Monthly Archives: November 2010

when a metaphor finds a new home

Recently I mentioned the idea of metaphor hostility. This case courtesy of BLDG BLOG represents the opposite: the willful suspension of disbelief. 

As it happens, a new street-printing device—unfurling a geological substrate known as Tiger Stone, as orderly and as easy “as laying laminate flooring”—can neatly place brick roads where there weren’t roads before.

Here’s a video of the “printer” in action:

via BLDGBLOG: The Road Printer.

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unintended innovation = open season

Say you have a great idea but no suitable distribution channel, what then? Maybe you should consider a bounty. That is what Howard Harte has done. 

Google TV has been on the market for just over a month in a handful of hardware formats, but Harte is looking for the key to them all, and he says it’s not only for his own benefit, but for the Google TV platform as a whole.

Harte lists the rules of the game on MagicAndroidApps, stating that $1,000 will go to the first person that produces a fully software-based hack of Google TV that results in “the end-user having the ability to install third-party apps.” The hack “must be applicable to production versions of Google TV devices” and delivered before Google “officially unveils third-party App development support for the Google TV.” If the rules weren’t clear enough, Harte emphasized that the reward is not “for *a* rooted Google TV, it’s $1,000 for the knowledge to be able to root any Google TV.”

Harte says that his first goal is to get his app, Better Terminal Emulator Pro, working on Google TV.

“I’d like to get a jump on porting my Android apps to Google TV,” Harte told us. “Unlike many Android apps, most of mine make use of native code, so [they] are dependent on the type of CPU.  I have ported Better Terminal Emulator Pro to the x86 CPU, but have not yet been able to test on an official Google platform, so having an open Google TV will help in that regard.  All other Android devices to date are ARM-based, which is why I want a rooted Google TV.”

via Developer Offers $1,000 for First Google TV Hack –

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not-so-creative destruction

the power of the unreasonable question:

Paul Woolley, a seventy-one-year-old Englishman who has set up an institute at the London School of Economics called the Woolley Centre for the Study of Capital Market Dysfunctionality. “Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry when it’s just a utility, like sewage or gas?” Woolley said to me when I met with him in London. “It is like a cancer that is growing to infinite size, until it takes over the entire body.”

John Cassidy’s New Yorker article asks “What is Wall Street Good For?”. Now that the anger with wall street shenanigans has dimmed it is interesting to see deeper reviews of the financial services industry, and ways we might be more productive – as a utility. 



via Wall Street, investment bankers, and social good : The New Yorker.

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The Myth Of Serendipity

Some changes happen more slowly than others. And perhaps this is why they are harder to cope with or harder to defend yourself from I suppose. 

Henry Nothaft, CMO of Trapit offers this gentle reframing of changes afoot in the businesses that currently surround a search engine. 

Eric Schmidt’s recent remarks about Google as a “Serendipity Engine” (and Facebook’s quick reply), emphasize an important shift in our daily interaction with the Web and how we use it.  Google-driven search provided us with an expectation of finding what we are looking for with increased precision.  But the rise of Facebook’s social relevance algorithms brought about more personalized content discovery based on the human graph—who we know and what they are reading, watching, or passing along.

In fact, I’d argue that we’re seeing the dominant portion of our interaction with Web content shift from search to discovery.

Jeff Jarvis has perhaps most succinctly defined the concept of serendipity, arguing that serendipity is simply “unexpected relevance.”  His explanation opens an entirely new can of worms, however, in the recognition that relevance is relative.

In seeking to achieve serendipity, the individual reader becomes both the target of content delivery mechanisms and the genesis of what that content may be. This is why serendipity is so closely associated with personalization—it requires a high-resolution understanding of the user.

via The Myth Of Serendipity.

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when marginal value yields competitive advantage

Eli Dourado examines why Apple would bother with free engraving and digs up a thought provoking argument for customization. As a larger pattern it is good to remember that that a broader set of tactics are required to protect a lead in the market. 


The real reason Apple offers free engraving is to weaken the secondary market. iP*ds are durable goods. Apple has a monopoly on iP*ds, but it still has to compete with the products of its former self. If people get tired of their iP*ds or decide they want to upgrade to a newer model, they can sell their devices to other consumers, who in turn are not giving their money to Apple. By offering free engraving, Apple makes these used devices less valuable to other consumers. Who wants a weird engraving chosen by the previous owner on his iP*d? The more iP*ds are engraved, the smaller (or at least less valuable) the secondary market is, and the more profitable it is to be the durable-goods monopolist, Apple.

via Why Does Apple Offer Free Engraving? // Eli Dourado.

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the uneducation of Peter Thiel

Education reform is as shopworn as health care reform. Because most consider it only possible from within existing concepts and frameworks. Disappointingly, the outcome of a proposed reform often amounts to some new profit center, for some institution, and a regression back to the mean. If it gets out of the drawing room in the first place. 

Enter Mr. Thiel; his head spinning assesment education is to label it the last great bubble in in the economy. That’s right. Not the technology industry. Not the financial industry, The education industry. His solution is to effectively pay people not to go to school.  Should he succeed with his contrarian experiment, his designs may well tackle youth problems and education with a single act. 

We hope this program will stimulate thinking about what education is. People are racking up enormous amounts of debt in school. If you graduate from a four-year college with a quarter million dollars in student loans, that limits your ability to do all sorts of entrepreneurial things. I’m concerned that it’s bad for technological innovation, because to start new technology ventures, people need to take risks. They often need to do things where they get paid less than they could earn elsewhere, and with enormous amounts of debt that becomes very hard to do.

So you’re saying that education costs too much?

I do think the debt problem is a very big one. The one area where I think there still is a full-fledged bubble is probably education. In one sense it’s even crazier than housing,

via Peter Thiel: Drop Out, Start-Up – BusinessWeek.

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Journalism in the Age of Data | on Vimeo

It has been five years since we saw the lovely work from google, illustrating air traffic around the world and particular airports. It seemed to many then that we data modeled interfaces would be commonplace and provide competitive advantage. Take a closer look at some tension between design factors and tech factors. 

Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?

Watch the full version with annotations and links at

via Journalism in the Age of Data on Vimeo.

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