Wouldn’t it be cool to have furniture that always faced you? You could make swivel chairs that have radio detectors in them that could focus on an emitter you put on your key chain. Then a little stepper motor would turn the swivel chair till the seat faced the signal. And once you sat, it would turn off the tracking mechanism.

Now that I think of it, you would have to aim slightly to the left of the emitter, because it would be in your pocket, and you don’t want the seat to point at your pocket, but your butt as you are about to sit down.

I’m more happy than I should be that I got to say “but your butt” in a blog post. At this moment, hilarity has no other definition.

The chair would need to be solar, otherwise you’d have to plug it in.

Operating along the lines of my generalized synthetics muse, a piece of software that combined words from a database to form novel combinations, I’ve thought of a Patent Muse. This software would search the US patent office and randomly select two inventions which when juxtaposed may form a novel combination. As with my Random Muse, if the Muse and its output is not worthy of utilitarian consideration, then it may at least result in amusement.

If anyone would be interested in developing this with me, or has found something equivalent, as always, do tell.

I’ve cobbled together a simple little Ruby on Rails app. I’m going to leave it up for a couple of days running on my machine and then replace the link with a screenshot. This app was generated out of some meditations over randomness and success. I mean this literally, I was actuallying sitting in Zazen when a flurry of website ideas hit me and I had to rush to write them all down.

The app itself produces some interesting results, but see for yourself (just a screenshot to get the point across, I’m no longer hosting it). If anything breaks, give me a buzz. And if the site is running slow, then it means the app is popular and my machine is getting nailed, or I’m downloading something (I will try not to). Thanks and as with all alpha projects, sorry in advance.

Reading Timeclock

June 26, 2007

I recently thought of a nifty Firefox plug-in that would give you average or personal reading times on blog entries or whatever else you select.

In small blog entries, it is very easy for me to estimate how much time I’m going to have to put in. But in very long articles, my estimation ability drops away. Giving me a software means of estimating reading time would be optimal.

So the product looks like this:

  1. Install the app.
  2. Take a little test that tests your average words per minute.
  3. Or go with a default wpm calculation taken from either a database of the tools’ users or some research data.
  4. Whenever you see some block of text, select it and hit our button or right-click on the selected text.
  5. An estimated reading time appears in the toolbar.

I would be interested in working on this with anyone who finds it interesting enough to see it to completion. Or better yet, point out the Mozilla plug-in if it already exists.

The auspicious goal of my company is to provide all education to all those who want it, for free.

It started off as a project to create a dynamic share system for groups of people on the Internet to start companies. Goals and work would be assigned value by groups, and based on that value you would earn smaller or larger shares of the company. This idea was ultimately impractical and we had to think of a new one.

I walked around with an uncertain feeling in my stomach after realizing the idea was not viable. But after quick discussion I blurted out the new course, to provide all education to all those who want it, for free. And more specifically, through a decentralized, non-institutional mechanism where people were in charge of educating themselves, rather than being educated by others.

Many prototypes have gone by as we have tried to figure out how to do this. I’ve created a lot of crap, especially when we headed toward content generation. Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that people will generate content in whatever way they prefer and the real goal is to find that content in a truly convivial way.

It is for this reason that we’ve recently decided to distribute our idea as a Facebook app. This means we don’t have to bother with social network infrastructure. It also means we are part of an established network. Facebook’s reaction over time to third party developers will ultimately be the decider of whether we stay on an external platform or migrate to our own.

Currently, we are still working on the app. But I expect to release a version of it within the next week. This version will entail a way to put up learning quests were you establish the goal and parameters for its pursuit. Your friends can see the quests you are currently on and can aid you in your quests by giving you information and links to more. This first version is highly simplified, but right now we are focused on providing immediate utility.

I’m hoping this very simple idea will have a synergetic unpredictable effect. Ironically, no matter how it goes in the pursuit to help others learn, I will have learned something myself.

I was over at Chipotle’s a while ago, and their simplistic menu inspired me to think of a new type of restaurant. There would be only three things on the menu:

  • Random(Vegetable)
  • Random(Meat)
  • Random(Drink)

Vegetable, meat, and drink are the different seed values you use to get a random dish. So if you order Random(Meat), you would get a random item from a list of meat dishes not available to the consumer.

Immediate objections to the lack of specific choice were raised. To answer that, your receipts would have the dish number. So when you come back, you can order specific dishes you liked or assuage picky eaters.

Debate 2.0

April 23, 2007

I recently had an idea for an informed-debate website. Plenty of debate goes on in the world, but many of the arguments proposed are based on faith or are engineered to create an emotional effect. This would be fine as long as a place (better: many places) existed for informed discussion where people sited their sources and the validity of those sources were questioned. The academic scientific community is one such avenue, but it has insulated itself from the general public in the form of journals whose advantage is peer-review and disadvantage is a fee for casual observation. So assuming that a public forum does not currently exist that incites both fervor and reason, here is my blueprint for a debate site.

My image of the user experience begins with arriving at the site and seeing multiple discussion headings displayed on the front-page. Perhaps there is a featured discussion, highlighted as symbolic of the ideal. I click on the most interesting subject, Global Warming. I see a list of several points. Besides each point are a minimum of three sources. The first point is that global warming is man-made phenomenon. The counterpoint is that it is a natural phenomena. In counterpoint to both is the idea that it is a combination of the two. Next to the claim that global warming is a natural phenomena are three sources. Two of the studies are sponsored by the petroleum industry and have been tagged under “conflict of interest.” A new point has been raised in defense of one of the studies, and more sources have been cited in the new points defense. Admins do not move points into the central discussion unless the person gives three unique sources in their point’s defense.

This could give rise to admin abuse. To combat this, a reputation model allows a person to place a critique against the admin, but this also opens the judge to attack over the fairness of their statements. For example, in my hypothetical user experience I see the admin has a fairly good overall appraisal. There is one rather biting commentary, but the person who said it is rated as being very unfair.

Undoubtedly there are many holes in this system. How do you define a unique source? What if the community is temporarily or permanently homogeneous, skewing debate? What if people or organizations started paying admins for favors?

No matter what form it eventually evolves into it would have to keep these basic necessities in mind.

  • Multiple points of view
  • A tendency to resist (better: transform) spamesque flame wars
  • Sited Sources
  • Discussions of validity
  • Conducive to progression

Hopefully I’ll be able to get to this project one day. It would be easy to create in Ruby on Rails.