Semi Random links of coolness

Here are some links of coolness I found in an older folder. Amazingly the links are still good and relevant!

First is Electric Sheep (sounds like a Wallace and Gromit invention) software that is used to produce artwork. Electric Sheep is "a cyborg mind composed of 60,000 computers and people mediated by a genetic algorithm".

Second is Bathsheba Sculpture, who makes really impossible sculptures because she can! Impossible in that with out software and high tech manufacturing techniques (3D printing) these sculptures would not be possible.

Third is Rhinoceros, a modeling and design software tool that can be used to make all sorts of things, from buildings to techo art.

These three links are tied together (implicitly) by a proposal titled "Master of Fine Arts in Software" by Richard P. Gabriel, noted computer scientist and lisp expert (he created the Gabriel Benchmarks to compare lisp systems). This proposal is about "... the traditions of Computer Science and Software Engineering have tried to turn all aspects of software creation into a pure engineering discipline when they clearly are not. The MFA in Software would begin to repair this error."

The Rhinoceros, Bathsheba Sculpture, and Electric Sheep links above are sample of what one might learn and accomplish through the study of fine arts in software.

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Make a decision

It is way better to get a "Yes" or a "No" from a client or customer than it is to get a maybe. I personally have been on both sides of this and understand the issue of making a decision and trying to avoid risk.

In my current roll I am helping bring new ways to make information sharable and available via podcasts (SwineCast being an example). This is a "new" way to share stories; "new" in the sense that technology (sharing of content via RSS feeds, time shifted conversations via podcasts) is making it easier to produce a show and share it widely.

So when I heard (I use Audible to listen to books) this bit from Seth Godin's Small is the New Big about getting people to say yes or no, not maybe, I was all behind what he shared. It is better to get a yes or a no than a maybe. Think about those times when you suggested an idea and a "decision" maker said "maybe". Think about those times when you asked someone out and they responded with a "maybe" answer ("I'm busy this week" or "I have a lot of things to do").

Here is the short clip (about 10 min) from Small is the New Big that talks about one of Seth's sales people working to get a senior leader to step forward and make a decision.

So step up, be bold, get out there, make a decision!

Double click Play button below to listen to audio on line.

To download an MP3 version to your desktop, right click on link below and save to your local computer.
Short Seth Godin: "Small is the New Big" audio clip.

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Run with these thoughts

Every once in a while I have these thoughts that are entertaining and interesting.

One of those times occurred this last weekend, when my son was playing with TamTamJam on his OLPC. I got to thinking "why does the ice cream truck play the same same same annoying music as they drive around?" Why couldn't the music be composed by the neighborhood or be pulled from the creative commons world? Let it be entertaining and impressionable! Vote for the music as the truck stops to sell ice cream. This is a great target for an assumption challenge.

The other thought was from an email I was sending to Chris Brogan. I started the note " I hope you are recovering from recent travels." and got think about the word 'recover'. Do you ever 'recover'... How about 'recharge', kind of like an iRobot Roomba, where we seek out our home to plug back into the energy of home, family, comfort food, and the stuff you love to do.

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Life Science Startups, getting people people involved

There is great interest in Indiana on life sciences. Over the last five (or more?) years there have been many local groups formed (Indiana Health Indutries Forum, BioCrossroads, Indiana Biomedical Entrepreneur's Network, Indiana Life Sciences Initiative ) and some VC / grant money (21st Century Fund, Indiana Seed Fund, more...) raised to capitalize on hidden / latent resources and talent within the state's life sciences hot spots.

As part of the next phase in creating life sciences companies in Indiana there are educational resources being applied to help raise awareness and interest in starting companies within the research community. In Indianapolis this means the Indiana University School of Medicine and other schools/departments at IUPUI.

Recently there was a seminar series on IUPUI's campus on starting a life sciences company. Krieg Devault, an Indianapolis law firm, had a panel present information to IUPUI students, staff, and faculty on company legal structures, intellectual property, and venture capital. Good intentions possibly bored to death the audience... Yes, it is important to know about company structure (LLC vs S Corp vs C corp) and intellectual property. But these are dry topics at best and are not really the core of starting a company.

The real core of starting a company is: what is the product, how do I develop it to a product that can sell, who is going to buy it, and how to I find those people interested in buying my product? With out a product idea and an understandting of how to advance that product then corporate structure and patents on research techniques do not a company make.

How to help those really interested? Gather up a few people really interested in taking an idea to market, coach them regularly, give them some cash to get things done, and work through the idea development to product development.

One great model is Y Combinator. Paul Graham formed Y Combinator after selling Viaweb to Yahoo! His goal was to create a whole new, fresh approach to turning ideas into products by investing in small teams with low dollars and bringing great, smart people together for several months in a campus setting to build out multiple ideas. Sure, there was venture capital and legal structures were setup plus intellectual property was created (and protected). But the core of the Y Combinator purpose is to bring people together to percolate and filter out the ideas to usable products.

Can we create idea teams or idea camps that form around possible marketable ideas to prototype, explore, refine, weed out, and advance ideas to real things? What is needed?

  • Space: idea teams need a space to mess around with their ideas and a place to tinker. Nothing big but it needs to be theirs for a few months.

  • Small funds (initially $1,000 to $5,000). Money to help get stupid stuff, things to get ideas moving, prototyping tools, etc. More on money below.

  • Coaches to poke and prod. Cheerleaders to encourage. There is always a need for optimists and idealists. And people that are able to bring out the left turn of an idea.

  • Carrots to pull people out of their shell of research. Indiana is a conservative state when it comes to "risk" and "taking a chance". Y Combinator lives in communities where starting a company on a whim of an idea is normal. Indiana is not that place so there is a need to intice the hesitant.

  • Action and speed. Take idea, prototype it, experiment on product, and get to a decision point (kill or move on) as quick as possible. Not every idea will work and not everyone is cutout to start companies. This needs to be discovered soonest and move on.

Small note on money: Yes, VC money is needed at some point but within a university research environment there is a need for small dollar funding to help move lab research to a possibility of a viable product. Examples include spending small dollars on market research and business plans, product development, mock-ups, prototypes, etc. Not all ideas are suited to being commercial products but there is no need to seek large scale dollars to discover this.

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Personal experience ruins Starbucks card "innovation"

About three weeks ago Starbucks rolled out their "Get more of what you love with a Starbucks Card" campaign. Simple enough: register your Starbucks card and get free syrup and milk for your coffee. Since I tend to get soy mochas this meant saving 40 cents every cup. Easy sell for me.

So I immediately registered my card. That was easy.

But these last several weeks has been a poor experience for me. At every Starbucks since (about 8 to 10 times since registering), I have had to remind the barista about the program. Three times I did it after they rang it up, not realizing that the register card program does not go all the way to Starbucks point of sale system and "know" to not charge me for the soy milk... Each barista was very helpful and refunded the 40 cents, but the process took about 5 min because of the "refund to card" process.

After three times I started to advise the barista that I had a registered card before the sale. This confused several baristas as they did not know about the program. After I showed them the promotional material sitting on my side of the cash register, they had to figure out how to ring up the order then account for the soy milk being "free". This took several minutes and in some cases a manager/team lead had to assist. At least twice the barista gave up on the process, refunded the whole drink, and gave it to me on the house.

This is not an "Ah Ha" innovation but more of an incremental innovation. The design of the card campaign is not that revolutionary. Certainly it will capture more customer loyalty and data about people from the registration. And it offers real value over time to the customer at little cost.

However, this straight forward incremental innovation fails in the experience. I dread having to tell the barista about something they should already know. I feel irked that the technology of the card should already "know" my card is registered and make the transaction invisible. And for the baristas the experience is one of frustration as they try to live up to their mission ("Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.")

Innovation score
  • concept: great
  • design: good
  • execution: so so
  • experience: irk-some

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