While I was still in business school, I had this idea for a Q&A site that would be based off user generated content. Nothing like Yahoo!Answers. It wasn’t meant to find practical answers to practical questions; rather, it was intended as a forum for gossiping. In fact, the name I used to refer to the concept was a derivative of that term: Gossiper.
Any user could write a question with structured answer choices (A/B/C/D). After answering, but not before, you could see how your answer stacked up against other users. Of course you could always just skip a question, letting the site know it’s not something you’re interested in. Users could also tag questions with different categories (e.g. celebrity gossip), and by providing more information about yourself in a profile, you’d be presented with questions you were more likely to be interested in. I even had designs to connect it back to your social graph with a Facebook application. I thought some competitive element – a popularity rating for users who created questions that go lots of responses – would also help drive participation and frequent return visits.
Ultimately you end up with all this rich consumer information that could be sold to other companies (as market research without private data of course) or used for targeted advertising or sales promotions. I even thought you might be able sell site “sponsorship” for a day. I have all the details in a quasi business plan/functional specifications document I was keeping.
I’m happy to report, the site launched. Unfortunately, I didn’t launch it. You see, I’m not a developer so while this was a fun little idea, I never put my money where my mouth was. I thought I’d one day use my little business plan to lure in an actual developer and see if we couldn’t make something of it, but the real world set in (graduation day) and I had to start making student loan payments instead.
The lesson I learned is execution is everything. Lots of great ideas fail because of poor execution (indeed Hunch may still), and in a world with so many people hoping to come up with the next big Internet thing, it’s unlikely my novel idea is as novel as I think it is. I’ve most definitely got something wrong with my initial concept and business plan. What matters is how quickly I’m able to learn what’s right by getting after it.
The fact that someone else (a Flickr cofounder to boot) came up with something so similar (yet different) from my own concept is just validation for me that I might have a good idea in me yet. Hmmmmm . . .