Open-Source Ideas for Business

May 9, 2006

A Job for the Pigeons

We joined a beach clean-up day at Playa Del Rey this weekend. I pictured scrubbing behind an oil-soaked sea otter's ears or helping some poor bedraggled seagull step out of a six pack ring, but what it ended up being was picking up very very tiny pieces of shredded plastic bits, about a million cigarette butts, lots of coffee stirrers, several handfuls of ragged styrofoam, and a few unmentionable items of the biohazard variety out of the sand.

We were asked to carry around a "score card" and to note the amount of each type of refuse we picked up, although I'm not sure what use such data will be, and stopping to count also broke our stride quite a bit. I found that after such an activity, for the next few days I couldn't stop classifying every little speck I saw on the road.

I present this as an open-source idea for business because, in the midst of picking up the 109th tiny piece of shell that looked like plastic but wasn't, so back in the sand it went, I had an idea: why can't we train pigeons to do this sort of thing?

If there was ever an animal that needed a job, pigeons are it. They'd be perfect for beach clean-up. They could descend on a tangle of kelp, a mass of filthy feathers all picking out the plastic cigar tips and ketchup packets, and then they'd go make a trash nest out of it all back in the garbage can.

Then, as they sleep, we slam the lid on the garbage can and take the whole thing to the dump. Bingo - two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Posted by Chris on 05/ 9/06

I've presented your idea to the scientists at CalTech. They expect a full proposal on their desk by Monday. It's brilliant!

Hey, does anyone know exactly what the inside, not the outside paper part, of a cigarette is made of?! I'm certain some of the butts I picked up were from 1972.

Posted by: Wife Ami at May 9, 2006 9:19 PM

As usual, the internets provide:

"Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic."


Posted by: Chris at May 10, 2006 11:08 AM

May 3, 2006

Streamlining Online Commerce as a Selfless Act of Charity

This free idea that I am throwing out there for the world of business - because I am a friend of commerce and I love to see innovation, even if I am not personally profiting by it, and let's face it, I never do - is so brilliant in its simplicity I assume that such a thing is already out there.

So perhaps this is more of a simple request to anyone reading this to let me know if you have heard of such a thing, perhaps in browser plug-in form? Maybe a different browser entirely? Whatever. Let me know about it, even if in doing so you must first mock me for my ignorance.

The idea is for online businesses that require you to fill out a form on a web page.

I HATE filling out forms online. There's always this thought that once I hit enter, something will be wrong or something didn't go through and it will erase everything - even the correct things. Most sites are smart about it, but some aren't.

Yes, there is a handy "autocomplete" on some browsers but on mine it still requires clicking in EACH field. My idea is thusly: I come to the page with the form on it, I hit the button... and it fills out all recognizable fields automatically and instantly. First and last name, address, credit card info if I so desire, the works. Is that so hard?

I like to think that such a thing is already out there, but if it is not, to the coding guru who may be reading this, the idea is YOURS FREE AND CLEAR. It's free. I offer it to you without reservation or qualification - only make it WORK.

Special Citizen's Termination Notice: If you are the maker of a web page that asks for my address and then only gives me twenty characters to do it, a pox on you. I'm afraid I need you to turn in your access cards and get out of the building.

Posted by Chris on 05/ 3/06

December 13, 2005

Idea for business

Merry Christmas, World of Business. Here's my present to you: a great new idea for you to exploit, which I give freely in the spirit of the holiday.

Every photo-organizing software tool I've seen has a feature to take the red out of eyes so we don't look like dogs or demons in our pictures. So how about a setting to make our teeth look whiter?

How about a slightly-slimming option? How about something to draw pupils on my eyelids when I have my eyes closed?

Just throwing it out there.

Posted by Chris on 12/13/05

Don't forget the turkey necks and crow's feet...wardrobe tweaking ...hairdo could go on forever!

Posted by: lvm at December 16, 2005 8:45 AM

November 22, 2005

Yet another act of charity for the world of business

Again I find myself in the position to bestow a great boon on the world of business, for free. So numerous have these ideas become that I have now consolidated them into a separate category, Open Source Ideas for Business.

Why do I not seek to improve my own fortune from these ideas? Why do I merely throw them out into the world of commerce without thought to personal gain? Because I am a believer in open source innovation. And when you read the idea you will agree that the benefit to all mankind is too great for one man to horde it all.

I am calling for the invention of a thing I like to call the Waiter's Notepad™.

The Notepad™ is a marvel of engineering that will forever eliminate that awkward negotiating over the bill at the end of a restaurant meal with a large party. No more will you have to open a tedious investigation into who ate what, who drank wine and who had water, who tried some of the appetizer but then hated it so you're not charging them, all in order to divide the bill up in the fairest way possible. Because someone always ends up getting screwed anyway. I'll sometimes pay extra just to end the madness and get the hell out of there.

It will also remove the need for some beleaguered server to have to practically maintain an accountant's ledger for a table should they agree to split up the check.

The Waiter's Notepad™ is basically a PDA that features an electronic schematic of your party's table, and is programmed with the entire menu. When you place your order, the server taps your seat on the screen, then enters your choices, and these are instantly transmitted back to the kitchen via some fancy wireless protocol.

Then: When it comes time to settle the bill, waiter leaves Notepad™ for everyone to pass around. Every seat at the table has a total already beside it, along with a list of all the items ordered. And any of the items can be divided up in any way between any number of other seats. You guys shared an appetizer? Then drag that over to the "Shared" column. These two are a couple and are paying together? Then use the "Group" option for those two seats. Myrtle is a vegetarian so she didn't have any of the chicken wings? Then take her out of that group.

The Notepad™ will suggest polite tip amounts, but these can be left off.

Once it's all divided up, everyone swipes their Universal Currency Card* in the slot on the side, the transaction is dealt with wirelessly, and THAT'S IT. NO MORE does the guy who had only soda and a salad get screwed. NO MORE does one person have to act as Impromptu Accountant for the table. NO MORE waiting for the waiter to come back and pick up a stack of credit cards to run.

The Waiter's Notepad™ makes dining out easy, and fun.

*Adoption of Universal Currency Card by society required.
Posted by Chris on 11/22/05

I concur. However, your plan has left out one important twist. It will never work. Why? Cuz it makes sense. Citizens of the world and of our country specifically, don't do things that make sense. Sorry.

Posted by: klugula at November 22, 2005 12:40 PM

WHAT! And no more does that arrogant jerk who reaches for bill first get stuck calulating AND make up the difference while I make my trademarked "cow with a lobotomy" look at the mention of basic math. I actually was RAISED by math teachers. But I don't tell that bastard! Ha, and I didn't throw in for the extra two Coca-Cola's! HHAA! HA. No,no, this idea, this idea needs to disapear. Don't make it easy for that asshat.

Posted by: fattyfat at November 22, 2005 2:11 PM

I would also like to point out that I miss the Anti-Chris. Things just aren't as exciting without him attacking my sexism and my spelling. Maybe, if he's too scared to come back, Chris could post a schedule? And we'd each be the Anti-Chris for a week? And the rest of us not on duty could rhetorically beat the crap out of him again?

Posted by: fattyfat at November 22, 2005 2:14 PM

If 6 poeple were there than each person pays 1/6th. That's my deal - so you might as well go ahead and have that second cocktail cause you are paying for it either way. :)

Posted by: Vickery at November 22, 2005 3:41 PM

I'm taking a risk here by voicing print my greatest inovation for restaurants today. It has nothing to do with the bill.

But why do waiters not have little blackberry like devices that communicate directly with the kitchen...that way as soon as I say "Chicken fajitas hold the tomato" THE KITCHEN IS ALREADY EXPEDITING THAT ORDER because the waitress (yes that's sexist, I'm sure she's a smart woman) doesn't have to march over to a register, gab with KikI and wait to put my order in.


Posted by: friend jessica at November 23, 2005 8:58 AM

A PDA-like device that wirelessly transmits orders back to the kitchen? What a great idea!

Posted by: Chris at November 23, 2005 1:04 PM

you will absolutely not believe this, but my brain ABSOLUTELY skipped that portion of your post. I was totally caught up in the bill splitting portion of your idea. I CANNOT believe it. I CANNOT.

But I'll tell you this..

I came up with this EONS before you did.

Posted by: friend jessica at November 23, 2005 4:51 PM

Don't. JUST... don't.

Posted by: Chris at November 28, 2005 9:46 AM

August 29, 2005

Another innovation I'd like to see

I like to think of myself as a sort of Friend of the Court, but for technological innovations. I don't know what the title would be for someone who writes independent, unsolicited tech Amicus Briefs for the world of business, but if you know what it is let me know, because that's what I am. I hope it's a strange term like "ombudsman," or perhaps something in Latin.

Anyway, today's open-source innovation is that I need someone to do something about this tangled cord I have around my cell phone, STAT.

Because I'm a hands-free kind of guy, because I hate to walk around holding a metal thing to my face while screaming into it, I always use the earbud / microphone attachment when I'm gabbin' on the cell phone, sold separately at fine cellular stores near you. But then this thing is always a hassle to get untangled, and I'm pulling not only my cell phone out of my pocket but whatever keys and doodads are in there that got caught in the cord.

I am not ready for the Uhura from Star Trek thingy that just hangs out of my ear. In fact, I'm still at the stage of holding the microphone closer to my mouth when I speak. Sometimes at moments of poor reception, like, always, I'll actually compulsively point the phone in different directions to try to get a better fix on the bird, as if that does a goddam thing.

So I need a phone where the earbud / microphone piece pulls out of the phone, and then retracts back in when I am done. Much as one might pull out a tape measure or a set of keys on a line.

Posted by Chris on 08/29/05

I like your ideas. I'll expect a prototype on my desk in the morning.

Now... to take over your blog entirely... I have an innovation of my own that I'd like to see that I will share.

One would think that from the thousands of times that I've used my particular ATM card, and from the incredible amounts of information that can be stored on that little black stripe on the back that there could be one little extra 0 or 1 indicating that I am NEVER going to want to transact my business in any other language than English. In fact, if I ever choose Spanish, it's probably not me choosing that option. And I'd like you to keep the card at that point and not return it to the supposed "me" that is operating your machine.

Thank you

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at August 30, 2005 6:44 AM

I agree with you, but someone, somewhere, with an ACLU ankle bracelet, will say that this is a kind of profiling.

Posted by: friend jessica at August 30, 2005 7:39 AM

Now hold up. I am planning on taking Spanish classes soon, so I can prepare for my second visit to Puerto Rico. What if I actually do learn the language, and want to shake things up a bit when I withdraw cash? Huh? Let's not jump the gun here.

Posted by: KLUGULA at August 30, 2005 8:17 AM

To Chris. We have the Uhura thing. It is nice and convenient. And when we first got it, I called Elwood and told him, "We are being hailed." If that is not a reason to get it, then nothing is.

Posted by: klugula at August 30, 2005 8:19 AM

"Uhura" ?

I'm sorry. I speak neither Gay-Geek, NOR Spanish.



Posted by: Big Fat Brian at August 30, 2005 9:35 AM

This reminds me of that bit of dialogue between Vincent and Jules in "Pulp Fiction," where Jules is talking about the pilot Mia did.

What's a pilot?

Well, you know the shows on TV?

I don't watch TV.

Yes, but you're aware that there's an invention called television, and on that invention they show shows?

I know you're not a big sci-fi fan, but you're saying that in 2005 you're not even peripherally aware who "Uhura" is on that old show? I mean, even with the image of a phone-thing hanging out of someone's ear, no distant bells going off? Never saw any SNL parodies? Nothin'? OK, just checkin'.

I'm not saying it's not possible!

And I like the idea of that extra "1" telling the ATM what my language preference is. Make it so.

(Oops - you won't get that reference)

Posted by: Chris at August 30, 2005 10:58 AM

I'll confess... I know who Uhura is. Although, I wouldn't have known how to spell her name.

I just wanted to make a Gay/Geek reference. You sniffed me out.

And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at August 30, 2005 11:13 AM

So what is the Latin title we'd give to people like ourselves who offer up these freebies to business? Amicus Technicas?

Posted by: Chris at August 30, 2005 11:17 AM

Poor person.

Posted by: Rich at August 30, 2005 11:51 AM

Poor person or Poorus Personae.

Posted by: Rich at August 30, 2005 11:53 AM

August 24, 2005

Open Source freebie - because I'm a friend to business

Note to Entourage on the Mac:

How about you somehow sync up behind the scenes with the Post Office, so I can press one button and you'll print out a postage-paid mailing label?

It doesn't have to be an adhesive label, but if it's not, I'll also need this feature to locate where the Scotch Tape was last put in my house.

Posted by Chris on 08/24/05

Holy shit, you're funny. And I get to be married to you!

Posted by: Wife Ami at August 25, 2005 10:19 PM

I think he's funny, and I am not married to him. What does this make me? How do I fit in?

Posted by: klugula at August 29, 2005 1:20 PM

March 12, 2004

Open-Source Innovations: #2 & #3

Innovations 2 & 3 have to do with coffee shops, bars and other places where people gather in the evening to have stimulating / depressing drinks and snacks, and to revel in human fellowship.

2. Conversation-Enabled Coffee Shops

Do you notice that people start to clear out of your cozy little coffee shop when the Jazz Trio starts playing? Have you noticed that drink sales tend to drop off as soon as Open Mic starts? That's because people would rather hear themselves talking than the music you've chosen!

There are tons of other venues to hear live music in. In fact, ALL of them. Why not be the only coffee shop in your neighborhood billed as THE place to hang out and talk or - GASP - just enjoy the peace and quiet?

3. Expert-Free Pool Tables

Is there any other non-professional sport besides pool, where it is next to impossible to play without getting unsolicited advice from an expert? Are dart champions unable to restrain themselves from telling you what's wrong with your throw? Are pinball wizards slapping their foreheads when you don't keep hitting those bumpers? Do people in bowling alleys scream two lanes over when someone isn't putting enough spin on the ball?

Nope, it's just pool. With the ability to sink a mean bank shot comes the inability to tell others how to do it. How many times have you experienced this?

The Pool Expert sees you walking around the table, figuring out which ball to knock in.

POOL EXPERT: What you need to do is hit it HERE (pointing at a specific spot on a ball) and then it will hit HERE (pointing at a specific spot against the side) and knock this one (pointing at another ball) in. But VERY LIGHTLY. And with a slight TOP SPIN.

YOU: Thanks.

You'd rather be left alone, but you try what Pool Expert suggested. You fail.

POOL EXPERT: If you'd put a little more spin on it, it would have worked.

Here's what I suggest: a sort of "bunny slope" table where UNSOLICITED POOL ADVICE IS NOT ALLOWED. That means no matter how badly they break, no matter how much of a bullshit shot that last one was so it SHOULD NOT count, no matter how many times they scratch, even if that was the EASIEST SHOT IN THE WORLD that they just blew, then you have to SHUT UP AND WRITHE IN THE UNSPOKEN KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE BETTER.

Posted by Chris on 03/12/04

You need to get downstate if it's utter nothingness you're after in your cafés. And restaurants. And bars.

Posted by: Pete at March 12, 2004 4:54 PM

Open-Source Innovation: #1

Occasionally, to support the American economy, I like to put forth ideas for business in these pages that are totally free for anyone to use. Anyone is free to take these ideas, change them around or employ them as-is, and to seek 100% of the profits as I retain no rights to them. I seek no reward or compensation! I do this only to further innovation and stimulate the marketplace.

Look no further than my idea for a new feature of television remote controls - which I have made no effort to patent though it could make me millions - to prove my philanthropic nature.

Accordingly, here are three new ideas for business. In the right hands, they might well help your company to exceed profit expectations this quarter.

1. Corporate Coupon Team / Pizza Franchise Synchronization

The other day a coupon for Dominos pizza was left hanging on my doorknob. It was an offer for two large pizzas at reduced prize, plus an order of something called Pizza Dots (?) for only a dollar more. In layman's terms, that was two pizzas in standard circular form, and one more in "dot" form. Hey! Great! Some friends were coming over to work on Movie, so that will be perfect!

I called in the order, and the man on the other end had no idea what I was talking about. Unperturbed, I described the offer on the coupon to him. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and yelled at some back-office authority HE SAYS HE GETS A PIZZA FOR 9.99 DO WE HAVE THAT SPECIAL. A moment later he came back; what would I like on that pizza? When I went on to describe what I'd like on the second pizza, he covered the mouthpiece again. HE SAYS HE GETS ANOTHER PIZZA WITH THIS SPECIAL FOR 7.99 DO WE HAVE THAT. Then he came back to ask what toppings would I like on pizza #2?

At each new element of the order, he would yell back for confirmation that such a special existed.

Finally, at the end, he gave me my total, which was ten dollars over what it should have been. I corrected him according to the amount on the coupon; he yelled back; there was a long pause during which I assume someone rooted around for the office calculator; he came back with a revised total.

I am not bothered in the slightest by this, because it happens every single time I call in a coupon order. I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever, ever, ever, never, EVER, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, never, ever, ever, neva-nev, ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever called in for a special offer pizza order and had the person on the other end know what I was talking about.

This isn't just for phone-in orders - it happens when I might go to a franchise and present a physical coupon.

In the times when I have presented the physical coupon, it is always subjected to much heavy scrutiny and passing-around in the back office. Here's the important bit: it's not that they seem to doubt the veracity of the coupon, as if I am the Mad Coupon Counterfeiter here to cheat them once again; they are not back there holding it up to the light or doing the Litmus Configuration Test on it. They are looking at it as if they have never seen such a thing before*.

But still I am not perturbed. Because I know in times like this that I have the rare privilege of momentarily being a part of the Dominos or Pizza Hut Corporate Team. It is clear to me from these reactions that this is the first time these franchise workers are hearing about such an offer. It's because Corporate Office was relying on me to be a sort of human intra-franchise memo announcing this week's special.

Looked at in this perspective, I am proud to have such trust placed in me.

But still, I think there is a better way. Are you listening, Parent Company? Because here comes the idea. (And this doesn't just apply to the pizza industry. Any company that employs "special offers" can take advantage of this innovation.)

- If you are issuing a coupon for a special offer, inform your individual franchises. -

But how will we do this? you may be asking. Will this require a lot of additional infrastructure and support personnel? And I say to you that therein lies the beauty of this idea! You can use existing communication methods to deliver information to your franchises.

For example: if you are having a coupon-advertised special, you might choose to "e-mail" your franchises in advance. Or, you could "phone" them. Or "mail" them! See?

Next: Conversation-Enabled Coffee Shops and Expert-Free Pool Tables.

*Regular readers may remember that my super-power may be coming into effect here.
Posted by Chris on 03/12/04

December 17, 2003

The Insomnia Button

Here's my idea for a new button that should be on T.V. remotes - an Insomnia button. This button would turn the T.V. on and automatically set it to a very low volume.


Why an Insomnia button? Because it's not enough to turn the T.V. on and quickly mute it - you know the minute you try to adjust that volume it's going to be VERY LOUD at least for a few seconds.

Posted by Chris on 12/17/03