WorstPlans.com updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible plans and ideas!

Category: Communication

Improve your cell phone reception AND easily use your cell phone even in bright light with this new incredible fashion accessory: the cell phone cowl!

The issue:

Using a cell phone outdoors can present two main problems, as shown in Figure 1. Specifically, you may be far from a tower (and thus, get poor reception) and the harsh light of the noon sun may make it very difficult to read the text on your phone, especially with the recently-popularized “dark mode” user interface themes.

1-bad-reception

Fig. 1: A) This cell phone is far from a tower, so it gets bad reception (and the battery drains faster). B) the harsh glare of the sun makes it hard to read the screen. Pros and cons of the sun: PRO: allows life to exist on Earth. CON: makes it hard to read Internet comments.

Proposal:

This new fashion accessory, the “Cell Phone Cowl” (Figure 2, A.K.A. “cell phone hood,” or “cell phone wimple”), allows the outdoor phone user to always have a shaded area for using their cell phone.

Additionally, the hood can have a built-in antenna (shown here as an external antenna, although it would probably be possible to run the antenna along the perimeter of the fabric instead). This will allow for better reception even in such remote and cell-phone-inhospitable locations as Downtown San Francisco.

 

2-good-reception-with-shadow.png

Fig. 2: C) The external antenna (plugged into the cell phone by an old-style phone cable) allows this cell phone user to get 5 bars of reception, despite their remote location. D) The hood / cowl provides shade, allowing the user to read Internet posts while cowering from the harsh light of the sun.

Conclusion:

You should pre-order your cell phone cowl before the waitlist gets too long!

PROS: Brings fashion and technology together at last in a way not seen since the incredible future predicted in “R.U. a Cyberpunk?” (1994 image from Mondo 2000).

CONS: An external antenna might hit door frames if you forget to collapse it before going inside, but an internal antenna would make it difficult to machine-wash the cowl. The horrible price of progress!

Harness the toxic nature of the very worst Internet commentators to boost the ad revenue of your social media site / forum hosting site!

Background:

Online communities often have rivalries with one another, especially if the topics that they cover are extremely similar. For example, one could imagine a vicious feud between two different communities of saltwater aquarium enthusiasts.

Proposal:

Maybe we can harness and direct this mean-spiritedness in an interesting way that will, if nothing else, at least entertain outside observers like the gladiatorial matches of the Roman Empire.

To this end, the proposal is to encourage these communities to battle each other in a “survival of the fittest” environment with tangible consequences beyond just ruining a person’s day over the internet.

Details:

For the initial setup, each community on the web site (e.g. each subforum or “subreddit” in Reddit terminology) is allocated ample server resources, so the community can function normally (Figure 1).

1-normal-subforums

Fig. 1: With existing forum software, these various topics could have their own subforums, and the subforums’ denizens are not required to directly interact with each other.

We can represent the total number of server resources as a continent (Figure 2), and the individual subforums as nations within that continent.

Then, each month, a certain percentage of server resources are considered to be “contested” war zones that communities can fight over (Figure 3).

If a subforum community has too few resources, the following negative consequences may occur:

  • Extremely slow page loads.
  • Images are artificially rate-limited to load slowly from top to bottom, to provide an “old modem” feel.
  • Images downsampled to highly-compressed JPEGs.
  • Images downsampled to 256 colors (or even lower).
  • Videos re-scaled to VHS quality.
  • Inability to register new subforum members.
  • Deletion of old / historical posts.

2-map.png

Fig. 2: This is a map of a fictional continent, where “nations” (the various colors) represent the server resources applied toward each subforum. Larger territory indicates more server resources.


Since forum “combat” is highly metaphorical, there are a number of ways that it could be quantified and used to determine winning / losing subforums.

  • The number of long-running conversations in a subforum that can be successfully derailed and closed by infiltrating agents of an “enemy” subforum. Example: if a forum thread about remote-control helicopters can be transformed into a vitriolic argument about the nature of capitalism, it will count as a “win” for the infiltrating agents if that thread is closed by moderators for being off-topic / overly-toxic.
  • The number of successful emotional reactions that can be baited out of one subforum by trolls from another subforum. This could be indicated by either automated “word sentiment analysis” or by counting the number of instances of posts that are flagged for inappropriate content.
  • The number of irrelevant / off-topic meme images that can be placed in an “enemy” subforum, derailing any productive conversation.

 

3-map-war-zones

Fig. 3: Every so often, certain server resources are available for the communities to fight over. The winning subforum can thus seize territory (resources) from the loser.

Conclusion:

This is a great way to increase user loyalty and cause users to become more emotionally invested in your social media site or forum hosting site.

PROS: Increases user engagement and (potentially) ad revenue.

CONS: Increases man’s inhumanity to man.

Stop going insane with rage and madness when your phone buzzes twice in a short period of time! Finally, this one user interface tip that will sooth the savage and inhuman beast called MAN.

Background:

When you receive a message on a phone, usually the phone vibrates or makes an alert sound.

The issue:

If someone sends several short messages in a row (e.g. “Here is the restaurant:” “(link to restaurant address)” “We’ll be there at 7 pm.”) or if a conversation has several participants, your phone will be constantly buzzing at random times.

This can be annoying (Figure 1).

The current “solution” to this is totally inadequate: you need to manually set the phone to “Do Not Disturb” for some amount of time. This requires manually futzing with the phone and must be done every single time. Additionally, Do Not Disturb is typically optimized for ease of setting in hour-long increments, but it’s very likely that the burst of messaging activity will only last for a few minutes. In that scenario, you’d still be missing new messages 55 minutes later.

 

1-angry.png

Fig. 1: This conversation has 8 participants, so the phone is constantly buzzing with texting activity.

Proposal:

Instead of notifying the user every time a new messages comes in, the phone could mute further notifications (from the same app) until certain conditions were met.

This “rate limiting” step would mute incoming messages unless one or more of the following was true:

  • A certain amount of time has elapsed (e.g., no more than one notification per conversation thread in a 5-minute period).
  • The user checks the phone (indicating that they are at least somewhat engaged in the messaging process).
  • The user replies to a message.

This way, if you’re driving or in a situation where you don’t want to check your phone, it won’t be constantly demanding your attention (Figure 2, right).

 

2-the-problem-is-solved.png

Fig. 2: Left: the current situation. Right: the “solved” situation where each communication app is rate-limited.

Conclusion:

It is surprising that this is not a currently available default option (maybe it is, somewhere!).

The developers who would have added this feature have probably been reassigned to implement increasingly-specific Emoji instead (presumably “blue lobster wearing a party hat” is coming soon).

PROS: Prevents you from being distracted by your phone while you’re in a meeting / in class / at a wedding / etc.

CONS: Implementing this feature would require reassigning highly skilled programmers who are currently working on cutting-edge features like “be a talking ‘pile of poo’ Emoji.”

P.S. For more terrible phone-messaging-related ideas, check https://worstplans.com/tag/text-messaging/.

Improve your web site’s comment section by only allowing unique comments! Now every meme image will need to be one pixel different in order to be reposted. The Internet is saved!

Background:

Moderating the comments section of any web site is a thankless and un-ending task. But what if there were some way to make it slightly easier?

Proposal:

Instead of just allowing any comments, we can require that comments be totally unique and never-before-seen.

Once a comment is made, or an image is posted, a “fingerprint” [1] of that data is saved, and that exact comment can never be posted again (UI implementation shown in Figure 1).

[1] For example, an MD5 sum.

This will automatically get rid of many types of classic low-signal posts (e.g. the historical but rarely-seen-noawadays “First post”) and reposted memes. (This may or may not be desirable, depending on the type of site being run, of course.)

 

internet-message-board-only-unique-comments

Fig. 1: If a user posts some text (or an image) that was seen before, they will get an error message similar to this one.

Observation about images:

Since images must be unique to be reposted, the easiest way to re-post a meme image would be to make a small change to it and re-save it (or make no change at all, but re-save it using a lossy compression method). For a lossy image format like JPEG, this would lead to an interesting situation in which memes became more and more corrupted-looking as they are modified and re-posted over and over. This would even allow the lineage of a meme to be traced by looking at its variously-compressed versions.

PROS: May discourage certain low-effort posts that you’d want to moderate away anyway, saving moderator time and improving web site quality.

CONS: If a 32-digit hexadecimal number is used as the output of the “fingerprinting” hash function, then only a maximum of 16**32 comments can ever be made to your web site. If your web site gets 1 million unique posts per year, then some time in the year 340,282,366,920,938,448,064,954,991,902,720 A.D., all of the hash values will be used up, and people will no longer be able to post on your web site. Also, your visitor counter will probably have overflowed by then!

Journalists, take note! Print journalism can still be saved, with this one exotic culinary suggestion! Change your newspaper or magazine to this format today!

Background:

Print news has unfortunately been dealt a mortal blow by a combination of the Internet and mobile phones.

But there’s still one way to take advantage of the physical nature of printed news—a way that cannot be replicated by news on a phone!

Proposal:

We can bring printed newspapers and promote a healthy lifestyle in news aficionados with this one simple trick:

  • Instead of printing newspapers on paper, we print the news on a flat, edible substance (as shown in Figure 1).
  • Then, as you read the news, you can also eat the “newspaper.”
  • This also saves time at work, since the newspaper could serve as both reading material and lunch.
edible-news-with-text-contrast-improved.png

Fig. 1: Your daily news could be delivered in a number of different edible forms. The ideal surface must be flat and able to somehow be printed on.

Material Selection:

Candidate materials:

  • Matzah (or any other gigantic cracker / biscuit)
  • Seaweed. Caveat: may be too dark to be easily written on.
  • Beef jerky
  • Fruit Roll-ups”—these have the advantage of also being rollable, as the name implies (like a newspaper).
  • Bubble Tape.” Due to the narrowness of Bubble Tape, it may only be suitable for “news ticker”-style updates or 1930s stock ticker info.

PROS: A potentially healthy and efficient way of becoming more news-savvy. Be the first one in your neighborhood to get into the new “edible newspaper” health food craze!

CONS: You would definitely get crumbs everywhere.

 

This cutting-edge “Dial-up Internet” simulator enriches the web-browsing experience and promotes strong moral values even in a decadent Caligula-esque era!

Background:

Part 1: As Internet speeds have increased, web sites have become more and more enormous (Example: Figure 1).

Part 2: Additionally, people have become more and more accustomed to impulsively wasting time on the Internet.

 

usa_today_loading_2.png

Fig. 1: The USA Today front page in 2018 consists of 8.1 megabytes of data (including images and ads) over 1047 unique requests. It takes 47 seconds to fully load all resources.

The issue:

Here are the two problems that we can solve simultaneously:

  1. Enormous web pages are slow to load
  2. People impulsively browse the Internet and have no attention span, since new content is only a few moments away.

Proposal:

Although there already exist tools to artificially restrict Internet bandwidth, none of them provide the full “1998 desktop computer” experience.

Here, we propose a “Dial-up Internet simulator” that re-creates the dial-up Internet experience of the 1990s (Figure 2).

dialup-internet-simulator.png

Fig. 2: When you attempt to use any Internet service for the first time, a lengthy modem connection process occurs, as illustrated here. If you leave your connection idle for more than a few minutes, you will be disconnected and need to endure the dial-up process again.

This “dial-up simulator” system could be implemented either as a browser plug-in, or at the system level.

Conclusion:

The benefit of this system is two-fold:

  1. Web site designers can use it to preview their site in a low-bandwidth mode, encouraging them to design faster-loading sites.
  2. Site visitors can use it to encourage self-discipline and reduce impulsive time-wasting browsing.

PROS: Encourages reduced-size web pages, and discourages time-wasting on the Internet. Brings back the nearly-forgotten “modem connecting” noise.

CONS: None!

Errors-by-Mail: the new feature in computer operating systems! It supports the printer industry and makes it easier for you to keep track of any problems with your computer!

The issue:

When clicking “OK” on an error message on a computer or phone, it’s easy to instinctively dismiss the message and then later wonder what it said.

Unfortunately, the moment has passed, and there’s usually no way to read the message again!

This is especially true with phones, since an error message typically takes over the entire screen while it is displayed, making it impossible for a user to just put the error message into a corner and deal with it later (or never).

Proposal:

All logged errors on a computer could be sent to the user by physical mail (as in Figure 1), as follows:

  1. An error occurs on a system
  2. The system sends the error and the user’s postal address over the Internet to Errors-by-Mail, a hypothetical hip startup in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Errors-by-Mail prints the error message and puts it in a regular envelope, then puts it in the mail.
  4. A few days later, the user has a hard copy of any error that occurred on their system. The user can then re-read this message at their leisure.

 

error-message-by-mail.jpg

Fig. 1: Here, a python error message has been helpfully mailed to the user. With this service, you would now have a record of any error messages that you encountered on your phone or computer.

PROS: Supports “Big Printer,” lets users easily keep a physical record of any problems with their computer or phone.

CONS: Postage could add up. But perhaps this is a positive feature, as it would encourage users to never do anything that might generate an error.