Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Programs that don’t exist that I wish I had

I think of stupid software every day that doesn’t exist, and I waste too much time trying to find it. I should just start a blog of all of it, and hope someone steals the ideas and writes them. Or, I should really learn to program, quit my job, get a bunch of funding, and get rich riding these ideas into the ground.  That won’t happen, though.

I’m sure these programs exist in some partial way. Or, more likely, they exist but only work for 14 days and you have to pay for more, or they work, but are run “in the cloud” by a startup that will get bought by someone and then promptly shut down.

Okay, here’s a list, off the top of my head:

  • A program that goes through my incoming email, grabs everything that looks like a UPS or USPS or FedEx tracking number, and feeds them into a program like the Delivery Status widget. Maybe there’s a way to script Delivery Status to add entries, and maybe there’s a way to scrape email with an AppleScript for Mail.app.  Those are two big maybes, though. Oh, and a Safari add-on so if it doesn’t come in an email, I can click it from my browser.
  • The same as above, but flight info and my calendar. (No, I’m not forwarding all of my mail to TripIt. Locally.)
  • An iPhone app that can track everything I do during the day and make a log of it, so that in two hours, if I need to know if I ate lunch or not, I can ask Siri and it will tell me.  (Yes, I forget.)
  • (Not an idea, but a discovery – I just found out Siri works as a thesaurus!  Just ask “what’s another word for rumination?” and it will pull up a very kick-ass thesaurus entry from WolframAlpha.)
  • A way to take Amazon’s recommendations engine and make it find web pages. For example, if I’ve bought all of these Orwell books, find me some online web sites and communities where people with similar interests are. And don’t just throw “Orwell” into google. Use the power of Amazon’s engine, so it knows that if I read and liked books A and B and C, I’m going to want to read web site D.
  • A faster way to take the 20 years of old email mboxes that are completely unorganized and scattered across ten different directories and archives and explode them all into one giant timeline that I can visually sort and explore.
  • Something that can take my geo-coded photos in iPhoto or Aperture, search for the lat/long in wikipedia or whatever, and try to determine the names of the nearest locations in some sensible way to add captions.  So when I take a bunch of pictures on my phone on a work trip, I plug it in, let it churn, and then it magically says “632 Broadway, NoHo, New York City” in the caption field.

That’s all for now.  If you implement one of these and form a company and get millions of dollars, do me a favor and buy a few hundred copies of one of my books and give them away, so it makes it look like I’m a best-selling author for a few seconds.