Monthly Archives: December 2008

Startup #155 – Wine Snap


<—sneak preview, stay tuned…  🙂

I’m gonna throw out a scenario, and see if you’ve been there before.  You’re at a friend’s house or dinner party and someone breaks out a bottle of wine.  You’re not that into wine, so you don’t recognize the bottle or the name of the vineyard, but you take one sip and you’re hooked.  You ask the host for the name of the wine, but within an hour or so it slips your mind.  And the next time you are at the store looking for some wine to bring to the next event, nothing looks even remotely familiar – so you just grab the bottle that has a picture of some cute animal engaging in a filthy habit.

Today’s idea is a mobile app that allows users to take a photo of a wine label for purchase online or to be stored later for purchase at a store. 

And that’s pretty much it.  Very similar to the “Amazon Remembers” app that allows you to take a photo of any product for future purchase on Amazon, but with wine-specific features such as Wine Spectator rankings or a tie in to a wine lover’s social network like Cork’d.  Revenue can be derived from lead generation to the wine sellers or targeted wine advertising.

What do you guys think?  Enough of a niche market to take advantage of the new gold rush?  By the way, I’m seeing more and more evidence that 2009 will be the year that the touch interface breaks through to the mainstream.  Start now – it’s gonna be huge.

Startup #154 – Touch Web


It’s snowing like crazy here in Seattle, the city is practically shut down, and I couldn’t be happier.  Tomorrow I’m leaving for Christmas break and will be gone for about two weeks, so happy holidays to all if I don’t get a chance to post while I’m home for the holidays.

In honor of Christmas, I’m going to post an idea that I’ve had for a while and seriously contemplated not posting it here ‘cause I liked it so much.  But it’s Christmas, so why not?  Plus…it’s not like anyone ever reads these ideas anyway…  🙂

I’m predicting that over the next 1-3 years, we’re going to start to see a major shift as users move from mouse+keyboard to touch as the primary input to their computing devices. However, today every mainstream website is optimized for the mouse+keyboard.  Similar to the other revolutionary UX switches, such as the move from command-line to GUI interfaces, or even the shift from client apps to the web, this one is going to have a major impact on the way users interact with their machines, and the opportunity to get in early with a killer product is pretty huge.

My idea is to create user experiences for all the major mainstream web verticals (such as Email, social networking, news, search, etc..) that are designed primarily for use with touch. For verticals that have a high switching cost (such as mail and social networking), instead of trying to build from scratch, the focus should be on a front end that pulls from an existing service (i.e. pulls from gmail pop or Facebook connect). Users could choose the verticals that they use on a daily basis, and each service would be available from different tabs. The core UX elements would be consistent across all services, and would be optimized for use with a touch screen.

In addition to just creating silo-ed front ends to various apps, this idea could really be taken to the next level by leveraging the cross-site synergies across the services.  For example, a drop-dead simple photo storage service where users could drag sets of photos onto photos of people that you want to send the pics to via mail, or drag it onto a Twitter icon to shoot out a link to the photo set to your followers.  Or maybe an add-in to your mail inbox that pulls out attachments and gives you cloud storage options based on the file type (i.e. post presentations to SlideShare, photos to Flickr or Facebook, Excel files to Blist, videos to YouTube, etc..).

(photo cc from flickr by drp)

Startup #153 – 15/20

sample1520Since Christmas is just around the corner, I’m on a bit of a game kick lately.  And since apparently it’s now OK for us Microsofties to mention the “i” word in a public forum, I’ve got some iPhone app ideas built up.  Combine the two, and you get today’s startup idea (including this hastily thrown together interface mock-up!)

Today’s idea is a mobile version of a drinking game that is popular in Asia called “sap um, yee sap”, or we Gringos like to say, 15/20.  Watching the game in action, it’s pretty hard to make sense of it, but in theory it’s pretty easy to learn.  It’s a two-person game similar to rock, paper, scissors.  One player yells out a number (either 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20) and each player chooses a hand position: either both hands closed, both hands open, or one open and one closed.  The total of all fingers that are shown is added up; if the number the player yelled out is the same number as the sum of the fingers, the player who guessed the number wins the round.  If not, the other player gets to pick the number for the next round.  Win two rounds in a row, and you get a point.

Still don’t get it?  Check out this tutorial from “Three Sheets – Singapore” that describes it in detail.  The mobile version could have some bells and whistles, but mostly would follow the same basic game play as the original game.

Startup #152 – Thumbs Up Seven Up


Speaking of thumbs up, a big thumbs up to Jim for getting me off my butt and back on the blog.  Thanks man, and be sure to let me know when the site launches. 

Today’s idea is a throwback to those glorious days in the 3rd grade when Mrs. Commanderson knocked back one too many Tom Collins’ the previous evening and, mostly as an excuse to dim the lights for a bit, skipped the day’s long division lesson and kicked off a rousing game of Thumbs Up, Seven Up.  For those who don’t remember the rules (don’t feel bad, I had to Wikipedia it myself), here’s how it works.  Seven students come up to the front of the room.  MC cuts the lights, everyone puts their heads down on their desks and outstretches their thumbs, and the seven students creep around and press down a thumb of their choosing.  When the lights and heads come up, each pressee has to guess the presser.  Guess it right, and you swamp spots.

My idea is to replicate the joy of the old-school Thumbs Up Seven Up game in a new-school format on either a mobile or social networking platform.  The game play would approximate the actual rules of the game, where groups of users between 15 and 30 would join in a session and seven people would be chosen at random to start.  At the start of each round, the pressers would be presented a list of the potential pressees, along with their profile photo and a Twitter-like tag line of their choosing.  Once you find a good-lookin’ thumb to press, you need to enter a quick (140 chars or less) message to the user to select them.

Why the messages?  In the real game, choosing the presser was not just a random guess.  There were a few subtle clues that you could pick up on, such as how hard the thumb was pressed down, the sound of the shoes, the temperature/roughness of the presser’s thumb, etc..  In order to add a little bit of a non-random twist to the game, the messages would potentially give the guessers a slight hint as to the personality of the person who picked them.  By comparing the message that was left by the presser and the tag line for each potential presser, the guessers have a little something to deduce which of the seven picked them.  Also, it’s a non-threatening way to kick off a conversation with a *especially* good-lookin’, potentially dateable thumb – and maybe even buy a virtual flower or bag of eCaramels to catch their attention (and give you a nice little revenue stream).

What do you guys think?  Any chance the nostalgia of playing this classic game would be enough to make this go viral?  Or does this one get a big fat thumbs down?

(photo credit: phototropism)