Monthly Archives: October 2008

Idea – More Efficient Highway Lighting

Here’s an idea that could be widely used:
Self power generating highway streetlights.

Whilst driving along the freeway one night in Austin I realized everything was darker than usual. Apparently a large section of freeway had the overhead lights turned off.

Suddenly I realized, “I drive by this freeway every day and never consciously noticed the whole thing was beautifully lighted the whole way.” I looked ahead and saw literally hundreds of tall, light posts illuminating the freeway, and my first thought was, “I wonder what the electricity bill is like?”

*Notice: I’m simply theorizing here. I’m sure all you smart alecs out there can poke huge holes in the feasibility of this plan…it’s just a thinking excercise.

A typical freeway system will have hundreds of these high-output lights populating urban lengths of road:

In an effort to save on the massive electricity costs, it would be cool if these tall posts could take a hint from those widely available solar garden lights you can buy at any store:

A quick Googling of something similar reveals that solar light posts do exist. However they generally run off L.E.D. lights and are not very bright.

Even better would be to have a wind energy component since the lights are generally very tall and must catch a lot of wind. This “city-turbine” (which is in actual use already and can be readily purchased) spins no matter which directing the wind blows from:

These are compact enough to where they could fit nicely atop a pole, something like this:

(Please excuse my poor, non-scaled Photoshop rendering)

Not only would the turbine create energy to operate off, but it would most likely create an excess amount of energy which could be put back into the power grid for a profit.

Obviously a self-generating light pole would cost more money upfront, but the longterm benefits could offset those costs in the long run. It would also be great for more remote areas without access to the main power grid.

How Much I Spent in 2007

A little while back I figured it costs me $24,160 to be alive each year based on my 2007 spending totals. That number was for the basic neccessities, but for some reason I never tallied the actual amount I spent in 2007.

This post will actually be the first time I’ve really tracked what I personally spent for the year. I’m very good at keeping a tight track of everything I spend for the month, so these numbers are quite accurate.

Jan-07 – $1,415
Feb-07 – $2,214
Mar-07 – $5,441
Apr-07 – $2,895
May-07 – $1,965
Jun-07 – $2,694
Jul-07 – $1,461
Aug-07 – $3,505
Sep-07 – $2,415
Oct-07 – $3,105
Nov-07 – $1,280
Dec-07 – $1,615
2007 TOTAL – $30,005

I often pay bills like car insurance, health insurance or gym memberships 6-12 months in advance, so the numbers vary quite a bit sometime from month-to-month. There’s also zero debt on my books, so these numbers are not inflated by credit card payments, car notes or anything like that. These also don’t include business spending (those numbers get more fun)!

In the post which calculated $24,160 in living expenses, I stated, “That’s just to live, doesn’t even account for going out, travelling etc.”

The total discrepancy between the estimate and actual number is less than $6,000 for the whole year, and since I know I spent more than $6,000 going out and travelling for the whole year, that means I’ve been good at keeping my monthly costs low.

Here’s a fun game for younger people to play:
(I would hope all older people already have this figured out):

1.) Tally last years total expenses.
What does it come to? That number = EXPENSES

2.) Now suppose for a moment you lost all your current income sources.

3.) Do you have at least enough money to cover EXPENSES for the next 12 months?

If yes; good.
If no; that’s your business.

I’d like to see a comparison of Noah’s monthly expenses from the time he was in the SF Bay Area compared to living in Austin now.

Craig Newmark – Founder of Craigslist

I had the opportunity to see Craig Newmark speak at the brand new AT&T Center over here in Austin, TX., and it was an interesting speech. He is the “Craig” of….one of the largest and most heavily trafficked sites on the planet (roughly 22 billion page views per month).

I’ve personally used Craigslist to find programmers, sell stuff, find stuff, buy my car, buy my scooter, found an apartment, got feedback on issues and the list goes on…all for free.

Most CEO speeches I’ve seen say “Work as hard as you can and you might make it to the top” …something like that. However Craig ended up founder of one of the worlds largest websites through a slightly different…some would say “lucky” story.

Directly from his speech:

  • In 1994 he was doing IT for the financial firm Charles Schwab, nothing big.
  • 1995 he started regularly sending out an email to about 12 of his friends with a bunch of events around the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • His friends would forward the email to their friends, and then their friends etc…
  • Eventually he had 100+ people on the email list, and people would also send him notifications of events they heard about.
  • It started building some momentum, but he never thought of it as a big deal. Lots of people on the list said, “You should make this into a website.”
  • Since he was a programmer, he made an easy tool that would convert the emails into webpage format and post them on a website.
  • He was going to call the website “San Francisco Events” or something along those lines, but many people suggested he keep his name in the title to make it personable. So “Craigslist” was born.
  • The site was hosted on some cheap server, and when it hit 240 users, it broke….so using his own personal funds he got some better web hosting (still very cheap).
  • Around this time the housing market in San Fran was going through some bad times, so people using Craigslist thought it would be nice to help each other out with apartment listings. So after everyone pushed him to do it, couch potato Craig (his own words) got around to making an apartment listings section.
  • After this new section, people wanted more sections. So requests for a dating section came in, then more like “For Sale” and “Free Stuff”
  • Through organic growth and word of mouth the site started getting 1,000,000 page views per month. Not bad!
  • Microsoft approached him about placing banner ads on the site which would make him money. He didn’t like banner ads, and they didn’t add to the user experience, so he declined.
  • In 1998 people wanted to start running the site on a volunteer basis. He let several volunteers take over the site, and the plan failed miserably.
  • In 1999 he made Craigslist into a real company by incorporating it.
  • The site is 99.99% free, but in a select few cities people posting job ads must pay $25 per listing. This makes Craigslist plenty of money to keep the rest of the site free, and also eliminates lots of spam and scams in the job listings sections. They are starting to do this in more cities because it increases quality of the postings and brings in needed revenue to keep up with Craigslists massive infrastructure demands. They are also starting to charge on some of the housing sections of certain cities.
  • He eventually hired Jim Buckmaster to be CEO and run the show, and Craig now only does customer support. He works as a normal customer support representative.

Some interesting facts I picked up from the speech and Q&A:

  • Craigslist has only 25 employees, and they are looking to hire (just FYI).
  • When asked about Craigslist’s relationship with eBay (They took money from eBay at one point), he simply responded, “You can go on the Craigslist blog and lookup the post called Tainted Love.” You can view that post here. He wouldn’t comment further.
  • Server wise, he said they have several co-locations in different server facilities….and he doesn’t even know where they are since he doesn’t handle those network aspects. He said, “I know we have several co-location facilities, with about 200 servers in each one.”
  • He said the idea behind Craigslist is , “Giving people a break, people giving other people a break, people helping each other out and treating people well.”
  • He frequently gets invitations to weddings from people who met their spouse through Craigslist.

So the really unique thing about Craig is his ideology of keeping Craigslist mostly free. He said, “Once I made more than enough money to satisfy my current and future needs, I didn’t want anymore.” Not something you usually hear from the founder of a big company.

Usually companies try to keep expanding their profits, but Craigslist tries to keep them flat.

So anyhow, before and after the speech I got some pictures with him. I made a “Free Stuff” sign signifying my favorite section on Craigslist:

Ihad to bend down because the sign didn’t come out because of too much sun exposure.

I’m bending down so the sign could be read, but now I really look like a hobbit.

So finally I got a decent picture with my free stuff sign!