An IKEA In Every Basement

Originally posted at By the way, if you’re not currently following @supernovahub on Twitter you’re totally missing out.

AT SUPERNOVA 2009, Chris Anderson (Wired, @chr1sa) “beta tested” his newest thesis: “Atoms are the New Bits.”

Here is the presentation:

Here is the video (@chr1sa presentation starts at the 10:00 mark in this clip):

In his presentation, Chris noted that personal “3-D printers” can now be had for about $750, down from about $25,000 in 2004, which puts them in the range of a mid-quality wide-screen TV for a typical household. So, what does this mean?

Here are seven implications that I see:

1) The rise of an App store for designs

In the same way the Apple redefined how distribution of first music, then applications, was done via its iTunes Store and App Store, there will be the rise of an “App Store for Designs.” From it, individuals will be able to download “designs” that can be printed on their 3-D printers in their office (or garage, or even kitchen). The implication: whoever owns the distribution of the bits will own both the distribution and manufacturing worlds. As I type this, I realize that creating a 3-D printer would be a perfect product line extension for Apple, and enable Cupertino to replicate (pun intended) the strategy it pursued first in computing then with the iPhone into even more areas of the household.

2) The rise of a new open-source movement

Of course, as someone creates the App Store for Designs, there will be an open-source counterpoint. They key bit, again, will be findability and usability for the mass-market. Watch the Android market (and, in particular, how apps end up on Android phones) for clues to see how the open-source side of the personal manufacturing market evolves.

3) Disruption of supply chains

If you are a manufacturer or distributor or transporter of any commodity-type hard good that’s under, say, the size of a breadbox, prepare to have your world rocked. Just looking around my home office, I see hangers, a file box, picture frames, bookends and a portable camera tripod that all are candidates for MIY (“Manufacture It Yourself” or “Make It Yourself”). A glance into the kitchen reveals the same results: stirring spoons, cups, plates, bowls and utensils all could be made on-demand, right here, right now.

Unless you are (a) creating designs or (b) creating or distributing the feedstock that goes into a printer, at-home manufacturing is your Tunguska event. Deal with it.

4) A counter to the offshoring of manufacturing

Ok, Detroit. Here’s your chance. Ok, NAFTA-haters, you too. All the stuff that’s cheaper to make overseas or south of the border no longer needs to be. If you’ve been downsized, hone up your design skills, or join the Assemblers Local 517.

5) Assemblers Local 517

Just because everyone can manufacture their own things at home, doesn’t mean that everyone will want to. IKEA cracked the code on “design for transportability” and, in the process, outsourced assembly (and a few hammer-smashed thumbs) into all of our living rooms. Smart designers in the MIY realm will create designs that can be assembled into a final product, much in the same way that IKEA designs the Bjørn bookcase to be put together by the end customer.

This means that there’s an opportunity for a new role for the neighborhood handyfolk: the Assemblers.

6) A “new green”

We need to start thinking about out to how to make affordable, sustainable (either recyclable or compostable) feedstock from the get-go. There is a huge opportunity here. Think about it — we have the chance to eliminate the carbon impact of transportation (again, oftentimes from overseas) for billions of manufactured goods every year. Let’s not screw it up.

Again, judging from the incredible stacks of paper that are strewn about my “paperless” home office this morning, we are going to be 3-D printing stuff willy-nilly. Can’t find a bottle opener? Print one. Need a doorstop? Print it. This will lead to an even greater creation of disposable stuff in a disposable culture. Let’s make sure that that disposable set of coasters you printed up don’t end up being taken out of the loop, but instead get refashioned into next week’s utensils and then into next month’s shower squeegee and next year’s whisk broom, none of which should have to cross an ocean on a container ship.

7) FedEx and UPS play out their strategy

As I was thinking about the supply chain and distribution impacts, I realized the two folks in the economy who also will be hugely affected by this shift are FedEx and UPS. Now, both organizations have moved past their transportation-only roots and into local markets here in the States, where FedEx purchased Kinko’s and UPS purchased Mail Boxes Etc. This means that both organizations are sitting on the “danger/opportunity” saddle point.

On the “danger” side, there is the likelihood of massive dropoff in the amount of “stuff” that will be shipped through both of their networks. That said, there is huge opportunity here. Both offer local points-of-presence in tens of thousands of neighborhoods, an existing culture of “printing” and a control of the supply lines for feedstock. If FedEx and UPS are smart, they will turn those former Kinko’s and MBE locations into the corner manufacturing centers. In fact, they both have the opportunity to jump in front of this game now, and be the ones to challenge Apple to create the Design Store noted earlier. Yes, the Network Age is the time and place where FedEx and UPS compete with Apple in the manufacturing industry. Rock on.

The comments are open below. Do it.

Social Objects vs. Social Networks

Sp_sinha_l As part of some of the work I'm doing with Supernova, had the chance to have a great chat on this week's Network Age Briefing regarding "social objects" with Rashmi Sinha, who is the CEO of  It's a completely different way of looking at "sociality" online, and worth checking out.

The conversation is now encoded and live. Take a listen:

Fly The Evil Skies

Picture 18 On the subject of frequent flier miles, Gary says:

“Miles are evil. They create apathy on the end of the service

The he asks the real question:

“Have decades of frequent flyer programs instilled institutional apathy on the part of customer facing employees? Perhaps we are talking about apathetic DNA across entire corporations or even within the entire airline industry. If one believes customers won’t
leave even when treated poorly, where is the incentive to ‘step it up?'”

Back in the late 1990’s, I was flying weekly between Chicago and Palo Alto. 1,846 miles out on Monday, 1,846 miles back on Friday, week in, week out.  I racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, was “1K” on United, got an upgrade every flight, and was willing to put up with a lot of their crap. 

Flash forward a bit, and then I’ve moved to the Bay Area proper, and am no longer flying over 100,000 miles a year.  Now, all the compensating behaviors have gone away from the United side since they no longer view me as a “high value” customer since I’m no longer part of their super-premier program.  I’m still flying a lot, but not on a route that they have a lock on.  And instantly, all the poor service that I used to tolerate became untenable.

Since that time, I may have flown on United half-a-dozen times in the last ten years.

So, it’s interesting.  For me, it was less about “loyalty,” and just about the fact that I happened to frequently travel a route that they had a systemic lock on (since I was flying between two of their hubs).

I agree with Gary.  The mileage program did nothing to induce “loyalty” for me.  Once there were trips on other routes, all bets were off.

Kudos to Seth

Kudos to Seth Godin on fixing the most very broken thing about his 2005 book "All Marketers are Liars."  He convinced the publisher to change the cover on future editions, and the book is now called "All Marketers Tell Stories."

Seth says:

"So, go tell a story. If it doesn’t resonate, tell a different one. When
you find a story that works, live that story, make it true, authentic
and subject to scrutiny. All marketers are storytellers, only the
losers are liars."

I was fairly harsh when I read the book in 2005, and while some of those criticisms still stand, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Well done.

Twitter’s “Trending Topics” Bridge Neighborhoods in Social Networks

Had a blast chatting with danah boyd this morning on this week's SupernovaHub Network Age Briefing (disclosure: Supernova is a client).  The link above is to a rebroadcast of the call, which ran about an hour and covered "Class and Connection in the Network Age."  We also had some great conversation with @nwjerseyliz and @evanwolf the others who joined live in the conversation.

One of the big "a ha" moments in talking to danah was the fact that, as has been noted in many other places, we typically hang out (more-or-less) with "people like us" online, as well as offline.  However, Twitter's "Trending Topics" are a bridge to the other neighborhoods, a bridge to the "not-like-me."



As you can see in the sketch above, the "people like me" are typically talking about technology and business oriented things, not surprisingly…things like "Google Wave, CRM, VRM" and so forth.  But if you look at the Trending Topics, from my neighborhood of connections, perhaps only one of those (let's say "Google Wave") might have enough oomph to make it onto the Trending Topics list.

Other neighborhoods have other interests…online gaming, fashion, celebrity gossip, politics, TV shows and the like.

When we see these other topics bubble up, what we're seeing is a surfacing of the other groups that are in the network; we are seeing patterns made visible.

The take-away: Even though your Twitter and Facebook networks may make it seem like "a lot" of the people online are "just like you," that's not necessarily the case

As more and more individuals come online, and especially as mobile and smartphones really start to hit critical mass and broader adoption worldwide, this visibility into these other neighborhoods will only become more pronounced.

The Laws of VRM

In conjunction with this week’s Internet Identity Workshop, a number of folks including

and others have been thinking a lot about ProjectVRM.  As part of the conversations, an activity this group was doing was trying to distill down to its essence what “makes” something “VRM” (or VRM-like, at least).  We came up with a couple of core concepts, the first of which is that in a system that is VRM-ish, the following holds true:

“VRM Law #1: The individual is the point of integration.”

In other words, instead of myriad entities holding various “slices” of data/information about an individual, that individual instead is the place where that information comes together.  The individual is the place where it all happens.

We want to keep kicking this rock down the street (or rolling this snowball downhill, or keeping this ball rolling, pick your own metaphor for “imparting forward motion to some type of spheroid object”).  However, I’ve noticed that in trying to determine these traits of VRM-ness, we sometimes are getting caught up in the semantics of the words, and instead are not clearly communicating the core concepts.

So.  Going to try something a bit new here.  I’ve embedded an open, editable presentation below.  Taking a page from the sketchbooks of Armano and Dave Gray and Dan Roam, let’s see if we can do this better visually.  

Think of this as a “visual wiki,” if you will.  Feel free to go ahead and change it, mark it up, tweak it, and adjust things.  You should (theoretically) be able to edit the presentation by clicking here.

Let’s see what happens.

Thought of the Day: Single-Sign Off

Lots of folks have looked at integrating online identities, and there are various types of "single sign-on" (cite) systems around.  Thought experiment for today:  what would single sign-off look like?  In other words, what would happen if an individual had the ability to conceptually "unplug" from the Network?

Customers Take Back The Beep

Picture 8 A good case study in how a customer can start a snowball rolling that effects vendor change.  Back in August, David Pogue of the NYT went on a tear to get the major telecom providers to eliminate (or at least give customers a way around) the voicemail instructions that are given every time an individual calls her own, or someone else's, voicemail.  It doesn't sound like a big thing, but at 15 seconds per, times millions of calls, it adds up to a whole lot of wasted customer time and money (in the form of minutes) in a hurry.

Here's the story.