Ideas are Cheap but Not Worthless

Every day, several new ideas pop into my head. Many of them are incomplete, or frivolous and not very good. Occasionaly – let’s say once or twice a week – something genuinely fun, useful or with potential turns up. However, most ideas go to waste or are merely jotted down in a journal or a text document.

There is an overflow of ideas, to the point where even good ones are sometimes forgotten.

You probably get a lot of ideas too. Maybe it’s a business you want to start, a hobby you might pick up, a book you could write, a party you want to throw or a series of videos you could put on YouTube. Ideas come at us constantly whether we welcome them or not (in fact, they seem to come more easily when we are not looking for them, but that’s another topic).

The point is that ideas on their own have very little value.

It’s only when we act on our ideas, that their value increases. Whether you measure value in potential income, happiness or what-have-you, an idea by itself is fleeting; just a thought or a scribble. Actions make ideas real, give them substance and depth.

Caffeine and sugar are excellent idea stimulants, should you ever run low.
Caffeine and sugar are excellent idea stimulants, should you ever run low.
Since there are only have 24 hours in a day, and most of us have limited resources, the trick is to analyze your ideas, and determine which ones to act on, which to scrap, and which ones might be better off in someone else’s hands. This takes practice, which is sometimes referred to as “failure”.

Sharing ideas is not a bad thing. When you share ideas, you inspire others to get involved, to help you make it real or to develop their own ideas. Creative thinking is contagious, you see.

Too many people guard their ideas for no good reason. Secrecy can be necessary or helpful if you’re in the process of creating something for a competitive market (this is why we have NDAs). However, one reason I’ve heard over and over goes along the lines of: “I keep my idea a secret in case I want to make it real some day, so no one beats me to it.”

If that is your only reason to sit on an idea, you are not doing anyone any favors. Set it and yourself free, and go with an idea you can make real right now, rather than “some day”.

This post was inspired by an idea I had earlier today. This was for a video adventure game made for mobile devices. After writing down my initial thoughts, I read through them and realized this would be “some day” project. Mostly because it is too much work for me to do by myself, and I don’t have a team of developers, artists and writers standing by. So I decided to share the idea instead.

Maybe someone will make it happen, which I would love, whether I am involved in the process or not. I don’t think my idea is revolutionary, but it could be a solid, fun and potentially profitable game – if executed right.

Copy of the original note:


Mobile adventure game idea:

You are a lone, wandering sellsword, seeking adventure where ever you can find it. Each of these adventures is like a “episode” in the game. You go through a series of scenes (aka levels) that tell a story. Along the way you solve puzzles, make moral decisions, defeat enemies, build influence and collect treasure.

When there are no more adventures to be had in a specific location, you wander on to the next place…

The character:

The idea is that the character will grow according to the players’ choices. She levels up in multiple ways as she completes adventures. Weapons and other items found in one adventure will carry over to the next one, but because the wanderer is just that, there is a limit to how much gear she can carry (investing in a mule will let her bring more stuff). Surplus items can be sold for gold in town, which in turn can be spent on other items, repairs or, in some adventures, even bribes and gambles.

Apart from equipment, the character has reputations and a few stats to improve, such as combat skills, health and charm.


Each adventure is designed in such a way, that the difficulty adjusts to the strength of the character. Thus a “hard” adventure will be hard no matter how strong you are.

Every adventure contains choices that impact the character’s reputation with one or more factions, as well as puzzles, dialogue and combat. Each adventure should have at least two possible outcomes/endings, beyond simply winning or getting killed.

Adventures should offer at least 20-30 minutes of entertainment each.


Via factions and reputation, the character’s story will evolve through choices made by the player. High reputation scores unlock further adventures and locations (both free and availability as in-app purchases), tied to the specific factions. This adds both replay value and a sense of playing an actual campaign.


When a character dies, she will get penalized in some way (eg. damaged items, loss of gold) and will have to restart the adventure, she was currently on. Longer adventures will have “save points” along the way, from whence the character will start upon respawn.


The game comes with one or two locations and a handful of adventures. Further locations and adventures are unlocked as rewards or in-app purchases.

Gold and exclusive gear can also be bought as in-app purchases. The pack mule, for bringing more stuff on adventures, a bank account (gold stored here is unaffected by penalties for dying) or a house, for storing items in specific locations, could all be examples of in-app purchases.

2 Replies to “Ideas are Cheap but Not Worthless”

  1. The article was ok. Thinking that ideas are worthless or cheap and that they should be set free was what got me to respond, although with tangents it’s a longform comment.

    Speaking to the viewers: Ideas should NOT be set free, I repeat, do not buy into this notion and free them unless it’s for a competition or you know the places to fund them, and the exact tools to build them. Ideas get exploited by the people with no ideas but the resources to execute them. Do NOT be fooled by the Internet.

    It’s completely different when you discuss your idea in the startup community, and during the next local hackathon a hacker sets up the simplest form of a mashup (the base where the platform gets it’s information) to further develop Open Data APIs and the data platform, not the engagement platform- they hinted to this though, that is the base of one’s idea. It’s not the first time around the world that is has happen, and it’s benefits everyone so there’s hardly a threat plus the government has to cash in too– so right now it’s still fine.

    Anyways, the hacker gets the attention of the CIO of Puerto Rico and becomes the Director of the upcoming program / executive bill. I sensed this while in the hackathon, the people who were around and the non innovators they work for. The local slow dinosaurs. Their market share can be motivation for some and haunting for others. For this reason during the hackathon I immediately did not showcase my prototype, it’s in bootstrap but it doesn’t need to be polished for it to work. The market, the revenue, it’s all there –there isn’t much to fear since Puerto Ricans or anyone else for that matter don’t know how to execute someone else’s idea– so I did not do the showcase just to be sure. A missed opportunity? Not at all. There’s still many other accelerators and competitions. Even if it’s not endorsed by a team or the government it’ll be sucked up into something that’s open source, better than slow dinosaurs. More on this later but think about what just happened:

    It’s like if somebody knew you were going to search for gold, and they get to the entrance of the future mine and start selling shovels.

    All in all this will make the civic engagement platform / apps that other people can hook on to easier to make at the government’s expense. Great, however, with corruption added to the mix it can be potentially hazard if they charge too much for calling their APIS. They specifically stated they want to balance out with the private sector. Clearly that’s not happening, everyone is out there for themselves. The private sector is going to pick up the slack of the government in the long run anyways, they innovate for a while and conform and slow down innovation so again, not much to worry here.

    After this happening what incentive do I have to continue being vocal in the community? None. Even with the most elaborate prototypes only those with the connections will make it happen. You have to be sure of which people you talk to though. You wouldn’t want to be the local that was absorbed because you fell in this philosophy where you should disclose every single thing.

    This is where I think the attack on signing NDAs somehow come in. I won’t be using them, but it’s embedded in the startup community that these are “bad”. One can only explain the project up to a certain point. NDAs are required at some point but not for the civic engagement platform. Anyone can capture the gist of it.

    This fear, is something one must listen too. BE SELFISH. Do not let other exploit your ideas. Even if the end result is helping the common good / public. Think about it, why should anyone other than YOU and your future or your current team make this vision happen? Even if the vision happens before you execute it there is NOTHING wrong, so do not feel resentful. Thinking of it first is nothing to be proud off, but imagine you gave that away to people and consciously you sparked motivation in somebody and they’re profiting from it. Even if you don’t care about money, it’s still bad. They’ll get the prices wrong and overcharge, etc. There will always be a way to flesh out your idea, if you do not evolve it as time goes, it is your fault for someone catching up to your mind. Constantly evolve it through time. Yes there might be a time where it will be obsolete, but that’s just ONE idea. If you find yourself in these situations become a consultant, it’s like being a broker. Most of you are consultants anyways but I thought I should put it out there that you should strive to try it out I know I am.

    Back to the challenge I mentioned earlier. It’s my last chance, and I’m in having trouble deciding. I will be sending the prototypes privately to Knight Foundations, but why should I trust them more than my government? Turning in the idea at the very last minute of Knight Foundation’s News Challenge, to update my application with the prototypes of how these APIS [0] and their whole plan, is just the surface [1] is ok but I shouldn’t have this fear they get ideas and bigger more polished prototypes all the time– where is this fear coming from? You’ve learned to let go of your delusions for the common good, I haven’t learned that yet. I’m stubborn right now, maybe because of the whole industry putting down the idea or I don’t know what but one’s idea doesn’t have to be revolutionary to hold on to it. You can simply SEE the profits, have the strategy, and vision. That’s enough.

    Back to you specifically, Rasmus. Text isn’t enough, you should know this. These are the cheapest of the cheapest ideas. Flesh it out like if you were going to pitch it to the world, exact tools and milestones, etc. You’ll feel like your idea is worth that much more, and I BET YOU won’t post it up on another blog post. WHY? Because you would be basically hand holding someone with the resources on how to execute. Basically being a project manage or consultant for free. This is IF you elaborate correct, not if you vaguely post a longform article. You shouldn’t trust me, but who would do it? Who would put out a list on how to exactly get from x to y, for free, on the Internet? If it’s not you Rasmus, do you think it’s justifiable to say that putting well thought out and detailed ideas with prototypes out there in is a waste of one’s time? What do you get in return? Someone reading your post and doing it? For that put it to the side and release it to Mozilla or other charities. See look, I can throw out ideas like that too, a crowdfunding platform where you pitch your ideas to charity and they combine or choose the ones they want to execute and they go ahead and figure out the tools, market, and the potential profits (if you haven’t done so already) and build it. This idea is worthless. It didn’t explained the tools, the UI/UX prototype is not working, etc. I think I got my point crossed although it could have been shorter but I should get back on task.

    Talk to you soon Rasmus and others. Mostly others. Lurkers perhaps, I almost became one, imagine if more people actually took out 5 minutes of their day and responded. Hmm. You could provoke that more by ending the post with a question. Cheesy but I’ve seen it work.

    [0] Article is in spanish:
    [1] PDF is in spanish but diagrams in English:

    1. Jayvan: Thank you for the comment. I think we differ in how we view ideas, or maybe we just have different goals. My original post is somewhat vague on purpose, given that I am talking about ideas in general, as opposed to just startup ideas for instance. I get many ideas that I am not interested in or have time for executing, and I don’t mind giving those to someone else (whether as a long form comment or whatever I feel like). Even for free. I never fear that someone will steal my Great Idea, and the few times I have used NDAs it has never been an issue. With so many new ideas coming in all the time, it would be impossible to truly pitch each and every one. Most of the time I just want to get it off my chest and move on, because I have enough on my plate as it is, and I don’t mind sharing. In fact, I love it! It’s not always about getting something in return, especially since I am offering things up on my own terms. If I were asked to develop a working prototype or a concept for someone else, I would charge for it. But if my rants inspire someone to start a business, write a book or what have you – that’s great!

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