Dude Where’s My App? Things I Expect To Be Able To Do And Yet Still Cannot Do

Why Isn’t There An App For That?

There are a surprising number of things that should be completely technically feasible, and yet nothing exists to solve these problems. Maybe it’s the Innovator’s Dilemma, maybe it’s just that the people in charge aren’t good at stating problems clearly to solve them simply. Whatever the reason, I don’t have a solution for these things and it bugs the crap out of me.

I can’t find a baggage store

Location discovery services have been seriously lacking now for a good 7 years since many people started carrying around location aware devices. When I search for a baggage store using the keyword “baggage” both Google and Foursquare only return results with the keyword in the store’s name. There are clearly better ways to do this, and they have plenty of data to figure this kind of thing out. But even if that data wasn’t enough, why not empower users to curate their own neighborhoods with related tags? Google Maps doesn’t even accept my changes when I tell them that a venue is permanently closed because “they can’t verify it”. My word isn’t enough apparently. Because why trust the one person who can verify that fact? Lame.

I can’t find all the places I can order a burger and compare them

There is still no good way to find “the perfect X”. I want to find the best burger in Tucson, why is that so hard? There are a lot of APIs out there now for menus – maybe there could be a mashup of Ordr.in plus crowdsourcing of opinion? There should also be a way to map out all the prominent cuisines in an area; one could probably do that with Foursquare data? I think they’re actually on track to doing this, but I still can’t ask: “Where can I go to get a great burger?” They should be able to do that right now with all their tip data.

I can’t find out about great events before they happen or sell out

This kills me every single time it happens. New York City is obviously a very happening place, there are events going on everywhere constantly, so discovery is tremendously hard. What typically happens is that I see friends checking in to venues on various apps, or maybe using a new hashtag on Twitter, and I think “what the heck is that?” and I discover that it’s an event I should be going to.

Facebook and Meetup and Eventbrite and Plancast are still not enough for discovery
How to create a universal, social event registry / calendar? There are tons of event sites like GarysGuide, but none of them have incentive to give up their event data or unify into a single database.

I can’t find the news I want to read

News is really important, but it’s getting harder and harder to find real news, unbiased news, or news worth reading. Journalism is getting suppressed everywhere. If I’m lucky, I may catch news trending on Twitter or retweeted by my friends, but that news is ultimately too ephemeral and too random. And who is to say that Twitter will remain unbiased, and hold back on censorship? Google is of course too shallow and generally just a worthless aggregator of big media, and the thought of Facebook as a news source is just too ridiculous to even get into.

Any news outlet by itself is too narrow. Maybe we need to keep moving along the path of the Twitter model, let people crowdsource the news, and highlight the sections they feel are most important. There was a time when I worked on a project that was a kind of news prediction market, trying to rate and rank pundits based on how often their predictions came true. Part of my vision for that project was this idea of letting people build their own trees of related content, highlighting the parts that were relevant to either predictions being made or the results of those predictions – in essence citing the news related to a prediction.

It could be like Storify but with social sharing of links – or like a Bit.ly that lets you wormhole around webs of related content. NewsLynx may be something that can help with this eventually. Storyhunter too.

I can’t efficiently organize my bookmarks, pages, links, tweets, and emails of interest (a.k.a. I need a better digital mind)

I want an effective personal search engine. My computer, and the shared spaces I use on the Internet for information storage and retrieval – these things are my externalized mind. So far, I’ve managed to collect many of my emails since 1993, and have them all stored together on my local Mail app. I also have every digital file I’ve ever cared about on the same computer, and I have almost 14 years of blog posts collected together here on this website. I’ve also got tons of collections of bookmarks and links – many of which I am not even sure still work – but they aren’t sorted or categorized well either.

Ideally, I want to be able to perform a search across all of this material to find any mentions of things or similar images or audiovisual content. There are so many dimensions to it, and I realize it’s a hugely hard problem, but I’d just like some means of discovery or synthesis to happen, like the following:

  • Go through all of my digital content and determine what things I’m interested in. Maybe there are things I’m interested in that I don’t realize I’m interested in! Suggest other items that might be of interest to me based on those interests.
  • Perform TF/IDF to figure out what is unique or special in my digital archive.
  • URLs – sorting, classifying, checking for dead ones and making it known they’re dead. Maybe suggesting other URLs to try?
  • Understand what topics or interests might be trending across all my content intake.
  • Add chronological order to all my data, bubble up older links & topics as they age to remind me of things.