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Category: Design

Erase all of written history to hide our shameful alphabet-based mistakes from the future! After reading this, you will think Fahrenheit 451 is an instruction manual.

The issue:

Latin-based writing systems—like the one your’e reading right now—have a serious problem: many letters and numbers look exactly the same!

The most obvious example (Figure 1) is probably “l” (lower-case “L”) and “I” (upper-case “i”).


Fixing these duplicated symbols, perhaps with the proposed new symbols in Figure 3, has a number of benefits:

  • For everyone: Prevents confusion when you wrote down someone’s email address and now can’t figure out if you wrote down a “9” or a “g.”
  • For everyone: Prevents people from trying to scam you with a fake email address from “admin@C0MPANY.COM.”
  • For people who witness vehicular crimes: Makes it easier to tell if a license plate is something like “9901IQ” or “GGO1I0.”
  • For Internet users: Prevents from picking identical-looking usernames to troll you.
  • For programmers: helps avoid errors when programming (is that variable a lower-case “L,” or is it a capital “i”).




Fig. 1: These three extremely common symbols all look identical in many fonts and styles of handwriting. Bottom: an unambiguous form of that symbol. Top: a common way of writing the symbol shown on the bottom.




Fig. 2: A more comprehensive list of letters that are potentially confusable (although they may have subtle distinctions). The “0” and “O” and “9 / g” are probably the next-worst offenders, after the 1/I/l triplet described in Figure 1. The “7 vs 1” confusion is regional; in some European countries: the “1” is more often written with a substantial diagonal stroke, which makes the 7’s cross-bar more important. In America, the 7 is rarely written with a cross-bar, since the 1 usually has only a minor (or nonexistent) diagonal stroke.


Fig. 3: A comprehensive proposal for replacing potentially-ambiguous symbols, with examples.


PROS: Helps avoid many common errors! Maybe helps dyslexics? In order to gain traction for this plan, we shall claim that it does, without any evidence.

CONS: Requires that all old books be burned and old monuments be reduced to rubble, so no one is confused by the old letters.

Easily determine whether you can get a seat at a trendy coffee shop, even when it’s completely packed with people using laptops! All thanks to the “this seat is free” sign.


Do you own a crowded coffee shop? No? Well, you should remedy that, and then read on!

The issue:

In large cities, coffee shops are often entirely occupied by people doing work on their laptops.

Coffee shops have come up with various strategies for dealing with the pros and cons of being a low-cost “co-working space,” but it’s often a problem for people who just want to sit down: a laptop-using individual with an external mouse and some notes can easily occupy an entire four-seat table, while only using one chair and ~50–75% of the actual table area.

There’s enough remaining room for two additional people to have coffee at that table without impacting the laptop user!


The easy solution is to have a set of “this seat / this part of the table is open, please feel free to use it!” signs at the front of the cafe (Figure 1).

A patron who only anticipates using 50% of a table could take one of these signs and put it on the unused section of their table (even if there isn’t room for a second laptop).



Fig. 1: If you are using only part of a table (and don’t mind if someone uses the rest of the table), you can put a “THIS SEAT IS OPEN” sign on the other side of the table.


This would be really cheap to implement and doesn’t really have any downsides.

One objection is: “couldn’t patrons also accomplish this by asking if the laptop-user minds if they sit down?” Answer: yes, but that is irrelevant from the cafe owner’s perspective, since people tend to assume a no-tables-remaining cafe is FULL. Even if they “should” have just asked around, it still results in lost business for the cafe owner.

PROS: Could increase the effective number of seats in a cafe without requiring more space or furniture.

CONS: Maybe weirdos would use these signs as a way to try to lure other coffeeshop patrons into sharing a table with them, so they could then subject them to annoying and unwanted conversation.

BIG BROTHER APP is watching you…. and looking out for your job prospects, romantic prospects, and any possible snake-fang-related threats!


Remember when privacy was a thing? No? Oh, ok then.

But people used to have some concern about having their location and whereabouts monitored by companies and governments.

I guess this information was used for evil-doing at least once in history? Whatever, who cares, let’s gather data and make an app!

The issue:

Have you ever been blindsided by an in-retrospect-obvious event, like a firing (or even just a passing-over for a promotion) at work, or a seemingly-sudden breakup?


Using the power of OMNIPRESENT CORPORATE SURVEILLANCE, we can create a new program, which we will call Big Brother 2, that does the following:

  • Reads all your email (like most email provides already do).
  • Reads all your text messages and any transcribed voicemails.
  • Examines your online purchasing habits.
  • Checks your location history and that of your friends.
  • Checks to see if you are associating with any subversive individuals or organizations.
  • Analyzes your photos and categorizes their content.
  • Monitors your mood by reading your posts on social media.

  • Optionally listens in to your conversations, if you are in a place where this is legal.

Big Brother 2 will collect this data from thousands or millions of users, and—using advanced and overhyped machine-learning techniques—it will figure out what kinds of warning signs preceded various life events.

Then it can forewarn you of danger in your own life!


  • Dating (Figure 1): Two people are dating and their messaging steadily becomes less frequent and more negative. Big Brother 2 can extrapolate their breakup date and (optionally) start preemptively saving flattering photos of those users for their upcoming dating profiles.
  • Employment (Figure 2): Someone’s boss mentions “outsourcing” and then communication rapidly drops off. Big Brother 2 can recommend some resume-preparation services for that employee.

Fig. 1: Big Brother 2 can extrapolate from its millions of data points and figure out that, on average, users with a certain text-messaging profile typically experienced a breakup within X months. In this case, the user is being forewarned that they should expect a breakup on or around October 24 (orange line).


Fig. 2: Here, Big Brother 2 suggests that company layoffs will occur on June 28. In this case, the Big Brother 2 algorithm could also incorporate data about the economy / stock market / relevant world news that may impact the user’s job.


Fig. 3: Using sophisticated machine-learning algorithms, Big Brother 2 may even be able to predict things you wouldn’t think were predictable, such as exactly when a serpent is going to slither over and sink its fangs into you (thus, hopefully, allowing you to either prepare yourself for that moment or to take corrective anti-snake action).


Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: hire me to develop this project. Thanks in advance.

PROS: Could reduce the likelihood of snakebite.

CONS: May result in “Logan’s Run”-esque scenarios where the system determines that a person has negative value, and then the user’s phone starts plotting to murder the user (see historical example from Episode #270 of The Simpsons). If this occurs, it is an example of a bad optimization function, and should be fixed in the next update.





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As an audience member: Never be bored in a meeting or lecture again! As a presenter: Never wonder when to advance to the next slide again, all thanks to this one incredible PRESENTATION SLIDE DECK APP!

The issue:

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how quickly to go through a presentation. Too fast, and the topics might not be covered in enough detail. Too slow, and everyone gets bored.


Normally, the ability to advance slides is reserved only for the person who is giving the presentation.

But here, the audience members also have the ability to vote on whether or not to advance the current slide early (Figure 1).


  1. Members of the audience have a phone app (or connect to a web site) with a giant “SKIP CURRENT SLIDE” button on it.
  2. If enough audience members press the “SKIP” button, the slide advances to the next one.
  3. The presenter cannot go back to a skipped slide.

Fig. 1: Top: The presentation screen. Bottom: three phones of audience members. The phone app simply consists of a single “SKIP” button (the arrow at the bottom), which becomes a checkmark when the user has voted to skip the slide. When enough users have pressed the “SKIP” button, the slide automatically advanced, regardless of the wishes of the person giving the presentation.

PROS: Makes meetings interactive! Prevents the audience from getting bored.

CONS: May make it TOO easy for your corporate rivals to sabotage your presentations by skipping your slides at random times.

You’ll never believe this new UN-FALSIFIABLE method for showing off your wealth and privilege! The common people hate it!


Many years ago, only the elite members of society were literate.

In some places, it was even ILLEGAL for commoners / peasants / slaves to be literate, for example:


Now that we are allegedly in a more enlightened era, there is no way to use the alphabet itself to distinguish commoners from nobility.

But in this proposal, a new “rich people only” alphabet is created, and the top 1% of each nation’s wealthiest individuals are automatically granted a license to use it (see Figure 1). These letters are forbidden to the common peasantry, and use of these letters by non-authorized individuals, either in handwriting or as a font, would be extremely illegal.



Fig. 1: In this new proposal, the top “high status” alphabet may ONLY be used by extremely wealthy individuals, as measured by their official tax returns. Previously, an incredibly rich oil baron (for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller ) would have no way to distinguish his own name from that of a common worker with the same name—but in the new system, the “high status” letters make the distinction clear. This is similar in concept to the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph “cartouche,” which is an oval that is drawn exclusively around names of royalty.

Since the letters in this proposal are so similar to existing English letters (see Figure 2), no additional education is necessary! Just install the font, and you’re good to go, provided you meet the stringent total wealth requirements (approximately $9,000,000 U.S. dollars for United States residents).


Fig. 2: Top: sample letters A through J from the “commoner” alphabet that you, a commoner, are already familiar with. Bottom: matching letters from the extremely sophisticated “high status” alphabet.


If you are starting a utopian community on an oil platform in the sea, you should consider implementing this proposal!

PROS: Would encourage extremely rich people to file accurate tax returns, so they could secure their ability to use this exclusive font. Would streamline the process of arresting subversive individuals: the secret police could simply plant this font on the targeted individual’s computer.

CONS: None!



Supplemental Figure A: A complete “sophisticated” alphabet, upper-case letters only.



Supplemental Figure B:  The closest historical example to this proposal is the Ancient Egyptian “cartouche,” seen above in the corresponding Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartouche).

Stop being annoyed by three-way light switches that incorrectly both say “OFF,” yet the light is clearly on! Has the entire world gone mad??


A “three-way light switch” (i.e. two switches that control the same light) is useful when there are multiple places that need to control a single light, such as at both the top and the bottom of a staircase.

The issue:

Unfortunately, three-way switches are often out of sync with the actual state of the light (so the switches are both OFF, but the light bulb is on).


Fig. 1: A three-way (two-switch) system is surprisingly straightforward. You can even add more switches, if you want! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiway_switching)


Ideally, the ON / OFF position would be correct indicated by the switch itself, instead of Instead of having the switch position indicate when

  • Easy and elegant solution, with one fatal flaw: just make the switch a press-able single button. Internally, the switch would just turn a wheel or something, to generate the required electrical connection.
    • Downside #1: Since it lacks an up/down state, you wouldn’t know whether the circuit were ON or OFF when the bulb is burned out.
    • Downside #2: Probably banned by electrical code for reasons stated in downside #1.
  • Electromagnet-based complicated solution: have each switch’s natural position be the DOWN position, which it will return to due to gravity when there is no electrical current. However, when the circuit is active, an electromagnet causes the switch to be held and/or pulled to the up position.
    • Downside: uses a tiny amount of electricity.
    • Upside: syncs the state of the switches. (If you turn on one switch, the other one will also be pulled up by the built-in electromagnet).


Maybe you should rewire your house with this highly speculative and untested electrical suggestion! Consult an electrician today.

PROS: You will no longer be bedeviled by light switches that do not properly convey the state of the light. (Previously: the switches both say OFF, but the light is on? Ugh!!!)

CONS: May burn down your house.

Achieve enlightenment and 100% vacuum cleaner coverage with this one incredible telescoping furniture leg tip!

The issue:

Both humans and automated vacuum cleaners (e.g. Roombas) find it inconvenient to operate a vacuum cleaner around furniture—specifically, no one wants to move extremely heavy furniture just to vacuum around the legs.


Most furniture is still stable even when not all supporting legs are contacting the ground. So why not have telescoping table legs that can retract to allow a vacuum cleaner to vacuum under them?

This would allow a robotic vacuum cleaner to achieve 100% vacuuming efficiency in your house, rather than having it be limited by its inability to drag your heavy furniture around.


Fig. 1: These telescoping furniture legs can retract to allow you (or your trusty robotic vacuum) to vacuum underneath it.



Fig. 2: Easy! The sofa leg detects the proximity of the vacuum cleaner and telescopes upward into the furnishing. Perhaps a pressure sensor on the sofa leg could be activated by hitting the vacuum cleaner against it.


If you work at a robotic vacuum cleaner company, you should license this patent from me immediately. Also please file for it on my behalf (thanks in advance).

PROS: Allows 100% vacuum cleaner coverage to finally be achieved. FINALLY.

CONS: With no goals and struggles remaining after this, perhaps existence will seem hollow and unsatisfying.