Dan Paluska

Greek Riots and Living with each other…
December 20, 2008, 5:16 pm
Filed under: europe | Tags: , ,


“On the night of Saturday, December 6th, two Special Guards of the Greek police clashed with a small group of young men. The exact details of what took place are still unclear, but it is known that one …”

These are incredible photos. But what do you do about them? How do we really learn to live each other? What are the actions that lie in between “post an internet blog telling everybody to get along” and “tear down the system with fire bombs.”

Where are our Ghandi and MLK’s of today? Who are the smaller local figures who work at this every day?

Where are our problem solvers? We know humans tend towards violence. Is there a large society social system that prevents violence without the implementation of a police state? We did send somebody to the moon. You would think we could figure out how to live with each other.

It seems like if we’re not careful this could be coming home to the us as well. See this article about the possibility of military action in the us:

We have no successful large scale implementations of really free and even government systems. The best examples seem to be the Scandanavian countries but they’re much smaller and more homogenous than the United States. Our job is much more difficult. And the answers are definitely not known already.

User testing, Kaizen, and process
December 14, 2008, 8:05 pm
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Great post from Clay Shirky about the user testing setup in use at meetup. All members of a project team use a simple teleconference setup (skype or video chat of your choice will work) to watch a remote user navigate his or her computer screen to use the application.

They get real time visual and audio feedback as to the real problems the user is having with the interface. Incredibly valuable information that they need to have to do their job correctly. And of course, this is not some isolated event. They do it daily.

I am reminded of 2 related things. One, from a product design class I took as an undergrad in mechanical engineering. The rule of thumb they gave was 1:1 for the ratio of time spent with customers versus time spent on your own designing. As is incredibly obvious in so many case, the ratio is usually much lower. (much less time with users)

Second, I think this relates well to the ideas of Kaizen (continuous improvement) from Japanese manufacturers (introduced postwar by us consultants). In their system, all levels of the company, from assembly line worker to senior management are encouraged to think about and suggest changes to the processes that define their work flow. All levels are engaged in the process of improving the process. They create low level and high level feedback systems which seek to improve their everyday processes as well as their products. It’s no small part of why the automotive companies there build much better cars then the automotive companies in the US.

Where else can these ideas be employed? What about our goverment? Is there some sort of better feedback loop our government can employ? How does the web or other technologies enable this? Where else can we be learning more effectively?

It seems these reflective processes are so much more important than any of the end results. All of the end results will eventually be replaced by better things. So how do we change the focus? How do we get people to get excited about the process rather than the product?

The economy, the experts and The Black Swan
December 12, 2008, 1:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Do you ever get the feeling that those in charge might not know what they are doing? I’ve felt this way for a long time about financial and real estate. As I have lived in Boston and watched prices of real estate rise and watched people go further and further into debt, I couldn’t help but ask myself where it was all coming from? It’s got to come from somewhere. I also watched the profits of all the Wall Street banks go up and up. Where does all this money come from? Are these people adding value to anything? There’s a lot of talk about GDP and “the economy”, but very little of substance. You can’t eat the GDP. It seems to me the experts at the top have been doing a good job of filling their pockets, pumping up the numbers, and very little of anything else. It made me sad to see the bailout go through. It’s certainly a painful issue for a lot of people but it will probably just get worse.

About 2-3 weeks ago I read the book ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Amazing book. I was deeply effected by its core message, the complicated world we live in today is understood by almost no one in the current ivory tower or establishment. This is a book about so much more than the economy. It is a book about our modern world and the human capacity for self deception. Give it a read and apply more doubt to your everyday life.

In his first chapter he tells a great story of the turkey. I could retell it but it’s best to hear it from him. Check out this 20 minute segment with him on the Charlie Rose show. It is well worth your time.


and another

Collision Collective Talk, Dec 10, 2008.
December 10, 2008, 1:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Jeff and I will be giving a talk about Quartet for the latest Collision Collusion gathering in Boston. Check out Collisioncollective.org for more info. 8pm, Wednesday, South Boston at our studio space.

Information should be free.
December 2, 2008, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Certainly many have said it before, Stallman/raymond/lessig/street artists/processing/linux/wikipedia/filesharing and plenty of others big and small. I formally add my voice. I’m in the process of working out my arguments. Please send me your comments. Please poke holes.

What are these things (opensource/freeculture/gpl/cc) going on out there right now? Who is making these things happen? What are the forces involved? What are the current successes? What are a couple stories we can tell from both sides? Who’s winning by doing it each way? Who is loosing? If we believe in problem solving, can we improve our current public understanding of this issue? How is this story best told?

There are software patents, copyright material, and patents of physical goods. I think the software and copyright arguments have been covered pretty well by others so i will concentrate on patents of physical goods for now. I would like to comment on others but that will be phase II for me.

[(optional?) my background is in robotics and i’ve spent time in the government grant military industrial complex/research university funding models and briefly in some other corporate hardware places(specifically gm and bose). i have my name on two patents(i think) from work in the biomechatronics group at the media lab. for a startup i licensed a patent from the mit tlo. ]

the summary of my view on patents: i’m fully against all patents on hardware or software.

but patents are the engine of the innovation!! they protect the little guy against the large corporations! they make it possible for companies to spend large amounts of research dollars on important solutions. how could business go forward without patents?

Well, it’s actually pretty easy and plenty of people are already doing it successfully. Ask any kid in art school today and they will talk about sharing their work openly. any of them who learn to program also learn to share their programs with others. many young and old computer programmers and web surfers and musicians and scientists have gone completely open source and continued to have successful careers. in the past we have tended to simplify the act of invention into the idea of a lone genius or delta force commandos or manhattan project group. this was great to solve certain problems in the past but we’re bigger than this now. we are missing the opportunity for a massive amount of parallel processing.

the most important things for us to develop are tools and processes, not products. this also means that in order for these things to be successful they have to be open. if you truly care about the solution and not your ownership, this is the only way forward. that seems ridiculous. but i need to eat! i need to pay rent, to go out with friends. i need to protect my market share! how can i do this without patents?

What are some current projects implementing or supporting some version of this model?

wikipedia, gnu, linux, sourceforge, processing, arduino, monome,  openwetlab, opencourseware, openframeworks, (*expand this list dramatically)

though there are many software and education and social network projects, there are not many physical product categories and for this argument, i’d like to focus on the physical products and market sectors.

let’s talk for a second about the auto industry. how many things in your car are covered by a patent? how much time do companies spend on working around other patents or protecting their own? does this make any difference to your evaluation of their car? probably not actually. it’s an overall feeling and the overall product quality. toyota hasn’t outperformed GM because of the patent system, they’ve outperformed them and been more profitable by focusing on the refinement of the process as they create the product. all the car companies and consumers would benefit from the abolition of patents.

so let me theorize a bit as well. i believe there is a mentality of a patent chaser. this happens to both individuals and large corporations. these are good people, good problem solvers who start of in pursuit of a bold solution to a problem they think is important. i think this is greatand most people start with noble intention. i wouldn’t ever want this to go away. but there is something i want to go away. there is a loop that is created that makes people believe they want to collect patents so they own the idea, this leads to some payoff and beachside sunset ride in the end.

it ceases to be a motivation for problem solving and starts to be a motivation for ownership. the product is not the reward. the process is.

but who will invest money on important problems? the fact is, if they are important, they will get solved. maybe it will be a truer/flatter market? this might actually be a capitalism that does solve problems. the information is free to all. there is no tragedy of the commons for information. having another person know it does not spoil it.

so the correct process will yield the greater end product for the consumer and also build the best long term stability for a company. and i am talking about physical products. so do i have any great examples of where this is happening? i have two small ones from the art world.

arduino -(add description/successes/limitations)

monome -(add description/successes/limitations)

are there bigger examples? i’m sure there are people out there making this happen on a bigger scale. I will be working to fill this in with examples.

do most big companies end up failing (*) because they become married to their past? do they become focused on the protection of property rather than the creation of solutions? how do they fall? from the old steel giants in pittsburgh to computer giants of rt128 to the first round of the silicon valley web bubble to the financial and automotive crises of today?

Here is some Fortune 500 data (1955-2008) that i’m going to take a look at… The Black Swan got me thinking about this “You’ll pass the same people on the way down as you did on the way up…”

bubbles are created by the problems of ownership, wealth consolidation, extremistan, power law dynamics, preferential attachment, rogue waves, etc. they are the creators of the superrich. so lets be clear, i’m in for a flattening. i don’t think aybody is that good. but no -isms please. this is the future. whatever came before, we can do better. lets not short circuit our discussion with rhetoric. obama seems to be pretty better at this then most politicians. i’m excited to see how his process plays out.

bubbles are a classic effect of extremistan (re: The Black Swan) and given what we know about the tragedy of the commons, how do we make things like wikipedia that seem to be mostly safe from this? (re: Here Comes Everybody).

Who are you out there right now who is thinking of making this change to their business model? It’s a change i’m trying to formalize for myself and expect to be implementing as fully as possible.  it’s an iterative process.