Saturday, 30 January 2010

Audiobook/Film hybird

I'd quite like to see audiobook/film hybrids: an exact audio version of the book (not abridged), accompanied by music, with cartoon animation (with speech/though bubbles), or an exact audio version of the non-speech parts of the book, over a normally shot (but probably longer) movie.

I think this would be especially good for books with lots of description, such as Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Window openers

All new homes should be designed with electronic window openers that are linked wirelessly to the home computer terminal and room thermometers, allowing the house temperature to be controlled automatically, precisely and efficiently.

Implants in my blood stream

I want an implant in my blood stream that tells me, continuously, my pulse, blood pressure, blood temperature and the concentration of every blood constituent (glucose, cholesterol, sodium, chloride, potassium, iron, oxygen, adrenaline, testosterone, etc).

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

No cheating essay software

It is far too common for students to write essays pasting information directly from wikipedia, or other digital material. This could be prevented by a dedicated essay-writing software that did not allow pasting (and copying). The student would have to write the text manually rather than pasting. Essays would be saved in a proprietary file format and submitted in that format. The file format may need to be protected to ensure hacks are not set up. The software would need to be freeware so that any student could download it to their home computer.

In the longer term, once computing has moved to the cloud, the software with no copy/paste functionality would sit in the cloud, negating the need for a protected file format.

There would have to be a "move" functionality in the absence of copy/paste to allow students to reorganise the essay.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

10p worth

I posted quite a number of ideas on this blog. In amongst them there might be a profitable product, although there would obviously need to be a lot of product development. My point (I'm getting there slowly) is that these ideas have some value, even if it is only small (e.g. 10p), and if something has value there may well be a business model capable of extracting that value. This concept is not new, I remember a website called that was effectively the same thing, but I think they went bust. So the question is this, how can companies realise the creative potential of the public to generate competitive advantage?


We can put a man on the moon, but we can't stop them peeing on the floor. Or have we not tried hard enough? It seems to me that there is insufficient thought put into urinal design to prevent and mitigate men's aim issues. Firstly, not all of the urine that ends up on the floor is the result of poor aim, some is backsplash from urinals that are not deep enough (and have the recipient surfaces at the wrong angle). Secondly, the floor around urinals should be sloping and have collection grooves so that any accidents are not left on the floor. I'm sure there are many more solutions, if we just put some good minds to work on this simple issue.

Why has pavement personal powered transportation not taken off?

There is a niche, somewhere in between cycling and motorcycles/mopeds for personal powered transportation that can go on the pavement. The niche is people who commute less than 5 miles, but too far to walk (greater than 2 miles for most people), who don't want to get sweaty cycling, or get killed on the roads on a motorcycle/moped. Segways are in this niche, but are not the optimum, as the commuter cannot store them under their desk at work. The other contenders are electric skateboards and motorized scooters (a kick scooter with a motor), and the smaller versions of these are easy to store under a desk.

So what are the barriers to this niche being exploited? Legal - road and pavement legality? Image - not cool enough, or too youth-oriented for the commuter? Practicality - concerns over crowed pavements, pedestrians getting annoyed?

Monday, 25 January 2010

What the iSlate must have

It is not usual that I am topical on this blog, but I will break the mould on this occasion. The iSlate (iTablet, iPad, etc) is due to be announced on Wednesday. Having never owned an Apple product I am unlikely to buy the thing, but I am very interested in whether Apple can pull off another iPod or iPhone. Each of these predecessors, whilst not something I would buy, have stoked the industry into producing a product that I would buy. My hope is that the innovation of the iSlate is that Apple have cracked perfect handwriting recognition and are going to make it mainstream. If they don't, keyboards will lumber on for another decade or two.

It's all about: intelligent customers

Many of the problems of the world can be seen as a result of a lack of an intelligent customer. Some examples:
image-focused (democratic) government that lacks substance and delivery results from a lack of an intelligent customer in the public (voters); sensationalising, press-release-repeating, lack-of-journalistic-integrity media results from a lack of an intelligent customer in the readership; failed government IT schemes result from a lack of an intelligent customer in government; banks exposing themselves to unknown risk in collateralized debt obligations results from a lack of an intelligent customer in banks; society buying speculative advice from economists (who turn out to be wrong) results from a lack of an intelligent customer in society (individuals, government and private organisations).

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Management could be of an inanimate object; leadership must be of people.
You lead by doing the same thing as the people you are leading. A leader of a walk walks at the front. The leader of an army fights from the front.

Government functions

Public service providers
Public service organisers
Regulators/Inspectorates - of private sector, third sector
Regulators/Inspectorates - of government
Policy formation
Tax collectors


Even when we get to a utopia of a fully democratic world government, no countries, no religion, an environmentally sustainable economy, universal education, universal healthcare, universal employment and low wealth inequality, there is no time to rest on our laurels was we must work hard to preserve such a utopian society and to protect humanity from natural disaster (both by making earth more disaster-proof and establishing colonies on other worlds to make humanity less vunerable to an earth-destroying disaster). Whilst there is a level of resource investment in preservation of the utopian society above which the returns of increase resource investment have little impact on risk (some kind of sigmoid curve), the same is not true of protection from natural diaster where the relationship between resource investment and risk reduction is more linear.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Detailed learning material

How much learning material is there that allows someone, who has but a knowledge of a language, time and a moderate intelligence, to become an expect on a subject? My suspicion is that there is very little - learning material is supplemented by teachers (and to an extent co-learners), and hence we are very reliant on teachers for the propagation of knowledge. Can this reliance be reduced or eliminated with well written learning materials?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Digital toaster

Do you eat toast? Do you share your toaster with anyone else? Do they change the settings? Are you particular about this?

I suggest a digital toaster with a modicum of memory, that can be programmed to remember the toasting-time preferences of several people, and give each person a soft-key with a programmed name. An advanced version would allow the user to set the toasting-time preferences and names using a computer or mobile phone via a bluetooth interface.

Obviously a dial is still required, both to facilitate programming the preferences and allowing manual override for that particularly stale piece of bread.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Tax that goes up in a recession

Recession's are notoriously bad for government finances: as company profit falls, so does tax on profit; as unemployment rises, so does the cost of social security. But there must be some things that government could tax that increase during a recession. For example, people tend to want to hold more cash during a recession. If interest income was taxed higher than other investment income (e.g. dividend income) then tax take would increase during a recession, giving the government the resource to spend on fiscal recovery.

Where is the positive graffiti?

Where is the positive graffiti? Where are the movie posters with scribbled-on comments like "I watched this movie, it was great"? Where are the road signs with scribbled-on comments like "Come visit here, the people are really friendly"?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Organisational/individual performance assessment

Organisational performance assessment is often critised for creating bureaucracy and perverse incentives. I suggest: that performance assessment of individuals is less prone to creating bureaucracy and perverse incentives; and that an organisation in which all the members are performing well is likely to be performing well. Thus, organisation performance assessment can be de-emphasised and individual performance assessment strengthened.

For example, a hospital may have an organisation performance metric of waiting list length. This creates the perverse incentive of not offering treatments to patients to avoid putting them on the waiting list. The appropriate individual performance metrics are for doctors are the number of treatments performed and their quality.

Local government

It seems to me that it would be much more sensible to organise government along service delivery lines rather than having local government responsible for lots of unrelated services. Hence there would be a national waste agency that is responsible for all rubbish collection, a national education agency responsible for all schools, etc.

Informed decision making

There are too many impacts of decisions to make truly informed decisions. It is not possible to have a perfectly informed decision without the decision making process taking too long, being too costly, and being too bureaucratic. In lieu of informed decisions:
  • The decision should be accompanied by a document explaining what potential impacts were considered in making the decision. The decision can then be criticised if a particular type of impact was not considered, and that type of impact then considered in future decision making.
  • There needs to be a set of principals to consider in decision making, including, but not limited to: transparency; etc.
  • The decision should be costed, even if the costing is just a guess. Whilst the decision maker should be required to estimate a cost, they should be entitled to give that cost as a range.
  • Only decisions where the decision maker estimates the cost is above a certain de minimus limit should be subject to the above (otherwise the cost of the decision making process could outweigh the cost of the decision).

Public service performance measurement

There are too many variables to allow for a public service performance measurement system that does not create perverse incentives. There are three variables that should be captured for all public service performance measurement systems:
  • Opinion of the users (patients and relatives for hospitals, students and parents for schools, the unemployed and employers for jobcentres, etc)
  • Opinion of the front line staff (nurses and doctors for hospitals, teachers for schools, jobcentre employees for jobcentres, etc)
  • Costs

Evolution and design in government

Government evolved, it was not designed. This evolution means that whilst it gets the job done, it is not the most efficient way to be. If we make incremental changes (without a coherent plan) we are just continuing that evolution. Therefore I think we should develop a coherent plan for government, and ensure all change in government is consistent with that plan.

You can't win

Positive concept in organisation and management
Negative consequences/perceptions
Economies of scale
Can be considered a one-size-fits-all approach
Joined-up approach
(AKA not working in silos)
Requires coordination, which can be considered a waste of time
Requires data to be collected, which can be seen to be bureaucratic
Holding people to account
Continuous improvement
Can require central high-level (top-down) coordination, which can be considered dictatorial
Can be considered a one-size-fits-all approach

Other factors: top-down vs bottom-up

Are compliments evil?

If you compliment someone to you not contribute to a dream or expectation of theirs that will eventually be painfully shattered?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Keep your distance behind

There are systems for cars that measure the distance to the car in front and, based on current speed, advise if the stopping distance is insufficient. It is, however, just as dangerous to you if the car behind you in not maintaining its stopping distance. I suggest therefore, a system that measures the distance to the car behind and, if the distance is insufficient, based on current speed, displays the message "Keep your distance!" on a display (e.g. an LED display) in the back window.