Archive for January, 2007

21st Century Transport. Sorted.

January 12, 2007

I stumbled upon a couple of rather interesting new modes of transport this week.

Jet Wings
The first (which I think is eminently practical) is Yves Rossy’s jet-engine wings:

The Jet Man!

C’mon, how cool would that be! This novel, yet potentially suicidal, invention lets you zip along through the air at a nice steady 187mph (300km/h). For those not up to speed (geddit?), that’s pretty bloody f-a-s-t!

Being a master of numbers, I’ve calculated that would cut my regular 30-minute commute down to just under 8 minutes. Way-hey! It seems Mr Rossy has only managed a 6-minute flight, though, so perhaps I’d have to factor in hitching a lift too. In a car that could accomodate some bulky (but nifty) jet-propelled wings. Probably more like 10 minutes, then. Still, a decent improvement in my commuting time, I’m sure you’d agree.

Imagine the unrestricted freedom of whooshing through the skies, screaming with abject terror, as four jet engines power you along! This is the kind of innovative solution the governments of the world should be wasting our tax money on, rather than building roads, etc.

Before you rush off to buy a set, I feel obliged to point out Mr Rossy hasn’t quite perfected his landing technique yet (presumably point it towards the ground…level out…run like hell…oh shit…*bang*). But that’s just a minor point. I’m sure you’ll be just fine. Honest.

Dolphin Boat
This second mode of transport could be a whole lot of fun – the aptly-named dolphin boat:

The Dolphin Boat!

Younger readers please take note – the dolphin in the picture has not struck a significant moral blow for the dolphin/tuna rights movement by eating a man. It is, in fact, a man driving a cunningly disguised boat.

Now I have to confess this particular invention isn’t quite as useful as the jet wings to me. Apart from the seemingly endless rainfall that regularly delights in soaking me, I’m about as far away from a large body of water in the UK as possible.

However the following video gives a rather nice demonstration of why I’d happily seek out a lake and spend my weekends pretending to be a dolphin:

Dolphin Video

No wonder dolphins always look happy (although they may become a tad agitated when their natural habitat is invaded by moronic loons driving dolphin boats, or when they try to shag a mechanical replica).

Count me in. It looks like good, wholesome, arsing around kind of fun (the driving about, not the dolphin-shagging).


Competition is a Good Thing

January 6, 2007

And there was me worrying I had little or no competition…

While working in my own little bubble, paying hardly any attention to the world, it was, perhaps, a little easy to get complacent. It came as a huge surprise to read this post over at TechCrunch, mentioning a site called SwapTree.

SwapTree seems to have been in a private beta for a while now, so perhaps that’s why I hadn’t stumbled across it before. And I also (finally) noticed some well-established sites like BarterBee and SwitchDiscs too.

Hmmm…time to wake up, crack on with my site and emerge from super-secret-quiet-as-a-mouse stealth mode, I think!

Competition is good
Having (eventually) got over the genuine shock of other folks out there with the same idea as me, I slowly came to terms with the fact I’m not quite the innovative genius I thought I was. Oh, and I also realised its actually quite good to have competition!

One of my greatest fears for the past [gulp] ten months was there might not actually be a sizeable demand for the Swopster service. Swapping video-games for free sounds agreeable to most people, but you never can tell if these things are going to take off or not. The very existence of some competitors in the same space confirms a likely demand or niche.

Another useful aspect of competition is it gives you a great benchmark to compare yourself against. How does your product or service compare to your competitor(s)? Have they got any features or ideas you hadn’t considered?

Distinguishing Yourself
But how do you distinguish yourself from the competition?

Well the key is to find your unique selling point(s). This is easier said than done, though!

My favourite super-lazy technique is quite simple really. Highlight your competitor’s flaws (all in the interests of research, of course…). After all, it’s a great deal easier to pick holes in competitor’s offerings than bash your own brilliant idea… So I’ve spent quite an enjoyable few hours figuring out what differentiates Swopster from some of the other swapping services on the net.

The number one benefit of Swopster, from day one, was to be completely free. I’d prized it for so long (and perhaps focused on it a little too much), I never even considered other free services like SwapTree would pop up until long after I’d launched.

So, forgetting all about being free for a moment, what else will make Swopster stand out?

Well, I think focusing purely on swapping video games is a good thing (although some others do disagree on this point). To me, most folks simply wouldn’t swap an expensive video game for something that costs a whole lot less. So cross-media swapping (swapping a video game for an audio CD for instance) sounds…ummm…just wrong to me.

Being naturally lazy, marketing the Swopster service to just video game owners is quite appealing too. I hang out in forums dedicated to video games, read video game blogs, listed to video games podcasts. In other words, I really know this space well. Setting up a generic service for CDs, DVDs, books, etc. and trying to market to that audience just doesn’t appeal to me. And anyway, video games are fun!!

Another area of difference is…well…pretty much the whole swapping process (so, just a slight difference, then). At Swopster, the intention is that swappers always swap directly with each other. This simplifies things a whole lot! Rather than having to trade your items into the system to build up credit, you should be able to swap straight away. And don’t get me started on the horrendously complicated points systems some of those other sites use.

What this all helped me realise was my (thankfully yet to be released) marketing blurb was complete and utter garbage. It appeared to be setting a world record for the most instances of the word ‘free’.

By re-evaluating my service, I was able to (yet again) rewrite my marketing blurb and make the web page text (hopefully) a good deal more appealing.

Now I just need to actually get the site up and running…