Glimpse Your Ad-Riddled Subway Commute of the Future: Pirate WiFi Hits the L Train

We hear the back two cars are the best place to catch it. A digital creative agency called WeMakeCoolShi.It is providing a closed network on the L Train this week between the Morgan and 8th Ave. stops, served from a battery-powered web server in a sack. The “notwork,” as the team is calling it, hosts a live chat with other people on the train (originally called “Missed Connections,” but now called “Train Connections”) to facilitate hipster hookups, as well as news and curated content from local writers and artists (“feeds,” “words,” and “images”). 

“When people ride the train during rush hour they are forced to be so close to each other but they rarely interact with each other,” says a press release. “We wanted to give people something to talk about.”

But Fast Company accompanied the creators on their beta test this weekend and heard the whole evil plan:

“We’re building a marketing channel from scratch,” McGregor-Mento says. Once you’re captured in a notwork, “you can’t go anywhere,” he says. “You’re in our gated universe of content. From a marketing perspective, it’s kind of gold.” McGregor-Mento and Krawczuk have a passion for art projects. But they also do work for major brands through their agency and they have rent to pay–the partners have just put up about $15,000 to finance the L Train experiment. “Why shouldn’t every store in the world have its own closed Internet?” asks McGregor-Mento, dreaming up ways to monetize a “notwork.” A customer might walk into a Macy’s or a small boutique, get a prompt on his phone inviting him to the store’s own notwork, and suddenly he’s a rat in their virtual maze–with no banner ads or stray links to steal his attention. “That’s the most grossly commercial application of this technology,” says McGregor-Mento. “I could so easily see that.”

After the project is over, the group says it will make the code available on Github. Glimpse Your Ad-Riddled Subway Commute of the Future: Pirate WiFi Hits the L Train