Maker/Hacker Space best Training for Future Prosperity

Just came back from the energizing brainstorming session around creating a Maker/Hacker space in Savannah. Another great event organized by Jake and his team of the Creative Coast. Thanks.

The energy in the room was high and the wish list got longer and longer.

The audience was diverse from teenagers to retirees with sparkle in their eyes eager to tinker and try out new things.

The 30K question is, will there be enough people that understand the benefit and shell out the monthly fee to make if thrive and be self-funding?

I am convinced it will be, if we ensure the following: Continue reading

Let School Kids Tackle Real-World Problems

Check out Will Richardson’s TEDxNY talk. He points out how our school system is broken. It is built for a time long past.

Will quotes Eric Hoffer:

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Our kids go to schools that train them for a world that has expired. The following ideas may help this situation:

Let children tackle real-world problems

On the first week of every school year the class agrees on what problem to tackle. The remainder of the year is spent on solving the chosen problem, documenting possible solutions as well as identifying dead ends. Along the way the students track and document their progress and outcome. Ideally the whole process is shard publicly for the world to benefit from the solution as well as the process. Continue reading

Maker/Hackerspaces the Future of Public Libraries?

The other week, or actually it was the other month, I joined Refresh Savannah, a monthly gathering of people who are interested in positive change. Their guest of the day was  Christian Kruse, the director responsible for Savannah’s Public Library, as well as the county library system.

I love libraries. They are great resources and gathering places for local communities. Savannah Public Library was the first one on the East Coast to have an electronic check out system, and they have now just added two new libraries, as in physical buildings, in the last years.

One of the most telling statistics from Kruse was that they were expecting the readership in the main library to go down by 50% once they opened the two new branches. But it turns out the new sites mostly attract new readers; and the main library readership decreased only by 20%, and some of this loss can be attributed to SCAD expansion taking away some of their parking spots.

The pressing question is — given the double whammy of budget cuts and e-readers — how will the library of the future stay relevant?

The educated fans of the public library that vote and influence city politics are the first ones to get e-readers and are thus less connected to their local library as they don’t frequent them anymore. What can we do about that?

My first suggestion was to add a tools library which consists of items such as saws, drills and lawn movers. Like you check out books, you can check out tools on a need basis. Kruse said that the libraries at the county-level are working on something like this. Love that.

My primary suggestion was to focus on the community aspect by giving local people access to space to get together, share ideas, and create. We were told they are doing that, however, they don’t have the resources to accommodate all the requests. Therefore they don’t want to lock down the spaces for one group every week at the same time. They want other groups to have a say in how to split up scarce resources. Good, but not ideal.

Then it dawned on me, that they could retool some of the space, that will get freed up by the library moving to digital media. My favorite place to be can be created: a local Maker/Hackerspace for people that want to tinker and be together with other folks that like to tinker too.

Continue reading

KAHNx Academy Please

Just learned that Sal Kahn the amazing force behind the Kahn Academy is visiting SAP Labs in Palo Alto soon. Check out his TED talk. His winning formula has the potential to fundamentally change the way we educate our children as well as ourselves.

This is one of the few moments, where I would love to be back in the Bay Area to be part of the session. I would ask him one question:

When is he going to adopt the TEDx model, and allow external content?

TED used to be this super exclusive conference where once a year for a horrendous amount of money people would share ideas worth sharing over a couple of days. Well the main TED conference is still that, but brilliant idea number one is that they share the recording of all their presentations. Sal Kahn is doing the same, he is where TED was 5 years ago.

TED organizers second amazing idea was, to take a step back and realize, we have a winning formula: Short presentations with no or few slides telling an inspiring story, ideally derived from their own experience.

Now let’s offer that framework to everyone who wants to bring the TED spirit to their local community. There are a few rules, to nudge folks into the framework. They call it TEDx so you know that this is an aspiring TED event, but not the original. For me TEDx is better than the mother ship, because they are local. You get to know the local talent and you bump into each other at other local events or at the farmer’s market. Very powerful.

Now Kahn Academy is also very powerful and has a winning formular/framework: Simple board, off voice and one topic covered per video.

Sal is amazingly prolific in creating these, but at the moment there is only one Sal, he is the bottleneck. For the academy to really explode, Sal should take a page from TEDx, set the framework, call it KAHNx Academy, create a couple of lessons on how to create a topic including exercises and let others try their hand.

First most of the submitted Topics will be lousy, but a simple voting/flagging system will be able to separate the good and burry the bad.

A community will develop that will help not only with the development and ratings, but also improve the process. Sal could review the ones that the community deemed excellent and give them his stamp of approval. You can review many more videos than create.

In the Contribute section of the Kahn Academy’s web site, he asks for help to translate topics, but not for the creation of one.

At least not yet, as I am convinced that this will come. If not by him, then someone else will fill that gap.

Palo Alto colleagues if you are going to his session at SAP Labs, please ask him:  When he will start to accept topics created by others?

Don’t Teach Them To Fish. Teach Them To Dig Their Own Pond!

Happy Labor Day. A good time to take a step back and check out Douglas Rushkoff”s Life Inc. The Movie.

@johnrobb@pixelbase (Michael) and @GregChase had a little Twitter exchange about this theme too.

Everyone’s mind right now is on creating jobs.
John posted and I retweeted:  Not sure jobs are the answer though. It just perpetuates dependency. A focus on platforms for micro-entrepreneurs is better. 3 Sep
Greg brilliant question, that hit it on the nail: Don’t teach them to fish? Teach them to dig their own pond?
Which John sees as: The basis of a resilient community parable.
I think: Your future prosperity depends on your ability to dig your own pond.
Michael commented: Focus on platforms for micro-entrepreneurs is better >> works for me, but not for everyone!
John tweeted: That is a legacy problem.
I also think that this is solvable by changing our educational focus. Schools need to be training grounds for digging ponds.
Globalization, energy and food shortage, accelerated change, automation, robotics, … are forces that will majorly influence our ability to put food on the table for us and our loved ones.
Greg’s tweet today stopped me from laughing out laud because it hit too close to home. Brilliantly shows the core of our current problem:


GregChaseGregChase @johnrobb @finnern Teach them to buy and sell derivitives of futures of fish they might catch if they built their own pond – #TheAmericanWay 6 hours ago

The American Way? Unfortunately the American way of people with money who are calling the shots.

Our way out of this will be via Resilient Communities, Meta CurrenciesTransition Town Movements …  In a comment to the Live Inc movie someone suggested Time Banking. Interesting idea that needs further exploring. This is the new frontier to help create a society that works for all.

Cracking Poached Egg Gromit


Cracked an egg that I thought was hard boiled. It wasn’t. So I quickly poached it in the microwave.

It is really easy: To quickly make a poached egg in the microwave oven, you crack the egg into a small bowl that stands in a larger bowl that has some water in it.

Put the two bowls into the microwave and depending on your preference and the strength of your oven wave it for 1-2 minutes.

In my case I did 1 minute and then additional 30 seconds. Pepper and salt to taste. Yummy!

Check out the final picture. Not that you can see a big difference with a glass bowl on a white porcelain bowl, there is not a lot of contrast to the white egg.

Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

P.S. I mostly posted this because I wasn’t sure whether posting from Flickr directly to this workpress blog still works. It does, like a charm. Oh and I hope you make one of these eggs too.

Fool Me Once

2012 Today I got a message from Sara El-Amine. She writes:

I’m the national training director at Obama for America. My job is to develop the programs and resources our staff and volunteers use to teach others how to grow this campaign in their communities.

I’m writing because you or someone you know might want to be among a group of people who will play the leading role in our grassroots strategy this fall. They’re called our fall fellows.

Apply to be a fall fellow right now — or pass this message along to someone else you think would be great:

Fall fellow? More like fall in 2012 fellow. Well, no. Actually: Hell No! One of my biggest frustration with the Obama presidency is not, that he kept Bush’s financial advisors, ensuring that Wall Street is continuing to call the shots, or that the folks responsible for the financial breakdown have not been prosecuted, or that we are still in Afganistan, or that he still hasn’t closed  Guantanamo, or that he didn’t even had the backbone to stop or at least put up a good fight regarding the extension of Bush’s tax breaks for the rich. (For a great overview of the continuation of the failed politics from Bush to Obama check

All the above are baffling me, but the most frustrating off all is, that he abandoned Obama Nation the minute we got him elected. With his charisma he was able to mobilize the masses around the hope for change and we were ready to fight for real change. It could have been the 5th branch of power. Obama could have written to the Obama Nation in an email: I hear you loud and clear: Ending the war on drugs is top priority for you. Please work with your Congress representatives to get such a bill introduced and passed and I will sign it. Here is the link for you to coordinate your efforts.

All we get is a twitter Obama town hall stunt now that he is starting to realize, that he needs to get his base mobilized for his reelection.

Sara I don’t envy you and your task to develop programs to grow this campaign in the communities. Where are the tangible results from the amazing groundswell from 4 years ago?

Quoting Bush the younger: There’s an old saying … fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again. ;-)

My conclusion: If the guy on the white horse riding into Washington with the words “Change” plastered on his shield and a backing army of volunteers behind him doesn’t get the job done, or more accurately turns out to be a Bush in sheep/black skin, then that system is broken.

Time to look somewhere else to create a more just world with opportunities for all and Lawrence Lessig’s Fix Congress First is the best organization to do that. This is where we should spend our precious resources. Not convinced? Spend the 2.5 minutes for this amazing video:

No horse was harmed playing this kind of Polo

Scootering around in the outskirts of Savannah’s historic district Nina and I stumbled upon these 6 guys playing bicycle polo. Just loved it and stayed for a while to watch them.

The sticks are mostly created out of old ski polls with a PVC pipe screwed to the end of it.

Some of the bikes have plastic in their wheels to not let shots through and to protect their spokes.

You are allowed to lean on your stick in front of the goal, but not put your foot down.

They were using all kinds of bicycles, some with gears, some single speed. What surprised me was, that non of them had a fixed gear bike, as it is a huge advantage to be able to drive backwards. Especially in the goal.

I loved it, because it is just some folks coming together to play, no super expensive gear our tricot needed to take part. You hack a stick together and the bike you are driving around with just works.

Totally reminded me of the pick up roller hockey games we used to play.

Apparently they play every Sunday and try to get together once during the week too.

Nina now wants to get a pink hockey stick and can’t wait to get her bike that is still somewhere in transition.
Picture taken by Mark & Marie Finnern.

Google+ Ecosystem Advantage

First thing I looked for when I tipped my toe into Google+ was how I can repost my Tweets. Back in the day I did that with Buzz and some rightfully say that is what killed Google Buzz, as people didn’t check back to see what is going on. I didn’t.

Mmmh, what if I send my Tweets to Facebook, that stream to Google+ and from there back to Twitter? Would that Tweet get posted around and around ever faster, as every social network wants to proof their speed? Over time my circle tweet would take up more and more resources everything else would get slower. Eventually everything would get sucked up into my tweet rounds. A small black hole would develop around it and swallow our whole solar system. [Cue up manic laughter] I knew exactly what the text of my tweet would be: All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy ;-)

Alas my little fantasy of my world destruction came to an abrupt halt when reading Yarif Zur’s Google+ thread where he was wondering the same thing: OK. I give up. How to I post on twitter so it shows in G+? The consensus was that it isn’t possible, until this morning, when Orit Zuckerman posted:

Orit Zuckerman's profile photo

Orit Zuckerman – hot from the press: If you haven’t seen it yet:
this will let you share plus posts with fb or twitter 2:39 AM

Mohamed Mansour has developed a Chrome extension that let’s you forward your Google+ posts to Twitter as well as Facebook.

The interesting thing is, that this wasn’t Google developing it, it was a Chrome developer. Turns out it was done a couple of days ago already, as it has been written up on TechCrunch.

I searched and I could not find an extension for Twitter, it may be because there are no Google+ APIs yet. A shrewd business decision on Google’s part to avoid the Buzz history.

Nevertheless, advantage Google+ via their ecosystem and Chrome based platform extension. Have developers on your side you win. Take good care of your developers, they are creating your future.

Of course Seesmic or other universal clients canlevel the playing field.