Here's an idea I had a while back for a new web startup – since I know I'll never get around to implementing it, I'm offering it up for grabs to anyone who wants a chance at fame and fortune.  After all, I'd rather a site like this actually exist than just sit percolating in my head.

 

Site name: What the Hell (or Heck) Is That?

 

Premise: Have you ever seen something, but not known exactly what it was?  Maybe you're curious what that big humming box is behind your office building (it's a transformer) or what kind of bird it is that keeps dive-bombing your car (it's a redheaded woodpecker).  Well, thanks to the magic of the internet, now you can find out exactly What the Hell is That?

 

How It Works:

  • Any registered user can upload a picture to the website.  Ideal for cameraphone pictures, as you can moblog while on the run.  However, you can also email or use a in-page widget at your computer, if you prefer.
  • The photos get loaded onto a "Can You Identify This?" page that is constantly updated.  Registered users can take a stab at identifying the object of interest in the photo, filling out a small web form that has categories like:
    • Object Name
    • Intended Use
    • Difficulty in Identifying Object (Very Difficult – Difficult – Moderate – Easy – Very Easy, etc)
  • Once a user has entered information identifying an object, the photo goes into a Voting queue, where registered users can vote on the accuracy of the identifying information.  This could be as simple as a thumbs up/down for usefulness of identifying information down to a rated scale for how accurate the user was.
  • When enough users have voted positively for an identification, you get a notification via the medium you used to submit the photo with the results.  You can also check the individual item's page on the site in the meantime, if you want to see the status as it updates.  New identifications can be turned off at any time, and will automatically be shut off at a predetermined time period (assuming there is already a valid identification in place).

 

How The Site Makes Money:

  • Like many sites out there, I think this would probably work best on an ad revenue basis.  Make it free for users to register/upload/identify/vote, so you get a big base of people involved, and then make money off the advertisements served.
  • How do you get people interested in identifying/voting? 
    • Besides the fact that I think there'd be a lot of people interested if you just turned it into a game of some sort, with rankings/scores, you could also institute some sort of profit-sharing mechanism.  For each picture that someone identifies "correctly" that gets a certain number of corroborating votes from distinct users, they get some small fraction of a cent.  More difficult pictures yield a bigger profit for identifiers.  (Restrictions would have to be put in place to prevent botting, but I'm sure these could get figured out.)
    • You could also have site-sponsored contests – prizes for people that identify a certain number of items, or identify long-outstanding unidentified items, or items that the site administrators decide to post at random intervals.

 

So, what do you think?  Does this sound viable?  Anyone want to take it on?  I figure there's some new college grad out there burning to get moving on a big project like this – I've provided the outline for the service, now all you have to do is go implement it :-)  After all, the next time someone asks me "What the hell is that?", I'd rather not have to say "I don't know" when instead, I could leverage the power of the internet to help me get my answer.

 

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