Mark Gilbert's Blog

Science and technology, served light and fluffy.

Idea Incubation Site

One of the most recent posts on my company’s corporate blog mentioned a "Twitter Race".  Before I got any further than the title, my mind was racing (no pun intended) to figure out what a "Twitter Race" would actually look like.  Then I read ahead to see what it actually was.

I will do this frequently, and more times than not, I’ll figure out the core of the idea before I read past the first few words of the description.  I say this not to tout my mindreading abilities, but rather to point out that there are some really "duh – why didn’t I think of that?" ideas out there.  The fact that I can figure them out based on a five-word description gets me down (just a little) because I DIDN’T think of them already.

So, what did I think "Twitter Race" meant?  The first thing that popped into my head was a race that involved geo-tagged tweets – you or a member of your team had to be at specific places between points A and B, had to tweet from there, and had to have your tweets geo-tagged so that a race official could verify that your team actually got all of the checkpoints covered.  The actual meaning behind "Twitter Race" was a little different than that.

The fact that I was that far off of the mark got me thinking.  What if there was a site that would throw out a phrase like "Twitter Race", and then crowd-source the exploration and definition of that phrase.  So, for "Twitter Race", you might get Citroen’s idea, and mine, and 10 others that were nothing like them.

What could you do with this information?  Ideas are powerful things.  People get an idea – maybe something like "a site where my college buddies and I can stay in touch with each other" – then apply liberal amounts of blood, sweat, and tears to turn them into something real – Facebook.

What does the crowd get out of it?  Perhaps points or credits toward submitting their own ideas to the forum.  Perhaps they are venture capitalists looking for people and ideas to fund.  Perhaps respect in the community that leads to people soliciting your opinion – "hey, if OneCoolUser likes your idea, it means you’ve got a real shot at success!

What about protecting the ideas so people can’t just run with them?  What if an idea that started here turns in to a very profitable business – are the people who commented on it and helped shape it entitled to a cut?  Does posting the idea on the site count as trademarking it/copyrighting it?  Now we’re getting past the "hey, that’s a great idea" to the nitty-gritty logistics.  These questions and a hundred others like them would have to be answered before something like this was put into use. 

And no, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was already a site out there like this, and I’m just late to the party again.

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November 30, 2011 - Posted by | You should totally write that!

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