Wait a Cotton-Picking Minute with Jay Fanelli and Nathan Peretic (Episode 54)

Jay Fanelli and Nathan Peretic know how to go it on their own. They've done it not just once, not just twice, but now three times. They formed the interactive-services company Full Stop Interactive, out of which United Pixelworkers was formed, a company that produces fine wearable merchandise. And United Pixelworkers gave birth to Cotton Bureau, a site that uses crowdfunding to pick which shirts should get printed. Now they're doubling down and focusing entirely on the T-shirt and merchandise businesses.

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Show notes

Aaron Draplin runs his own design firm, Draplin Design Co., and collaborates with Jim Coudal on Field Notes. I interviewed Jim in January 2013 and Aaron in September 2013.

Pittsburgh defied the United States Board of Geographic Names to keep an h at the end of its name. Dribbble lets designers show off their work.

We talked through several different methods of T-shirt printing, including traditional silk screening and digital printing or direct-to-garment printing, in which something akin to an ink-jet printer outputs ink onto clothing.

The Incomparable T-shirts, with art by The Icon Factory, sold in the hundreds. If you see a zeppelin, you're probably in a parallel universe.

A Year of Living Disruptively with Guests from Early Episodes (53)

The New Disruptors launched on December 5, 2012. I wanted to talk to people making stuff, creating art, or helping others get their work out there. The show is now at episode 53, and it's been a delightful year. I wanted to look back at early guests, and was able to get the folks who appeared on the first four episodes to chat briefly about what happened next. I talk in this show with Lisanne Pajot and James Swirksy, Indie Game: The Movie; Chris Anderson, then Wired and now 3DRobotics; Tony Konecny, Tonx (coffee); and Evan Ratliff, of The Atavist and Creativist.

Sponsors & Patrons

This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons. Thanks to Smile Software's TextExpander for sponsoring this week's episode! TextExpander avoids the tedium of retyping common text, shortening URLs, and much more.

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And thanks to our patrons, supporting us by pledging an amount via Patreon for each episode we produce. Thanks this time to GravityFish and Elliott Payne! You help make it all happen.

Show notes

I know regular listeners will be disappointed, but the show notes this time around are exceedingly short, as it's a reflective episode. These are the original episodes (in order that they appear in this anniversary check-in) for each guest or guests:

Lights, Notes, and Brews from XOXO (Episode 43)

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XOXO is a truly remarkable festival and conference that you've heard me talk about quite a lot. I interviewed Andy Baio and Andy McMillan just before they announced the line-up for the 2013 show, which took place in mid-September. At XOXO, I interviewed the folks behind four companies or projects exhibiting there about what they were up to: Brewbot, Draplin Design, Projecteo, and NeoLucida. To read more about the 2013 event, read my account at Boing Boing, Leah Reich's essay "The Uncanny Valley of Earnestness" about the place for criticism in the midst of positivity, and Frank Chimero's "The Inferno of Independence."


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Chris McClelland. 

Chris McClelland, Brewbot

This band of app developers, known as Cargo, and home brewers from Northern Ireland attended XOXO in 2012 and were so inspired they built a prototype of Brewbot, an automatic beer-brewing system that relies on sensors, precise temperatures, and app to get you consistent results. Their Kickstarter is 60% of the way to its £100,000 goal as we finished editing this podcast. I spoke with Cargo's CEO, Chris McClelland. (Kickstarter allowed UK-based creators to launch projects in October 2012.)

Aaron Draplin. 

 Some of Aaron Draplin's designs. 

Some of Aaron Draplin's designs. 

Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design

Aaron Draplin is an American original. A graphic designer who produces bold and interesting work that's rooted in love of place and love of materials, he had a huge booth for Draplin Design, selling T-shirts, posters, and Field Notes products. Field Notes is a co-venture between his firm and Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners. Aaron and I spoke while someone else staffed his booth, which was selling out of gear as fast as he could drive it over; he works in Portland.

(I interviewed Jim in January 2013 in "Any Color But Purple," Episode 7. The purple referred to the purple-covered Field Notes guides custom printed for XOXO 2012. Aaron told him to use any color — but purple. This year's were slightly redder than puce.)


Ben Redford, Projecteo

Projecteo is adorable: a tiny film projector that's connected with your Instagram account. Select photos and they're printed to a 35mm frame as an itsy-bitsy film wheel, which the company cuts out and delivers with the micro-projector. Funds were raised via Kickstarter ($87,000 towards an $18,000 goal.) One of the fellows behind Projecteo, Ben Redford, and I talked about how it works and about a tiny 3D-printed "theater" that pairs with it.

An attendee uses NeoLucida for a drawing. 

 The parts of the NeoLucida. 

The parts of the NeoLucida. 

Pablo Garcia, NeoLucida

The advent of good-quality lenses in the 1600s brought new ways of seeing things. The camera lucida overlays what someone sees through a lens with a piece of paper onto which one can trace or draw. Pablo Garcia and Golan Levin collaborated to make a modern version, the NeoLucida. Pablo had antique models on site, and a table set up for visitors to try out his new version. Funded on Kickstarter for vastly more than their target — $425,000 towards a $15,000 goal! — Pablo explains to me in this interview how they worked to scale up and meet production demands.

His Bright Materials with James Flynn (Episode 40)

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James Flynn is a New Zealander who relocated to San Francisco where he runs Extrasensory Devices. He's an engineer who started by developing modems, and then released on his own a set of drum-tempo monitors and a light-meter add-on for the iPhone. He's launched three Kickstarters, all of which funded, and has plenty more in his pipeline.


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Show Notes

James three Kickstarter campaigns were for Wiretap Headphone Microphone Splitter, the Luxi light meter for photography, and the Toaster, splitter that splits in output and keeps the mic active. James works very closely with Sparkfactor design, which has created the designs for lots of products you may have owned or used.

I mention Pen Type-A, Taylor Levy and Che-Wei Wang, who I interviewed in "Episode 12: Où est la plume de ma Kickstarter?


I Take Mine (Studio) Neat

The fine fellows at Studio Neat, Tom & Dan (interviewed in Episode #26) , launched a new crowdfunding campaign today that they had hinted out when we spoke. The Neat Ice Kit, a great name, will let you create clear ice for cocktails. There's an advantage to ice without bubbles: it not only looks beautifully, but it melts more slowly and consistently, which makes ice more of a precisely controlled ingredient than a watery explosion. (Alison Hallett wrote about clear ice in "Icecapades" in The Magazine.)

As we've seen across many interviews, people who complete one crowdfunding project successfully often learn so much from the experience that they come back again — and sometimes again and again! 

 Pretty neat. 

Pretty neat. 

Episode 33: Andrew “bunnie” Huang: Buy a Soldering Iron at Midnight

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Andrew Huang, known as "bunnie" (lowercase) to his friends, first came to the public eye when, while a graduate computer-science student at MIT, he cracked the proprietary wrapper around Microsoft's Xbox operating system in 2002, which allowed it then to run any software of his choosing. Microsoft didn't like this and MIT told him it wouldn't provide any support if a legal defense were needed. Fortunately, Microsoft quickly realized how embarrassing the situation could be, never pursued legal action, and bunnie published a book on the topic. He went on to design the Chumby, a squeezable interactive personal app device, and now works on a variety of projects for the public good, including an open laptop design and an open design for a radiation detector in the wake of the nuclear plant disasters in Japan.

Show notes

Because of his own poor treatment in 2002 by the MIT administration, bunnie sympathized with Aaron Swartz's plight, and he and No Starch Press made his Xbox book available as a free download in tribute.

The Chumby was a small computer with a touchscreen that could run apps provided by the makers as well as those developed by users and third parties. It was cute as heck. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) bars the reverse-engineering of technology designed to protect copyrighted content. In effect, it means that devices you own are locked up behind criminal penalties for making modifications regardless of whether any piracy or other illegal acts may occur. It eliminates non-infringing and infringing uses equally.

Sony's original compact disc specification included no encryption, which is why CDs can be freely read and ripped. The Jorge Luis Borges story I reference is a favorite: Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Kyle Durrie talked about her Type Truck in our previous episode, #32, "Put the Pedal to the Metal." The Foo Camp is an invitation-only gathering run by O'Reilly Media to bring together people to germinate ideas while camping in their offices or an adjacent field. It's considered influential, an honor to be invited, and something like a geek sleepover camp all at once. The Chris Hawker podcast, about making and licensing products was Episode 30, "License to Krill."

Lots of pictures of regular and modified Chumbys have been posted at Flickr. Fabless design firms include some of the largest electronics companies, and refers to outsourcing the making of the chips to a contract integrated-circuit fabrication ("fab") plant. Bunnie is very interested in self-blinking LEDs: LEDs that have a tiny power source embedded.

Bunnie found a mass-manufactured $12 cell phone for sale in Shenzhen. You can buy anything electronic and any component at nearly any hour of the day or night in Shenzhen's markets. This reminded me of Akihabara in Japan, which has an absurd range of consumer electronics. But Akihabara is a tiny district; Shenzhen's markets are vast.

Episode 30: Chris Hawker Explains the Life Cycle of the PowerSquid

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Chris Hawker invented the PowerSquid, a multi-pronged power adapter that exploded the notion of the old power strip. It's designed for the modern age of power bricks and oversized adapters. With his Trident Design, Chris and his team have created 70 products over 20 years that it licenses to other companies to manufacture. We've talked a lot to first-time industrial designers and producers who've taken advantage of funding and production techniques. Chris offers some insight for the long haul.

Show notes

Richard Sapper's Tizio lamp, invented in 1972, found in the Museum of Modern Art collection, was a self-evident design for which he had great difficulty in finding a manufacturer.

Chris wrote a six-part series about how the PowerSquid came to market at TechCrunch called, delightfully, "The Song of the PowerSquid." Chris mentioned Alibaba, which is a marketplace for finding suppliers. Aly and Beth Khalifa of Gamil Design talked about making the Teastick, the Impress coffee filter, and other products in Episode #18, "Tea Sticklers and Coffee Impressionists."

Henry Chesbrough coined the term "open innovation" to describe how companies choose when to use research, inventions, and intellectual property from other sources than internal. Laundry detergent "pods" are concentrated packets of detergent with a water-soluble wrapper. They look a bit like candy, sadly, and the CDC put out a warning about them.

OXO was founded by Sam Farber (who passed away on June 16) after watching his wife, who had mild arthritis, struggle with kitchen tools. Necessity is the mother of invention. Chris and I both like the show How It's Made, which visually picks apart how manufactured items are produced using robotics, machines, and humans. Eight seasons are available for streaming on Netflix. Drafting used to be a manual, painstaking task. Andrew "Bunnie" Huang is an engineer and designer who lives in Singapore. He's a guest on an upcoming episode.

An art history professor of mine, Vince Sculley, explained how the Venus of Willendorf would feel in your hand — it was meant to be held that way. Option$, a book by Dan Lyons as "Fake Steve Jobs," features a fictionalized version of Jobs who has the epiphany of bringing the feeling of ineffability of spirit while in India to material goods.

Trident Design lists all its products on a single page, and it's a very interesting variety with lots of similarities about the kinds of form and whimsy they employ. The company makes the Onion Goggles, a product that is both functional (for those of us who cry at the volatile chemicals produced by chopping onions), and attempts to be good looking enough that people will wear them. Modern Family featured the goggles (not product placement) in one episode.

The Obama administration has implemented changes and suggested others that will tighten the noose around non-productive patent trolls who enforce intellectual property without being productive in society or the economy.

An example of emotional technology is the Nabaztag, which is no longer made, but has been replaced by the Karotz. These are plastic bunnies with Wi-Fi that can pass certain kinds of messages, including wiggling ears.

Episode 26: Dan Provost & Tom Gerhardt (Studio Neat): Living in the Back It Bracket

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Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost are the two fellows behind Studio Neat, a three-year-old industrial design and software firm that started with an almost accidental bang on Kickstarter. Several projects later, they've shown they're no flash in the pan. We talk about crowdfunding, inspiration, and design.

On Twitter, Tom, Dan, and Studio Neat.

Show notes

Tom and Dan burst on the scene with an early blockbuster Kickstarter campaign for Glif, an iPhone tripod adapter. They relied on Shapeways for prototyping and then a short run for premium backers.

What's a SKU (pronounced "sk-yoo")? It's a stock-keeping unit. A uniquely identifiable thing you can number and put on a shelf, virtual or otherwise.

Their second project was the iPad stylus, the Cosmonaut. Outgrow.me provides an outlet and a distribution channel for post-crowdfunding sales of products. I spoke to Holly Rowland of Topatoco and Make That Thing! in Episode 21: "With a Little Help from Their Friends."

Tom and Dan recently put the full text of their book It Will Be Exhilarating online for free! Download it, read it, and get inspired. Craig Mod, a guest on the show for Episode #17, "Everything in Moderation," and Episode #22, "Modular Design," wrote "Kickstartup" in 2010 about planning crowdfunding campaigns. It's still useful.

Studio Neat's latest project was Simple Bracket, an iOS app for tracking one's predictions in the NCAA basketball tournament, and comparing those with friends. Jason Snell's "Baseball Misfits" is a great essay about being a non-sports-playing geek who loves sports. It's a large demographic.

I talked with Marco Arment about his short-run "Neutral" podcast and other topics in Episode #23, "Give Me Something to Read." Two early Kickstarter-supported movies were Linotype: The Film and Indie Game: The Movie. Both are wonderful films that might seem to be about technology, but are really about the people behind the tech. (The Indie Game filmmakers were on the podcast way back in Episode #1, "Pac-Man Fever"!)