Fun_People Archive
21 Oct
Foundation Ideas, Business Plans, Scenarios

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 99 15:49:49 -0700
To: Fun_People
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Subject: Foundation Ideas, Business Plans, Scenarios

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Precedence: bulk
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-

Forwarded-by: david mankins
From: Phil Agre <>


Here is my new business plan.  The company is called
You go to the web site and you give it your credit card number.  It
charges $19.95 to your card, and then it goes off into the databases
of the world, extracting all of the information about you that it
can find.  It feeds that information into our brand new 128-processor
Linux supercomputer, and two minutes later you get a new Web page that
presents a large number of creepy numerological facts about your life.
Perhaps the letters in the name of your brother-in-law, when combined
according to a numerical encoding, add up to 666.  Perhaps the number
of checks that you have ever bounced is the same as the number of
courses you ever flunked in school.  Perhaps the number of calories in
the food you bought in your supermarket last month is exactly halfway
between the number of miles that you drove on your old Pontiac and the
zip code of your birthplace.  For an extra $10 you get
Gold Edition, which includes a nice set of suggested lottery numbers,
each guaranteed to have the kind of deep personal significance that
spells luck.


I have a scenario: drives all of the world's independent
bookstores out of business, and then it goes bankrupt.


I have been keeping a list of foundations that I wish somebody would
start.  Here are a few of them:

 * Signbusters.  Groups of traveling retirees who take a training
course and then file reports on the signs wherever they go on their
travels.  If they get tripped up by a misleading sign, they'll go
back and examine it according to their training, and if it turns
out to fail one or more of the criteria of good signage then they'll
write it up.  The home office will then research the design company
that produced the signs, and the winners/losers will be laughed at.

 * Sandblasting International.  The world is full of excellent cities,
Budapest for example, that would be even more excellent if someone
spent a moderate amount of money to sandblast a couple hundred of
the most interesting old buildings.  Surely there is a cosmopolitan
plutocrat out there who thinks this would be a good idea.

 * Stats Watch.  Public discourse is full of terrible abuses of
statistics, especially statistical correlations that are interpreted
as proving otherwise implausible causalities.  Stats Watch would
be a volunteer association of statisticians who notice these things,
file reports, and ridicule the worst offenders.  In this case,
however, the "honors" should not be announced at the end of the year,
but right away, preferably within the same news cycle in which the
bogus statistic is used.  Otherwise few people will ever make the
connection, and the stats-abusers will get the rhetorical effect they
want.  My informal sense is that these worst offenders are political
think tanks that are paid to come up with arguments for preconceived
positions whether the arguments really make sense or not.


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