Idea factory: Dell, let us share our customized systems!

OLSTM (one-line summary): Dell should provide a “Send this configuration to a friend” link on the page of its website where you customize the components of your Dell system.

Here’s one way it could work: If you’ve ever ordered a computer online via Dell’s website (or even browsed the site without ordering), you’ve probably seen their pretty neat, and often imitated, “customize your order” page.

On that page, you start out with the basic options of a computer (harddrive, memory, keyboard, etc.), then proceed to select upgrades for each option via drop down menu. The menu provides handy cues on component price, and when you’re done you get a customized machine and a price.

Why it matters: The urge to play with such a fun (and useful) tool is hard to resist. But beyond the obvious option of sending back and forth “suped-up” customizations with your friends, is also the extremely valuable business application of being able to deliver recommended systems to clients.

Currently, there’s no easy way to forward your custom-built Dell page to anybody else. That’s why a “Send this configuration to a friend” option would be a neat feature. Dell could even go the extra mile and include a “buy this system” link directly from within the email they send you.

UPDATE: Thanks to Brian for the idea!

Idea factory: Save and share Your Laws

OLSTM (one line summary): It would be fun if somebody created a site called (as of this writing, it’s available). The site would be a place to record and publicly share personal “laws”, such as “Clarke’s Law states that a traffic light will only be green when you don’t want it to be.”

Hereís one way it could work: Buy the domain name (or something similar). Then, create a simple “add your law” form tied to a basic account system. Visitors to the site would be able to add personal “laws” or axioms such as the one described above. They could be named after their creator (“Clarke’s Law”), or they could be phrased in a more literal manner (“The Law of Decreasing Battery Life.”), or however anyone chose to name them.

Why it matters: It doesn’t mater, per se. But it could be fun and pretty easy to build. A neat possible feature, if the site took off, would be allowing users to create and print (or order!) a mini desk calendar with one of the public laws for each day of the year.

Do you have an idea? Send it to me at or leave it in the comments.

Idea factory: deliver school closings via RSS

Here in Maine, the weather is likely to turn bad any day now (possibly today) and stay that way until at least early April. Hence, we’re nearly upon the beginning of the school snow day season.

One idea I’d love to see is a site where a parent (or anybody else) could grab news for a particular school. On the site would be imporant school news, especially closings and delays, and it would be available in a variety of formats- RSS, text message, and email notification pop to mind as starters.

Idea factory: integrated bittorrent search

OLSTM (one-line summary): a bittorrent client that includes an integreated search box.

Here’s one way it could work:
A user downloads a bittorrent client that includes an integrated torrent file search box. As the user, you can specify one, or a series, of URLs to pre-load the search with. The software’s maker could also choose to pre-load some popular tracker sites, based on quality/affiliates/etc. Then, instead of having to use the browser to perform a search and click on a link to your load your client, all could be handled from within the app. Better yet: if the app offered a Firefox search plugin whose results window spawned the app.

Why it matters: Because no bitorrent client I’ve ever used includes an integrated torrent search box. There may be one out there (after all, there’s no shortage of clients), but I have yet to come across one.

Bitorrent file search is so bad right now, it could easily be improved from many angles. This is one.

Idea factory: Share your TiVo programming hints with other friends

Looking for a pretty easy and usable web project?

How about using the TiVo website (where owners can view and schedule TiVo recordings online) and combining it with some kind of easily hackable online TV listings site (neither Yahoo!’s nor’s had any kind of feed/API that I could find).

The result would be a simple site that allowed you to browse (or search, of course) upcoming TV listings. When you found one that a friend would like, the site would allow you to pop in their email address, which would then send your friend a link to the show, along with a link to the relevant listing on TiVo’s subscriber site. Your friend could then single-click to confirm, then schedule the recording on their TiVo.

To extend it a bit, also generate an RSS feed of a particular user’s suggestions, so that their aggregate suggestions to friends created a veritable “recommended” list of shows.

You could call the site “” or something similar and include a TiVo-centric blog with it.

If you create it, let me know…I’d use it!

PS: HEY, TIVO! Developers are appreciating your HDK, but where’s the API?!?!

Idea factory: Compare the box office theories with fact

Okay, so some folks are suggesting that summer box office was down because the movies were bad. Bereft of proof until recently, they’re now claiming vindication because box office receipts are now up, in a time when “better” movies are traditionally released (the fall).

So…how to find out what’s really happening? There’s no absolute way to know without either polling every single American or perhaps qualifiying intangible factors such as theater quality, pricing, and etc. (again that may involve signifigantly complicated polling.)

But what about this if you’re looking for a way to see if movie quality really matters:
Go to Rotten Tomatoes (or Metacritic) and tally up, then average the reviews of all movies released from May-August 2005. Then do the same for the same time period in 2004 (and perhaps even 2003). Then, compare the resulting years’ aggregate reviews with their box office numbers, and then you might have some fact to go with your conjecture.

My hypothesis? That movie quality and box office receipts are NOT corrollary. But hey, I could be wrong.