Archive for Ideas


User Generated Tour Guide Platform

I’ve had an idea recently and a few friends have suggested that it wasn’t half bad.

The ever popular weekend/short city break can be tough to plan. Time is short and you want to experience as much as possible. There’s so much information on the web that curation has become a necessary lifeline. Facebook is busy with people sharing recommendations. Quora can help you with personal suggestions from other humans. TripAdvisor gives you the aggregated opinion of thousands, and WikiTravel gives a condensed list edited by a select few.

Not bad. But whilst you may appreciate the recommendations of your friends or the collective wisdom of many, these opinions still represent the suggestions people not entirely like you. On the other end of the spectrum, Lonely Planet or an editorial provides the opinion of just one person. That’s perfect if your needs resonate with those of the author. Such guides also lack social validation and are quickly outdated.

I envisage that there’s still a need for a middle ground; a platform that provides access to a mass number of searchable, social validated, and highly-curated city guides.

Paint the picture. You arrive on the site and see a world map with markings for all the cities offering guides. Select your city, and you’ll see a list of guides created for that city. Some are for those on a 48-hour weekend stint, some are child friendly, others for foodies, revellers, and so on.

Delving into a guide, you’ll be presented with a detailed map, annotated with the recommended attractions, restaurants and so on. Maybe it even marks out the suggested route and provides supplementary information on the cost and time you can anticipate the trip to consume. Read reviews, closing times other pertinent information for each location. Hit print and get a handy document to accompany your trip.

Not wholly satisfied with the guide? Tag it, leave a review, merge it with another guide, remove some attractions, swap a restaurant and there you go. You could then share your newly created iteration with others on the site. All this feedback can be used to help users find the guide suitable for them; imagine going to Paris listing, selecting the ‘foodie’ filter and seeing the top 5 rated guides come up.

The online travel industry is a tough nut to crack, but there’s plenty of money flowing, making advertising and affiliate commissions the obvious monetisation route. Another option is to charge for the guides or solicit gratuities (taking a cut before it’s passed onto the original author) -but they’re always tricky options to pull off.

Some sites like the beautifully presented and curated unlike.net allow you to build and share a tour, but it’s not a core feature of the site and lacks depth.

I’m surprised this doesn’t exist, unless I’m mistaken?

Update: TripWorlf allows you to build a multi-location trip and then compile it as a PDF with map, location addresses and descriptions. Stay.com pretty much does everything I had in mind and has been going since 2009.

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 12th May '11

Missing Snow Products

This year’s skiing trips have inspired some ideas of missing products and services.

Map Holder:
It’s a royal pain digging out a massive map from your pocket with your jumbo gloves on. How about a transparent pocket that attaches to your arm with some elastic bands? Not so attractive, but a lot handier. There should be enough space if the map is pre-folded to show just the particular domain you’re on. Alternatively, a special micro-map could be produced and the map holder feature a built-in magnifying glass that could be rolled over the map.

Cheap Action Camera:
I saw quite a number of snowboarders sporting a GoPro digital camera mounted atop their helmets. Given the decent quality and obvious low-price of cameras built into phones, surely there’s scope to make a much cheaper lo-res compact camera that could be strapped onto the wearer’s goggles. Something like this one.

Wireless Headphones:
Listening to a banging tune whilst speeding down a piste is an almost euphoric experience. But it’s not ideal to have a cable running from your pocket to your head and having to dig deep to reach the controls. Better would be some wireless headphones that an iPod Shuffle/Nano could plug into on one side, with big button controls (glove-friendly) on the other. The best I could find is the Elecom iPod Shuffle wireless headphones.

On-slope Massages:
The desire for a quick shoulder massage is pretty strong by the end of a gruelling day. I’ve spotted a number of massage parlours in resort, but never on the slope. Would be rather conditional on good weather.

On-slope Photography:
DIY movies and photography on piste is becoming pretty popular, but a point-and-click camera has its limits and taking a £500 DSLR camera on piste isn’t so wise. So, how about setting up shop in a prime action-shot position (steep slope, snow park etc) and then taking photos of random people as they come down. Promote the website address with a big banner and folk can then login the next day and pay to download a more professional shot.

 Tags: Ideas   Published: 16th February '11

The Bugs Are Back

Just when you thought the infamous bug restaurant idea had been truly shelved, it’s now back in the limelight thanks to an interesting call from BBC’s Dragons’ Den. An official press release will ensue.

Update: I’m waiting to speak to the Beeb in the next few days.

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 20th March '08

Meta Charity

With such a plethora of worthy charities pleading for your monthly commitment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to figure out how you can make a difference. It’s not possible to give to all the causes that you care about and this may play a part in why so few of us give at all. It’s a poor excuse – but I feel that it’s a reality for many.

This gave me the idea for a new way of giving; a ‘Meta Charity’. Individuals make a monthly pledge to this single entity, and utilise a web platform to dynamically decide how their donation is employed; based upon their value set.

Each charity is held in a database and attributed with all of its charitable activities. Users are questioned how they rate the relative importance of some specific social and economic issues, and this information is processed to provide a bespoke suggestion of how their donation could be distributed. With a large group of users, charities will still receive a worthwhile lump sum each month, whilst the individual feels that they are helping many issues in a way that was not previously possible. Moreover, the platform would allow the user to instantly redistribute funds; reflecting for current affairs and changing needs.

Technically, the concept is not overly complex. Furthermore, user submissions, ratings and volunteer moderators could be leveraged to reduce operational overheads. A single corporate sponsor should be easy to recruit given the lack of ties to any one organisation and help ensure that 100% of proceeds are put into use.

Meta Charity

Update: I submitted the idea to Facebook’s fbFund in late February. No response as yet.

Update #2: Facebook rejected my proposal for a fbFund grant. Too bad. Anyone else fancy donating some angel-level investment?

Update #3: I’ve purchased the domain name metacharity.com just in case I ever get around to developing this idea and can’t think of a better name.

 Tags: Business, Ideas, Internet   Published: 5th February '08

Groceries 2.0

Whilst not a frequent user, I’m nonetheless pretty darn impressed by Tesco’s online grocery delivery service. Retailing an inventory of tens of thousands of items online is a complex endeavourer and they’ve done an outstanding job of providing a fairly painless user experience.

An e-commerce store faces several interesting challenges in comparison to its physical store counterpart. A store layout systematically guides the consumer, but online, they’re presented with a blank canvas. Tesco relieves this problem its Clubcard members, allowing them to view items recently purchased in-store so that they can quickly add the items they typically purchase. Moreover, repeat orders become increasingly more simple, with a generally improved familiarity with the site and the simplicity of adding your frequently purchased items.

This streamlined process increasing works against Tesco. The shopping experience is reduced to a 10-minute chore, and crucially the consumer is consequently less likely to be lured into making impulse purchases – the bread and butter of driving revenue for a supermarket. There is no snazzy point-of-sale displays and promotions. Eye-grabbing packaging looses it’s effectiveness. It’s now far easier to add previously purchases items than it is to experiment with something new. And the ease of scanning prices creates more rational decision making.

However, I propose that there is great potential for Tesco to capitalize on unique cross-selling opportunities that aren’t otherwise possible. In a traditional store, it’s necessary for items to be separated based on their category (fresh, frozen, dairy and so on), even if they’re complimentary. Online however, there is scope to use data and algorithms to drive cross-selling through recommending complimentary products.

In the hypothetical scenario shown below, I’ve added burgers and burger buns to my shopping basket. Using data-driven knowledge of items frequently purchased together, I’m now presented with a message suggesting that I might also be interested in purchasing some tomato ketchup or some onions. The user can easily ignore the message and proceed on, or they might just think “shucks, I am getting pretty low on ketchup, so I ought to get a bottle. Gee, thanks for reminding me Tesco”. Okay, I embellished it a little – but I’m sure that most users wouldn’t find this to be overly intrusive, but instead adding genuine value.

Tesco Cross Selling

(This is a mockup of how the UI might not, it’s not a screenshot of the current design).

The opportunities are endless: peppercorn sauce with your steak; Naan bred with your curry, and so on. The concept isn’t new and I dig up few related patents that are are rather interesting, such as “Collaborative recommendations using item-to-item similarity mappings”.

Tesco could take a leaf out of the book from the master of e-commerce; Amazon – and discover other ways to utilise transaction data to boost revenue. Possibilities include allowing users to provide product ratings and feedback, view popular items, and see other products purchased by other users with similar tastes.

Update: Since drafting this post, Tesco.com have updated their site; adding some additional functionality and improving the design. They’ve not added any of the features I describe, but they’ve done a great job at improving the usability by making it even more clear what steps the user needs to take.

 Tags: Business, Ideas, Internet   Published: 27th January '08

Elevator Pitch

It’s been great to get feedback on the ideas that I’ve posted. It’s also spurred on a new idea – a site where users can pitch their dotcom start-up idea in the style of a 2-minute elevator pitch, gather feedback, perfect their pitch and raise its profile to potential investors.

The homepage would feature a single pitch and encourage visitors to submit their thumbs up/down rating. Once 200 votes have been cast, the next approved idea in the queue will get posted onto the homepage. A leaderboard lists all previously submitted ideas, akin to TechCrunch’s CrunchBase directory.

A user who has their own idea, could perhaps have a choice between completing a template that requests details on the idea, or filling in a blank canvas with text, images and video that communicates the concept in a 2-minute attention span.

Here’s a sketched mock-up:

Elevator Pitch

There isn’t anything else like it; the only site that has a resemblance is the now doomed yourelevatorpitch.com, which ran from March ’05 and closed down for ‘refurbishment’ in November ’06. However, during this period it touts that it published 100 pitches, gathered 14,000 ratings and even picked up an award.

Future iterations could allow entrepreneurs to seek microfunding from users, or recruit team members to join the start-up. The site could benefit from user profiling, commenting and more granular user voting. Another idea would be to allow journalists, industry experts and VCs to cast their ‘supervote’, which would give educated feedback to the idea submitter.

Thoughts?

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 26th December '07

Aaargh!

I was in an IM conversion and wanted to write the sound of a grunt-like noise, but I couldn’t quite figure out how it would be best spelt. This gave me an idea for a user-powered website that would give people ideas on how to write sounds and noises.

Visitors can submit an audio recording of the noise they’re looking to be spelt and other users then provide their suggestions, which are ranked by their ratings. Lastly, tags would enable logical browsing and searching of previously submitted sounds.

It has the potential to become a humorous resource and be of true value to authors and editors (there really is nothing else like it). However, I have some doubt whether it could draw wide appeal, or if it could build a significant community of loyal users who interact regularly.

Here are some wireframe drawings to illustrate how the site could function with a bare bones feature set:

Aaargh Homepage

The homepage would outline the concept and guide them to submit a recording of a sound, or browse through the existing directory using tags. Future iterations could allow the building of a tag query; where multiple selections are made to narrow down the search.

After the user submits a recording, they’re asking to tag it with labels that describe the sound. They must also specify their idea on its spelling and a description outlining the context in which it’s used.

Aaargh Soundpage

Once created, other users who stumble upon the page can listen to the recording, vote on an existing suggestion, or make their own. The list is dynamically sorted so that the highest-rated idea rises to the top of the list, much like UrbanDictionary.

I’ve just taken on an impressive Ukrainian web development studio to work on a few projects. I’ll approach them with a full brief to see how much it’d set me back to build a functional pilot site.

Please leave a comment with your views!

Update: Thanks for all the great comments. I’ve set it up so that posts are automatically pulled into my Facebook profile, bringing in a nice extra chunk of visitors. However, I end up with comments on the blog and some on Facebook. Thankfully, I found a neat little script that pulls in Facebook comments into WordPress, making everything consolidated. Phhew!

Update #2: For the user to be able to make a recording, the site would need a Flash-powered sound recorder using Flash Media Server – costing $995 a pop. I’ll give this idea a miss.

 Tags: Business, Ideas, Internet   Published: 16th December '07

OneHundredTees

Another day and another wacky idea for you to digest.

The premise of OneHundredTees is to set around embarking on a mission to get 100 CEOs (belonging to FTSE 100 companies) to donate a signed t-shirt. Their autograph would also bind them to the pledge that if, and only if, I obtain all 100 t-shirts, the collection will be auctioned off for charity and that each company must each match the final sale price. The awarding charity would be chosen by the consensus of the sites visitors.

There are a few dynamics that enable the idea to possibly work. The key ingredient is that the companies would only have to commit to donating if the project is a success, and that this would necessitate press interest to occur. Therefore, they only take the financial burden if they get something out of it – an essential dynamic for these elite folk.

A spin-off idea is to swap CEOs for football players, or celebrities. This would be more likely to drive interest from the media and increase the intrinsic value of the collection, but on the other it’d be more difficult to grab their attention since so many other people poach them for charitable causes.

Thoughts?

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 16th December '07

Knol (akin to Digital Wisdom)

Yesterday, Google announced Knol; a knowledge-sharing platform similar to About.com and Wikipedia. 2-years back, I commissioned a designer to draw conceptual designs for Digital Wisdom; a revenue-sharing, multi-author platform that is amazingly similar in style and functionality to Knol (and it’s contemporaries; Squidoo, Hupages and Wikia).

See for yourself. A mockup of Knol (click to expand):

Knol

and what the Digital Wisdom hompage may have looked like:

Digital Wisdom Homepage

and a hypothetical article page:

Digital Wisdom Article Page

Perhaps I gave in too quickly on this idea!

 Tags: Business, Ideas, Internet   Published: 14th December '07

Bugs are Disgusting

I previously touched upon the fact that I’ve never intentionally eaten a bug, so it made sense to give them a try as the next part of understanding the viability of my insect restaurant concept.

Giant Toasted AntsSurprisingly, I was able to pick up a packet of Mopani Worms right here in Dublin. The verdict? Pretty disgusting. The flavour can be best described as very salty beef jerky and this opinion was almost unanimously shared amongst my colleagues.

Next up, I bought some Giant Toasted Ants from Selfridges in London. They’re described as being like “crispy bacon with an earthy taste” and whilst being somewhat more palatable than the worms, they still left you with the immediate urge to grab a drink to wash away the lingering taste.

This weekend, I shall be sampling a Green Crocodile Curry as part of our now customary weekly curry night. I suspect that a far simpler, tried and tested global food restaurant would be a far safer enterprise.

Update: It was rather quite tasty – something like chewy fishy chicken.

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 13th October '07