Monday, May 31, 2010

Loogle

Loogle is a web service that automatically builds shop sites for anyone on-the-fly. All you need is a  webcam and a browser and you are set to sell anything with a bar code (maybe even without a bar code in the future).


Loogle sets up a customizable Amazon-ish type site for you automatically, registers it with search engines and its own product search engine, along with your zip code, so that people can FIND YOU EASILY. 

Loogle – what’s in a name

Local Google... Loogle. Ok its a bit obvious and may not be useable for legal reasons but it captures the general idea. Google is great for bringing the world to you but you live in a town somewhere... a place and have to pay the tax of shipping and delivery delay every time you tap into the worldwide marketplace... Loogle is about encouraging local people to let each other know what is handy, nearby to fill your need. Who said the net needs to be everywhere but here?

How Loogle came about

Back in 1997 I looked at patenting a system that allowed a product page (ie a Nike Air boot page) to have a little icon that linked to a site that coordinated all the inventory of all the local sellers of Nike shoes to allow users to find their size and color on a local basis and send a hold request to the merchant to give them a chance to come see it and make a purchase.

The idea fell through at5 the time because a big trusted name like Ernst & Young was needed to make something like this work. Since then things have changed. Barcode sites are incredible repositories of product information, people are proving time and again that they can do better for themselves what corporations try to charge people for so the twist on Loogle is to make it all FREE. Inventory management, data storage, everything.

How do we make money? Well thats an easy one, but for the moment it's our little secret, but resta assured the shop front, inventory system and search are all going to be free, gratis.

Current development status

Sat May 1, 2010: A basic development plan and component collection is in place and a lead developer/ project manager has been interviewed. Based on past experience this means that a basic alpha site should be available for limited testing in late June. If you re interested in being a tester please make a comment say so and we will make contact with you in due course.

Public Milestones

As we have stated above we are in alpha development and research at the moment but things are firming up for a targeted beta date probably within 6 weeks.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Google/ Copyright conundrum and opportunity

The world is definitely different because of Google. Never before has it been so clearly proven that the ability to find information can be as important as the information itself.

Google has got us questioning the horse and the cart illustration. Sometimes it is better to put up with lower quality information when it is soooo much easier to access.

Close but not close enough…

We have been so enthusiastic about the accessibility to information that Google delivers that it is only now, after years of using Google, that many of us are starting to see clearly that content is king… that still, even in the light of 30 millisecond search results, the thing found remains the draw card not the ability to find.

So yes, still, the horse comes before the cart.

The next problem is Google’s business model. A model that assumes that horses are a dime a dozen and it’s the cart that has all the value.

In this case I have taken a pretty determined position. If content is king, then copyright must prevail and this leaves the copyright owner in the position of power… by law and morally.

On this basis then, there is a giant gap of opportunity laying between Google on one hand who must rely on the content owners to give Google rights to copy (even to do basic indexes and display search results) and on the other side the content owners who are seeing their ability to make a livelihood strangled by Google’s advertising model and their business model that relies on the commoditization of information and copyright works.

A solution? How about this idea.

How about this? A copyright registry.

A system for copyright owners of anything; articles, photo’s, books, music or video. If a copyright owner wants to allow their works to be used in public, they can. But users must link their copies of content to the registry as in a conditional copyright arrangement.

The registry could integrate a fingerprinting technology that allows for embedded copyright attributions. A photo could be modified with copyright going to the original photographer and the subsequent digital artist. Copyright owners could check where their work is being used.

Ownership? Successful ownership models for something like this already exists. Consider Visa. A standalone company with an $800 million a year profit. But who owns it? The banks. Visa is owned by a large number of member banks. The service becomes self regulating in that it has to remain healthy as an important service to banks, but it can’t overshadow the banks and leverage its position against the banks because it’s against the owners interests.

If Visa was a search engine, it would be owned by all the big media companies as member companies. Visa would have it’s own search engine and advertising revenue from search results would come back to member companies.

The battle lines between Google and the media companies would be drawn across the definition of value content. Content where the publisher expects to be paid on one side, and everything else on the other side.

Ok. So how could this Visa for copyright work and what could it do?

  • It could not only register copyright works and track them but also be a new breed of search engine where the results are optimized around metadata about the content NOT the content itself. This would allow non text content like audio and video to be searched with the same ranking as everyday web pages are now.
  • Search results would be centred around web objects not web pages. This would allow non text content to establish it’s stature and importance along side text or quite rightly in some cases above text.
  • Copyright owners could then dictate monetization from point of search to content consumption.
  • With all content registered in one consortium owned place, the content itself becomes the driver of monetization not the brand or domain name. For example, the content owner of a film could open up the sale of  timestamp and screen locations within the video file. A restaurant made famous by a scene in a movie could buy advertising that points any viewer of that film to their web site. Links to that part of the film can be featured on the restaurants web site or even the bottle of wine being poured in a scene can be purchased by an internet winery… but all this activity is controlled by the copyright owner.
  • An open system of linking to, bidding or trading to and around content could be explored without the limitations and constraints of 3rd parties claiming and squabbling over content rights. All income is cleared and shared with the content owner.
  • Search and relevance engines would take on a new life. A person watching a home cooking show could be linked with a video segment showing the whole cooking process for the meal, or a listing of recent films or shows where the recipe was featured.
  • Then the flow-on’s start. Copy control and anti-piracy measures can be easily plugged in due to a much more manageable chain of ownership structure for content. Reliability goes up as does quality assurance. The person that most wants there content to look and sound good is the content owner.
  • Micropayment. The idea of paying a fraction of a cent for viewing some content will finally start to make more sense. Watching a classic old movie may cost 99 cents but seeing a segment of Casablanca as part of a tourism pitch by a travel company may cost nothing. Then again “play it again, Sam” may cost you a cent or two if you use it as part of your piano music teaching business.

So where to start?

Phew. This is getting to be a big post but you can’t come this far and not start to point at places to start. Recently I met with broadcast media specialist Peter Fox and started brainstorming this idea… maybe the National Archive, maybe APRA… but these are brands and organizations with goals and missions that are beyond the simple plain mandate to register, document, protect and exploit copyright by copyright owners.

So here goes…

The international copyright registry starting with the Federal Copyright Registry of Australia…. kind of like the Federal Reserve but for copyright and not currency! Also like the Federal Reserve it will be privately owned by a consortium of copyright owners representing all copyright owners.

It will be an introspective search engine first. With a browser tool that enables you as the copyright owner to populate the registry with items that are your copyright. Each item you select for registration will be linked to your registry account. Text, photos, music, video everything with a record of links to every place they occur.

Ideally a minimum of free space will be provided for small volume copyright owners, but the more space you use the more you pay as a registry member.

Membership will be a 5 year minimum to cover storage  charges with a two year grace before taking content off-line if there is no maintenance payment received.

Ideally a copy of your copyright material is stored in preference to just a referring link. In every case however, a metadata reference file is built… possibly with a thumbnail of the site, for web pages, a thumbnail of the video or photo or an audio placeholder for music or other sound you have copyrighted.

The notes for this idea are just swamping me at the moment so I am now looking at a seperate webpage or to break this idea up into sections… please standby for more..

End note re Google – Google has done lots of good with it’s power over its global index. The site you are looking at now is provided free by Google and for services like this I thank them. But the fact remains content remains the most important thing and people who help others find content should not dictate how the content owner makes their living.

How can you be working on 80 inventions?

A lot of people have asked how I can possibly be working on something like 80 projects and have any hope of getting anything done…

… well I can’t!

The thing is that being a professional inventor means that your number 1 priority is to follow opportunities as they present themselves and then once their potential is understood, they are prioritized amongst other projects to allow the most fruitful and promising projects to get priority.

Sometimes it’s just timing. Timing for the right people to be available to work on the project, or the right resources to be available cheaply to continue experiments. Sometimes it’s money.

Another dilemma is prioritization.

As an inventor I am constantly losing perspective. The initial buzz of possibly solving a big problem sometimes quickly gets overshadowed by the grind of having to tackle a secondary issue in proving the invention.

For example, I am trying to work out how to turn road trains/ trucks into lite rail vehicles. Every person I speak to about it thinks its a really great idea but I'm struggling with the whole project since the concept relies on an easy and simple way to add the rail bogies to an existing truck and trailer… its really hard work.. so this makes me place the project further down the priority list, but then I’ll meet a heavy industries engineer and the project takes off again… it’s that fickle.

Other factors can be my energy level at any given time. If everything’s going good and there is a lot of energy around me, and the team I work with, the idea of tackling massive compression with Logarex or having another crack at music anti-piracy with Delta Watermarking makes these projects jump to the top of the list.

At other times when the energy is low I’ll throw myself into easier, smaller projects like the TV mute voice controller where the target is easier and smaller in scale, even if a lot less world changing.

Another trick I am learning is segregation.

I am learning something important. “Keep invention and business separate”. Invention is like painting. You can’t do real inspired work if you try to treat invention like it’s a production line. But business success is often, and sometimes must be, a process driven quality assured system (i.e. a production line).

In business you need consistency, repeatable performance, polished trustworthy presentation and as few surprises as possible.

Everyone loves to hear about the latest invention or idea, but if you are a customer or an investor you don’t want to be a guinea pig. You want your money to buy something that is proven and will work.

So on this basis I deliver inventions in a two part process.

The first part I handle personally… conception, provisional patents and proof of concepts… all the stuff that is airy fairy and high risk.

Then, secondly,  I will find professionals that are as good as I can get to take over the project. But I don’t hand over the project until it is fully baked… that I can prove to work, that has at least a basic business plan and a basis for Angel funding.

I did this to some extent with Uniloc when I handed over the company to my friend Craig Etchegoyen in the US and now I’m doing projects with Lynden Payne at R2 Group in Australia.

The process of getting the project cross checked by industry professionals, vetted by investors from the target industry, and the selection of a CEO for the project that has sold something like this before is all essential to fully baking the cake, but takes a skill set that I just don’t have… therefore the need for a team that takes my projects, runs them through the griller, slams it a with a big dose of reality and then prepares it for business development.

The beaut thing about this for me is that I do a lot of what I’m good at and a lot less of what I’m not. Making a living is a lot more fun this way too.

Feel free to request more fleshing out on this article if you find it interesting. Regards, Ric.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A new approach to Business Plans

Seth Godin is one of the guys I follow for consistent gems. I have reworked an article he wrote here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/05/the-modern-business-plan.html with the aim of making it more nuts and bolts-ish for the many people I am trying to help get their inventions and businesses going… What follows is my adaptation of Seth’s basic idea.

Normal business plans include terms like “target market” and “resources” where you end up having to learn a myriad business terms just to understand how the document is meant to work. Well Seth’s idea, with my adaption is designed to simplify the business plan format and to focus in the document on key ideas or answers.

The proposed business plan includes 5 sections:

  1. The way things are
  2. What we plan to do about it
  3. What we will do if things go sideways
  4. The people to get this done
  5. The money we will need and how we plan to use it.

The way things are section describes the world as it is. Footnote if you want to, but tell me about the market you are entering, the needs that already exist, the competitors in your space, technology standards, the way others have succeeded and failed in the past. The more specific the better. The more you can show savvy industry knowledge the better. The more visceral the stories, the better. The point of this section is to be sure that you're clear about the way you see the world, and that you and I agree on your assumptions. This section isn't partisan, it takes no positions, it just states how things are.

This section can take as long as you need to tell it. It can include spreadsheets, market share analysis and anything I need to know about how the world works.

The What we plan to do about it  section is your chance to describe how you're going to change things. We will do X, and then Y will happen. We will build Z with this much money in this much time. We will present Q to the market and the market will respond by taking this action.

This is the heart of the modern business plan. The only reason to launch a project is to change something, and I want to know what you're going to do and what impact it's going to have.

Of course, this section will be incorrect. You will make assertions that won't pan out. You'll miss budgets and deadlines and sales. So the what we will do if things go sideways section tells me what you'll do if that happens. How much flexibility does your product or team have? If your assertions don't pan out, is it over?

The people to get this done section rightly highlights the key element... who is on your team, who is going to join your team. 'Who' doesn't mean their resume, who means their attitudes and abilities and track record in shipping... what they have done in the past that tells me how they are going to use existing skills, experience and contacts to get the business done.

And the last section is all about money the money we will need and how we plan to use it. How much do you need, how will you spend it, what does cash flow look like, P&Ls, balance sheets, margins and exit strategies.

Your local VC might not like this format, but I'm betting it will help your team think through the hard issues more clearly.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Evernote kludge for delegation and business productivity

image

If you are lucky enough to have the circumstances where you have a support team, one of the best things I have ever come across is a kludge of using one shared Evernote account for your whole team where the team coordinator becomes the recipient of all incoming Evernote notes and acts as a triage point to then on send the messages or notes for execution by other team mates.

Here are some situations:

  • I have just walked out of a meeting and want to send a thank you to the people I have just visited.
  • I open Evernote on my iPhone, go to voice record and start recording the following… “Seb (my assistant), please send the following voice message as an attachment to <people I just visited>, thanks mate.” and hit the save button.
  • Then I record a second message “Hi <so and so> thanks for having me today. I will follow up with etc etc etc”… and hit the save button.
  • Seb receives both messages as soon as they are automatically uploaded and he processes them for me sending the voice message as an email attachment…
  • People say it is very personal, and for me it is fast and timely enabling me to capture ideas or details the moment they occur to me which is often the best time to record them…

Another situation

  • I just got given a half dozen cards at a conference. While I can still picture the person that gave them to me and what we discussed I take a photo of the biz card and then send it to Evernote,
  • then I record a quick note like “Hey Seb, please add these guys details to Gmail contacts and make a few notes about the following audio notes and add the audio and any notes you make to the pic of the card so I have some background if I research this guy in the future.
  • Then I add some audio notes to remind me about meeting the person who’s card I received. “Seb please put the Evernote note in our Archive folder  for future reference” and when ever the persons name comes up in the future I have all my audio and card notes in one easy to access place… and all i did was take a photo and make a quick audio note.

Yet another situation:

  • Voice note: “Hey Seb please put a follow up call in my diary for next week to follow up and see if we are on schedule with <the person I just visited>”
  • Or while looking at an email “Seb please send the following as a reply to <sender> in response to email <tilte of email”… then I start a new note that says “Dear <so and so>got your message and wanted to get right back to you… etc etc”.

This method is really really fast… its personal and ensures my team mate Seb is up to speed on everything that happens to me. For this to be perfect I’d love to have an iPhone notification system when new messages/notes  come into Evernote on my iPhone and also the ability to raise the recording quality of audio notes I record in Evernote… but apparently that’s coming…

How would you use this Evernote kludge?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

RailTruckr.com – turning trucks into mini rail-cars

“Back in Dec of 2006 I was intrigued by a story about a bus that could run on rail way tracks. Ever since that day I've been chewing over how to make something that could retrofit existing trucks and vehicles… maybe there is a way?”

The other night I was driving back from a meeting past truck after truck on the Pacific Highway heading south on their night run. Many of them driving within a few dozen feet of each other to benefit from the slip stream of the truck in front… efficient but deadly.

I started toying with chaining trucks together which in turn led to a revisit of the idea I say the Japanese did 4 years ago.

It’s been pretty busy around here but despite this and a couple of 3am nights there is a strong foundation of an idea for a system of rail cradles that attach to trucks just for the trip.

There is definitely one or two patents here so please be patient with me to get them filed so I can give you more detail but maybe, just maybe this idea is goer.

Pic from original article

Loogle - local barcode-driven shop site for everything everywhere

“This idea has been percolating for a long time ever since I wanted to involve Ernst & Young in this kind of thing back in 1998.
      The driving issue for me is to make the web more relevant locally but even easier to use than great sites like Craigslist.”

Note: Loogle is a working title and may be changed before release.

Loogle is a web service that automatically builds shop sites for anyone on-the-fly. All you need is a  webcam and a browser and you are set to sell anything with a bar code (maybe even without a bar code in the future).

Loogle sets up a customizable Amazon-ish type site for you automatically, registers it with search engines and its own product search engine, along with your zip code, so that people can FIND YOU EASILY.

Loogle is Google product searching... but local. It’s Craigslist, Gumtree and Ebay without having to write your advert or having to ad photos.  It's for all those people out there who have stuff to sell or want to buy stuff LOCALLY and without the fuss.

To find stuff is really easy, just type in the product description and your postcode into your favourite search engine or go to the  Loogle search engine and search for your product.

Professional retailers and private sellers are welcome. A key feature of the service is inventory management. This means that Loogle will check from time to time with shop front owners whether the items they list have been sold or not.

For retailers with bigger inventory we will be providing API’s to allow your own inventory system to talk to Loogle to tell customers what is in stock and what isn’t.

We even have a free inventory system planned that allows any shop owner to hook a bar code scanner to their computer or even a webcam and keep track of the value of everything in their store so that their shopfront on Loogle is always up to date…. this may even turn into a free accounting package.. now that’s worth exploring.

Its like Google’s Froogle except that Loogle assumes that the person browsing for stuff is looking for local sellers rather than the cheapest online price with all its complications like shipping and delivery delays… maybe they just want to jump in the car and go looks at the goods and pay like we normally do with most things… hey, the internet is not just for finding stuff for everywhere else buy near your place!

We are also exploring using Loogle as a personal inventory system so you can enter everything as you buy it and then decide later on if you want to sell it… just check a box and now everyone in your neighbourhood knows you have something to sell. Imagine, all your books, CD’s LP’s, computers all listed and available securely online and ready for you to turn into cash when you want.

Maybe we should also include a loan module that keeps track of

Loogle is in alpha research and testing. If you are interested in being a beta tester or have ideas or suggestions for us to consider then add a comment to this post and we'll include you in the near future.

More info:

Why I need more than dropbox…

Dropbox is great for sharing… and for having the same thing on the 3-4 machines I use as well as sharing with all the teams I work with from Rentacoders thru to internal project managers and my family.

But there is a lot of stuff I don’t want duplicated on all these machines. Even for my team, there is stuff that is actively in use but there is Terabytes of stuff that does not need to be  online on all the machine all the time.

My brother Sky would answer the problem quickly by setting up a server and some FTP software but even server beach with 160GB is getting very costly at $75 per month.

So what is the answer?

A local server sounds logical. Two TB drives connected to my home server computer sounds great, but how do I share with everyone I work with? Ok, so I set up FTP software, give the server a static IP and forward all incoming requests for FTP to that server… this is getting warmer and might even do.

But wouldn’t it be great if….

  • I ran some software on my home server that talked to an open internet service that allowed my home server to be accessed as if it was a public server with a domain name (something like ricricho.homeftp.com).
  • Where the person accessing my server accesses a virtual domain name and is routed in a peer to peer connection to my server with no need for a copy of the files on my server to be duplicated out on the net.
  • Where I can setup different groups that have different access to things on my server, so for example a mate of mine wants to submit a drum recording for a song I’m working on, I tell him to go to richo.homeftp.com, hgoes and sets up an account looks for a file to access and I get an email requesting clearance for him and what group/ permission to grant him (can be as easy as a selection of links that when followed give him the appropriate account clearance (and voila)) my mate is connected.
  • Where my content is indexed and search results shown only to people with the relevant clearance.
  • Where my music and videos are automatically provided as streaming content so that friends and family can view private home material without having to use a service like Youtube. It’s my content, I want to keep it.

In the meantime for family and friends who are interested here is my internal Home Server setup incorporation a local share, FTP site and private Torrent server. A password will be needed so just email me for access if you want.