Limor Fried on Open Source Hardware

I’ve been way behind on watching podcast videos. I had to make time to sit down and watch some out of self defense as my laptop hard drive is about to fill up. I’ve been interested in the work of Limor Fried all through the podcast era. I first came to her via the podcast of her keynote at the 2007 SXSW and have been interested in her work ever since.

Of all the downloaded videos I watched the best, the one I enjoyed most was Limor’s talk on Open Source Hardware. It was full of quotable quotes. I paraphrased a few on Twitter as “Be aware that if you are relying on external validation only, you will get crushed.” and “Another reason you might want to open source your hardware is that you are an ideological freak. Free as in speech, baby!”

One of the points she made was very similar to a point I made at Balticon on a panel about Art, Music and Literature in the Age of Digital Reproducibility. An audience member brought up the issue of someone taking your online work and making merchandise from it. My point was that if you catch someone doing this, of course you should ask them to stop but also be aware that they did you a favor by demonstrating to you that a market exists around your work. If they are able to sell your merchandise, then you with a direct relationship to your own fans ought to be able to kick their ass at it. For whatever value they have cheated you of by their unauthorized use of your work, if it was cheaper than the cost of you paying for market research and it forced you to get off the stick then you came out to the good.

My favorite part of Limor’s talk was when she talked about seeing other people taking her designs, building them and selling them. Her process of getting used to that sounded a little Elizabeth Kubler-Ross with the stages of grief. The funniest part was when she asked someone to at least give her the attribution required by the license on the designs, she was asked to prove that she was the one who designed it. At first this made her mad but then she realized this is the highest compliment that can be paid to her work. Her goal was never to extract every possible nickel from commercial exploitation. If it was, she either would have never openly published the designs or she would have tried (possibly fruitlessly) to use a non-commerical license on them. She ended up finding peace with the idea. As Omar Little would have said on The Wire, “It’s all part of the game.”

Limor’s company, Adafruit, seems to be quite healthy. Selling kits for building these projects is – if I interpret the remarks in her talk correctly – generating revenues over $1 million per year. She doesn’t seem to be hamstrung by giving away her IP. In fact, I think one way to look at it is that you are as strong as what you can give away. I could possibly have looked at making my Spanish to English Kindle dictionary a salable product but I’m happier to give it away. Limor gives away really strong designs and still grosses 7 figures a year in sales. I think that’s a big positive take away from this talk. Give away what you can stand to, and afford to and we all get stronger. Jealously guard what you have and only you get stronger, and sometimes not even that.

Let’s Do It Later

On Twitter I ran across a link to this article on procrastination. I am bad about it, which is a trait I share in common with, well, practically everyone. What I most like about this article is that right up top it addresses the moral dimension. People are so quick in judgement nowadays and it usually involves some sort of “X is so fat and lazy” type generalizations. I’m trying to get better about procrastination, not with GTD (which I have pretty much abandoned as cool but not ultimately workable in my life) but by finally understanding myself enough to know that delay is defacto choosing not to do things. I seldom or never will remember to come back to things so where feasible I’m now shooting for just doing whatever the task is when I think about it. It’s not that I am guaranteed not to do it if I defer but it’s like any missed requirement – the behavior is undefined. I may do it, I may not, I may miss whatever deadline is attached. I finally understand that I have basically the same timescale as George Carlin attributed to dogs – “right now and forever”.

Night of the Livid Walt

I listen to the Tell ‘Em Steve Dave podcast and lately I’ve been enjoying it more than it’s big brother podcast SModcast. Like all podcasts in my list I’m about five weeks behind. On the episode I’m listening to now they make a reference to a fan created animation. LIke most of these, it is an anecdote from the audio show extracted and then animated. I really enjoyed this one. I liked how it looked and I found the original story hilarious. The full story was at least 15 minutes long, this cartoon is only about 90 seconds of the payoff at the end.

I have actually been skipping SModcast when they do live episodes. I listened to the one with Clerks/Clerks 2 actor Jeff Anderson because I wanted to hear what he had to say. Other than that, when I hear that the show is live, I just hit skip. I have 10 days worth of podcast running time, I’m not digging the live ones (or most live ones ever from any show) so why bother? This is also the same reason I stopped listening to the Authors On Tour podcast. I found that when popular authors play to their crowd, it just bugged me to listen. Same thing with SModcast, the playing to the crowd is the opposite of what I liked all along. I’ve decided that at future Dragon*Cons and Balticons I’m not doing any more live podcasts. It’s just not my thing. They are fun to do but really not fun to listen to outside of the room.

XCon 2010 – Myrtle Beach’s Comic Book Convention

Starting tomorrow and running through Sunday Oct 24, the 3rd annual XCon comic book convention will be held at Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach. The con was the cover story of this week’s Weekly Surge, so hopefully that will help bring some locals in. I did like the cover with it’s Marvel style cover including Steve and Robin as superheroes launching off of Springmaid Pier.

I’ve been to all of them so far and am looking forward to this one as well. It’s a no brainer, occurring in my area as it is. I tend to focus on filling in my wishlist from the cheap comic boxes. Last year there were several vendors with 3/$1 boxes and I’d be delighted to see some more of them this year. I’m also planning on getting a lot of stuff signed by area comics creator Jonathan Hickman. I met him at the first XCon and bought everything he had published at the time, which was mostly his Image work. Since then, he’s come on strong as a hot ticket writer for Marvel Comics. I just recently bought and enjoyed his Ultimate Thor so I’ll be getting that signed and chatting with him about it for sure.

One of the nice things about this con is that its the opposite of Dragon*Con or Heroes Con. It’s growing but still a pretty small regional con. You have plenty of time and room to shop, and lots of chances to talk to and interact with creators. As much as I enjoy those larger cons, they exhaust me with the bustle and size of them. I don’t mind having one at the opposite end of the spectrum in my year as well. Hope I see you there!

Around the Podosphere – October 2010

Here is some of the shows that have recently jumped out at me from my podcast listening. I’m about 6 weeks behind in my listening. I wrote a script to add up the running time of my queue and it currently is hovering around 9 days worth of listening. I’m in no danger of catching up.

I recently started listening to Rebooting the News with Dave Winer and Jay Rosen. The August 29th episode is particularly good. They had some interesting points to make about the business model of Consumer Reports but also about the then recent “ground zero mosque” controversy. I liked their analysis which paraphrased was “It’s not at Ground Zero, it’s not a mosque and if it was, who cares? Build houses of worship of all kinds at Ground Zero if you want to stick it to the religious intolerance of Al Qaida.”

I’m one of the original and longest duration fans of the Rock and Roll Geek Show. At this point I’ve been listening for six years. When Butler was burned out and in a bad mood he recorded  episode #415 which was all the music of Thin Lizzy. On his various programs, Thin Lizzy is his go-to bad mood music, particularly what he and Jasper call “tender jams” of which “Dancing in the Moonlight” is what Butler says is his favorite of all time. I’m inclined to agree.  

I’ve been listening to Marc Maron’s WTF Pod show since about episode 30 or so (and I went back and listened to all of them from episode #1). He had a three run tear of some of the best shows he’s done in the whole row. He did a two part episode with writer-director Judd Apatow for episodes 103 and 104 . Amazingly, the first part contains some of Apatow’s recordings of interviews he did with comedians in the 1980s as a teenaged comedy nerd. I’d put these at the top of the WTFPod list except for their immediate successor – episode 105 which was an interview with Thomas Lennon. I laughed harder at this than any episode in the series. Every 60 seconds, there was some kind of quotable wit. In a crazy digression about how Lennon finds Enya hot, the two mused on whether or not she is rich. Said Lennon, “She sang on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Of course she has money. She has that sweet hobbit money!” I found myself laughing at the phrase “sweet hobbit money” for hours afterwards. I highly recommend this series as a whole, but particularly these three episodes. Check them (and all of these show) out!

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for October 10, 2010 – “Flight Time”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for October 10, 2010. I play a song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch; most of this show is an extended mediation on friendship and putting in the time, showing up and being there. It also includes music from The Arts and Sciences and George Hrab.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

My Kindle Spanish to English Dictionary in the Wild

Early this year, I made available to the internet for free the Kindle formatted dictionary that does Spanish to English translation. I know that people continue to use it and that post still gets comments after nine months. Today I found a reference to Bill Ferguson’s blog about his efforts to learn Spanish. In it he credits the availability of my dictionary as the reason he finally bought a Kindle 3, and he includes some screenshots of his experience. It’s nice to see this kind of detail about the use to which people are putting the dictionary. This was always the principle but it’s good to see some concrete examples.

As an addenda, people ask me if I’m going to make this available in other languages. I have no plans to do that because I’m not interested in reading in any other languages. I will make my scripts available to anyone who wants them as-is to hack them into something that will do other languages (or the English to Spanish as others have asked for.) It’s not plug and play and will require some fiddling, so it isn’t for the faint of heart but you can have them.