31 Products that Need Reinventing

Ben Wheeler
7 min readAug 18, 2021

@ProductHunt recently asked, “What’s a product that needs reinventing?”

Here are my answers:

  1. Klout. Remember this short-lived startup, that promised to track your reputation across the whole internet? I should be able to filter any site, any phone call, etc. for the credibility and track record of other users, companies, etc. Let me see just the restaurant reviews by people who have never been accused by restaurants of shaking them down for free stuff. Let me see just the auction listings by people who have been selling stuff online for 5 years.
  2. Spam filtering. The fundamental problem is that my attention is worth something, but emailing me costs nothing. There should be a small cost to send me mail, and I can pay it to send to others. I’m not a spammer, so it balances out. If it’s not worth a penny to you to send me an email, then for the love of god, don’t send me the email.
  3. Tutorials. I could distill 90% of what a person actually needs to know about wine into 10 minutes. Other subjects take more time, but, say, stock market investment shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. Why are lessons like this so hard to find? One problem is that the incentives are all to stretch things out. A YouTuber doesn’t make money on a handful of highly valuable videos, they make money on a steady stream of content that catches people’s attention and keeps them watching. Don’t entertain me. Don’t keep me watching. Inform me, and send me away. I’ll pay you for it.
  4. Household items. Why is shopping for these such a crapshoot? I want the last stapler I’ll ever buy. The vacuum cleaner I’ll have for the rest of my life. Bathroom scale. Air filter. Dish rack. If there were an Apple making these things, I’d pay more for the reliability. Attempts like the Wirecutter get part of the way there, but plenty of their reporting is half-assed — e.g., in their treadmill reviews, they logged something like 5 hours on a treadmill before declaring it great. The problem is, you really need years of using a brand before you know you can count on it. We need a manufacturer to build a brand carefully, making sure that every item they make is excellent.
  5. Streaming. I know this is a big ask, but I wish I could just pay $2/hr and watch anything and not go through the whole rigmarole of signing up for a subscription and canceling right away (so I don’t wake up a year later, having paid for 12 months of a service I never use). I cancel @hbomax, @Sling and @disneyplus collectively like 20 times per year. It’s absurd.
  6. Movie times. I only want movies w/positive critical consensus. I only want times in the next 48 hours. I only want the nearest 10 theaters. There should just be a single page of these times for me, w/ability to narrow down the various criteria with sliders. I built this as an iOS app once, but the high minimum fees to access movie times sunk it. (Movie industry, you want to pay me a huge amount to not access movie times? OK, if you insist…)
  7. Google Home. It’s built with the expectation that a household will have a single account, but as any family that’s tried to put one in various bedrooms knows, that’s silly — various people want to listen to different music at the same time in different rooms. You can sort of do this, but it’s an incredibly difficult and inconsistent process.
  8. Books. Because of tradition, we are comfortable paying more money for physically larger and longer books. But that’s silly! Condensing the best material to save me time is worth more money to me. Establish a brand for effective, 50-page books.
  9. Vaccination info. You probably assume that your doctor is making sure you have all of your vaccinations. But that is probably not true — I believe most general practitioners don’t bother to check, if it’s at all complicated to find the info.
  10. Government approval. Usually, when you request permission from the government, e.g. to replace an old deck w/an identical new one, it just takes how long it takes. Instead, the default should be yes, and there should be a limited window for the government to say no & explain why.
  11. Court cases. In EU, cases have specific time limits. In fact, we do that here too: in the US Supreme Court, each side gets half an hour, period! Extend that to civil & criminal cases: various offenses & suit types should come w/limits on how long the prosecution or defense can make arguments.
  12. Medical insurance. Laws and conventions have evolved it from being for catastrophe to being the way we pay for, like, braces & penicillin. Instead, everyone should get a medical savings account w/monthly deposit from the gov’t, & insurance should cover non-routine care only.
  13. Certification. Great tests > expensive school requirements. You shouldn’t have to go to hair cutting school to be a hairdresser; we don’t make you go to business school to open a business. A smart person could apprentice to an estate lawyer for a year and get up to speed.
  14. Policing. If police took investigating non-fatal violence as seriously as they take fatal violence, there would be much less violence, and much greater safety, prosperity, and racial equity.
  15. Custom T-shirts. Silk screening is infinitely superior to direct transfer printing. Figure out how to do it cheaply and make everyone’s shirts much better.
  16. Online groups. It’s not hard to see the latest messages and news from people. But what’s the information that matters most? I want to be able to see the most significant information about my kids’ school: is it definitely in person in the fall? What’s the first day?
  17. Subscriptions. Whether it’s a magazine, a streaming service, we’re recurring donation, I should be able to see all my subscriptions in one dashboard, and turn auto renew on and off at will. I should be able to legally forbid any subscriptions I don’t specifically approve.
  18. Remote assistants. I’ve tried several and paid @EAHelp and others to find me a good match, but I haven’t found what I’m looking for. Maybe I just can’t afford what it would cost to find someone who would really help me, but I should at least have the choice to pay what it costs!
  19. Home cleaning. I would pay more for higher quality work & communication, & for more types of chores. Periodically I’ll do some elaborate recruitment & find a young person who’ll do it, But then they move on. I’d love quality cleaning with high quality communication as a service.
  20. Event recommendation. There shouldn’t be a band I love playing near me without my knowing. Or a guest lecture on Ursula Le Guin. Or the US Open women’s final on TV. What would it take to scrape data sources, and filter for what I’d be interested in?
  21. Political candidate filtering. Which candidates running in my area match my positions most closely? Who should I vote for for county clerk? I should be able to see a loose initial answer that can help me refine my fuller answer — or decide whom to donate to.
  22. Product explanations. Most of the time that I hear about a SaaS product, I can’t tell from the website what it actually is and what it does and whether it’s for me — even just assuming it works well. It should be much, much easier. Maybe this needs to be done by a third party.
  23. Board game instructions. This is a mind-boggling mystery to me: designers clearly spent over 1,000 hours designing and testing a game, but then the instructions read like legalese and are full of unnecessary cruft like cute ways to decide who goes first.
  24. Healthy, convenient meals. There aren’t foods that are ready to eat with a moment’s notice, healthy, tasty, and keep decently. E.g., carrots and hummus, celery and peanut butter, bran flakes and milk, grapefruit. Invent more!
  25. Wardrobe basics. I’ve finally, finally found the underwear I want to wear the rest of my life: Saxx. And the socks: @Stance. I haven’t found the plain t-shirt — the chain Express had ones I love, but now they’re gone. (Don’t say Mack Weldon, which are the most uncomfortable clothes I’ve ever tried on.) Make one brand, make them pricey but 100% reliable, solve this forever.
  26. Vitamins. I’ve spent lots of time, energy and money researching what supplements to take. If you cloned me and the clone spent 100 hours more on research, what would I take? Sell me those as a single pill. @ritual is very close to this.
  27. Finishing school. It used to be that it was somebody’s job to tell people how to conform outwardly. That was problematic! But without that, a lot of people never learn not to, like, pick their nose or be deliberately annoying. How can people get outside perspective, supportively?
  28. XCode. This is simply one of the worst designed, most horribly bug-prone pieces of software in human history. I’m not afraid too do some intricate and exhaustive programming, but I always find myself wrestling with XCode rather than with my actual code. Stop the insanity.
  29. Evernote. I absolutely love the structure of Evernote, and I have my whole life in there. But the apps are an unmitigated disaster. Why are they so so so much worse than the website? I’ve looked into a dozen competitors, and they all have some glaring feature missing or another.
  30. Paywalls. “Want to read this one article? Just agree to pay us literally infinite money for eternity!” is awful. It can’t make sense to refuse to take any amount of money I’m willing to offer to read the article. Can I just pay for what I read?
  31. Broadcast TV. I live near Boston and have a TV with an antenna, and pay > $120/mo for internet and subscription TV service, and can’t figure out any way to watch SNL. That’s quite a failure.