January 25, 2009

It was Imagined

The in-class presentations of our pseudo-Imagine It presentations were presented earlier this week (Thursday). The quality of the talks surprised me, and I enjoyed hearing the other ideas for adding value.

My four man team was given pencils as our basic object for the exercise. Since the exercise spanned the 2009 Presidential Inauguration and the pencil is a writing utensil, (not as popular as the Pen) we solicited opinions from our friends and professors to see what they thought of the Inauguration. The opinions varied from "I don't give a shit" to "One of the best days in American History." Everyone's opinions were interesting to me because I don't really hear many different opinions about anything.

Getting back to the whole point of the exercise, which was creating value from something as benign as a pencil. We didn't sell the opinions for a profit - so where was the value that we created?

We created social value. Something that cannot directly sold but still improves lives. I say directly because with some work (much work in our case) we could spin the idea into a marketable, profitable piece of intellectual property. Take the example of the "picture a day for a year" meme, and the different ways it has been adapted for more value than social value. Granted that time-lapse commercials have been around for a while, but the picture a day Youtube videos resurrected time-lapse ads.

So we can morph social value into monetary value by getting people to pay to see it or by putting it in a box for people to take home (commercialization). But what if something of purely monetary value is created and social value is drawn from it (decommercialization). This process is a bit trickier.

Take compound interest, something Einstien thought quite highly of, and try to draw social value from it. We can teach people math using it as an example or donate the money to someone in need, but that's stretching.

January 19, 2009

Imagine It

Last week in my new ventures class we watched a half-movie (trailer) about a creative thinking exercise called Imagine It, which is part of Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Week. Imagine It is an exercise where small teams of college students try to add value to basic (turns out unimproveable is not a word) objects, like Post-It Notes. The teams are given five days to create their plan and present for judges.

Imagine It is not a product improvement contest, so teams were not changing colors or making the notes wider. The Post-It Notes were used in the contest as a tool through which the students could focus their creative, world-improving ideas. One team solicited strangers for music notes (one note per Post-It) and composed a random song. Another team, from a developing country, asked community members for ideas in creating a new constitution and presented it to the constitution rewrite committee.

In my class, we split into small teams and are currently working through a less intensive version of the Imagine It exercise. This is one of the very few times in my collegiate career where I have been required to use my brain creatively. This begs the question:

When (if ever) do we lose our creativity?

Is it after high school? After college? When you have kids? I have been witness to glimpses of creativity from people of all ages, but is there going to be a point where it drops off?

In a perfect world, I would like to think that every person has the same level of creativity. Just like everyone has (nearly) the same amount of blood in their body. Here is what I would wager: some people who the world recognizes as creative, like Da Vinci or Tufte, are very, very boring to talk to. Other people, with no artistic bone in their body, could tell you a story that would leave you in stiches or they could feed a family of 10 on $50 per week. Then there are people with no talent whatsoever; completely vanilla. If I am going to win my bet, then they must have the most outrageous and vivid dreams (anything to take them away from their boring, awake time).

Ok, so after I win my bet, it comes back to Imagine It. It would be a really great experiment if the same teams repeat it 10 years later. Some of their creativity has to be refocused into their family/friends (or even their job). Will they still win the contest? Can they still impress the creativity judges?

Random Thought: If I were a life coach, I would not have my life together at all; smoker, drinker, all around hater. It would make landing a TV show a piece of cake, chocolate cake.


After doing some furious late night searching for a Windows graphical diff tool, I stumbled across WinMerge. It is very easy to use and you can employ most of the more complicated features with very little time spent experimenting.

The bread and butter feature of this program is its very clean interface for comparing and merging files. It looks much better than other diffing tools I have used, including those included in IDEs. One particularly effective feature is the Location Pane on the left side of the file comparison screen.

One feature that the program lacks is recursive diffs. So when two folders are being compared, there is no comparison result shown. Each pair of folders have to be opened to be compared.

I really like this program - it's very easy to use and does not try to be anything that it's not. Since I work in a Windows environment, I can get a lot of use out of this program.

Official Site Wikipedia Download

January 18, 2009

Hello World...

Finally got a blog set up, and I was only 6 months late. I intend to write about things that make my life easier and share my thoughts on many different subjects like:
  • Software,
  • Web Development,
  • The Internet,
  • Digital Media,
  • Culture,
  • And anything else that racks my brain.
I will try to post two larger articles per week, as well as incremental updates whenever I can.