CS3216 Week 1 – Ideation

This is the most hectic week 1 of my entire university life. And much of it is because of CS3216.

Ideas are cheap, until you run out of good ones

I thought I had this all covered by recording down my random interesting ideas into my phone for the past few years. But when I took out my phone and read through the long list of “ideas”, most of them sound ridiculous or impractical. We also discovered that some ideas buried in my phone already have working products in the market. There were some practical ones but not suitable for the short-period of time of 2 weeks, so we decided against them.

First Brainstorm – crowd-source FTW?

Well, that means we brainstorm from the beginning. After brainstorming and discussions through Monday to Friday, we thought we had the perfect the idea – crowd-sourced version of NUS Stalkers. It sounds really cool, users come to the app and see the list of people taking the same module, they can see other people’s past modules, see how many mutual friends they have and then make an informed decision on whether to team up with this person.

During the Saturday’s workshop, we discussed this idea with our TA, Sam. That is where the problem of getting the data comes in. NUS Stalkers was able to succeed because it already has a large amount of data from the school’s somewhat not secured platform. The users can simply go in and see the data. However, it is not the same for our app. We need each user to login via Facebook, grant us permissions and manually input their past and current modules. Even though with nusmods and IVLE, it can be easy to get the data that we want, it is still too much a hassle for users. And if we are not able to incentivise users to put in their data, the app would be empty and useless.

Suffice to say, crowd-sourced app is hard.

Second Brainstorm – 2 days / 5 minutes

Then we spent the weekend again brainstorming and discussing new ideas. With all the panic and anxiety, the discussion turned quite “chaotic”. That is when I recalled a piece of writing that I chanced upon when reading Hack News, Give it five minutes – Signal v. Noise. In essence, it tells people to think before judging, which is surprising against our human instinct sometimes. I am not sure if it was because this, the discussion went smooth afterwards with everyone being more patient and seeing merits in each other’s points.

In the end, we refined our ideas and narrowed in on 3 of them. Before making a decision, we presented them to the teaching staff for feedback as we know we could be blinded by our thoughts and miss out important issues. At the time of writing, we are still waiting for the response. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable week 1 and we would persevere in this journey.



  1. Apps that are content heavy (crowdsourcing apps especially) face the “chicken-and-egg” problem at the start. Not having enough users -> insufficient sources of data. Not data -> few users will use. One way to get around this (tried by NUSWhispers) is to seed your own data to kick off the initial user base. If your app is built right to retain users, slowly it will grow (:

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