I think social news (Reddit, Twitter) and Cloud based file sharing (DropBox) are two ideas I would have put on my list before that have been addressed in some good way....
Publicly, I assume you mean. As far as I can tell, women talk with their friends about their dates and their dating / sex life in far, far more detail than men do.
I know a guy who does record assorted details of approaches (various sketches/openers) and outcomes (dissed, phone number, base #, etc). He records them on paper, puts it into excel the next day and A/B tests. He is very successful.
A tool that automates all this could be very useful for those of us less willing to devote large amounts of time to picking up women.
The problem with "bringing pick up artist techniques to the masses" is the same as the guy/girl ratio notification tools. We're very poor in making comparisons based on absolute factors, so we make our decisions based on relative comparisons. This includes the decision of who, if anyone, to sleep with.
It's a zero-sum game. Anyone who realizes this realizes that it's in his best interest not to tell everyone about his pick-up technique or the large number of girls in the bar he's at, and anyone who doesn't probably doesn't have the social intelligence to sleep with those girls anyway (that's where the absolute factors come into play).
But I hear Mystery is a multi-millionaire, so there's probably a market for such a tool.
Success = P x A, with P = probability of success and A = # of approaches.
When A is large, it's a no-brainer to gather data and crunch numbers to improve P. Unfortunately, you can't improve P without a large A since your numbers won't be statistically significant.
A tool which crowdsources the data gathering/content creation and delivers modest improvements in P would certainly be worth $2.99 to me.
I watched a few episodes of the VH1 show The Pick-up Artist (reality TV where Mystery teaches a bunch of guys to pick up girls). They constantly used corny lines like "I need a female opinion on _"
Any girl who has seen the show is going to respond with "OMG are you one of those pick-up guys?" if she hears a similar line (if she really likes you then she'll ignore it and pretend to play along, but then you could have said anything and it would have worked).
I hear that's exactly what happened with all the lines/techniques in Neil Strauss' book The Game.
The whole point of lines is to show the girl you are articulate and intelligent enough to have a good sense of humor. If everyone starts using the same ones girls will catch on, and the lines will stop working.
As for dating/pickup, I don't believe it's zero sum. It's not a competition for a fixed set of prizes, i.e. 5 girls at the bar, all of whom will go home with someone.
f she really likes you then she'll ignore it and pretend to play along, but then you could have said anything and it would have worked
I have it on good authority (read: "spreadsheet pickup guy", who's name I'm hiding for obvious reasons) that this is false, and conversion rates can vary 20-30% (sometimes more) based on approach and profile.
Pickup tricks are like financial arbitrage. Once enough people learn about what works and do it, it stops working.
I'm not saying that this idea won't make money (like I said, Mystery seems to have done well for himself selling advice), I'm saying it likely won't accomplish its stated goal of getting you laid more often by giving you the "winning" pick-up lines. Any effect is more likely than not going to come through playing the numbers game.
"As for dating/pickup, I don't believe it's zero sum. It's not a competition for a fixed set of prizes, i.e. 5 girls at the bar, all of whom will go home with someone."
It is in that no one wants to make a bad choice. People (at least girls) would rather not sleep with anyone than sleep with someone who is relatively less attractive than the possible alternatives. It's the paradox of choice.
"I have it on good authority (read: "spreadsheet pickup guy", who's name I'm hiding for obvious reasons) that this is false, and conversion rates can vary 20-30% (sometimes more) based on approach and profile."
Obviously there are some things you can do that will turn a girl off less than others. But how does that negate my point? Girls will sleep with guys they think are hot even if they don't think those guys are particularly intelligent or humorous.
In other words, if you were going to build a Craigslist competitor what would you focus on doing differently?
The Craigslist personal sections suck. If you want something closer to the traditional newspaper ad online ("Anyone free Friday night?") and not the experience that today's dating sites give you (create an account, personalize it, finally find someone, realize that your profile is still up and creepy guys are still hitting on you....) there's not much out there.
I've found the scantiness of information in Craigslist posts a weakness. I have no idea how to fix that, but I rule out a large fraction of ads based on "Not enough info to know what this person is selling." For example, many ads don't have pictures, and many that do have pictures that are tiny and inscrutable.
What craigslist gets wrong is the posting procedure. It's arcane. My in-laws can't figure it out with the email responses and what-not. Better would be some way to submit posts by email (or mobile app) and have them automatically posted to the site... like posterous.
Niche: CL for antiques, or used musical instruments, or used books or for special collectible classes of items
Jobs: specialized job types. CL for nannies or other household services: housecleaning, carpet cleaning, window washing, pet sitting etc.
Every time I use craigslist I'm overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to wade through to find the few items I care about.
It's not impossible, just much much harder than it seems.
1. A better bug/issue tracking system
2. A custom CMS
3. A code library/platform for easily building Business CRUD apps.
4. A word processing app that has only the 20% features that 80% of Word users use.
5. A better classmates.com
4. Google Docs
Sample walk-through :: Building a Store Locator type Google Maps app over GAE, using iFreeTools : http://blogs.ifreetools.com/2010/11/building-store-locator-t...
Both frameworks support plugins you know.
Not saying you are wrong, just saying I think there is room in that space for some innovation.
Sure, HTML editing is still required and can be painful, but it is an effective way of branding the final result. I think clickety-click interfaces where you modify the interface through various selections / drag-n-dropping are seriously flawed.
Yes, MS Office is a nice example of what a WYSIWYG interface can do, but that's just for standard documents. As soon as you want to get creative in Word, you'll feel the pain and start wishing for HTML.
Besides ... design, other than replacing a logo / playing with colors / choosing a layout from a predefined set, should be left to people that know what they are doing and there is no way around that, because IMHO the hard part is not the HTML language itself, which is included nowadays in high-school curriculum.
It should be built on top of SQL server, or Oracle. People are using it already. It should have a subset of Crystal Reports, with an easy way to develop simple entry yet let you override the business logic if necessary.
Essentially, combine ext-js with django's administration, with a marketplace of addons for various verticals.
As an aside, one thing that these type of tools often lack is integrated testing. Which is a shame, because it seems like it should be easier in these tools, as the tool can have a lot of context about what the fields, etc, mean.
But you've still hit the nail on the head with your list: there are vast numbers of failures and uncompleted projects for every success.
Nowadays nobody bothers, but the online auction space was very attractive for a lot of people.
ebay still has a lot of flaws but the name is a verb for selling something online. You don't see many people trying to take them on anymore.
Being a big fish in a small pond can be profitable - these days, its Groupon clones setting up outside the US. I think this stands a higher than average chance of working - simply because the model does require direct interaction with businesses, and therefore local operators are going to have an advantage in terms of cultural/local knowledge.
If you're lucky to win your local market, you'll probably end up getting acquired by Groupon itself.
It is a valid strategy to get in and own a regional variation before the bigger players move in. But you have to move very fast - so fast that the 'big' player hasn't really been noticed yet, or bothered with the local market.
There's still plenty of countries with no real craigslist implementation. But for some reason nobody seems to want to do it.
So you're correct, you can early-move-copy on a big idea, but you've got to have the conviction to move early, and your idea must have ties to the locality through real life goods and businesses (or, I suppose, languages).
Its not wrong, its just not a very big market. Especially when Microsoft et al are nearly giving such things away.
- A social-networking site that totally respects my privacy and lets me own my data!
- An app store that lets anybody sell their digital stuff to anyone, not in some walled garden!
- A drag and drop interface that lets you make any program you want...totally code-free!
I could go on and on...
What we have is working, and it's working well, but as we press forward, we find that our strongest value proposition is no longer the code-free aspect, which turns out to be just one small part of a larger puzzle. Once you remove that roadblock, other pain points come to light that are far more difficult to solve.
- Not able to think logically.
There's only so much you can accomplish if you take logical thinking out of the equation, and when you do, the creations are underwhelming. Many startups set out to make creation easy, and that works to some extent, but the real solution to the problem may be to try to educate users and bring them up to a minimum bar (learn how to fish), rather than trying to lower the bar to the floor (give them the fish). This would be suicide for most startups, but the users of creative apps are more patient and more willing to learn and grow with the app. Sure, we'll shut out some people this way, but we want to lift up the right, motivated people, rather than trying to lift the entire world up.
- Can't draw/other artistic skill.
Shockingly, this ends up being a big problem, and people absolutely hate using placeholder art if they can't draw. We've addressed this by integrating a marketplace for pulling in all kinds of resources.
- Can't work with other people.
Many game projects fail due to bad communication (if you're not working solo). They start out strong when brainstorming and then die somewhere in the middle, usually when the members fall out of regular contact or don't know what's going on. We've integrated some features into our app to directly address this after observing how our users interacted with each other on several group projects.
- Set their sights too high.
No, you're not going to create an MMORPG or RTS as your first project. ;) This one isn't directly addressed by our app right now and falls more under the umbrella of general user education and progression. One idea we have is to incorporate game elements (turning game creation into a game?) to nudge the user towards making baby steps towards completing something through a quest structure, rather than trying to let them go free from day 1.
The take home point is that like any startup, what you set out to do ends up evolving as you move along and that the problem you're solving turns out to be different and sometimes larger than what you originally expected.
This is an idea that was hot way back the 80's and early 90's in the era of CASE tools. There was some limited success but only in very limited domains such as signal processing and to a lesser extent building data-driven, object-oriented systems.
But don't get me wrong, LabVIEW really shines for its original purpose (Laboratory Visualization and Engineering Workbench, hence LabVIEW): quick data acquisition and visualization. But large programs just get tedious to read and debug. And I'm OCD about getting my wires looking nice :) which slows me down, obviously.
Many electronic music artists create enormously complex applications with visual drag and drop languages, doing everything from sound synthesis to video processing to interfacing with microelectronics, with complex user interfaces recently moving to multitouch.
The main two languages are Reaktor and Max/MSP
Xcode and Interface Builder, using Core Data and Bindings. Don't expect to make a full-blown 3D video game doing that though. ;)
Peopel are always raining on each others' ideas
"Oh, what, you're going to make a myspace clone? Bahahahaha." (facebook)
"Oh, what, you're going to make a facebook clone? Bahahahaha."
"Oh, what, you're going to make another dating website? Bahahahaha."
"Oh, what, you're going to make another social bookmarking website? Bahahahaha."
(Reddit, digg, hacker news, etc.)
This sort of "You can't improve on an existing design" rhetoric is usually coming from the same people who champion companies like netflix and say things like "The RIAA suing downloaders is like wagon wheel manufacturers suing car tire manufacturers! GET WITH THE TIMES, HELLO!"
You want to make a better dating website? Awesome, I hope you do and I hope it's better than okcupid! If it fails, guess who's going to come out the other side better than they were when they started?
You want to make an abstract machine learning system? Good! I hope you do! Guess who's probably going to be learning a lot about ML when they come out the other side?
You want to make a craigslist/ebay mashup? Good! Do it today! Start it right now and, if it's better than craigslist, my friends and I are all going to use it! How much are you going to learn about interface/UX design in the process?
You want to apply gaming mechanics to exercise? Good! Do it and tell me about it! That sounds awesome! Make an iPhone app for it, make a facebook app for it, let me pick random strangers across the internet to challenge at it. Make leaderboards and lots of badgers, and blog about it. If you fail, write more blog posts about why you failed.
I'm sorry, I'm sure the author of this blog post had good intentions; trying to help other geeks, but I find this sort of "don't even try this because it's a stupid idea and you're going to fail" attitude extremely harmful.
The first project I ever did was called http://newslily.com it was a fark/reddit/hn/digg clone. Did I sell it to google for 2 billion dollars and retire to a yacht somewhere just east of anywhere on the planet? No. Did I go from knowing absolutely nothing whatsoever about web development to being able to turn ideas into things? Yes.
My current project is called http://thingist.com . Have people said "oh, psh, you're making a twitter clone...boorrrrriinnnggggggg."?
Guess who doesn't care? My daydreaming about having 50 millions users is forcing me to learn about scaling, and how to use mod_python (oh, and if I get super crazy, maybe nginx as a web cache for my 10 users!). In a year, or two months, or six weeks, or however long it takes me to decide that, yeah, well, it's just another twitter clone and isn't going to get more than 10 users, I'm going to be 1 twitter clone closer experience wise to making something people love. (Although I still think that thingist isn't a twitter clone).
My advice: make 10 twitter clones and 20 abstracted ML frameworks. NOT doing this is like a running coach advising their runners not to waste their time jogging around their neighborhood because they're really not going anywhere anyway.
At the end of each failed company, you are going to feel like "well, at least I learned a lot". I know, because that's how I felt. You feel that way because your brain is insulating you from the real loss. You have indeed learned things; that's what makes this particular rationalization so powerful.
Many, many people tried making Myspace clones. Many, many more will try to make Facebook clones. Inevitably, one or two people will be successful, just like people will occasionally win the lottery.
Other people will succeed with companies that contain elements of Facebook, or OK Cupid, or Twitter, or Craigslist. But their businesses won't be "better Twitter" or "better Facebook"; they'll be distinct, unique, interesting businesses that learned lessons from earlier successful companies and applied them to do something different. Some of these companies may grow to challenge Facebook, just like Twitter did. But they won't have gotten there by pointing a finger at Facebook and saying "you're going down".
My advice: learn everything you can from Twitter, and then use the ideas to come up with something you can build and get money from.
My point is that this sort of philosophy helps nobody. People who are already successful already know this stuff. At least to me, this sort of list feels like it's being aimed at people who haven't "made it" yet and are still trying to figure "it" out.
When I was in High School a friend of mine named Steve Fisher said something that I doubt he remembers, but has stuck with me. He was trying to teach me how to skateboard, something that was totally not the type of activity that a nerdy, awkward, 15 year old Ryan thought he could do. So we're sitting at the skatepark and there are lots of other people around doing what I thought were difficult tricks. I was sitting on a bench just watching and trying to think of a valid reason not to ride my skateboard around because I was 100% positive that I was going to fall flat on my face and that all of the other people were going to laugh at me.
My friend comes over and says "What the hell are you doing?" "Oh, I was, err..just, uhh, tightening these bolts." "Bullshit, did you figure out how to ollie it yet?" "No, dude, I'm just going to practice at home in my room more until I can figure it out, I don't want to get in everybody's way."
He told me that I had to just go ride the thing in circles until it felt natural, and that if he saw me sitting on the bench again, I wasn't invited to the skatepark anymore. I rode my skateboard around all afternoon, probably fell on my face a few times, but didn't get laughed at even once.
A stupid story, probably.
How does this apply to startups?
Maybe it's just the communities I hang around in, but many coders are really really not like the skaters in my story. They really will laugh at the kid riding his skateboard in circles (writing twitter clones and craigslist mashups) like an idiot. How many designers have posted tirades to their blog talking about how everybody is stupid, and how they're sick of all these stuuupid people asking them to do designs? To me, lists like this are exactly like telling a kid that he's riding his skateboard in circles and to stop wasting his time doing that. If you can't show up and start doing backflips, then don't waste your time even coming. People have already figured out how to ride in circles.
Anybody whose time would be wasted writing yet another dating website doesn't need a list like this to tell them that. They know.
If you need somebody to tell you not to build this stuff, then you probably aren't yet at a point where building one of them wouldn't be a learning experience for you, even if that learning experience is just "stop building twitter clones".
When I was 16, my friends and I thought we were going to take over the world by starting a "tech company". We knew we were all nerds, and we knew we wanted to own a "tech company". We got together, thought up a cool name, made a cool website, and got some cool business cards.
Was this a stupid idea? Yes.
Did I learn a lot from it? Yes.
Do you consider 4 years spent in business school a waste of time? Toxic? Do you consider time spent going to school for computer science, learning to program a "waste"?
How many times have computer science students written "cash register" programs in java? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Was this time all wasted?
I would say no.
Yes, Java cash register programs are a waste.
Yes, doomed Craigslist competitors are a waste.
People too young to go to business school have cashed out of YC companies. Aspire to that, not to rationalizing very expensive learning experiences.
Did these people crawl out of the womb with a keyboard in one hand and an apache server in the other?
How do you suppose they learned how to program?
Like you said earlier, a lot of it is luck, just like winning the lottery. By not playing/trying at all you will most definitely not win any lottery.
Doing exactly 100% the same that is already existing anyway (facebook,twitter,myspace..) doesn't sound like a great idea but improving on that, well why not?
Great analogy & why I keep reading the comments before the story.
Given the choice between building a cliche project and something a bit more off the beaten path - you may as well put a few extra days of thought into a project before you start, and come up with something unique (as long as you don't spend all your time thinking and none of your time doing).
The problem with the ideas listed is that they're obvious - both myself and my friends have talked about/wanted to approach almost every single one - but it's not obvious how to actually build a better mouse trap for each of them. It's useful to realize when you're trying to attack a generic problem (that has already been solved) with an equally generic strategy.
Lots of people want a Craigslist alternative that doesn't have the shittiest search interface this side of 2004. Lots of people want a dating site with a 'market' that doesn't heavily heavily favor women. Lots of people want to exercise/lose weight in a fun game-like way. Lots of people want the concept of TripAdvisor but don't feel like they identify at all with the typical TripAdvisor reviewer.
It's hard to learn about why these things are difficult without actually trying to do them.
Yeah, they're called men. And given that history tells us that attracting men to dating sites isn't a business-limiting problem, it follows that building a (heterosexual) dating site that appeals to men is not a good business idea.
The problem with most Craigslist competitors is that they are designed for mainstream Craigslist users. This indicates that the people doing them usually don't have the level of thoughtfulness that's needed to succeed. And while it's certainly possible to listen to your fans and make changes as you go, it's too hard to succeed this way against an already entrenched competitor unless you have at least a little bit of an ideological advantage compared to the existing platform. For example, if you want to start yet another fitness company based on game mechanics but you haven't read Punished By Rewards then you are probably pretty screwed.
It is surprisingly difficult to tell if an idea seems obvious because it is just, well, bloody obvious, or because it is a really good one.
A surprising amount of great, original ideas seem obvious with the help of just a tiny bit of hindsight. Or foresight, for that matter.
If you see your project as learning about tech, then awesome. But I think the OP was warning against those that see their projects as paths to riches with those ideas. There are certain startup ideas that are perennial tar pits with good reason. There's something specific about the problem area that everyone's banged their head against, and often times, it's not a tech problem.
It'd be worth your while to understand it first.
Thank you for the kind words :)
That, sir, is a brilliant summary. I have the feeling that I've been running around the neighborhood a lot recently, but I can also detect my legs getting stronger, so to speak.
However; when I inwardly cringe at these ideas being rehashed (possibly not the machine learning one), it's when someone non-technical is eagerly pitching me their Facebook for Dogs idea and trying to get me to code it up for free, it'll be the Next Big Thing, just you wait and see...
I wonder if the failure rate is higher, because those ideas are common, and everyone tries it. Yeah maybe the same number will succeed, but since everyone and their mom is doing it, it probably won't be you . . . dunno.
Btw, a news site should be on the list too. Even I have one of those: http://tech.rawsignal.com.
sports was for my brother, but then he wanted college football specifically, so we rolled out this for him: http://collegefb.rawsignal.com/
will we become huge, who knows. who cares really, we love what we do.
We just did that for Medical field - "Prognosis", currently at 5th position on iPhone medical apps (after 15 days).
(Just installed it. Was this supposed to be only for doctors...or?)
Take a look at iMedicalApps review for detailed analysis (good and bad) : http://www.imedicalapps.com/2010/11/prognosis-your-diagnosis...
That's not what the author had in mind. In fact, it's explicitly written: "[...]or alternatively, that they are unsolved problems that someone, someday, somewhere, may actually come up with a variant that hits big."
So, it's rather "If you invest serious resources in that, you better know why exactly you're better than the gazillions other guys who had tried this." than "Don't try at all".
And yes, trying those ideas as a sort of training is a brilliant idea in itself.
Frankly I wish more people would say 'your idea is bad (because of X)' because that's useful feedback, rather than the usual feels-good-but-useless 'good idea'. You can always choose to disagree with X; or maybe you'll find a solution for X.
It's pretty well-established in a number of professions outside tech, e.g. in law, a partnership of four or five lawyers will all get rich if any case that any of them took hits the giant-settlement jackpot.
The big downside to partnerships is that you're exposed to unlimited liability.
For example, the Craigslist killer can and has worked. The guys at RentHop and AirBnB are both attacking pieces of Craigslist's functionality.
The problem is that most nerds don't have the ability to pull these ideas off. Heck, most people in general don't have what it takes to build a successful company. There's a big difference between hacking on something for a weekend and building a company out of it (although you can't build a company without starting somewhere).
Overall, a lot of people (including many successful YC Founders) start out with stupid, unfocused ideas, and morph into something that's focused and solves a problem that people need solved. It's all just part of the process - if you wait for the perfect idea to hit you, you might never get started.
Dating sites, social travel (social anything), and Craigslist killer all depend on network effects.
A common argument for starting a new business is that "hey, someone else already has this idea, they've mapped out the market and proved it can make money." This works really well for things like restaurants where there is no network effect, no incentives for new users to go with well-established providers or disincentives for existing users to switch providers.
In the social/dating/craigslist space, you don't just need to build a better X, you need to convince people to leave the old X (or pray that they've never heard of the old X before and won't consider it) and sign up for your new X.
In terms of dating, social and craigslist at least you're only dealing with one type of customer. As soon as you turn to local events/businesses you needs to do this for two (the people looking for events and businesses, and the promoters and business owners).
Cable networks are similar businesses, but I think the key distinction is that they charged money for their services. Somewhat paradoxically, I think this makes it much easier for people to switch than if all the services are free - there is the immediate incentive of "save $10 a month!"
I think this is why AOL and Prodigy managed to make so much money. Then all the free (ad-supported) online services came along and basically wiped out the paid services, and intensified the network effect and its disincentive for switching to better services.
There's a YC company that does this in a general way but I would not label their use cases as "purposeless".
local business rating/review
something to hack the stock market
better pet site
better dating site
better wedding site
Anyone who loves to travel and wants to get out more, but is stuck inside writing friggin code all day gets this idea at least once. "Wait! How would I combine writing code with travel? I know, I'll make my own travel recommendation site." The irony is in reality I traveled wayyy less as a result of committing to this idea. Bummer
I recently shut down my travel startup - a site that offered tours and excursions in many of the world's greatest cities.
Why? The VC-funded big boys have 2,000 affiliates and many thousands of inbound links to their site. This bumps them up in the organic rankings which sends more traffic to their site - enabling them to gather more conversion data. As conversions gradually increase, their product becomes more attractive to other affiliates, and more sign up, thus perpetuating a positive feedback loop.
Learned a ton during the process of building the company, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
To all prospective founders out there - really do your homework and understand the competitive advantages held by the top competitors in your market - things that are very difficult, time consuming, and/or expensive to replicate!
For example, 37 Signals now has a passionate fan base of hundreds of thousands of people based on years of teaching and writing opinionated rants. Nearly impossible to replicate for a new startup trying to market simple project management software.
Also, realize that cute innovations and a great user experience might not overcome the massive reach held by existing companies.
It's likely there are other startups that fall into this category. Time management and to-do lists seem like fairly obvious ones.
I have seen real money spent on something along the lines of "Hey, we're in accounting business! Let's make a Facebook of accounting where accountants will create profiles and publish their annual and quarterly reports." (details changed to protect the guinnocent.)
Let's get empirical for a moment. If we are sifting through applications for funding, do you think that there is a significant correlation between whether a business is on this list or not and its eventual success or failure?
If the other factors driving outcomes--founder quality and so forth--have higher confidence levels, this kind of list isn't very useful.
But now there is Chegg.
And Chegg is not just Sethi's despised textbook exchange idea -- it started as a Craigslist competitor for campuses! And when it pivoted to its current model in 2007, it first used the name textbookflix.com! And it competes against others on price! So it fits multiple categories from these Ramit Sethi and Elad Gil 'never work' lists.
Estimates are that it'll have more than $100 million in revenue this year and is growing to a dominant position in a large market.
Chegg's final success isn't assured -- especially given the rise of e-textbooks -- but it's passed the point of "tempting but foolish nerd/frat-boy startup idea".
* There's a sort of thing that there are many implementations of (website logins, say)
* Having many implementations is confusing, one canonical one would be better (Hey! Let's make OpenID!)
* They make a new one, announce it, everyone sees that it's not as mature as what they already have (Provider? XRI?)
* Nobody else adopts the new one, now there's one more competing implementation for the next never-gonna-work idea to contend with.
Note: I don't want to pick on OpenID, it actually works pretty well, but I needed an example.
Once you start looking for this pattern you see it everywhere: Linux distros, OpenSocial, OS X package managers, etc.
The article sketches ideas that have promise and long odds. Five years ago, most people who were trying to create "yet another social networking site" looked dumb. One doesn't now.
There is are many reasons that most of the cool ideas people come with brainstorming late at night don't work. But it's not that they are bad ideas. The factors for failure include the distance between idea and execution, competition, the need for good design, etc..
It's just a question of whether you want to make an easy bet or a hard bet.
Other hard things of dubious utility people work on:
1. Local events
2. Local business directories (I was once removed from this space by working at a company that provided an integrated directory/SEM buying product to various Yellow Page companies around the world; the cynic in me thinks this is a great way to fleece small businesses, although if you try it really can drive a lot of business)
3. Microsoft Access for the web. Dabble DB tried (acquired by Twitter), I tried, http://formlis.com/ (HN user warrenwilkinson) is trying. There's probably a bunch more. Google Forms and Wufoo seem to be the most successful with the least functionality. The hard part here seems to be getting people to know about the service. Companies typically contract these apps out, and the contractor companies are more interested in $30k contracts to build custom form apps and making busywork for PHP drones than reselling a solution where the customers or other contractors can cut them out as middlemen. Actually the more I think about it, the more I want to try this again.
This is my "Dream Project" - i.e. the one I'll build when I have endless free time that I'd like to devote to working.
I'd love to know why you think it's of dubious utility. (Aside from movie times, I've never discovered an event through an "event site" - but I feel like I could...)
If I were building a dating site, it wouldn't be anything like what the original author suggests. Rather than focus on matching algorithms or ways to stimulate initiative (okcupid is already reasonably good at that), I'd focus on providing value after the initial connection has been made. I don't know of any dating site that does that well, at the moment.
I suspect that the real value comes from execution of the idea, perseverance, and willingness to let your idea evolve until you've created something that people want. Often folks fail to recognize that the ability to execute and evolve (and be willing to fail) are traits that we don't all have, and so it's very possible that it couldn't have been them.
While there are probably some ideas that are doomed to fail, I don't think that label applies to any of the ones from the original post.
I keep hoping that wikitravel will thrive but it's never very good...
Often half the problem with an idea is that it has already worked once. In a world where you're allowed to assume away Craigslist, cloning Craigslist would have a much better chance of working.
What's killing Craigslist/gumtree/etc in practice is their generality, they're no longer the dominant player in their most profitable markets (jobs, dating, housing) all of which are being carved away by specialist sites.
I didn't try the "drain all their inventory onto our own site" thing though. I found evidence of at least 20 sites that had done that and been cut off. Frankly, I wasn't interested in most of the crap and terrible images from craigslist anyway.
I'm targeting high-ticket items like classic cars and boats which typically take a long time to sell and high quality images matter.
If I get some traction, my plan is to implement a "trust" system to weed out spammy listings. A users's trust rating would be increased by linking their social media accounts, responding to text messages, upvotes from users etc...
I made listings free temporarily in order to get more content, but of course all the additional listings are very spammy. Marketing a classifieds site is an exercise in frustration to say the least.
as an outsider, with many west coast friends, it appears that both start-ups and investors move in herds. for example, six months ago it was location-based check-in services?
Made this but never followed through with it.
Machine learning: I hope Directed Edge is doing well (YC startup).
Social Travel: what are some good social travel sites? I don't know any.
That's the problem, we don't know, do we?
I think that's the route of most startup pipe-dreams: Take a successful site or product, and make it more complicated.
 Crunchbase says they only received YC's $15k in seed funding. That's weird for a B2B company.
HotOrNot tries throwing people at you in a sequence, but do you really make a proper decision when you know there are countless more around the corner?
On the other hand if the person is picky enough, they'll just be rejecting everyone they see and give up on the site after a few days.
For a dating site to be successful, you need to have lots of startup capital for marketing.
The idea that just because a category has competitors means it's "dead" is quite wrong on a lot of levels. That's the beauty of the internet really. New ideas will come along and trample the old, and usually on a much shorter timescale than anyone expects.
(yes, I spent a long time creating a social network, no it went nowhere special :))
There's nothing more pathetic then that guy who is the born skeptic and can't see beyond his own inability to find success, constantly putting down every idea his friends give him. I'm told that's what it's like trying to do a start-up in England.
Part of it is cynicism from being at the bottom of a pecking order that puts the braying salesman and architypal PHB at the top and consistently having advice and ideas ignored, while given impossible deadlines because people don't know how to manage a development process properly.
However there is also a very negative vibe among geeks in general, especially (but not exclusively) in the UK. No doubt American geeks suffer from the same idiots in charge, but say the hell with it, and go start their own companies. Here there is more of a resigned shrug of the shoulders.
It's not a univeral British trait; people in other walks of life seem to have a more positive attitude.
That's what it's like trying to do anything in England.
That was a sly dig at Engerland, right ;-)
Well, why not add social features to a game stop? Why not add nerdy features to a bar? A barcade doesn't need to be the last stop. Why not take what we learned about online dating, and use it to improve offline dating?
Maybe people don't want 'a bar revolving around gaming', but it's a thought in the right direction. Barcades and shared hacker work spaces are an actual step in the right direction.
They're certainly doing great, as they should; it's a great idea.
This is the correct site: http://www.manabar.com.au/
Why not? Technologically, or socially?