What’s better? A stream of brilliant ideas rotting in a shelf or one great idea living its own life beyond the author imagination and helping many other people? Have you ever considered what will remain after you pass away? I’ve thought a bit about those questions and guess what I realized.
You’d probably agree a week lacking enough sleep is certainly not a fertile soil for being inspired with great ideas. Last Wednesday I finally tried to fall asleep after a long tiring day but I couldn’t. A stream of interesting ideas and questions started coming to my mind. Or reminding me that I should not forget about them as this happens to me quite often. To give you some impression:
- Machine Learning on chemometrical data.
- Sonification of time-series.
- Aggregated statistics on time-series.
- Stochastic sampling of the time-frequency plane.
- Visualizing a chord time-series as a curved 3D tube.
- Measuring and visualizing the tuning profile of a piano.
- Measuring and visualizing information flow in songs.
- Visualizing chord progressions with both 1-step and 7-step connections using Hamiltonian circles.
- Song visualization via non-linear dimensionality reduction to 2D or even 1D time-series.
- A fast implementation of SliCQ and frequency reassignment with good API.
- Blog about refactoring open-source projects.
- Small programming projects in many fields - code & e-books.
- Clustering with autoencoder.
- Using bilateral filter or content-aware fill on sound instead of images.
- Deep learning for sound compression.
- What would I start coding if I was 6 years old again but with today’s knowledge.
- Did people developed such farther than other animals due to fire and music?
I was writing them down and finally an important question appeared.
What if I shared all my ideas with the world?
My problem is not having enough interesting ideas - although I’m certainly far from the smartest people around, I’ve been gifted with a decent fantasy and I’ve been training it whole my life. The problem to utilize the holy raw material and bring the ideas to life so they actually help people. Without it they’re useless and empty. Throughout the years I had ideas for many dissertations and I don’t have so much time and abilities to finished them all alone. Actually I delved into practice instead of doing a PhD, just to be able to fiddle with my projects.
Recently I wondered what to do with the ever growing list of project and research ideas that I gathered in many years. I always had a mindset that each one idea could be turned into product and sharing the idea would prevent me from making money from it someday since someone could be faster - and have a free lunch. So the majority of my ideas are still in rotting a shelf. Worse than not having them at all, each time I look at them they always remind me that I’m wasting them tremendously.
Earlier this year I tried to turn several ideas into product (eg. the HarmonEye application for music visualization, etc.). Unfortunately I focused too much on the technical aspects and less on the actual people and problems. Although I learned that I should build audience first, I didn’t do it properly and rather coded furiously.
Finally it made me completely tired without having the product running. So I made a month-long road trip Scandinavia, cleaned my head, decided to focus on Machine Learning and took another job. And most importantly I’m finally trying hard to learn and train an effective process of realizing the projects, GTD. I realized that for a knowledge worker this is the one of most important generally usable tools ever. Yearst ago I knew I should probably master it but I was always feeling to busy or lazy to actually start.
Recently I was thinking ahead of time of one moment in life that will certainly come, although noone knows when:
What work would I leave behind me to the society when I pass some day?
How did I help other people solve their problems?
This is, in my opinion, a very good tool to distinguish what is important and what isn’t.
So I realized ideas that appear in my brain are worthless if I just put them to some “icebox” and never share or implement them in order help other people. Having new ideas connecting multiple fields is not so expensive for me today. I cannot control them. They just instantly appear and then chase me until I write them down.
Partly it is a gift, but mainly it is due to the continous training and enormous stimuli from the society, in the last few decades enormously accelerated by the Internet. We live in a strange, yet wonderful era. I realize the conditions won’t be there forever, so in fact I feel a kind of responsibility.
So what are the pros and cons of sharing the ideas with the world?
- (+) While I write a raw idea down for others I have to clarify its goals and produce a presentable unit of information. Note that this naturally corresponds is the first step in GTD or Agile.
- (+) When I have clarified the goals there’s a much higher chance I’ll actually make the idea.
- (+) If I publish a idea, eg. on my blog, someone gets interested and actually builds a product, I might still benefit from the solution, even though I didn’t have the time and/or resources to build it myself.
- (-/0) Maybe someone else makes a profitable product faster than me. Thus he will act as a possible competition for me. Well, this might inevitably happen even if I publish my product earlier. Then he’s called a fast follower. On the other hand every implementation is different (optimized for different goals), I might do better and also the market is usually big enough to offer room for both.
- (+) Even if someone else make business upon my idea, new working places might be created and possibly I might be credited as the source of inspiration.
- (+) Whatever happens, a good idea might attract likely minded people, start a discussion, or even live its own life beyond my control and eventually help people.
- (+) This way I might build audience, a group of people that are interested in this kind of ideas, that might help further sharpen the ideas, encourage me to build a product and eventually help me spreading the word.
- (+) Discussing the ideas with other people might help me recognize which ideas are really worth giving the energy into realizing them.
- (+) In the long term it might help me building a better credit in the community, make new friends, and possibly be noticed for some interesting job or contract, or make better products alone or in cooperation with someone else.
- (+) Something useful will remain after me.
Probably you’ll agree there are mostly possitives and the nagatives are in fact inevitable and actually not that bad. It feels a little bit like a step outside a comfort zone, but such actions are usually the most useful ones. I don’t believe an idea can be “owned” (or more precisely “squatted”) by anyone, let alone the first one ever.
It’s like a seed. Sometimes it gets into your way and it’s up to you how you utilize it. You can burn it for heating or grow a big plant from it.
For myself this means that sharing my vast shelf of ideas with the world seems to the best I can do now.
What do you think? Do you have a similar experience?