Tom Walma


Neverending Open Mic Web Site

Business, Web Site/App, TV ShowTom WalmaComment

The idea is to have a streaming video channel that runs live 24-hours a day, 7 days a week showing ordinary people doing standup comedy in front of their webcams at home.  Also, a subset (around 100 max) of the people watching the streaming video would use their microphones to be broadcast (audio-only) on the streaming video channel as audience. 

A never-ending open mic sounds like a nightmare if you were required to watch bad comics for hours at a time,.  But it would be good to watch for short periods of time, such as when on the toilet, during commercials on television, etc.  And it would be a great resource for aspiring comics, especially those who live in rural locations.  Also, maybe professional comics would find it useful to test their material in front of small crowds who aren't expecting them.

Signing up would be open and free.  Maybe some "guest spots" or preferential treatment of good comics would be used, but there would be a guarantee of at least half of the time being comics from an open, equal signup process.  Also, maybe those who watch the channel more or broadcast themselves as audience more would be able to jump up the queue to perform.

The web site would need people to fill the following (paid) roles 24 hours a day:

1. MC:  The MC would introduce the comics and encourage applause and such, just like a normal MC.  They would have the power to cut off the comics (i.e. transfer the audio and video stream from the comic back to themselves) in case the comic was super racist or trying to show their dick, or in case of technical difficulties.  The MC would also need to fill time in the case where nobody signs up.  So they would need to have at least an hour of material plus the ability to improvise to fill a lot of time.  The MC would also read short commercials to pay for the web site.  The web site would never completely cut the video to a commercial, they would always show either the MC or a comic.  Banner ads would also generate revenue for the site.  They would also only show ads (even banner ads) when the MC is talking, never when a comic is performing.

2. Bouncers:  The people watching the comedy show on their phones or computers at home (aka the audience) would be encouraged to turn on their microphones so you can hear when they laugh.  Also, the comics waiting to perform would be required to watch with their microphones on for an hour or so before they perform.  The bouncer(s) (1 to 4 people) would see a computer screen with 20 to 50 volume graphs each showing the volume an individual audience member is making on their microphone.  They would be able to listen to the combined volume or to isolate a single audience member.  That way if somebody is heckling on their microphone, or if there's too much background noise from somebody's house, they can mute/disonnect that user from the broadcast audio.

3. Screener:  This person would communicate with the comics before they perform, answering their questions, making sure their video and audio connection is sufficient, queueing them up and providing information about the comics to the MC so that the MC can introduce the comics.

The idea is to have one streaming channel for the entire world (maybe adding more if it becomes successful).  The channel would be in English.  So you could have 4 locations around the world where the MC would broadcast from, and have 4 6-hour work shifts.  So you could have England, East Coast US, West Coast US, and Australia.

You could also broadcast from real-life open mics.  And if the real-life open mic has a small audience, you can connect the audience from the web site to the stereo system and make it sound as if the audience at home was in the real-life audience.

I'm not sure it's technically possible, specifically merging 100 microphones into one common "audience" audio signal.  But with Twitch and Periscope and such, it seems like streaming video technology has improved a lot recently, possibly making this feasible.

Staircase House

Business, InventionTom WalmaComment

A typical house is full of wasted space.  There is a lot of wasted horizontal space, such as hallways and staircases, and even unnecessary walls.  There is also a lot of wasted vertical space, because if you think about it, when you walk through a room, you only walk in specific paths, usually in the middle of the room, so the ceiling doesn't need to be as high in many sections of the room, primarily the corners. 

The idea of the staircase house is to reduce wasted space.  It would scatter sets of 1, 2, or 3 stairs throughout the house, and have the house spiral around to enable it to have multiple stories.  It wouldn't be a gradual spiral, it would have some places with several stairs close together and other large flat areas.  The bulk of the house would be one large room, with sections for kitchens, etc.  There would be no hallways.  The ceiling would be of variable height, and with clever design, would fit 3 stories in the vertical space of 2 stories, without feeling cramped.

Appliances, drawers, etc. could be placed up on a "stair" so you don't ever have to bend down to reach anything, such as the bottom of the fridge, for example.

The stairs would all be the same height, and would be made out of snap-in pieces, which would utilize space cleverly.  For example, stairs may slide open like drawers or open up vertically for storage like a storage chest.  Some stairs may open up into theatre type chairs, so you could have a mini theatre in the middle of a room where there is normally walking space, for example.  There could be couches that mount onto stairs so the bottom backside of the couch is empty space, thus reducing the size and weight of the couch.

The house would have less open air space, thus the heating bills would be less.

You could have really clever things to save space, such as:

  • Pool table with bed on top where the bed is raised to the ceiling above the pool table when the bed is not in use, and maybe even the pool table opens up into a mini laundry room
  • Flat-panel TV and mirror that both slide out of wall in front of large window, so either the mirror, TV, or window is visible.  Could also have a slide-out whiteboard

I also like the idea of a walk-on roof with walls that extend up a few feet above the roof for privacy.  This probably wouldn't be a core feature of the house, but maybe the house is constructed to allow this to be easily added later.

MC Squared

Invention, Web Site/App, BusinessTom WalmaComment

Einstein rocked the world of physics with the theory of relativity.  Now its time to use relativity to rock the music world.

If you rate your music by giving it a fixed value as a rating (such as 9/10), you run into some problems.  You may sit there trying to figure out which rating to give, i.e. is it a 8/10 or a 9/10.  Also, if you have 1000 songs rated as 9/10, and you want to decide what to listen to, how helpful is the rating?  And if the quality of music changes over the years, you may go back and find that all of the 8/10s you gave recently are better than the 8/10s you gave years ago, or vice-versa.

The solution is to abandon the approach of giving a rating a fixed value, and instead rate songs based on relative quality to other songs.  It may be hard to figure out whether to give a song an 8/10 or 9/10, but it is very easy to figure out of the song you are listening to is better, worse, or about the same quality as the song you just listened to.  In time, after rating songs in this fashion, the good songs will rise to the top.  You won't have to worry about deciding which of 1000 songs rated 9/10 are better.  You don't have to worry about your ratings drifting over time.

Karma Peacock

Business, Web Site/AppTom WalmaComment

According to Freakonomics, despite the reasons people say they give to charity, the strongest reason is peer pressure.  So to convince people to give to charity, "Karma Peacock" is a web site to allow people to brag about charities they have given to or worked for.  Also maybe environmental stuff such as buying hybrid cars.

Possible features:
• Integration with Facebook:
    • Show friends your karma acts
    • Invite others to karma acts 
• News of upcoming charity events in the region such as 5k runs, etc.
• Cooperation with charities to verify that the person did what they said they did.  A verified icon would indicate whether the item was verified or not
• Coordination of karma such as organizing meetups, raising money a la Kickstarter, etc.
• Assign karma scores to yourself or others 
    • Karma scores could be based on your own karma priorities.  For example, you may not consider owning a hybrid car as good karma.
    • Organizations can give people karma scores based on their specific karma priorities, and you can view the karma scores that these organizations give to you or to someone else
    • Karma scores can be based on a total karma sum, karma rate, or recent karma
    • Karma scores can take into account karma potential, i.e. rich people or smart people might have to do more to get good karma

Items which will NOT be featured:
• Karma based on personal relationships, such as weddings, break-ups, etc.
* Negative karma for doing bad things

Coed Baseball and Cheerleading

Business, SportTom WalmaComment

I was thinking about which major sports could allow men and women to participate together.  Most sports, such as NFL football or NBA basketball, would be completely dominated by men.  In the case of NFL football, you could maybe make the kickers be women, but that's about it, and it would reduce the entertainment value of the game since the kickers wouldn't be able to kick as far. 

But baseball is a different story because the players have drastically different roles (i.e. pitcher, catcher, etc.).  You could have the infielders be women (1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, shortstop) since they don't have to throw as far, with the remaining positions (right field, center field, left field, catcher) being men.  For the pitcher, there could be 2 pitchers on the field (one woman and one man), where the woman pitches to women and the man pitches to men.  The pitcher which is currently not pitching would be the only one allowed to field the ball.  This makes the number of male players the same as the number of female players.

Also, baseball teams already have a balance of home run hitters and reliable (high on base percentage) but less powerful hitters.  Since men tend to be stronger than women, most of the home run hitters would be men and most of the reliable hitters would therefore be women, although some teams might mix this up a little bit if they have an exceptionally powerful female hitter.

Despite the characteristics mentioned above, the game still favors men more than women, because of home runs, etc.  To remedy this, cheerleading will become part of the game.  If you go to a baseball game, between innings there is already a lot of music pumping and T-shirt guns firing and audience giveaways and stuff to keep people entertained.  Instead of this, after each half-inning, there would be cheerleaders for one of the teams performing a highly acrobatic cheerleading routine the duration of a song, and after the inning (i.e. after both teams perform a cheer), judges would award the best routine a point. 

Since with the cheerleading the innings will be longer, there could be 5 innings instead of 9 innings.   The guaranteed 5 points from the cheerleading will be added to the points from baseball to generate a total score, and the highest total score would win.

An interesting (but not required) twist on this would be that there would be a maximum number of overall players on a team (including both baseball and cheerleading) that is low enough to require some of the players have to both play baseball and do cheerleading.  I can picture a scenario where one of the cheerleaders gets injured and one of the manly home-run hitters has to take their place to avoid forfeiting the game.

A final idea would be that the teams do not have a home city.  The teams would still have a name and an identity that they use to try to attract fans, but they play in a different city each time (for the most part).  The upside of this is that you wouldn't have to build them stadiums, and the size of the stadiums they play could fluctuate (minor league vs. major league vs. maybe even large high school stadiums) depending on the popularity of the team and the sport, thus drastically reducing the financial risk.

Teach or Die

BusinessTom WalmaComment

In engineering, they have a term called "reinventing the wheel", which means wasting time re-engineering a problem that has already been solved.  An addendum to that is "reinventing the wheel wrong" or "reinventing the wheel poorly", which is that not only are you wasting time working on a problem that has already been solved, you are also doing it poorly and coming up with a solution that is worse than what already exists.

I think the very concept of having "teachers", that is, a person in the same room as you who explains stuff to you that is already contained in a textbook, is inherently "reinventing the wheel". 

Furthermore, it is also "reinventing the wheel poorly" for every teacher except for the very best teacher, or the top 1% or so of teachers, of a given topic.  Another way to look at it is taking teaching material in a textbook or teacher's manual that is reviewed and vetted for mistakes and replacing it with mistake-prone improvisation.

My idea is to have an online-based teaching system of videos and interactive web pages based on competition.  The concept is called "Teach or Die" which is similar to the web site "Funny or Die" in that the teaching materials that are not successful will be discarded, leaving only the most successful teaching materials. 

Each class, such as Algebra 1, will be split into standardized lessons, which will be taught in a standardized period of time, from 1 day to a couple weeks, depending on what is appropriate for the subject matter.  There will be a standardized test for each lesson.  Multiple "teaching teams" will develop competing videos and/or interactive web pages for a particular lesson.  These lessons will be shown to a random set of students spanning multiple schools and races and income levels.  Some classes could have separate tracks (normal and advanced, for example) split into different standardized lessons with different standardized tests.

The standardized test results will be analyzed to see which lesson(s) are the most successful.  "Success" of a lesson can be determined in multiple ways.  The simplest method would be the mean standardized test result.  It can also be fine-tuned to see which lesson(s) are the most successful for different categories of student, such as race, income level, learning style, etc.  Or, rather than just looking at the mean, it could try to minimize the number of students that fail. 

The test results can be used to fine-tune future iterations of a lesson developed by a specific "teaching team".  For example, if one lesson did very well overall but had a particular weakness like a particular question that most of the students missed, they could attempt to correct this weakness and re-enter the lesson into the never-ending competition.

Teaching teams would be paid based on the standardized test results of the lesson and how much the lesson is used.  They would continue to be paid as long as the lesson survives the never-ending competition.  There would be some sort of pre-filtering by experts before showing the lesson to actual students, and "teaching teams" would not get paid unless the lesson passes this pre-filtering process.   Ultimately, if this becomes a national program, some of the most successful "teaching teams" will become millionaires. 

Some of the "teaching teams" will actually be individuals, such as hobbyists or professionals in the field of study (i.e. not necessarily teachers) that will maintain a small set of lessons.  Some of them will be small or mid-sized companies that employ full-time computer animators and human psychology experts and entertainers (comedians, journalists, famous scientists, etc.), and will work on continuously improving their active lessons, finding new lessons to work on that they consider weak and that they can defeat in competition, creating new lessons for new classes, etc.

The "teach or die" lessons would be taught either via home schooling or in actual physical schools (public or private).  The physical schools would not employ teachers in the traditional sense for the "teach or die" classes (which wouldn't have to be ALL of the classes), but instead would employ non-skilled "organizers" who would make sure the kids pay attention and take attendance and stuff like that.  The school could also hire skilled tutors that would be available during a "study hall" period or could pay for an online tutoring service.  The sum total of "organizers" and tutors would probably be less than the current number of teachers, since the "organizers" could watch multiple classrooms via cameras or larger classrooms, at least for older and calmer groups of kids.

If successful, the "teach or die" system could drastically improve the quality of education and provide equal opportunity to education, and at the same time drastically reduce the cost of education.  This reduction of cost could be so immense (literally cut in half or more) that large supplementary projects could be implemented, such as round-the-clock free child care and recreational activities on school premises, universal free access to child psychologists, etc.


Additional thoughts:

* Classes could be taught to different sets of students at different times, that way there is always a fresh set of test results to use as feedback for continuously improving the lessons.  So, for example, there could be 12 sets of students each taught one month apart, thus allowing the "teaching teams" the remainder of the month to improve the lesson for the next set of students.  This could also allow the students to be separated by birthday, thus eliminating the unfair advantage some students receive by being older compared to the other students in their grade due to the time of year of their birthday

* I think there is an unfair bias against using videos for teaching.  I think this is due to propaganda fed to us as children by teachers who were trying to get disinterested students to do their schoolwork instead of watching TV for entertainment purposes.  It is also based on cable TV historical or scientifically branded channels not really being educational, and containing cheap reality shows and conspiracy shows instead.  Also, many videos shown in school were shown only because the regular teacher was absent thus reducing the likelihood of getting in trouble for not paying attention, often didn't have relevance to the class or weight on the student's grade, and often weren't always created with the goal of being shown in a classroom, all of which reduced their effectiveness.  I think kids would quickly get used to learning effectively from videos rather than in-person teachers, and wouldn't screw around and refuse to pay attention like previous generations of students did when watching videos.

* The video lessons wouldn't have to be documentary-style, rather they could be video of a teacher writing on a chalkboard.  Also, competing lessons could be of different formats, for example, a chalkboard lecture video vs. a video with animations and whiz-bang visual effects vs. an interactive web page vs. a combination of all of the above.

* Some of the lessons could involve homework

* Some of the standardized tests and homework could be turned in to the unskilled caretaker, who could digitize it to be graded remotely

* Some classes would be less amenable to this system and may still be taught by regular teachers as decided by the school. 

* Some interactive learning, such as science experiments, could be done by part-time employees (similar to substitute teachers) or by employees that are full-time and normally serve as study-hall tutors

* The students wouldn't be able to ask questions during the lesson.  This might superficially appear to be a large downside in the "teach or die" methodology, but if you think about the nature of a student asking a question in a class, it can either signify a) that particular student didn't understand, but most or all of the other students did, in which case you are wasting the other students time (to some degree, since they may gain some value from repetition, although that same repetition could be built into the lesson); or b) most or all of the students didn't understand, because maybe the teacher made a mistake or went too fast or something, which can be gradually eliminated in the iterative improvements of the "teach or die" methodology.

* Maybe the students could submit questions electronically to be used by the "teaching teams" to improve the lectures.  And the tutors could provide feedback to the "teaching teams" as well. 


Dental Inspection Kiosk

Invention, BusinessTom WalmaComment

I think the dentist is a ripoff.  For the dental cleaning, I already floss my teeth and use mouthwash once every 6 months.  I could easily use the gooey stuff that they put in the mouthguard, and if I need to suck the saliva out of my mouth, I'm sure they could make a vacuum cleaner attachment for that.  I could use the metal gum-scrapey thing for the front of my teeth, and have a girlfriend do the back of my teeth where I can't see.  And if I didn't have a girlfriend at the time, I could pay a hooker to do it.  It would still be cheaper than going to the dentist.  Although it might be a bad idea to have a hooker's hands in your mouth when your gums are bleeding.   

And they could have a dental inspection kiosk at the grocery store to inspect your teeth.  That machine could take both photos and x-rays of your teeth, and those little pieces of paper that you have to bite down on to take the x-rays could be sold in vending machines.  Software could analyze the results within a few seconds, and maybe inconclusive results could be emailed to real dentists in India or somewhere cheap within a few minutes, kind of like a tech support call, but to a dentist instead of a computer guy.

Since I have shown that a person, maybe with the help of a friend, can handle the once-per-6-months dental cleaning, and the dental inspection kiosk can handle the dental inspection, you would only have to go to the dentist if you actually had a cavity or a painful tooth or something.

Drug Disposal Drones

Invention, BusinessTom Walma1 Comment

The idea is that if you have a small personal supply of illegal drugs in your car and you got pulled over, you would attach them to a drone which is the size of a toy helicopter and fly it outside of the driver's side window before the cop gets out of his car.  It will be programmed to drop the drugs into the nearest body of water or in the top of a tree or something far away where the cop won't be able to find it.  Or to my house.

Gym Truck

BusinessTom WalmaComment

I hate going to the gym.  Seeing other people moving in the corner of your eye and trying not to look at them, not being able to watch what I want on TV, having to wait for equipment, having to drive to the gym and then either use the gym shower or drive home all sweaty, etc.

Why can't the gym come to you?  I'm thinking you should be able to order a gym and have it come to your house similar to how you order a pizza. 

A business could fit a couple pieces of workout equipment in a camper or trailer pulled behind a pickup truck, and when you feel like working out, you could call them and they can park it in your driveway for an hour. There would be a phone app for ordering and scheduling a time.  You could set up a regular appointment time if you wanted. 

You could have them just drop it off and leave, for like $10 for a single hour session ($5 for a half hour), and maybe $50/monthly for 3 hour sessions per week, which is only a little more expensive than a gym.

Since you can fit 2 pieces of equipment in the trailer, you could have a personal fitness trainer come with the gym truck and you and the trainer would each have a copy of the workout machine.

I'm thinking it would mostly be for cardio, like treadmills, ellipticals, etc, but also rowing machines and workout towers like Bowflexes

The gym truck could have a TV and air conditioning.  Or since it will be at people's houses, they could use their own TVs, or more likely laptops or tablets.

I'm thinking you would have to have the gym equipment on a platform with bubble levels and cranks to quickly adjust the floor so that the workout equipment is level in case you are parking on a slight hill.  The workout equipment would probably be physically attached to the platform and the platform would be taken in and out of the trailer using a HiLo. 

Alternately, you could have people rent the gym trailer and keep it at their house permanently, but I don't think that is practical for most people because they might need city permits to keep something permanently parked in their yards.  Plus they would be easy to steal.