Idea Bin: sharing my hoarded ideas, licensed under Creative Commons

I have been writing down and grinding on my ideas for a very long time. Some go back a couple decades, yet still seem timely and useful. In virtually all cases, they will likely never see the light of day for one main reason: shortage of time and money. That is until now.

I work in user experience design for the web, apps, and mobile industry. During my twice-daily commute on the subway I watch how people interact with the world around them. In this surprisingly compact world of commuters, people interact with a multitude of products from the train itself, to bags, clothes, headphones, books, prosthetics and so forth. This is often where the ideas come from for me. Whether it is an industry problem I am meditating on or some general corporal or societal hurdle, I work it out during my ride.

Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.
— Jules Verne [source]

The Idea Graveyard

We all have ideas. But, in this culture of watching others make billions off their ideas, we tend to hoard them in the hopes that we’ll do something with them some day. Or, more accurately: they are treated like that last tin of beans in a zombie apocalypse. The reality that many of us face is the idea will never become reality. You’ve had ‘paint the hallway’ on your to-do list for over 3 years, and for some reason you think that idea for an iPad app is going to happen before you ever even look at paint chips? Nope. So, you squirrel it away and don’t talk about it because one of your friends might make it happen and get rich. Off to the Idea Graveyard it goes.

The Idea Bin

I am now in the process of creating adding to an Idea Bin for the world to pick through my ideas and take charge of what they want. Any idea I come up with that is not derived from (or for) my current job will likely go in this bin for all to (as Creative Commons puts it) “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon [my] work, even commercially, as long as they credit [me] for the original creation.” Credit can take many forms, but must be publicly accesible.

As time permits, I will share my notes, sketches, half-baked concepts, files, whathaveyou. Sometimes they will even be in a coherent presentation. Other times, a work in progress as it comes to me. In-page commenting will be turned on for you to add to the idea, or let the world know you made it happen (or that it already exists.)

What kinds of ideas can we expect?

The 12 that first came to mind (intentionally vague, at the moment):

  • a viable model for monetized, affordable public wifi
  • a city compass
  • a model for charity poker that is more fun
  • uses for NFC tokens
  • something on Owner Experience
  • a better crosswalk experience
  • a responsive nutrition label
  • a more rewarding ‘Kickstarter’/peer-lending model
  • redesigns for various brands
  • a way to repurpose old skateboard/roller derby wheels
  • an app for local & remote business disasters
  • responsive web advertising

And that’s without looking through my notes.

This only benefits us all

Millions of people each day think of ‘great and useful’ ideas. Very few of those will make the millions of dollars the person wants, or the person doesn’t know how to make it happen and fears relinquishing control of it. But, many of those ideas could save lives, make the world a better place, or—for even one person—make life more enjoyable.

We should all start an Idea Bin

I am here to say that we should stop hoarding our ideas that will likely never happen and start to share them. I would like to see more blogs and websites (especially the portfolios of designers and UX’ers) start a section where they can start digging up their idea graveyard and sharing it with the world.

How is this different than a blog?

In the end, it’s not all that different since it’s really just a category of my blog. Though what I am proposing is more along the lines of creating a portfolio expressly to present ideas, inventions, processes, etc. in a central place that others can feel free to use.

Licensed and ready to go

I will be using the Creative Commons licensing to retain attribution, yet afford you the latitude to get the idea rolling without asking permission, and without having to buy them. These ideas are free for anyone to use, so long as you follow the Creative Commons license attached to it.

Why give them away?

Since the death of Aaron Swartz, I have been doing a lot of thinking on the idea of sharing our collective intelligence. Other influencers to the Idea Bin concept have been Punctum Books, various Twitter posts publicly requesting improvements, and nearly every public wiki in existence.

The more information we share, the smarter and better our society becomes. If we continue to hoard ideas and take them to our graves, or only sell them to the highest bidder, we create a small and selfish society where only a few truly benefit. Think of it as a reverse Kickstarter in that the idea is there, and if you have the money, time and the know-how, you can try to get it started.

But you could sell them! Nah. I don’t have the time to play those games, and this way it is more likely to be seen by someone that can make it happen and not have to ask for permission to start. Just adhere to the CC License attached to it. If someone wants to be generous and compensate me in some way, cool, but the point is that the idea becomes reality in some form or fashion.

What’s the point?

I’m not claiming to be some genius or savant, but I tend to think of ideas for products, processes and whathaveyou all the time. Some I really like and I would love to see them become a reality—I just don’t have the time or money to make it happen. If there is someone that can make that happen and not forget me in the credits/attribution, it’s win-win.

The reason other people should do it is that it could be a great way to help you get hired. It’s not completely out of line for someone to hire you based on some idea you have. At my current job they pay me to solve UX problems and come up with new ideas that improve the UX of our product. Let’s say we were hiring, and I were to come across a resume and portfolio that included some very interesting ideas, inventions, or processes that helped me better understand how their mind works: I would want to talk to them. Think about it: every job is ‘a job’ because it involves problems that need to be solved. The one that can solve them best is usually the one that gets hired. (Well, that and a good personality usually helps.)

It has begun

All of my ideas will be listed on the Idea Bin section.

3 Comments

JP Denyer

I too have ideas, boxed, filed coordinated, tucked away. Time to share the…I say why not. I would prefer to create the pro to types, so I am looking for angel funding. Hm-m-m?

Great beginning. Keep going. I will look at my ideas and think how to proceed. Thanks.

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Steve Genius

I am a computer science student at egerton university. I too have a couple hundreds app ideas written down in a notebook somewhere when I was on summer break…. I hereby resolve to do sum’n similar to what you are doing. I will create a web application where people can share their app ideas and even sketches of concepts… Will update you guys soon. BTW… All my ideas will be posted for free on the site I will be building.

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