Originally Published: Friday, 25 May 2001 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: opinion_articles/opinion Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Kristina in Space: Buy My Paul Erdös Number: How to Still Make Money on the Internet

Despair not! Opportunity awaits us all. In this Friday's episode of Kristina-in-space Linux.com's very own Kristina Pfaff-Harris takes on the economic slowdown and the so-called "burst" of the Internet bubble. Not so, claims Harris, as she quickly takes us through the process of making money on the Internet, including stealing other people's ideas and finding your own unique product.

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Everybody's making money on the Internet except me! --Homer Simpson

Even through all the dot-com closures and layoffs, I still think there's great potential to make money on the Internet. I just have to figure out how. You see, I've done a lot of interesting things in my life and even, I daresay, had some fairly good ideas but somehow, no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to cash in on anything.

Perfect example: back in the olden days there was this controversial "Babes on the Web" site, and through some string of bizarre circumstances I got listed on the site as "Ms. Babe-O-Rama of the Month," leading to the traffic on my personal page skyrocketing from about ten hits a day to about 10,000. The Math department faculty, on whose server my page was, were not thrilled let me tell you. This is exactly the sort of thing I mean: If there were any justice in the world then the movie offers would have come pouring in and the rest would be history. Instead, other than getting a ton of bizarre email from people I'd never met, nothing came of it. It'll probably be the same thing with the Sexiest Geek Alive thing, assuming I even come close to winning that.

Many people believe that the "Dot-Com Bonanza" is over. Ever since investors all collectively broke out of their trances and noticed that many Dot-Companies were, well, hemorrhaging money like water through a garden hose while not making any profits to speak of, the media has been full of doomsayers tsk-tsking over the end of this entrepreneurial time.

I, however, say, "Not so!" The Internet still provides a place where one person with a DSL connection and a Linux box can build a business out of her home, and where the right idea, or the right commodity, can still bring in enough money to keep the bill collectors at bay.

Getting the Idea

Of course, the problem is getting that right idea in the first place. You see, I didn't want to do the same old tired build-up-hits-and-sell-ads thing. I've occasionally been offered ad sales for my sites for teachers, but... well, I just don't like ads on websites! Least of all mine! The closest I could come to ads on my site was the old standby: Associates/Affiliates programs, "bookstore this", "toy that", "Get the Kaplan Guide to the LSAT," and after about six months of that I got a check for $3.20 (US). So I took a lot of those links down. I mean, let's face it ad sales are so last-week! Not to mention that ad sales require, well, ad sales people. And that's just getting too complicated for me.

My idea has to be something free and easily renewable that doesn't really take up space or require shipping. For instance, I could write simple software programs and sell those, but while this could be a good thing, I'd have to deal with that horrible aspect of the software business called "Technical Support." I already do a lot of that for my free Perl scripts, but I don't have to as long as they're free, so somehow it's not quite as bad. I definitely wouldn't want to be obligated to do it though! The Technical Support horror stories you've heard are all true, even if someone says they just made them up. Trust me. I know. So software sales is out.

It's got to be something unique, but easily implemented. Free webmail? No, it's been done. I wanted to do that, and still have hopes of doing it someday, but even with domains like WayTooBusy.com, WorkingTooHard.com, StressedOutWomen.com, OhIDunnoItsOneOfThoseReallyLongAndHardToFrigginTypeDomainNames.com, and, of course, ItsNotMicrosoft.com, the range of fun email addresses runs out fairly quickly. After all, after ILoveLinuxBecause@ItsNotMicrosoft.com, where can you go?

Other People's Ideas

I somewhat reluctantly prepared to drop the whole idea of making money on the Internet in the 21st century, but then something caught my eye. While catching up on the Dilbert comics I'd missed, I took a closer look at The Lazy Entrepreneur. That's me! These are ideas submitted by Dilbert readers for new business plans or products. I considered the "Chewthbrush" (chewing gum with "fibrous particles and a fine abrasive" to brush your teeth), but then I'd have to deal with shipping and inventory. The "Ouija Mousemat" had the same problem. However, the "Food Planning Website" had real potential. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about food, other than, of course, I occasionally eat it in between working and sleeping.

Suddenly, I remembered Mirsky's Open Source Business Plans! Oh sure, it hasn't been updated since August of last year, but there are still some real gems. I considered "e-wed.com" where couples can get virtually married. Since I live in Nevada, home of the Drive-thru wedding chapel, this might have real potential. Of course, "MyObituary.com" is no small fry either. After all, who wouldn't want to make sure that what they say about you after you're dead is correct and, more importantly, flattering? Unfortunately, I happened to notice the license (which, by the way, I'm not certain actually falls under the Open Source Definition).

Each "open source business plan" is free for the taking as long as your first $5 million in profit is split with Mirsky. By reading this paragraph, you automatically agree to these terms.

I just couldn't see splitting my first five million with anyone. I mean, that would be 2.5 million dollars that I wouldn't be able to put towards buying my own tropical island with a moated-castle and gun turrets. Still, these ideas had inspired me! You know, with the right marketing, people will buy anything.

A Unique Product

I pondered, and pondered, until finally, it hit me: the answer was staring me in the face from last week's article. Think of it: there are millions of people in the world who will never have an Erdös number. I find this extremely tragic, and just plain wrong. Simply because they're not lucky enough to be a mathematician or to have published with someone who is, many fine people from all walks of life will never have an Erdös number to call their own. Even many fine university professors in the Arts and Humanities may publish many important works, but never the one work that will gain them that cherished digit. I, Kristina, feel their pain.

Fortunately, I can change that! I have an Erdös number, I have a net connection, I have a forum for publication on Linux.com, and, most importantly, I have eBay. I myself can provide a chance for all these poor unfortunates to be listed as a co-author on one of my papers, and thus obtain an Erdös number of their very own! I'm positive that no one has ever thought of selling his or her Erdös number. It's unique! It's brilliant! I'll be a bazillionaire! I can write a lot of articles, and auction off an Erdös number to each one!

This is exactly the kind of unique idea that is needed for entrepreneurs in today's harsh economic environment. An idea like this will sweep the nation, revitalizing our stagnant economy and inspiring a new generation of investors. Yes, the Web is still a golden land of opportunity, and I truly believe that at long last, my time has come. If you hurry, you can be one of the first to get in on this once in a lifetime opportunity. Buy my Paul Erdös Number! It's the gift that keeps on giving.

A special note to potential investors: first round funding is complete for myErdos.com Inc., LLC, Ltd (thanks, Mom!), but there's no need to worry: I'm going to need plenty of cash in the next round for hemorrhaging...er...I mean expansion of myErdos.com. And now, dear readers, I must go and watch that money come rolling in. I'll remember you all with fondness from my castle in the Bahamas.

Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements:This article contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, including: statements regarding myErdos.com's future financial performance and results of operations; the Company's ongoing restructuring; the Company's sales strategy and anticipated benefits from such strategy; and future growth myErdos.com. Offer void where prohibited, your mileage may vary. The information is presented for entertainment purposes, and is not intended as medical advice. See your doctor before attempting any diet.

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