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its been some time that i've been thinking about creating something that could help the web community and leave some mark, but the problem that there are no ideas poping out of my head. So 2 questions comes to my mind:

First, how did projects like Twitter, Google or any other big project that had changed our way of living in the internet get started?

Secondly, do we have to force it or just keep doing what we do best and wait to that idea that could change things?

While writting this question, one quote come to mind:

Imagination is more important than knowledge

Albert Einstein

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closed as not a real question by gnat, Giorgio, thorsten müller, GlenH7, Martijn Pieters Apr 20 '13 at 22:40

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

should that be "Imagination is more important than knowledge". –  dan_waterworth Dec 24 '10 at 19:39
:s/writting/writing –  vstrien Mar 2 '11 at 10:42
"First, how did projects like Twitter, Google or any other big project that had changed our way of living in the internet get started?": You should also ask yourself which of these projects have changed our way of living for the better. –  Giorgio Apr 20 '13 at 8:13

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

A lot of innovations come from the creator's need to scratch his own itch. So worry about solving your own problem (or at worst your friends' problems) rather than solving some vague and anonymous Internet user's problem.

Novelists say that writer's block means you haven't read enough. So why not start by doing what's already been done and see what comes of it? Take a small-scale Internet product you actually use (not big like Google or Facebook) and see if you can reimplement it. That may seem counter-productive and maybe even reinventing the wheel, but you'll get a better appreciation of what went into the product. And you might even come-up with a better solution. (Note: this is exactly what first-year grad students do to discover their thesis topic.)

And going back to scratching your own itch, is there anything that's really painful for you in your job or hobbies? A manual process that you haven't been able to automate because of inadequate software tools? A data set that's too large or too heterogenous to process properly?

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This phrase captiveted my attetion: Novelists say that writer's block means you haven't read enough. So why not start by doing what's already been done and see what comes of it? I should start scratching my own itch. Thanks a lot! –  guiman Dec 24 '10 at 4:04
+1 for start by familiar topic. –  Hoàng Long Dec 24 '10 at 4:35
Reminds me of science projects: once you start to dig in at a subject you have to read lots of papers and articles. After some time spent reading, things start to clear up and you'll know which study to perform. –  vstrien Mar 2 '11 at 10:43

Please see this white board animation on youtube: WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM by Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson pairs the insight of his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good for You and the dazzling erudition of The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air to address an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? Answering in his infectious, culturally omnivorous style, using his fluency in fields from neurobiology to popular culture, Johnson provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward.

Beginning with Charles Darwin's first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines.

Most exhilarating is Johnson's conclusion that with today's tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it. Where Good Ideas Come From is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to come up with tomorrow's great ideas...

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Amazing! Thanks, i just start a project to collect daily ideas and thougs on a web –  guiman Dec 24 '10 at 5:30
awsome... wish I could have that drawing as a poster. –  Beth - loud ninja - Whitezel Dec 24 '10 at 5:41
Thanks @gnat for editing. –  Manoj R Apr 29 '13 at 11:46

I think it is much more difficult to set out to "leave some mark". If you do that you will automatically throw out some good ideas just because you may not think they will have a wide impact.

I think it is best to immerse yourself in an arena that you are interested in and keep your mind open. Learn why things are done the way they are and when you experience pain recognize that and practice brainstorming ways you could improve the process. Even if you start out by making some small improvement that is practice that your brain will use in the future. If you train your brain to recognize "opportunities" and practice thinking of solutions you will find that the ideas come naturally.

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+1: "leave some mark" is a side-effect, not a goal. It has to do with social adoption of technology, which is rather like the butterfly effect and is outside anyone's control. –  rwong Dec 24 '10 at 8:22

Research projects in university would be the answer to some things like Google or Yahoo! at Standford while Berkeley has its place in origins like BSD. The University of Waterloo had an instrumental role in creating Research in Motion who are known for creating all those Blackberry smartphones. I'm sure one could look at various big schools and note various companies that were started near them though not all became world dominating firms.

Research departments of some companies can also produce some interesting results if you look into Bell Labs or Xerox PARC for how some other innovations came to be. This is another way to look at your question in terms of where else is various cutting-edge research in CS done and I can picture somewhere within Microsoft or Google that there may be something coming soon but I don't know what that would be.

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Nice, the College Lab approach seems like something i could be doing. My University has 3 labs and i might try to send a CV and see what happens. –  guiman Dec 24 '10 at 4:55
It doesn't have to be in a lab; although it is a good place to start. New ideas may spark from a dorm conversation, or an office hour with a prof. –  rwong Dec 24 '10 at 8:25

In my view, it's enthusiasm in your work that makes the difference. Everyone can imagine, but only those who are ready to devote for their dreams can succeed.

Well, the team that do Facebook, Twitter must really love what they do. In the beginning, with out the love for creation of the biggest social network, I think Mark Zukernberg may end up a developer in Microsoft/ Google.

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i guess it also helps to be curious and tinker a lot. who knows what ideas will these inspire and stick? traveling to developing markets such as China and India where there's a new class of consumers who are tinkering with mobile and other technologies and new consumption experiences can provide useful sparks too. also got some good ideas on the mindset of starting-up in an interesting book on Israel - "Start-up nation".

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