Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Product idea: Collaborative problem definition database

When I run into something that I don't know, I google.  This morning Fresh Air from WHYY had William Macy as a guest.  I made educated guess from his comment about starring in Fargo as a car salesman.  But I couldn't quite picture how he looked like.  I googled.  Within a second I had 16 photos of William Macy on my iPhone.

I can get to the answer instantly for those questions with definite answers.  Retrieving facts is largely a solved problem.  If someone has uploaded something about the fact, search engines will get me the answer.

But there are still lot of things that I cannot search.  Things like when was the last time you noticed something was broken, or what ideas did you have recently to improve your quality of life are a few examples.  These are questions that everyone has as we live our lives.  But they are not possible to search because they are not available on the internet.

Let me give you a concrete example.

I drive to work from Dublin to Belmont 3 to 4 times a week.  It's not a short commute.  It is about 35-mile commute each way.  If there is a traffic, it can easily become over an hour drive.  So I am sensitive to the traffic, and I want to schedule my commute in such a way that I can minimize the driving time.  I have one question in mind.  What is the best time to leave for work?  When I'm at work, I have a similar question.  What is the best time to come back home?

This is my problem.  But I'm willing to bet that there are other people around me with similar, if not identical, problems.

If all of our well-defined problems are available on the web, and we can categorize and search, it may make sense for someone to create a business to launch the service to solve the problem.  Or if there is a hacker looking for the side project, the hacker can volunteer to build something to tackle the problem.

The critical missing piece is that we do not have the data collected, i.e. the problem statements collected from everyone.  But I don't see why people cannot create a database of problems, sorta like bug database of our lives, that can be tagged, categorized and searchable.  If we make it easy enough to submit and critical user base starts to submit their problems, we can do lot of interesting things with it.

Imagine seeing the top 10 problems that are on everyone's mind.  No more guessing work as to what big problems to solve.  No more marketing activities to validate whether market exists.  Anyone can look up the problems, connect with people who are interested in solving them, and even ask for up-front funding, much like Kickstarter or AngelList, to start the project.

Any taker out there?

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