Written by Tom Powell: Online enthusiast with an abnormal interest in innovative applications of technology, crowdfunding, co-design, co-creation, and crowdsourcing.

08 May 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

Are you a graphic designer or artist? Do you know one?

To recap the project I am working on: I am building a site to provide a marketplace for laser etching designs (http://etchconnection.com). You can see the type of stuff being done at Adafruit and iStyleCustom, for example. It would seem that for non-artist/designers such as myself who would love to get a cool etching but have no idea where to even start, this type of site would be very helpful. (Some of the etchers have designers that can help you and will work with you, but I think a centralized repository for this would be ideal.)

The site would allow:
1) Designers to create a profile, post graphic designs, and set a price
2) Customers to rate and browse designs
3) Customers to find a local engraver, buy a design, and have it sent to their preferred engraver (which the site will help them find as well).

What it comes down to is that this might help promote personalized laser etching, provide an outlet for graphic designers’ work, and send preapproved designs and great leads to etchers. Everybody wins (it would seem).

It would be great to get some feedback from graphic designers out there about this. Does it sound feasible? Like it? Questions? Suggestions? Anything!?

If you would like to be one of the first to submit designs or if you would like to provide a bit of feedback on an early incarnation of the site let me know: tom@coinnovative.com

03 May 2007 ~ 1 Comment                                       

Innovative Companies of the day…

This is only marginally related, but it’s interesting, nonetheless: Mock Up My Tattoo. You choose a tattoo design or upload one of your own, upload a picture of yourself, and then they place the tattoo on your picture so you can see what it would look like.

MyDesignIn allows you to create an interactive floor plan and drag and drop bookmarked products into the design, but THEN you can collaborate with others online

ThinkCycle is non-profit focused on fostering open collaborative design. They have a shared online space for designers, engineers, experts, etc. to discuss, exchange and construct ideas towards the design of solutions for underserved communities and the environment.

27 April 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

Outsourcing my web development

I posted the job for the development of the Etch Connection site on two ridiculously useful sites: Elance and Scriptlance. Any technical stuff I need done, I just post a description and bids from developers around the world start rolling in. Similar to eBay you can see each developer’s history of projects, ratings, and comments about them.

26 April 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

I’m here to help: Why you should use RSS

If you read websites for more than 10 minutes a day, it’s worth setting up an RSS reader. The above video explains in almost insulting simplicity how useful this whole RSS thing is.

Why obsessively check this site on an hourly basis when you could have the site come to you?

Step 1: go to Google Reader
Step 2: Click “Add subscription” and past this in there: http://feeds.feedburner.com/coinnovative

(Or if you don’t dig on that, just submit your email address in the box to the right to get a nice email update of my brilliant posts.)

26 April 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

Go read it: brought to you by the letter l

Completely off topic, but I just have to share: You like well designed clothes? household items? artwork? jewelry? Then why aren’t you reading brought to you by the letter l, by the lovely and talented Lyn Dwyer (or Spataro if you’re into that whole patriarchal construct)? Lots of pretty pictures too.

Just don’t ask her to make monkey bread.

23 April 2007 ~ 2 Comments                                       

Intellectual Property Rights Considered (This post: only for law freaks)

Threadless, Crowdspirit, Instructables, and Cambrian House
Given that I will be dealing with designs submitted to The Etch Connection site and any future product design/development , I’ll need to figure out the best way to handle intellectual property (IP) rights. Here then is a quick review of how a few sites handle IP. (I will follow up soon with my take on an IP statement for Etch Connection.)

Threadless (click on “Legal terms” at the bottom of the page.) deals with designs submitted for open online evaluation, so their policy is the closest to what I will be working with.

Threadless.com retains exclusive rights to the submitted design, if chosen, for printing and selling on clothing. Threadless.com also retains rights to the design itself for use on the Threadless.com website, and any Threadless.com promotional material. The participant will keep ownership of the submitted design. The participant may display or archive the design in a portfolio or personal collection, but may not sell or reproduce the design for commercial purposes for ninety (90) days after the design has completed scoring. In addition, during this period, the participant cannot submit the design to another company to be potentially produced.

It goes on to say that the work must be solely owned by and the original work of the submitter. Further, if applicable, Threadless will register the design with the US Copyright office with “the designer as the primary copyright owner with Threadless.com being listed as an additional copyright claimant.” (Hmm, one consideration for Etch Connection along these lines: One of the etchers is in London. Does that matter in terms of copyright considerations?)

A similar section follows describing the slogan submissions (Threadless deals in both text and graphic submissions), but the main difference is that Threadless owns all submissions regardless of whether they are printed or not.

Instructables provides a forum for anyone to post pictures, video, and text descriptions of how to make and do stuff. They start out with several pages that basically say: don’t lie to us, don’t do anything illegal, we can change anything on this site at any time, and this info is provided without warranty for your reading pleasure. Given that this is a purely informational/community site, “the author retains all patent, trademark, and copyright to all Content posted within available fields, and is responsible for protecting those rights, but is not entitled to the help of the Instructables staff in protecting such Content.” So submitters must both own all of their own content and didn’t steal it from anyone else, but if something is used without the author’s permission due to their posting it to Instructables, Instructables is not at fault.

But at the same time:

You grant Instructables the world-wide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, publicly perform and publicly display such Content solely for the purposes of providing and promoting Instructables.

I suppose that means they can write a book based on Instructables content without paying the author.

This could be useful:

If you believe that your work has been copied and is accessible on this site in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, you may notify us by providing our copyright agent with the following information in writing.

(Yikes, they even protect themselves from the possibility of users experiencing siezures as a result of certain light patterns viewed on the screen.)

Although Crowdspirit hasn’t launched, they do give an overview of how they will handle rights.

The simplest way for CrowdSpirit to manage this is to hold the IP and to have standard terms and conditions based on a person’s contribution – e.g. a certain value associated with the original idea, another value for the refinements, another for the distribution etc.

Apparently all IP will be the property of Crowdspirit, which makes sense. Will be interesting to see the exact legal language of this when it comes out.

Cambrian House
Hmmm… IP rights don’t seem to be spelled out in their terms and conditions… curious.

17 April 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

How to set up your small business IT needs for next to nothing…

Given that I will be attempting to run this little project while in school, keeping on-going costs as low as possible is key. I will have no physical inventory and will be working almost exclusively online or on the phone. So my goal was to pull together a powerful set of software tools for next to nothing. Given the recent explosion of online tools and software as a service — and of course Google — it wasn’t that difficult. Most of this stuff is free.

Email, calendar, spreadsheets, docs: Google Apps (Up to 50 accounts free on my domain! And it supports Blackberry! Now I just need a Blackberry…)
Phone: Skype
Scheduling: Time To Meet
Domain/Hosting: GoDaddy (Okay, this isn’t free but it’s cheap enough for now.)
Project mangement: Basecamp
Contact management: Highrise
Blog: WordPress, Feedburner
Conference calls: freeconferencecall.com
Wiki: pbwiki.com
Surveys: surveymonkey.com
Video: YouTube
Payment: Google Checkout, Paypal, Yahoo Merchant Services.
Fax: (Who faxes!?! But it’s free so, what the hell.) eFax

That’s not to say I don’t have a few programs up my sleeve that are just ridiculously expensive, but nice to have considering: Microsoft Office, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Quickbooks.

As for outsourcing of web development and other technical stuff out of my reach, I will be looking to elance.com, scriptlance.com, or rentacoder.com. At each of these sites you post your needs and coders/designers bid for the job.

Any questions?

13 April 2007 ~ 0 Comments                                       

What all companies should be doing.

Josh Bernoff, over at my fabulous former employer Forrester, is working on a book related to just about everything I am talking about here. He’s got a great post up laying out the major sections of Groundswell, which he is writing with Charlene Li. (Who I helped out with RSS research back in the magical early days before syndication took off.) Here, again, is another great example of the philosophy I am trying to leverage with Etch Connection (or The Etch Connection or etchConnection) and my fanciful product development scheme.

LISTENING. Finding out what your customers are really saying. Best tools are brand monitoring, private communities like Communispace, ratings/reviews.

SPEAKING. Connecting with your customers in new ways, extending PR and marketing. Best tools are blogs, podcasts, participation in MySpace/YouTube and other user-generated media.

ENERGIZING. Getting your best customers to evangelize your products. Best tools are public communities and ratings/reviews.

SUPPORTING. Helping customers solve their own and each other’s problems. Best tools are blogs, forums, wikis.

EMBRACING. Working with your customers to make products better. Best tools are communities, user-generated media.