Sunday, November 27, 2011

Well, It's Time

Time to move on, time to share.  Over the next while I'll be publishing the mechanism that makes Keliso work, or will make it work when someone builds it.  I'll be doing this on my main blog:

I'll start by move all the posts from here to there.  When that's complete, I'll start adding content with specific information on how someone can build a donation-based content-distribution website that works.  Of course, I'll leave the profit centres until the end.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Barcode Shopping Idea

Okay... still don't think Keliso is a good idea? Not convinced that my ideas are worth anything?

Here's another one, totally free. Go set up a website and make a bundle. If you do, or if you want to skip the middle and jump to making a whole lot more than just a bundle, then come talk to me about Keliso. It's a way better idea.

Barcode Shopping Website:
  • Make a website that lets people make accounts and do the regular forum stuff.
  • Each account has one or more shopping lists attached.
  • If you login and upload a photo of a barcode, it automatically identifies the product and adds it to the shopping list you specify.
  • It lets you print out these shopping lists.
Sound simple enough? Just a forum-based website with the ability to upload photos that then get processed through basic barcode software. A link to some fairly authoritative barcode to product cross-reference tables would complete the system. Not that hard to do. Let the phone-geeks make smartphone apps to link the phone camera to the website... not really your problem.

So, how do you make money doing it?

Well, if you haven't figured it out by now... you sell adds for various local and online retailers (you ask the people their postal/zip code when then sign up, right?) that sell the products they want. If you want milk, why LowBall Foods, just down the road, has a sale on it right now... here's a coupon to print out. Oh, you're in a store... here's what our "best price found" is (from our list of advertisers).

It's the Google model actually, provide a useful service - in this case automatically building your shopping lists - and then sell discreet yet relevant advertisements to people that might actually care what they say. Of course, you could mine the resulting data you get to collect. What you do with that depends on how evil you want to be.

Feel free to take this idea and do with it what you wish. I expect no remuneration, but do expect attribution. Like I said, you could make money doing this with relatively little start-up capital. Of course, Keliso will make way more money, way faster, with much less work (you don't need to find advertisers), and will cost about the same as this to setup. Of course, Keliso is not free.

You can view more about Keliso here

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Random Samples

Here's another free business idea... again, not as good as Keliso but you could probably make a lot of money doing it.

The basic concept is a sample mail-out business where people pay for the samples. Why would anyone PAY to get junk mail you ask? Well, they will pay for the chance to get stuff. Here's how it works:

  1. Set up a website that has a membership list.
  2. Set up a paypal account these members can send money to.
  3. Pay a little to advertise to businesses that you will ship out their samples to customers for free. All they have to do is mail the samples to you in a big box.
  4. Create categories of samples that members can opt-in for. Make sure everyone is automatically signed up for the "random" category and use that when something comes in for a category that no one has opted into.

    And, now the fun begins...

  5. On the website, list standard package sizes and how much shipping and handling cost for each.
  6. On the website, list the current sample inventory for each category, showing which package size each will fit into. There should be full discloser here, with counts for each sample and the shipping date.
  7. Let members contribute to the paypal account, whatever they want.
  8. For each member, in random order, start with the biggest package they are willing to pay for, and fill it up with whatever is available in the categories they've opted into. If they signed up for a "special promotion" (see below) then fill up the next-smaller shipping package they can afford if there aren't any special-samples left.
  9. Mail the parcels.
So, back to the original question. Why would anyone pay to have junk mailed to them? Well, because SOME of the junk is really great, and they don't know what they're going to get. It's basically a small-scale lottery with a garage-sale mentality. It's cheap, it's fun, and you get random junk in the mail. Hopefully, it's addictive.

Now, for making money doing this.
  1. Right off the top, take a 20% handling fee on the shipping cost. This is this business's main profit center.
  2. Advertising on the website, of course.
  3. Let customers opt-in for "special promotion" emails. Then let companies pay you to announce a really nice sample is available, and everything about it.
Here's an example of how it would work. A manufacturing company (doesn't matter what, really) gives you a few great samples; say free DVD players, or movies, or whatever; and a box full of brochures. You announce the DVD players, or whatever, on your website, maybe along with email notifications if the company pays you for that, and your members go... WOW! a FREE DVD player, maybe. But, the DVD player is in the $20 shipping category, so a bunch of members toss $20 in your paypal account. Randomly, after a set (and published) time, you ship off the DVD players to the lucky people. Everyone else gets other samples shipped to them, all be it in a smaller shipping category, including the DVD brochures. Everyone gets something, maybe only shampoo samples, but something. The sample-supplier company gets targeted advertising, and your company makes money. Everyone's happy.

Some key points:
  • If someone signs up for a special promotion but doesn't get it, ship a smaller package instead such that the member has left-over funds and doesn't feel ripped-off. This will also keep them active in the system and trying to get the next special promotion that comes along.
  • Have time-out periods and automated email notifications when a member's shipping fund is within 20% of the next bigger shipping size. For example, if they have $18.25 in their account, email them to say "You know, if you contribute just $2 more, you'll be eligible for -this list- of great samples. If you do nothing by -date-, we'll send you a $5 shipping package instead."
  • After a period if inactivity, start shipping smaller and smaller sample-packs until the member's shipping fund runs out, or is below the minimum to ship anything. This will be a good way to get rid of all the less-desirable samples. It will also remind the member of the system each month, and that their shipping fund is being whittled away while they do nothing.
  • Fill shipping boxes up to the weight limit by adding smaller low-value stuff that will fit.
  • Coupons would make for very low-value shipping. Just stuff an envelope until it nears the weight limit.
  • Create ways that very active members can increase their odds at getting the special promotions. The more website activity, the more advertising revenue.
  • Locate the business next to a convenient postal center.
  • Keep the inventory low by mailing out everything within a set time.
  • Make sure you don't get more samples than you have members willing to ship. Once things get rolling, create a company "sample authorisation" number and refuse to accept any package without one.
  • Start charging companies that want you to distribute more low-value samples than your members want.
  • Eventually, when companies start paying you more to distribute their samples, start lowering the handling costs. As this is a free idea, anyone can do it and you're likely to have competition. The big players will have an advantage, so start quickly.
Anyway, that's the idea. It's free, it's published, and anyone that wants to can make a go if it. I expect no remuneration, but do expect attribution. You need to tell people where you got this idea, but that's all. Go for it if you want. I don't expect anything for publishing this idea but if you get wildly successful at it, feel free to toss me some money. I won't mind.

Oh, and Keliso is a much better idea, with much larger profit margins. Think about it...

You can view more about Keliso here

Friday, December 18, 2009

The End of Copyright

The Canadian government, like many others around the world, is coming under increasing pressure to conform to US, and now EU, copyright regimes. It is only a matter of time before we too have draconian copyright laws that levy ridiculous penalties for sharing, for being human. Good, I say; the sooner the better.

I think these new laws are good because they will only serve to hasten the inevitable, the end of copyright as we know it. I say the Canadian government should, after negotiating suitable concessions in other trade areas, capitulate and whole-heartedly pass all manner of restrictive copyright legislation. However, the next thing they should do is require prominent warnings.

Canadians should pass a law that states that every distribution channel of every bit of copyright-restricted content come with a prominent warning. These warnings, like the side-effect warnings on US pharmaceutical advertising, should tell every consumer just how the product is restricted. I'm not talking about the "copying this is against the law" warnings, I'm talking about warnings like:

WARNING: This product is distributed with restrictive copyrights:
* You are NOT allowed to make back up copies.
* You are NOT allowed to share this with your friends.
* You are NOT allowed to redistribute this work.

And so on. The wording should be explicitly spelled out in the law with specific phrases that must be used when certain conditions are met. Like the disease-photos we mandate be printed on cigarette packaging, these phrases would not be media-friendly. Every distribution channel needs to require these warnings. If you want to air a show on TV that you maintain the copyright to, then a warning must precede it. The same for playing a song on the radio, or selling a book in a store. Every bit if media that is protected by copyright must display prominent warnings. If you don't want to display the warnings, then modify your copyright. With this approach, Canada would both fully comply with international obligations while encouraging the end of copyright, at the same time.

I don't really expect this to happen, but it would be nice. It would speed the demise of copyright. However, even without it, copyright will self-destruct. It will just take a little longer. In the mean time, we will get restrictive laws and we will ignore them. Some of us will continue with copyright infringement, while others will stop consuming copyrighted material. It's not like either is a particularly tough choice.

The problem with passing restrictive copyright laws is that they only work if they are enforced. The only reasonable way to enforce them is through technology. And, as should be very obvious by now, the technological arms-race is clearly being won by the file sharing community. Like the War On Drugs, that still has people becoming heroin addicts while in maximum security prisons, the prospect of the War On File Sharing being a success is pitiful. Yes, a few people might be financially ruined, a few might go to jail for a while, but the torrent of humanity joining the file sharing community is not going to stop. New systems for sharing will be created faster than any systems for detecting. History shows this to be a fact. It is not going to change.

The other problem with passing restrictive copyright laws is that the people at the other end of the spectrum, those morally opposed to copyright infringement, will also be morally opposed to restrictive copyright. These people will support and embrace any business model, like Keliso, that provides non-restricted media. They will simply stop consuming copyrighted material. In the digital renaissance we are experiencing, it's not like they don't have the choice. A person could choose to only enjoy media from artists that eschew copyright and never run out of new material to experience.

Thus, faced with increasingly restrictive and draconian copyright laws, people will either choose to ignore them, relying on increasingly stealthy copy systems, or they will simply, in protest, stop consuming this copyrighted material. The only people consuming restricted media will be the people that don't care about copyright, ignoring it while copying the media for free. If the only people paying are only willing to pay for non-restricted media, then the people in the business of distributing media will have no choice but to distribute non-restricted media. In an environment like this, which is the direction we're heading in, the existing copyright regime will die. It is inevitable. It would be nice if the Canadian government instituted a pharmaceutical side-effect like warning system to speed the collapse, but it's not necessary.

You can view more about Keliso here

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Strength, Weaknesses, and Desire

"If Keliso is such a great idea, why are you trying to sell it instead of doing it yourself?"

I get that question a lot. Unfortunately, to the people that matter most my answer makes the least amount of sense. The people that could carry Keliso forward, that could make it a success, are the kind of people that enjoy throwing themselves into an all-consuming commitment, that like being rewarded for risk. Quite honestly, they like working hard. I don't. Paul Graham said: "That's the essence of a startup: having brilliant people do work that's beneath them." I fully agree, my first job after college was working for an absolutely brilliant man, trained in geography, doing electronics design for marine research. Well, he spent a lot of time doing accounting, and taxes, and other mundane tasks. He built a successful company, and destroyed his marriage in the process.

I consider myself to be an intelligent and capable person, though I have met people I consider far smarter. I'm fairly certain that I could take Keliso through to completion, that I could do the accounting and taxes, write the code to make it work, hire the right people when it came time, and all the other aspects of building a startup. I just don't want to. I like my life the way it is; I have a great job that I, for the most part, love doing. Certainly, I'm doing less of what I don't feel like doing in my hourly job than I would be doing working for my own startup.

A long time ago, after spending years designing specialised computer systems, I realised that to progress I would have to either move or start my own company. I loved where I live, so moving was out. So, I went to one of those small business development seminars that governments put on. The first thing they did was hand out an "Are You Ready to Start a Business" checklist: Are you willing to work 16 hour days? Are you willing to work 5 years without a vacation? On and on it went. My answers: no, no, no... I switched careers and went into computer maintenance instead; I traded the small-business world for a dependable paycheck and a pension. No regrets at all.

"But surely..." people ask, "if the rewards are great enough, wouldn't you put the effort in?" Honestly, yes, but the rewards of building a successful startup don't really appeal to me. Sure, millions of dollars would be great, and I do think Keliso will make its builders at least that, but - and this may sound strange to people interested in startups - this kind of money isn't that important to me. I make more than enough money with my current job; I don't feel like I'm going without. Yes, I can't go off and buy my own jet or a ticket to the Space Station, but those aren't really life-goals for me. For the life-goals I do have, I'm more short of time than money. I would rather spend my time working on an open-source project, or puttering in my hobby machine-shop, than sweating out a startup.

I am, by nature, a person that likes to fix problems. My nickname is "FixerDave" for a reason. I want to fix everything, from motorcycles to computers, emotions to social ills. My deep interest in philosophy is centred around morality and its problems for society, problems I want to fix. Keliso is the solution I came up with to solve the looming problems that virtualising the distribution of content were beginning to cause, problems that have now been headline news for years. I also come from a family of extreme original-thinkers, people that were never in "the box" to start with. My father build a sawmill out of used car parts, from a design he came up with himself. This seems perfectly normal to me. I can't help but come up with original solutions to other people's problems. It's in my nature. Unfortunately, it's not in my nature to follow the bigger ideas through to conclusion.

Often, like my father's electric six-wheeled stair-climbing hand-truck (that pinned him to the wall at the top of the stairs - he wasn't very good at control systems), I see my ideas being sold years after I've come up with them. Some other person had the same idea and also had the ambition to follow through. I suspect that every good idea has many separate creators, coming up with the same general concept over and over again, until the right idea gets to the right person. I'm surprised that the system I envision in Keliso has not already been developed and put into operation. When this solution came to me, I thought it to be so obvious that other people must be working on it. Years have gone by and no one has even tried.

I've come up with a lot of ideas over the years, as is my nature. I've done a few, the simple ones that solve my own problems, but Keliso is the best. It's so good, and so clearly profitable, that I can't bear to just abandon it, knowing that someday, somebody will recreate it. I also can't bear the thought of just publishing it and walking away. Sitting back watching others profit so much from my great idea would be too much. I've tried to find local people, startup kind of people, to carry it forward, but that petered out. I've been dragged into the startup process myself but, without the drive and commitment required, this too failed, as I expected. I know myself and my capabilities. For years, this has been going on. Keliso has weighed upon my mind, occupying my time.

These years have been productive; Keliso is now a much-improved design. The early problems with scalability are now solved - Keliso can expand exponentially without issue. The original design involved rather a lot of money-handling - now there is none as PayPal does all the work. This rework also created an immediate and profitable revenue stream for Keliso; another obvious solution, when you see it. The original design was vulnerable to fraudulent or illegal content - again solved in the revised design, in a unique and powerful way I might add. Keliso has occupied quite a bit of my time over the years, and I've enjoyed solving the design problems. But, I've gone as far as I can go with it. Improvements in design will have to wait until users point out the unseen flaws. Now, Keliso just weighs on me, occupying my time, demanding that I do something to free it.

The problems that Keliso solves are all around us. Artists, photographers, writers, and even programmers are becoming desperate as the old mode of selling copies of their work fails. Some lash out at those who would "steal" their work, others attempt to gather donations. Musicians resort to live-performance, programmers give up and just work for free on stuff they care about. Everyone wants a better way. The world needs Keliso, or something like it. It solves so many real problems that even a flawed implementation would likely be wildly successful. People are so desperate for a solution to these problems that something will happen soon. Something has to break the log-jam that is building up.

Paul Graham also wrote: "
Going into business is like a hang-glider launch-- you'd better do it wholeheartedly, or not at all." While I would dearly love to see Keliso launch and succeed, I know, in my heart, that I'm not the right person to fly with it. Are you?

You can view more about Keliso here