Introducing Kai Kingsley St. John

Originally scheduled for April 6th, my son decided to arrive several weeks early. Welcome Kai St. John to the family 3/22.

Want Sales? Think Of Couches.

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You probably have a crappy old couch that sort of stinks like apple juice and has popcorn kernels lodges in the cracks. Every time you make eye contact with your cat as she sharpens her claws on the corner of that couch, you think about replacing it…but something stops you.

What exactly is that something? Well – your mind fires up a projector and plays a horror movie for you.

In this horror movie, you have to break your couch apart, drag the pieces downstairs, unload all the hockey equipment from your trunk, load the couch into the trunk, drive the couch to the dump and dispose of it. Then you have to drive for 45 minutes to an Ikea, sit on 12 different couches to find a good one, trek across the Ikea warehouse floor, find the box, stand in line for two hours behind screaming children, buy the couch, drive it back to your house….

This horror movie causes you immediately shut down your mental projector and go back to eating popcorn, ignoring your cat and sipping apple juice. Every time.

This reaction is not unlike what happens when you attempt to sell a customer on your product or service. Even if your product perfectly matches your customer’s needs and solves their problems, the horror movie in your customer’s head about the terrible risks involved with your product will stop them from buying it.

Now lets imagine a different movie about how that couch gets replaced.

Imagine if all you needed to do to test out a new couch was snap your fingers. Your existing couch then stands up on robotic legs, walks down your stairs and returns itself to Ikea. Then you snap your fingers again and a new couch walks down the street, up seven flights of stairs and then sits itself down in your living room.

If this was the installation process for couches, imagine how many more would get sold. You could evaluate new couches every day of the week. Couch sales would skyrocket!

If you are in sales, business development or product management, you should think about couches when you design your product or promotion. The question you need to ask yourself is: How can you make your couch fly into a customer’s home as though carried magically on robot legs? How can you eliminate every single perceived risk of installing your couch  in the minds of your target audience?

Don’t like it? We will come and get it it. Don’t want to install it, don’t worry we will install it. Have an old couch? We will come to your house and get rid of it.

Maybe you can’t put robot legs on couches, but there are a lot of other options that can be explored to enhance the installation speed of your product into a customer’s “home.” Certain couches move through hallways faster: Couches that are modular and can be broken into pieces or are thoughtfully designed to fit down common hallways, staircases and other obvious yet common obstacles.

Couches with a 30-day free trial and free move-in which includes the fact that your movers will get rid of the old couch for you will sell faster than anything.

So when it is time to design your offer, deal or product – Think of couches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RISC-V Workshop

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Was down in the bay area yesterday attending the latest RISC-V Workshop. The excitement around RISC-V is palpable, people seem really engaged in the possibility of a truly open source approach to hardware. Having worked in open source hardware evangelism with makers for the last few years, this may be a game changing innovation.

Side note, just backed the HiFive1 on Supply Frame, looking forward to experimenting.

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The Strange World Of Open-Source Pancreas Hacking

This is a Closed Loop Artificial Pancreas System consisting of a compute module and a 900 MHz radio. While it may not be pretty, it is actually keeping someone alive.

Opinions and views expressed in this blog do not reflect those of my employer and are wholly my own.

I have been lucky and gotten to travel the world and meet many interesting people building many interesting hardware projects with compute modules. Some of the more interesting projects come from the the OpenAPS movement, who are using compute modules to help Type I Diabetes sufferers manage their condition. I wanted to write a blog about what is going on in the OpenAPS movement and share some of the interesting hardware projects being built by hackers to manage their conditions.

A compute module is a tiny, cheap computer you can stick into things to make them smart (and often add Linux / Windows IoT and wireless connectivity).

Open source hardware hacking of life-sustaining equipment is highly dangerous and legally vague, why would anyone take this risk? Because current government regulations have delayed the creation of convenient systems for Type I Diabetes management until several years from now. As a result, the OpenAPS “We Are Not Waiting” movement has been born.
[Read more…]

Quick Update: I Am Moving To Portland

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A quick announcement: We (my wife and myself) shall  be relocating our operations to Portland, Oregon by the end of this month for work reasons.

While I enjoyed living in Seattle for the last eight years, it is time to meet new people, eat at new restaurants, live in new neighborhoods, grow an unkempt beard and develop opinions about barley wine and pickled carrots.  Of all the cities we have considered living in, Portland was at the top of the list (at least in America) due to the weirdness, unique culture, tech scene, public transportation, creative atmosphere, small size and food. I think it will be great.

Portland, let us commence being weird together.

Saying Good-Bye To Pizza Evangelists

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I have a term for technical evangelists who seem to get paid to fly around the country, stand around doing nothing at events (maybe talking for two minutes at the start over a couple slides), eat the food, man (or woman) a table, perhaps do some light networking and then depart to their next event: Pizza Evangelists. I call them this specifically because the only measurable outcome of having spent the money to send this person to an event is that there is less pizza at the event afterwards (and your company is out $5,000 dollars including sponsorship, flight, Uber and their hotel).

After supporting something like 50+ developer events over the last few years, it is my observation that Pizza Evangelism may not just be common but it may be the average form of technical evangelism being practiced in some parts of the industry. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is that many organizations have a poor concept of what technical evangelists are really even supposed to be doing at events (hint: driving adoption of your platform).

In the worst cases, this type of behavior is accepted due to no one really caring what goes on at the event in the first place or just wanting to maintain the appearance of “having covered” an event for political purposes. Really great technical evangelism is not about maintaining appearances, it is about helping developers succeed with measurable and documentable results.

If you view what technical evangelists seem to be doing from the perspective of a CEO (who think in terms of profits and losses), you are going to find a lot to hate. “Why would I pay this person to fly around the country, lavishly spending money on hotel rooms and sponsorships of hackathons and workshops if I am not seeing any ROI?  I can’t even see what they are doing at these events!” Not a good line of thinking to be running through your CEO’s mind when things take a financial downturn.

So what is the solution? Well…that part is more involved. I will say, there should be a significantly greater number of documented projects at hackathons and workshops where your evangelists are present (as well as social media activity) than the ones where they aren’t there. Hackathons and workshops are not happy hour, they are “help people build stuff” time. If your evangelist does not materially impact the number of people using (and successfully completing) projects with your technology at events they attend, you should “reconsider” that spend.

Great evangelism does not happen behind a table, it looks like this (with apologies to Steven Xing and Jeremy Foster):

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The Chaos and The Craftsmanship of Shenzhen – Intel IDF 16

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A Pilgrimage To The Maker Mecca

When I arrived in Shenzhen this week to participate in Intel IDF 16, I hoped to learn more about the roaring technological innovation happening in this unique city. This is part III in my series documenting aspects of my brief trip to the city of makers this week. Read part II here and Part I here.

Developed By You

The ultimate purpose of my visiting Shenzhen, aside from meeting with a few interesting partners and customers, was to give two talks at Intel IDF 16 on topics relating to Intel’s Inventor Platforms and the results of research I have been doing with customers on their experience productizing on the Intel Edison compute module. Being new to Shenzhen, it was fascinating to see what the local “players” in the maker space where up to.

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A few interesting items were announced at the keynote including a beta of the Intel Curie module software experience (variously described as a BSP or an ODK aka Open Developer Kit) and a new robotics kit based on Intel RealSense and the UP Board from AAEON. There were other announcements as well relating to Intel 3D XPoint Memory. [Read more…]

The Chaos and The Craftsmanship of Shenzhen – The SEG Electronics Market

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A Pilgrimage To The Maker Mecca

When I arrived in Shenzhen this week to participate in Intel IDF 16, I hoped to learn more about the roaring technological innovation happening in this unique city. This is part II in my series documenting aspects of my brief trip to the city of makers this week. Read part I here and part III here.

The SEG Electronics Market – The Pulse Of The Maker Movement

I go to SEG once per quarter to look for trends. You can tell which way the market is going by seeing what new shops have opened, what new products are being sold. – A Shenzhen CEO

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The exterior, relatively indescript entrance to the SEG market.

If Shenzhen is the Maker Mecca, the SEG Electronics Market may be the Kaaba, the center of the attraction, the entire point of going. There are ten thousand products, every maker device, every screw, every LED and every new trendy gadget piled into stacks and arranged into squares. Entering a side door in the building (which is labeled Huaqiangbei), a visitor is greeted by throngs of vendors selling the tiniest of components, cables, wires and more. [Read more…]

The Chaos and The Craftsmanship of Shenzhen – Dafen Oil Painting Village

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An oil painter practicing his craft in Dafen Village.

A Pilgrimage To The Maker Mecca

When I arrived in Shenzhen this week to participate in Intel IDF 16, I hoped to learn more about the roaring technological innovation happening in this unique city. This is part I in my series documenting aspects of my brief trip to the city of makers this week. Read part II here and part III here.

The Dafen Oil Painting Village – A Metaphor For Shenzhen’s Tech Economy

The defining “Shenzhen” moment for me was not the crowds, the maker and electronics markets nor the sprawling industrial zones, factory tours, it was the Dafen Oil Painting village, where hundreds of skilled artisans convene daily to create realistic copies of  artwork for export. The prices? Affordable. [Read more…]

Meet The Inventors, The Engine Of The Maker Movement

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The Maturing Maker Movement

Starting in the mid-2000’s, the Maker Movement swept across the globe powered by an onrush of new, cheaper, more useable hardware and software tools. Within the span of a  few years, students, musicians, artists and designers flocked to a growing number of Maker Faires scattered across the world.

The hype around Makers was (and still is) extreme. Just as the Homebrew Computing Club helped launch the age of personal computing, it was reasoned that the Maker Movement would launch the “Next Big Thing” in the form of a raft of next-generation tech companies. Specifically, it was expected that Internet of Things companies (who produce value by linking and orchestrating devices) would rain from the sky as a result of the Maker Movement…but no one was quite sure how that would happen.

The good news is that the formation of a new class of startup is exactly what is happening. However the way it is happening differs from what many industry observers have anticipated. The initial emphasis on “The Internet of Things” has caused confusion as to the true heart of the economic engine which drives the Maker Movement – A segment of users I am going to describe as “The Inventors.” While the Internet of Things is of major importance, it is significantly less interesting to Inventors though they frequently are the ones who are actually implementing it.

Internet of Things-focused companies such as Electric Imp and Particle have certainly spawned from the Maker Movement, but only as a small sub-section. To understand what is really going on (and where extended economic opportunities lie for many tech companies), we need to look more closely at Inventors and try to understand their motivations.

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Meet The Inventors

Makers tend to be artists, designers, students and musicians who have been enabled to build technical projects by advancements in user (or developer) experience. Inventors tend to be industry-quality professionals possessing pro-level skills in areas such as hardware, industrial design or software. Inventors use these pro-level skills to build products specifically for Makers.  These inventions can encompass new musical instruments, 3D printers, home laser-cutters, drone prototyping platforms, paper craft, small programmable robots and more.

Their goal? Making technology accessible and useable to a broader range of creative people. Don’t look too closely for “adding internet to things” as a core motivator, it isn’t there.

As a result of their skills and motiviations, Inventors are the ones “laying down tracks” in front of the Maker Movement, helping to enable creative projects in new domains to a wider audience than ever before. If there is a complex technology which can remotely be used to make art or music, Inventors strive to make it more useable, widely available and cheaper. If Makers are musicians, Inventors are the ones building new drum machines and synthesizers to help Makers practice their art.

Adding internet to things is often a byproduct, but not the focus, of these Inventors and it is a mistake to talk to them as though it were.

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Inventors Don’t Really Care About The Internet Of Things

Inventor’s motivation is not to connect things to the cloud or make more things smart – This can be an area of confusion for industry observers. The motivations of Inventors are much more fundamental and human than making money or lowering cost – Inventors seek to educate and empower Maker creativity.

Many of the Inventors I have met could walk into Google and get hired on the spot as Sr. Engineers (or better) but they never will – they are too engrossed in their mission of making the world of technology more useable to stop what they are doing.

Chances are, if you start talking with an Inventor about “The Internet of Things,” they will become bored and wander off mid-sentence. However, this is exactly the language which is too often used to attempt to entice Inventors to use a variety of embedded systems and other professional tools and hardware gadgets.

Marketing To Inventors

If you are going to market technology to Inventors, it is important talk about the opportunity to make technology more accessible to more people. Tell stories about what can be done with your technology by Makers, not how it can save cost. If internet connectivity helps Inventors to serve the Maker Movement, they will add it – otherwise connectivity for it’s own sake is not their area of interest.

Examples Of Inventors

I can’t name them all, there are too many, but here are a few examples of the types of people I am talking about (pro-skilled developers targeting Makers as a group):

  • Dronesmith.io
    • How they enable Makers: Dronesmith Luci lets developers build their own drone solutions.
  • Rick Waldron, Bocoup & Johnny-Five
    • How they enable Makers: Builds the Johnny-Five JS library to allow web developers to create robots
  • DF Robot, Seeed Studio, Adafruit, SparkFun, Tektye, Pololu, RobotShop
    • How they enable Makers: Create a huge variety of robotics platforms, hobby boards, sensors to make it easy to build hardware projects
  • The Hybrid Group
    • How they enable Makers: Product Cylon, Artoo, Gobot to let developers program hardware with the language of their choice
  •  OSH Park, Upverter, CircuitHub
    • How they enable Makers: Allow rapid prototyping and turn around of custom hardware components
  • DJ Hardrich, DJ Qbert, DJ Yoga Frog and the Thud Rumble crew
    • How they enable Makers: Produce custom music equipment for DJs and other electronics musicians
  • Particle
    • How they enable Makers: Provide various products and hobby boards which can be used either to prototype or to go to market. This is one company that does span into the Internet of Things quite directly.
  • Glowforge
    • How they enable Makers: Provide a much cheaper at-home laser cutter machine which can be used by any maker for $2,000

Final Thoughts

I hope this has helped clarified how and where Makers and the Internet of Things intersect and the fundamental motivations of the players involved. Inventors are an extremely important class of Maker and require a different approach than what is often being used. In short: There is more to the future than the Internet of Things!