The Winklevoss strategy

The Winklevoss twins are my heroes.

They made a half-arsed attempt at a marginal business idea, which Mark Zuckerberg stole, improved, and actually implemented. At the end of the day they basically did nothing, spent a total of $400 (plus legal fees!), and wound up receiving $65 million.

In terms of return-on-effort we are talking six figures per hour! Legendary.

So here’s my new business strategy:

  1. Come up with a poorly-thought-out business idea.
  2. Find a talented developer/engineer and trick them into stealing it.
  3. Do nothing while they make the idea viable and put in the hundreds of hours needed to make it work.
  4. Sue them.

To wit: I think 3D printing is going to be huge – nearly any object that can be described can also be manufactured, with little or no human labour. Once 3D printers becomes ubiquitous and commoditized the main bottleneck will be on the design side.

So here’s the idea: set up a website where people can post their requirements for an object, and how much they’re willing to pay. Other people post 3D designs that implement the object. The best design wins the prize. Basically, the 99designs model applied to 3D objects.

It’ll be huge. Someone should totally do it.

(Dear lawyers: In terms of jurisdiction, this was written in Victoria, Australia; is hosted somewhere in the US; and is visible in every country that doesn’t block WordPress. Go figure.)


Pedestrian polling

A holy grail in the field of geospatial science is the emotion map. Ideally, this is a real-time map showing where people are located and how they feel, presumably colour-coded by emotion. I don’t know if they have any practical uses, but they’d be a nice way to gauge the mood of a city.

The problem is, these maps are almost impossible to generate. Previous attempts have relied on volunteers carrying some kind of recording device which may periodically ask them how they feel, or perhaps record their heart rate and skin conductivity and try to infer their emotional state from that. Unfortunately, these approaches result in a very small sample size, typically skewed toward university students, and they are never on-going projects.

So I thought, if you want to know how people feel, why not just ask them?

The idea is to place a highway-style lane-selection sign over a reasonably wide stretch of footpath, with a motion sensor covering each of the “lanes”. Whenever someone walks under one of the three options it beeps and records their selection. Sure, it wouldn’t record spatial information like an ideal emotion map, but you’d get a large and unbiased population sample, and you could always deploy a few of them around a city.

The nice thing about this setup is that once it’s deployed it’s fairly easy to change the signs and ask different questions. I am feeling … focussed/frisky/meh. AFL premiers 2012 … Hawks/Swans/Who cares?

Not only would it provide useful data to city planners, I suspect it would be popular with pedestrians. I mean, how nice would it be to have an interactive city that cares about your opinions?