2015/03/30

Hacking Science: TIME Community and Democracy of Developers

An interesting dissertation serendipitously popped up on my laptop screen this morning -- "Hacking Science: Emerging Parascientific Genres and Public Participation in Scientific Research."

The dissertation appears relevant to a number of my activity areas, stating in its abstract:
Safecast Radiation Monitors
"...I trace the history of this distinction between expert and public science communication, looking back to early scientists, amateur scientists, and forward to the emerging trends in citizen science. I also uncover an emerging sphere, both within and beyond citizen science, where hackers have become involved in scientific research. I trace this phenomenon to the emergence of “hackerspaces.”...boundaries between expert and public spheres of science communication are eroding..."
A central figure in the "Hacking Science" paper is the Safecast radiation monitoring project, a high profile citizen science effort that emerged from a critical mass of people in the TIME community (tech, innovator, maker, entrepreneur). One of my activities is connecting and building the TIME community of northeast Wisconsin (and other places, like Humboldt County, CA). The TIME community consists of like-minded and complementary-minded people who can also be described as doers and are sometimes called creatives, people who don’t watch much tv or participants, not spectators. The "Hacking Science" dissertation very directly speaks about many activities in which the TIME community is involved.

Ashley Kelly's "Hacking Science" dissertation also appears highly relevant to the democracy of developers concept being promoted by Wearable World, as described in this post on ReadWrite:
"If software is eating the world, as Netscape cofounder and technology investor Marc Andreessen likes to say, then hardware is the plate from which it feasts. Devices are the best expression of the ethereal services that spew data into our increasingly digital universe. And increasingly, they will be as hackable and fungible as software code. For this world, we will need vastly more people who are proficient in code, and we will need people who look nothing like the bulk of the software profession today. Redg and I call this emerging group the "Democracy of Developers." ReadWrite will champion them. In 2014...professional software developers outnumbered hobbyists 11 million to 7.5 million. I believe those numbers will soon flip. I predict that we will have vastly more practitioners of code who pursue it out of passion, as a sideline, as an entrepreneurial dream, or simply as a skill they use to make their way in the world."
I was thinking about the democracy of developers issue this past Saturday at the NEWCodeCamp. The camp had over 250 registered participants, most of whom were coders who work primarily in the Microsoft world. One of the sessions at the camp was about the Internet of Things (IoT), and Jason Young talked about many different aspects of the coding he has done in the IoT. While I was listening to Jason's IoT session and a couple of the other camp sessions, I thought about how Microsoft's dominance in business and general computing is becoming less of a monopoly stranglehold and how Microsoft and developers who focus on MS coding tools are starting to become more open and more involved with non-MS code. Many of the non-MS coders I know weren't even aware of the NEWCodeCamp or NEWDUG, a northeast Wisconsin organization which previously labeled itself a .NET user group. The reverse is also true, because people I talked to at the NEWCodeCamp had no idea what BarCampGreenBay or Startup Weekend Green Bay were, and probably don't know about Digital Fertilizer or OpenCoffee. So connecting those two separated communities will help make the northeast Wisconsin developer community more open and more aware of opportunities to learn, share and collaborate. As those MS coders get involved in more events that are participant driven and open, the democracy of developers will get bigger, better and more interesting.

I'm also interested in "Hacking Science" because it appears to relate to:
  1. The Distributed Hacker/Maker Network (DHMN) and Appleton Makerspace
  2. Civic hacking and the upcoming DHMN Civic Hackathon -- Appleton 2015
  3. Coworking spaces that engage with civic activists, like Gangplank
  4. Connecting professionals and work in "the new world of work" with activities like Staffup Weekend and Reverse Pitch
Well, back to reading "Hacking Science" -- so far I've only read the abstract and beginning of the dissertation, and it appears to be 485 pages long...

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2015/03/17

Connecting Professionals And Work: Reverse Pitch Events

A reverse pitch event for entrepreneurs is generally seen as having corporations pitch project proposals to an audience of entrepreneur interested in developing solutions that meet the corporations’ needs. This type of event helps entrepreneurs focus on solving recognized problems in their regional market, problems which companies will pay entrepreneurs to solve.

In the entrepreneurial world, a pitch competition is an opportunity for selected startups to pitch, or present, their company’s concept and business model to potential investors in hopes of securing investment in their startup. The concept of entrepreneurial reverse pitches seems to be young enough that it’s not yet well-defined. The specific goals and format for reverse pitches will evolve over the next couple years as the established companies and entrepreneurs figure out what works best for each of them.

One reverse pitch event from 2013 was described as an opportunity for startups to secure sales or investment from established large corporations.
“...The reverse pitch event is intended to help start-ups in the critical effort to find sales channels and to provide a way for established companies to engage with the entrepreneurial community...Start-ups will be chosen to participate through a competitive application process. Those selected will have 20-minute pitch meetings with the companies. Each large company has agreed to send a senior executive or manager, and to purchase from, mentor or invest in one of the start-ups…”
A 2014 reverse pitch competition in Chattanooga had funded project proposals.
“...corporations will pitch funded project proposals to an audience of entrepreneurial problem solvers — the reverse of the usual scenario...AC Entertainment/Aloompa, The Blackstone Group, the City of Chattanooga, EPB, FedEx, PlayCore, Smith & Nephew and Unum...will present projects, which all have assigned budgets attached to them, that address their enduring pain points or emerging challenges…”
One alternative direction reverse pitches could take is an event where entrepreneurs help established companies develop the request for proposal (RFP) for projects the companies want done by third parties. The established companies may not even be aware of potential solutions and might unknowingly structure their RFPs in a way that excludes those solutions.

I hope to identify some of the reasons companies have participated in reverse pitch competitions, or why they might in the future. I'll also write about other emerging or non-mainstream tools and concepts for connecting professionals and work.

If you’ve participated in a reverse pitch event, whether you represented a startup or an established corporation, please contact me at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com. I’d like to learn more about your experience and how you think reverse pitch events can be improved.

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Here are links to a few past and future Reverse Pitch websites:

Videos from KCNext Reverse Pitch 2014: http://www.kcpt.org/reverse-pitch-2014-kc/#

 Videos from LaunchTennessee Reverse Pitch 2014: http://launchtn.org/ReversePitch/

SwitchPitch; Washington, DC, NYC, LA and Miami: http://switchpitch.com/

LaunchWisconsin 2015: http://www.launchwisconsin.com/reverse-pitch/

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2015/02/02

Raspberry Pi 2 Launches: Faster And Stronger

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B single board computer launched today with a quad core ARMv7 CPU and 1 MB SDRAM.
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B -- Top

Compared to the B+ version, the new Pi will be more capable as a primary or secondary desktop PC and should give users:
  1. Smoother web browsing
  2. Better viewing of videos
  3. More responsive experience when writing computer programs
  4. Smoother operation when running multiple programs at the same time
  5. Ability to run a wider variety of operating systems, with Ubuntu distro likely to be developed in the near future [Update: Snappy Ubuntu Core is currently available] and an Internet of Things version of Windows 10 (not the consumer x-86 version of Win 10) in late 2015 or early 2016
The primary technology changes in the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (Feb 2015) vs its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ (June 2014), are:
  • 900 MHz Quad core ARMv7 vs 700 MHz single core ARMv6 CPU
  • 1 GB vs 512 MB SDRAM
Pi 2 is backwards compatible with earlier Pis, has the same form factor as the B+, the same 5V power requirement and is still only $35.

The Arstechnica article gives a pretty good overview of the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B tech specs:
SoC: Broadcom BCM2836 (CPU, GPU, DSP, SDRAM)
CPU: 900 MHz quad-core ARM Cortex A7 (ARMv7 instruction set)
GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV @ 250 MHz
More GPU info: OpenGL ES 2.0 (24 GFLOPS); 1080p30 MPEG-2 and VC-1 decoder (with license); ​1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder and encoder
Memory: 1 GB (shared with GPU)
USB ports: 4
Video input: 15-pin MIPI camera interface (CSI) connector
Video outputs: HDMI, composite video (PAL and NTSC) via 3.5 mm jack
Audio input: I²S
Audio outputs: Analog via 3.5 mm jack; digital via HDMI and I²S
Storage: MicroSD
Network: 10/100Mbps Ethernet
Peripherals: 17 GPIO plus specific functions, and HAT ID bus
Power rating: 800 mA (4.0 W)
Power source: 5 V via MicroUSB or GPIO header
Size: 85.60mm × 56.5mm
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B -- Bottom
Weight: 45g (1.6 oz)
The ARM entry in Wikipedia gives an overview of the ARM family of microprocessors. For more info on specs for the various Pi models, see the Raspberry Pi hardware documentation webpage.

Pi B+ production is planned to continue because of a significant commercial sales volume. The Model A version is expected to be upgraded to the new Broadcom SoC, but that will likely happen in 2016.

You can order the Raspberry Pi 2 now from element14 / Newark, from RS Components and from Adafruit, but other Pi vendors such as SparkFun and Amazon didn't appear to have it listed yet.

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2015/01/29

National PACER Download Day

Do you like any of the following three things?
  1. Government transparency
  2. Aaron Swartz' work to improve the Internet (like RSS)
  3. Convenient access to public documents
If any of these are important to you, please consider participating in the National Day of PACER Protest.

PACER is the acronym for Public Access to Electronic Court Records, the computerized system that publishes U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents. Techdirt had a post about the national PACER download day earlier this month that explained a bit of the background for the event.
"...Carl Malamud, the leading champion of freeing up public documents and laws, has announced a National Day of PACER Protest...PACER...is the horrific, antiquated paywall system by which the federal courts lock up tons of public documents and only make them available at 10 cents per page (with some exceptions)...PACER, itself, is of dubious legality. The law that established PACER says that the fees collected can only be used for the system itself, yet the system is so profitable that the money flows back into other areas of the judicial system, and the Administrative Office of the US Courts doesn't want to give up on its cash cow...Malamud has proposed May 1st as a day when he wants lots and lots of people to use PACER accounts to download documents (and RECAP them)..."
Tonight I met with another person interested in participating in the National Day of PACER Protest. We agreed to work together on organizing and promoting a northeast Wisconsin event which participates in this national effort to make public documents more accessible.

Over the next couple months this blog will have more information about the national download day -- although our plan is actually to organize a two day event, May 1 - 2, 2015. May 1 is a Friday, and some people may be available to participate on a Saturday but not on a Friday.

If you feel this is a worthwhile cause, please take the time right now to put an item on your schedule for May 1 or May 2 to help with this initiative. You can help make government more transparent and make these public documents conveniently accessible.

If you're interested in working with us to organize or help host the event, please contact me at bwaldron {att} gmail [dot] com.

See you on May 1st or May 2nd, if not before then!

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2015/01/10

SpaceX Rocket Lands On Ocean Spaceport Ship!

SpaceX achieved another first on 10 Jan 2015 for Earth's emerging civilian aerospace industry -- they landed a rocket on their ocean spaceport ship!

SpaceX Ocean Spaceport Drone Ship
Although most media and space enthusiast coverage of the event called it a 'failure,' IMHO
BusinessInsider had a much better perspective on the SpaceX landing. The BI headline read, "SUCCESS: Elon Musk Landed A Rocket On A Platform In The Ocean." Their article says:
"...While other outlets are saying the test was a failure, because the hard landing means that the rocket is probably too damaged to be reused, we think it's still a win. It took a crazy amount of precision to guide the rocket from 50 miles above Earth's surface to a football field-sized platform in the ocean, and then actually land on it. No one else has even thought to do this, let alone succeed..."
Jon Ross' Concept Image Of Ocean Spaceport Landing
The 'rocket' that landed on the SpaceX ocean spaceport was the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket from the fifth resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule from this fifth mission successfully reached orbit today and is schedule to reach the ISS about 6 AM on Monday.

Above on the left is Jon Ross' conceptual image of what the Falcon 9 first stage will look like when it lands on the ocean spaceport. He has an excellent "Illustrated Guide To SpaceX's Launch Vehicle Reusability Plans" page on his website. If this topic is of interest to you, check out his guide.

SpaceX has become a victim of its own success. They were the first US 'newspace' civilian aerospace company to resupply the ISS after the NASA space shuttles stopped flying, and all four of their previous resupply missions to the ISS previous to today's effort succeeded. They have also had successful Falcon 9 reusable rocket vertical test landings as shown in this SpaceX video in a recent TechNewsWorld article about landing on the ocean spaceport. The TechNewsWorld article also mentions the first stage has done "two successful soft water landings." SpaceX has had so many amazing aerospace accomplishments in such a short time that the general public and the media have come to expect success on every attempt.

A SpaceX competitor, Orbital Sciences, publicly illustrated in 2104 that there are no guarantees of success on every newspace company mission, per a recent Space.com article:
"...Dragon is loaded with more than 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of food, scientific experiments and spare parts on this journey. Some of the parts are replacements for objects lost when Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket exploded just after liftoff in late October, destroying the company's Cygnus cargo craft. Both SpaceX and Orbital hold billion-dollar deals to fly robotic supply missions to the space station for NASA; Orbital had completed two successful flights before the October accident..."
It will take a few years and a few more 'success-failures,' but I have no doubt that SpaceX (and others) will one day be doing vertical rocket landings on a regular basis. At that point, young people will wonder why spaceship launch rockets used to be one-use, in the same way that today's teenagers can't really grok hardwired landline phones with a circular dial.

Then we can start wondering why spaceships have to use first stage booster rockets instead of just having integral long-term-use propulsion systems...

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2015/01/02

Gongkai, Shanzhai and Electronics Innovation

A recent post by bunnie huang about gongkai and a related post from frog design about shanzhai highlight why Shenzhen is the best place to be if you're a hacker who wants to ride the leading of electronics, wearable computing and the IoT (Internet of Things).

bunnie explains gongkai this way in his 29 Dec 2014 post:
"...Gongkai is more a reference to the fact that copyrighted documents, sometimes labeled “confidential” and “proprietary”, are made known to the public and shared overtly...this copying isn’t a one-way flow of value, as it would be in the case of copied movies or music. Rather, these documents are the knowledge base needed to build a phone using the copyright owner’s chips, and as such, this sharing of documents helps to promote the sales of their chips...This fuzzy, gray relationship between companies and entrepreneurs...has a “network” view of IP and ownership: the far-sight necessary to create good ideas and innovations is attained by standing on the shoulders of others, and as such there is a network of people who trade these ideas as favors among each other. In a system with such a loose attitude toward IP, sharing with the network is necessary as tomorrow it could be your friend standing on your shoulders, and you’ll be looking to them for favors..."
frog design, in an older but undated post, explains shanzhai thusly:
"The term “Shanzhai” refers to a part of China’s informal industry that is known for fast product cycles as well as its tendency to seek inspiration in...successful products...we see many of our international and Chinese clients intimidated by the speed of Shanzhai and bewildered by the apparent ruthlessness with which they imitate, alter, and remix features, designs, and even entire products. Shanzhai manufacturers can design, build, and take mobile phones to market in as little as 40 days, while “legitimate” manufacturers take longer to merely secure and approve their budgets for similar initiatives...By not committing to established industry alliances and regulations, Shanzhai manufacturers can afford to focus on the actual customer to meet the demands the “regular” players leave unmet...quite a few Chinese Tier 1 and 2 OEMs have evolved from Shanzhai and are now successful legitimate businesses...the Shanzhai industry...might very well be a hotbed of young businesses that are learning, growing, and experimenting “in confined water” so to speak—sanctioned only by the customers they serve..."
When gongkai and shanzhai are combined with reasonable cost advanced personal manufacturing equipment, components and services, it allows the concentrated populations of Steven Levy and Paul Graham’s hackers in the the unparalleled regional electronics ecosystem of Joi Ito and bunnie’s Shenzhen to become Schumpeter’s swarming creative-destructive innovators of Christensen’s ‘Innovator’s Dilemma’ who shorten the development cycle by leveraging any relevant and recent components, products applications, tools and technologies to deliver low-cost and low-to-medium-volume new products whose success can be strongly or primarily influenced by how well the product meets consumer needs and desires.

Electronics hackers and makers can build amazing things anywhere in the world, but Shenzhen appears to be the 2015 electronics innovation equivalent what the Silicon Valley was for personal computing innovation in the 1970s and 1980s.

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2014/12/19

Northeast Wisconsin Crowdfunders?

So last night Shane and I decided we'd like to incorporate a crowdfunding component in a startup that we help create during Startup Weekend Green Bay, February 6 - 8, 2014.

It will be challenging to create, launch and get off to a good start with a crowdfunding campaign during just one weekend. What we probably really need is two or three people on the startup team who have done one or more campaigns on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or another crowdfunding platform.

If you've done a crowdfunding campaign and live in northeast Wisconsin, which includes Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Neenah, Sheboygan, Sturgeon Bay and all the other cities, towns and rural areas of the 18 counties of the New North, please contact Bob Waldron -- bwaldron [att] gmail {dott} com. Or if you live outside northeast Wisconsin but have done a crowdfunding campaign and want to participate in Startup Weekend Green Bay 2015, contact me.

One of the challenges for getting a crowdfunding campaign launched in such a short time will be getting all the information submitted, approved and posted online. I haven't done a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign, and I haven't researched how quickly a campaign can get put live on the different crowdfunding platforms. It might even be that all the platforms require a few days to churn through their application and approval process.

If the application, approval and posting process for a campaign takes several days on all the available crowdfunding platforms, we may try building a crowdfunding component into the startup website for built during Startup Weekend.

Bottom line is that we'd love to connect with interested entrepreneurial people in Wisconsin or in the Upper Peninsula who have done a Kickstarter campaign or some other type of crowdfunding campaign. Even if you can't participate in Startup Weekend Green Bay in person, we'd love to talk with you.

And if you're interested in Startup Weekend Green Bay 2015 but haven't registered yet, please register for SWGB today and get the Early Bird Discount!!!

(If you haven't done a Kickstarter or similar crowdfunding campaign but know someone who has, please suggest to them that they contact Bob Waldron -- bwaldron [att] gmail {dott} com.)

2014/12/12

Out of Hibernation -- New Beginnings


So my last post on this blog was over a year ago. Today, like the groundhog Phil, I'm finally coming out of hibernation and working on New Beginnings for the myDigitechnician blog. Well, Phil won't actually be working on the blog.

The most recent mD post prior to this one was done on 03 Dec 2013, one of my weekly NEW NET posts (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Entrepreneurism and Technology). In earlier days on this blog, I often wrote non-NEW NET posts. In the last couple years, however, the posts here were mainly weekly posts with aggregated and curated recent entrepreneurial and tech news excerpts, with occasional personal comments about one of the news items.

For the foreseeable future, posts on this blog will be something other than weekly NEW NET posts. Not sure yet what that 'something other' will be.

The primary reason for the lack of posts on this blog for the past year was that I moved to northern California (Arcata, in Humboldt County) to work as project manager for a small California startup. That meant no NEW NET meetings for me. Weekly posting of tech and entrepreneurial news was dropped due to the long hours involved with my new job and due to my efforts to identify and help connect the TIME community (tech, innovation, maker, entrepreneur) in Arcata and Humboldt County.

As part of my efforts to connect the Humboldt TIME community, I worked with several other people to launch biweekly meetings of microcontroller enthusiasts, the Humboldt MCU Community. To help connect the Humboldt MCU Community (MCU is acronym for micro controller unit), I launched a new blog. The first post on the blog was http://humboldtmcu.blogspot.com/2014/05/humboldt-microcontrollers-community.html, posted on 19 May 2014, and it was the first of 100 daily posts on the blog. It was challenging, but fun, to have a new post published every day for 100 days. Two other people wrote a few blog posts, Ed Smith and Nick Appelmans, and that was very helpful and much appreciated. I tried to talk others into writing posts for the blog, but I haven't yet figured out how to effectively build a team of regular blog post authors. Figuring out how to build a strong team of people to write blog posts is something I plan to work on.

The last post (so far) for the Humboldt MCU Community, http://humboldtmcu.blogspot.com/2014/08/ardusat-update-201415-high-school.html, was published on 28 August 2014. After I met my initial goal of 100 daily posts, the frequency of the posts decreased for several reasons. The posts ended in August primarily because I was no longer participating in the biweekly meetings of the Humboldt MCU community since I was no longer living in Arcata, CA. Instead I was living in Appleton, WI, again and working for the startup remotely from Wisconsin. Not participating regularly with the MCU Wizards of Humboldt, like Ed, Nick, Eric, Gordon and John, meant that I had much less incentive to write MCU blog posts and much less inspiration for topics to write about. Since I returned to Appleton, I haven't yet identifed and connected a core group of Fox Valley or New North MCU enthusiasts. I have done a few things to help identify some of the MCU ninjas in this area, and hope to continue expanding this effort to the point where I know at least 20 MCU hackers in the 18 counties of northeast Wisconsin, because I know they're out there. (Can you hear me???)

I'm still doing remote work for the California startup, but am starting to look for a new full-time (paying) job. If you want to hire a good chemical engineer or community advocate (evangelist), or if you know of an opportunity that would be a good fit with my skills and experience, contact me at bwaldron[att]gmail{dott}com! 

If the CA startup brings me back to Arcata full-time, I'll likely resume blogging for the Humboldt MCU community. If I get a different full-time job that has blog-able topics, I may write blog posts related to my new job.

So that summarizes Bob's Blogging for the past year. There's no clear plan yet for my blogging in the next year, but my guess is that on this blog or another, I'll publish quite a few posts. Good writing practice, if nothing else...