Archive for the ‘SnowFlake Effect’ Category

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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Rethinking maps, photos and search

MS Adds much more than Bling to Bing Maps

I continue to be impressed by all the great work coming out of Microsoft Research the past year or more and this presentation by Blaise Aguera y Arcas shows some of the most recent examples.  They are certainly providing great answers to my constant asking of “What if the Impossible Isn’t?”

I picked up on Blaise and the work he and his crew were doing over a year ago, initially with their creation of the Seadragon technology which they brought with them when they joined MS research and used it to create Photosynth which continues to amaze and impress me as well.

It seems like much of their research is centered around visual computing and interfaces and in my post a few days ago “Seeing is Believing 2.0?” I mentioned two other MS Research projects in this area, Pivot and SecondLight.  Today this presentation by Blaise is online from the TED 2010 conference where he shows how they are integrating a lot of technology including Flickr, Seadragon and Photosynth along with some Augmented Reality into Bing maps to enable some amazing new capabilities and possibilities.

Watch the video and I think you too will be impressed not only at the technology but with the new level of functionality and value these mashups are driving into maps.  It is really the whole area of using location as the grounding context for a huge array of other information and uses.

The New Frontier?  Going Inside

In one of my original postings on Photosynth I suggested/hoped that what we would see next was an ability a bit like a “cosmic zoom” * where we could zoom either up or down almost infinitely.  Up into the cosmos of space and down onto not only the street but inside of buildings and then below into the sea. 

* If you’ve never seen Cosmic Zoom, or it has been a while since you watched this 1968 video/animation from the National Film Board of Canada, I’ve embedded it at the bottom so you can treat yourself.

As usual change is occurring exponentially so it looks like Microsoft already has my wish!  As you’ve hopefully just seen in the video above Bing maps now provide an inside view capability where we can go from the outside street views into the inside of buildings.  They gain this in part by having dedicated “backpack cams” which can be taken inside public buildings and places to provide detailed inside views.  But my real excitement is about the ability to “go inside” via all the geo tagged photos from “the rest of us” that are posted to Flickr.  This is where the power of Photosynth really shows some promise to me as it stitches together any number of photos by aligning them in 3D space such that we end up with a highly integrated patchwork of all these interrelated photos.  This scales extremely well when you think of how many photos there are in Flickr (5,384 posted in the last MINUTE, 2.2 million geotagged the past month) and the Seadragon technology allows this to all happen extremely fast and with no apparent slowdown no matter how images are involved.  You’ll also see in the demo how they are able to add in video including a live feed that is similarly aligned within the maps and photos.  Imagine when (surely not if) there is the ability to similarly include all the videos up on the web and not “just” photos.

Look Up!

As if this wasn’t all more than enough to continue my fascination, it looks like they are also addressing my cosmic zoom up wish as well.  At the very end of the video Blaise was out of time but managed to demo an upcoming integration of Worldwide Telescope into Bing maps.  I what i thought was a very intuitive implementation you can simply look up into the sky to start seeing the imagery and data of the night sky from wherever you are standing (on the map). 

Location as Context

As I mentioned at the beginning I think we need to start thinking less about these as “maps” or at least redefine what maps are as we evolve more ways to use location as a central form of context within which we work with an view data, especially visual data.  Time is another bit of context and while it is not shown in the video above, because all the photos and imagery is time stamped you can go back and forth in time as well to see what things looked like in the past and then by adding layers on top, Augmented Reality, we can also see future scenarios such as buildings and reconstruction for example.  Blaise mentioned in the early part of his demo that they have found examples where Photosynth has included some very old photos and by setting the time back they are able to see the streets of Seatlle with horses and carriages. 

Rethinking & Redefining

So as you are thinking about all these new capabilities start to think how this is all part of fundamentally redefining or notion of maps and more so of search, (think spatial) and how we are quickly transfoming from consumer to creators.  These and other changes are also tranforming how we find, discover and learn just the right people, things, locations at just the right time.

PS.  FWIW, keep your eyes on both what’s coming out of MS Research as well as what lies ahead for the increased amount of collaboration between Microsoft, Yahoo, Flickr and Facebook.

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The Promise of a Personal Assistant is growing

I’ve long lamented the fact that for all the computing power we have at our avail, and in spite of it growing exponentially, it still seems that it is all quite “dumb” in terms of not knowing much about me, my situation, my habits, etc.  I wrote about this back in the 90’s that it was like having an assistant with no memory and no learning ability.  You had to teach them, each time, how to do everything you wanted them to do,  But it seemed inevitable that in the future we would see this change as computers and applications got smarter.  We’ve seen some progress in the years since but it has been mostly on that initial low and flat feeling part of exponential change and I think we are just about to hit the inflection or tipping point in this area. 

One indicator is the recent announcement below from Siri of their voice based assistant app.  It shows much promise and will help you see the distinction between mere voice recognition and voice based assistance. The assistance part comes when the app is able to not just recognize what you said but to interpret it and take actions as a result.  For example it hear you say “I’d like a table for two at Il Fornaio tomorrow night at 7.” and it will do everything from finding the closest Il Fornaio restaurant, display driving directions on a map and book the reservation for two.  There is still much work to be done to make this more ubiquitous and find ways of hooking into many other services, but it is a significant step towards true smart assistance that we all need and I’m optimistic that the exponential curve of the Snowflake Effect of mass customization and personalization continues to shoot every upward.

Siri Launches Voice-Powered iPhone ‘Assistant’

A new app invites you to command your iPhone in the same way that Captain Kirk addressed the Enterprise’s computer.

Siri's visual interface displays a transcription of what you say, then hands the data off to an appropriate web service or search engine.

Siri’s visual interface displays a transcription of what you say, then hands the data off to an appropriate web service or search engine.

Siri, an artificial intelligence-based voice-recognition startup, launched an iPhone app incorporating its technology on Friday. With the app running, you can address requests to your phone verbally, asking it things like, “Will it rain today?” or “Where is a good place for pizza nearby?” and “I’d like a table for two at Il Fornaio tomorrow night at 7.” The Siri app parses the sound, interprets the request, and hands it off to an appropriate web service, such as OpenTable, Yelp, CitySearch, and so on. It displays the results onscreen as it goes, giving you a chance to correct or adjust your request via onscreen taps.

It’s the most sophisticated voice recognition to appear on a smartphone yet. While Google’s Nexus One offers voice transcription capabilities — so you can speak to enter text into a web form, for instance — the Nexus One doesn’t actually interpret what you’re saying.

Read More

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Snowflake Mirrors?

Japanese augmented reality mirror lets you try on makeup virtually

Japanese augmented reality mirror lets you try on makeup virtually

Now I’m no expert in the ways of makeup, but I can see how it could be an expensive and frustrating exercise to try something new only to discover it looks terrible once you’ve gotten home. If only there was a way to try it out before you buy!

Well, the Digital Cosmetic Mirror at the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo lets you do just that. It’s got a camera on the front that scans your face. It then gives you personal recommendations and lets you put makeup on this virtual version of you. When you’re satisfied, you can buy the real makeup and put it on your real face, confident in the fact that it’ll look good. Finally!

See What if the Impossible Isn’t? in action

I believe it is now clear that the rate of most change is exponential and this certainly includes how technology is almost always on dual exponential curves of decreasing price and increasing performance.  We can therefore often see the future quite literally by looking towards the high end of the market where new products and technology are typically introduced.  Think for example of how much sooner we could have seen, especially when illuminated by the brilliance of hindsight, the coming of telephones, personal computers, mobile phones and most other innovations by looking at the first versions when they were introduced as very high priced products, with limited functionality and for limited markets. 

As the rate of change continues to increase exponentially we need to become better and better at not just seeing these as innovative technologies or products but to begin to imagine the impact, both positive and negative, on our lives, our behaviors, our learning and our society by getting better at imagining the impossible.  This is why I continue to wonder and ponder about WITII? “What if the impossible isn’t?”

It is in this light that I recommend you read the Singularity Hub blog for stories such as “Z Corp – The Lamborghini of 3D Color Printing and Scanning (Videos)”  Here is the lead in to the article:

While Z Corporation products are out of the price range for most individual users, they represent amazing technology that is commercially available to anyone. I doubt the average person even knows that 3D printing technology can produce color models in just hours. Likewise, 3D scanning an object is probably outside of the everyday citizen’s concerns. These products are still in the early generation paradigm: expensive and used almost exclusively in industry. But they won’t stay there. Technology gets cheaper and more democratic as it is improved, so we should look forward to a time when the kind of 3D printing and scanning we see in these videos would fit in anyone’s budget.

As this technology becomes more widespread and powerful, the ways we purchase and exchange goods are going to be different. When you shop online for a coffee mug, the vendor could just send you the CAD file, allowing you to print the mug rather than have it shipped. Free information (like open source design specs) will translate to free objects.

Even more than reading the article I would strongly encourage you to watch all the the videos embedded within (see but one example below) as they will truly open your eyes as to what is already possible and available to commercial business in the form of 3D printers and 3D scanners for use in the office and the field.  It will only be a matter of months before these levels of accuracy, color and materials are available at prices for the rest of us.  The question is will YOU be ready?  How will these types of capabilities affect you?  How will you take advantage of them?  How will these enablers help us all to find and release the promise within ourselves? 

Just keep asking and imagining “What if the impossible isn’t?”

3D Printing now in Stainless Steel

As I’ve noted previously one of the current limitations of 3D printing is the limited materials that can be used to print with, mostly plastic, paper, wax and others up to now.  The ability to create molds which can then be used to create castings of metals and other materials expands the range considerably but the ideal of course is to be able to create objects of any material.  And in keeping with what seems to be the norm where the rate of change is exponential, we are now much closer to this ideal now that 3D printing can be done in stainless steel.  The big news and change is not just that 3D printing can be done in stainless steel but that YOU can do it!  The article below will give you more details.

I’d also recommend reading this article for the note about how Shapeways has done such an admiral job of being very up front and clear about their service.  Read for example the Shapeways stainless steel page titled “expectation management.” I want to join Aaron in pointing this out as a great example that all companies and organizations would do well to emulate.  As Aaron put it:

I would like to take a moment and applaud Shapeways for having both guts and common sense. Listen up Internet, if you want to sell us something cool, put the limitations right up front.”

I can’t help but like a company with the tag line: “Passionate about creating”

Shapeways also has some excellent tutorials on their site (one included below) which are very instructive and well worth watching if you are as fascinated by this rapid evolution of 3D printing and DIY manufacturing. 

Overall I see these developments as some of the most compelling evidence of The Snowflake Effect and how we are headed for a future where we can increasingly realize the promise within us all as unique snowflakes by increasingly being the designers and creators of our the manufactured part of the world we live in.

Stainless Steel Printing from Shapeways

August 6th, 2009 by Aaron Saenz

As if 3D printing wasn’t cool enough, you can now “print” objects in stainless steel. That’s right, dust off your old Transformers designs, make room in the Monopoly box for a new piece, and get ready for the model budget at your office to sky-rocket. Shapeways, an European 3D printing website that has traditionally worked in plastics and resins, has upped its game by giving you the option to take your airy artistic concepts and fashion them into cold hard steel. Except for some reasonable constraints on size and detail there are no limits to what you can create. Even if you’re not a model enthusiast, stainless steel printing holds the promise of machines that can replicate themselves and build anything.

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