Like many of you, I have a crap-ton of ideas, and I get new ones every day. Until about 2009 I never bothered to write them down, or even discuss them with anyone. They’ve always been just sort of interesting mental exercises. Most of these are not monetizable (my spell checker says that’s not a word, but I don’t care), but interesting in some way. Some of them are good, and I think could make some money if I invested enough time and effort. Over the years, I’ve discovered many of my ideas have been implemented by other people. I’m always kind of happy when I come across actual implementations of my ideas. Maybe I see it as proof that my ideas could really take shape, but mostly because I think these ideas make the world a better place and it’s good to see them realized. Out of curiosity, I often try to find out when these people started their projects in an attempt to see if I thought of it first.
The first time I remember this happening is with maglev trains. Well before I had any idea of the engineering (pun intended) involved, I’d had this idea about running trains on magnets instead of wheels to reduce friction. Then years later I remember reading in Popular Mechanics about the first maglev trains in Asia and thinking, “Whoa, that was my idea. How did they know?!” Much more recently, I ran into the same thing with trains in vacuum tubes. It was really cool to see that someone is actually working those too. (Since then, I’ve begun to suspect this idea may have been sparked by memories from my days as a toddler watching SuperTrain with my parents. I’ll have to ask them if they were fans of the show.)
An example from a couple of years ago was a social media site for BarCamps and conferences designed to let the people in a particular talk continue the discussion afterwards. The idea was that the people in the talk could subscribe to a mini-email list or discussion thread just for that talk. Then the speaker could post materials from the talk and answer follow-up questions. Convore came along about a year later and did almost exactly what I was thinking. PyOhio used it in 2011 without a lot of success (few participants), and we gave it a go at BarCampGR in 2011 with the same results. Convore is gone now, but Tribbon was recently funded at StartGarden and is looking to fill a similar need. They’re not doing it how I had planned (my idea was much closer to Convore), but I think they’ve got a good plan.
I first started drafting this post back in September of 2012 because that week had been an especially good week for folks reading my mind and implementing my ideas. First someone grabbed mobile phone laser tag out of my idea list. And after finally pitching one of my ideas to someone, she pointed out that someone else has already begun implementing my real-time automatic smartphone photo conglomeration for weddings idea.
I just came across an Indigogo campaign for one my silliest ideas from about seven years ago – a robotic tail that responds to your mood – which is why I’ve finally decided to finish this post. I’ll probably keep updating it as new things pop up.
The point of this post is not really to talk about my ideas, but to remind myself that if I wait long enough, someone will do it for me. With family, work, and user groups, I have very little free time to implement my ideas. I always tell myself I’ll get around to it, but I very rarely do. On one hand it’s fun to see them in the real world, even if not by me. On the other hand, it’s depressing to see so many of them actualized without my help or input. I think it’s time to sacrifice some sleep to get some things built!