This is a pen called “D:Scribe”, a design by Reuben
Png
and was featured on the Yanko Designs
blog
:

SMS and Email Pen

I personally prefer to write with pen and paper. However, I end up
eventually transferring it to the computer for all the goodness of
digital material (rewritable, linkable, searchable, backup-able, etc.)
With this pen, you can have the best of both worlds… and it looks
awesome!

I so wish I could get this right now.

Or one of these high tech
napkins

designed by Avery Holleman:

Napkin PC

Just scribble on these foldable plastic napkins and it’ll
automatically be synced with the computer. Imagine kids drawing
together separately but the picture being simultaneously updated in
each of their napkins. Oh, and they don’t need batteries.

I was impressed with the “Window to the
World”

designed by Mac Funamizu:

Imagine being able to point at anything – whether it is a building,
a book or a person, and immediately getting back information on what
it is or store details about it. Perfect when you’re lost in a new
city or you’re simply reading a book and want to understand new words
or historical names without being forced to flip through a dictionary
or visit Wikipedia on a traditional computer and browser.

When I’m at this, I’m lusting over the Nokia
Morph
.
If you haven’t seen it already, you must check out their concept video
(showcasing the amount of thought they’ve put into this already):

It’s truly amazing what the human mind can imagine. And what we can do
with technology.

Update: And amazingly close to what I was wishing for is Pranav Mistry’s Quickies project at the MIT Media Lab (via Nirav).


When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty, I think
only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the
solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
— R. Buckminster Fuller

Tim O’Reilly’s definition of Web
2.0
makes it clear that
“crowdsourcing” is one of the defining features of Web 2.0, not only
RIAs:

“The service automatically gets better the more people use it.”

Crowdsourcing is about taking it to the next step where people
‘contribute’ something to the ‘system’.

There are many people and companies trying to make crowdsourcing work
in different areas. For example, at
Kluster,
the participants get to design a product, etc. and the participants
who back the winning idea get to share the reward. What is interesting
is the story behind Kluster:

Kaufman came up with the idea for Kluster at his last startup,
Mophie, which makes iPod accessories and was recently sold to
mStation for an undisclosed sum. One of Mophie’s hit products is the
Bevy, an all-in-one iPod Shuffle case, bottle opener, cord-wrap, and
keychain. The company designed it at last year’s MacWorld conference
in 72 hours with input from 30,000 customers using software that was
a precursor to Kluster. According to Kaufman, Mophie sold hundreds
of thousands of the $15 cases.

And from the June 2006 Wired magazine
article
:

Melcarek (a registered user at InnoCentive.com) solved a problem
that stumped the in-house researchers at Colgate-Palmolive. The
giant packaged goods company needed a way to inject fluoride powder
into a toothpaste tube without it dispersing into the surrounding
air. Melcarek knew he had a solution by the time he’d finished
reading the challenge: Impart an electric charge to the powder while
grounding the tube. The positively charged fluoride particles would
be attracted to the tube without any significant dispersion.

“It was really a very simple solution,” says Melcarek. Why hadn’t
Colgate thought of it? “They’re probably test tube guys without any
training in physics.” Melcarek earned $25,000 for his efforts.
Paying Colgate-Palmolive’s R&D staff to produce the same solution
could have cost several times that amount – if they even solved it
at all.

More examples are:

  • Dell Idea Storm where customers vote
    for what products they want Dell to do next – this is how Dell’s

    recent introduction of Linux laptops happened.
    
  • Get Satisfaction which is
    “people-powered customer service”
  • Intel asking the crowd on what is the
    next Google
  • MicroPledge and co fund
    os
    where people pledge their money for
    software ideas they like, once a good amount is reached, someone
    takes up that pledge and works on it. If he/she completes it
    successfully, they get the money and the crowd gets the software
    they want. This is the crowdsourced version of a bounty.
  • Sell-a-Band where people pledge their
    money on bands they like. Sufficient money implies the band gets to
    record an album with that money. If the album sells, the crowd, the
    band and the SellaBand website share the profit.
  • Kiva for microfinance loans to entrepreneurs
    in developing countries.
  • Wesabe for personal finance.
  • CrowdSpirit for electronics.
  • Threadless for T-shirts.
  • Everywhere Mag for a travel magazine.
  • Crowdsourcing.com is crowdsourcing
    a book on crowdsourcing. Say that fast thrice.
  • We can also include Youtube under the entertainment category.
  • And many many
    more
    .

Heck, we even have an O’Reilly book on ‘Programming Collective
Intelligence’

(which has been sitting on my to-read list for too long).

The biggest and best example, of course, is Wikipedia, one of the top
10 largest websites in the world.

The article that blew my mind (and got me wondering about
crowdsourcing in the first place) is the Wikipedia page on British
crown succession

(via IndiaUncut) –
this page lists 1388+ people who are in the succession line for the crown!

But I wonder, why did Wikipedia work? Or rather, what makes people
contribute to Wikipedia?

The best research on this topic that I found was the article What
Motivates Wikipedians?
in
the CACM monthly magazine:

What motivates Wikipedians?

I wonder if the companies mentioned above are specifically tapping
into some of these motivations.

The article goes on to explain the relative importance of these
motivations in their survey. I was seriously surprised at how high
Ideology and Values rank here!
If you get a chance, do read the whole
article, it’s a good piece of research.

Another interesting research was the paper Becoming Wikipedian:
transformation of participation in a collaborative online
encyclopedia
which traces
how a casual visitor starts reading Wikipedia and goes on to become
a member of the community, and how the social
structure

and technological
aspects
enable this.

I think I’m now beginning to understand what Jimmy Wales (founder of
Wikipedia) said when he was asked the same
question
:

Love. It isn’t very popular in technical circles to say a lot of
mushy stuff about love, but frankly it’s a very very important part
of what holds our project together.

I have always viewed the mission of Wikipedia to be much bigger than
just creating a killer website. We’re doing that of course, and
having a lot of fun doing it, but a big part of what motivates us is
our larger mission to affect the world in a positive way.

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given
free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re
doing.

Although this reasoning may apply to Wikipedia which is an
encyclopedia and information-centric, I wonder whether the same
applies to the other examples above. For example, consider
Threadless.com for T-shirt designs… what are the motivations for
people in that community? And how much does the website’s social and
technological structure play a role? What are the magic ingredients
that make a crowdsourcing website become successful?

Maybe I should crowdsource this question. Hmmm.

Maybe it is not different from any other kind of website which becomes
successful but I think crowdsourcing websites are distinct from
content websites like SmashingMagazine.com or e-commerce websites like
Amazon/eBay, etc.

Now, the next question is has anybody successfully crowdsourced
anything in an India-specific way?


Update on 2008 May 13: ReadWriteWeb has a similar list.

       Depth of friendship ∝ Time spent willingly × Sharing

My observation is that nothing else matters as much as these two
factors.

P.S. I got the idea of sharing being a major factor from Srikanth
Thunga (whose
blog
doesn’t seem to be alive any more).

On Day 14 of my Singapore trip (Jan 04, 2008), it was time to head
back home. It was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I felt so liberated
experiencing a vacation which seemed overdue. On the other hand, I was
rearing to get back to my realities (well, not really, but I didn’t
want to delude myself any further).

Singapore Day 10 007 Singapore Day 04 Sentosa 128

This trip was interesting from many perspectives. For one, I had
simply no agenda. I landed in a new country with 13 days and no plan
whatsoever. I started off by reading some magazine cutouts on the
plane. Later, I figured out that the info was all
online
.

I ended up going up in a hot air balloon to take in the awesome sight
of a lit-up Singapore at night, seeing more than a thousand
toys
at
a toys museum, cycling in an
island
, sleeping in
a library
, deep in
philosophical conversations by the beach, trekking alone for 20 km in
a water reservoir area, watching a 12-year old kid strum ‘Hotel
California’
, have
my roots shaken,
admire ancient
societies
, saw
an Indian National Army monument, visited the world’s largest
fountain, had mouth-watering Indian food at Bombay Express Cafe,
grooved to Felix Da Housecat’s mixing skills at the Zouk Club, prayed
at the Krishna Temple on the first day of the new year, saw animals
like mousedeer, bat-eared fox, sugar glider and east african bongos at
the Night Safari, saw remote-controlled kites being flown, and so on.

Singapore Day 07 198
Singapore Day 07 134
River Side

There were two big things for me in this trip.

One was spending time with my friends Abishek Nair and Ashish Dantu.
Thanks a ton guys for being such great hosts, for the conversations,
for making me watch Russell Peters at 2 am, for all the fun we had,
and for teaching me so many things without ever having to say
anything.

Abishek and Ashish

The second thing was coming away inspired. Inspired by the pulse of
the city, inspired by their belief that “it’s possible.” ‘It’ just
needs a vision, a decision and a team to execute. On the other hand,
I’m terrified that people are progressing so fast and working towards
their dreams and I’m getting left behind.

I had a lot of time to think, inside out. Putting life into
perspective. As Einstein once said “The significant problems we face
cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we
created them.” So, it’s good to step back once in a while and think
about the big picture of your life. The challenge is to avoid getting
lost again in the daily grind, which is so hard.

In fact, it’s interesting how many people actually go through these
step-back-and-breathe phases, it’s just that it is completely
hush-hush, and understandably so, it’s a very personal thing.

On the other hand, there’s so much happening out there from things
like man-made islands to
the King Abdullah Economic
City
, an
entire city being built on the sea!

Palm_Island_Resort

King Abdullah Economic City

This trip made me see how the world is changing and how I should
change, rather than me just being a ‘frog in the well’ and not knowing
what’s really going on ‘out there’.

Travelling is a necessity for me, not a luxury. It’s my way of
overcoming implosion. Our ancestors understood this. As an old Kannada
saying goes: “desha noDu, kosha vodu” (roughly translates to “Travel
the world, Read books”).

I have this notion that you don’t get to really know a city until
you’ve run in it.

So, I ran a couple of times in my Singapore trip, and I liked the
route so much that on Day 13 (Thu, Jan 03, 2008), I started taking
photos.

I start right from getting out of Abishek and Ashish’s apartment and
getting down the stairs.

Singapore Day 13 001 Singapore Day 13 003
Singapore Day 13 005
Singapore Day 13 008

This is a proper urban area, not outside the city. Don’t be fooled by
the greenery.

Was listening to “Heartbeat – Instrumental” from ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’.

Singapore Day 13 009 Singapore Day 13 011 Singapore Day 13 012 Singapore Day 13 015

Was listening to “Far Away” by Nickelback.

I love the wide open spaces they have kept for public usage right in
the middle of a square area with huge apartments on all sides.

Singapore Day 13 017 Singapore Day 13 018
Singapore Day 13 023

Was listening to “Ninnindale” from Milana (Kannada movie).

Singapore Day 13 025
Singapore Day 13 030 Singapore Day 13 036 Singapore Day 13 038

It was good to see so many runners around. The best part is that
people accept it as normal behavior. And cyclists are given their due
respect.

The most startling thing was when I was waiting to cross the road, the
vehicles will stop (irrespective of traffic) and ask you to go ahead
first. It was actually irritating at first to experience this, but
soon got used to it.

Was listening to “Endings” by Dusty Hughes.

Singapore Day 13 062
Singapore Day 13 070 Singapore Day 13 107

Was listening to “One Thing” by Finger Eleven.

Singapore Day 13 086 Singapore Day 13 113

What more can a running enthusiast like me ask for?

P.S. If you’re curious on why people run, watch the trailer of the Marathon Movie.