nineideas motivates users to generate new ideas every day.

The site automatically generates a topic suggestion. If the initial topic is of no interest to the user, they can click the redo icon in the upper left for a new topic. A user can also click the topic text to change a few words or delete and write their own topic entirely.

As a user adds ideas, the progress bar turns green and fills from left to right on each new entry. Once a user gets to nine ideas on their selected topic, the list is marked as complete and added to their collection of idea lists. The user then sees a screen showing their ‘daily streak’ indicating how many days in a row they have completed an idea list. This format will be familiar to users of language-leaning apps like Duolingo. Instead of gamifying language learning user’s intrinsic motivation to accrue a sense of progress and achievement nineideas makes a game out of generating ideas on a new topic every day.

Since the site uses local storage, there is no need for users to create an account or give away their email address. They can simply go to the site and use it immediately. Their lists are saved to their browser.

Develop a positive daily internet habit

One of the primary reasons for building the site is to model a positive daily internet habit. The nineideas site encourages a daily habit practice characterized by creative thinking and active engagement over mindless scrolling and passive consumption of information. The only focus outside of the idea generation process itself is the ‘daily streak’ and an encouragement to keep this up.

In his essay “On the Shortness of Life,” Seneca emphasizes the importance of cultivating good habits and avoiding bad ones, arguing that habits shape our character and determine the course of our lives. He believed that habits are a crucial component of a well-lived life, and that we must be intentional about the habits we form in order to live a life of purpose and meaning.

Something worth gamifying

I’ve had a lot of fun with with word game Wordle, but it is somewhat manipulative in that losing a game is perhaps harder than winning every time. Not making a correct guess in five guesses is more difficult than winning. But you become fixated on keeping up your daily streak on a game that is already rigged in your favor. On the other hand, Duolingo gamifies the language learning process in a way that encourages people to mindlessly perform a rote task just to keep up a daily streak. Users also ‘earn’ rewards that can be redeemed to restore a daily streak if a user misses a day. But do these daily streaks really serve the user, or are they just gamified ways of driving up engagement metrics for the apps?

With nineideas, the pupose of the daily streak is simple: develop a positive daily habits around internet use. The user is the one who most benefits from the daily engagement. It is something worth gamifying.

Spend time with a totally blank mind.

In Zen Buddhism, a mind totally devoid of thoughts and ideas is considered a state of enlightenment or awakening. This state is often referred to as “mushin” in Japanese, which can be translated as “no mind” or “empty mind.” In this state, the mind is free from attachment to thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences, and is fully present in the current moment. It is a state of pure awareness, in which the individual experiences a deep sense of interconnectedness with all things and a profound sense of inner peace and clarity. While it is difficult to attain and maintain this state of mind, it is considered a goal of many Zen Buddhist practices, such as zazen (sitting meditation), koan study, and mindfulness training. For most people, sitting down to meditate does the opposite of clearing the mind. A moment after sitting down and closing your eyes, thoughts, worries, to do items all come flooding in. Oddly, I’ve found that when writing idea lists, something peculiar happens around idea six or seven: the mind is both totally focused and totally blank. In this way, the nineideas practice can be an indirect but effective way of getting into a meditative state.

Idea non-attachment

One of the key principles of mindfulness is non-attachment, which involves acknowledging thoughts and feelings without becoming overly identified or attached to them. In the context of generating ideas, non-attachment means letting go of any judgments or expectations surrounding the creative process. By cultivating a mindset of non-attachment, one can approach idea generation with a sense of openness, curiosity, and exploration, without being limited by preconceived notions or biases. This can lead to a more diverse and expansive range of ideas, as well as a greater willingness to experiment and take risks.

Shift from obvious to abundant

Whether the topic is what to do this weekend or ways to cut costs in the organization, we rarely give enough time to the idea generation process. Instead, we allow just enough time for two of three ideas to surface and then push ahead with a problem solving mindset. It would be highly unusual to come up with nine ideas for what to do this weekend, but the results are almost always better than if we hadn’t. We go from issue to issue with just the obvious ideas on the table. But developing a habit out of generating not just one or two but nine ideas on any given topic has pushed me into a mindset where my baseline assumption is that there is an abundance of options.

To generate this many ideas on a given topic, you almost have no choice but to cultivate thinking that is both broad and deep. By ideas six or seven, users have to start combining various modes of thinking, grasping for ideas that are both creative and practical, out of left field and well-considered.

And by the ninth idea, there is some sense of accomplishment. Whether it is to keep up a good habit and maintain a daily streak or just out of the pure joy of coming up with ideas, I think the outcome is still positive. In general, we should strive to cultivate habits that align with our values and goals. Nineideas assumes users value an abundance and growth mindset. The goal is simply to continuously learn and grow. To that end, daily ideation as a good habit worth forming.