Archived entries for ideas and innovations

Idea: artistic feature for Pitt Street Mall

Pair of tits

Who wouldn’t want such a lovely pair of tits to grace our mall?

Pitt Street Mall is arguably Sydney CBD’s most popular spot for getting together. Yet in spite of the recent penetration of new and exotic foreign brands such as Zara, it still lacks a certain… sex appeal. To get to the point, what it needs is a defining feature, a landmark like the Maniquin Pis in Brussels, Belgium or the Malls Balls in Rundle Mall, Adelaide, which the people of Sydney can grab a hold of – from ‘bra boys to the blue mountains folk, and to help this great city keep abreast of trends in urban design.

Here’s the idea: Pitt’s Tits – a bronze sculpture featuring two small birds.

You’re probably wondering “why tits?” After all, they’re usually found in the Northern parts, and down here we’re more preoccupied with issues like whether Tasmania should be a bush or not (referring of course, to the very serious issue of deforestation).

But of course, Australia is a former-British colony, thus many self-professed “true blue Aussies” will have parents, grandparents and even great grandparents that miss the beautiful tits of their youth. Not to mention our immigrants – even though they might have come to love Aussie birds, still miss the tits back home.

And then there’s the Strine saying “useless as tits on a bull” – which obviously refers to how useless these birds would be in that situation because they mostly eat caterpillers, seeds and nuts – unlike the parasite eating oxpeckers, which would actually help by eating the fleas and other parasites, which just goes to show, even in language, tits are always on our minds and on the tips of our tongues.

But back to the idea, Wikipedia says that tits “are noisy and social birds” which makes a nice pair all the better as a symbol attracting attention, and even eye-catching, as long as they’re sufficiently large so that it draws your attention to them even in the midst of a crowd.

Despite how great this idea is, I’m sure there will be start opposition from those who would much prefer a local bird, and suggest instead an Abbott’s Booby, native to Christmas Island. However, this country’s already got an abundance of boobies from Abbott, which is why that thought can and should be summarily dismissed.

You’d be a fool to not like this idea.

Spec ad

I get a lot of ideas from dreams. This morning I woke up with one particularly vivid dream still fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d try and jot it down in the form of a basic storyboard for a spec ad. Of course, the dream contained a lot more weird and irrelevant stuff both before and after the scene described here, and I’ve done a little bit of fleshing out. But otherwise, here’s my idea. Michael Bay, are you free next Wednesday?

Storyboard page 1
Storyboard page 2
Storyboard page 3
Storyboard page 4
Storyboard page 5
Storyboard page 6

Idea: Thrashtags

A single yellow smiley face in a sea of blue frowny facesThe primary reason why I prefer to share my status updates on Facebook instead of Twitter is the ability to have “threaded conversations”. That is, Facebook’s comment functionality helps neatly group together friends’ comments and replies to my post, as opposed to Twitter, where any and all messages are independent Tweets in their own right.

The hashtag emerged as Twitter’s way of identifying similar conversation topics (I won’t explain what they are here; if you don’t know but would like to find out, check out this Twitter help page), but they aggregate messages from everybody that’s talking about the same thing. What if you wanted to have a very conversation with a specific group of people?

Introducing the Thrashtag (thread hashtag): a uniquely generated hashtag that allows you to conduct, identify and track specific conversation threads within Twitter.

The core concept is best explained using another tool from the Twitterverse – Shortened URLs are assigned a unique “hash key” – in the form of a sequence of random letters and numbers (e.g. 2bYgqR) appended to the end of the domain name (e.g. Similarly, the Thrashtag service generates a unique hash (e.g. #2bYgqR) for use in Tweets, which allows conversations to be uniquely identified (“Thrashed”). Also like, Thrashtags can be assigned to a registered user, who is designated the “conversation starter” (a “Thrasher”).

The key here is not building Yet Another Twitter Client. Rather, the objective is to build a database of Thrashers/Thrashtag pairs and provide an API allowing developers to incorporate Thrashtag functionality into their own clients. The goal is to refine the idea of being able to have threaded conversations on Twitter and explore what value that would bring to the overall microblogging experience.

Idea: notify

A bright red exclamation mark in the midst of a number of darkened question marksHere’s one for the Cybernauts: a platform that is able to create a unified notification list out of a variety of sources, including news feeds (RSS), e-mail, instant messaging, Web site comments, discussion forums, etc.

As a frequent Internet user that roams far and wide across the plains of Cyberspace, the thing that frustrates me most is that I keep having to return to sites that I visit infrequently – maybe a news site with an interesting article that a friend posted on Facebook – simply to check whether somebody has replied to a comment I made.

The low-hanging fruit are the existing platforms for which a notification system already exists (RSS, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, etc.), and on top of that some standard and popular applications such as vBulletin or phpBB, where the app could scrape the User Control Panel.

Ultimately what I want is a big-ass list of all the Web sites and applications that I’ve used, and for the ones which have been updated to bubble to the surface, e.g.

  • Twitter (32)
  • Ars Technica OpenForum (12)
  • Gmail (9)
  • Facebook (7)
  • Hotmail (7)
  • OCAU Forums (4)
  • Australian Frequent Flyer Forums (1)
  • DTV forums (0)
  • etc.

Right now I use 2 programs for this: Digsby, which shows me the status of Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn; and Feedly which is pretty much just a front-end interface for Google Reader, which handles RSS. Neither of these platforms can handle Forums, and Feedly can only handle Web site comment systems that export to RSS (which are few and far between).

It would save me oodles of time having to keep going back and checking various Websites for updates. Am I the only one that has this problem?

Idea: I’ll pay you to answer this question…

Do you prefer red or blue?

You’ve probably already answered it in your head. Now would you share that answer with me if I offered you 1 cent? I’m guessing you would considering (a) you’re already here anyway, and (b) well, it’s an easy one – why not? During idle moments (like reading blogs) a person’s resistance to menial tasks are lowered because the mind is searching for something, anything interesting to lock on to.

Piggy bankHow much idleness do you experience in an average day? I’m not talking about the moments where you’re consciously choosing to relax, but the occasions where you’re forced to do nothing because you’re stuck on public transport or in a traffic jam, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or any number of other things that tax our time and test our patience. What if you were given the opportunity during your idleness to perform some small, quick tasks in return for a small reward?

I believe there’s huge untapped potential here, which is the driving force behind this idea: harness the potential of people who are interested in being rewarded during idle moments for performing small, simple tasks.

In execution, the idea is to build a smartphone application whereby users get given basic tasks to perform: answer a survey question, vote on a poll, view an ad, play a short game, etc. for which they earn points. When enough points are accumulated these can then be redeemed for shopping vouchers.

How will this make money?
The business model behind this idea is the rapid accumulation of useful data. Core to the success of this venture will be the ability to package this up with analysis and insights, in a format that’s easy to digest. Potential clients are many and varied, from product designers looking to test new concepts, to political parties looking to gauge constituent sentiment on policy issues.

With a large member base, it also becomes possible to start selling advertising space directly to businesses instead of using a prepackaged service such as Apple iAd or Google Mobile Ads (although you could still use those as a springboard at the start).

Why smartphones?
Take a look around you. Do a quick poll of your friends. How many don’t have smartphones? Exactly. The other point is that people always carry their phones around with them.

Why points?
Psychologically speaking, the satisfaction of earning 100 points is much greater than the satisfaction of earning 1 cent, even if one knows the exchange rate. People are willing to do stupid things to accumulate points – e.g. on Facebook, over 2,700 people follow iReward (including me). Each weekday they publish an “iCode”, which when entered into their Website earns you a princely sum of 5 points – equivalent to 0.5 cents. If you do the math it’s an hourly rate of roughly $1.80 an hour, yet thousands of people spend, cumulatively, several hours doing this each and every day.

Why shopping vouchers?
Again, it’s a psychological thing. Shopping vouchers give a much greater impression of worth than cash, which always seems to come and go. I’m a member of several sites that offer cashback paid directly into your bank account, but that money just ends up being added to (and in good times, dwarfed by) the existing pool of funds, whereas with shopping vouchers I can always remember what I used them to buy.

What kinds of tasks?
Ideally every task would be interesting or fun in some kind of way: a vox pop style quiz question, a brand-sponsored interactive game, or a plain old banner click – none should take more than a few seconds to complete. Most tasks will be driven by client requests, but to keep the mix of tasks interesting, and to tide members over during gaps with sourcing, some low-value fluff could be offered, like “who’d win in a battle between The Terminator and Robocop?” etc.

Why such small rewards?
The first thing that occurs to some people when I shared this idea with them was “it’s not worth it. Why would I waste my time if the reward is only 1 cent?” But going back the question of “why points” there’s a psychological predisposition amongst many people to want to accumulate things, an observation I’ve made about myself, and which I’m sure is shared amongst a significantly large number of people.

There are a host of sites that offer incentives for completing marketing surveys: RewardCentral, iReward, My Opinions, PureProfile, AC Nielsen, That’s What I Think, Lightspeed Research, etc. etc. But let’s look specifically at RewardsCentral, one of the larger and more established players, boasting over half a million members. Like most of the consumer research panels above, they offer members the opportunity to take surveys for up to 250 reward points (equivalent to $2.50) depending on its length, which on average takes around 15 – 20 minutes to complete. Each day they also offer “Web clicks” (click on an advertising link) which pays 3 points, and a “Web survey” that pays 2 – a grand total of 5 cents per day. Yet this still earns me enough to “cash out” $60 a year.

With only the basic offer of paying 1 cent per question, assuming one completes 10 every weekday for a year (5 on the way to work, 5 on the way back) that works out to be $26. Make that 5 cents per task and now you’re talking about $130. Now consider that Google charges some advertisers several dollars per click through their keyword bidding system, if you were to pass most of that profit to the user… (this is a rabbit hole that I don’t have time to explorer here, but think about the sites like MoneybackCo and Buckscoop, which pay users the referral or affiliate fees offered by merchants, after pocketing a small cut. Take that concept and apply it to advertising – paying users for the privilege of advertising to them… that could be a Google slayer).

Where to after this?
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far – this is a long post even by my standards, and still only represents a fraction of the total idea. To give you a sense of where this could go though, the next evolution of this idea is to take the model of small tasks/small rewards, and apply it to big tasks/big rewards, in essence creating a freelance network encompassing not only digital work, but also manual jobs. But that’s another post for another day!

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