- Design Like Nobody’s Patenting Anything (Wired) — profile of Maker favourites Sparkfun. Instead of relying on patents for protection, the team prefers to outrace other entrants in the field. “The open source model just forces us to innovate,” says Boudreaux. “When we release something, we’ve got to be thinking about the next rev. We’re doing engineering and innovating and it’s what we wanna be doing and what we do well.”
- Agree to Agree — why I respect my friend David Wheeler: his Design Scene app, which features daily design inspiration, obtains prior written permission to feature the sites because doing so is not only making things legally crystal clear, but also makes his intentions clear to the sites he’s linking to. He’s shared the simple license they request.
- The Coming Fight Between Druids and Engineers (The Edge) — We live in a time when the loneliest place in any debate is the middle, and the argument over technology’s role in our future is no exception. The relentless onslaught of novelties technological and otherwise is tilting individuals and institutions alike towards becoming Engineers or Druids. It is a pressure we must resist, for to be either a Druid or an Engineer is to be a fool. Druids can’t revive the past, and Engineers cannot build technologies that do not carry hidden trouble. (via Beta Knowledge)
- Reimagining Math Textbooks (Dan Meyer) — love this outline of how a textbook could meaningfully interact with students, rather than being recorded lectures or PDF versions of cyclostyled notes and multichoice tests. Rather than using a generic example to illustrate a mathematical concept, we use the example you created. We talk about its perimeter. We talk about its area. The diagrams in the margins change. The text in the textbook changes. Check it out — they actually built it!
The 3Doodler is tapping a new market: People who want a 3D printer but can't afford one.
The 3Doodler is a 3D printer, but it’s a pen. This takes 3D printing and turns it on its head.
In fact the 3Doodler rejects quite a lot of what most people would consider necessary for it to be called a 3D printer. There is no three-axis control. There is no software. You can’t download a design and print an object. It strips 3D printing back to basics.
What there is, what it allows you to do, is make things. This is the history of printing going in reverse. It’s as if Gutenberg’s press was invented first, and then somebody came along afterwards and invented the fountain pen. Read more…
Open Pushing Innovation, Clear Intentions, Druids vs Engineers, and Reimagined Textbooks
Vanishing Landlines, Factory Help, Spectral Analyzer, and the State of the World
- Wireless Substitution (BoingBoing, CDC) — very nice graph showing the decline in landlines/growth in wireless.
- Maker’s Row — Our mission is to make the manufacturing process simple to understand and easy to access. From large corporations to first time designers, we are providing unparalleled access to industry-specific factories and suppliers across the United States.
- mySight (GitHub) — myspectral.com Spectruino analyzer for light spectra in UV/VIS/NIR.
- State of the World (Bruce Sterling, John Lebkowsky) — always a delight. Come 2013, I think it’s time for people in and around the “music industry” to stop blaming themselves, and thinking their situation is somehow special. Whatever happens to musicians will eventually happen to everybody. Nobody was or is really much better at “digital transition” than musicians were and are. If you’re superb at digitalization, that’s no great solution either. You just have to auto-disrupt and re-invent yourself over and over and over again.
Kenyan Entrepreneur, Spooky Open Source, Typing Tutor, and Hacker's Bagpipes
- Kenyan Women Create Their Own Geek Culture (NPR) — Oguya started spending some Saturday mornings with Colaco and other women, snipping code and poring through hacker cookbooks. These informal gatherings became the Akirachix. Oguya graduated and turned her mobile phone idea into a company called M-Farm. At 25 years old, she now has a staff of 18. And 7,000 African farmers use her app.
- Ozone Widget Framework (Github) — open source webapp integrator. The Ozone Widget Framework is released to the public as Open Source Software, because it’s the Right Thing To Do. Also, it was required by Section 924 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Spook-made, citizen played.
- gtypist — open source universal typing tutor. You can learn correct typing and improve your skills by practising its exercises on a regular basis.
- Open Source Hardware Bagpipes — to practice your fingerings without actually killing the neighbours. (via Hacked Gadgets)
3Scan is building an Internet-connected 3D microscope as a service
I don’t remember when I first met Todd Huffman, but for the longest time I seemed to run into him in all kinds of odd places, but mostly in airport waiting areas as our nomadic paths intersected randomly and with surprising frequency. We don’t run into each other in airports anymore because Todd has settled in San Francisco to build 3Scan, his startup at the nexus of professional maker, science as a service, and the industrial Internet. My colleague Jon Bruner has been talking to airlines, automobile manufacturers, and railroads to get their industrial Internet stories. I recently caught up with Todd to see what the industrial Internet looks like from the perspective of an innovative startup.
First off, I’m sure he wouldn’t use the words “industrial Internet” to describe what he and his team are doing, and it might be a little bit of a stretch to categorize 3Scan that way. But I think they are an exemplar of many of the core principles of the meme and it’s interesting to think about them in that frame. They are building a device that produces massive amounts of data; a platform to support its complex analysis, distribution, and interoperation; and APIs to observe its operation and remotely control it.
Do a Google image search for “pathologist” and you’ll find lots and lots of pictures of people in white lab coats sitting in front of microscopes. This is a field whose primary user interface hasn’t changed in 200 years. This is equally true for a wide range of scientific research. 3Scan is setting out to change that by simplifying the researcher’s life while making 3D visualization and numerical analysis of the features of whole tissue samples readily available. Read more…
Industrial Control System Security, Geographic Pricing, Hacker Scouting, pressureNET Visualization
- Improving the Security Posture of Industrial Control Systems (NSA) — common-sense that owners of ICS should already be doing, but which (because it comes from the NSA) hopefully they’ll listen to. See also Wired article on NSA targeting domestic SCADA systems.
- Geographic Pricing Online (Wall Street) — Staples, Discover Financial Services, Rosetta Stone, and Home Depot offer discounts if you’re close to a competitor, higher prices otherwise. [U]sing geography as a pricing tool can also reinforce patterns that e-commerce had promised to erase: prices that are higher in areas with less competition, including rural or poor areas. It diminishes the Internet’s role as an equalizer.
- Hacker Scouting (NPR) — teaching kids to be safe and competent in the world of technology, just as traditional scouting teaches them to be safe and competent in the world of nature.
- pressureNET Data Visualization — open source barometric data-gathering software which runs on Android devices. Source is on GitHub.
Regular Expressions, Mobile Diversions, UX Pitfalls, and DIY Keyboarding
- RE2: A Principled Approach to Regular Expressions — a regular expression engine without backtracking, so without the potential for exponential pathological runtimes.
- Mobile is Entertainment (Luke Wroblewski) — 79% of mobile app time is spent on fun, even as desktop web use is declining.
- Five UX Research Pitfalls (Elaine Wherry) — I live this every day: Sometimes someone will propose an idea that doesn’t seem to make sense. While your initial reaction may be to be defensive or to point out the flaws in the proposed A/B study, you should consider that your buddy is responding to something outside your view and that you don’t have all of the data.
- Building a Keyboard: Part 1 (Jesse Vincent) — and Part 2 and general musings on the topic of keyboards. Jesse built his own. Yeah, he’s that badass.
A portrait of a design contest and what it says about the future of co-creation.
I had decided to update the branding at one of my companies, and that meant re-thinking my logo.
Here’s the old logo:
When it was all done, I had been enveloped by an epic wave of 200 designs from 38 different designers.
It was a flash mob, a virtual meetup constructed for the express purpose of creating a new logo. The system itself was relatively lean, providing just enough “framing” to facilitate rapid iteration, where lots of derivative ideas could be presented, shaped and then re-shaped again.
The bottom line is that based on the primary goal of designing a new logo, I can say without hesitation that the model works.
Not only did the end product manifest as I hoped it would (see below), but the goodness of real-time engagement was intensely stimulating and richly illuminating. At one point, I was maintaining 10 separate conversations with designers spread across the Americas, Asia and Europe. Talk about parallelizing the creative process.
In the end, the project yielded eight worthy logo designs and not one but two contest winners! It was the creative equivalent of a Chakra experience: cathartic, artistic and outcome-driven at the same time.
Tired of waiting, hackers and billionaires alike are building the future they want to see.
We may be living in the future, but it hasn’t entirely worked out how we were promised. I remember the predictions clearly: the 21st century was supposed to be full of self-driving cars, personal communicators, replicators and private space ships.
Except, of course, all that has come true. Google just got the first license to drive their cars entirely autonomously on public highways. Apple came along with the iPhone and changed everything. Three-dimensional printers have come out of the laboratories and into the home. And in a few short years, and from a standing start, Elon Musk and SpaceX has achieved what might otherwise have been thought impossible: late last year, SpaceX launched a spacecraft and returned it to Earth safely. Then they launched another, successfully docked it with the International Space Station, and then again returned it to Earth.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule is grappled and berthed to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 12:02 p.m. EDT, May 25, 2012. Credit: NASA/SpaceX
Right now there is a generation of high-tech tinkerers breaking the seals on proprietary technology and prototyping new ideas, which is leading to a rapid growth in innovation. The members of this generation, who are building open hardware instead of writing open software, seem to have come out of nowhere. Except, of course, they haven’t. Promised a future they couldn’t have, they’ve started to build it. The only difference between them and Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Steve Jobs is that those guys got to build bigger toys than the rest of us.
The dotcom billionaires are regular geeks just like us. They might be the best of us, or sometimes just the luckiest, but they grew up with the same dreams, and they’ve finally given up waiting for governments to build the future they were promised when they were kids. They’re going to build it for themselves.
The Hardware Innovation Workshop will be held May 15-16.
We're announcing the Hardware Innovation Workshop, a new business conference being held during the week of Maker Faire.