Sunday, 6 December 2009

Light desk

I'd like a desk where the entire surface was illuminated with a diffused backlight glow, controllable with a dimmer switch. It would probably be good for SAD.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bike saddles

Bicycles are brilliant: fast, efficient, green, healthy, etc. Apart from saddles. Bike saddles are the modern equivalent of medieval torture devices. So why hasn't some bright spark somewhere sorted this out?

For me, the lack of comfort stems from my weight being on my perineum rather than on my bum cheeks. The reason there isn't better support for the cheeks is that they need to move as the legs move. So the solution that suggests itself to me is a hinged saddle with one cushion for each cheek. These move independently on a hinge that goes across the bike and is supported by the seat post. Each cushion is a curved l-shape to support the bum cheek and the top of the thigh. Some molding of the cushion (higher at the side than in the middle) would help stop any side-to-side movement. A woeful attempt to communicate this idea visually is below.

Change management

Every organisation, it seems, has some kind of change programme, but to date I have found them difficult to fathom. There appear to be a few things missing:
  • a complete list of all elements/pilots/projects of the change programme
  • an annual report (detailing elements/pilots/projects brought forwards from the prior year, elements/pilots/projects terminated/finished and carry forwards to the next year)

One sentence reminders

One of the difficult things about self-improvement is remembering what it is you are trying to do (lose weight, get fit, be more organised...). I think it might be helpful to summarise self-improvement plans into a few sentences which can be read each day to serve as a reminder.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pit bed

Why are beds flat? Is that really what we want? Did anyone actually do any consumer research? I think not. How about a bed with walls that curve down into the base, wide enough to give room for maneuver but narrow enough to make it snug?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Trial by media

Often the stigma associated with media reporting of arrests and trials is a huge punishment for those that are found not guilty. There should be a law to force the media to report the outcome of a case if they name someone as alleged, and give the outcome equal prominence (e.g. if arrest is front page, so should be the verdict).

Other operating systems, drivers, market intervention

There should be a law to force all hardware manufacturers to make available linux-compatible drivers for their products and force them to make available the necessary technical information to allow a 3rd party to easily make a driver for their products (to allow new entrants into the operating system market).


Maybe it's just me, but I prefer active reading. Active reading involves highlighting, annotating, making notes (and maybe doodling). And does Adobe Reader allow you to highlight and annotate PDFs? No! It's a travesty. The most common e-reading format doesn't allow you to read thing properly!

Sun exposure meter

I want to get sunburnt as much as then next person, so I thought it'd be useful to have a sun exposure meter to tell you, based on your skin conditions and the sun strength, how long you should be out in the sun each day and what factor sun screen you need. Once you've plugged in what factor you've put on it could monitor your UV exposure and tell you to cover up when you've had too much.

Product placement in adverts

I remember thinking a long time ago about the possibility of companies using one advert to sell complimentary products. For example, you might want to advertise a Ferrari with a Rolex. It occurred to me that perhaps this joint advertising could be done on a more subtle level, using product placement. A car manufacturer could pay Coca-Cola to have their car in the background of a Coca-Cola advert. I wonder whether this is already done.


I have always been intrigued by the idea of a hybrid religion (I call it a metareligion in my mind but I fear that is an inappropriate use of the prefix meta) taking the best parables and guidance from all the world's religions, philosophies, etc. Whilst I am keen to produce such a hybrid religion myself, I would be interested to see whether a wiki community could band to together to produce a democratically formed hybrid religion. I would probably be subject to much heated discussion, but people would find that they have lots in common: rules such as "thou shall not kill" are fairly universal.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Sealed alcohol cooling pad

If you put alcohol on your skin it cools it as the alcohol evaporates. Cooling your skin is just what you want if you have a fever. But obviously that would keep using alcohol, and putting alcohol directly on your skin isn't good for it. So perhaps you could put the alcohol in some kind of pad such that it evaporates where the it is near the skin and condenses elsewhere, thus disappating the heat.

Roofrack windshield

Roofracks must have a significant impact on the air resistance of cars and vans. Would it be possible to add some kind of windshield for the roof rack that reduces some of the air resistance whilst the roof rack is not in use? Obviously this would be removed and stored inside the vehicle when the roof rack was being used.

TV series model for computer games

Has anyone ever tried a TV series-like business model for computer games? With a TV series you get a new episode ever week, the equivalent would be getting a new computer game level every week. The advantage would be more regular contact with the customer through which to sell advertising.

Organogram as a wheel

Traditional organograms place the most senior levels of leadership at the top and the most junior at the bottom. Such information may be better expressed as a wheel:


Perfectionism gets a hard time. And I have some sympathy for those that give it a hard time. Perhaps it's not that perfectionism is wrong, it's just missapplied: if you apply perfectionism to your environment or to others, then you're going to upset people; if you apply perfectionism to yourself you can only do good.

A 5-box model of leadership and management

There seem to be no end of 4-box leadership and management models, so I thought a 5-box model was necessary.


What am I doing today, tomorrow, etc?
How can I satisfy my needs and get the best out of myself?

What are my team doing today, tomorrow, etc?
How can I satisfy the needs of and get the best out of my team?

What are we going to do with this surplus of widgets?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Bringing globes into the 21st century

I like maps. But I don't like the compromise of projections. If only the world were flat.

So globes are where it's at. But whilst we have Google Maps etc, we don't yet have the equivalent in globes: it's a hardware rather than software problem.

What would the ideal globe hardware look like? Spherical, obviously. A lcd-like sphere that is levitated and rotated by an electromagnet, and powered by some kind of wireless energy transfer (e.g. induction). The lcd would be able to show varying maps of the world with different layers: physical; political; historical political; weather; sunlight (like a geochron); etc.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Levels of equality

What is the optimum level of inequality? Few people that I have encountered support absolute material equality, but if they do not support this, is it not incumbent on them to hold an opinion on the optimum level of material distribution? Should there be an upper limit on the income of the highest earners as a multiple of the lowest earners? It is suggested that income disparity motivates people in a meritocratic society - is the meritocratic benefit proportional to income disparity? Or will the meritocratic benefit begin to level out for an increasing level of income disparity?

It's all about...

I have had several epiphanies along the lines of "it's all about..." and it occurs to me that I should collect them. The two that I can recall are: it's all about control; and it's all about data. What I mean by an "it's all about" is an aspect that is common to many parts of life.

Control - I mean control in the internal control sense of the word: systems and processes, checks and balances, locks, etc that enable management to control the business. The reason it's an "it's all about" is that this kind of control takes up a huge amount of the resource in our society: we spend a fortune trying to prevent behaviour (whether accidental or deliberate) that we want to avoid.

Data - the reason data is an "it's all about" is that so many of the problems we encounter in society are the result of people making decisions without knowing the likely outcomes. Whilst it's not possible to predict the future, there is a huge amount of past experience and scientific data that we could use in making a decision but don't. The reason is that we cannot process that huge volume of data.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Films generated from computer games

Making a film from a computer game would perhaps be the easiest (and most fun) way to make a film. All that would be necessary would be to record the game like a video from each player's perspective, cut it together and add some music. Multiplayer online games may be the best source of material as there would be no copyright infringement of the plot of the game. Unfortunately, there would still be copyright infringement of the graphics of the game, which would be the major sticking point. However, computer games companies should recognise that a high-quality fan-made movie of their game (particularly a multiplayer online game) would act as free promotional material. In fact, they could even host a competition for fans to produce the best movie.

Arrogance and meekness

Be arrogant in standing up for what you believe in; be meek in respect your own importance and abilities.

Fisheye video cameras

Is it possible to film video with a fisheye lens? It strikes me that films often fail to replicate an individual's viewpoint, perhaps this could remedy that.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

War Game

Michael Foreman's War Game is a very moving book, which definitely deserves to be made into a movie. The only improvement I would make is to completely mirror the story on both sides to show that both were as innocent and evil as the other. The movie would start with two football matches being played, one in England, one in Germany. Each group of friends would sign up, go to the trenches and become disillusioned. The two groups would first meet playing that historic game in no man's land. And they would next meet, and all die, in battle.

Bath of little abrasive magnetic balls

One of the best ways of cleaning an object is to immerse it in a bath of solvent or cleaning chemical. But such solvents and chemicals can be bad for the environment, so we fall back on elbow-grease type cleaning. Obviously this is a bit laborious, so perhaps the object in question could be immersed in a bath of little abrasive (but not too abrasive - perhaps plastic coated) balls. A fast-occillating magnetic field is applied to the bath, which jiggles the balls, which clean the surface. As the balls are small, and act like a fluid, all surfaces of the object (including difficult to reach ones) would be cleaned.

Heavy cup

People joke about exercising their drinking arm. Perhaps someone should design some very heavy cups to actually give drinkers some exercise.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Laserquest + smartphone => fun

Imagine playing laserquest (aka Quasar) anywhere, with anyone, just using your phone. Play on the street, urban warfare style; play in the park. The necessary additions to existing smartphone technology are a transmitter at the top of the phone and a set of sensors on its sides. The phone can be held like a StarTrek phaser or clipped into a gun (like a Wii-mote fits into a plastic gun).

This concept makes the best use of smartphone technology: the screen displays a map, and puts you and your opponents on as (labelled, different coloured) dots (using GPS technology); you can call you friends whilst playing to coordinate tactics (a bluetooth headset is preferable); flip the phone's camera forward to video (or take stills of) the action (for upload via 3G); automatically log scores online (using 3G) to a national competition database or just a score table of you and your mates.

Animal vs godly

Mass media tends to converge on delivering things that appeal to our very base, genetic level, primitive instincts: sex; violence; good vs evil. Mass food converges on sugar, fat and salt. We surpass our animal selves on a daily basis, but be regress through media and food.

Man is half animal, half god. We must strive for our godly side.


Animal God
Actee Animal Trys to best Trys to educate
God Trys to best Cooperates

Perfection is boring

No really, it is.

Perfect people/perfect system - catch chicken 22 egg

If we change the system (e.g. communist revolution) then it fails because the people aren't perfect. But we can't change the people becuase they're encouraged not to be perfect by the system (e.g. trying to convince people living in a capitalist society not to be selfish).

Law, policy, perverse incentives and individualism

The problem with many laws and policies is that they create perverse incentives and require further laws and policies to patch them up and these laws and policies may create perverse incentives...

So when designing laws and policy, we need to identify all the things society wants to achieve, and what all perverse incentives.

For example:

To ensure equality we may wish that there is no ownership of land (which is the only thing that doesn't depreciate or expire). But we also want land and the buildings on them to be maintained and no damage done.

The individual's incentive to own land is to make profit through both use and appreciation. The individual's incentive to maintain assets is linked to the ability to make profit from them.

So against these criteria for achievement and these individual's incentives we could perhaps: tax profit (after inflation) on the sale of land at 100%; annually tax land in proportion to area or perhaps value extracted (e.g. for mineral extraction); and fine people for polluting land. Individuals still have incentive to maintain buildings as tax on profit would be at a lower rate, allowing personal gain.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Spider-diagram unlimited canvas

I currently document my thoughts on this blog and in a collection of text documents and spreadsheets. What I want is a unlimited canvas, similar to a presentation editor (e.g. Powerpoint) with the ability to put in textboxes (with as much functionality as something like Word), spreadsheets (with as much functionality as something like Excel), pictures, etc and have all of these linked with labelled arrows showing the web of my thoughts.

File manager vs summary document

The problem with file manager is that a lot of the information regarding where things are stored (and why), and what documents are (without looking at them), is stored in the users brain. This poses problems for different users and the forgetfull. A summary document with links to all documents would solve this problem. The summary document would be like a home page of a website, with categories and links to every document.

Simple cat autofeeder

Cat autofeeders are ridiculously expensive. Yet an autofeeder for dry food could be done so simply. Get an alarm clock. Wire a motor into the buzzer. Use the buzzer to drive a notched wheel that allows food to fall from a silo into a chute. Set the alarm.

Losing a part of yourself

We are our memories. The objects around us, particularly souvenirs, keepsakes and photographs help us to remember. The people around us help us remember. We are what we own and our relationships. If we lose an object or a person, we lose part of ourself.

Ease of liquidation

We need to make it quicker to liquidation companies to reduce the waste of resource during the liquidation process. Companies should be required to report a liquidation statement in their financial statements, which would be audited and published. This way, the information necessary to quickly liquidate a company would be readily available.

All internal documents on a wiki system

It should be possible to put all internal documents of an organisation on a wiki-system that allows anyone to edit documents, anyone to create documents and, most importantly, allows the recording of meta-information about documents. All documents in the organisation should be linked in together (no orphans).

As some information in an organisation is confidential, sections of the wiki could be locked-off (similar to a file system). Similarly, some documents could be declared as records (e.g. internal policies) to prevent tampering.

Organisational timelines

Time is one of the most effective ways of organising information. Organisations should put timelines on their websites and intranets with as much date-related information on them as possible: both events (happen at a single unit of time, e.g. day) and periods (happen over a multiple periods of time). Each entry on the timeline should be a link to further information.

The user should be able to filter the information by tags, such as appointments (showing when board members were appointed and left) and publications (when a document was published). An internal intranet timeline should act as a wiki so any staff member can add events.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Washing-up liquid dispenser

One good way to reduce the amount of packaging people use is to make the containers that people use around the house into permanent things, allowing the containers that are used to transport the products from the shop to the house into less robust or less practical, but, crucially, less for landfill. An example is selling milk in bags: the bag is not a robust or practical form of packaging, but the consumer transfers the milk to a must more robust and practical form of packaging when they get home (i.e. a jug).

All of this brings me neatly on to an idea about washing-up liquid dispensers. All that I have seen on the market are like soap dispensers: a pot with a push-down spout. The only problem with these is you want the washing-up liquid in the middle of the bowl, not at the side, so you need to life the dispenser. If the dispenser instead had a long delivery arm pivoting at the bottom, this could pivot over the sink and deliver the washing-up liquid to the middle of the bowl. If the pump action is only triggered as the arm approaches the horizontal, then no liquid would be dispensed until the dispensing end is over the centre of the bowl. The image below spectacularly fails to illustrate this:

Personal diaster planning

Businesses do it. Governments do it. Why don't individuals and families plan for disaster? Or are they just relying on businesses and government?

What people need is a template to make it easy: a list of eventualities and a list of countermeasures that people can pick and chose from.

The list of eventualities may include: loss of employment; unexpected pregnancy; divorce; death (oneself or family); damage to house (fire, flood, etc); moving house; theft of key assets (e.g car); loss of savings (e.g. bank goes bad); negative equity; larger civic disasters (Katrina-type flooding; earthquake; tidal wave; meteor; nuclear holocaust).

The list of countermeasures may include: insurance; savings (spread between several institutions); reciprocal temporary accomodation arrangements with friends and family.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Every person a teacher

Every person in an organisation should be a teacher. Each people learns one (or a small number of) topic(s) well enough to become a teacher of it. They then teach this to other people in an organisation.

A person may have to go to an external course to learn a topic, but this cost to the organisation is repaid (to an extent) by this person passing on what they have learnt.

Obviously, the organisations need at least one person whose specialism is teaching, i.e. they can teach people to be teachers.

Whilst the organisations would typically be a business, this concept could be applied to whole societies, or the world...

Estimated time of arrival

How long before all of the world's people have representative government?
How long before all of the world's people have reliable access to basic needs (balanced diet, clean water, shelter, sanitation, education, healthcare, employment)?
How long before all of the world's people have their human rights protected?
How long before we have zero crime?
How long before the notion of nationality dies?
How long before the falasy of religion dies?

Am I impatient? Yes. So are the many who will suffer and die before this dream becomes a reality.

The credit crisis (yawn)

Economic problems are merely a distraction from the technological progression of mankind.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Two pronged approaches

Problems can be solved from more than one direction. Two-pronged approaches may work better. For example, if the problem is not having enough money, then the solutions are to try to earn more money and to try to limit expectations; if the problem is being too busy, then the solutions are to try to simplify life and to try to improve the ability to deal with things.

Work log

Scientists meticulously record the detail of their experiments in lab books. Office workers seem to rely on memory. Sure, there's email. The scribbed notes of a meeting or a phone conversation. But when you talk to so many people about so many things wouldn't it be good to have a record of when you last spoke with them or met them and what was discussed. And a record of what you did on a particular day.

Trains, tunnels and phones

Mobile phones should have a "stay connected" mode for when travelling on trains so that the call is automatically reconnect after a period of no signal, such as when going through a tunnel.

Caffeine atomiser alarm clock

Waking up is painful. Caffeine eases the pain. But how to eliminate the time between waking up and getting caffeine? Alarm clocks with a built in coffee percolator exist. But you have to wake up before drinking. What if the caffeine could be in your blood stream before you wake up (and thus waking you up)? Without using an intravenous line, an atomiser would be the best bet - it would atomise caffeine by your head and you would breath it in. All connected to an alarm clock of course.

Free (canine) energy

People like having dogs as pets. Dogs need walking. People don't always have enough time to walk their dog. We need more energy. Inference of this collection of facts: put the dog in a giant hamster wheel and let it exercise itself and generate electricity at the same time. Alternatively a roller-bed could be used. Dogs may need some encouragement to do this electricity generation, perhaps the metaphorical carrot on a stick could be used. Or train it young.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Moral priorities

Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Utilitarianism. And the ultimate purpose: the perpetuation of intelligent life.

These can be unified into a moral theory whereby the first priority is the perpetuation of intelligent life, the second priority is ensuring the physiological needs (bottom of the pyramid) of the existing community of intelligent life (greatest number), the third priority is ensuring the safety needs (next level of the pyramid) of the existing community of intelligent life, etc.

The obvious interpretation of this theory is that it is a moral traversty that the rich worry about their self-actualisation needs, whilst the poor worry about there physiological needs. But then we knew that anyway...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


The swear words used in the English language are atrocious. Most these days (post-racism, post-misogyny, post-xenophobia) are related to sex, possibly deriving from victorian prudishness, and have unfortunate consequence of perpetuating the stigma of sex in society. And yet the worst thing a person can be is arrogant. There is just one noun, egotist, to call someone that's arrogant. And even that hardly rolls off the tongue.

How much to do?

How much should we do to help our fellow man, our environment, future generations, etc? A complete altruist would work hard all day (at an ethical job), spend their free time working in soup kitchens or some such, never have any indulgences and give all their spare money to charity. Can you really justify going to the cinema once a month, costing ~£8, when just £2 a month can cure all sorts of ills? Well yes, in fact you can. You do. Everyone does. Even crazy hippy types have luxuries and they certainly aren't doing all that is possible to make the world a better place. So how do we do it? Perhaps this graph will help. I think the relevant variables are the impact on your quality of life (for most people £2 a month is very low impact) and guilt.

All we need now is some data, and we can start predicting how much people are prepared to do...

Penny for your thoughts

Ever noticed how when someone asks "penny for your thoughts" you completely forget what you were thinking about. It's a perfect example of the observer effect, which is often confused with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. I wonder what happens when someone asks "penny for your thoughts" when you've been thinking about position and momentum...