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May 18 2012

Four short links: 18 May 2012

  1. Overlapping S-Curves of Various Products (PNG) -- product adoption speed over time. (via Beta Knowledge)
  2. High School Makerspaces Q&A with Dale Dougherty (Radioshack) -- Experimentation is one of the things we’re trying to promote. If you do experiments, a number of them fail and you learn from that failure and say, “Gee, I could have done that differently.” It’s metacognitive skills that we’re trying to develop—a way of thinking, a way of doing that increases your confidence in your own abilities and in your capacity to learn. I’d like students to believe that anybody can do these things, not that only a few people are good at math or only a few people are good at programming. The goal is to reduce the barrier to those subjects and show that anybody can be good at them. (via Tim O'Reilly)
  3. Google Glass Patent: Infrared Rings and Fingernails (The Verge) -- The patent describes a wearable computing device whose interface can be controlled by infrared markers in the form of bracelets, rings, artificial fingernails, or effectively invisible temporary decals. A camera in the glasses would pick up radiation reflected from the marker, giving it a point of reference for user control. (via Chris Arkenberg)
  4. OAuth is Your Future (Flickr) -- design fictions to provoke thought. DHS accessing your Foursquare history? Aie. (via Dan Hon)

March 02 2012

Top stories: February 27-March 2, 2012


Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

The privacy arc
We're at a point in privacy's evolution where sanitized tech solutions are clumsily attempting to introduce (or reintroduce) human connections into our experiences.


Creating Maker-friendly cities

Governments, particularly local governments, need to do more to understand and adapt to what might be called DIY citizenship.


Major TOC theme: Business models to monetize publishing in the digital era
Here we look at monetization in publishing, including subscription/access models, freemium, and ad-based models. See more major themes from TOC '12.

Permission to be horrible and other ways to generate creativity
Author and web design consultant Denise R. Jacobs reveals lessons she learned about creativity while writing her first book. She also discusses her efforts to give women and people of color more visibility in the tech world.

Video keynotes and interviews from Strata CA 2012
The Strata California 2012 video playlist includes keynote addresses and insightful interviews with innovators shaping the data space.


Strata Santa Clara 2012 Complete Video Compilation includes workshops, sessions and keynotes from the 2012 Strata Conference in California. Learn more and order here.

February 27 2012

Creating Maker-friendly cities

Freeside hackerspace in Atlanta
Freeside hackerspace in Atlanta.

In an article in Slate, "What Beer Can Teach Us About Emerging Technologies," Dave Conz writes that many DIY activities can be illegal in some towns:

"Home brewing is part of a broad spectrum of DIY activities including amateur astronomy, backyard biodiesel brewing, experimental architecture, open-source 3-D printing, even urban farming. (My pet chickens Pepper and Fanny eat my spent beer grains and, in turn, feed me breakfast.) Many of these pastimes can lead to new ideas, processes, and apparatus that might not otherwise exist. Depending on your hobby and your town, these activities can be officially encouraged, discouraged, unregulated, or illegal. For example, it's illegal to make biodiesel fuel at home in the city of Phoenix (a simple process in which waste vegetable oil is mixed with methyl alcohol into which lye has been dissolved) but not regulated in the bordering towns of Scottsdale, Chandler, or Tempe (where I make mine). Based on its zoning laws, Phoenix considers the process 'industrial' and therefore prohibited in residential areas while the other cities do not. If making biodiesel were legal and encouraged, the reduction in exhaust emissions and diversion of grease from sewers and landfills could help clean up the 'brown cloud' of smog in the Valley of the Sun.

"We need more sensible policy like the legalization of home brewing beer. It's unlikely that we'll be able to successfully shop and consume our way into the best future, but we can make it brighter by encouraging DIY."

I agree that governments, particularly local governments, need to do more to understand and adapt to what might be called DIY citizenship. Cities need to re-examine their industrial policy and zoning laws, redefining what light-industrial means and relaxing regulations that were meant for the industrial age when production was housed in factories. We need cities to become maker-friendly and welcome makerspaces, foster new maker businesses and support individuals who are now doing things that lawmakers of yesteryear didn't expect them to be doing for themselves. It's re-inventing what you can do in and around a city, even what you can do in your backyard and garage.

One consequence of not getting this right is that a city shuts down a makerspace, which happened in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this year, even as it funds economic development efforts to attract entrepreneurs. Cities should encourage this kind of "homebrew" innovation and inspiration, which is a healthy form of growth.

Studying the emergence of makers and makerspaces in cities would be a great urban planning research project, developing a set of policy guidelines for cities to implement if they want to foster the kind of innovation and social change found in the Maker Movement.

Note: I will be speaking at the FutureTense - Tinkering with Tomorrow event this Wednesday in DC.

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