July 27, 2001

Web review: Half-baked ideas; some flaky, some dense, some tasty

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
The Halfbakery was created with Open Source tools and runs on an Apache server. Now that those qualifications are out of the way, let's get some new synapses firing with a Web site that allows you to post fictitious inventions, vote for and against them, and annotate them with your wittiest or weirdest thoughts.I was using Google to search on the terms "strange," "bizarre," and "linux." That's how I found the Halfbakery. You're going to enjoy browsing these bizarre brainstorms -- how about "Poetic Legalese," for example? The inventor says that the "small print" appearing at the bottom of legal agreements should be written in strict iambic pentameter "or other pleasing metrical form." Here's one annotation to this invention:

You must be correct, or
You'll go to the sector
Where you will get wrecked or
Without pity hector'
d By fellow defector-
s From all the right vector-
s That act as director-
s For us the select or
Tested and checked or
Fixed by the perfector.

Sounds like a rap and it doesn't make sense -- but it was better than the limericks others posted.

This is a busy site. I counted almost 200 new inventions for the week so far -- one of the ones posted most recently happens to be "Open Source Genetics." Thus sayeth the inventor: "In order to combat the huge agricultural corporations
such as Monsanto and there ridiculous claims of
intellectual property rights on gentetic code, we need
a movement similiar to the Open source movement of
the computer industry."

And a comment any of us could have written, "GNU genome licensing -- yeah! I'll volunteer my dna."

There are also some realistic, doable ideas here, like the Panic PIN -- which also happens to be the Halfbakery's all-time most popular invention posted, if you go by votes "for." The premise is that banks should issue ATM cardholders (or credit/debit cardholders) a second PIN that is only to be used in the event of an emergency -- say if an attacker was demanding money. The bank could notify the police immediately, while still issuing the money -- which, perhaps, could be drawn from a special pile of marked bills. Nifty, eh? Sounds like a great idea.

But many of the annotators brought forth considerations the inventor didn't think of or simply decided not to mention -- much like the commenting system at several of our favorite Open Source news sites. Most obvious overlook: If banks did start issuing panic PINs, the thieves would know about them as well, cancelling the effectiveness, since they could just wait until you got the money and then nab you.

And finally, one that was posted three days ago but isn't proving too popular yet: Stackable Cats. "Cube cats you can stack," is all the inventor had to say about his idea, and it's sitting at a negative seven on the approval scale -- but there are still lots of annotations, like, "You could breed them to shape, but could you breed them to stack and stay stacked at your command? Of all the unpredictable animals. I think Schrodinger picked a cat for a reason."

While you're at Halfbakery, pick up a cool T-shirt or an apron with the official Halfbakery logo: "It's not just a good idea, it's some bad ones too." At least they're honest.


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