The Lite Side

Ideas for Truly Desperate Out of Work Programmers

- 2003.11.21

These ideas are for Mac products (mainly). and some of them are not big enough to pay the rent. but that's not the point of this article. I've been reading an article or two a day about some out-of-work programmer complaining of job outsourcing to India. I've kind of got a problem with that myself, actually. I mean, if we can prop up agriculture with subsidies, why not high tech?

Anyway, if these people being interviewed by the mainstream press are as good as they claim to be, let them cook up some new ideas, start up a company, and outsource to India. Outsourcing is revenge best served with curry, someone once said.

For what it's worth, here are my seed ideas that someone can cook up and spit out (politely in a napkin when your host isn't looking) before coming up with the really good clambake that starts the next revolution. In other words, it's the Lite Side's

Ideas for Truly Desperate Out of Work Programmers

  1. Someone out there in the great big world needs to concoct a product that links together lesson plans, assessments (of all types), student projects, and standards for any state in the USA. I've written about this before. All the mail I get afterward promises me the world if I just go to site X, but it never seems to pan out the way it needs to. It is not a difficult programming challenge, just some tedious relational database programming. Get some venture capital, write up a prototype for Texas and California, and then watch the funds roll in. If you phrased it right you could probably get NSF to fund it. None of the products that vendors write to me about after these postings quite "get it." But there's big money here - big money. Really big money. Multimillion grant and sales opportunity here, cross platform, too. Can you smell the money? Smellllll it. Flplipliplip. That's the sound of your money flipping between your thumb and forefinger. For a small but honestly earned consulting fee and some publishing credits, I'd tell you exactly how to do it. Serious queries only, please limit your cv's to one hundred pages.
  2. Someone needs to kick butt, take names, and write a Mac OS X driver for Meade digital telescope cameras. Meade, for their part, are avowed anti-Mac gearheads. At a convention a Meade rep actually turned his back and walked away from me when I asked if their products are Mac-compatible. It's just data, folks. May not be a big market, but despite their attitude, Meade makes a mighty fine telescope and camera. I'd pay $150 for a working driver and interface program right here and now. There are probably a few hundred people who would. But it's just a driver and interface.
  3. I need a utility to synchronize my printer choices in OS X and Classic. Kind of annoying that they don't match. Soon after you write said utility, Apple will build it into the OS, so don't expect a lot of revenue. Maybe you could sue them or something.
  4. Is there a utility for turning the Mac's screen sideways? Sometimes, I just want to read a book on my laptop. Sometimes a page monitor is just the thing.
  5. I need a gradebook program as powerful and complex as Grade Machine that can export an entire "look up your own grades" module and update it on the fly. I don't trust services like MyGradeBook.com; I was burned with lost data from several dot-com flameouts and want my data on my drive. Grade Machine needs to get its interface house in order and update to OS X. And it should integrate with that whole standards database thing I referred to earlier. Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln, do I have to draw a map? Someone get on this! And I'm not talking about some crappy little DOS-ware port left over from a textbook CD from ten years ago either!
  6. Someone take a look at the shareware over at www.EntryPoints.com. Anacrostics makes double-acrostics. It hasn't been updated in years. It doesn't run quite right in OS X. It won't print until you quit the program; it doesn't remember your last settings; saved puzzles keep adding in functions you turned off the last time you used it. Despite all this, it's a great program because of what it does. If the folks over there ever update it and fix it, I'll be ready to pay for it. Don't send me links to crossword and word search programs (yawn).
  7. Interactive e-books. Fill in your name, and the bodice-ripper then refers to you by name all the way through. Heck, that's halfway to a holodeck. Oooh, then give that to your wife as a vacation book or a Valentine's gift. Big points there, I'd say. Choose your own ending updated with choices to click for preteen readers. E-books are a niche product because they emulate poorly what a book already does. Make e-books do something regular books can't, and you've started developing a market. Potential big bucks here, but could be a dot-com kind of thing, too. Depends on the quality of the product.
  8. Did you replace your old mouse with an optical one? Schools need mouse balls. Physics teachers in particular. That's a hint. Haven't got a clue how you'd make money at it, though. Some kind of kit to turn an old mouse into a physics experiment. Maybe you could sell the idea to Pasco or Vernier or someone.
  9. Lab equipment like Vernier sells, except it's all video based. In the box you get a webcam, a ball, a car, a ramp, a pulley, etc. Everything you need for one lab station. Total cost cannot exceed $150. No interface boxes. You bundle VideoPoint video analysis software with it. Ten workstations is $1,000. Hottest product since interfaces were invented, I gar-on-tee.
  10. Outsource product idea generation. Okay, if high-tech jobs are not protected, then neither are the ideas that generated them in the first place. You see companies today saying things like, "We may outsource the grunt work, but all the ideas are still made here in the USA. It's the new economy." Where have we heard that before? Taking it to the next level, the only thing the USA will supply is capital; even the ideas will be outsourced to another country. You want to get in on this before corporate figures that out? Start a new company that pays $0.25 bonuses to foreign programmers that propose new products that make it to market. Whammo! Nothing left for us to do but flip cheeseburgers and do shiatsu massage.

Before you fire off one of those "your ideas are so lame" missives, just remember that if I can crank out ten ideas while sitting here with a toothache distracting me and papers that need grading, then why the heck can't these geniuses whining to the press do even better?

I'd tell you more, but the wise-ass article competition from Burma is just killing me. I'm going home to grow sweet potatoes.

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