The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: Small Business

Your slide presentation / PowerPoint presentation can be improved ENORMOUSLY with this one incredible presentation tip. Get the promotion that you deserve!

Background:

Slide presentations are now a main ingredient in almost all lectures and presentations (Figure 1).

 

table

Fig. 1: A simple presentation setup: laptop plus projector/screen.

The issue:

Computers have made slide presentations extremely easy to make (example in Figure 2), but haven’t helped with one issue: presentations often go on FAR TOO LONG.

For example, none of these ideas for promoting short presentations are available in standard presentation software (e.g. PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides).

  • Not a feature: A timer showing the elapsed time on a specific slide. This timer would change color once the user spent over-the-allocated amount of time on the slide.
  • Not a feature: A “progress bar” showing the position of the current slide in the entire slide deck.
  • Not a feature: A per-slide time estimation: if a 15-slide presentation has a 30-minute scheduled time, it should be trivial to display “You have an average of 2 minutes per slide.” This could be updated as the presentation went on; if the user takes 20 minutes to go through the first 5 slides, the remaining slides could display “10 minute remaining for 10 slides; you only have one minute for each of these slides!”
  • Not a feature: Allowing the software itself to automatically advance the slide when the user has dwelled on a slide for too long.

 

presentation-top-half.png

Fig. 2: A standard presentation: slides are shown along the top. The timer bar along the bottom (showing the total time consumed vs. the specific slides remaining) is a hypothetical feature that does not currently exist.

Proposal:

This proposal is for a flexible method of encouraging presenters to remain on schedule: the slide advance fire.

In this method, the slide deck is metaphorically on fire: all the slides in the slide deck are slowly consumed by a fire effect that moves through the entire slide deck (see Figure 3 for illustration), rendering the slides un-usable after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

The presenter can stay on a blackened-and-charred slide as long as they want (so they can continue to discuss a slide, or field questions from the audience, even after it has burned away), but the contents of the slide will no longer be visible.

This will also discourage presenters from cramming a slide full of text and then slowly reading the slide to their (presumably literate) audience.

presentation-burned

Fig. 3: Top: the second slide from the left is in the process of being consumed by the “slide advance fire.” The timer indicates that two minutes (2:00) have elapsed in the entire presentation.  Bottom: the second slide has been entirely consumed by fire, and only a glowing ember remains on the right edge. Hopefully the presenter has moved on to the next slide. Active slides also contain a timer in the bottom right (the small circle / stopwatch / pie chart), showing the remaining time until that slide burns up completely.

Implementation details:

  • The slide deck begins as normal.
  • Once a slide has appeared for more than five seconds, a timer starts and the slide “ignites”: the slide is now “on fire” and has a fixed amount of time before it burns away. (The reason for the five second delay is to prevent the slide from starting to burn due to an accidental “next slide” mis-click that is immediately corrected.)
  • After the allocated time has elapsed, a fire effect appears on the screen, and the slide begins to quickly burn away. Over the next ten seconds, the fire completely consumes the slide, leaving behind only a charcoal-black rectangle.
  • The user can still switch between slides normally, but burnt-out slides remain charred.
  • In order to prevent the user from just restarting the slide deck to circumvent this restriction, a minimum of four hours must elapse before the slide deck can be viewed again.

Optional idea #1:

  • Each slide could have a timer on it that is visible to the audience (as described in Figure 3—the circular timers in the bottom-right of the active slide), which would give the audience more of an appreciation for the punctuality of the presenter (assuming they managed to advance the slide before the slide burned away completely).

Optional idea #2:

  • One common presentation mistake is to just read a slide verbatim to the audience. The presentation computer could have speech recognition software on it, and if it detected that the presenter was reading a substantial fraction of a slide aloud, it could sound a warning siren and automatically advance to the next slide.

Conclusion:

This new presentation feature should immediately be implemented in Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Apple Keynote, in addition to any other presentation programs that may exist in the future.

PROS: Prevents lectures, presentations, and meetings from going over time. Allows a lazy presenter to set the burn delay very low, allowing them to make confusing and terrible slides and rely on the “slide advance fire” to save them from any hard questions.

CONS: Would make it difficult to take questions from the audience (“Could you describe the X-axis on…. oh, it burned away.”). Would make it difficult to do a practice talk and immediately revise a slide deck while audience feedback was still fresh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Uber and Lyft may have diminished the taxi medallion system, but the “medallion” idea can still be applied in other places! One weird local government tip.

Background:

Taxis in many cities operate under what is called a “medallion system” (Figure 1), whereby the supply of taxis is limited by a fixed quantity of tokens (“medallions”) that are issued in controlled quantities by the city.

taxi-medallion

Fig 1: An actual “taxi medallion” is apparently nothing like this.

Proposal:

For some reason, almost nothing else is regulated in this manner. But there are other services that are conceptually similar and could have their own “medallion” systems.

For example:

delivery-driving

Fig 2: Food delivery (e.g., pizza, Chinese food). Like a taxi, the driver operates a passenger automobile on public roads for commercial purposes.  A “delivery driving wedge” could be required in order for a business, such as a pizza restaurant, to deliver food.

dog-hypercube

Fig 3: Dog walkers make use of the public sidewalks and roads, and must abide by requirements that other pedestrians are not subject to (“pick up dog poop, do not allow the dog to bite anyone”). This “dog hypercube” would ensure that there was not an over-abundance of dogs on the sidewalks at any given time.

 

internet-cube

Fig 3: The medallion system could be applied to other activities with commercial potential.

  • Bicycles: Like a taxi, a bicycle consumes space on the public roads. Licensing of bicycles to a small number (see Figure 3, right side) would guarantee the availability of bike rack spots.
  • Internet usage could be prohibited without an “Internet cube” medallion (see Figure 3, left side). This could increase the available bandwidth for other purposes and could bring clients back to businesses like video rental companies and paper map retailers.

PROS: Opens up a new source of income: purchase a medallion, and then rent it out!

CONS: It may be difficult for City Hall employees to estimate the exact quantity of medallions to issue.

 

 

 

Here’s a tip obviously made by someone who hates shopping for clothes! Order your clothes online and be even more hermit-like with this one internet business scheme that someone probably patented in like 1994.

Background:

On many web sites for automotive parts (e.g. Amazon, AutoZone), you can specify the exact car that you own. Then, the web site will only show results that work with that car (Figure 1).

cars-your-garage

Fig 1: You can specify the details of the cars in your “garage” and will only see car parts that work with that specific car.

Proposal:

Strangely, almost no retail web sites let you do the same thing with human sizes.

Instead, you have to read through the reviews and try to parse other customers’ unreliable descriptions:

  • “RUNS SMALL, order one size up!”
  • “Narrow in the shoulders.”
  • “These socks are made to fit shoe sizes 4 through 16. Somehow.”
  • “Vanity sizing: the ’34’ is really a ’38’.”

Although human shapes don’t have easy-to-remember names like “1976 Dodge Dart,” there are still only a small and finite number of parameters that must be addressed.

To fix this, you should be able to either specify your particular measurements, or go to a retailer and get an “official” set of clothing measurements, and then input those in a web site, as shown in Figure 2.

From then on, it would flag each item of clothing as “FITS YOU” or “DOES NOT FIT YOU” (optionally; with a reason; for example, “These jeans are too long, but would otherwise fit you—add the ‘hem jeans’ option for $7.99.”)

clothing-size

Fig 2: After entering your clothing measurements on the web site, all clothing items will be marked as “fits you” or “unlikely to fit,” making it easy to buy clothes online.

PROS: Would make shopping for clothes online even easier than it already is!

CONS: People would need to be truthful with their actual dimensions. Fortunately, a tape measure is non-judgmental and is uninterested in feeble excuses.

Venture capitalists love this one weird trick—double your startup “runway” time and reduce employee salaries dramatically while improving quality of life at the same time!

The issue:

Many companies (especially tech-related ones) are located in extremely expensive cities.

If a company in a major metropolitan area could easily relocate to a nearby but outlying area, then employee salaries could be cut by 25%, yet the employees would still have more after-tax/rent income.

So essentially, the company would both be more profitable and the employees would be earning more.

Of course, it has always been quite difficult and inconvenient to move a company.

Until now, that is!

Proposal:

Instead of having a standard office building, a company can be based in a large number of slightly-modified truck trailers (Fig 1).

truck-flat

Fig. 1: Here we have three 18-wheeler trailers in gray and one truck cab in orange.

Three separate trailers would make for an oppressive and inefficient workspace, so the trailers are specially modified so that 1) the side walls can be removed and 2) a floor plate can extend out to bridge the gap between trailers. Figure 2 displays a single office room that is created out of three trailers.

truck-cube

Fig. 2: The three trailers from figure 1 are combined into a single large room. Specifically, the side walls of each trailer can be lifted up, allowing multiple trailers to be combined.

There are countless advantages of this plan over a traditional office building:

  • Easily relocate your business to an area with lower cost-of-living / lower rent
  • Makes it easier to threaten to relocate your business to another state / country in order to (hopefully) extract tax breaks from the local government.
  • If your business becomes crowded, you can add more trailers as needed.
  • If you over-bought and your office is too big, you can downsize the office by simply removing a few trailers.

Figure 3 shows a possible office layout inside the three-trailer example office.

office-furnished

Fig. 3: Inside the three trailers, a standard workshop or office space can be configured, as demonstrated here. Note that the floorplan is free to ignore the boundaries between trailers—it’s effectively one large room, just like a regular office.

The only issue with treating the space as a single unit (rather than 3 trailers) is that if the office were to be moved, you’d need to make sure all the furniture fit within single trailers (or you could cut your furniture in half, and put the halves into two separate trailers).

cut-aware

Fig. 4: If you want to move your company, you just need to push the furniture so that it doesn’t span multiple trailers. Furniture that is in danger of being chopped in half is illustrated here with the “scissor-cut” icon and green highlighting. For most businesses, this would be an easy task (unless heavy machinery or elaborate cubicle arrangements are involved).

PROS: Makes it easy to relocate your company for both cost-of-living reasons and for tax purposes.

CONS: A multi-story building would be difficult to manage. Most layouts would be limited to a single story.

Does your business require customers to agree to a “terms of service”? Run this incredibly illegal “INFINITE LENGTH CONTRACT” idea by your legal department! They will be impressed with your legal acumen.

Background:

Many web sites require a user to agree to a long and incomprehensible “terms of service” before they can use the site.

Since these contracts are dozens (or hundreds) of pages, everyone just scrolls to the end and clicks “AGREE.” (See two examples in Figure 1).

While you’d think that a company could slip in some secret contract clauses somewhere (e.g. “you agree to give up your first-born child to MegaCo Inc.”), this isn’t usually feasible—someone will EVENTUALLY find these clauses and cause a public relations disaster.

legalese

Fig. 1: Left: a relatively short contract that fits on one page. Right: a longer contract that no one will ever read.

Proposal:

Here is a secret method for putting totally unreasonable terms into a contract and preventing the user from being able to read them.

The secret is: the contract is literally INFINITE in length, so no one can read it all!

Details: the terms of service operates as follows (see Figure 2):

  • The first N pages are the real contract.
  • After the real contract is over, additional pages are randomly generated with legally-valid but meaningless legalese.
  • The contract has no scroll bar, so the user has no idea how long the contract is.
  • To accept the contract, the user clicks the “scroll to end and accept” button.
  • Thus, anyone who accepts the contract cannot have read the whole thing, since it is infinitely long.

Using this dirty trick, when a user has agreed to the contract after reading M pages, the company that wrote the terms of service can simply start putting the super-unreasonable contract terms on page M+1 and beyond.

 

legalese-infinity

Fig. 2: The “infinite contract” looks almost exactly like a real contract, except that there is no scroll bar or indication of how many pages the contract has. (This is because new randomly-generated “legalese” pages are created whenever the user clicks the “next page” button, so the user can never legitimately scroll to the end.)

Conclusion:

The only downside to this plan is that it is almost certainly totally illegal in every jurisdiction.

PROS: Would probably be an interesting “future law school textbook case” if it were ever tested in court.

CONS: You will probably go to prison if you implement this idea.

Do you know of a company that offers rebates by check and is also unethical and hates its customers? Here’s one weird tip for that company that is ACTUALLY USED IN REALITY and is incredibly annoying!

Background:

When a company offers a rebate (“buy this widget, get $50 back”), only a fraction of customers will actually deposit the rebate check.

If customers don’t deposit their rebates, then the company can keep the money.

So it would be useful if there was some sort of dirty trick to reduce rebate deposit rates. Read on for details!

(Note: this is not a novel idea—it was inspired by an intentionally bizarre rebate check I received that could not be deposited online by at least two different banks.)

Proposal:

Normally, when a customer receives a rebate, it’s standard-format check (Figure 1). The customer’s banking app certainly knows how to read this format, so it is deposited with no problems.

good-check

Fig. 1: The BankApp online deposit system has no problem reading this straightforward check.

The rebate-issuing company may really want the check to fail the depositing process (Figure 2), which adds hassle and inconvenience for the check-depositing customer.

rejected

Fig. 2: If the customer’s banking app can’t read the check, then the check is much less likely to be deposited: now the company will never have to pay out the rebate! (Unless the customer actually goes to an ATM or bank branch.)

So the solution is simple—tweak the format of the checks a bit (whatever is still allowable within the law and/or banking agreements) and try to make a new check that is:

  1. Legal!
    • This is the most important aspect—the company’s checks definitely need to be 100% legal, so the company can later blame the customer instead of taking responsibility.
  2. Acceptable to the banks and/or conforms to whatever check-format specifications exist
  3. Difficult for a computer to read (so it can’t be deposited online)
  4. Superficially OK looking to a human, so it isn’t obvious that the check wasn’t intentionally made to be difficult to deposit
    • Also, this gives plausibly deniability to the whole business: if the company is called out on its actions, a PR person can go online and post “Oh, we didn’t realize that our rebates couldn’t be deposited online. What an unintentional—yet profitable—oversight!”

Popular ways of doing this may include:

  • Weird check sizes
  • Strange watermarks leading to odd contrast
  • Superfluous extra characters in the deposit-amount field (like “AMT: ****123.45 $” instead of just “$123.45”)
  • Irregular size (some checks are more square-shaped than “check” shaped)
  • Odd or elaborate font choices

Conclusion:

Although the specific checks depicted below (Figs. 3 & 4) probably violate the “check” specifications somehow, they may be useful for inspiration.

weird-check-purple

Fig. 3: This check looks vaguely legitimate to a human, but an online deposit app is unlikely to be able to read it.

weird-check-orange

Fig. 4: Can a check be a weird futuristic hexagon? Probably not! Customers will definitely know they’re being scammed if they receive weird checks like this one.

PROS: Saves money on rebate checks! Rebates can be made more generous, since it’s now extra-difficult for anyone to redeem them.

CONS: Customers might find out about it and get slightly annoyed and call the company’s customer service line to complain. If each rebate-receiving individual wastes 20 minutes of customer service time complaining, this check technique might no longer be profitable.

Never get a contagious disease from a coworker again with this one tip. Use the healing power of crystals and bears to naturally fight off disease. OSHA hates it!

Background:

Sometimes, your coworkers will come to work with obvious contagious diseases, coughing everywhere and spreading disease and pestilence throughout the land.

Proposal:

The best situation in this situation is for you or your boss to say “hey you, sick individual, go home!”

This should save time and money by preventing others from getting sick, but is sometimes not an option.

Instead, the following technical solution is proposed for office-related jobs: for diseases in which the afflicted individual needs to blow their nose (Fig. 1, left), they are likely to at some point access a tissue box placed somewhere in the workplace.

Instead of just letting that individual take a tissue and return to disease-spreading, the idea is to ensnare the sick individual with a (non-injurious / non-lethal) trap at that location (Fig. 1, right).

2-plain.png

Fig. 1: Left: A standard tissue box. Useful for a person with a runny nose. Right: a possible type of tissue box trap: essentially a bear trap (but with rubber grips instead of bone-crushing steel jaws).

2-snap-side-by-side.png

Fig. 2: Illustration of the closing process. This non-injurious “bear trap” modification will hold the sick individual until they can be humanely released back into the wild.

1-diagram

Fig. 4: A) tissue box. B) non-injurious padded rubber grips to hold onto the tissue-grabbing individual’s arm. C) support for the grabbing arms. D) to prevent the sick individual from just going back to their desk and working with a bear trap on one arm (and continuing to spread disease), the bear trap should be secured in place somehow.

PROS: Saves workplace productivity and reduces the spread of disease.

CONS: Won’t be effective in non-office jobs or for diseases where the plague-ridden individual doesn’t blow their nose.