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04 May 2006

Is Web 2.0 the big idea for solving our problems?

In Jan 2004 I decided that Simon Cowell was making far too much money out of rubbish television that largely benefited his own pocket a lot more than the people entering his TV shows.

So I thought, wouldn't it be good to have a TV programme that the public voted in but instead of benefiting a few people, society as a whole benefited.

I developed the idea a bit and in Feb 2004 got in touch with someone I know who runs his own independent TV company.

He thought my idea was very interesting and in the end the idea went to BBC Scotland as a programme concept. BBC Scotland wasn't interested but they thought some of the ideas in it were worth taking further so it then went to the BBC in London. It was discussed there but nothing much more came of it. In any case, there was always commercial TV, so my contact suggested sending it to some commercial companies. Back in 2001 I had some correspondence with Channel 4 about their E-millionaire show and thought they might be interested. The people behind that programme then got back in touch saying they were already doing something similar. That was October 2004.

18 months later, still no sign of the TV programme they had in production.

However, we now have Web 2.0. One of the key differences with what I was suggesting is that this wasn't just a programme with a social conscience but it was one that worked in a variety of media and tied together local papers, the Internet as well as TV and phone voting.

With the advance of Web 2.0, I thought that now is the time to revisit the concept. Certainly as one that got both a production company and BBC Scotland showing some interest, perhaps Web 2.0 is the forum that will make this happen. Not so much a TV programme with an Internet element, but a Web 2.0 site that happens to have its own TV programme (program for those in the US).

Is this the chance for Web 2.0 to make its break into TV?

Here it is:

Turning problems into answers into solutions.

A series for Television and the Web.

What big idea have you got - for your own, your family'’s, your community'’s or your country's future? Are you the next Trevor Bayliss with a terrific idea but struggling to find the right people to bring it to market? Maybe you're the next Stelios with a new business model in need of momentum? Maybe you're the next James Dyson needing significant finance to get a revolutionary idea off the drawing board. Hey, even the Beatles and JK Rowling had a tough time finding a route to market. Why does it have to be so difficult?

The initial idea.
I'm Scottish - – my country has produced some of the world's greatest thinkers, scientists and inventors. Yet, where are they now? The easier it becomes for the big thinkers to get attention for their ideas and bring them to market, the more of these ideas will be able to get into the world and make people's lives better in many diverse ways.

Better in what way? Everything. The BIG idea will cover the whole spectrum of ingenuity. One person's BIG idea might be a new ultra labour saving vacuum cleaner -– another's might be dealing with environment waste more efficiently. There will be no limit or limitation to bringing any idea about anything into contention, practical or impractical, very large or very small. The BIG idea is a can do programme not a can't do one.

All over the UK there are men and women with projects and ideas that could be the next big thing. The BIG idea will get those out of the drawer and onto the screen – and the public will vote to choose the best. The IDEA of the YEAR.

The idea in practice.
The BIG Idea starts with a national trawl for plans, possibilities and potential. Press promotion and road-show days in a number of places across the country will produce the long list. This isnÂ’t just a TV programme, itÂ’s a national event which works at the local level too with local papers promoting community based ideas and entries and local enterprise companies assisting people keen to take their ideas forward and presenting prizes to local winners.

Step 1
People are invited to text, email or submit via the web very short (a few sentences of ideas/invention/social change that they would like to see happen and why. Doesn't have to be patentable.

Step 2
Inventors are then invited to submit in detail their ideas for solutions to these problems. They can of course submit their own "problems" as well. It is important that they enter what the idea is, not how it works.

However, access to the new database above has major advantages:

1. If many people are requesting the idea, this is an incentive to further refine and develop the idea before submitting it since many other inventors might also have seen the opportunity. The requests could show against the idea like votes on a story on
2. If not many people have requested the idea, it could indicate the idea is truly innovative.
3. Seeing what has been requested could help develop new lines of thought and spot opportunities - a brainstorm database. Like comments on a blog.

When a solution is submitted, it is attached to a problem and people searching can see how many problems have prospective solutions, but not what the solutions
are. Like

Step 3
Judges then review the thousands of ideas submitted by inviting the inventor of the most promising ones in the database to do an elevator pitch on each one (ie. like Pop Idol phase 1).

However, the people reviewing the elevator pitches have no prior information about the idea. The reviewers of the "elevator pitch" recommend who should go forward.

This next list is then put back to the Internet.

Step 4
Each idea at this stage is then published in a form carefully checked by a patent agent that reveals enough to make the idea interesting but not jeopardise any prospective patent application. Note it is not a requirement of the competition to have a patentable invention - EasyJet is a huge success but isn't patentable, yet is exactly the sort of radical solution which might have come out of a competition like this. Similarly "Freeserve", etc. New business models are just as valid as the next wind up radio or bagless vacuum. Hey, maybe someone could actually figure out why Dysons get such lousy marks for reliability from the Consumers Association!

What is revealed about the idea at this stage is a short "What it is" rather than "how it does it" plus key points detailing target market, market size, principle benefits.

I've invented a super widget which analyses your diet and makes recommendations
based on your calorific content, nutritional balance and dietary needs. It
assists with your online shopping, cutting your online shop from minutes to
seconds and ensuring your are buying your weekly shop from the cheapest
Target market : Anyone interested in diet or saving money.
Market size : Global, billions
Benefits: Saves time and money. Makes diets simple.
(this would be based on the principle that you could tie up bar codes on food roducts with their associated nutritional information and then tie this back to a central database which recorded what you had already bought that week or eaten so far that day).

At this stage, each idea is given a shortcode which can be used to vote by SMS or phone with touch-tone. Shortcodes are viewed on the web.

Businesses can also bid for the exclusive rights to take a product to market. Supposing a phone vote cost 20p, well a business could put in 1000 votes for £200, etc. Bit like E-bay but the winning business would buy the first refusal rights to take the product to market. Money raised is used to fund patent applications and take out advertising in national newspapers to raise awareness of the ideas, develop a market.

Competition progresses by having intellectual rights in the businesses registered then revealing more and more about what they are about, the benefits, building a prototype, facing challenges etc (e.g. a competitor has started, how would you deal with that; you have a week to find a real company to manufacture your product etc). The public votes for the business and leader each week who they most want to see to market.

Key points about the competition:
Open to anyone. Age completely irrelevant (that one throws out the rule book right away!! Today's Trevor Bayliss or tomorrow's Branson - each has an equal chance. No ageism, sexism, racism etc here.

Sex irrelevant, background irrelevant, etc. Ideas and their markets are being assessed not people. Questions about age, gender etc will not be asked on the forms. (this is where funding goes wrong - some funds are only for under 30's, the Innovation Fund is only for people at University, and so on).

It is a competition that is open to anyone regardless of ability or background.

The point is to get people excited about solving problems, being innovative and encouraging people who are good at ideas but who don't necessarily see themselves as managing directors or for various reasons can't commit the time or don't have the money to launch via other routes.

The long list will be chosen by the production team, working with outside experts. Each item on the long list will be allocated a "celebrity champion" (for example Stelios, Richard Branson) who will state during the show why they like the idea.

The BIG idea will seek to work with these bodies and companies whose job is to produce the goods – bodies such as Scottish Enterprise (for Scotland), the Arts Council and the venture capitalists. Their support and expertise will be invaluable. Successful and innovative project sponsors will also be sought. But above all it is the participation of PEOPLE who want to succeed that will essential – for the show is about celebrating not only innovation, but the power of society to be positive and create change.

The money generated from the phone vote and from sponsorship will provide a prize that helps to do that either in the form of a commercial exploitation, or in the form of a publication, an art work or even the foundations of a building. The BIG idea is about making things happen, and the winner (or winners, for some of the long list projects will undoubtedly attract interest from others) will be guaranteed the chance to do just that.

The BIG idea.

The BIG idea is participation television, it is interactive television, it is the Internet complementing television, it is positive thought, it is community involvement - it is television that thinks, it is television that entertains and it is television that actually makes a difference rather than being couch potato material. It is, in itself, a big idea which the UK and nations need in order to move forward. It is the kick start to getting Britain and the world to think about itself and about what it needs.

(at the very least this will stop Simon Cowell with coming up with something similar and then saying he thought of it!)


Anonymous said...

You know Simon Cowell is executive producer on American inventor, the new reality show in the US?

Craig Cockburn said...

Yes, but like his other shows its him who is the main beneficiary. Also it's limited to just inventions and the format is based around one winner and putting everyone else down. From what I hear, the show isn't very good. Hopefully people will like my format better!

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