Every now and then, I try to build a group of people to talk about specific topics but it quickly dies because of inactivity. Although I really saw the value in having such a community, I just didn’t know how to build one. Even if one person keeps pumping in content, how do you actually get the community to interact with each other?

It is the same kind of problem being faced by, say StartupBuzz.org which, I am guessing, wants to be the Hacker News of India. There are indeed topics that apply only to startups in India, from “Startup Morning”, to India’s first in-taxi magazine. Such interesting events and ideas are worthy of discussion.

There is value in such a community, but again, how to build it? StartupDunia has already put its thoughts on the subject but the question still remains.

Here are some of my thoughts.

Does it require credibility?

  • Hacker News has Paul Graham and YCombinator behind it.
  • ProBlogger Forums have ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse behind it.
  • And the most recent example of StackOverflow.com that has Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood behind it.

So the question is whether there each community should be backed by up by a credible person who has a reasonable authority on the subject?

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Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

Amazon conducted a poll just before the start of the year 2009 asking people on what are their New Year Resolutions. The top two resolutions were (1) Lose Weight and (2) Get Your Finances in Order.

What is strange is that you and I would think these are solved problems, right? But yet these are the top resolutions for the new year!

We all know how to lose weight – eat less and exercise more. But it requires discipline. We all know how to get our finances in order – spend less and earn more. But it requires discipline.

Our vision for the “Track Every Coin” system that we are building is to exactly help you do this – to help you spend less, save more, and in the process help you get your personal finances in order.

So what is the problem again?

We tried out many personal finance websites and software existing in the market, and we faced the same issue again and again – they are either cumbersome or are afterthoughts.

Most of the software that we tried out did not make it easy to make entries such as expenses and made it a boring chore. And yet, this is the starting point to use all their features.

The ones that work automatically with your bank account are afterthoughts – they are good for overviews and for viewing graphs at the end of the month, but do not help in actively managing your money at all.

So we started adding in our own ideas on what we would want to use.

So what is the product?

It consists of two parts:

  • The active agent where you make your entries – which is either a hardware device or a mobile phone application, based on your preference.
    • The hardware device is for those who like to have a cool-looking gadget to carry around, and want to make entries within 10 seconds.
    • The mobile phone application is for those who have GPRS connections on their mobile phones.
  • The data analyzer – which is a website where you get to slice and dice your data.

I like to think of it as analogous to the “iPod-iTunes” combination – the iPod was designed to do one thing well: play music, and it left the complicated parts of managing music to the iTunes software. We intend to achieve the same effect for personal finance. This is our unique twist.

TrackEveryCoin - How It Works

Features

At its core, the system is an expense tracking system, simply because that is the first step that every personal finance writer recommends. If you don’t know where the money is going, you won’t know how to manage it.

The logic is simple : We need data to improve, whether it is the school score cards for your kids or the mileage for your car or statistics for your favorite cricketers. We bring over the same facility to you for your money!

Now, how is this different from a spreadsheet? Well, the data collection mechanism, obviously, and lots of features, but most of all – this is a specific system that helps you with so many aspects:

  1. Expenses
    • Know what you are spending on – categorize, tag and add notes to your expenditure
  2. Reimbursements
    • Know how much money you have to get back from your company – save time wasted in filing expense reports
  3. Income
    • Plan your money – How much money from your income is budgeted for expenditure and how much money goes to savings and goals
    • Never forget to pay your bills on time again – Reminders will be automatically be saved as expenses
  4. Goals
    • Buy that thing you really want – Save money every month towards your goal, whether it is downpayment for a car or that big trip you’ve been dreaming of
  5. Budgets
    • Never overspend again – Set limits on how much you want to spend and you will be reminded every time you are about to spend
  6. Sharing
    • Never worry again about splitting bills – Keep running counts of expenses shared with your roommate or when you go for dinner with friends, and settle easily
  7. Events and Trips
    • Know how much an occasion will cost you – Stay within your trip budget, know how much a weekend trip will cost you, know how much transportation accounts towards your trips, and more.
  8. Graphs
    • Analyze where your money is going – Know if you are spending more on fuel, if you are spending too less on your hobbies, or how much money you need on an average day.

To know more, visit our website www.TrackEveryCoin.com

We aim to launch the product in July 2009. Sign up now at the website to get special offers when we launch!

We’ll be writing more about how we have designed and built TrackEveryCoin on our company blog. We look forward to your feedback either here on this blog or via email.

What is it that I like about IMDB?

  • Shows me what are the movies that are popular in theatres right now
  • Shows what new movies are releasing this week
  • The first item on every movie page is the average user rating
  • It links to every individual artiste involved (actor, director, etc.) so that if I like to follow a particular actor like Russell Crowe, then I just have to visit his page and I have all the details right there in a compact list.
  • Trivia and Quotes from the movie – the amusing/fun aspect.
  • The information is not cluttered with random reviews, that is on a separate page if you are so inclined.

But IMDB is for movies only.

What about an IMDB for music?

Yes, there is last.fm but it concentrates on the actual playing of the existing music content that they have (which it is very good at), but not about the people who make the music or their discographies. For example, I don’t think they list albums/songs that are upcoming or are not part of their playlists.

What about an IMDB for books?

Yes, there is Amazon and there is WeRead.com but I notice the same problems as last.fm.

What I’m looking for is something like the burrp of music and books: showcasing (1) the latest, (2) the best and (3) the right kind of information, nothing else.

Also, are there similar sites for India? For example, I’d love to see the list of the top rated movie soundtracks in 2009 by “Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy” or the top songs ever by Pentagram (I just love “Bad Man”), and so on. Are there such lists and information already out there?

I think IMDB-equivalents for music and for books can be successful online businesses and communities.

Update : “Good Reads” seems to be a good option for books.

Update 2 : Looks like “MovieDB.in” wants to be the IMDB of Indian movies.

Note: This blog post is part of the “Ideas are Cheap. Execution is Everything.” series where I pen down thoughts on what I see is a need in the market or what could be a successful idea/business.

I was recently interviewed by CocoaCast (mp3) to talk about Python for their Mac developer community, as part of their “Unbound Developers” podcast series.

I was apprehensive about doing this because I’ve never been live-interviewed before, but in the spirit of doing new things, I went ahead and it turned out to be fun.

We talked about Python, my background and my startup, Macs, Python vs. Ruby and Django vs. Rails, Apple and Google, cloud computing, databases, Scala/JVM, performance, collection classes, and so on.

Surprisingly, Vlad and myself had talked for nearly 25 min. It’s a fun interview, although, there’s probably nothing new to know from this podcast for those who have already read the book.