Stones and String are Snowflakes too!

Fascinating to watch the snowball effect (sorry couldn’t help myself!) of how things are happening around the upcoming introduction of the neat little “Pebble” wrist watch I wrote about last month.

I wrote about how it is an example of the mass personalization of financial models with the super successful funding which the Pebble watch received on Kickstarter.  Today brings this announcement that Pebble and Twine have joined forces to enable the cool Twine device and app to talk to the Pebble watch and alert you to almost any event you want via your wrist.  This video will quickly show you how this works.

Twine for those not familiar with it is a small little box that connects via WiFi to internal and external sensors and sends alerts out via Twitter, Email and the like.  As nicely summarized on their site this lets you :


Listen to your world, talk to the Internet

Want to monitor things and environments remotely without a nerd degree? Maybe you want to get a tweet when your laundry’s done, an email when the basement floods, or a text message when you left the garage door open.

Twine is the simplest way to get the objects in your life texting, tweeting or emailing. Focus on your idea instead of installation or technical stuff. A durable 2.5" square provides WiFi, internal and external sensors, and two AAA batteries that last for months. A simple web app lets you give Twine human-friendly rules — no programming needed.

Yet another great example of how our world is rapidly evolving into one of mass personalization as The Snowflake Effect continues its exponential growth and influence.


Snowflake Effect on Financial Industry set to Double in 2012

Many of you were intrigued by some of my former postings such as Snowflakes Effect Hits Financial Models: Snowflakes funding Snowflakes  about how the Snowflake Effect of mass personalisation is affecting the financial world and in particular with loans and investments.  Some wondered if this was just a few random examples but I think this recent overview on TechCrunch shows that this is already building into a full fledged snowstorm with what they refer to as “crowdfunding” having reached 1.5 Billion dollars already and set to double this year.

The funding of projects by individual snowflakes is another example of both the Snowflake Effect on financial matters such as the example of the “Pebble” watch I wrote about in Snowflake Wrists?.  When I wrote about this Pebble watch that is one of the projects on Kickstarter two weeks ago they had already blown past their $100k goal by raising $2.6 million, as of today (May 8) they are about to pass the 10 million dollar mark!  Kickstarter is “a funding platform for creative projects” and their blog recently had this “Blockbuster Effects” article which highlighted two other projects and answered the questions “Do more projects mean competition for the same dollars?” and “Are these projects stealing backers from other worthy projects?” by showing that in fact these have the opposite effect as both the overall funding and project numbers continue to grow dramatically.  The full and abridged versions of the “Crowdfunding Industry Report” are available at the bottom of the TechCrunch article.

These are but a few examples that confirm what Erik Duval and I have been evangelizing for many years now, that The Snowflake Effect is a profoundly pervasive revolution which is affecting almost all parts of our lives on a global scale.  There are over 7 billion of us snowflakes on the planet and as each one of us takes on the responsibility and control of our lives, love and learning, the results are going to be staggering.

Snowflakes Effect Hits Financial Models: Snowflakes funding Snowflakes

The evidence that the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization is continuing to build at an exponential rate continues to show up just about everywhere I look. One dimension of the Snowflake Effect that has not received a lot of discussion yet is the financial side if the story; how will the mind boggling numbers of personalized solutions needed every day be funded?  What are the new financial and business models going to be in a Snowflake Effected world?  If as I believe more and more of us are going to become designers and producers and creators by making our own “stuff”, and especially if others are asking us to make and share some for them, how will we pay for this?   Well, why not apply the Snowflake Effect to funding itself?

Microtizing Finance, Credit & Loans

In fact this the Snowflake Effect has already hit funding models already and we are seeing more and more examples and growth of these wild new models.  One of the hallmarks of the Snowflake Effect is breaking things down into very small components whether that be each of us as unique individuals or each unique moment in time or small parts that can be reused and reassembled into infinite numbers of unique new assemblies Lego block style.  This same “microtization” trend is increasingly taking hold of financial models and enabling each of us 7 billion plus snowflakes to not only become designers, creators and producers, we are also becoming financers and funders. 

One example you have likely heard of and many of you are already participating in is that of microloans, microfinance and microcredit.  Essentially this is where once snowflake can loan small amounts of money to another snowflake or individual cause.  As is often the case this is not a new idea or invention but what is new is the scale and reach of these models.  Back in 2006 Kevin Kelly posted this good overview of “Micro-Loans Online” which he introduced by saying:

This year the father of micro-finance and founder of the Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in inventing and promoting micro-loans in the developing world. A micro-loan is as little as a few hundred dollars invested into a one-person business with minimal qualifications. That tiny borrowed amount can launch a vegetable stand, repair shop, or bicycle taxi — a living in other words. As each micro-loan is repaid (and most are), the effects of that small goodness are amplified and leveraged by being loaned out and invested again and again. Micro-loans are the world’s only perpetual motion machines.

Snowflake Effect Hits in Financial Models in Developed Regions

Most of these micro loans and micro financing have been focused on dealing with poverty and developing regions and they continue to escalate in both numbers and positive effects.  Somewhat newer and greatly increasing the scope of this Snowflaking of financing is their application to the financing of individuals and small businesses in developed regions and markets.  One of the more noteworthy examples is Kickstarter  which has the tag line of “A new way to Fund & Follow Creativity” and bills itself as being “The world’s largest funding platform for creative projects”.  The model is essentially the same where anyone can pledge any amount, typically one to one hundred dollars, towards a specific project that someone has proposed on the site.  As they point out this is not about lending or investing as each project creator maintains complete control and ownership of their work.  Those who pledge money are also protected because no money changes hands unless the project reaches its funding goal within a set time.

You can check out the Kickstarter web site and Kickstarter blog for more information and examples of the enormous range of ideas, products and services being developed which include everything from software applications to games to art to books to home hardware.

How well is this working?  Well Kickstarter recently had a record setting day with two projects exceeding $1M each in pledges and $1.6M being pledged in 24 hours.  All this from individual snowflakes like you and me.  In fact they had quite the day as they also saw New York’s city council endorse the site as a way to highlight community projects that need funding

It was also noteworthy to me how different the two projects were that exceeded the $1M in pledges.  The TechCrunch review of this eventful day highlighted this nicely:

Often Kickstarter is thought of as a venue for people with very limited means but a good idea to execute that idea. The Elevate Dock is a good example of this.

But Double Fine is an established game studio with office space, employees, and many products under its belt? Why should it go to Kickstarter? Well, Tim Schafer explains that in the video, at least for this project: no publisher would go near a point and click adventure game, but they knew at least some people wanted it. Reasonable enough.

The question, really, is why we even question it. If people want to make something, and people want to fund it, why shouldn’t it be on Kickstarter? The easy stuff — cool accessories or small devices that need a little capital to get started — are just the first wave. Why not pothole repair on a neighbourhood street? Why not a new coffee shop? Why not a feature film? Some of these have been tried, no doubt, and perhaps failed — but the principle is sound:

If you want to make it, and others want you to make it, this is a way for you to connect.

Why not indeed!!  What if the impossible isn’t?

Snowflake Effects on Learning

As you can see then, the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization continues its exponential growth and influence on almost all aspects of our world.  For those of us who look at the world from the perspective of learning, my ongoing question and fascination is with how the needs for each of us as individuals and as societies are changing and being changed by the Snowflake Effect.  The personalization of learning itself such that each learning moment is more successfully and deeply personalized is happening at an equally exponential rate with more examples of this showing up every day.  However an even larger and multiplying effect is the need for a whole new set of skills, knowledge and competencies each of us snowflakes are going to require to survive and thrive in the rapidly evolving new snowflaked world we are creating and will live and learn in.

I fully realize that this all continues to sound unimaginably large and impossible.  And yet as the examples of financial models I’ve highlighted above show, we are surrounded daily by more and more examples of how the impossible isn’t.  The oxymoron of typical Snowflake Effect models that are infinitely scalable AND sustainable turns out to be true!  Or as Kevin Kelly put it; “Micro-loans are the world’s only perpetual motion machines.” 

Add enough snowflakes together with these kinds of models and you have a perpetuating avalanche of invention, discovery, creativity, production and happiness.

Getting to “just right” getting closer

A recent posting on TechCrunch “Check-Ins, Geo-Fences, And The Future Of Privacy” had a good summary of the balancing act between privacy and geo-location and worth a quick read.  The addition location related information is a key component to the critical addition of context required by the the Snowflake Effect principal of getting things “just right” as in just the right stuff to just the right person at just the right time on just the right device in just the right way.  However there is, and likely always will be, the need to keep this location based information in context itself so that your location information is being used when you want it, with whom you want it and where it will add value.  And it can’t require too much explicit input or action on our part as we simply won’t remember and won’t take the time and trouble to do so all the time which severely reduced the value for us and others.  So we need all the help we can get to help us make smart decisions and do so as automatically as possible yet all the while maintaining the various levels of control each of us will want, which in itself is a context based “it depends” type decision that is constantly changing.

And we are getting more and more help with all these decisions from many sources and each of us have an growing army of support in the form of other people and all their input as well as devices that are finally beginning to gain some “smarts” and be able to do more than what we explicitly tell them to do.

It was therefore most interesting to me to read the comment:

As apps and mobile devices become more geo-aware, a balance will need to be struck between the over-sharing creepiness of constant location broadcasting in the background and the annoyance of the constant check-in chore. On Tuesday, at our Disrupt conference, Facebook’s VP of Product Chris Cox described a future where phones are “contextually aware” so that they can “check into flights, find deals at grocery stores,” and do other things for us at that right place, at the right time. “These things take a bunch of clicks now—it’s all wasting time,” he said. “The phone should know what we want.”

And in other location related news:

Latitude’s New Dashboard View Is Exactly What Passive Location Needs

Tweetdeck Adds Location Column, Integrates Foursquare

Friends Around Me IPhone/iPad App Lets You Interact With Friends Or Strangers, Just Like They Were Really There

Context and contextual awareness IS the next great frontier when it comes to technology advancements and the continued exponential rate the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization is increasing.


Pandora still out of the box?

My first and still favorite music recommender system, Pandora has been struggling to survive and has had several near death experiences over the past 10 years.  So I’ve been delighted to see a flurry of reports in the past few weeks about how things have recently changed for the better for Pandora. See the list at the end of this post for several of these recent reports.  Perhaps what I found even more valuable was the larger lessons which emerge from the Pandora story such as how to survive by being agile and adaptive and how perseverance, both on the part of both the founder and CEO Tim Wetergren and all the many employees who stayed with him through the troubled times and in many cases going years without paychecks, really does win out.

Pandora was one of the first tangible examples Erik Duval and I seized upon and used when showing others what The Snowflake Effect looked like and proof that it was possible.  Pandora truly lived up to its mythical name and let the Snowflake Effect genie out of the box for good for Erik and I. 

While I continue to watch and experiment with many other music recommender systems such as, Slacker, and Spotify, I’ve always found that Pandora does the best job of helping me find just the right songs at just the right time, which is at the heart of the premise and the promise of the mass customization and personalization of The Snowflake Effect.  Others prefer to find music based on the tastes of others by adding and mining data from social networks to their tools, but for me I’m looking for music that matches my tastes, moods and context and Pandora, with its Music Genome Project database containing intricate details of each song, seems to do do this best.
*  See “The Song Decoders” NYT article for an interesting insight into the people doing this work.

Music is but one of the almost infinite areas where we are seeing the transformation from a culture of mass production to one of mass customization and personalization.  Experiencing the difference between finding songs and artists via a service such as Pandora compared to something like Top 40 radio is one of the most compelling ways of seeing this transformation which will help you see just how powerful and how real this transformation is and will be.  We are already seeing similar examples of how we can have similar “decision support” in finding the best books to read, sites to visit, people to talk to.

If music recommender systems are new to you or it has been a while since you have tried them, I’d encourage you to check them out and see if they don’t help you find just the right songs, just for you, and in doing so give you a glimpse of the Snowflake Effect future before us.


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The Google Society and the Snowflake Effect for Wise Old Men

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to talk to the emeriti forum of my university.

(If you don’t know, ’emeritus’ is a sort of sophisticated word for … I guess ‘retired’ – but with more of an emphasis on the fact that you have to earn that title through a distinguished career. I think we should use that kind of words more often!)

This was a distinct pleasure indeed, because I rarely get the opportunity to talk to folks in my own university and the audience consisted mainly of Wise Old Men – not surprisingly, there were very few women… Almost all of my talks at the university are to students less than half my age, so it was kind of refreshing to be myself only half the age of many in the audience ;-)!

Moreover, the event was very well organized: we had two preparation meetings to discuss the goals of the event; a nice lunch was organized to continue the discussion – and I much appreciated the two bottles of wine to take home, including one of my favorite ones (a Chilean Carmenere, if you’re interested)!

The event focused on the ‘google society’. As the slides hopefully illustrate, I talked about abundance as one of the core characteristics of the google society, the difficulties that leads to in terms of choice and how the Snowflake Effect can help to address that problem.

The second speaker focused more on ethical aspects. One of the topics he touched upon is how we have come to (mis-)understand privacy as secrecy, not unlike the way the Victorians dealt with sexuality: a theme that I’d like to read more about…

The audience asked some really good questions, about how for instance the legal system can deal with the google society – we used to rely on the law in order to control the balance of power, but it is quite unclear how that system can be deployed in a high-tech world.

Another good question challenged the notion of ‘knowledge as raw materials’ that is often present in much of the EU documents. Maybe we should talk more about information in this context, and remember the difference between information, knowledge and wisdom!

Yet another question related to how technology can be both employed to control individuals as well as to empower them. How do we make sure the benefit of empowerment outweighs the danger of control?

Maybe the only question I felt less impressed by was the one about Internet addiction: I replied, quite sincerely, that my parents were quite concerned when I was about sixteen that I was addicted too … to books!

Still – these were not just old men, they were pretty wise! And, on a deeper level, I much enjoyed the continued passion they showed for the Bigger Questions. In the conversations afterwards, it was very clear that they were as energetic and eager to discuss research questions as I have ever been – in fact more so than some of my junior colleagues!

I have only the deepest respect and gratitude for having been allowed to spend some time in their company! But I do hope there will be more Wise Old Women by the time I retire…

(Originally at Erik’s blog…)

Snowflaking the Cloud

Dumping my laptop for…a server?

February 1st, 2010

Posted by Christopher Dawson @ 2:15 am

Essentially, I’ve been saving for a high-end laptop/desktop replacement that could handle virtualization, lots of storage, video editing, you name it. My MacBook just isn’t cutting it anymore. So what does that have to do with the iPad, or any other tablet for that matter?  An idea I’d first discussed with fellow ZDNet blogger, Jason Perlow: “The Screen.” and everything the iPad represents means that lugging around one of those slick Core i7 laptops I’ve been eying up is probably a recipe for obsolescence….

Here is an interesting post from Christopher Dawson who also has

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Mass Production Is Back! It’s Called Peer Production

One of the better blogs I follow is the ZDNet "Enterprise Web 2.0" by Dion Hinchcliffe, and his recent posting “What will power next-generation businesses?,” notes the critical role that peer production will play in next-generation businesses. According to Dion:

"This is a new Internet-powered business landscape. Self-organizing peer production is the motive force and network effects are the new market share.

“Peer production as the most efficient and richest source of value creation. Centralized production has value but it’s greatly limited when you can tap into the vast capabilities of the global network for mutual benefit. The network will always greatly outnumber your resources. The problem is that traditional means of enlisting contribution (employment) won’t work, something new will be required.”

After reading his posting, it struck me that in many ways this is essentially the information age replacement for mass production. It also qualifies well for my list of questions in my OCOT entry "What if the Impossible Isn’t?", and of course this all lies at the heart of my conviction that The Snowflake Effect is well on its way. 

I previously pointed out another good entry Dion wrote "Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy" and his most recent post (Dec.21, 2009) provides a great summary of his "ZDNet’s Enterprise Web 2.0: The top 10 posts of 2009"

They are both well worth reading!


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Printing Organs on Demand

This posting on easily makes it onto my "What if the Impossible Isn’t?" list!!

3D Bio-Printer: Printing Organs on Demand

December 21, 2009 Medical Issues, Technology No Comments

3D Bio-Printer in Action

An engineering firm has developed a 3D bio-printer that could one day be used to create organs on demand for organ replacement surgery. The device is already capable of growing arteries and its creators say that arteries “printed” by the device could be used in heart bypass surgery in as little as five years. Meanwhile, more complex organs such as hearts, and teeth and bone should be possible within ten years.

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Snowflake Sunglasses?

 Snap and Search (No Words Needed)

By MIGUEL HELFT   New York Times, Published: Dec. 19, 2009

A phone using the Google Goggles application snaps a picture of the London Eye, left, and gets results at right.

Andrew Winning/Reuters

THE world, like the World Wide Web before it, is about to be hyperlinked. Soon, you may be able to find information about almost any physical object with the click of a smartphone.  Vic Gundotra, a Google vice president, says the goal is “to recognize every image.”

This vision, once the stuff of science fiction, took a significant step forward this month when Google unveiled a smartphone application called Goggles. It allows users to search the Web, not by typing or by speaking keywords, but by snapping an image with a cellphone and feeding it into Google’s search engine.

How tall is that mountain on the horizon? Snap and get the answer. Who is the artist behind this painting? Snap and find out. What about that stadium in front of you? Snap and see a schedule of future games there.

Goggles, in essence, offers the promise to bridge the gap between the physical world and the Web.

Yet another good example for the "What If the Impossible Isn’t" list.  This new tool from Google called "Goggles" (say that 5 times quickly!) let’s you find information about anything you can see by simply pointing your camera (phone) at it.  The name Goggles seems very appropriate to me as this literally provides a new lens through which we can see and learn so much more about the "real" or physical world of bits around us. 

Fast forward a few more months/years and I can see (sorry couldn’t help it) us having this capability embedded into our "regular" eye glasses and then perhaps as a set of contact lenses or embedded lenses in our eyes such that we would be able to see any and all relevant information layered on top of anything (or anyone) we are looking at.

In the future, instead of wearing sunglasses to protect us from the glare of the sun, we’ll all be wearing a pair of "information glasses" to protect us from the overwhelming glare of information and filter in just what is relevant for us?  The perfect pair of "just right" Snowflake sunglasses that give us just the right information at just the right time, in just the right place, and so on.

In essence Goggles is also yet another form of  Augmented Reality or AR where additional information is layered on top of the real reality, hence augmented reality.  Though it has been envisioned and worked on for decades, AR is seeing a tremendous increase in attention and hype this past year, but also some very real here and now applications.  Watch for another post soon on more of these examples of Augmented Reality.

In addition to the fact that this is yet another example for my theme of "What if the Impossible Isn’t?" and the premature arrival of the future because it is already available NOW, the most exciting thing for me about these recent AR advancements is the degree to which they help me satisfy some of my infinite curiosity of the world around me.  I wander and wonder a lot, so now as I look at something and wonder “What is that called?” or “When/where was that made?” or “How tall is that?”, I can see some of the factual answers to such questions my just looking at them through these AR lenses.  I don’t have a good head for remembering facts and figures and most other details to say nothing of the great amount of things I see which are completely new to me and I know nothing about.  So having ready and immediate access to this information enables me to put my little brain to work at wondering and pondering some of the other bigger questions.  And of course all of this adds more rocket fuel to propel me faster and further along the exciting exponential path of learning where the more you learn the more questions you have.

I’ve been observing for many years now that we’ve essentially spent the better part of the past millennia working on augmenting our physical capabilities and limitations with the likes of machines and technology, and that we are now beginning what I’m sure will be the next millennia working on augmenting our cognitive capabilities/limitations.  While but a baby step perhaps, the recent increase in AR apps such as Goggles is certainly a way I intend on augmenting my reality and my cognitive capabilities and limitations.

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