What useful web site should I write?
May 5, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I want to write a web application. What would be useful to you?

OK so I have been wanting to write a new web application. Something that can test my design skills, my coding skills, and generally provide something useful for people.

What kind of web application would you like?

Here's some of the ones I use and think are cool:

Google Maps and Calendar, Mint, okcupid, Meebo, Ning.

(Note that I'm a professional web developer, so I'd love a challenge)

posted by jlstitt to Computers & Internet (30 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
A queue of translation requests.

How do you say XXX in YYY? What does ZZZ mean?

The site would be a nexus of professional translators and casual people.

I've had this idea kicking around for a while but I'm sure I'm not going to tackle it.
posted by mrt at 8:50 AM on May 5, 2009

I sent you a MeMail.
posted by ODiV at 8:54 AM on May 5, 2009

A "build-your-own" social reference site, like AskMetafilter or Yahoo! Answers or GradShare. Kind of like Ning, but more geared toward asking/answering/feeds/best answers and maybe voting? I know this is something I've wanted, and it seems like at least a few people have also asked here where they can do this.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:56 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

An app that can scan any folder of fonts and provide a preview, with any sentence the user types in, of each of the fonts.

There are existing sites that can scan your installed fonts and preview them but I want an app that can scan any folder I choose and preview the fonts before I install them on my system.
posted by pixlboi at 8:59 AM on May 5, 2009

pixlboi: such an app (not web app) is called "the font thing". Sadly, only works for TTF (no opentype, no PS fonts) and development is -I think- interrupted , but still.
posted by _dario at 9:11 AM on May 5, 2009

If you want a challenge, Y Combinator has this list of startup ideas they'd like to fund.
posted by fatbird at 9:19 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

ooooh, I've got one. An application that scrapes local news sites' weather reports and then compares them to their weather reports later that week and analyzes their accuracy of their weather forecasting.
posted by horsemuth at 9:25 AM on May 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

An application that takes whatever time format is given to it and, using GeoIP or user preferences, translates that time format to the user's local time. Needs bookmarklet and Firefox integration.
posted by themel at 9:30 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

pixlboi: LinoType FontExplorer does this, after a fashion. You'll probably want to turn off its iTunes-like "copy fonts into a central directory" behavior, but after that, you can drag in a folder full of fonts and preview them with the string of your choice. Works with all types of fonts.
posted by chazlarson at 9:45 AM on May 5, 2009

This may already exist, but I'd like to see a service that takes an rss feed and sends new items as an email.

I've seen a number of static site to RSS services. What I haven't seen on any of them is a way to plug in a username/password to scrape restricted content as well.

How about a service that lets you download flvs (flash videos) into mpegs or avis? I know there are browser plugins but they're clunky. I'm thinking it would be something like http://flash2avi.com/?url=http://youtube.com/asoi7dfa9s7 and just convert the video for you. Actually this seems more like a task for ffmpeg than a webservice, but that doesn't make it any less useful!
posted by valadil at 9:51 AM on May 5, 2009

I want something that looks as nice as Mint but that I can use to just track expenses form trips that will let me print out invoices and keep track of what's been paid and make a big list come tax time.


- categories [i.e. names of trips]
- tags [i.e. subcategories for different expenses]
- remiburseable y/n checkbox
- paid y/n/partial checkbox
- customizeable forms for printing invoices or whatever

Big boxes. No Quicken type stuff. Maybe this exists [and I can't get Mint to acknowledge that my bank exists so I don't know if they have this in such a format. I'd like to be able to query "what did I spend on food on 2008?" or "how many air travel trips did I take that were not reimbursed?""

Otherwise I want

- a site that allows people to build a faq for some sort of knowledge area. Community site but geared towards more canonical q and a. Again probably exists but I haven't seen one that works well/simply. Sort of what unknowncommand was talking about.
- a real damned online catalog for a library collection, something that layers on top of whatever libraries have would be fine. It's embarassing that we don't have this.
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on May 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

I want something that looks as nice as Mint but that I can use to just track expenses form trips that will let me print out invoices and keep track of what's been paid and make a big list come tax time.

That's Shoeboxed in a nutshell.
posted by mendel at 9:55 AM on May 5, 2009

Inspired by things such as postsecret and omegle, I'd like to have a website allowing people to send email to strangers or receive email from strangers.

Not sure about how to handle the spam problem though.
posted by izwalito at 9:59 AM on May 5, 2009

I would like an application that crawls through recent NYC craigslist posts, and for any apartment listings that state either the exact address or the corner on which the apartment is located, the app makes a note of what the rent per month is (you could keep to a standard frame of reference by only doing this for, say, one-bedroom apartments).

Then, that info is averaged out on a block-by-block basis, and loaded onto a Google-maps background. The user (someone looking for an apartment in NYC) could take a quick look at the map and say, "Hm! It looks like Park Slope is out of my price range, but this part of Harlem is feasible! Let me look for an apartment there!"
posted by Greg Nog at 10:30 AM on May 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

This may be counterintuitive, but I think it's true: if you want to build an application that will be useful to OTHERS, you have to build something that is useful to YOU. Only then will you be able pour the amount of attention and creativity in that is needed to go beyond the obvious and make something that is truly new.

So what site should exist, but doesn't? What is something you use every day, but has a little bit of friction that isn't necessary? What killer feature is missing from your favorite app? What would you buy right now, if only it were for sale? Figure that out, then build it yourself, and start using it! You'll very quickly see if the idea has any merit, and be able to understand how to improve it intuitively.

All that said, here's some random things I would like to have:

A price comparison that adds the dimension of TIME. Don't just tell me what is the best price right now, tell me what was the best price EVER, and then alert me when the item is available at that price again. Do this well and you can cash in on affiliate referrals!

A game like KOHCTPYKTOP but taken to the next level. Let me package my designs into reusable chips, and then go on to create entire boards and systems! I want the last level to be something insane, like "make an Apple II".
posted by steveminutillo at 10:35 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

My recent wishes..

- A budget calculator/mortgage calculator combination: lets you see different scenarios side-by-side. Easy to print. (Home price, downpayment $, interest rate, taxes per year, approx insurance, my fixed expenses, savings, what's left). Or a budget generator generally that lets you do multiple scenarios. Or a long term budget scenario (e.g., I'm saving X per month and have this emergency fund, if I loss my job in 2 years for 6 months, given X fixed expenses, how much of my savings might I go through?).

- Hobby calendar/house improvement generator: A tool that helps you calendar in how to learn a new hobby or do X given one's estimated schedule. Sounds silly, but say I want to learn guitar, I work 50 hours a week, are busy Tues/Wed, and am also need 10 hours of time after work during the week for errands. It'd suggest practicing on Thurs evenings for two hours for X weeks to learn the basics. Or that to re-wallpaper the kitchen you'd need to schedule two Saturdays, etc.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:07 AM on May 5, 2009

Not sure if these are social enough for you, but some things that would be very useful to me:

A mass decision making / collaboratively working and agreeing on proposals site.

A layered text and/or commenting inside longer texts tool, possibly in combination with the site above and/or working on top of other (like news) sites.

A visual ContextFree programming (and sharing) tool.

A drop-anything and organize it tool. Could also allow audio recording (and maybe analyze the recording to some extent to make it easier to find again).

A good city specific "what's going on tonight" site, perhaps aggregating content from other sites, with community features and automated additional info and media scraping/linking.

An open database of how-to information available elsewhere, maybe with voting.

An open database of quality free video/audio/books on the web. (could also be documentaries, lectures, satire, different languages, ...)

A "read later" organizer which accepts a list of links, analyses and sorts them, and lets you tag and organize them by drag-and-drop.

Finally a good rss aggregation and filtering system.
posted by dnial at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2009

May I please ask which web technologies are you planning to use? I'm a professional web developer myself and have a couple of web application ideas in my head. I would like to partner with someone able to develop those ideas.
One thought - Think KISS. Like 37 signals, pick one simple problem (that users face) and solve it, solve it really good.
posted by tvjoshi at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2009

How about a website where everybody can drop off their personal internet needs to be attended to by developers or find stuff already made?

I only use a few applications/sites, but can imagine that if there was an easy and quick process (like this) by which I could put my needs/ideas forward for somebody to take up, I might submit requests regularly when I ran into a problem. If you had a natural language search function too, so that requesters could find applications to fill their needs, that would be doubly good. Maybe something like this already exists, I don't know, but I would like to go to one place to get 'i want to block ads'*, 'i want to extract flash'**, or 'i want a dictionary sidebar on my browser'*** applications.

I'm not overly tech-savvy, so make of my suggestion what you will.

**Don't understand how it works.
***Big want.
posted by Sova at 11:20 AM on May 5, 2009

Seconding everything tvjoshi said ;) Simpler ideas done really good will work much better (than most of mine;) and getting real by 37 signals is great!
posted by dnial at 11:25 AM on May 5, 2009

Seconding Greg Nog - Trulia heat maps for apartments. Sometimes the things that make an area appealing to owners make it less attractive to renters; sometimes not. I live in a neighborhood with crazily expensive houses, but my awesome apartment costs about the same as a friend's decidedly-less-awesome apartment, which is closer to downtown. A Trulia-esque service would help identify little pockets like this.

Challenge-wise, it's got quite a bit. Webcrawling, NLP, geocoding with poor and inconsistently formatted addresses, mapping and assorted visualizations. Searching within a given price range/distance from Address X/set of features. You could bring in other datasets to plot schools, grocery stores, and other businesses. The possibility of user-contributed rents, features, even reviews. Oh yeah. That should keep you busy for awhile.
posted by McBearclaw at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2009

Regarding this question "May I please ask which web technologies are you planning to use? I'm a professional web developer myself and have a couple of web application ideas in my head. I would like to partner with someone able to develop those ideas.
One thought - Think KISS. Like 37 signals, pick one simple problem (that users face) and solve it, solve it really good."

The technology I use would be absolutely dependent on what I plan to write. I'm pretty much committed to using open-source and/or free technologies where applicable but I do have lots of experience with enterprise-level tools, too.

Some of my talents/skills:

CSS / frameworks (blueprint, YUI, et. al.)
Javascript / JQuery
Ruby on Rails
ASP.NET (and MVC 1.0)
Oracle, SQL Server, Postgres, MySQL

And the underlying technologies (such as Apache, IIS, Struts, Windows, Linux) ... Yes I'm familiar with all that stuff. I've been doing this for some time!

So, the short answer is: I had planned to choose technologies that suit the application. I've never been one to evangelize for one technology or another. They all have their place.
posted by jlstitt at 1:17 PM on May 5, 2009

When in doubt, sift through the computer section of halfbakery.
posted by spamguy at 2:09 PM on May 5, 2009

Here's one I just thought of... a website where one can go to store software license keys. I have a Mac at home and at work along with tons of software that I've purchased, and I always find myself having to dig up an old email or use a license recovery form on a developer's site. Seems like it would be a great thing to have in a central location that is secure (encrypted, SSL, whatever).

Also, maybe keep a running database of the most popular software and provide a link to the latest version of the software right there along with your license keys.
posted by joshrholloway at 2:21 PM on May 5, 2009

I've spent the last six months searching for the best ToDo/GettingThingsDone solution for me and I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to make it myself. The fact that I'm NOT a programmer is a considerable obstacle, so your question sounds like music to my ears. Perhaps we can find a way to work together.

What I need -and will be a roaring hit with the Lifehacker crowd- is something like this:

-A website to handle collection, processing and tracking of tasks, with all the GTD characteristics: general inbox, calendar integration, project planning, contexts, next actions, etc. There are many of these, like GTD-php and OmniFocus, but each of them seems to lack a crucial bit. Remember the Milk, for example, has no elegant way to handle subtasks or projects. Toodledo is one of the better ones and has a nice comparison of their strengths vs. their competition.

-Said website will have an API and will create or assist in the creation of local clients for Win/Mac/Lin and for mobile clients: iPhone/Blackberry/Symbian/Android/PalmPre, etc. These clients will have two-way synchronization with the website, who will act as the central repository of information. Like IMAP, if you will.

I have tons of ideas, based on years of using LifeBalance and now months of trying out every single app I come across. For example, I would really like to explore the idea of making the local client into a Firefox extension, but have no idea if that is feasible or recommendable. It just seems natural, as most of the stuff that goes into my Inbox comes from the Internet.

I'm a full-time Linux user, so I'm more than happy to go the open-source path. In real life, I work at a business process/software consulting firm, so I know how to translate user needs into a functional specification and can handle the non-technical part of the project.

That's it, in a nutshell. What do you think?
posted by Cobalt at 3:07 PM on May 5, 2009

Sorry to derail a bit, joshrholloway we use a thing called PHPChain for exactly your request. It's meant for passwords and we use it for that as well, but we've found it's a great place to park little bits of data like license keys that might be otherwise lost and are best kept encrypted. The only catch is it's not a service so you'd need to have a box to put it on yourself, but it's really quick and easy to set up.
posted by barc0001 at 3:52 PM on May 5, 2009

Sure, why don't you rewrite Sandy, the web, mobile, twitter, email, etc., based task and appointment manager which is now defunct. Twitter hired the main developer which is why the service is no longer running - it certainly had a lot of fans, myself included.
posted by jacquilinala at 4:17 PM on May 5, 2009

Make a "calendar/tasks" manager that breaks out of the grid, and instead has a scrollable/zoomable linear interface like a Garageband/iMovie timeline, with different "tracks" for different types of activity.
posted by so_necessary at 6:52 PM on May 5, 2009

A couple of ideas that I've looked for recently and haven't found.

MIDI player webapp

I need to listen to one particular part in a piece written for a symphony orchestra. I find a MIDI file of the piece online. I need an ultra-simple webapp that will let me upload the file (or grab it from a URL ). Then I can use simple sliders to adjust the tempo, make individual tracks louder (so I can listen to the second violin part loud with everything else very quiet). Just the most basic stuff that you'd find in any midi editor. Then I can download the result as an mp3 file. You could use something like Timidity on the back end to generate the mp3s.

Craft sales webapp

I make some sort of craft in my spare time (art, knitting, jewellery) and would like to sell it on etsy, folksy, dawanda, artfire, ebay, etc (I'm sure there will be many more websites of this kind in the future). These sites all need basically the same info for each thing that I want to sell - description, price, photo, tags, etc. Your webapp lets me upload these, then lets me list the item on all the sites with one click. Similarly, if I sell something, it lets me remove it from all the sites with one click. Basically inventory management but with a handmade craft focus. This might be kind of boring for you to write, as presumably a lot of the work would be using a plugin-type architecture to make your site talk to all the others. Possibly even more boring if some of them don't have APIs and you have to screen scrape everything. But it could be very popular - there are ~150,000 sellers (I think) on etsy and they've enthusiastically embraced other sites that do useful stuff, like monitor how many people have favourited their shops, etc. And you could sell advertising on the site for individual shops. At times I've almost been tempted to tackle this one myself, but for lack of time.
posted by primer_dimer at 5:30 AM on May 6, 2009

Translation seems like the big thing. Bringing things in, transmogrifying them into your own "universal" format, and spitting them out into multiple formats for multiple uses.

1. Multiple RSS Feeds / Blogs / News Sites -> A single summary email (with abstracts and clickable links, naturally) (valadil)

2. Single Item Listing -> listings on eBay / etsy / artfire / etc., (primer_dimer)

3. Common Phrase in ____ language -> Common Phrase in ____ language (mrt)

I'd subscribe to any or all of those today if I found out they existed in the shape I wanted them in.

Now go make me a better interface for eBay than...eBay's. OK, now integrate it seamlessly with an auction sniper site (with item groups, of course, so I never pay more than $X) for one-click purchasing, automatically guessing the winning price based on the last 20 or so auctions. Make it an option to search for misspelled items. Give it collaborative filtering capabilities to show me other stuff that would go with the thing I just ordered. That a tall enough order for you? ;-)
posted by ostranenie at 1:15 PM on May 6, 2009

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