Any ideas for business model for distributed Free knowledgebase?

I am now reading the interesting article at http://www.virtualschool.edu/mon/SoftwareEngineering/BrooksNoSilverBullet.html, referred to by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_important_publications_in_computer_science, which is in turn referred to by http://www.livejournal.com/users/mulix/141984.html?nc=2&style=mine.

As I was reading the section about expert systems and knowledge bases needed by expert systems, the following question came to my mind:
Suppose we want to develop, build and deploy an Internet based database of rules for software test cases generation.
We would like to have software test engineers contribute their wisdom to the database, for the benefit of everyone.
We would also like to allow GPL-like freedom to the users of the information in the database.

Thus, access to the database and the expert system will be free for everyone. Everyone will also be able to contribute new knowledge to the system. Everyone will also be able to have a private repository of knowledge about testing those parts of his software, which he wants to keep secret for now.

The big question:
Is there any business model, which can make the above work?
Such a business model would have to:

  1. Encourage users of the system to contribute information to the public rather than keep it to themselves.
  2. Encourage payment to the company which developed and is maintaining the expert system and the database and the network of hosts, which make the data accessible to the public.
  3. Discourage people from defiling the database by filling it with junk information.

A bit of culture but surprisingly relevant to startupists

While going over one of the Israeli Deaf forums, I saw an announcement that a lecture by the author Amos Oz, to be held this evening in Chess House in Ramat Aviv, will be accompanied by Sign Language interpreting.

I needed to finish the financial details with the interpreter in question (she interpreted also in the Linux Accessibility lecture on last Sunday) so I decided to kill two birds with one stone – both finish the process of paying her and soak a bit of High Culture by listening to a cultured lecture by one of the most esteemed Hebrew language authors in Israel.

The author talked about the book “The tiger with patches” (in Hebrew: “נמר חברבורות” – I am not sure my translation is exact) by Yaacov Shabtay. The book was about an entrepreneur full of dreams and very slim contact with the ground. The portrait of the entrepreneur drawn by the lecture reminded me of some of the dotcom bubble startupists.

The brave new business buzzwords

Eric Sink (blog at http://software.ericsink.com/) wrote about Micro-ISVs – one-man companies which develop software. His articles are: Exploring Micro-ISVs and First Report from My Micro-ISV.

Some enterprising souls started a special Web site for Micro-ISVs at http://www.microisv.com/.

I wonder how many months will elapse before we are swamped by Web sites, courses, seminars, How-to-do books and other merchandise about Micro-ISVs and Micro-business in general.

Today in Tel Aviv University

Each year, on a Friday before the beginning of the academic year, the Hearing Impaired Student Day is held in Tel Aviv University. This year it was held today. The organizers invite current students, and also future and former students are welcome. As they mix together, the experience of the oldtimers rubs on the newcomers. The tips get passed from generation to generation and the age-old wisdom gets spread (even though most of it is only few years old).

After the Day, I went to the Dyonon bookshop. The gate next to the bookshop was already open only in the outgoing direction, so I knew that I’ll have to walk around the campus to get back to a parking lot on its east, where I parked my car. Oh well.

In the shop, I surveyed the computer science books. There was a section for dummies’ level books (in Hebrew). Several of the more professional ones had the Java, C# (but also Linux) keywords on their covers. Also PHP and MySQL were represented, but less strongly. My current favorite, Python, was represented by only a single copy of “Learning Python” – at least as far as I saw.

Oh, the joys of academic world being disconnected from life’s practicalities.
If only they were academic enough to mention LISP or Scheme a lot…

Being a rabid bookholic, I somehow managed to leave the shop with only two books stuck to me. Both of them were from the economics&management section, where I did not look in my previous visits to Dyonon.

One book is “Focused Management – to do more with available resources”. It seems to give a lot of treatment to Eliahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints.
The other book is “Systematic Inventive Thinking and Technological Problem Solving” by Dr. Alexander Chernobelsky. The bibliography mentions few publications by Genrich Altshuller, and the book seems to contain a lot of TRIZ related stuff, but I did not see this keyword mentioned in it in my brief glance.
Both books are in Hebrew.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Having read several of Kiyosaki‘s books and even played his CashFlow game, I came to appreciate the fact that to get ahead financially, you need not only to have a positive difference between the amount of money you earn and the amount of money you spend (George S. Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon” illustrates this point), but also to make money work for you rather than force you to work for money.

However, I was bothered by his over-emphasis of real estate deals as a way to have positive cashflow. I also figured out that he sold out when he started advocating MLMs as means of learning how to do business. Now I came upon John T. Reed’s analysis of Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which clarified some things for me. Reed is author-publisher of books on real estate investment and some other subjects. So if one is going to follow him, one had better find a critic of Reed in order to have balance.

Another problem I had with Kiyosaki’s approach was as follows.

His goal is to have passive income larger than all of one’s life expenses. This way one would not have to work a day in the rest of his life. Kiyosaki however overlooks one very important point: the time needed to manage the passive income producing properties, businesses or paper investments.

If you have income from rental houses, but have to work, on the average, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week to manage those properties, then your income is effectively as passive as the one you had from your software development job in that Hi-Tech company which you “retired” from.

What you really want is to have nice income while having to work on managing it only few hours a month. Then you have the rest of the month for yourself. If Kiyosaki’s goal was indeed achievable, then even dead people and “vegetables” would have been able to earn income. In practice, of course, this does not happen. Every form of income needs to be looked after, because market conditions change and eventually that property ceases to produce income.

However nowhere in his books, did I find anything, which addresses this issue of the time needed to manage various kinds of investments.

Will car washes be as branded as fast food chains?

There is a car wash in Petah Tikva, where they wash my car once in a while, and sometimes dare to nag me about waxing it. I liked the place because they provided sitting places and newspapers for clients, who are waiting while the interiors of their cars are being cleaned.

Today the car was there again, escorted by me.

This time, they branded themselves as “King Wash”, advertising kingly treatment for her majesty the car. For example, you can have your car prepared and beautified for sale. Their prices are also a bit higher.

This time, the sitting service included also a free hot drink (such as coffee or hot chocolate).

As judged by someone, who cares about cleanliness of cars only due to social pressure, they did good but not perfect cleaning work.

  • What next? A shopping mall (“canion”) organized around car washes, like the Cinema City mall between north Tel Aviv and Herzliya, which is first a place for seeing movies and then a mall?
  • What would a Seinfeld skid about this have looked like?
  • How would the days before Passover look like in such a place? What special perks would be provided to people waiting in the long and slow-moving queue?

Selling your software – a brief review of two articles by Eric Sink

Closing the Gap, part 1 talks about the function of proactive sales in a small ISV.
Closing the Gap, Part 2 describes an alternative to hiring a sales guy.

Both parts elaborate on closing the gap between your product and a prospective customer.
Part 2 also has links to further reading about the subject.
Those parts and several other articles by Eric Sink are worth the time spent reading them.

But what kind of bacteria are they?

There is a recent article in Slashdot about the bacteria in shower curtains (http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/03/2014244&mode=thread&tid=134).

It reminds me of past stories about the horrible germs in phone headsets, computer keyboards and even in the kitchen. Those stories end with the conclusion that one should pay money to companies specializing in cleaning this stuff and/or buy new goods to replace the infected(?) stuff.

I wish those stories were accompanied by the percentage of bacteria which they share with human intestines, those bacteria which are really problematic.

Yet another instance of misguided make-work economics?