A New Plan – Brainstorming

Thinking Emoji - Brainstorming ThumbnailIn order to create the perfect solution, the problem must be properly defined. If you want to change the world, first you must ask, “What’s wrong with it?!” Once you’ve detailed the problem, the next question is obvious. “What can you do about it?” In determining a new plan for this website, that’s the frame of mind. But at this stage, the realities of life enter the picture. That raises a third question. “How do you make money from your idea?”

It may sound like greedy a capitalist to think in such a fashion, but that’s how our world works. Capitalism is the most democratic economic model that we have. People vote with their dollars. If people are willing to spend money on a product or service, then it’s probably a good solution. That’s how Tesla is revolutionizing the auto industry. The cars are not popular just because they’re better for the environment, they’re popular because they’re quick and cool.

So that’s the goal here… intelligent, helpful and sexy solutions.

Problem #1 – News is broken

As a graduate with a photojournalism degree, it is especially painful for me to see how much of the industry has degraded into hyper-partisanship. The truth should matter! Today’s news is not very informative. With red vs blue coverage, it’s more like watching sports. Additionally, the danger of censorship is rising. The giant tech companies lean too far to the left for my liking. Freedom of speech wasn’t created to be pleasant. It exists because society is far worse off without the ability to freely and fully express ideas.

There’s also a personal epiphany. Recently, I realized why it’s so difficult to earn a living as a journalist. The modern mobile phone has made everyone a photographer. The Internet has made everyone a reporter.

  • Possible solution – Turn Photics.com into a dedicated news photography website. This idea ranges from a small team of photographers to a place where everyone can upload photos. It could be a competition, with prizes for the best pictures.
  • Why it works – Photics is a great name for a citizen journalist website. I have the necessary technical expertises and experience to create such a website. It would also fun to go shoot news events. It’s also a true business idea, as I wouldn’t have to work at it forever. At some point, it should have a life of its own.
  • Why won’t it work – Citizen journalism is not new, but it’s not that popular either. Why would “Photics” succeed where others have failed? Additionally, this goes against an important journalistic lesson. Early in my career I learned that the better you are at journalism the more people will hate you. Such contempt would ruin the “fun” requirement of “A New Plan”. Venturing into the political minefield of journalism could get really ugly, really quick.
  • How does it make money? – I’m not confident that it will. There could be advertisements and website bonuses for subscribers, but such revenue might not offset the massive time sink necessary to startup such a project.

Problem #2 – Education is too expensive

One of the biggest problems facing millennials is that they were told to get a college education. This increased the demand for college degrees, while also increasing the price. The end result is a terrible burden for recent graduates. They’re saddled with a bill that’s the equivalent of a mortgage, but without a house of their own to live in. Pushing kids through college also increased the supply of college graduates, making it harder for them to find a good job.

This industry is ripe for disruption. Way too many classes boil down to a professor and a projector. Universities should be way more innovative, but they’re not forced to do so.

  • Possible Solution – Leverage technology to reinvent education. While universities are an important part of society, they move far too slowly for today’s challenges. This project could range from creating cheaper textbooks to starting a whole new university.
  • Why it works – There is huge need to fix education. It’s one of the most expensive endeavors in life. Education is critical to a functioning society, which is why universities must improve.
  • Why won’t it work – Just as news is politically charged, so is education. There would be massive pushback if any real disruption occurred. Additionally, building a university is expensive and obtaining accreditation makes it difficult to get started. “Photics” wouldn’t be the first to attempt the reinvention of education either. This is a tough problem to solve.
  • How does it make money? – Even if the focus is just lowering the cost of textbooks, there’s so much money to be made here. Another angle could be selling technology to existing universities. How should a modern classroom work? How can universities be more efficient? Universities might pay handsomely for such information and technology.

Problem #3 – Housing is too expensive

Let’s be real here. If I was content with where I lived, I’d probably just chill out. I’d spend my weekends mowing the lawn, tending to my garden and tinkering with projects in my workshop. Expensive housing is one of the major driving forces in pursuing such lofty goals. Let the problem be the solution. Find a way to make housing cheaper.

  • Possible Solution – There are many new exciting approaches to building houses. There’s definitely going to be a disruption in this area. Personally, I find compressed earth blocks to be intriguing. And apparently, Elon Musk’s “Boring Company” is going to have lots of cheap blocks to buy. Perhaps “Photics” could be a construction company. Just drop the “web” from “web developer”.
  • Why it works – This is an important endeavor because housing is terribly expensive. It can be even more expensive than education. There’s certainly a demand for affordable (but nice) housing.
  • Why won’t it work – It’s not just building the house. There are many issues to contend with. The startup costs are significant. The rules and regulations are numerous. The blocks are heavy!
  • How does it make money? – If costs could be kept low, while delivering a quality home, this could be quite lucrative. This idea could also solve my housing problem, so it’s personal.

Problem #4 – Today’s entertainment sucks

News tends to leans left, universities tend to lean left and entertainment tends to lean left too. I don’t enjoy movies and video games like I used to. That’s because they’re not inspiring. It feels more like they’re pushing an agenda. And once you see it, that’s all you see.

  • Possible Solution – Return to battle! Perhaps leaving the app stores was a mistake. Photics was started as an Internet publishing company. There’s nothing wrong with that idea. Just do more of that. In addition to making more books, I could make games and other cool projects. I’ve even been considering the idea of creating a game show. Lots of nice ideas have been motivating me to try again.
  • Why it works – While there have been some failed projects, there have been some big successes too. Why give up?
  • Why won’t it work – Pursuing this solution would likely involve the app stores. They are incredibly competitive. It’s also incredibly tedious. Apple hits you with so many rules. I have trouble with this idea because it’s not thinking big enough. I don’t want to be limited to Apple’s sandbox. I’m not just looking for a prosperous side-hustle. I’m looking to do something spectacular. Perhaps the better question is – how to revolutionize entertainment? If I do return to the app store, how would it be better this time?
  • How does it make money? – A Book About Hype and The Unofficial GameSalad Textbook are proven examples of success in this area. However, those are books, not games, movies or TV shows. I know that I could grind out some successful projects here, but I haven’t been enjoying the process. The money is OK, and it could be even better, but it’s not been fun.

Problem #5 – Food!

Without going into too much detail, I’ve been considering life as a farmer. Hydroponics to be specific. Food scarcity is a concern for the future, as modern farming techniques might not be sustainable. Can farming be more efficient? Photics is also a great name for a robotic farming company. This is a profession that is interesting to me. Although, it could be very risky. In addition to tight profit margins, the recent recall of romaine lettuce shows how dire it can be to make a mistake in farming.

Summary

I’m still pondering the problem. But I admit it. Apple did inspire me with one of their recent advertisements. It’s called “Share Your Gifts”. An animated girl keeps her ideas and creations in a box. They’re hidden from the world until her dog knocks them out the window. The papers scatter everywhere until the townspeople start reading them. The music rises dramatically. They’re impressed. She’s happy. Cute story.

That’s an excellent allegory to the creative process. It’s also an excellent comparison as to the goal here. There’s talent not being fully utilized. The challenge is figuring out the best way to fix that problem. It’s not as simple as a dog knocking my notes out the window. However, the commercial is successful in making me reconsider Apple’s App Stores. That’s very effective marketing. Idea #4 may have potential.

Yet, ideas #1, #2 and #3 have life changing implications. Making an app is nice, but would it be as impactful as one of these three ideas?

Winter is coming. That means more time spent indoors. As explained earlier, I don’t really enjoy just sitting in front of the TV or playing the latest games. Not only is it bad to waste talent. It’s also a shame to waste the two decade long legacy of this website. Can something better be done? Yes, but what exactly? That’s what I’ve been thinking about.