How about reading other people’s emails? Ever wanted to do that, but can’t be bothered to train l33t hacking skills (and never mind the legality of it)? (Okay, this one I have thought about.) Well, I’ve got you covered.
1. Check out the Enron corpus. It contains more than half a million emails from about 150 users, mostly senior management of Enron, organized into folders. Wikipedia calls it “unique in that it is one of the only publicly available mass collections of ‘real’ emails easily available for study.” Business idea: figure out what sort of information gets leaked in the emails that will later harm the execs at trial or whatever, then build a software system to automatically mine those out of real email. Either sell it to law enforcement or to corporate executives as the finest cover-your-ass email system.
2. Wondering what the internet really cares about? Well, I don’t know about that, but you could answer an easier question: What does Reddit care about? Someone has scraped the top 2.5 million Reddit posts and then placed them on GitHub. Now you can figure out (with data!) just how much Redditors love cats. Or how about a data backed equivalent of r/circlejerk? (The original use case was determining what domains are the most popular.)
3. Speaking of cats, here are 10,000 annotated images of cats. This ought to come in handy whenever I get around to training a robot to exterminate all non-cat lifeforms. (Or, if you’re Google, you could just train a cat recognition algorithm and then send those users cat-specific advertising.)