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Ask: What would you do/make if you never had to monetize it?
57 points by icky on Mar 21, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments
What crazy, wonderful ideas would you implement if your income came from a different source (such as a day job), and, as such, you simply wanted to make things people want, but didn't have the pressure to monetize?

I would start a derivatives trading firm specializing in securitizing consumer products. First: a gasoline-contract, so people could hedge their gas purchases for the expected life of any car they bought (and never care about gas again -- until it was time to buy a new car). Then, personal market-makers, which would, e.g., try to buy more of foods you liked when they were cheap, suggest alternative venues for entertainment and dining, etc. This would allow people to 'sketch' their demand curves for lots of goods, solving part of the socialist calculation debate and allowing me and my friends to spend our time doing something besides being obnoxious libertarians.

Interesting problems this could solve: over-investment and under-use of transportation (lease your bike to a courier from 9, when you arrive at work, until 5, when you leave -- charging a different leasing rate depending on the reputation of the courier, of course); estimating the effects of changes in excise taxes; having a better idea of when it's worth it to spend X minutes for a Y% chance to save $Z; etc.

Great idea. Why do you think it is unmonetizable?

Evolutionary algorithms to create music (attached to libraries for sound generation and modification, drum beat, samples, etc) fronted by a reddit-like vote-up, vote-down system for the output of different algorithms. I'd try out different strategies for evolving things.

I'd focus on electronica or something without vocals initially. Each "subreddit" would be focused around the evolved algorithms for a different theme (trance, house, etc.)

Maybe there's something like this out there, but I'd play with it anyway...

You should work with this guy: http://www.electricsheep.org/

thanks :) i am looking for a collaborator for sonification. fyi i have monetized electric sheep: http://hifidreams.com this is just taking off in the art world: it's now permanently hosted on moma.org and i just got the cover of Leonardo. if you sell your startup, you might even be able to afford it ;)

Whoa! Apologies for accidentally pimping you out without your permission.

By the way, how much of it is evolved versus designed? Do you still seed new patterns? Are there any patterns that don't seem to evolve and have to be designed?

there's David Cope's Experiments in Musical Intelligence --- http://arts.ucsc.edu/faculty/cope/mp3page.htm --- where he's playing compositions that some AI wrote which was trained on Bach/Beethoven/et al. last june, i was toying around with the idea of learning a grammar of music on seeqpod, and generating pop songs, or something.

When I get around to this (when I get to the don't-need-to-monetize-it stage), I'll probably look at hacking up the hacker news source to learn arc and borrow its front-end for voting/discussion. I can also use arc for the evolutionary algorithms, which should be sweet.

I'm doing this right now, with a game site devoted to multi-player turn-based strategy games. It's still a small site (as far as the number of players go) and I'm sure it could be monetized, but I doubt it'd make much money right now. Certainly not enough to put it outside the realm of just doing this for fun.

The site's Vying Games (vying.org) if you want to check it out. : ))

Nice. Some of your games use a Go board -- are you planning to implement Go itself at some point?

I develop a Go web app myself in my spare time: http://eidogo.com/. It's more for studying and bot-playing than multi-player, though.

I decided that since I'd probably never make more than a pittance off it, I'll just give it all away for free and open the source. At least it makes for a good resume item to show off my JavaScript chops.

I like your site, it's very nice. I've been learning Go, so now I have another toy to play with. : ))

I plan to add games like Go and Chess eventually. I've tried to focus on mostly lesser known games so far. The Go and Chess communities are very well served, and I'm not sure I could add much for those communities.

Some of my site is open source, btw. The ruby libraries that implement the game rules and bots is available at:


The server itself is closed source, but I plan on adding a well defined http api for outside apps to play there this coming week.

Looks cool. Keep doing it for fun :)

looks good

A bittorrent plugin for firefox with no UI. e.g. downloading a torrent has the exact same interaction as downloading a file over HTTP. Seeding == leaving it in your downloads list, advanced power user preferences are tucked in an about: page.

Bittorrent for the masses.

I had the almost exact same idea, I also wanted to automatically convert any website into a torrent. It would be P2P browsing and the end of slashdotting small websites. Spikes in hits would not bring anyone down. But then I got a job at a biotech startup.

Seems like a neat idea excepting that BitTorrent doesn't support changing content that well afaik.

Another solution to this idea is FreeNet, but it doesn't seem to be catching on as well as the creators had wished:


I talked to some people who wrote code for it a while back, and it's actually a lot more important than us western-free-state-inhabitants might think. Over 50 % of the world has more or less of a dictatorship, and that estimate was not including russia. Dictatorships imply no free press, not even free face to face communication. No knowledge of how the government works. A continuous filter in the back of your head that judges whether you'll get into trouble for saying what you say.

Freenet not only guarantees load balancing, but more importantly untracability of file storage and originator.

Are you sure about that 50% ?

yep, it surprised me as well. Here is a picture of the world with an indication of freedom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Democracyindex2.png This picture is a bit more pessimistic than the one I have in my book.

Freenet is a project killed by attitude problems of the creators.

Opera already has that as the default way of handling torrents

Something blurring the lines further between Pac-Man and pie charts.

You could totally monetize the hell out of that idea.

A new dialect of Lisp.

I want to work on two things.

1. Technological improvements for human vision. I have a very special friend who lost vision in one eye because of a detached retina and the failure of ophthalmology to repair it and rewire it to the optic nerve. I want to help her, and other people in the same predicament.

2. Energy. Clean, renewable, highly efficient energy is the most important problem humans have to solve today (IMO). The usual suspects of solar, wind, waves, and "clean" biofuels only make economic sense because of government subsidies, and that situation stinks. We need radically new ideas.

One day I'd like to start one or more schools based on the Monitorial (not Montessori) approach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monitorial_schools).

It takes a good amount of capital and respect to start a school and have people trust you to apply an uncommon (though potentially very beneficial) approach to schooling on their kids, so in the mean time I'm trying to earn that respect/capital.

I would do more hardware based kind of stuff.

I would want to work on life/work/web integration. Like cross referencing gallons of gas in your car, with the number of gallons expected to burn on the way home, and anticipate the next time you will need a fill up, while checking your bank account balance, and having a web interface to do ALL of this.

Making things like a webcam you pin on to your kid that is also a gps tracker that will let you see what your kid see's at pre-school.

Stuff like that.

Note: I would have to learn a lot of stuff to make these things happen.

The "free" facebook.

- no ads, period

- all personal info is held under the watchful eye of a seperate, non-profit org that ensures no personal info is ever shared with third parties

- you can delete your own account whenever you want, and you won't get hassled. An actual deletion of your data, too

- all source code is open source, and people can contribute whatever features they want

What "special sauce" does Facebook have that couldn't be implemented as a self-installed "plugin" on a personal web site?

- It'd be nice to be able to plug my favorite artist/author/etc. So I'd vote for whatever ads the profile owner wants to put on his/her profile.

- Why not have each person's data held under the watchful eye of the hosting provider they're already with?

- Last I checked you can delete your 1and1/dreamhost/whatever account any time you want by no longer paying them.

- And it could be a GPLed project.

I think these are interesting points, and the dream project would have to be syndicatable so hackers could roll their own pages as you suggest.

The issue is that facebook is great because so many people are on it. So for the dream project to work, it has to be really easy to set up. I am guessing that the average user does not want to grab a dreamhost account, install software, etc.

While you're not monetizing things, you might as well create a new Web server OS where it's actually easy to install applications.

It's called Debian. ;-)

Does apt-get have a Web 2.0 interface? I'm not aware of one.

No, but in web 3.0 everything will be in visual text-mode, so aptitude is your best bet. ;)

How do you delete your data when "your" data is mostly other people's relationships to you? For just one obvious problem, other people "own" messages you post to their wall (they get the deletion rights to them, not you.) It's like deleting yourself from others' e-mail archives or RSS feeds--just doesn't make much sense.

What if a user owns messages that they post to other people's walls? The other user could remove bad posts from the wall, but the poster could also claw back the messages too. If it was a thread, it could look like <comment removed>

We should talk.

$USERNAME @ brevity dot org.

email sent

Ohh... I would add another signal to traffic lights (think a blinking light of some sort) to signal that an ambulance is coming in from behind, and that you need to get out of the way. Combined with adequate intersection routing (block perpendicular direction, clear upcoming road as mentioned) and an expert AI to plan the path to clear, it would speed up emergency responders. What do you think?

Two girls at the same time.

I've got a couple friends that've tried that. It's apparently not all it's cracked up to be. It's great when you launch, but then you have these multiple users all asking you for support...

That would be pretty easy to monetize ;)

A jump to conclusions mat. There'd be this mat, with various conclusions on it, and you could jump to them.

That's the worst idea I've ever heard in my life, Tom.

I miss the old news.YC :(

The developers in my team room seem to swear a lot at what they're working on. I thought jokingly that we need a swear jar.

Then I thought of having an opaque jar, labeled "Swearing Jar." When you put money in, it spits it out and says "fuck off," or some other randomly chosen insult.

There's a website for people like you: http://www.halfbakery.com/

A better wikipedia. One where every article is cryptographically signed by the author and there is only ONE author. Articles are then user moderated up or down like here.

I also wouldn't exclude anything and would allow articles of any length and detail.

I imagine the end result would be something very much like wikipedia as the community would vote wikipedia-like articles to the top.

But vandalism would be impossible and every encyclopedia style article could link into a much longer article on the same subject. Known authors could sign their articles. So Linus could write something about Git, but the community could still vote some git's article higher then Linus.

As long as there can be group and "public/everyone" keys, I'm sold. That is, one "user" could in fact be a single user, or it could represent a collaboration between any number of known or unknown users. (Even if you don't like it, people would still manage to do it this way somehow. May as well make it easy to exchange/publish keys to other users on the site.)

Alternately, one could sign a modification of an article rather than the article itself, allowing for one of the greatest benefits of Wikipedia: the three thousand pedants correcting everyone else's spelling, grammar, punctuation and word usage.

I think I would build software and robotics tools for the handicapped intelligent. I'm blown away by what some people have done recently with computing for autistic people. Unlocking minds. Does it get any better?

I'd rather make an impact in space exploration, but I'm not sure how an individual would do that, yet. But I'm watching Cringely.

Online 3D games. There's something incredibly satisfying about crafting a living, breathing world one line of code at a time.

I don't think I could be happy working for a games company (I have a few friends who do, and they confirm what I fear - it sucks all the joy out of it, especially when you have to start from the bottom), and if I worked on it on my own it would likely be too ambitious for me to finish in any reasonable amount of time, so I would never expect to pay the bills that way.

It also wouldn't be "things people want", but just "things I want".

An alternative to hierarchical file systems.

I've been thinking recently about that too. It's inefficient to use a traditional folder/file system, at least for your personal documents (for system and program files I think they're better off the original way.)

What about folders that represent tags? I could tag a file (say a picture) with Danny (my name), Vacation, and 2007. The system creates 4 "folders" as we understand them, each one labeled with a tag, and the final one labeled as "images" or something similar (whatever the file type is). You could open the "images" folder and see the image, along with all other images. You could drill down further into images>vacation and see all files tagged with both images and vacation. You will also see additional folders for other items that have additional tags and fit in the images>vacation tag.

You could also get to the same file by going into the "Danny" folder, to see all files tagged with "Danny,"

It's a little difficult to explain, and I'm sure that what I'm trying to express is already being developed by someone, but either way, it is a more efficient system than what we already have. No more annoying shortcuts and restrictive folders.

At my work, some people organize documents on the shared drive by date and others by location of the client. So, if you want to look for the pitch we did for a certain Virginia client in January 2006 you first have to check the /Virginia/ folder and then check the /2006/Jan/ folder. If it's not in either one of those, it may be in /smith/companies/name_of_company/, where "smith" is the name of the guy that originally authored the documents. It's a mess.

What is your opinion (on the concepts) of David Gelenter's Lifestreams project?


One can imagine it's Time Machine'sque metaphor being extended to archive your online life (twitter, Facebook) as well (assuming the data could be retrieved)

What about this? Put every document in a directory called 'All' or something. Want to tag foo.txt as vacation? 'mkdir vacation && ln All/foo.txt vacation/'

I've considered this idea myself, previously, and I like it a lot. The beauty is that if you go to \Images\Vacation\2005, it's the same as going to \2005\Vacation\Images, so you can access your files in an intuitive way no matter which train of thought got you there.

The only thing I haven't been able to figure out is how to represend these tags as directories. You shouldn't see them all at the top level, that'd be pretty crowded.

I always just thought you'd index the tags and search on them.

It seems like that would be pretty straightforward to add to any filesystem that already supports metadata.

I'm sure Windows has something similar, but on MacOS X.5 (a feature borrowed from BeOS, IIRC), you can create a Smart Folder that's basically a canned query for files matching a very large set of criteria. I'm not sure what the API is for extending the criteria, but presumably adding tags wouldn't be all that difficult.

Yeah my thoughts on the matter have always included tagging. It just seems logical to have the same file in more than one group (or folder if you want to call it that), and I hate drilling down seven levels to find something. My problem has always been in dealing with system files. The current setup seems rather logical for them anyway. Maybe a two pronged approach like you suggest makes the most sense.

You could do something extremely similar with BFS 10 years ago, and that's the concept behind the long-delayed WinFS.

Google Docs is organized this way.

Is it really? I thought it was just search for your documents by keywords found in them. There is no way to look at all the tags or navigate through them. That's actually one of my issues with GDocs. You don't have many organizational tools for the documents. They would actually be a good candidate for an overhaul similar to what we're discussing.

Maybe I'm confused, but I think the "folders" in Google Docs behave the way you'd like. I can put a doc in one or more folders, and then I can look at the contents of only one folder. And I can have sub-folders. And really the folders are just tags.

How about a Zork style room-model file system?

You are in Foocorp documents. East is Bloggins&Smith, south is Vexcorp.

You can see Foocorp.xls

Bob is here. Jane is here.

Bob says "Jim, can we go over the numbers for Foo?"

> Use Foocorp.xls with Excel

(Excel starting...)

Indeed. I came up with a new motto lately: "Premature hierarchisation is the root of all rigidity."

One of my many "I'll never have time for that" interests is experimenting with OS-wide transparent persistence.

Microsoft is already working on that. ;)

All the more reason for someone else to work on it, and do it right.

i wouldn't worry about Microsoft actually developing something new and useful. Unless Apple did it first of course.

To be fair, WinFS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinFS) had some really exciting ideas in it. I distinctly remember being a sophomore in college, looking forward to "Longhorn" because of things like WinFS, but having trepidation about it because of things like Palladium. Of course, that was a good six years ago. They ended up gutting both of those features out of Vista to get the OS out the door and even then it was years late. But I digress. :)

Bah, stop pandering to the Microsoft haters.

It wasn't meant to pander anybody - it was merely stating an opinion...

Ah, good point. On another note, people who vote on HN are the smartest people in the world. That's my opinion.

Apparently the voters disagree.

Maybe they felt pandered-to? ;)

No, no, I'm just expressing an opinion, like mixmax. It's up to the voters whether they actually think they're so smart. For example, here is another opinion: icky is the best handle ever.

Why, thank you! :)

Actually that's not how I meant it. Regardless of who is working on it, it shouldn't stop you from working on it yourself and doing it better.

And that's why you stuck "do it right" on at the end, eh?

"Do it right" means as opposed to doing something the way a big corporation would do it (generally design by committee or by apathetic drones). MS is certainly guilty of that, but I wasn't picking on them.

Windows has had the ability to categorize files for awhile. If you look in a file's properties, you can add custom properties to any file. I don't know if there is a way to use these properties in the file system, though.

Why not take over the ReiserFS project? We all know about the difficulties it's leader is having...

Because Reiser is hierarchical, no?


seriously. i think i would own a bakery.

A lawyer named Warren Brown decided he had more fun baking cakes than practicing law, so in 2002 he did just that: http://cakelove.com/about_story.php

It looks like he's up to 4 bakeries (soon 5), a cafe, a book, and a TV show.

Good for you. Really good, fresh bread, is a treat that not enough people appreciate.

My aunt and uncle opened a private bakery where they bake bread mainly for friends. It's really good stuff. I, for one, appreciate freshly baked bread.

an ice-cream shop would be neat too

a candy store! with all kinds of crazy inventive candy! With a big gingerbread house just for you:)

I guess he never read Hansel and Gretel.

The candy store would be really cool, IMO. Has anyone ever read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Of course you've read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If I ever did a startup, the whole point would be to earn enough money to open something like that, or maybe a toy company. I'd want enough money that I wouldn't have to bow to market forces and could make candy and toys that are actually good (Lego RIP).

mos, have you seen _Local Breads_, by Daniel Leader? Just got it from the library and will try his baguettes tomorrow.

I haven't, but I'll be sure to check it out now. I love cooking and gardening, but restaurants generally have one of the worst failure rates of any business. So it's all hacking for me for now...

If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll send you a couple of bready links (written while preheating the oven--pizza's about to go in!).

Here's a guy who's doing good things with pizza: http://www.billyreisinger.com/pizza.php

Some inspiration: http://www.billyreisinger.com/pizza_log.html

I'm doing that as we speak. A semi-social site for poetry writers with revisions, diff, textile markup, blah blah.

Poetry and monetize don't go in the same sentence.

A music performance simulator. The interface would be a bit like command and conquer, but instead of ordering troops around, you'd be setting up violin sections, and mixing recordings of chorister's voices.

The Nintendo orchestra simulator is a taste, but my dreams were/are far bolder.

Something nice - there is huge crossover in the latin used through much of the choral repertoire. Thus, it's a nicely defined group of samples you would have to record for each singer - would probably only take a couple of hours per singer to get to a point where their voice would slot in and be in effect generic. Perhaps you could break down constonants and 'cambridge vowells' and come up with an even simpler and more flexible sample set.

If money were no object I'd also buy a second-hand stone church, build a house on the back, take up serious lessons and se if I could find a way to get an apprenciceship as an organ builder. Maybe get into choral conducting and try and bring music to people who have talent but haven't had the sort of childhood full of exposure. I'd read a lot of economics. I'd like to think I'd get more exercise.

Oh - I'd also like to work on an interaction engine at the same level as HTML but far more advanced. I think Silverlight and an Adobe project are trying to address this at the moment, but we really need something that's free software and has a lot of the simplicity of HTML without its suckiness (and with better asynchronous event support).

The great thing is that there's so much money washing around the world today that I'm working full time and still getting plenty of time to explore ambitions that are not too far removed from what I've listed above - and what I have written there is my ideal. Computers are stupidly powerful; demand for geeks is high; there are lots of people doing neat stuff with music.

Product design. Cool widgets. For example, I would love to design a widget that can show me meaning of a word, in different languages, once placed over book, road-signs, billboards, LCDs and etc. Ultra-portable dictionary. So, it's going to be product design, just for fun. We're not talking about any moolah ;)

I was just thinking about how awesome it would be to have a Command-Control-D for real life. Reading books sucks without it.

- An AI that could play GO - A documentary on trying to create a startup in a highly regulated industry ( like healthcare) - Educational games to teach math skills ( and not drill style, a game that would teach actual concepts) - A WikiBook on relationships - A free university (in person, not online)

I would watch movies, eat cheese and drink wine.

You are French and I claim my $5. ;)

Slightly crazy idea that I'm not sure is practical, but still... create a new JavaScript-like Prototype-based language with all of JS's design quirks fixed, implement it in JavaScript so it can be used widely in-browser then finally attempt to get browsers to implement it natively.

A way to tell where my friends are, and direct them as to where to go and what to do. Kinda like remote control your friends when you're stuck at the office, or if you were the only one that didn't get to go on the vacation.

A "keyboard" that changes is form and texture to be different interfaces.

Friends: The RTS

I second robots; but more like "waldoes", generic amplification of my human capacities, on a bigger-than-me (backhoe), stronger-than-me (force amplifier to assist my neuromuscular degeneration), or tinyier-than-me (microfabrication) bases. Make them available and plentiful.

A language translation system like Reasoning, Inc's "Refine", but intended to swallow code from ANY language, including it's libraries, factor and globally optimize, and emit code in any other language. With some tool that points out "routine A" is a not quite complete (errors or omissions) implementation of "routine B". Eventually, using the accumulated library of code, produce a goal (constraint) based language that asks interactive questions, to produce new programs.

De-cheezify my weight-sensing electric skateboard:


Actually I need to re-build it because some crackhead stole the first one on the way back from the Maker Faire last year.

A nonprofit society to study and develop geoengineering solutions to global warming so that humanity has an emergency safety device in case of a runaway global temperature feedback effect.

I'd work on a free, secure set of tools for the IT needs of non-profit organizations. Hosted and LiveCD/appliance deployment options, and containing a full, truly usable stack for CRM, fundraising, event planning, and publishing.

There's interesting work going on in the problem space, (CiviCRM being the 500lb. gorilla) but no free turnkey solutions I know of. Some organizations literally have to beg to scrape up the money for a basic web hosting account, so monetization of the platform would be tough.

Google released something for non-profits today...


Not sure if it does all they need, but ironic timing.

Google only provides the apps for free to 501(c)(3) organizations, not 501(c)(4) or PAC groups. Unfortunately, many of the groups doing (IMHO) the most interesting, progressive non-profit work aren't eligible for C3 status, since they do some amount of political lobbying and campaign work.

An open social graph where each user owns their own data that would 1) keep that data protected, 2) let the user decide which parts of their data is visible to the web applications of their choosing, and 3) not able to be exploited by the likes of Microsoft and Google to better merchandise to users. This type of system will never get built because there's only money in using a user's data against them and users won't pay out of pocket for such a service.

Sounds like something closer to a social graph plugin for people that already have a personal web site.

You might be able to make money at this by offering a no-hassle hosted version for the lazy, and give away the API and GPLed reference implementation.

I'd go to school and take all sorts of different classes on all sorts of different topics. I'd love to go to school for the rest of my life.

Text adventure games, a la Infocom.

You may be interested in Textfyre, a company started by an acquaintance of mine which actually hopes to monetize these again.


My friend and I want to create a roguelike. We hacked stone soup a little, then ran out of time.

I'm interested in EAs like ericb, and want to see, if combined with human creativity, they can produce interesting creatures.

Also, once I have time, I've thought of implementing a MUD in scheme so that it is reprogrammable by the players. I'd use kawa so they also have the power of the java libraries.

If I made the scheme mud, would anyone find it interesting? Or is that sort of thing old hat with this crowd?

1) Music (writing and performing).

2) Writing fiction.

3) Create a programming language.

4) Audio "visualization" of complex data. It's an idea I've had for a long time: turn multi-dimensional data into sound (not necessarily musical) using pitch, rhythm, overtones, beats, and many other parameters. I figure our brains might be able to parse sounds easier than images for certain kinds of data.

Exactly what I would make if I _did_ have to. First priority is to build something you're going to love working on.

Exactly what I already did. All of the things I've created that have ended up making me lots of money weren't created out of a need to monetize them. I make things I want or need and then monetize them later when I need to, if they take off. Starting something JUST to make money is a mug's game.

I've always wanted to start a taxi service. Nothing really special about that, except I'd let the people drive to their destinations (provided they had a license).

ALL kinds of risks there with insurance and what not, but it's mostly just a crazy out of the box, but a bit too optimistic fantasy.

I think Arc - the 100 year language is a pretty noble aim. Just the idea that a programming language could be useful all that time - thats a pretty big step forward for technology. And its not likely to be any commercial motivation that causes it to come about.

This article actually gave me the best non-programming related startup idea I've ever had. I wrote a blog entry to answer this question, then realized the idea was so good that I might want to hold on to it. Now I'm unsure whether or not to post.

If you're really going to build it, then keep it. If it's something you want to exist, and you aren't really going to build it, then post it.

Space ships.

Robots. Intelligent, self-sufficient, house-keeping robots. I know, that would be pretty easy to monetize... but it would take me decades to build. (and it'll be done by Trevor Blackwell long before).

so... 2nd option.

A better web.py web site.

Oh if we're really fantasizing: A swarm of micro-aerial vehicles for house surveillance--or speed trap detection.

I'd also like to build a missile pack to shoot missile plumes from, like on the MechWarrior Vulture or Gundam.

A bittorrent enabled browser that would automatically scale and act as a backup for what users browsed... course the trick would be to prevent cache poisoning and keeping posts going to the proper place.

A network of independent, redundant, internet archives.

What would you do with them? And why would more than one be needed?

They'd do what libraries do: collect and preserve. Several already exist, like archive.org and Google cache. But Google's cache exists for Google's purposes. Archive.org is often forced to take down material, especially since the DMCA. You need a real decentralized network that is both lawyer- and disaster-resistant.

It is impossible for, say, the New York Times to change or obliterate what it printed on some day in 1997. For NYT.com it's a simple as a mouseclick and a letter. That means there is no such thing as "public record" on the internet. Public record is the basis of a literate society.

You might also want to take a look at LOCKSS (I'm not affiliated; just thought it was interesting):

"LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) is an international non-profit community initiative that provides tools and support so libraries can easily and cost-effectively preserve today’s web-published materials for tomorrow’s readers."

Currently OpenBSD-based, but I think that I heard that they are looking to migrate to FreeBSD to take advantage of ZFS.


That's a beautiful thing. Thank you. It's shrewd to get traditional libraries involved -- they pay for subscriptions and Lexis already, and they are much harder politically to sue down.

Local Social Software - chat rooms, bulletin boards, and other programs that are meant to facilitate realspace interactions rather than replace them. An example is Craigslist, another is a chat room that only works for people currently inside a certain coffeehouse or living in a certain neighborhood.


An open source search engine written in Erlang.

a social network for fictional people. like facebook except you don't have to feel guilty when you lie about everything

I wrote one of these at one point; I called it Persona. Its target audience was authors, tabletop RPG players, and people who like both soap operas and virtual pets. The main interaction was a sort of interview where users submitted to a pool of questions, then characters (to which each user had a one-to-many relationship) volunteered answers for them--I entitled it "Phase 1: Direct Characterization."

Phase 2 would obviously character interaction, but I never got to that point.

AvatarNet. They start off based loosely on your personality but self-develop and become independent over time.

BTW I would seriously like to work on this someday.

I love it when people vote small, well-meant comments like this down. Thx man.

Once I conquer the known universe and establish domination over the laws of physics, I'd like to run a sub shop. On the beach.

People walk in wearing t-shirts and flip-flops, I make them a sandwich, and they go away happy. Immediate gratification for both of us, plus I get to invent cool sandwiches. And fresh bread too!

I created StoryMash.com


Inquisitor for Firefox. But I do not know much XUL. So please... anyone. Do you want a great idea? Here it is.

XUL is actually not that much harder than HTML. You should learn it, if that's all that's keeping you from doing it.

What I'm doing now is pretty much recreational:


The thing I'd build if I really had nothing else to do would be a shift-swap webapp for my food coop ( http://foodcoop.com/ ).

A play, with the accompanied score.

What I'm doing now.

A programming language. And possibly a peer-to-peer filesharing network using it.

That's what Tsumobi were working on last time I talked to them (and the programming language part was already well under way).

Tsumobi was doing a platform for mobile apps last I talked to them (which was close to a year ago). Is the programming language + P2P network part of that project, or have they switched directions?

Yes, the language and P2P was part of it. The platform, it turns out, required a new language (don't ask me how that math works...but I saw the language with my own two eyes--sort of a Ruby/JavaScript hybrid running on the mobile JVM).

What is the purpose in combining the two? A way of creating a distributed system like Inferno? Or because you happen to like both ideas?

I happen to like both ideas. I was big into P2P systems when I got my first programming job - this was right after Napster and Gnutella came out. Then I did a lot of research into programming language design in college.

There's some synergy in that every programming language needs some system to script if it wants to gain massive adoption, so you might as well use the programming language you just invented to write the cool app you're about to invent. Plus, there're some really interesting possibilities if you could replace all these social networking websites with a gigantic distributed P2P network. Social software partitions very well - even if a particular service has millions of users, it's unlikely that any given user exchanges data with more than about 150 other users. You'd eliminate the need for Facebook, at the least, and probably the need for most web startups.

That is a cool idea. I just finished a class this quarter on distributed systems, which I really liked. I'd be interested in hearing your ideas about P2P. Things like epidemic protocols and chord are pretty clever.

Yeah, I was really interested in Chord and Kademlia while I was looking at this stuff. You know that rtm, one of Chord's principle researchers, is a founder of YCombinator, right?

One other thing I really wanted to investigate: using statistical uptime records to distribute data across peers and get high-availability. One problem with P2P networks is that infrequently-accessed material tends to become unavailable - this is even an explicit design goal of FreeNet. It's fine when you're downloading the latest TV show, but it's a real problem if you want to distribute micro-social-network-apps over P2P. Yet most people keep their computers on at fairly predictable times of the day. So you could use that statistical uptime data, from their peers, to figure out where to spread data to make sure that at least one copy is always online at all times.

Then you could merge that with access-logs so that data that's frequently accessed migrates to computers near the ones that want to access it. Sorta like a P2P-Akamai. I've noticed that my flists on FaceBook and LiveJournal are very cliquey, and it's always the same folks posting. It's not outside the realm of computational feasibility to connect together your computer with all your friends' computers, P2P, and only push updates to people who are interested in them.

A cruise missile with a 2 Ton anti-personell warhead that homes in on anyone who utters the words "I voted for Bush."

An open-source (hardware) synthesizer.

An entirely free of charge University with top notch research facilities and professors.

an virtual programmer ie a software or call it AI that creates software based on my desire. so i will give simple specification and it will turn it into software, i can refine the code, save, go back to previous version....

I think this describes every programming language, for some value of 'simple'.

show me a software that can turn "go into my facebook account and pull the pictures that are tagged fun" into a working application. Think what natural language does for search. i want the same thing for programing.

I would open a scuba club.

revolutionize the fishing industry in Africa


paintings and songs.

guys, you need to just build this shit, and then figure out a way to monetize it. finding out what people pay for and then building it is doing it backwards. I mean you have to do it when you have to, but start with this page and build what you want, then find a way to sell it, that's how to do it.

An absolutely huge fort/jungle gym built over a enormous pool and trampoline. Also a really wide, long, steep water slide with ramps.

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