the keyboard’ and ‘tell my boss what I really think of him’.

One of the most interesting sections of the site is under ‘Zeitgeist’ where the Things most wanted by everyone in the world (well with a huge US bias I imagine) are listed. The Top 10 most wanted Things of all-time are as follows:

There’s also a section where people can record achieved goals, just as the Cambridge 23 peeps will record tools they’ve evaluated and explored on their blogs. ‘Fall in love’ (one of the top ten above) is listed as the most achieved goal. Although I note that only 9970 people have fulfilled this goal making 15446 people still loveless. Ahhhh.

Inevitably there are some very strange Things being wished for on 43 Things. My personal favourites being:

  • ‘have my own library’ (I can recommend it)
  • ‘put my face on another body’ (literally?)
  • ‘start a fight club’ (as long as you don’t tell anyone about it, the first rule of…  ahh)
  • ‘become a mermaid’ (Daryl Hannah beat you to it)
  • ‘write a sloppy half-formed poem every day in May 2010 (I admire his lack of literary ambition)
  • ‘become a gigolo in Delhi and earn money’ (As opposed to just doing it for fun I assume?)

And yes I have shamelessly added this latter list to generate traffic to my blog from people who are going to be disappointed when they get here.

Although I can’t promise the Cam 23 participants that they’ll fall in love our programme should definitely make their summer more interesting.


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