18th: Moodger – A device may change your mood

I started with “A device that changes your mood”. And then I paused a while. It sounds like a medical device and may even feel a little deceiving, so I later change it to “A device may change your mood”.

This is not a lie. It is just another useless idea.

Is it though? Hear me out.


Yes, most people know about Nest.

It’s a device that connects to the thermostat at your home, and lets you remotely control the temperature. Big deal, right? What makes people fall in love is that it will learn from human input and eventually starts adjusting itself.

In addition to that, it also has some nice features for energy efficiency. It generates a report, of course, every one loves reading a report and feel good about how much energy they have saved after using the device.

I have no objection that features in Nest should be considered as parts of the future smart home. Nowadays, we have all sorts of “smart” devices at home: smart light bulbs, smart monitors, smart fridge, smart microwave, the list goes on.

Yes, people in the future might really want to tweet from their fridge. But I am not falling in the same trap, only staying in the fixed mindset of “connection with machines”. Human, we should connect with human, device that connects people, that is the direction I want to go.

What brings human together?

  • money? hell no
  • food? maybe
  • the answer is laughter!
    • a smile on anyone’s face brings a stranger closer
    • an innocent laughing can even melt the vicious enemy’s heart

If you don’t believe me, try this:

A brief history

Many years ago, I wrote a small program called Jok4U. It can still be found in Wayback Machine. The idea was it randomly popped up a joke in your computer. It was a very naive program and did not do too much. But I tried…

A modern version

Now what about this?

Instead of having a program installed in your computer, what if there is a small device, just like Nest, which is mounted on a wall. When you pass by, it will randomly ask you if you want to hear a joke. Something like what the following:

That user figure is passing by the device. The device has a motion sensor, so it knows someone is nearby. It asks “hey, do you  to hear a joke?”. If the user answers, “yes”. The device will tell a joke.


Feature List

There are more, of course! The device support:

  • can be configured to have different level of jokes: kids-friendly, safe for work, or adult-only
  • can learn from the human answer, eventually it will automatically tell joke instead of asking question first
  • can learn from the human response and adjust the joke selection algorithm
  • can learn from the human response and adjust the way of telling jokes, it will start with the cold machine-like voice, but slowly, it will adjust itself using Adam Sandler or George Carlin’s voice.

Moreover, we have to have this feature

  • can collect your laughter and then generate a report, which analyzes how much laughter you have and how much calories you have burnt from laughing.

This device will of course have to connect with Internet, so it can also download the jokes accordingly and upload the data for machine learning purpose.

Is it really a stupid idea?

If anyone is reading this idea, let me tell you why this is not a stupid idea, and also let me confirm you that I have been serious the whole time.

Use Case 1: Ease the tension

First, I love my kid.

But I admit some times it may get heated at home, especially, when

  • teaching her math…
  • asking her eat vegetable, 20th times during one meal time…
  • telling her the same thing I have told her 100th times…

many other cases. I told myself I would not yell at my kid before she was born. But what I learn is, yelling at your kids does not make you a bad parent and does not mean you don’t love them (Murray Goldberg may not be a good dad model, but he loves his children).

Sometimes you just do what you have to do.

So, imagine when you are yelling at your kids, the device can sense the pitch hike and say “Knock Knock”. Both you and the kid will probably stop, and answer… “Who’s there?”. Now the tension is cool down.

Use Case 2: Change the mood

Being a grown-up sucks. Work is hard, traffic is bad, greedy banker and incompetent politicians never stop screwing economy up. It is difficult enough for people to laugh more.

What if when you open the door of your home, the device will take an image of your face and analyze your mood, and then respond accordingly.

Using thermal image to understand human emotion is definitely not new, see these paper:

The device will be capable of detecting the user current emotion: angry, or depressed, or sad. The device then reacts different by using different type of jokes, or maybe just play baby laughing. The idea is trying to change the mood of the user at the right time.

I am not a psychology expert, so I cannot say this will really work. More research may be required to validate this intention and use.

Use Case 3: Ice Breaker

Now imagine if you have a party with some guests in the house. The device can detects more than usual amount of people passing. If the human voice level suddenly drops, this device can jump in to break the ice by telling a joke.

I cannot imagine how useful this device can be when a socially awkward person brings a date home. It is like a little wing man.

Who am I kidding, a socially awkward person never gets a date.

What is the name “Moodger” from?

It stands for “Mood Changer”. I actually like this name.

Basically, the idea is building a robot that tells jokes, reacts to human, understands human, and more importantly, alter the mood such that a human can still have a feel with other human as well as the world.

Many people may underestimate the power of laughter.

Building a robot telling joke is not really novel. In fact, back in 2010, researchers had already started this. See this article: Joke-Telling Robots Are the Final Frontier of Artificial Intelligence.

However, the novelty in “Moodger” is not really just a robot telling jokes. It’s a sensible helper. Just like Nest, it will learn from human command, human response, and ambient atmosphere to react accordingly.



17th: A comics about a cat adventurer

I was watching secret life of pets 2 with my kid in the movie theater, and then I suddenly had this idea: I want to draw a comics about a cat adventurer.

I always want to draw a comics, but I never have a good topic. Now I find it!

No, this is not a normal cat story. I came back home and wrote down the script of the pilot plot.

Unfortunately, I can’t share it here. But I really did write it down.

I also did some research online, there are tons of comics using cats as characters:



Good that I haven’t found anything similar.

My idea is not like this one either:

Nor is this one:

But I need to be careful about the story. At least I did some research about similar story.

Now I need to learn how to draw cats, many different cats.

I know, but no one says I have to know how to do a thing before deciding to do it.

It’s more important if I want to do it, and then is how much I want to learn to finish it.

16th: Interview for a city leader

This is part 2 of my previous idea, 15th: Running a country is the same to running a big corporation

The more I think about it, the more puzzled I become:

Why can’t a city elect a leader in the way like a company hires a new chief officer?

Let’s assume we have a city called: Domino, where it needs a new mayor.

Step 1: Job Posting

The HR department posts a new advertisement, something like

Mayor Needed

Job Description

  • normal mayor stuff
  • stressful
  • deal with multiple city departments
  • deal with residence
  • make city Domino great!


  • minimum: bachelor degree
  • must have over at least 5 years of work experiences
  • must have been a lead in a team
  • outstanding public speaking
  • must have experienced different fields
  • never feel tired

I don’t know, I just make those things up.

But here is what I think it’s important: a city leader should have least had some experiences in different fields, like working in an industry or a school or technology field, etc.. This person should not have a single source of experience, say, have been solely worked in an insurance company. Then it is very hard to convince me this person understand people in all other fields.

One exception may be someone who is a journalist, especially field journalists, who must go to different sites to interview all sorts of people, write stories about real life, and see everything happening in different places.

Step 2: Screening

I have done a few hiring events in couple companies. After job posting, normally recruiters will gather hiring manager and the team, present all the candidates, select a group of them, and then move to phone screens.

In this case, the hiring manager will probably be the city council, and then some key members of the city government. They arrange some time to conduct a phone screen with candidates. Those candidates could be recommended by the recruiters or nominated by the city members, as long as they have enough qualification, any resident of city Domino can apply too.

Once the screening (including background check) is completed, the best candidates will be invited for onsite interview.

Step 3: Onsite Interview

This will be interesting process. I suspect there will be no more than 3 or 5 candidates in this step. They will all come to city building on the same day to have a full day interview with minimum 5 rounds of interviews.

The interview could have:

  • behavioral questions
  • scenario questions
  • simulation, like going to a scene with some actors playing a story, then asking the candidate how to respond. It’s like behavioral/scenario question, but more realistic
  • knowledge-based questions: to verify the candidate’s background/degree/knowledge, e.g. if a candidate claims to know budgeting, we should verify it’s true.

Of course, there will be a question about what you will do after you are selected.

Each round of interview will be recorded.

Step 4: Decision

The decision is based on the interview, qualification of the candidate, and references provided by the candidate. Once the final decision is made, the recorded interview videos will be public on all TV channels. It is a way to show the selection process is fair and justified.

That is it. This is how city Domino finds its next Mayor.

Most public companies elect their CEO through board of directors. Only a small subset let all shareholders vote, even when that happens, the candidates are nominated by a group of major shareholders.

The key is, the candidates have a proven history of experiences in some fields, to demonstrate she or he can be qualified for running the mayor. If after the onsite interview, the hiring manager(s) and the team do not agree, then try again with another set of candidates.

Once a perfect candidate is hired, this person will stay in position and continue working as a mayor, until she or he decides to step down (or look for other challenges), or city decides to let her/him go. The city will provide help and training to make this person a better mayor, while this new mayor will have a sense of responsibility building a better city for the residents.

This is more important compared to must have one candidate from each party, and then everyone must be able to vote.

Honestly, who cares? When normal people don’t have food, when people don’t have a place to live, when a city can’t have roads, we need a strong leader to make it right, not everyone arguing what to do. Think about any team projects you have worked in. However, I cannot emphasize enough, this is NOT equal to saying: no one should raise their voice; this is ONLY saying: any group needs a strong leader to make the right/determined decision.



15th: Running a country is the same to running a big corporation

First, before exploring this idea, I would like to invite people to watch this video:

In this video, Graham describes an example of the bridge at the campus took   a few years to finish the repair. This is really common in United States. Another typical example is the light rail at Seattle. 21 miles was planned and approved in 1996. 23 years later, 2019 now, this city still hasn’t finished.

Why is that?

There are two reasons:

  1. Leader: the leader of the city is elected. He or she does not care too much the long term goal. In a few years, another leader will take over. Why bother? There is no need to be determined, to finish, to accomplish anything once elected.
  2. So-called “democracy”: most people think they have a voice, which has nothing wrong for sure. People should be able to express their opinion. However, people need to realize that a group needs a strong leader. If everyone keeps arguing, raising opinions, a group gets nothing done. I am not saying people should not raise opinion, I am saying someone in a group needs to be directing.

Then how a normal person’s voice bubbles up?

This leads to today’s idea:

Running a country/state/city is the same to running a corporation.

Why a company can succeed but other fail? Because of the decision of the leader, which is the CEO. Let’s use some positive examples: Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, Satya Nadella. Those people lead the company to a right direction.

Of course, there are many negative examples as well: Steve Ballmer, Carly Fiorina, Eddie Lampert, and many others. Those people not only failed to deliver good influence to the company, but also put the company to a wrong way.

Are CEO elected. Sure they are. However, not directly by employees. And each leader (most of them) has a long history of outstanding performance and then gets nominated in the board meeting. Once the CEO is there, he or she stays until something bad really happens, or board votes to let him/her go.

This is applied to the leader of a country.

Let’s take Rodrigo Duterte as an example. Personally, I consider him as a strong figure who is very determined to do the thing he believe it’s right.

I am not going to debate if we can go with a different way. But he carried on his method as a leader.

Another figure is: Lee Kuan Yew.

Here, we are not talking about dictator. We are talking about the leader who is determined to execute actions for the group he/she is leading, because he/she believes the action is right.

A dictator is someone who does not care about his/her people, only sinks in the fulfillment of the power, temporary treasure and all kinds of other lures.

A leader is different.

Let’s use Seattle as an example. Why would any mayor bother solving the homeless crisis? Why can’t someone stay in position long enough to have a long-term plan, which makes sure he or she has enough time to solve anything? This person will have a sense of responsibility, not a short-term dummy because some companies sponsor the campaign. This person should have a proven history solving hard problems and long-term vision. Yes, give the person an interview, broadcast it to public, and let citizens know why he or she is chosen.

Maybe that will work.

That is just my opinion, and this week’s idea.