Archive for June, 2012

#54 – Netmagz

Cisco was in the news the other day when they announced that their chief strategy officer, Ned Hopper, was stepping down.  (http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240158753/Ciscos-chief-strategy-officer-steps-down)  Such a resignation would be a big blow to a lot of companies but I have a feeling that Cisco will be okay.  That’s because they’ve spent the last few years massively overhauling the way that they do business, empowering more people, and reducing the impact of senior leadership, creating what could quite possibly turn out to be a management road map for other companies to follow in the near future.

I know all this because I just read a great article about the company and CEO John Chambers during my commute home from work.  You may be surprised to find out that I didn’t get this article off of Mashable or the Huffington Post though.  Nor did I see it on CNN or MSNBC or Google News.  It wasn’t on Flipboard or Facebook and it wasn’t tweeted by someone that I’m following.  I know this because I read about it in an issue of Fast Company.  The issue has a picture of Chambers on the cover and features the headline, “Cisco Gets Radical”.  And oh, by the way, it’s from 2008.

I read a lot of magazines from 2008 and 2007 and 2006 and so on.  I read these back issues for a myriad of reasons.  Foremost being that I want to make sure that I haven’t missed out on any of the important trends from the last few years.  Being new to the tech/science/entrepreneurial Worlds that I now call home I realized early on that I had a lot of catching up to do.  And so I’ve set out to catch up by reading back issues of Wired, Wired UK, Fast Company, Focus, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, Discover, Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc.

In doing so I’ve learned more in the last year than I had in my first twenty nine combined.  I’ve completely changed my outlook on life and have developed a profound love for science and technology.  Science over sports has become my new mantra.  It’s hard for me to even imagine what life was like before I started doing this.  It’s all just a blur of fantasy sports, licorice nibs, and reality TV.  I’m much happier with my life now and I’m excited about what is in store for me as I continue to use this blog to share my ideas with the World.  And I owe it all to back issues of magazines.

I would love for other people, especially those with similar interests, to be able to enjoy these magazines as much as I do.  But there’s only one problem:  there’s no way to do that.  Short of buying issues on Ebay as I did or borrowing a few of the more recent back issues from your local Library there’s really no way to access back issues.  Try ordering them directly from the publisher as I did with Wired and you’re likely to find yourself signing up for Sleep Apnea studies in order to pay for them.

That’s why I want to create Netmagz, the Netflix of magazines.  Just like with Netflix users would pay a monthly subscription fee, let’s say $5, and in turn they would receive the back issue of their choice in the mail.  Once it’s returned, in good condition of course, they would receive the next issue.  There could even be a digital collection of some less popular titles akin to the Netflix Instant Queue.

Not only would this be a boon to publishers, who may stand to benefit from having older issues draw in new customers, but it would also benefit the United States Postal Service which is on the verge of going bankrupt otherwise.  It’s a win-win all around.

With Netmagz you could read this issue of Fast Company from 2008 or any other back issue of your choice from any magazine!

Read Full Post »

#53 – STETI > SETI

Nearly 35 years ago a mysterious radio transmission was detected in space by SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). It was dubbed the Wow signal because the astronomer who discovered the signal, Jerry Ehman, wrote the word wow on the page (see picture below). Despite multiple efforts to do so no one has ever been able to relocate that signal assuming of course that it is even a signal from an advanced alien civilization to begin with.

Of course I want to believe that it is. Not just because I have a burning desire to confirm that life exists on other planets in my lifetime but because I just really, really like aliens. I mean, I like aliens so much so that I’m even on record as saying that Independence Day is the best movie of all time. So suffice it to say I want this to be real. I need this to be real.

Thanks to the National Geographic Channel I’ll finally get my chance to participate in humanity’s response to this signal. According to the article on livescience.com (http://www.livescience.com/21171-wow-signal-alien-message-reply.html), “all tweets composed between 8 p.m. EDT Friday (June 29) and 3 a.m. EDT Saturday (June 30) tagged with the hashtag #ChasingUFOs will be rolled into a single message…Then on Aug. 15, exactly 35 years after the Wow! signal was detected, humanity’s crowdsourced message will be beamed into space in the direction from which the perplexing signal originated.”

Even though I will be participating in this “historic event” I will be doing so with a grain of salt since I’m skeptical that this message is really from an advanced civilization. And of course even if it is will they even be able to understand our response? Regardless I still think that this event, even if it is just a publicity stunt, is a great idea. You never know what may come of it.

But with that having been said this event isn’t what I wanted to focus on in this post. Rather I wanted to take this time to suggest a new course of action for attempting to make contact with alien civilizations: a visual approach. What I like to call the Signal Towards Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence or STETI.

Essentially, what I’m proposing is a giant WE ARE HERE sign, several light years wide, that will flash in a repeating sequence. Any advanced alien civilization with their telescopes pointing in our direction will notice this repeating flash of light, wonder to themselves what it could be, and then set out to find out about it. In doing so they will eventually stumble upon our civilization and make contact with us.

I’m suggesting this visual based approach since this is the approach that we are taking to find exo-planets as we measure the brightness of a star to see if there are any variations in brightness which may suggest the presence of an orbiting planet. Logic would seem to dictate then that if we’re using a visual approach to finding planets then aliens are doing the same thing. And if they are doing the same thing then we should give them a really big, really bright target to find.

35 years later humanity will be responding to the famous Wow signal. What took so long?!!?

Read Full Post »

Back by popular demand it’s my look at some great inventions that I’ve heard about recently.  Are any of these the Greatest Invention Ever?:

1.  The Waterless Shower:  Part of the appeal of taking a shower is the water as it serves to wake you up or refresh you but for people in the military or in developing countries a water less shower is a great idea:.  Read more at:   http://daily-download.com/invention-waterless-shower/

No water? No problem!

2.  IM Blanky aka the Blanket That Feels:  This blanket is outfitted with sensors enabling it to change it’s position and report on what it comes in contact with.  Creepy or a great idea?  Find out at:


This blanket, “wrapped around hospital patients could dutifully report fevers and heart rate.”

3.  Self Replicating Sand:  Sounds like  the plot of a low budget sci-fi movie.  However, it does seem to have a lot of useful real world applications such as being used to create replacement parts when you find yourself in a bind.  Find out more at:


Building sand castles just got a whole lot more interesting…..

4.  Jeans With Transparent Pockets:  Want to check something on your phone during a meeting but don’t want to be seen taking your phone out?  Then this new invention is perfect for you:


Hopefully they will come out with a dress pants version…

5.  Adjustable Coffee Table:  The other day I was lamenting how difficult it was to eat my dinner on the living room couch since the coffee table’s height is too low making it awkward to lean forward in order to reach the plate.  That’s when I came up with the idea for an adjustable coffee table so that you can lower the height when you want a foot rest and raise the height when you want to eat or clean the floor.  Turns out it already exists and apparently has for some time now:


Not only does it exist but there are multiple variations!!!

Read Full Post »

The third installment in a series of posts about potential apps:

Last Saturday a co-worker and I hosted a picnic in Central Park as a  joint birthday party.  On our way to the park we stopped at a local grocery store and picked up a few things.  One hundred and forty dollars later we were on our way to  search  for a killer location just in time for our noon kick off.  After we walked around for what felt like hours (ten minutes) we found the perfect spot right under a tree.  We began to set up shop laying out sheets in both sunny and shady areas and putting all of the perishable items and drinks in ice filled coolers.  And then we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And then we waited some more.  It was nearly 1:30 before the first guest arrived!  Either we did a better job of hiding in plain sight than Waldo or there’s something wrong with the way we go about finding people in public places.

The solution as thought up by my roommate is to create an app that aims to help you find someone or something in a given area.  Essentially to create a location within a location locator.  With modern technology such as GPS enabled smart phones at our disposal and the advent of location based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla it shouldn’t be too hard to bring this app to market.  And there definitely is a market for something like this.

Aside from helping our guests pinpoint our exact location at the park once they got there this type of app could also be useful for pinpointing items in a store.  And with more and more items getting embedded with RFID tags as we move towards an Internet of Things this aspect of the app could revolutionize the way we shop.

Let’s say for example that you’re going shopping at Walmart.  You’re looking for an obscure item that may not be easy to find in the store, say a replacement blade for your outdated electric razor.  You could waste several minutes wandering around the aisles until you stumble upon it.  Or you could use the location within a location locator and find it in seconds since you’ll have pre-populated the app with a shopping list.  All you’ll have to do is follow the app’s directions as it takes you from item to item on your list in the quickest possible path.

The days of being unable to find your blanket at the beach or your significant other inside a movie theater after returning from getting popcorn are over.  With the location within a location locator app you’ll never be left out again.  Take that MapQuest!

Good luck trying to find your friends in that crowd without the help of the location within a location locator!


Read Full Post »

I would love to have a personal assistant. Not to clean my apartment mind you and certainly not to do my laundry as I’m pretty sure that no one wants to handle my Spider-Man underwear. I wouldn’t even want someone to go food shopping for me as I’m fairly certain that I’m the only person who can look cool pushing a granny cart down the street. Come to think of it I really don’t want a personal assistant at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Rather, what I’m looking for is a non-personal personal assistant. Someone who can help me manage the myriad of interests that I have.

I would love to be able to do it all but unfortunately there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do. If I want to blog consistently then I won’t have a lot of free time to spend managing my fantasy baseball teams. If I want to invest quality time in my teams to try and win money then I won’t have a lot of time to spend searching for dates on match.com. If I want to spend more time looking for dates then I won’t have enough time to look for new stocks to invest in. If I want to spend more time managing my etrade account then I won’t have enough time to work out.

It’s a struggle to juggle as I like to say (actually I just made that up) and if I’m not careful I’m going to wind up single, fat, and broke with shitty fantasy teams to boot. There’s got to be a better way to go about making sure that you don’t neglect any of your areas of interest and I think that there is. All you have to do is find a non-personal personal assistant. Or two. Or three.

There are a few sites out there that can help you get shit done. Taskrabbit.com is one such site and if you’re looking to pay someone to help you move or put together a kitchen table then look no further. Meanwhile, Justin.tv founder Justin Kahn is getting ready to launch a new service called Exec that will be similar in scope to Task Rabbit except that it will assign people to your tasks for you.

While I think that those sites have merit they don’t really accomplish what I’m looking for because I don’t want to hire someone on a task by task basis. Rather I want to hire a whole army of people with each person assigned to a specific task. Someone who helps me create content for this blog, someone who manages my fantasy teams, someone who maintains my online dating profile, etc. Essentially, I want to crowd source a whole cadre of helpers.

But here’s the catch. These non-personal personal assistants should be people that you know personally from your social network so that you can ensure you will be working with trust worthy people who will have your best interests in mind. According to Facebook I have 812 such potential assistants in my network! It’s time to start tapping into that.

For example, my aunt loves to travel and has offered to help me plan my upcoming trip to Hawaii. Shouldn’t I be able to find someone like her, who loves to travel, to plan all of my travel arrangements going forward? Perhaps one of those 812 people really likes online dating. Shouldn’t I be able to hire that person to fix up my profile and search for potential dates?

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we could not only farm out the tasks that we don’t want to do to our friends that would love to do them but if we could also make money on the side helping out those that we care about? It’s time to put an end to the struggle to juggle and start doing the things that we love for the people that we love.

Don’t worry cartoon girl. You’ll love being a non-personal personal assistant where you get to do something that you enjoy all the time.

Read Full Post »

In the June issue of the UK edition of Wired Magazine there was an interesting story about Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, and how he is working towards creating a new social media site called Backplane.  (http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/06/features/troy-carter?page=all)

The aim of this site will be community building but what it’s really all about is taking control of the content that Lady Gaga or any other celebrity is creating by housing it all in one easy to manage location.  The article elaborates on this:  “The goal, Carter says, is to turn the Backplane into a one-stop hub for the entertainment community. He’s in talks with actors, studios and sports teams. He adds that it will also be useful for vintage-car clubs and for Girl Scout troops, although perhaps less profitably. For now, though, he plans to use it as an exclusive place to sell concert tickets, music, videos and whatever other Lady Gaga products emerge.  “She still has a deal with Universal Records,” he says, “but there will come a time when she’ll release music through her own site. It’s not just going to be about sells. It’s going to be about the streams coming through the site. For us, it’s important to be able to identify who’s listening to what. We want to own that data. We have to own that data.”

In theory, Backplane sounds like a great idea.  Why should a celebrity like Lady Gaga have to take the time to release content on a variety of sites including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube not to mention the hundreds of fan sites that have proliferated across the Internet when she can just manage one feed on Backplane?  Doing so will enable her to control her message, speak to fans directly, and get real time information about who likes what from her various offerings.

You often hear the big tech companies such as Apple and Facebook talk about new ideas that have the potential to disrupt industries.  Will Apple TV disrupt the cable companies?  Will Jack Dorsey’s Square disrupt the credit card companies?  Will Facebook disrupt Madison Avenue?  The search for the next big things is always on.  Well, if Backplane can successfully cut out the middle man from Hollywood and allow for artists to release content directly through the site then it can become a significant game changer.

The only problem that I have foresee with Backplane is that it’s really only useful to actors, musicians, and athletes who have a need for controlling their content.  Which is the same critique that I had about Twitter at first.  The solution for making Backplane a mainstream hit in my opinion is to open up the business model to everyone.  Why stop at celebrities or even Girl Scout Troops when there could be a market for any average person to use the service?  For example, I could see myself using a service like this to promote this blog which would allow me to release content across a variety of platforms and engage my fans directly.  And if I ever want to get published I wouldn’t have to rely on a book publisher to do the leg work for me as I could just release a self published book through this site.

I think there could be a real market for a site like this, for celebrities and even people like me, and I’m curious to see how it all plays out.  In the mean time I guess I’ll have to settle for engaging my fans one by one which shouldn’t be too hard considering I only have one so far.  So, Mom, what do you think about the blog?

Lady Gaga’s Backplane site is called littlemonsters.com. Is this the future of entertainment?

Read Full Post »

Move over Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter there’s a new sheriff in town, the Vampire Slayer.  No, I’m not talking about Buffy.  I’m talking about electronic devices that are designed to counter act vampire energy.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with vampire energy this is energy that is sucked up by appliances that aren’t being actively used in your home in particular phone chargers and home entertainment systems.  This type of energy is very wasteful and can cost you hundreds of dollars of year without you even realizing it.

To learn more about vampire energy check out this video clip from Vampirepowersucks.com:

The reason why I bring this up now is because of the heat wave that hit New York last week with temperatures nearing 110 degrees.  During such heat waves there is always a fear that the power companies will struggle to keep up with the energy demand as everyone cranks up their air conditioner at the same time.  That fear is what got me thinking if there was a better way to conserve energy from the grid.  What I came up with was a device that would attach to an outlet and block energy from coming into devices that weren’t being used.  Basically, I had just reinvented the vampire slayer!

Charles Duell, former commissioner of the U.S. patent office, once famously said, “everything that can be invented has been invented.”  And while that’s obviously not true I can relate to where he was coming from.  There’s no worse feeling than coming up with a potentially World changing idea only to later find out that it already exists.  It’s times like this that I wish I was born hundreds of years ago so that I could have become a World famous inventor instead of just a guy who writes about ideas.  Actually, I take that back.  There was no air conditioning back then.  Oh well, I guess I’m just going to have to tough it out in the 21st Century and try to come up with something else…

It turns out Vampire Energy slaying devices already exist! Oh well.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »