Update: I've written a 2015 edition.

So today I am cleaning up my phone’s Memo app so this post will be dedicated to dumping all those late night ideas I had when I was very tired or had a few too many beers. Note that I had most of those ideas independently but some of them were (partially) implemented later on or I simply hadn’t heard of them.

1. Beetcoin

Mobile app that acts as a nice UI on top of various Bitcoin exchanges. It should be possible to view pending trades, get current bid/ask prices and place new trades.

The twist: Sell it as a paid app and give away “free” Bitcoins. The app should be expensive enough that when you give away Bitcoins you still make a profit.

Why it will work: This would enable regular people to buy Bitcoins with their credit card by buying the app on the Android market.

Why it won’t work: It is possibly against most markets / credit card processors TOS.

2. Code reading web app

Reading other people’s code is one of the surest way to improve your programming skills. For each programming language, this app would list open source projects by difficulty level (from beginner to expert) and make it easy to browse and comment the code from within the website. The MVP could simply list links to Github repos. Inspiration comes from http://todomvc.com.

Use case: I just started to learn Javascript and I want to see some real world Javascript code. I go to the site, select the Javascript language and I can see a list of projects rated from Beginner level to Expert level. Each projects that are at the same difficulty level are grouped together. The beginner level should list simple “Hello world” apps while the expert level should be reserved for complex projects.

3. Prediction market, Hacker News style

Not sure what I meant when writing this. I think the idea is that it would be a news aggregator like Hacker News but when you vote up it costs you real money (you are investing in a vote). If the vote count goes up, you are rewarded for predicting correctly that the article was interesting to the community. The reward should be proportional to how many people up voted after you. I guess someone still needs to work out the “details”. The whole idea is to mix karma with money to self-moderate a community (most people care more about money than karma).

4. OAuth for payments

I’m not sure why I haven’t seen this yet in the wild. Probably due to legal compliance and security issues. But well, I think it would be cool if I could just buy stuff by clicking “Pay 10$” and whenever I click that button, I get the standard OAuth dialog asking me to authorize the payment. There should be a maximum amount by transaction which should be fairly low if security is an issue (50$?).

5. URL#hash renderer API

I first had this idea when developing a website with Backbone.js. All my URLs looked like http://domain/#a/b/c and I thought it would be nice if my server could proxy all requests to http://domain/a/b/c through an API that returns the rendered HTML of http://domain/#a/b/c.

Some websites are not crawlable or unusable if users don’t have Javascript enabled. This service takes an url of the form http://domain/#hash and returns the rendered HTML that a user would see if they had Javascript enabled. Web developers could use this service to easily offer a crawlable website that is friendly to visitors that have Javascript disabled.

6. Startups for front-end developers

Update: I think Hoodie is a solution. See http://hood.ie

Build a service that makes it possible to develop a full website completely on the client side (probably using Backbone.js or similar), interfacing with a list of predefined APIs. This startups' job would be to take care of providing a list of easily accessible APIs and make it easy for designers to publish UIs that interact with the APIs. The startup should also take care of common issues like cross-origin request sharing, caching, etc. Eventually, there would be a market where developers can publish APIs. This idea is rooted in the idea of division of labor. Backend developers should focus on what they do best and so should frontend developers. Wouldn’t it be nice if all startups out there were simply a REST API with dozens of UIs you can chose from. What if Paypal was simply an API and anyone could build a nice UI on top of that API.

7. Hacker News directory

List all Hacker News related services, websites, Chrome extensions, publications, apps, etc. There is currently no such official website.

8. “Hello dear [social network] user. I would really appreciate if you [tweeted/liked/up voted] this.”

This idea was inspired by seeing a few “I see you are coming from HN. Please up vote and comment.” when clicking submissions on HN.

This should be a small embeddable script or iframe which should display a small message asking to share the current page on a given social network. The social network is chosen using the visitor’s HTTP referer header or their browser’s history. The script should first check if their referrer matches a social network and if not, use the browser history hack to see if the user has recently visited a known social network. This would be a good alternative for people who want to have multiple sharing buttons but don’t want to clutter the screen real estate with too many choices.

9. Offline Hacker News mobile app

Whenever I have to go on a long subway ride with no 3G or Wifi, I really wish I could just click a button that would load all HN’s front page submissions + comments and load them in my browser’s tab before I leave. Hence, the offline HN app idea.

10. Github orphan

Update: this appears to have been somewhat solved since I had this idea. See http://stillmaintained.com

There should be an easy way to orphan and adopt new projects in Github.

Use case: You want to orphan a project

Connect with Github. Select project to orphan.

This automatically writes this at the top of your README file:

I am no longer able to maintain this project. Click here to adopt it!

Use case: You want to adopt a project

  1. Visit a Github project. See that it is open for adoption.
  2. Click the adopt link in the README file.
  3. Authenticate with Github
  4. Wait for adoption authorization by current maintainer

Use case: Approve adopter

  1. You see that someone applied to become a new maintainer for your project.
  2. Click Approve.
  3. Erase everything in your repository except a single README file:

    # THIS PROJECT IS NOW MAITAINED BY ‘new maintainer’ AT github.com/new-maintainer/blabla #

11. Public transportation visualization and simulation

Update: There is something in that vein available for London: http://busmapper.co.uk/. Hey guys, if you are reading this, I’m available for hire :)

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could see buses and subways on a map traveling “real time” and seeing where they are going at a glance. Let’s say your on some street and want to go in some direction (let’s say downtown), you could just open that mobile app, see which buses are coming your way and where they are going to. The simulation could be computed by using bus schedule and averaging the speed between two stops. I prototyped this a few years ago at http://dev.syskall.com/map.

12. Quadcopter delivery

Update: Taco Copter

In areas of high density and high rise buildings, wouldn’t it be nice if you could order something from 7/11 and have a quadcopter (semi-) autonomously deliver your stuff through the window/balcony?

13. Pixel copter advertising

Update: MIT flyfire

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fleet of programmable mini pixel copters (small helicopters that carry a colored light) draw images / video in the sky. This could be used for promotion and advertising.

14. Online food delivery

This problem has been tackled many times and there are a few companies doing it right now but it still hasn’t gain lots of momentum. Anyways, the idea is that you could just open up a mobile app / web app and through geolocation, get a list of restaurants that can deliver to your location. You can filter out the restaurants by cost, food type, etc. You can then navigate to the menu and place your order.

The twist: There are a lot of “Amazon” and “Ebays” in that space but I haven’t seen any “Shopifys” so far. Meaning that most of the startups in that space, have a central website where they list restaurants. Probably some restaurants would be interested in a white label solution where they could host on their own domain and customize everything to their needs.

15. Instant UML diagram for a given Github repository

I’ve always wanted something like this. Select a given Github repository and instantly get an UML class diagram, whatever the language is. UML is not really a good fit for more dynamical languages but nowadays there are statical analysis tools even for Javascript and company.

16. Ad-hoc sport teams

You want to play a game of soccer? Open up this web app, change you status to “I want to play soccer in the next X hours”. When there is enough people who want to play at the same time as you within a given geographical zone, we all notify you, you chose a location/time and the game begins!

17. Hotel Wifi web app

You connect to your hotel’s wifi and on first browser request, you get redirected to this web app. The web app, displays events in the area, there is a chatroom for other lonely and bored travelers, you can order stuff from the hotel directly from the web app, there hotel guest specific promotions from local businesses, etc. Maybe you will find someone with similar tastes in the chatroom and you can hang out together in this unknown city?


I think that’s about it for now. I will update the post if I bump into more crazy ideas while cleaning up my phone. Let me know what you think in the comments and I’d love to know if you’re solving one of these problems or planning to!