Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for July, 2012

Things every geek household should contain…

Posted by shannonclark on July 24, 2012

My wife Usha and I playing games at Snakes and Lattes in Toronto on a recent trip

My wife Usha and I playing games at Snakes and Lattes in Toronto on a recent trip.

Clearly this is a list that is long and might differ by your particular interests but I was thinking this evening about the things that every geek household should contain (and realizing that my own household may be missing quite a few things…).

What additions would you have to my list below?

  1. A bag full of dice – the full array of d20’s, d12’s, d10’s, d8’s, lots of d6’s and some d4’s plus assorted classic or unusual dice
  2. Settlers of Catan
  3. A number of full bookcases with an array of great books – likely a wide mix of graphic novels, science fiction & fantasy novels, philosophy, history, technology and more. Geeks read and almost all geeks read widely and diversely (or at least did in college and kept their textbooks)
  4. A chess board and chess clock
  5. A go board (selling my cheap one, may need to find a better replacement)
  6. A shelf full of old and new boardgames – likely a lot of modern Euro games but also some classic “Ameritrash” games as well as childhood favorites (Stratego, some version of Risk, etc). Note that Monopoly, Sorry, Candyland etc aren’t required but probably Scrabble is. What other games would you say every home should own?
  7. Lots of decks of playing cards, well used and a full set of heavy duty poker chips (at least one)
  8. Wide selection of pens, markets, sharpies, crayons and more – basically most geeks could in some manner do double duty as a 2nd grade teacher – but they use their craft tools to draw out game boards or outline craft projects.
  9. A sewing machine (yes even male geeks should likely be able to craft stuff – i.e. cosplay, larp costumes…)
  10. More computers than humans residing in the home
  11. A game console (or two or three)
  12. A home network (or two)
  13. A set of tools to take apart computers and other gadgets (i.e. more than just a single basic screwdriver). Many geeks will also have a wide array of tools – power or mechanical likely including a soldering iron, a box full of electronics parts, lots of power strips, batteries and power supplies etc.
  14. A few current and few older gadgets – stuff like a FitBit but probably also an older X/O computer
  15. At least one digital camera other than on your smartphones (which perhaps goes without saying nearly every member of the household – at least all the adults and older children each already own). Mostly for being able to shoot video and higher quality images than you can with your phone but many geeks will also own a DSLR camera for more “serious” photography/videos. Perhaps many “real” geeks will also have microphones.

What else would you expect to find in a geek household? I’m open to suggestions from many different definitions/types of geeks. My wife and I are both geeks, though in different ways and between us we have lots of other highly geeky things – a kitchen full of tools and equipment (which we actually use regularly), shelves full of serious cookbooks, her room (and many boxes in our garage) full of her sewing and craft supplies and equipment including many machines, specialized tools and parts and pieces. Geeks tend to, in my observation, go overboard about their specific areas of deepest interest and passion – whether cooking, crafting, gaming (paper, board or digital), comics, books etc.

But so to I think there may be a superset of things that most (or at least many) geeks will own that perhaps helps define us. Curious if my list above resonates and what glaringly obvious things I’ve missed….

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Today I registered for the TechCrunch Disrupt

Posted by shannonclark on July 24, 2012

originally posted to my Google+ account – reposting here for posterity 

Today I registered for the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon here in SF in September and I’ve started thinking about what I want to build. One thought is an application that builds upon what I started my first company, JigZaw (with a Z not the sell other people business cards company) to build – namely a really smart calendar.

But with a twist.

Instead of being a calendar – or even an online schedule/list of upcoming events (of which there are both lots and frankly nothing very great) this would be focused on a related problem – but with a very different UI and solution.

The core idea (which I’m posting here as I usually post ideas – I would be interested in building this and am planning on possibly pursing this, if someone else wants to build it do so though I ask for at a minimum some acknowledgement and would be interested in being involved, but I’m not claiming any kinda of IP on ideas) is:

Countdowns and Deadlines.

Countdowns are descending reminders about when something will start (such as 100 hours to the 2012 Olympics – though the units can be days, weeks or even years instead of hours or minutes). Mostly countdowns for an event would actually be a SET of related countdowns – for example “countdown to when SXSW panel submissions are open” along with “countdown to hotel registration opening”, “countdown to registration opening” and “countdown to conference starting….”

Countdowns are for events that haven’t yet happened/started

in contrast:

Deadlines are for an event/happening that has started and will end/stop at a specific time

Often a countdown will end and a related deadline will start (i.e. “Deadline for SXSW panel submissions”)

The idea for this application is that individuals could select countdowns and related deadlines to pay attention to / be reminded about in the app from countdowns and deadlines setup by other users (and/or by the company or corporate partners). These could be in LOTS of categories – release dates for movies or books, ticket sales for touring bands, festivals, sporting events, school related dates, sales at favorite stores (online or offline) and much much more.

Most countdowns and deadlines would be default PUBLIC though the option would be there for you to also track personal, private deadlines (work deadlines for example)

Alongside your view of pending deadlines and active countdowns you might also overlap reoccurring activities/goals/to-do’s (walk 10,000 steps each day etc) but this last feature is one that I think is optional and we might leave out in the first version.

Individuals would be able to add and share new countdowns.

Each countdown or deadline would be associated with both a description and a link to an related resource – ideally one that would reflect any future CHANGES to that event (i.e. extension of a deadline or postponement/cancelation of an event being counted down to)

Once you have selected a number of things to track and pay attention to this service would then be able to offer at least two compelling additional services:

1) Show you related countdowns/deadlines which you might want to also track – i.e. next year’s conference if you are tracking this year’s or the same conference/show offered in a different region. Over time this might get refined to learn which categories you care so much about that you want to know every instance of that event (PAX & PAX East for example) vs. more common events you might not care about every instance of (every hockey game played in the NFL for example vs the home games of your favorite team)

2) Show you PEOPLE you might want to meet/connect with due to shared interests. This might start with leveraging the Facebook social graph to show you shared interests across your existing friends (assuming you and your friends are both using this service) but eventually this might also help you discover others with many common interests nearby.

This service would likely list a LOT of events from sites such as Meetup which would be a really rich data source.

In terms of the business model(s) for this service I see many different options. One simplistic one is that non-humans wanting to have accounts (to create events) would pay for that right. (i.e. event organizers, companies running sales, film studios etc). This professional fee would scale in some dimension and would offer them a rich suite of tools and functionality. It would be available to “human” users as well at a reduced price assuming these features are of value to some individuals as well (i.e. folks who run a number of personal events for example – a musician for instance)

Other options: some affiliate fees on sales driven by this service – either links to online (or offline) sales or links that are to ticket/event sales directly. (in many cases however these would have to individually negotiated and aren’t all that high in many cases)

Direct sales of the mobile apps (debatable – a free app may drive more user growth and still result in greater revenues particularly if the professional/corporate layer was an optional in-app subscription purchase)

This type of application and web service won’t change the world – nor will it be a billion+ business but I can see how this could be a very nice profitable standalone business OR a rich addition to an existing web business. I also see how to build this affordably and in a way that should scale to quite large numbers.

(and I have many many years worth of past research and development that should allow me to build some really powerful and rich tools to power this service – to check links for relevancy, to automate the updates when data changes and eventually to also discover and search out related or new countdowns/deadlines)

So who is interested in helping me build this – either as developers or investors?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Comics, Geeks and the evolution of media

Posted by shannonclark on July 18, 2012

If you didn’t already know this about me – I’m a geek and proud of it. I’m also an analyst and observer of business trends and for many years now one area I have been studying very carefully is the ongoing evolution of media an evolution which is occurring all around us on a global scale in ways that may change billion dollar industries (and already have). For the past few years I have been focusing on studying a variety of specialized niches both because they are areas that interest me personally and also because I believe that each niche offers insights into the future of the larger market. Individual creators and content focused businesses should study these niches for what is working as well as what is not and for the direction of things to come.

While there are many great examples here are a few specific cases across a variety of niches which I think are worth careful study. Hopefully these are also entertaining and enjoyable.

Comics

As the big two comics publishers Marvel and DC experiment with line-wide relaunches and explorations of digital content (see DC Comics on Amazon for example – note my Affiliate link is in there – that’s a link to DC Comics available on the Kindle where for a while at least they were exclusive) independent comics publishers have been doing some really interesting experiments. The web comic world for example has launched a lot of highly successful Kickstarter projects to fund the physical print versions of web comics (which are mostly available online for free) and the model of free-online frequent web comic supported in part by infrequent collections in physical form (or as paid digital collections) is starting to see some successes.

The comics site that I will be watching carefully over the rest of 2012 (and into 2013 and beyond) however illustrates some other relevant trends around the comics industry – namely that comics are a fertile source of new IP that leads into other media and increasingly creators are crossing between many different genres and media types to tell and explore their story ideas. This site is ThrillBent which is a collaboration of Mark Waid and Jon Rodgers. Mark Waid is a highly acclaimed comics writer and Jon Rodgers is the producer and writer of the fantastic TV series Leverage (and other projects in the past and future). Jon Rodgers is also a gamer (see below where I embed a video that includes him talking about his game playing).

Video entertainment

Increasingly there are entertainment options that are available on-demand from a wide array of options (physical media – DVDs/BluRay being the least useful option) and as this evolution continues to expand the 500+ channel cable/satellite TV model is increasingly under attack and likely will evolve considerably in the next few years. Just this year YouTube has taken a major step in generating eve more new ongoing content on YouTube via their program of channels many of which they are helping fund. My personal favorite is the Geek And Sundry channel which has become my regular video viewing on a weekly (and often daily) basis.

See this video from Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series feature Jon Rodgers among other guests.

Shows like this may not garner the millions of viewers of the latest reality tv show but they are compelling and engaging and, in this case, highly geeky…

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