The Starter

Posts byThe Starter

All Menus in One Place

About ten years ago I had the idea to create a massive menu site. I wanted to include everything from fine dining restaurants to ordinary sub and pizza joints. Users could upload menus and owners could claim their business/page to somewhat control it. I felt this would replace all those paper take out menus you keep in your kitchen drawer.

A decade ago a lot of these smaller Mom and Pop type shops weren’t online yet, so I thought that menu centralization would be great. This has changed quite a bit and you can now find almost every restaurant represented online to some degree. That doesn’t mean the menus are always accurate and up to date though.

The inspiration behind this idea came from my childhood. I was remembering the summer that my aunt drove my cousin and I around so we could collect as many different match books from restaurants, hotels, and anywhere else that had their own. Back then it seems like everyplace had their own match books. Not so much anymore since smokers are oft considered pariah these days.

As I was recalling that summer, I remember us running into each place to ask for matchbooks, and I also recall them always being near the menus. That’s what got the idea rolling.

I don’t think this would be worth it as a stand alone idea in the present, but if you combined it with another idea, it would be fantastic. My first thought was to couple it with a review site, so I just did a search and realized I’m writing this post three years too late. I guess Yelp already has a menu field/section.

Well, this just went from a novel idea to competing with a well established review behemoth. Just remember that things can always be done better, even if it’s competing with a giant.

Yelp seems to have quite the stranglehold on restaurant reviews these days. I do like reading reviews on Yelp, but I hate using it for writing them. I stopped contributing because they were rewarding reviews with visibility to those users who reviewed the most (at least, that’s what they said), and that drove me nuts.

I write a review for a place and because I don’t come back for a month, my review becomes hidden? What the hell is that all about? Not only is that unfair, but that kind of policy is a breeding ground for suspicion when you’re talking about reputation. Is is really based on participation, or can companies get things removed?

This is why I’d always prefer to own the machine instead of being a cog in it. Do I want to manage a profile on Facebook, or run my own social network? My own please! Do you want to write reviews and post menus on Yelp, or make the rules on your own site? It’s always the latter for me! I’d rather launch and fail at building something of my own than dedicate my spare time to building something someone else owns. I already have a job that makes someone else rich. I don’t want to do that with my spare time too.

Among the many other reasons why I lose interest in an idea, the main culprit for this one was the name. I love spending time searching for domains and coming up with one I’m happy with, but it never happened for this one. I really felt like I settled.

I chose the name MenuViews.com. I guess I liked it for a fleeting moment enough to buy it, but I think I let it go within a year or two. I could never imagine building a brand out of that name. MenuViews. The more I say it, the more bland it sounds.

Whenever I write up these posts about ideas I’ve had in which I’ve let the domain go, I ALWAYS go check it out to see if anyone has made anything out of it. MenuViews.com is currently for sale as a premium domain for $2195. That is hilarious.

The bulk of my domain purchases I keep. I almost never let domains go to expiration, but this one was just too weak and uninteresting of a name, so it didn’t make the cut. It wasn’t worth $10 to me, but clearly someone else think it’s worth thousands.

I doubt this one will ever sell for that, but I wish the current owner best of luck trying.

Questions for Celebrities

I find it hilarious that my last blog post from almost three weeks ago is about blogging consistency. It’s very typical of me to go Gung ho on an idea for a couple weeks and then move on to the next one. I did a good five or six weeks on this one before getting distracted.

My distraction was the idea I mentioned in my previous post. A lot of my spare time (if there is such a thing) has been focused on ifimet.com, but now that it’s been a good three weeks I’m starting to slow down on that one. I also purchased two new domain names in the month of August too, so I’m already feeling the itch.

One of the reasons this idea struck me as interesting was because people love celebrities and it was a site you could contribute to (anonymously if you prefer) in a matter of seconds. I think the stickiness aspect might take some time though. The more questions posted for your celebrity faves, the more likely people might stick around to read and link jump to other celebrities.

Without an existing community, I always struggle coming up with ideas for attracting visitors without feeling spammy. I thought of using social media for this one, specifically Twitter, since it’s a good place to find a bunch of a celebrities fans in one place.

I’ve heard many people state that free is not a business model, so with that being said, many of my ideas suffer from a lack of a business model. On the flip side is that there are a lot of free websites out there that have become wildy popular for one reason or another, and that traffic pays the owner a very healthy salary every month through advertising.

I love reading stories where people hit gold like that. Take Markus Frind, the guy who built Plenty of Fish to learn ASP.Net programming, and ended up with a dating site that was profitable from the get go. He once claimed he was working an hour a day and earning 10 million a year. He just sold his company for 575 million.

Then there’s the guy (whoever he is) running a site geared towards developers that is raking in 40k per month that ShoeMoney talks about in his post about buying and selling websites. There’s people out there that do it. Why not us, right?

I’ll tell you the biggest difference from people like this and myself. They stick with their ideas. I chase butterflies. I’m willing to bet that any single idea you find on this site could turn into something great with the right person behind it.

I’ve still got some playing around to do on If I Met, but don’t be surprised if I write about this one being for sale at some point down the road. In the meantime, please go look for your favorite celebrities and post what you would ask if you ever met him or her.

A Battle With Blogging Consistency

When I launched this site in early July, I was like a volcano of information spewing forth, bottlenecked only by how much I could recollect and how fast I could put it into digital format. My posts aren’t that long so I was writing two or three a day for the first week and scheduling one a day. I knew long term daily posting wasn’t in the cards for me, but while I had them completed, I figured I’d get them out there. For six weeks straight I was staying three to four posts ahead of the next scheduled post.

Every time I recalled a program I tried or a business idea I had, I started a post and saved it in draft format. For every book I was done with, or domain name I had for sale, I also started and saved a new draft. I have about a hundred drafts waiting to be written, and I was being super consistent for a good month and a half. Then it happened. A fleeting thought, a domain name search, then a domain name purchase followed by a new website being started.

To give you an idea of how quickly I can veer off track, my last post here was on 8/12 (four days ago). If I had about three days worth of posts in the tank, the last post I wrote was probably around 8/9, which happens to be the same day I purchased that new domain name and have been preoccupied with for the last week.

The idea is so simple and I didn’t even think of what I would do to earn from the site. That’s a big problem of mine. I think up ideas for websites I would like to visit, but not necessarily ones that would make a ton of money. That’s not to say this one couldn’t earn, but I should have thought of all that before I ever pressed the buy button on the domain name.

This is how I know where my passion lies. I love the thrill of coming up with an idea and implementing it, but you typically don’t get rewarded that way. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t earn his billions selling to Viacom a year after Facebook launched. He made them building his site into a social media juggernaut over the next 10 years. I think I would have taken the first (10 million dollar) offer and moved on to the next idea. Gotta stick with your strengths, right?

OK, so back to this idea. Imagine you are meeting a specific celebrity and you can only ask them one question. What would it be? That’s it. I forget who I was specifically thinking about, but I remember thinking if I met this person, what would I ask him? For the hell of it I did a domain name search at Namecheap 1 for ifimet.com and bingo, it was available. Minutes later it was mine.

I would usually purchase a premium theme for any site I play around with, but I lucked out for this one. A theme I had been eyeing was part of a special the vendor was having that allowed previous customers to download it for free for a short time. Sweet. Free premium theme. I set this basic site up for super cheap because I was able to use almost all free plugins too. The only one I ponied up for was a grid displaying one for $30 because the free one I was familiar with had not been updated since 2012. Final tally was $40.68.

I love site ideas that cost more in time and energy than they do money. The most time consuming part of this one is building a cache of celebrities for people to post their questions. I started by posting a handful of celebs I like with the rest being selected from various lists found in web searches. Most polarizing celebrities in Hollywood. Famous douchebags. Most popular athletes.

Long way to go with this one, but I think it will be a fun site to build up. As you can see, this pattern is my modus operandi as all my other sites suffer while the new one gets first billing for awhile. The great thing about this site is I may go missing for awhile, but every absence is another post idea here too.

Now, if only I knew how to build website traffic…

  1. Namecheap affiliate link

Selling Coin Jewelry

Years ago I knew someone that worked for a company that exchanged your coins for cash. People would grab their containers of coins, dump them down the chute, and exchange their ticket for fold-able cash. What this company didn’t tell people is that not everything gets returned that isn’t redeemable. This means that lots of things that people forgot was mixed in with their change would get caught in an internal container and not returned in the reject slot.

After every stop the driver would dump the junk into a five gallon pail until it was eventually filled. When they asked their managers what to do with them, nobody wanted to deal with it, so the drivers could either leave it behind tucked into a corner of the warehouse or take it home. The ones that took them home quickly realized these junk bins weren’t just full of junk.

The bulk of it was foreign coins from all over the world, likely the left over change people brought home from vacations and business trips. Most of it was worth very little, if anything, and some of it was money that was no longer in circulation in its home country.

However, there were also hidden gems (sometimes literally) in these pails too. It must have been like tearing open a giant box of Cracker Jacks and digging for multiple prizes. There were earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces, and on one rare occasion I heard someone found a diamond ring. Even US silver dollars would get caught in the internal receptacle which I’m sure made for a nice surprise.

It’s sad to think some people lost some jewelry or a couple silver dollars here and there, but I would imagine returning this stuff to its rightful owners would be a lost cause. These bins were filled from machines covering multiple states over time periods of months. It’s also kind of ironic to think that these people may have needed a little extra cash to drive them to cash in coins, but they had something much more valuable sitting there the while time.

I only heard the stories, but once the stuff was picked over, nobody cared much about the foreign coins except for perhaps the Canadian stuff. I always loved junk coin collecting so I took a bin and spent days separating it by country, and organized a portion of the best looking coins into mylar coin flips that I placed into coin pages in a massive three ring binder.

None of it is worth anything, and the coin flips I bought to protect them are probably worth more than the coins themselves, but I still enjoy having them. I had so much of it that after a decade or so, I started wondering what I could do with the rest of it. I could offer to sell it in bulk, but the folks doing that on eBay don’t get much per pound. I’d rather make something creative out of it and raise its perceived value in the process.

I found this company that sells base metal coin bezels that you could attach to earrings, key chains, and necklaces, so I started churning out coin jewelry. I always liked jewelry with real coins, but I cringe when I see people drilling holes in coins to do so. I don’t care if the coin is worthless. I think once you put a hole in it, it’s junk. Using the bezels fixed that problem and I now had an array of inexpensive jewelry that cost me next to nothing to make.

I liked the idea so much that I even started doing the math to figure out per pound bulk foreign coin costs in the event I ran out of coins. For the price per coin I’d pay, it was still a very feasible business. I sold a number of them on eBay, but as usual, there’s far too many new ideas happening in my head to keep me on just one thing. I still have a ton of them too. You wanna buy one?

Making Money With Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is a fairly new interest of mine. I had heard of Bitcoin when it was only a few dollars, but didn’t understand it enough to see its value or potential. I missed the initial Bitcoin bubble, but what that price rollercoaster did for digital currencies was huge. It showed the world that the future of money is changing.

Bitcoin and other digital payment systems are still in their infancy, so it’s hard to tell what will happen in the future. If I had to take a stab in the dark based on the info I have now, I’d say Ripple will be adopted by banks for their cross border payments and Bitcoin will remain the digital cash on the street equivalent.

There are so many other alternatives out there, and many of them bring their own interesting and potential uses to the table. For example, Namecoin 1 includes censor-resistant domain name registration of the .bit TLD, Dash 2 adds additional privacy to its transactions, and Ripple 3 with its XRP bridge currency is used for protection against denial of service attacks.

I wish I could afford to have a chunk of change to invest in dozens of different cryptocurrencies because you can never be sure which might be the next big thing. At this point, I’ll just have to pick a few of my favorites to use and hold for now. If you’re skilled at trading or finding arbitrage opportunities among the different exchanges, you’ll probably find ample opportunities in crypto.

I’m not particularly adept at either, so what I look for is something I see as being in demand for a long time. Not every alt coin will last, but if there’s a decent market cap, acceptable daily volume, dedicated devs, and a large community using and supporting it, I think the coin has a shot.

The buy and hold approach isn’t very sexy, but you can still earn money through mining. I’ll use one example of a lesser known favorite called OKCash. I own some OKCash, and in the first year the staking rewards (proof of stake mining) is 69%. Year two staking rewards are 20%. This is like finding a dividend paying stock on steroids.

Of course, you always have to carry some risk, the most important is wondering if this (or any) alt coin is going to be around in a year or two, and if so, at what price. But if you’ve been able to check off all of the aforementioned traits, I’d say the potential reward is most definitely worth the risk.

You also have to keep dreaming too. One of the digital currencies you buy/mine might just end up being the next big thing and create a whole new bunch of cryptocurrency millionaires. You won’t see me turning blue from holding my breath, but it’s still fun to dream.

  1. Namecoin, Wikipedia (last visited Aug. 9, 2015).
  2. Dash, Wikipedia (last visited Aug. 9, 2015).
  3. Ripple, Wikipedia (last visited Aug. 9, 2015).