1) A way to ensure that each person can only create one account on a website, without having to sacrifice anonymity.
2) A day planner that plans my day for me; based on my to-do list, what my friends are doing, and also what's going on in the local area. Also, populate the bulk of my to-do list automatically based on what my friends in the same classes are adding to theirs. Plan social dates for me based on when my friends and I are free. Introduce me to people I don't know but should know.
3) A way to get more people involved in Internet-mediated locally social stuff.
4) A semi-standardized way for people to build up a reputation without needing a college degree.
5) An IMDB for people who have won awards. I want to a quick way to find the professors with the most citations in any given subject, the chefs in the area with the best zagats reviews, the local high school football players with the most touchdowns, etc.
6) An academic search engine targeting people who are college educated but who don't necessarily have extensive experience with the inner workings of academia. Right now there are really good ways of accessing journal articles online, but really poor ways of learning what academic journals to look in. There's no way to know which journals are respected and which aren't. No easy way to translate plain English questions into the keywords that are used by academics.
7) A way to turn recipes on the web into peapod orders. A way to turn the customized diets that Weight Watchers or WebMD create into a peapod order.
And think about what a journal provides: a forum for researchers to submit the results of their research and a mechanism for selecting which of the submissions are worthwhile for folks in the field to know about.
What I just described is essentially just a karma system, albeit you would have to find a way to take the credibility of the rater into serious consideration. Assuming you solved the chicken-and-egg problem of getting enough credible people from academia to be raters and to submit their best work to your site (quite a tough problem considering many large universities are much more like big companies, or worse government bureaucracies, than startups), you could totally replace the entire system of academic journals.
Think of all the other free extras you would get by having a web app host all journal articles: at minimum, the process of citing references and looking at the background of a paper could be improved: you could visually trace the findings of the paper you're looking at all the way back to the founding of the field by what each of it's references used as references. Search would be a lot better, as would recommendation engines (lots of professors have grad students waste time simply scanning journals for articles that are relevant for their work). If you're into NLP than you would have a much better dataset and a clear application for doing summarization. And think about the possibilities of social networking or productivity-app type features enabling all sorts of new possibilities for collaboration among people at different universities!
But the real big play is that once you do all this, you're well on your way to replacing universities themselves, which any undergraduate can tell you are bloated enterprises which spend large amounts of money and pass the costs onto their customers, who accept it because the university system has a monopoly on giving out credentials for people going into the working world.
One of universities main products is research, and in many fields (biology, physics) you need the big backing of university (and government) dollars to support research. In many other fields (math, Computer Science, philosophy) you don't. Researchers in these fields usually need to somehow pay their living expenses, and the actual equipment expenses are minimal. They mainly need:
-a place to find like-minded collaborators
-credibility for their work (ie, ability to publish in journals).
You could give them both of those things. Now people in these fields wouldn't even need to choose the career path of grad school and then professorship (in other words, staying their entire life in the university monopoly) in order to contribute their research to humanity's body of knowledge.
So in other words, what you need is to build a HN/Reddit style voting/peer review system that weights the credibility of the voter heavily. Then you need to find some early adopters who are credible enough to lend your own site credibility. Then you could be well on your way to reinventing the academy in a way that is much more democratic and makes its results much more widely available and usable by the public.
Anyone want to build this? My email address is in my profile. Or just go ahead and use this idea yourself - I just really want to be able to use this service somehow, though probably more as a consumer than a producer of research. Maybe someone who actually went to grad school and had lots of papers published themselves would be in a better position to build this idea.
btw, i don't think your email address is public, but my contact info should be listed; feel free to shoot me a message.
You mention classes so I guess you are on a campus. I am working on a project with a large colledge cafeteria mgt company. Where we are building specific diets (weight loss, strength building etc) from their daily menu and then letting students access the diet/menu selection in a number of cool ways //Hard to explain in a comment
If you have ideas, my email is in my profile. Cheers/mike
I use peapod every other week. It probably saves me an hour and a half each time--it's pretty cool.
The idea is to make a network of knowledge which enables self-directed learning. Could incorporate tests/games, dependencies (to learn x, you need to learn y, or even complete a subgame), external references for further reading, and possibly a lot more. A great feature would be systems to allow collaboration or lightweight teaching among learners (chat/forums/etc).
With a bit of thought it may be possible to make a framework into which volunteers add a lot of the content, though editors/quality control would likely be necessary.
If I built it, I'd be inclined to ignore existing public educational systems and start from scratch, but if it hooked into them it may help growth.
I spent a while as a tutor, and I was always amazed that parents were more than happy to spend $100/hr for private tutoring, which most of the time just amounted to overpaying an over-educated person to babysit your kid while they do simple homework that they could very easily have worked through themselves, but just didn't. Yeah, I was also available to answer questions, and clarify things, and I was very good at it, but fundamentally, the most helpful thing was just that the kid was forced to be there mentally.
Crazy idea alert: why not save some money and pay your kid $10 or $20/hr to do their homework rather than paying me $100/hr to watch them do it? I'm sure dollar-for-dollar this would be far more effective. If need be, pay me the $100 a fifth as often - while I love the money, I honestly feel like most of the time I spend tutoring is wasted since the kids see it as a substitute for their own personal work, not as a supplement to it. I've often wondered if setting up an automated, pre-funded allowance system based on online homework time (or productivity, or some combination) might help this situation. I know that the idea of paying (bribing) kids to do what they "should" be doing anyways seems wrong philosophically, but I really think it might be more cost effective in the end. And if the old line that "school is your job" holds true, then perhaps kids _should_ receive a little money up front for work, especially if they won't do it otherwise. Yeah, rewards come later and all, but how many rational adults would really be willing to work at 100% effort for twelve years with only an assurance that they will be compensated for their labours with some unspecified and uncertain amount later? (no offense intended to anyone that took tech jobs for stock options during the dot-com bubble, of course :) )
As long as the learner is interested in one small area of knowledge, they can easily follow links to related areas they didn't know they cared about. Because the system shows how knowledge interrelates, motivation in one area can spread naturally around the system. This way, learners work with their interests, instead of being forced to think about things they don't know why they should care about.
Maths is a great example. A lot of kids dislike maths because it seems boring and irrelevent to them. But since maths underpins so much of knowledge, many learners would find themselves needing to understand a mathematical concept to advance in their primary interests - and because they can then see the benefit of learning maths they become self-motivated, and perhaps even gain an appreciation for maths in its own right.
So much of education today goes against the individual's grain - relying on a factory-mentality, where each child/product must move along a variety of production lines in a pre-ordained manner. With a system like the one I imagine, the learning process works with the learner's natural motivations, rather than against it.
Personally, I find the lack of high quality videos about physics, mathematics, and computer science quite irritating. When I do manage to have some free time, I like to watch videos, such as those from Nova. Unfortunately, one can't find many free versions on the internet.
Part of the problem is that such videos are hard to find, and not usefully aggregated anywhere (a problem I am indirectly trying to solve ;).
Here's a concept: Make an online system that makes it easier to assemble a team of geographically and temporally separate volunteers to upload video clips, edit them into a sensible sequence, do voiceovers, and publish the result. Like a Wikipedia for techie videos, though perhaps with a slightly higher barrier to entry to prevent griefing. (Nobody wants to watch the James Burke video that suddenly becomes NSFW in minute three... I mean, show that to a kid accidentally and you could literally go to prison.)
UPDATE: Hey, wait a minute, have I just invented Youtube's "This video is a response to video X" discussion system?! Only with more geeks and fewer cats on pianos?
I like the idea of students up or downvoting stuff based on how clear it is. Even a diagram or a one-sentence description could have up and down votes associated with it.
We would have to take two factors into account, I think, those are; (1) clarity (2) accuracy. An “entry” can be very easy to understand but completely inaccurate, or completely accurate and horribly difficult to understand, and so forth. So one could vote on clarity and/or accuracy, depending on whether you are competent or incompetent.
I envisage going onto this site and thinking “I want to learn something new about the Fibonacci sequence”, or: “how does Quicksort work?” and so: “show me results tagged ‘quicksort’”.
One could shrug this idea off as a “Wikipedia clone-- with voting”, but Wikipedia is just an encyclopaedia; it does not aim to teach you things. But, we can take some ideas from Wikipedia...
If entries -- which would essentially be factoids, as I am hypothesising -- contain a few paragraphs and cover one very narrow topic, that would necessitate cross-linking of entries. Just as you read Wikipedia and follow hundreds of links because you just “have to!” know more about this topic, this could be applied to entries. Perhaps even “related entries” or “series” (an ordered set of related entries) could be created.
This is a very exciting idea to me. Does anyone know of anything like it? I may implement it if I see nothing like it. Let me condense the criteria:
1) A web site for learning things, however popular or esoteric
2) Learning is done by reading entries, submitted anonymously or otherwise.
3) Entries are short, to the point, and very narrow. (“What is polymorphism?”, “How do I implement RAII in C++?”)
4) Entries are voted upon by two factors indicating overall quality; (1) clarity (2) accuray.
5) Cross-linking, like a wiki.
Damn you, Hacker News!
Anyway, I got very excited about a very similar set of ideas. I'm not much for programming (yet) though. But go for it!
Here is an idea for dealing with prerequisite knowledge:
Let's say I want to learn about quicksort. For quicksort, let's say I need to know about arrays and recursion. For recursion, I need to know about functions.
If I search for quicksort, the program should analyze my user profile to see which prerequisites I need. Then it should generate a page with all the prerequisites and quicksort.
Now let's say I'm reading about recursion. At the end of the page it should ask me a few questions about recursion, for which I will type in the answers. Getting the questions correct should be a very good indication that I understand the section. If I get them wrong, the program should try to give me a hint. If this has not been implemented for a particular section, I should just get a generic extended explanation. Either way, I should have another question to answer.
Thinking about this is making me become mildly excited about my idea again. Maybe I will beef up my programming skillz and attempt an implementation.
>There is a lot of great
stuff that can be done with 'hyper-text', but it is tricky. My initial
away from the old style of text turns out to be rather hard -- that
form has been evolving for three thousand years, and is much enriched
by the fact that we are all used to it and know its conventions. When
a text is no longer continuous, you can not refer back, which somehow
makes it a lot less personal -- I liked that fact that, in writing
chapter 4, I could keep talking about stuff mentioned in chapter 2. A
radically 'active' text is bound to be either a disconnedted cloud of
snippets, or some carefully crafted non-linear experience that would
take years to get right.
Anyway, if you're passionate about online learning, I'd love to chat about it with you if you're interested...
One problem I see with education in general is that there's plenty of content (like Wikipedia), but not enough focus on the delta that takes you from "huh" to "aha!". Feel free to message me with ideas if you'd like to chat.
The biggest problem I see is that hosted apps are great, but these guys need the software to be up all the time. They may even have bad internet connections. So I was thinking the best model would be to have a hosted application, and then if the company wanted greater up time they could by a box and put it at their location and it would take care of syncing with the online counterpart. That way they could continue business while offline.
As long as you are taking care of integration, and migration you could probably open source the underlying software and still make money on support services. You could also make money selling monthly low cost licenses per user like 10 or 15 dollars per person.
I was the Director of IT for a $250mm startup, a little under 5 years old. We started, as almost all valley startups do, using quick books for our financials. Very quickly issues like Purchase Orders, Expense Reports, became more important so we looked to move to an online SAAS financials system - we chose Netsuite. Our internet connectivity grew as the number of our employees grew, until today, at 120 employees, we have a finance/procurement department of 10 people, and a 3 Mbit connection to the internet. Our Financial software has been on the Internet somewhere for the last 4+ years, and has never gone down. I used to be impressed that our DSL link was as reliable as our T1, until an ISP explained to me that they were probably both landing on the same equipment on the back end - just one of them was coming at me with T1 Framing.
This is just a long way of saying that Internet connectivity can be assumed now. Large (very large) companies don't think twice of oursourcing their business critical functions, and, in fact, as we transition from Netsuite to Oracle Financials, we didn't even consider hosting it ourselves - found a third party and paid them $5500/month to host it for us - access over a L2L IPSEC link.
Anybody want to form a YC company - don't worry about the Internet Part - unless you are building a real-time/nuclear/medical/navigation/flight safety product/etc..., hosted apps are the way of the future.
I think amazon is a good prototype for this. It's a tech company that also sells books. They later added all sorts of other crap like electronics, then stuff that they don't even deliver but where they just act as a front for other retailers and finally they are now offering their IT services purely by themselves (S3, EC2).
It is kind of surprising that IT, with its self references as fast-paced and innovative has taken so long to realize its own inefficiencies. IT (in the sense of internal computer systems for businesses) was greatly over invested starting in the 90s because the executives of the time were so scared. I remember stories of Hollywood executives who would ask their assistants to surf websites they were going to invest in and videotape it. They would take these video tapes home for 'research' the same way they would research actors, directors and movies to invest in. They completely didn't get it. So what did they do? They did what most people do when they are scared, they try to buy insurance. This insurance came in over-investment in all things technology both externally and internally, leading to huge IT departments that then used their bulk to buy more technology and increase their internal political might until all this over investment corrected itself in the legendary bubble pop.
I think when all is said and done, IT will be just like Payroll. When was the last time you met a person who works 40 hours a week processing payroll? They used to exist at every company - now everyone's checks come from ADP or PayChex. IT will be done by an outside company and will part of the budget for each person on the payroll. But of course I am a little biased...
Hmm, payroll - There is an industry to be disrupted...
I totally agree that things could always be better and that incentives are the key to this. There is a business concept from the 80s called 'open book management' where everyone in the company sees where all the money goes. This is more transparency than even public companies have.
I think it could be a technique that would get everyone from accounting to IT more involved in the business. I also think there needs to be much shorter expectations of how long someone will work for a company. Hollywood is on to something with the way they bring together small teams to make a film that then disband and reform in a new configuration for the next film. I wonder what would happen if every person in the company had to choose each year whether they want to continue with the company. They would in effect have a one year job. This might make their sense of urgency and priority for the 52 weeks within that year much more focused. It might also form a company with much more dedicated people who really want to be there.
Seriously, this list is exhausting to read. It's like the topic sentence for an entire century. I'm going to have to take it a little piece at a time.
There is such a thing as being the first to give a real physical (or commercial) form to an idea, though.
Even if this were true (which seems extremely unlikely) someone had to think of it first. So there would have been a point when it was possible to have new ideas. How can you be sure the present is not such a point, when we know there were such points in the past?
Sort of like looking at each generation from chimpanzees to humans.
I did not say that people do not have new ideas. That is a blatantly ridiculous statement. I said that worthy ideas have already been had.
My argument comes from looking at literary and philosophical ideas, and my comment was a jest in response to another jest, but there's truth in it. There's a persistent quest for originality in literature, and after some years of chasing that particular ghost I came to the conclusion that it's an illusion. All the great subjects, all the great ideas, have been had already. That doesn't make a book written today less valuable, because what I would add to whichever idea I decide to write about is my own, unique perspective on it. But it means that trying to come up with some completely original idea for a book is pointless - if it's "completely original" it is probably worthless. If ten of thousand years of human civilisation have not yet produced that idea in any form, there's probably a good reason.
Hence my statement that ideas worth having have been had a thousand times already.
So, rather than chasing originality in writing, I think it's more worthwhile to enrich my perspective so that what I add to whatever ancient kernel I might pick is actually worth adding.
Now, extending this to start-up ideas, as you well know, if you have a brilliant idea for a start-up, chances are someone has already had that idea somewhere in the world. If no one has had it at all out of 6 billion people, chances are it's not brilliant, and probably not worth pursuing. Moreover, most great business ideas are not "original", but twists on existing ideas, putting an existing concept into a new perspective. So even the first person to come up with a new twist is still just coming up with a new twist. As with books, though, it doesn't matter whether your idea is original, what matters is what you put into it (the execution, basically). I think this is in agreement with your articles.
Businesses exist to fulfil human needs. The idea of fulfilling human needs is as old as human needs themselves. The ways of doing so are just as old. Social networking, for example, might be a new twist on the idea of helping people make and keep friends, but it's still fulfilling the human need for friendship, something which thousands of other businesses do too.
So, again, rather than striving to come up with a truly original start-up idea, I think it's more worthwhile to hone my ability to take whatever idea I do decide to run with and make it into a working business.
The way I hear what you're saying, you found a way out of a trap for yourself (the trap of trying to be original, which just leads round in circles) by deciding that nothing's really original. That sounds like a valuable insight under the circumstances. It doesn't mean that the generalization holds universally, though (which is why you're getting objections to it here). In fact the opposite generalization might be equally true: every great idea has never exactly occurred before.
I'm quite comfortable with the idea (original or not) that opposing concepts can both be true simultaneously. Your opposite generalisation does sound very interesting too. I'm going to write it down in my little idea notebook for further thought some day :-) Thanks!
(Thinking about it now, putting both these statements together appears like it could well need to a very interesting Borges-like story)
Are you saying that all the proofs to be discovered have been?
You fund many start-ups. How many have come up with a truly original idea? How many have, instead, taken an existing idea and given a new spin to it, or even just taken an existing idea and applied it to a new market? In fact, if you can't express your idea in a few words, is probably not a great start-up idea. And if you can, then it's probably fairly close to an existing idea. "Search engine for parts" (Octoparts). "Job site for start-ups" (Startuply). "Automatic time-management tracking" (RescueTime). "Configurable, hosted e-commerce platform" (Viaweb). "Social news for hackers" (YCNews). All potentially great businesses or worthwhile endeavours, but not because of any originality.
Obviously this doesn't apply to all intellectual fields equally well. It very much depends on your definition of "idea", too. But I think for a definition of idea that maps fairly closely to "start-up ideas" as well as "book/story ideas" or even "wise ideas" - all the good ones are out there for the picking, and have been for eons.
Arriving at this feeling is an unmistakable symptom of being physiologically incapable of creativity. My condolences. On the plus side, most of humanity is in the same boat as you.
Let's take the "simplified browsing" problem, for example. I worked phone technical support for an internet service provider for a while, and it wasn't long before I saw the need for exactly such a thing. But, it runs deeper than just web browsing and email: there is a huge, absolutely massive number of people out there that need a simpler computer. They don't understand things like firewalls and security, and aren't inclined to ever understand them.
The solution? Take a Linux distribution and hack it heavily; simplify the desktop layout, hide all the settings, and set it up so that immediately after booting, a full-screen web browser appears. The web browser defaults to a very simplified portal page; the user logs in to their "computer" exactly once (on the portal page), and from there they have access to simplified email (which, for example, doesn't have things called "Reply to All"), chat, word processing, and other services.
Thing is, the previous services that have tried to create such a thing have done it wrong; they tried to release their own computer, hardware and all. That doesn't work, at least not now. This would work though because you could sell a CD which would make the installation process a breeze. You wouldn't have a huge initial development cost for the operating system; a good Linux hacker could probably make the necessary changes very quickly.
After, say, 6 months of development by a few people, and with the aid of a crack marketing team, you could start distributing copies of this thing for around $75. You'd be tapping in to an under-served market not just of senior citizens but of every average family that's frustrated at using their computer.
You could even build in a secure remote desktop protocol for the operating system, and make tech support -- if you wanted to offer it -- the easiest it's ever been.
So, there ya go. Probably a hundred-million-dollar idea, with most of the framework. Lots more details, too many to list here.
Got time to build it?
Also, I wonder about the browsers that come with game consoles like the Wii, are they any good? They might be easier to use than full-fledged computers?
This is a good observation. Anyway, the issue here is, whether that massive number will have some common notion of what the simpler computer actually is.
So the problem of "simpler browsers" will likely only be solved by solutions that redefine the experience and goal and it will likely be very close to what we now call a smartphone.
For those of us that are computer literate, it's hard to imagine that even basic abstract concepts like email are completely foreign to the majority of the population. I would guess that over half of people don't know how to answer the question, "what do you use for a web browser?".
So you have a blank slate, a free pass to design anything you can imagine. If you can deliver it to these people, and if they don't find it intimidating, or hard to learn, or unpredictable, then they'll like it.
Perhaps, but not by me, and not all at the same time. ;)
I would argue that this is true in one sense only--before anyone had invented the wheel, the wheel still existed. The idea of the wheel had existed the moment matter was created lending the possibility of the wheel to come about. Arguably even before this. However the idea of the wheel was not realized until someone captured that idea. This is the same with any idea, every idea already exists, out there, somewhere.
However, to rearrange the words of the proposed idea, that is to say that "no one has ever had an original", new idea, cannot be true mathematically simply because there are an infinite number of ideas.
The question now becomes two parts
1) Definition of "new ideas", and
2) Whether or not there are any new WORTHY ideas
Response to 1). Interpretation of a new idea greatly limits the concept of having a "new idea". For example, is a walkman the same idea as an iPod? Both are ways to carry music around with you portably and conveniently. Same with a horse and buggy and an automobile. HOWEVER, I would argue that both of these show that an iPod and a car are distinctly new ideas.
Response to 2) This idea greatly underestimates the intellectual power of people. Throughout history there have been worthy, new ideas (air travel, concept of the atom, big bang theory, the internet), how can it possibly be that there are none left?
Overall I really hope that what I believe is true, that there are new worthy ideas to be had. For example there has to be some brilliant man or woman somewhere that will come up with a new idea, or a dumb man or woman that will stumble across one, that will undoubtedly arise from a problem or crisis that arises (ie energy crisis...COME ON PEOPLE, PROVE ME RIGHT!!).
From André Maurois' preface to Borges' Labyrinths (about Borges):
His sources are innumerable and unexpected. Borges has read everything, and especially what nobody reads any more: the Cabalists, the Alexandrine Greeks, medieval philosophers. His erudition is not profound - he asks of it only flashes of lightning and ideas - but it is vast. For example, Pascal wrote: 'Nature is an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.' Borges sets out to hunt down this metaphor through the centuries. He finds it in Giordano Bruno (1584): 'We can assert with certainty that the universe is all centre, or that the centre of the universe is everywhere and its circumference nowhere.' But Giordano Bruno had been able to read in a twelfth-century French theologian, Alain de Lille, a formulation borrowed from the Corpus Hermeticum (third century): 'God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.'
I also still don't get WebOS. There must be something to it, because a lot of smart people are getting excited about the field, but I just can't see it myself... can anyone help me "see the light"?
Naturally, these are the waters where everybody goes fishing, year after year.
I think part of the secret, though, is to stop designing (e.g.) "the next dating site" and start designing a way to get compatible, single people into the same room. Focus on the problem, not the old solution. For example, the very word "WebOS" encourages bad habits of thought: It encourages you to look for something shaped like Windows or Linux, or for apps with a UI that reminds you of the desktop.
BTW, by "Craigslist competitor" I don't mean a new Craigslist. I mean take one thing Craigslist does, and do it better. When you later expand outward from that, you don't have to expand into the rest of the stuff Craigslist does.
When I was a kid, the biggest indie newspaper against government in Taiwan had to support itself with those ads.
Freedom, democracy and smut can go hand in hand.
I don't think they're going bankrupt yet, for sure - but they're a looong way down from that $15b valuation some months ago.
Hey, I have a zillion health care ideas! Google saved my life. :-)
If you have a zillion ideas, that's real good, since there are a zillion different systems/formats/workflows/protocols in place in all the hospitals/laboratories/clinics in the USA alone. Unfortunately, you can only realistically work on one idea at a time...
It would seem to me first that maybe we should rethink human-computer interaction in the first place.
An old-fashioned marionette lets the puppeteer control all four limbs, swivel the puppet, and move it in three dimensions - using only one hand.
Connect that to a console and you have a killer game interface.
Alternatively, pitch it at high-end CAD people, and all those little tech shops doing work for Hollywood.
I have no hardware background, so no idea how tricky this is technically. But, conceptually, it seem like a no-brainer.
edit: wikilink - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilbert%27s_problems
All that said, it's still a fantastic tool, and Seaside is an amazing framework.
2) You mention admin web interface to the app. Do you think this interface has a chance of being used by a non-IT people? Will business users have conceptual appreciation for data quality issues (great majority of problems with data analysis) like deduplication, incompleteness, errors, etc. Will creating clean data repositories (and therefore QA) be the core of this service or should the user be in charge at every point, allowing him/her to even get the "garbage in" and, what follows, "garbage out"?
3) Would the ability to create private data mashups with data provided by the service provider, other publishers, or publicly available be something of core importance or nice to have?
I have a lot of other questions, since I've started working on a web solution to this problem that would work in a way that is quite similar to what you've described. I would be great if you could share your responses/other thoughts further, either here or privately on my email (in the profile). Thx!
It isn't hard to compete with pompous twits riding on pure cached prestige, when competing on merit. Though I understand that the YC application process may not be entirely merit-based.
Even one of those is a massive undertaking. Perhaps your start up idea requires more focus?
It just happens to cover several of the points in the article in a coherent manner. I'm looking forward to posting here in a few months when I'm ready for launch to see what this community thinks of it. That'll be a good test of whether I'm onto something.
Most people who read that one will think "huh?" But if someone reads it and thinks "Damn, how did he hear about what we're working on?" that's someone we'd really love to hear from.
There are of course new ways to view results, but with arguable advantage. A new startup I found recently, Viewzi (http://www.viewzi.com/) does a pretty good job. But it's not better at finding stuff than Google.
I wonder, what % of their overall hits are the homepage? It must be low, considering almost every hit there lands on a results page, but there are lots of other ways to get to a results page (Firefox, the input box at the top of a results page, etc.)
In short, Google may not have weaknesses, but their market does.
And you're right, there are very few weaknesses.
One of the startup approaches to the Google problem is to join forces with them instead of competing with them. Provide a page that wraps google search, but adds additional searchable items into the searchbar (search emails, todo lists, events, facebook, google all through one searchbar).
If you use satisfaction as the test, you may be letting the present state of things influence your thinking too much. E.g. I bet a lot of people were satisfied with pre-Google search engines, and just took their limitations for granted.
Part of the idea of 'disruptive technologies' is that they aren't incremental improvements that the current leaders will just copy, but big changes that get ignored by the current leaders.
There are lots of things they despise as inconsequential: stupid consumerish stuff like celebrity gossip, cool design, things that aren't technically demanding, etc...
The celebrity gossip industry is huge as anyone living in LA or who has bought a Star/People/Enquirer can attest. I think that might fall under the category of news, however.
I think that there might be a strength in ranking sites that have great design as opposed to crappy design. All things being equal, I'd rather read an article on a well designed page rather than on a page whose design is non-existent.
A good design means I get to the best possible search results with as little extra cruft as possible. Results are key. Google's design gives me just that -- no clutter, no confusion, no extraneous elements.
Edit: is there already software for spotting fake art? That might be a starting point, as well as another market for that kind of image processing.
Look for an email from me within the next two weeks.
You'll know it from the subject line....
Every major technology that has been standardized upon has constrained the design decisions of future thinkers in some way. Nowhere has this been more true that the computing field. Certain problems (esp. re: the web) are architectural and cannot be fixed without major demolition work.
Who will fund me (or anyone) to replace TCP/IP? POSIX? Who will even entertain the thought of wiping the slate clean of the foul residues from a quarter-century of The Wrong Thing?
Laughing? Enjoy slaving away, wasting your creative juices, while standing on broken paradigms. Or start thinking forbidden thoughts.
Why not have a simple geolocation service that matched where you're going with people in cars that will be going your direction soon? Twitter that you want to go cross-town and in seconds you get a half dozen dynamically updated commuters that are going your way. Combine this with point-by-point gps instructions from point A to B, the commuter you select gets routing information that allows them to stop at an intersection and honk to let you know your ride is here. The service consists of three parts: (1) where you're going (and where you are via GPS) (2) a back end database that can figure out from all the real-time information who matches up (3) let you choose from the options - maybe based on the kind of car, their reputation/reliability, etc. Not too hard - in fact either Twitter or FriendFeed could be a big hunk of this business.
If geolocation and routing allowed people with cars to pick up people with minimum inconvenience, and if enough people with iPhone 3G-type phones could get streamed updated directions, and if there was a simple way to establish reputation, this could change how people commute and travel in cities, saving a tremendous amount of energy.
Posted on this at http://www.cartwrightreed.com/2008/07/off-topic.html
I'm going with enthralled!
"Using a solution of microformats, browser and OS media tracking, and direct-to-creator payments, a new Web model is quite possible."
Basically, the creator applies metadata to their media, and lets it circulate (P2P, fansites, internet radio - anything) wherever it needs to go from the outset. A Creative Commons Attribution license is used.
Browsers, media players, or a special app tracks whatever is played locally and a special app regularly prompts for voluntary payment at regular times. Only 5% may pay - but in a global world with low production costs, that might be enough.
http://Musicbrainz.org can be used to retag the files if the metadata is corrupted along the way.
News can also be 'solved' the same way - track what's being consumed and let the consumer voluntarily pay later. Few will pay, but in paying, other benefits can be obtained, like the content creator being able to give previews or special releases to their known audiences.
To do that, one's web browser and media player would each have a plugin that updates the central website's playback repository. Maybe an OS level app that integrates with many possible playback apps without the user worrying about specific plugins. Spyware free of course.
See this: http://www.oddsock.org/tools/gen_fairtunes/
Start with the reddit concept: users submit and vote on links to articles, blog posts and so forth.
Then, allow users to tag each link (or otherwise add metadata), and vote on the relevence of the story to the tag. Also allow users to vote on the trustworthiness of each link and/or each source or author. Could also allow users to vote on other users, to get networks of trust.
Then you just take all that data and use it to generate personalised news, or whatever else you want.
I also like Adrian Holovaty's ideas about a data-oriented approach to news: [http://www.holovaty.com/blog/archive/2006/09/06/0307/] [http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/digitalcontent/2008/06/_future_o...]
I do agree, this sort of approach would require significantly more engagement/interaction from users than news readers are accustomed to. But there is a lot of people who want news, if some small fraction were convinced they benefit from a bit of input they could get much better news, and it would also help give better news to people who do little or no explicit inputting.
I want a location-aware, mobile device (I don't really care whether it's an iPhone, Pocket PC, Eee PC or whatever; just something I can carry in my pocket or backpack, with good-enough battery-life, a screen, GPS and wireless link). I want to ask this device: "I want to drink this brand of beer; where is the nearest pub offering it? And please show me a map and instructions toward it. And pictures of the inside. And let me listen to the music they're currently playing, and let me know what kind of food they offer as well."
This kind of stuff (actually, it's mostly a software and "logistics" problem; all the hardware and infrastructure is ready).
Also, I have a lot more down-to-earth problems: e.g. I want to clean my bathtub/shower to a shine without using 10 different products and scrubbing for hours. It turns out that no chemical company was really able to solve this problem (seriously, I've tried everything). It looks like a stupid problem but the market is probably huge, and I expect a few smart chemical engineering students to be able to find a solution to this problem.
http://www.photatobug.com if anyone's interested. :)
The plea comes from a sense of helplessness. I haven't programmed seriously in 30 years. My old skills with 360 assembler mock my ambitions. I have only a general idea of what frameworks and binding types do and couldn't tell a block or singleton method from a hole in the head. I'm not involved in the industry and am as unconnected as they come.
I follow with desperate hope TechCrunch reviews of companies offering "anyone can build" tool sets for web development only to lose hope at the limitations of rich media presentation tools and form/database creators. I need rule/logic driven input, association, display and export functionality along with the identity, security and database functionality that frameworks might provide (i.e. the equivalent complexity of a Digg 1.0).
I have a life with family, job and community responsibilities that make the learning curve of modern internet development beyond what I alone can achieve. I need a place to go with my concept that, accepting its value and in exchange for a fair part of its potential, might work with me to fulfill my vision.
I need Y Combinator Plus. Help!
Can you afford to pay someone skilled to develop it for you?
If you are going to play the role of the idea guy, you had better be able to bring more resources than the idea itself if you want to be successful.
No, I can't fund the development effort. If I could I wouldn't need a Y Combinator Plus.
I appreciate your observation about the seemingly limited value of just "the idea itself", but that's just the issue I was raising. The clear vision of why, what and how is indeed all I have to bring to the table.
Modern web development is not a mysterious form of magic, it's most comparable to a genre of theatre that relies on some very literal actors who will stick to the script exactly.
I've seen people with no more than a community college class in web design build profitable businesses online. That's one of the great things about the current state of the art, you don't need to be a graduate of the right school, or have the right background, you just need to be willing to put in a lot of work and skull sweat.
If I wanted to do something that was a bit more complex I'd start with Django and use the comments application that comes bundled with as a base for the functionality i actually needed.
But if all you need is a threaded forum you're better off with a hosted solution like http://slinkset.com/
If you're starting from zero, pick up a programming language, and go to it. Make mistakes now so that you can put them behind you.
It's called "meeting people face to face". Oh, you didn't laugh...
But seriously, if you really want to take video/online interaction further, why not put electrodes on your skin, and use a USB port to feed the data into your conversation window, and the other folks can see how you are feeling in real time? OK, that might be a bad joke, too...
And somehow missing out on a $20,000 investment stopped you?!? That is total bullshit; you would have just taken out $20,000 on a credit card, because beating ebay is literally worth billions of dollars.
I'm not going to outline our strategy to expand beyond gaming, but I think our plan is one (of many possible) that will work.
While working at a large restaurant company I realized that our issue tracking solution was very poor and/or expensive and that Corporate America would pay for a simple, effective solution. Hence I had the idea to combine commodity hardware with FOSS and sell it with service (maintenance, disaster recovery, updates, etc.) This allows everyone, large & small, to use "Enterprise" solutions at a reasonable cost by outsourcing part of the IT department (or at least the maintenance part :).
Anyway, my list is topped by something that would help me organize and manage the many things in my life. These are really just different themes on the same idea. There are quite a few websites that do some of these things, but none do it really well. For instance, I still haven't been able to find a decent site that allows me to track my automobile usage, maintenance, & info. Throw in a useful, tightly focused user forum and I think you have a winner.
a) A pet/animal web site
- reminds me to order their medicine/food
- sends birthday notifications
- genealogy builder (for professional breeders)
- stores current info (pictures, ID #, name, etc.)
b) Household things
- Major appliance info (warranty, serial #, model, etc.)
- living room paint color
- types of plants in the front garden
- insurance info
- videos of a home walkthrough
c) Automotive things
- make & model
- info (color, VIN, etc.)
- insurance info
- maintenance notification (time for an oil change)
- mileage, MPG calculator
We have built one! our website, samfind - http://samfind.com just launched and we fill the gap for those who are less technically savvy. we concentrate on making your homepage easy to navigate and create and give you access to the websites that you use. The web can just be too darn big sometimes - and you don't need it all - all the time.
We think those who are more technically savvy can get into samfind as well. We have built widgets and gadgets for the firefox set who would like to place their samfind homepage onto the start page of their choice.
I also think the idea of measuring and comparing complexity should be included. Even though this is arguably a pure math problem... A software startup will likely be involved because 1) any useful implementation will likely be software based 2) It'll be useful to most businesses in the world 3) most hackers know math.
A community has been working on Open Hardware designs for IP telephony - embedded Asterisk boxes. The technology is now in mass production, and several commercial products are being spun out of the original, community based work.
I'm not concerned about how the newspapers and producers like MSNBC and Washington Post create the story. The main problem is how do the search engine or whatever can search that news. The problem with Google News is that google is crawling and indexing all the webpage news like it was a webpage and it is not very up to date. If there was a fire right now, you won't see that in google right now. On the other hand, RSS is a different topic. First of all not all news producers have RSS. My main question is, if there is a flooding happening right now, what is the best way to find that information. You can't use google now, because they haven't crawled and indexed it. I'm thinking of news search/aggregator realtime. Another nice thing would be if I search "flooding" it should display many news sources so that I can get some perspective. What is the best way to approach this problem. Crawling and indexing is not the way to go I think if it is needed to be instant.
As a real-life example, a couple of weeks ago there was a minor earthquake. It was my first time experiencing one so I searched on Google to see what the deal was. I couldn't find anything. Then I turned to Twitter and saw tons of posts coming in about the earthquake.
Maybe it's good time to pick up the project again with a proper business plan and design :P
If you want to be a technical genius get a grant and grow a beard. I want to use the skills I have to support my family and enjoy life at the same time.
This problem falls under the classification of "critical mass" problems. I think any solution that works for one of these types of problems, is likely to work for the others. "Critical mass" is when the problem is not in coming up with a good alternative, the problem is that having a critical mass of users for your solution is going to be an important part of the value you offer to your customers.
I've never been able to flesh this out enough to the point where I was sure I had a solution that would definitely work. But here's what I came up with so far: make a website, and a company, whose focus is solely on building critical masses of users for those "new alternatives". It would consist entirely of methods and social software that could be used to build critical mass.
For example, users could state how many other users would need to be using a new service, before they would try it. Or how many of their friends were doing it. Then, you inform them when those numbers are reached- when the 100th user is there, the 1000th user, etc. (whatever they named), the third user after they posted, etc. Ideally, you would have enough people who've registered their herd-desire, that you could set off a chain reaction from 0 to the number needed for viability.
Unfortunately, that probably wouldn't work for anything but what attracts the most savvy users. I think you might have to pay people to form flash mobs. I.e. people go hang out on the website, and they get a notice of "if you're interested, go to this dating site and fill out a profile, and earn $5. Each other new user you find earns $1 for you". Especially the more social it is, the more it would work to have a flash mob thing going on, where there's only one opportunity at a time. Then you hope that a temporary critical mass sustains itself- that if it's good enough, people will stick around and the rest of the nuclear reaction can complete itself.
To some extent, what I'm proposing is the Mechanical Turk thing Amazon does, but for user bases. And you'd probably have to do a lot of user verification.
I think viral ideas are the way to in terms of low-cost and high impact ways to attract users. The smart entrepreneur will always experiment with different ideas and use metrics to guage their effectiveness. The name of the game is new users for $0 if possible. It has been said that creativity is what happens when one removes a zero from the budget, so let the brainstorming begin!
I am working on a few niche dating sites right now, and I plan to put a fresh spin on dating using the internet.
Thanks for posting on this topic.
Since I have no specific familiarity with dating sites, all I could suggest was a vague, general approach. Of course a big dating site might have a lot of money to advertise, but a small one probably can't afford it. But that's obviously one possible way to get some users.
I have an integrated solution which might also fight spam, and which would relate to contact lists / social websites. I.e. if someone is in the contact list of one of your contacts, their email gets treated as not-spam, and if you had an automated ranking algorithm for email (emails with frequent correspondents go towards the top, email from contacts is second tier, newsletters go towards the bottom, etc.), it could go towards the top. Or, the email comes from the friend of a friend of a friend, it's considered to not be spam, and put in the middle.
I'm not suggesting you be able to see your contacts' contacts, but something akin to the six degrees of separation application in Facebook. This could get computationally intensive if you were checking for enough degrees of separation. But it's obviously doable, if the Facebook application can do it- and if it were too CPU intensive, maybe some people would choose to pay for the service.
This would also fight spam even if it were only applied in a small number of email inboxes. Because, if it sees that emails from an email address aren't in the first six degrees of contacts of any of, say, the first 10 receivers, it could inform ISPs that all future emails from that address are suspected spam.
This is the idea which is most off the top of my head, so be wary of it :).
Another idea- add a reddit-like button next to emails which lets you move stuff up and down in your inbox. This would serve dual functions- letting you sort emails and to-do items by priority (a right click on the button would let you move stuff up or down by 10, 50 places, etc.), and it would also tell your filter what you prioritize (which contacts, which key words, etc.- like, PG's filter might notice he likes emails with the SIP "Lisp" in it).
That wraps up my ideas that are relevant to PG's list, as far as I can recall. If anyone has any questions about any of them, let me know. I've fleshed out most of these much further than you see, I just don't feel like doing a 50,000 word writeup as a comment. If you want to contact me privately, my email address is ben dott seeley att gmail dott com.
I think something like a PGPedia, where articles are signed by the author and ranked much like this comment system would be great. There would be no editing of articles, just re-submissions. And nothing need ever be deleted, just down moderated.
You could search PGPedia by what's top rated, or by what famous uses have highly rated, what does Stephen Hawking think of articles on gravity, etc.
I expect encyclopedia style article to be top ranked but they would also link to longer more in depth articles, and those to even longer articles.
I just don't see any way to make money from that?
Office users need something that places a genuinely excellent wordprocessing frontend as a frontend to a repository. Within this you'd have to facilitate good search, allow for data flexibility. Generally at the moment you need to be able to produce views of word processed documents as PDF, single-page HTML, multi-page HTML (oh - there's a style need I missed in my other comment), XML and IP-based API. The frontend needs to effortlessly handle massive documents without compromising the frontend and it needs to be possible to edit all of a document at once, or sectors of it. All this can be coordinated with a smart approach to use of the existing filesystem model.
The storage format needs to be textual to facilitate source-control and version diffing.
With the office space it's important to separate the things that users care about from what they don't. They care about the lovely frontend and a small subset of features. They don't really care if it backs on to a powerful custom engine. They care about features in the big-picture sense, but would not necessarily demand that they be offered in the frontend if they could be better achieved through another mechinism. Fortunately Microsoft have provided stunning tools for third party developers who want to extend Word and Excel and there are masses of good docs around on it.
"The answer for the music industry, for example, is probably to give up insisting on payment for recorded music and focus on licensing and live shows."
This is almost blogosphere orthodoxy now. If anything the wild success of allofmp3 shows that people will pay if the price is right. The price point is wrong, not the model. High volume + lower price = Increased total revenue. This is the point we make when we meet with the labels.
"But what happens to movies? Do they morph into games?"
No they don't. Which is more popular the new Batman film or the new Batman game? There’s plenty of room for both.
I've been studying problem #17 since 2002. I've got some great ideas that I want to implement, but I don't know if they generate revenue quickly enough to make a successful startup. There's a big chicken-and-egg problem in this area.
Most of my effort so far has been on how to facilitate micropayments using only existing widely-deployed crypto such as TLS & SHA. I have a solution that should work for transfers involving two online banks. Transfers involving three or more banks are significantly more difficult to do while maintaining safety and liveliness.
Please contact me if you're interested in this area.
In the fall you will be able to contact us. Come build the future.
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I don't work for Google, but I do have a lot of respect for the company. I've never perceieved any 'design' problem.
In terms of their interfaces, I think they've probably spent a huge amount of time on design, and got it exactly right. Simple, sparse and functional.
From everything I've heard, the 'design' of their software and system architecture is also top notch.
I can't see exactly where you're going with the whole design dependency thing. Search and design seem like very different things that shouldn't 'depend' on each other.
Google avoids bad design by the simple expedient of making everything sparse and functional, which is the way to go if you're not a great designer.
Well, if educational materials were either cheap because of my idea for #17, or the government were putting educational materials in the public domain (that would be a good place to start, in my opinion, before branching out), that would help.
I'm in the middle of an article about reforming the education system (how the institution could be restructured). It will be posted to anamazingmind.com/blog (a friend's blog) when I'm done. It would definitely create new educational markets, and online education would be a big winner.
I read this post with interest. I'm working with a company that has a new payment system that you may be interested in. Their technology can turn any mobile phone into a secure point of sale. In addition, we've found that their backbone allows us to send any type of content to any cell phone without the need for an agreement with the carrier.
I'm also working with a couple of other companies that have some of the ideas you mentioned you are interested in.
If you are interested talking, please contact me at jim@iBuyTechPatents.com.
I got nothing on this, since I'm not in the target market. Btw, my pet theory is that smart people will have the best luck inventing commercially successful solutions, if they focus on jobs and activities that hardly any smart people do. Like, bagging groceries, and data entry. I've done both of those, and I had plenty of germinal ideas on how they could be improved or automated.
The corollary to this would be that it's hard to be a big new success in Web 2.0. Tons of smart people are avid Internet users, and they're interested in that. Unless you're towards the apex of that group, coming up with a market-shaking new Web 2.0 idea will be tough. This is also the reason I left quant finance- given how many smart people were competing with me, I could much more easily invent something useful for other people (which feels better and is less stressful), and make a fortune that way.
But here's the browsing idea I'd like (I don't know if this has been proposed already- I hope it's technically feasible): cluster links. This is where you click on a link, and it opens a whole lot of links at the same time. Like, a link to open all the links on the front page of Hacker News in new tabs or new windows. Or all the links in one of PG's articles. Or a link which opens all the links from the bibliography of an article. Or a link which opens Google's top 20 search results.
For someone with a lot of bandwidth, and not listening to music online, and browsing from home, automatically opening 30 windows at once is not going to cause any problems- just close whichever ones look uninteresting. I open an awful lot of links every day, and my fingers get tired. Make it easy for me.
If there was some sort of a risk (like a spam link that has 200 links), make it so a warning window opens if, say, more than 40 windows would open (or a number chosen by the user)- allowing the user to individually decline or accept links, or give a batch OK/reject to all of them.
Corollary: this might be a useful idea in, like, software help searches. A lot of times it's hard to tell which help page would be useful when I do a keyword search- why not be able to open all the results at once? I hate wasting time making a decision about "is this worth opening or not?" when usually it would be easier to make that decision when it's already open. If the summary is so great, put it at the top of each opened page.
Why is this important? I don't recall reading anywhere that Y Combinator takes on responsibility for a persons motives when starting up a company...
Contact me directly at email@example.com and 845 788 4180.
I'd rather make a small little application that tries to do something far less ambitious than decapitate Microsoft or Ebay.
Ah youth. I wish I had known about YC when I was more idealistic.
I think Y Combinator doesn't take its model far enough. What I'd like to see could be called "Human Resource Investment"- investing in people, not startups per se. This would be structured as a debt and/or equity deal. You find a talented person, and invest in them using money, technology, education, and social resources. Then you charge a high interest rate (for the reliable people), or make money off of a % of all their future income (for the high risk types) for the next 30 years or whatever (in addition to the principle).
The advantage to the investee that this has over credit card debt and other forms of debt is that you don't require anyone to make debt payments until they are making over a certain $ figure per year. This way nobody has to worry about going bankrupt, becoming poor, or social shame. They also get access to major institutional support, which is difficult for people to get (and social/institutional support is one of the few things people are generally missing in their lives, if they don't go to church). No longer do the poor, inexperienced, young- but energetic and talented- types need to scrap for everything.
The advantage to Human Resource Investment, Inc., is that even if there is a high rate of delinquency, just a few Zuckerbergs and Grahams and you make a fortune. You also can make money off of them, even if they fail a few times, since it's a long-term contract, rather than a project contract. This way other VC firms don't make money off of Y Combinator having educated someone with a failed venture, and then they do another, successful startup with Sequoia or whomever.
You also have access to a large pool of talented people with whom you have a good relationship, and you've already evaluated, who would make good potential hires for startups or whatever other companies you are affiliated with. If HRI were savvy enough, you could lock up most of the available talent the VC world relies on, before anyone is taking a percentage of the money they're going to eventually make.
Think of it as government for profit- you choose the people to invest in, helping them enormously (as government services are supposed to do) and you make a profit with "taxes". Given that governments have to invest in everyone, and are inefficient to boot, yet still roughly break even, I see no reason why a private company couldn't do the same thing, but focus on talented people, do a good job of it, and make a nice profit.
I've done the math before, and the conservative estimates I used worked out to a very handsome profit. But it gets complicated, and it depends very much on the assumptions that are made. If anyone wants an example, I'll be happy to provide it.
Oh yeah, humans just love to be called 'resources'.
In case you couldn't tell from the post, I was talking about investing in the talent people have. I'm not talking about slave labor, I'm talking about doing the kind of stuff Y Combinator does, and making it even more personal and supportive over the long haul. A real partnership, so that people are even more likely to succeed in the long run.
However I don't like this idea at all, it's what creates elitism and closed circles in the first place. Our society already is institutionalized to the hilt, I wished people again found their natural ability to create trust relationships, from scratch.
I completely agree with this. I don't honestly feel people of good faith need to deal with complicated rules or institutions. But not everyone is willing to go that route, so this is an idea which might serve the other 99%.
First off, it might be the case that anyone could be worth investing in (in time, money, energy, expertise, caring). I think if done right, it's true for everyone. I don't really have it as a goal that just the "talented" people are invested in. Just that that is the obvious place to start.
And I think that if someone who is talented is already well-connected or has a rich family, this would probably have little use for them. But, for someone who is ambitious and hard-working but starting out from a low place, this would be a boon- they need some kind of support, more than anyone else. If they could find others willing to create "trust relationships", presumably they would do it, since that is obviously a better deal. But few seem to manage it :/.
I sometimes wonder whether it isn't that 1% that carries the weight of society. And the Internet lowers the barrier to creating new trust relationships from scratch. If you were interested in that sort of thing, be my friend.
While a startup for startup has to meet what market wants, instead of protecting alumni, professors and students.
If a startup for startups to serve their needs will be successful, it will not be like an elite club (because as a young startup, it wants all old businesses out and be replaced by it and it will be there until it will be replaced by other startups). But a new business that requires much lower fee like recruiters/VCs but provide better benefit/cost for startups to acquire resources.
Thanks for sharing you insight with us.
Perhaps you can give us some advice on a raise - $20K doesn't cover two weeks burn rate.
How one can submit the Proposal and the ideas? I think I have something that I am working and would like to see if you guys are interested in to it? So I need a rough-guideline and procedure to submit my idea to you guys (by the way, we are in the process to Patent our idea as well).