Sunspots: The balustrade edition 37signals 12 Sep 2006

8 comments Latest by Ben Darlow

Dean Kamen talks about Segway’s disappointing start
“You know, computers were in a niche market for the first few years… cars were a niche when they were first made, airplanes were a niche when they were first made. Every new technology starts out that way…There’s a an adoption curve, and it’s more related to people’s ability to assimilate ideas, than to an engineer’s or physicist’s or an inventor’s ability too produce new technology. The more different a new technology is, the more of an invention it is, the more time it’s going to take.”

A slide-show essay about how architects distinguish themselves through small detail
“‘God is in the details,’ Mies van der Rohe is supposed to have said. He did not simply mean that building details are important; he meant that they are the very soul of architecture. An easy way to appreciate this is to look at how different architects handle a very simple detail, such as a door handle, a baseboard—or a stair balustrade.”

ER doctors study Nascar pit-teams for ideas
A group of US emergency room doctors went to see how Nascar racing-car pit-teams work. Doctors “realized that time is of essence both in the ER and in a car race, and were impressed by the high level of preparation and coordination of the pit team”, which prompted them “to change the way they work in the hospital.” [tx Rob] Related: The Evelina Children’s Hospital (photos), designed by children for children, aims to be “a hospital that does not feel like a hospital.” Interesting design twist: All the door handles are at child appropriate height. [tx Tom]

“I feel like I make things un-bold for a living now”
2004 blog entry by Jeff Veen: “I think RSS and blogs and news aggregators had finally gotten the best of me. There were literally hundreds of subscriptions haunting me each day; a bright red counter showing unread posts creeping up into the thousands. As my partner Lane puts it, ‘I feel like I make things un-bold for a living now.’ He’s referring to the unending accumulation of things that need to be changed from ‘new’ to ‘read’ — email, lists, blogs, comments … even new music and the junk on our Tivos.”

Get the geek out of software
“To cross these apps over from fringe to mass acceptance we’ve got to engineer out the geek. While developing Offertrax, our mantra was to ‘get the geek out.’ The process of building feature light or geek-free applications is not easy, and takes multiple iterations, but it’s the only way these tools will survive.”

Paul Graham on the recipe for a successful startup
“We’re pretty open about what we think makes a technology stick. We print it on T-Shirts: ‘Make something people want.’ If you had to reduce the recipe for a successful startup to four words, those would probably be the four.”

The tide seems to have turned against craft in fashion design
“What feels less familiar is the lack of interest in the talent they represent — for skillful cutting, a refined color sense or for communicating emotion. These gifts, along with a strong sense of identity, are probably a designer’s most valuable assets. Yet lately they have been devalued, like an out-of-date sweater, as much by a jangling, ‘what do I get out of it’ culture as by a greediness and mistrust that seem to exist between designers and corporate owners.”

Web stopwatch
Clever, self-explanatory little tool.

Amazingly, the iGallop Core and Abs Exerciser is NOT a joke
Saddle up for a buckin’ good workout!

Animated record Store Cats
Heavy Metal Cats, Hardcore Steve, Daryll the hip-hop cat, etc. Rules.

8 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Ben Darlow 12 Sep 06

Computers, planes and cars were all niches to begin with for a simple reason: cost. All of them had direct and obvious markets as they were solutions to big problems that hadn’t been tackled on that sort of scale before. As soon as they were cheap enough that pretty much anyone could buy/use them, they exploded in popularity.

The Segway on the other hand is for lazy people. It’s not even a new solution for transportation (er, get a bicycle?). It’s in a niche of its own making because it was never a solution to an obvious problem.

Alan Jacobs 12 Sep 06

Dean Kamen, met Paul Graham: “Make something people want.”

Stephen 12 Sep 06

I’m not sure I agree with Mr Kamen’s view that it’s some sort of mental resistence holding back the Segway. It simply has technical and design problems. I couldn’t fit one on the busy streets of London, where I myself have a hard time squeezing on the pavement at rush hour. I can imagine it getting a bit crowded when more and more people own them too. I dread to think how you secure them, where the damn things will all be parked, and how on earth you would manage on the tube. Bicycles ride on the road, have parking spaces built all over the place, and can even be folded to fit onto the Tube/bus/train.

If it’s a mental barrier then it’s similar to the one stopping me from investing in a hot air balloon.

Michal Migurski 12 Sep 06

“There�s a an adoption curve, and it�s more related to people�s ability to assimilate ideas, than to an engineer�s or physicist�s or an inventor�s ability too produce new technology.”

The adoption curve doesn’t always go up.

Dean Kamen is the classic myopic dweeb who sees technology as the solution to every problem. Instead of looking to learn from a successful environment like Amsterdam, with its miles of bike paths and supporting traffic laws, he pulls the problem into the totally unrelated domain of mechanical engineering. Right now, San Francisco is becoming a better place to ride through the political efforts of and local cyclists, while Kamen is off on his Personal Transporter wild goose chase.

Maybe if the Segway was a jet-pack I’d feel differently about it.

Mike Swimm 12 Sep 06

“The Segway on the other hand is for lazy people. It�s not even a new solution for transportation (er, get a bicycle?).”

Ben, I wonder how many times you have walked 6 or more blocks in NYC or Chicago in a suit or some type of business outfit in July. Implying that anyone who doesn’t use a bike to commute is lazy is ridiculous.

“Dean Kamen is the classic myopic dweeb who sees technology as the solution to every problem.”

Michal, you really should read Kamen’s thought process behind the Segway and history of other inventions before passing that kind of judgement. Granted the bicycle works for a lot of people and we should absolutely make our cities more bicycle friendly, he would be the first to agree with you on that point. The Segway was designed to work in a seperate capacity.

Joe Ruby 12 Sep 06

“Get the geek out” is a great concept - most people hate having lots of knobs to turn and buttons to push (and hate those that love doing such). Just f’ing work, don’t bother me with the minute details that only experts know.

Ben Darlow 14 Sep 06

Mike: Okay, I’ll restate it; anyone who won’t walk or cycle to commute such a short distance is lazy. As it happens I’ve done both walking and cycling as part of my commute this summer (in London/Cambridge as opposed to NYC or Chicago, I guess there’s some relevance in the location?) and I know how unpleasantly hot this can be. But riding around on an electric scooter to avoid the exertion of a 20 minute walk in the summer is, in my view, still lazy. I wear a suit to work, and yes it’s hot and sticky (especially on the tube) but I still do it, and I wouldn’t ever be tempted to spend a grand or more on a shortcut. More importantly, I don’t imagine many others would either.