App to Manage Terms and Conditions

28. December, 2014

There is this old joke on User Friendly about license agreements: “Have any of you ever actually read a license agreement?” “I have! A few words, anyway …” “And what did the part you read say?” “umm… ‘I accept.'” (whole story starts here; afterwards, someone actually wrote a version of Clippy for Vim called Vigor).

I remembered all this when I saw this video on YouTube:

And that led me to an idea: How about an app which tracks T&C for you? In general, it should take a license and show you the important bits. Then, you could say “okay, I like that and that and I can live with those.” The app would then remember your preferences. For the rest of the terms, you could chose “I grudgingly accept these” or “no business with me because of this term.”

Even better, the app could notify you of terms which don’t apply to you because of local law or because courts ruled them out.

That way, the app could just show you the parts of a new license which you want to know about, that is the parts which you didn’t already agree to and without the parts that you’d accept anyway.


Stupid Ideas Revisited

9. February, 2011

Ever had a stupid idea? One which would instantly trigger the “that’ll never work. Ever.” response?

Did you withstand or gave you in?

Maybe it’s time to give stupid ideas more leeway. During my holidays, I started to think about a stupid idea. Really stupid. But this post is not about the idea, it’s about stupid ideas in general. Let’s look at a famous one: Christopher Columbus believed that the world was much smaller than everyone else.

So when everyone else set out eastward for India and fortunes in spices, little Christopher thought: Let’s take the shortcut. I’ll go west, land must be 4’000km away tops.

Of course, he was wrong. Earth was much bigger than he believed. But he wasn’t completely wrong: There was land. America.

So if he hadn’t pursued his stupid idea, one of the world’s largest economies wouldn’t exist. Millions of Indians wouldn’t have been slaughtered. Europe wouldn’t have made a fortune by selling slaves. The GIs wouldn’t have stopped the killing of millions by the Nazis. The Vietnam War wouldn’t have happened. Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have been to the moon. B. Obama wouldn’t have been elected 44th President.

A stupid idea can change the world.


Random Idea: Public Data Safe

5. March, 2009

A lot of places offer free data storage these days but I’m concerned about security. How safe it is to store something sensitive there? You may think that your address is not sensitive data but you’ll have to reconsider as soon as some crook uses it to open a new eBay account…

So my idea is create a public data safe where you have full control what someone else can see. For example your address: Instead of giving a online shop your address, you give them a random ID and you give access rights for the delivery service to resolve that ID. The shop doesn’t know where you live (and your address doesn’t go “somewhere” when the shop goes bankrupt) and you still get your goods.

Imagine you have an accident. You’re unconscious and are brought into a hospital. They need to run tests to figure out your blood group. If they have to give you medicine, then you’re better not allergic to it. And how about alerting your relatives? Here, a random ID which only registered health care services can decode would help: You could put your health data (allergies, medicine that works better on you than other, blood group, relatives to alert, important facts like whether you have a heart disease, etc) online without risking to find them on the loose.

How would it work? The service itself would only store data which you send encrypted. So the encryption would happen on your computer. Better get that anti-virus up to date, though. Health or delivery services would put their “public keys” online on this site, too, so you could encrypt the data in such a way that you and they can read it (basically, you make a copy and encrypt both). This way only certain people can read the data.

When data is uploaded, it gets tagged as “address”, “name”, “age”, “medical information”, etc. and each piece gets a unique, random ID (so you can’t tell from the ID who it belongs to). When another service should be allowed to see some of your data, you take their key to encrypt a copy for them and send them the ID.

If your address changes (because you move), you’d have to update it only in a single place.

Drop me a comment if you like to implement this idea.


Random Idea: Guided Public Transport

5. March, 2009

Just got this idea: You can download train and bus schedules on your mobile, you can buy tickets online, so why doesn’t the system combine the two to guide me through the public transport?

The idea is that I send a request to travel to some spot. The software should know which coupons and other discounts apply for me, what tickets I already own, etc. So the first step would be to tell me what tickets I need in addition to what I already have and what that would cost.

If I pay, the system should guide me to the next bus stop or train station where I can start my journey. During the travel, the system should inform me a few minutes before arrivial at my next destination. This should include the estimated time of arrival, where I’ll arrive (which platform), where I need to go next (platform or location on a map), how much time I have and what connections are available.

It should also be possible to interrupt a travel, say, to have lunch on a long trip. As necessary, the system should buy new tickets and cancel preordered ones. If I stay overnight, I should get a list of connections on the next morning so I can ask the hotel service to wake me at the right time.

If you like the idea and want to implement it, drop me a note.