- Our Fair Deal — international coalition (EFF, InternetNZ, Demand Progress, Creative Freedom Foundation, many others) raising awareness and petitioning lawmakers to reject copyright proposals that restrict the open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and our fundamental rights. (via Susan Chalmers)
- Welcome to the Programmable World (Wired) — For the Programmable World to reach its full potential, we need to pass through three stages. The first is simply the act of getting more devices onto the network—more sensors, more processors in everyday objects, more wireless hookups to extract data from the processors that already exist. The second is to make those devices rely on one another, coordinating their actions to carry out simple tasks without any human intervention. The third and final stage, once connected things become ubiquitous, is to understand them as a system to be programmed, a bona fide platform that can run software in much the same manner that a computer or smartphone can. (via Sacha Judd)
- Inventables On The Road (YouTube) — new series where the Inventables folks interview their customers to show awesome projects. We’re trying to demystify the process of digital fabrication, give some visibility to people working on interesting things, and have some fun.
- Psychological Pitfalls and Lessons of a Designer Founder (Aza Raskin) — You are a founder, which means each word you say lands like an anvil. Even in a very small company, and especially in a larger one, it takes fortitude and courage for a team member to honestly critique your work. The courage required isn’t a one-time cost. It’s incurred every single time. By nature of being a founder, you are used to saying things with charisma and force and you will undoubtedly be excited by your solution and argue for it. This just makes it worse. A final note: it doesn’t matter how nice you are, or how close you are to your team. As a founder, your words are always more powerful than you think.
Positive Copyright Coalition, Programmable World, Clever Inventors Interviewed, and Weighty Words
China Threat, China Opportunity, Open Source Sustainability, and SQL for Cohort Analysis
- China = 41% of World’s Internet Attack Traffic (Bloomberg) — numbers are from Akamai’s research. Verizon Communications said in a separate report that China accounted for 96 percent of all global espionage cases it investigated. One interpretation is that China is a rogue Internet state, but another is that we need to harden up our systems. (via ZD Net)
- Open Source Cannot Live on Donations Alone — excellent summary of some of the sustainability questions facing open source projects.
- China Startups: The Gold Rush (Steve Blank) — dense fact- and insight-filled piece. Not only is the Chinese ecosystem completely different but also the consumer demographics and user expectations are equally unique. 70% of Chinese Internet users are under 30. Instead of email, they’ve grown up with QQ instant messages. They’re used to using the web and increasingly the mobile web for everything, commerce, communication, games, etc. (They also probably haven’t seen a phone that isn’t mobile.) By the end of 2012, there were 85 million iOS and 160 million Android devices in China. And they were increasing at an aggregate 33 million IOS and Android activations per month.
- Calculating Rolling Cohort Retention with SQL — just what it says. (via Max Lynch)
Massive Security Problems, Hardware Locks, Closed Libraries, and Entrepreneurial Chaos in Detroit
- Information Security Breaches 2013 Report (UK Gov) — over 80% of small UK firms reported a breach, and over 90% of large. (via The Register)
- Google Glass Forbids Resales (Wired) — leaving aside the braying naysayers with their “GLASS WILL DESTROY THE SOCIAL FABRIC AND OUR ESSENTIAL HUMANITY”, there’s a valid point about software being used to control what users do with their devices. Given that this run of Glass is limited edition and they’ve hand-picked to whom they go and for what reason, Ed from Philadelphia is both greedy and naive if he believes Google’s letting him buy a pair to resell on eBay.
- Locked Stacks — As the British Library makes a glacially paced transition from being an analog behemoth to being a digitized one, an opportunity arises to lower the institution’s ivory tower-like walls and to create extensive access to its impressive catalog. The only problems, of course, are a lack of money and the currently insurmountable problem of UK copyright law.
- Young Community Entrepreneurs Rebuilding Detroit (Fast Company) — from information-sharing real estate ventures to transportation startups and doomsday clocks to see how close the city is to bankruptcy, it’s a crazy world out there. Should be easy for them: Detroit comes pre-disrupted.
Hardware is back and makers are driving it. Here are some of the signals.
Chris Anderson wrote Makers and went from editor-in-chief of Wired to CEO of 3D Robotics, making his hobby his side job and then making it his main job.
A new executive at Motorola Mobility, a division of Google, said that Google seeks to “googlify” hardware. By that he meant that devices would be inexpensive, if not free, and that the data created or accessed by them would be open. Motorola wants to build a truly hackable cellphone, one that makers might have ideas about what to do with it.
Regular hardware startup meetups, which started in San Francisco and New York, are now held in Boston, Pittsburgh, Austin, Chicago, Dallas and Detroit. I’m sure there are other American cities. Melbourne, Stockholm and Toronto are also organizing hardware meetups. Hardware entrepreneurs want to find each other and learn from each other.
Hardware-oriented incubators and accelerators are launching on both coasts in America, and in China.
The market for personal 3D printers and 3D printing services has really taken off. 3D printer startups continue to launch, and all of them seem to have trouble keeping up with demand. MakerBot is out raising money. Shapeways raised $30 million in a new round of financing announced this week.
Wikileaks Code, Account Afterlife, Digital in Museums, and Companies and Conferences
- Wikileaks ProjectK Code (Github) — open-sourced map and graph modules behind the Wikileaks code serving Kissinger-era cables. (via Journalism++)
- Plan Your Digital Afterlife With Inactive Account Manager — you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided. (via Chris Heathcote)
- Leo Caillard: Art Games — Caillard’s images show museum patrons interacting with priceless paintings the way someone might browse through slides in a personal iTunes library on a device like an iPhone or MacBook. Playful and thought-provoking. (via Beta Knowledge)
- Lanyrd Pro — helping companies keep track of which events their engineers speak at, so they can avoid duplication and have maximum opportunity to promote it. First paid product from ETecher and Foo Simon Willison’s startup.
- A Quantitative Literary History of 2,958 Nineteenth-Century British Novels: The Semantic Cohort Method (PDF) — This project was simultaneously an experiment in developing quantitative and computational methods for tracing changes in literary language. We wanted to see how far quantifiable features such as word usage could be pushed toward the investigation of literary history. Could we leverage quantitative methods in ways that respect the nuance and complexity we value in the humanities? To this end, we present a second set of results, the techniques and methodological lessons gained in the course of designing and running this project. Even litcrit becoming a data game.
- Easy6502 — get started writing 6502 assembly language. Fun way to get started with low-level coding.
- How Analytics Really Work at a Small Startup (Pete Warden) — The key for us is that we’re using the information we get primarily for decision-making (should we build out feature X?) rather than optimization (how can we improve feature X?). Nice rundown of tools and systems he uses, with plug for KissMetrics.
Living Poetry, Distributed Systems, Hardware Incubator, and Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
- Xenotext — Sci Foo Camper Christian Bök is closer to his goal of “living poetry”: A short stanza enciphered into a string of DNA and injected into an “unkillable” bacterium, Bök’s poem is designed to trigger the micro-organism to create a corresponding protein that, when decoded, is a verse created by the organism. In other words, the harmless bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans (known as an extremophile because of its ability to survive freezing, scorching, or the vacuum of outer space), will be a poetic bug.
- Notes on Distributed Systems for Young Bloods — why distributed systems are different. Coordination is very hard. Avoid coordinating machines wherever possible. This is often described as “horizontal scalability”. The real trick of horizontal scalability is independence – being able to get data to machines such that communication and consensus between those machines is kept to a minimum. Every time two machines have to agree on something, the service is harder to implement. Information has an upper limit to the speed it can travel, and networked communication is flakier than you think, and your idea of what constitutes consensus is probably wrong.
- Lemnos Labs — hardware incubator in SF. (via Jim Stogdill)
- OLPC Built the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer — Neil Stephenson imagined it, OLPC built it. Science fiction is a hugely powerful focusing device for creativity and imagination. (via Matt Jones)
EdTech Startups, 3D Portraits, Interactive Storytelling, and Bizarre Consumer Items
- Ed Startups in a Nutshell (Dan Meyer) — I couldn’t agree with Dan more: The Internet is like a round pipe. Lecture videos and machine-scored exercises are like round pegs. They pass easily from one end of the pipe to the other. But there are square and triangular pegs: student-student and teacher-student relationships, arguments, open problems, performance tasks, projects, modeling, and rich assessments. These pegs, right now, do not flow through that round pipe well at all.
- 3D Printed Portraiture: Past, Present, and Future — impressive collection of 3D scans of museum collections of portraiture. Check out his downloadable design files. (via Bruce Sterling)
- Versu — interactive storytelling, with AI and conversation modeling.
- Weird Things Found on Taobao (NSFW) — this is what I never ow my head. (via Beta Knowledge)
Collapsing Transaction Costs, Scientific Research Reputation, Retro Adventure Ambition, and Where Startups Come From
- When Transaction Costs Collapse — As OECD researchers reported recently, 99.5 per cent of reciprocal access agreements occur informally without written contracts. Paradoxically, as competition becomes more intense or ”perfect”, it becomes indistinguishable from perfect co-operation – a neat trick demonstrated in economists’ models a century ago. Commentary prompted by an OECD report on Internet Traffic Exchange. (via Laurence Millar)
- Faked Research is Endemic in China (New Scientist) — open access promises the unbundling of publishing, quality control, reputation, and recommendation. Reputation systems for science are going to be important: you can’t blacklist an entire country’s researchers. Can you demand reproducibility?
- The Hobbit — ambitious very early game, timely to remember as the movie launches. Literally, no two games of The Hobbit are the same. I can see what Milgrom and the others were striving toward: a truly living, dynamic story where anything can happen and where you have to deal with circumstances as they come, on the fly. It’s a staggeringly ambitious, visionary thing to be attempting.
- How to Get Startup Ideas (Paul Graham) — The essay is full of highly-quotable apothegms like Live in the future, then build what’s missing and The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.”
A few early and broad questions in our exploration of NYC's startup community.
Since the crisis of 2008 New York City’s massive financial sector — the city’s richest economic engine, once seen to have unlimited potential for growth — has languished. In the meantime, attention has turned to its nascent startup sector, home to Foursquare, Tumblr, 10gen, Etsy and Gilt, where VC investment has surged even as it’s been flat in other big U.S. tech centers (PDF).
I’ve started to poke around the tech community here with a view toward eventually publishing a paper on the rise of New York’s startup scene. In my initial conversations, I’ve come up with a few broad questions I’ll focus on, and I’d welcome thoughts from this blog’s legion of smart readers on any of these.
- How many people in New York’s startup community came from finance, and under what conditions did they make the move? In 2003, Google was a five-year-old, privately-held startup and Bear Stearns was an 80-year-old pillar of the financial sector. Five years later, Google was a pillar of the technical economy and among the world’s biggest companies; Bear Stearns had ceased to exist. Bright quantitatively-minded people who might have pursued finance for its stability and lucre now see that sector as unstable and not necessarily lucrative; its advantage over the technology sector in those respects has disappeared. Joining a 10-person startup is very different from taking a job at Google, but the comparative appeal of the two sectors has dramatically shifted.
- To what degree have anchor institutions played a role in the New York startup scene? The relationship between Stanford University and Silicon Valley is well-documented; I’d like to figure out who’s producing steady streams of bright technologists in New York. Google’s Chelsea office, opened in 2006, now employs close to 3,000 people, and its alumni include Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare. That office is now old enough that it can generate a high volume of spin-offs as Googlers look for new challenges. And Columbia and NYU (and soon a Cornell-Technion consortium) have embraced New York’s startup community.