Graduates and Post-Graduates on Food Stamps (Chronicle of Higher Education) — two points for me here: the inherent evil of not paying a living wage; and the pain of market signals that particular occupations and specialisations are not as useful as once they were. I imagine it’s hard to repurpose the specific knowledge in a Masters of Medieval History to some other field, though hopefully the skills of diligent hard work, rapid acquisition of knowledge, and critical thought will apply to new jobs. Expect more of this as we replace human labour with automation. I look forward to the software startup which creates work for people outside the organisation; the ultimate “create more value than you capture”.
Book Marketing Lessons Learned (Sarah Milstein) — I really liked this honest appraisal of how Baratunde Thurston marketed his “How to be Black” book, and am doubly chuffed that it appeared on the O’Reilly Radar blog. I was fascinated by his Street Team, but knew I wanted to bring it to your attention when I read this. Start with your inner circle. I had an epiphany with Gary Vaynerchuk. I asked: “Did I ever ask you to buy my book?” He said, “Yeah, I bought it yesterday.” I talked about his book, but cash on the table — it didn’t happen. He wished he had identified everyone he knows, sending a personal note explaining: “A) buy the book; B) this means a lot to me. You owe me or I will owe you. Here’s some things you can do to help: If you have speaking opportunities, let me know. For instance, I would love to speak at schools.” Make it easy for people who want to help you. Everything else is bonus. If you haven’t already converted the inner circle, you’ve skipped a critical step. “Let the people who already love you show it” is the skill I feel like I’ve spent years working on, and still have years to go.
Sugata Mitra: Beyond The Hole in the Wall (YouTube) — great talk by the education researcher Sugata Mitra whose big kick is self-directed learning. Great stories about the deployments and effects he’s had with technology and supervision rather than teaching, but the end is a real kicker: the core skills we have are literacy, search, and belief. Of the three, the most problematic is belief: when and how do/should we turn something we’ve read into something ingrained, accepted, and built-upon? (via Tara Taylor-Jorgenson)
Interview with Bunnie Huang (Makezine) — fascinating interview with the hardware guy behind the Chumby. It’s all gold, from rapid iteration at early stages of hardware through to the need to simplify. I think one of the most gut-wrenching realizations that small companies have to make is that they aren’t Apple. Apple spends over a billion dollars a year on tooling. An injection molding tool may cost around $40k and 2-3 months to make; Apple is known to build five or six simultaneously and then scrap all but one so they can evaluate multiple design approaches. But for them, tossing $200k in tooling to save 2 months time to market is peanuts. But for a startup that raised a million bucks, it’s unthinkable. Apple also has hundreds of staff; a startup has just a few members to do everything. The precision and refinement of Apple’s products come at an enormous cost that is just out of the reach of startups.
ssh as Chrome Extension — can’t help but feel that building a secure login system on top of web browsers on top of operating systems isn’t going to be more secure than building a secure login system on top of the operating system.
The Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist) — A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation–and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.
Hiring Executives (Ben Horowitz) — I am going to meditate for a while on Consensus decisions about executives almost always sway the process away from strength and towards lack of weakness.
Valve’s Handbook for New Employees (PDF) — Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way. Reminds me of Google, and I wonder how Valve manages politics in an organic hierarchy organization. (via Andy Baio)
Facebook Numbers — On average, Facebook earned $1.21 on each of its users this last quarter. I’d love to be able to pay them $10/yr and have them work for me instead of for [insert best-fit advertiser here].
Peter Thiel’s Class 4 Notes — in perfect competition, marginal revenues equal marginal costs. So high margins for big companies suggest that two or more businesses might be combined: a core monopoly business (search, for Google), and then a bunch of other various efforts (robotic cars, TV, etc.). Cash builds up because it turns out that it doesn’t cost all that much to run the monopoly piece, and it doesn’t make sense to pump it into all the side projects. In a competitive world, you would have to be funding a lot more side projects to stay even. In a monopoly world, you should pour less into side projects, unless politics demand that the cash be spread around. Amazon currently needs to reinvest just 3% of its profits. It has to keep running to stay ahead, but it’s more easy jog than intense sprint. I liked the whole lecture, but this bit really stood out for me.
Kickstarter Disrupting Consumer Electronics (Amanda Peyton) — good point that most people wouldn’t have thought that consumer electronics would lend itself to the same funding system as CDs of a one-act play about artisanal beadwork comic characters. Consumer electronics as a market has been ripe for disruption all along. That said, it’s ridiculously not obvious that disruption would come from the same place that allows an artist with a sharpie, a hotel room and a webcam a way to make the art she wants.
OmniOS — OmniTI’s JEOS. Their team are engineers par excellence, so this promises to be good.
Understanding Amazon’s Ebook Strategy (Charlie Stross) — By foolishly insisting on DRM, and then selling to Amazon on a wholesale basis, the publishers handed Amazon a monopoly on their customers—and thereby empowered a predatory monopsony. So very accurate.
3Difficult — I’m an industrial designer at heart, and I’m saddened by what’s happened to my craft. We were once the kings of things, but for a variety of reasons I think we’re in danger of being left behind. [...] Making became the talk of the town, and to some extent it still is. We’re in the first stumbling days of the Internet of Things, and are increasingly seeing the paper thin definition between digital and tangible falling away.
Air Quotes Product (Matt Webb) — Recently I noted down some places in which traditional products have changed and he goes on to list some critical ways in which networked objects challenge our thinking. I love the little brain/big brain distinction–great to have words for these things at last!
Smarter Cameras Plumb Composition — A new type of smarter camera can take a picture but also assess the chemical composition of the objects being imaged. This enables automated inspection systems to discern details that would be missed by conventional cameras. Interesting how cameras are getting smarter: Kinect as other significant case in point. (via Slashdot)
Not So Open — 3D printing lab at the University of Washington had to stop helping outsiders because of a crazy new IP policy from the university administration. These folks were doing amazing work, developing and sharing recipes for new materials to print with (iced tea, rice flour, and more) (via BoingBoing)
It’s Too Late to Save The Common Web (Robert Scoble) — paraphrased: “Four years ago, I told you all that Google and Facebook were evil. You did nothing, which is why I must now use Google and Facebook.” His list of reasons that Facebook beats the Open Web gives new shallows to the phrase “vanity metrics”. Yes, the open web does not go out of its way to give you an inflated sense of popularity and importance. On the other hand, the things you do put there are in your control and will stay as long as you want them to. But that’s obviously not a killer feature compared to a bottle of Astroglide and an autorefreshing page showing your Klout score and the number of Google+ circles you’re in.
iBooks Author EULA Clarified (MacObserver) — important to note that it doesn’t say you can’t use the content you’ve written, only that you can’t sell .ibook files through anyone but Apple. Less obnoxious than the “we own all your stuff, dude” interpretation, but still a bit crap. I wonder how anticompetitive this will be seen as. Apple’s vertical integration is ripe for Justice Department investigation.
Pirate Bay Launches Physical Object Category — We believe that the next step in copying will be made from digital form into physical form. It will be physical objects. Or as we decided to call them: Physibles. Data objects that are able (and feasible) to become physical. We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years. We at O’Reilly believe this too. (via Annalee Newitz)
Steve Jobs in Early NeXT Days (YouTube) — documentary footage of the early retreats at NeXT, where Jobs talks about plans and priorities. Very interesting to watch this knowing how the story ends. I’m astonished by how well Jobs spoke, even then, and delighted by the glimpses of impatience and dismissiveness. I wonder where the raw footage went. (via The Next Web)
Cotton Candy Prototype — an Android-running computer on a USB stick. Plug it in, use the software on the stick to talk to the onboard OS, and you’re off. The ease of carrying your systems and data with you like this is the only long-term challenge I can see to the convenience of cloud storage of your digital life. For more details see Laptop Mag.
Ford Just Became a Software Company (Information Week) — Ford are shipping memory sticks with software upgrades to the touchscreen computer in their cars. This is the future of manufacturing: your physical products will need software, which will for your business to have software competencies you haven’t begun to dream of. Business opportunity?
Subtext — social bookreading by adding chat, links, etc. to a book. I haven’t tried the implementation yet but I’ve wanted this for years. (Just haven’t wanted to jump into the cesspool of rights negotiations enough to actually build it :-) (via David Eagleman)
Technologies, Potential, and Implications of Additive Manufacturing (PDF) — AM is a group of emerging technologies that create objects from the bottom-up by adding material one cross-sectional layer at a time. [...] Ultimately, AM has the potential to be as disruptive as the personal computer and the internet. The digitization of physical artifacts allows for global sharing and distribution of designed solutions. It enables crowd-sourced design (and individual fabrication) of physical hardware. It lowers the barriers to manufacturing, and allows everyone to become an entrepreneur. (via Bruce Sterling)