Category Archives: Milwaukee

3-D Printing: Because Atoms Are A Drag

Twenty years ago the consumer tech magazine to read was PC/Computing. This, in spite of its stupid name. (Spell it out: “Personal Computing Computing.”) I recall an ad from its back pages for some long-forgotten software. Buy the software and you’d get a bonus bumper sticker, reading: In the future everything will work. Those were the days of crappy dial-up modems and the crash-prone Windows 3.1, so this was high sarcasm.

In honor of the upcoming Rock the Green music festival, to be held on Milwaukee’s lakefront September 18, I submit this similarly absurd proclamation: Technology will fix our planet. What’s more, I assert that your guffaws (yes, I can hear them now) is in fact further evidence of its certitude. Here’s how:

Yes, a chain mail glove, produced by Within Technologies. It represents an amazing technology; one that uses one-tenth the metal of conventional manufacturing and arguably just as little fossil fuel. What’s more, there isn’t a single seam or joint in the whole works. It was manufactured by a printer.

Alexander Bell’s Telephonic Folly

In the future we’ll be printing things, not just pictures or descriptions of things. Things made of metal, fiber, just about any material. This printing will take place well beyond the factory floor. It will happen in the back of auto repair shops, clothing stores, hobby shops. Out of the nozzles of printers will issue the very supplies and inventory of future commerce. Someday we may even be printing our own “stuff,” right in our home.

This will save huge amounts of fuel. Needless to say, that will spare our planet from megatons of pollutants annually. And yes, I know I’m sounding all PC Computing. But contrary to the bumper sticker, I know these printers won’t work perfectly. Nothing ever does. There will be problems. But it won’t matter. The technology will arrive, whether we invite it into our lives or not. And if his particular revolution won’t take place, I’m confident another will . It will be just as extraordinary. I blogged about that one other tech revolution: Not printing things in three dimensions but the very food we eat, using living cattle, pig or chicken cells instead of metals and plastics. Yes, printing T-bone steaks.

I base my confidence — my optimism — on history. The world is full of smart people. Always has been. But we have a massive blind spot for the reality of our lives in the future because we’re limited by our imaginations.

Take the telephone. The phone has been a tool of almost universal good, aiding both business and society. It has saved lives (think: Dial 9-1-1) and saved massive transportation costs (as when you phoned ahead before driving to the store and discovering they’re sold out anyway).

I’ve written before about the phone, and how no one thought that technology would be much beyond a less precise telegram. Here’s an excerpt from that 2007 Business Journal post:

Executives in the telegraph industry couldn’t imagine that a device with no written record of the communication could be a threat to their business. In fact, legend has it that William Orton, the president of [the once mighty telegram company] Western Union … was offered a chance to buy Alexander Bell’s phone patent for $100,000. The story goes that he replied, “What use could this company make of an electric toy?”

The emphasis is mine, but you get the point.

I do suggest you click on this link to a post on my personal blog, about, of all things, growing meat in the lab. It’s another new technology that I think will be as revolutionary as the telephone.

To be fair, it’s not so much the technology that makes it revolutionary — this one uses in vitro lab culturing, which isn’t new — but the good it can do . It promises to feed the world, and in doing so conserve a staggering amount of natural resources and carbon-emitting fuels. I’m not kidding.

When they hear about culturing meat in a lab most people laugh or wince. I frankly don’t blame them. I may be a bit of a whack job to think this level of aversion can be overcome, but I do believe the writer of the New Yorker piece, who I cite in that post, when he says he expects to see it arrive, in at least a limited way, within ten years.

Read it, and I dare you to disagree. It’s that much of a game-changer.

Printing Chain Mail and Grandfather Clocks

Which brings me back to 3-D printers. They’ve actually been around for about 20 years. I saw my first one at my brother’s company, ten years ago. Originally used to print manufacturing prototypes, now they’re frequently being upgraded to manufacture the things themselves. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Economist story about them:

Far-fetched as this may seem, … people are using three-dimensional printing technology to create … medical implants, jewellery [sic], football boots designed for individual feet, lampshades, racing-car parts, solid-state batteries and customised [sic again — hey, they’re British] mobile phones. Some are even making mechanical devices.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Schmitt, a PhD student, has been printing something that resembles the workings of a grandfather clock. It took him a few attempts to get right, but eventually he removed the plastic clock from a 3D printer, hung it on the wall and pulled down the counterweight. It started ticking.

Although the article focuses on the savings in raw materials (it takes only ten percent of the metal to make something complicated in this way, compared to the wasteful machining and whittling away of metal blocks), there are other clear implications for a greener planet.

It will happen when these 3-D printers become more affordable. Think about it: There was a time when only well-financed businesses could afford a fax machine. Time improved the technology and drove costs down. Now you can buy a fax machine for about fifty bucks.

What if these printers were to follow the same trajectory? At first only the largest businesses could afford to produce their own machine parts. Then smaller businesses could afford it. But they wouldn’t be faxing each other digitized pictures of documents. They’d be transmitting the digitized plans to actually make stuff.

Atoms Are A Drag

Jeff Jarvis famously said that the reason businesses like Amazon.com and Apple’s iTunes have prevailed over stores that sell real books and CDs is that moving atoms from place to place is costly. Digital transportation, by comparison, is frictionless. Atoms are a drag.

Imagine a world where the friction is taken out of moving real things around. Instead of the rotor to your car’s disk brakes arriving by truck at the repair shop, the part would arrive digitally, and perfectly configured to your vehicle. Or at least the plans for it would. Then a tiny pile of metal and composite powder, a small fraction of the size of what’s needed using today’s technology, would be fed into a 3-D printer. You’d be on the road more quickly, at a lower cost, and at a lower cost to the planet.

What do you think about a future where atoms are no longer a drag? Do we dare to dream of our grandkids inhabiting a world with more fresh water, less pollution and fewer pollution-borne illnesses?

I say we must.

Jim Raffel to talk about business blogging strategy at Milwaukee Likemind

As co-host of Milwaukee Likemind (search for #MKElikemind on Twitter), I never fail to enjoy the presentations. True, I help to choose the content … but take my word for it. I’m also constantly surprised by the fascinating twists and unexpected tangents these conversational events take.

Haven’t you waited long enough to check one out? Here’s the information on next Friday’s event, from the MKE Likemind Posterous blog:

Jim Raffel, CEO of ColorMetrix Technologies and blogger at JimRaffel.com, has some big ideas on how to improve your blog. At least, he has formulated and put into practice many ways to improve his own blog, and he has offered to share with you some of the best. Jim will be speaking at the July 16, 2010 Milwaukee Likemind, starting at 7:00 AM. …

Even if you do not currently have a blog, or manage a blog for your business, Jim’s message is one you should hear. That includes:

  • If you don’t have a blog now, considering getting one
  • Consider your blog a way to advance your personal brand
  • The blog as an “ongoing job interview”

“Twitter is great, but it’s microblogging. It gives you a chance to say what you’re thinking. But it doesn’t represent rich  ideas or insights” Jim said. “Your blog is where you can drive people to find out more about you.”

The event will be held at Bucketworks, 706 5th St., Milwaukee, just north of National Avenue. Here’s a map.

If you’ve heard Jim Raffel speak, you know what an engaged and exciting speaker he is. His blog is a new one that I’m following, and I’m finding the content valuable and well presented.

I hope to see you in a week!

Thoughts on Likemind: Guerrilla Marketing was easier back when it was harder

Guerrilla marketing, a concept coined by Jay Conrad Levinson and made popular during a simpler pre-Internet age, was never as easy as it sounded. The Internet’s arrival as a marketing tool didn’t make guerrilla marketing less relevant. It did heap on potentially detrimental distractions.

I was reminded of this when Jon Mueller announced the topic of his presentation, set for this Friday morning at Milwaukee’s June Likemind meet-up. The title is DIY: The Fine Line Between Building and Killing an Idea. Jon acknowledges that modern technology grants us unprecedented power to launch an idea or market a business. In some ways it’s a Utopia to the Jay Conrad Levinson of that long series of guerrilla marketing books. Each explored a different facet using guerrilla warfare tactics to out-compete bigger and better financed competitors.

Jon’s talk will describe how technology has not made do-it-yourself (DIY) marketing necessarily more surefire. He’ll explore how digital marketing provides “distraction, an assumption of promise (if I use this, the result will be this), and a diminished true interaction between people.” In other words, the very technology that can be a DIY heaven can also be a marketer’s undoing.

Since Jon is general manager of the business book giant 800ceoread.com, I’m expecting him to be citing business books like the Guerrilla Marketing series — but also more recent books on the perils of the Internet age.

Most notably, I’m expecting him to touch upon the new book by Nicolas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, which just came out, and

It contends that the web is changing how we think and make decisions — and not for the better. I hope you join Jon at the event. Here are the details. It’s free of charge, at 7 AM on Friday. It also may be outdoors, weather permitting!

Finally, I’d like to brag about a one-degree-of-separation moment I had a few days ago. I met a co-author of two of the Guerrilla Marketing books. Al Lautenslager (a.k.a., @GMarketingGuy) is based in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was interesting to chat with someone who is keeping Levinson’s ideas current, as is evidenced by a smartly done and decidedly DIY marketing website. I hope we keep in touch, Al!

Voice: The original rich media

I had a fun time talking to the group this morning at UnGeeked Elite. I spoke about the power of voice asset management. If you’d like to know more, here’s a post recently on our VoiceScreener blog, by our CEO, Kelly Fitzsimmons, describing Voice as an Asset (VaaA).

I promised to post a mind map of the post-presentation discussion. Here it is (click to expand):

Also, if you want to check out that TEC video, here’s my original post about it, Jeff Han’s demonstration of multi-touch screens. I was wrong in that it’s more slanted than vertical, as I had said in the presentation. I had seen another video of him demonstrating the screen somewhere else, and that one was more vertical, and shot more at a distance.

Finally, Jonathan Brewer, (@houseofbrew) of FirstEdge Solutions had dared me to show him that super-comfortable office chair I work on. Here’s the photo I just posted of it on TweetPhoto (click to expand):

Online eye contact triggers altruism

This week I presented my C2 training course, Web Design & Content that Delivers ROI, at Proven Direct. One technique I discussed was the uncanny ability of a type of online graphic to attract attention (as measured by eye scan heatmaps) and move people to action. A lot of ads have used this technique, either intentionally or accidentally.

The technique: Have a person in your ad look directly at the user.

One example I gave was about a coffee station at a university with an “honors system” money collection jar. When the pricing sheet on the wall included the eyes of a person looking back out at the coffee drinkers, the money collected in the jar more than doubled, compared to weeks when the photo used was of a field of flowers. The photo could include any human, as long as the gaze was straight out.

What’s more, apparently the gaze does not necessarily have to be convincingly human — instead, just human-like. The graphic you see to the right depicts an application of this is fascinating technique described in New Scientist magazine. Here’s the account, as I described it to my class:

The researchers split the group into two. Half made their choices undisturbed at a computer screen, while the others were faced with a photo of Kismet — ostensibly not part of the experiment.

The players who gazed at the cute robot gave 30 per cent more to the pot than the others. (Investigators Terry) Burnham and (Brian) Hare believe that at some subconscious level they were aware of being watched. Being seen to be generous might mean an increased chance of receiving gifts in future or less chance of punishment …

Burnham believes that even though the parts of our brain that carry out decision-making know that the robot image is just that, Kismet’s eyes trigger something more deep-seated. We can manipulate altruistic behaviour with a pair of fake eyeballs because ancient parts of our brain fail to recognise them as fake, he says.

Keep this in mind where you are seeking to design an ad or interface that you don’t want overlooked.

If you’re in the Milwaukee or Madison areas, please be sure to attend my second course, presented by C2: Web Analytics That Clients Love. It will be held in Madison on April 27, and Milwaukee on May 11. Either of these presentations is just $69, but the Milwaukee course continues its $59 Early-Bird Pricing for another 12 days.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday’s Milwaukee Pecha Kucha Night will blow you away

Twenty slides, twenty seconds, 120 minutes of anarchy.

That’s the promise behind the upcoming Pecha Kucha event, to be held at the Sugar Maple, on the corner of Lincoln and Kinnickinnic in Milwaukee. Judging from the names I recognized among the list of presenters, this PK Night should be the best yet.

No Cover

Yep. It’s free to get in this time. And because it’s held at the Sugar Maple, there will be a huge assortment of microbrew and imported beers.

Pow? Free? Wow

That’s right. The first 20 people through the door receives a copy of Andy Nulman’s Pow!

Milwaukeans Watching a Pecha Kucha Presentation

As Always, Diverse Topics

Watch presentations that last no longer than seven minutes, on the following:

  • Green Homes
  • Coffee’s Global Impact
  • “I Don’t Dance, Don’t Ask Me”
  • Brewing Beer
  • “Novembeards”
  • The Three Brains of Humans

… And much, much more!

Presenters include James Carlson, Jim Chambers, Fred Gillich, Steve Hawthorne, Ryan Matteson, David Ravel, Winston Smith, Mike Brenner, Betty Blexrud-Strigens, and Jim Warchol.

It all starts at 8 PM this Tuesday, February 23, 2010. I’ll be there. Will you?

Pecha Kucha Milwaukee
at The Sugar Maple
441 E. Lincoln Ave.
Milwaukee, WI

As always, check in at the official Pecha Kucha Milwaukee site for updates!

Related posts:

Thriving in a hashtag economy

Kudos to photographer Matt Mason for providing these photos. Click to see the gallery

A question about using social media arose this morning — one that I only had time to half-answer. I was on a panel at a Milwaukee Social Media Breakfast (#SMBmke). The question (to paraphrase): “I don’t sell a sexy product. I’m a business that sells to other businesses something that they need. But they don’t necessarily blog about it or tweet about it. Can social media support my goal of lead generation?” I said yes. Below is the second half of my answer.

I did mention The Long Tail. Click through that link to learn what that is. And if you do, think about that link. Jeff Jarvis coined the phrase link economy. Chris Anderson coined the phrase the long tail. I propose a new coinage: the hashtag economy.

The long tail is the book, and the concept, about how niche markets find what they need in a world this isn’t hindered by the economics of brick-and-mortar. There are no carrying costs associated with iTunes offering one more song that just happens to be obscure. Their inventory is limited only by digital storage costs and the bandwidth necessary to deliver the song when someone buys it.

The link economy uses this free, or nearly free, paradigm. It cost me nothing to create the link that pointed readers to an explanation of The Long Tail. The link led to Wikipedia. There again, the power of almost-free. This crowd-sourced encyclopedia saw the most minuscule of incremental costs to provide you with that definition.

The upshot is this. Since we are rewarded nearly every time we click on a link, we do it more often. That generates something that very often can be monetized: Significant volumes of traffic.

Smart businesses — such as the publishers of Wired Magazine and Anderson’s book — leverage this link economy to sell more books. And they leverage The Long Tail Phenomenon in the very sale of a book about the long tail; Anderson’s book might never have become a best-seller if it hadn’t been offered in a virtual bookstore like Amazon first. His readers might have simply been just too darned “niche” to persuade bricks-and-mortar book stores to stock it in their shelves.

Scott Baitinger, co-owner of Streetza Pizza, and I were talking about niche marketing earlier this week. I complimented him on his use of Twitter Hashtags to find a narrow group and to market to them. That narrow group is @FitMKE. Scott has been peddling his pizzas to this group by tweeting to them with the #FitMKE hashtag.

Analog broadcast channels (those based on radio / television wave frequencies) are valuable enough that they are regulated by the government. There are rules about what businesses must do to earn their right to be there (e.g., public service announcements and public-oriented programming). Things that are scarce have value, and these channels are no exception. A recent auction of analog broadcast channels garnered bids in the many millions of dollars.

Twitter handles are not limited by the spectrum of a radio or television broadcast frequency. If I auctioned off my Twitter handle, I would get zero bids. Why? Everyone who knows anything about Twitter knows you can create accounts limited only by the nearly infinite combinations of letters and numbers.

This makes Twitter a spectrum of a nearly infinite number of nearly-free channels. It draws lots of people because it is so cheap and teeming with variety. It uses both the long tail and the link economy.

Increasingly, Twitter is also spawning communities of likeminded people around hashtags. One example of #SMBmke. Another, ironically, is #MKElikemind (another breakfast group — here’s the info on my blog). Scott, and @StreetzPizza, found #fitMKE to be a channel to narrow-cast his offer of healthy pizzas (and also indulgent pizzas, since — hey — you have to be getting fit to enjoy life, don’t you?).

The Hashtag Economy is one way smart marketers are finding their niche audience within the cacauphony of other channels. They’re tuning in, conversing, and doing business there.

Here’s a challenge, especially for my friends (old and new) who attended this morning’s breakfast: What hashtag conversations have you been a part of? And how have they improved your life and work? More important: What business relationships have formed from them?

Related posts:

Also mentioned:

Photo credit: Matt Mason, photographer

Milwaukee wants to know: Should you hire a social media expert?

Originally scheduled for December, the Social Media Breakfast panel discussion, Social Media Guru: Snake Oil Salesman or Expert?, will take place on Thursday, January 21, at The Moct. I’ll be one of the four panelists. The other panelists, and other details, are as follows (this information was originally posted last month):

Matthew Olson @_Signalfire_ – Owner and Creative Director of Signalfire, LLC

Sue Spaight @SueSpaightVP of Account Management and Digital Strategy at Meyer & Wallis

Kim Nielson @KnmuCommunications Project Manager at University School of Milwaukee

Here are the details:

January 21, 2010 – 7:30 am to 9:30 am

The Moct – 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

WiFi and Light Breakfast Provided

Twitter Hashtag: #SMBMke

It promises to be a spirited discussion on a timely topic. I look forward to seeing you there!

Brought exclusively to Milwaukee and Madison: Improve how you measure your site’s ROI

Start the new year right by resolving to better track the return on investment (ROI) of your web site. I’ve been hard at work with Milwaukee’s C2, planning my upcoming digital ROI workshops in Milwaukee and Madison. Here is the information as it is posted on the C2 site:

These half-day seminars are designed to expand your understanding and broaden your capabilities and confidence. You’ll work smarter, faster, stronger!

Each 3-hour seminar will be offered in Milwaukee and Madison.

Please click the date to register

Digital Content Development and Delivery That Maximizes ROI

Presented by Jeff Larche, Digital Solid

Measurement, benchmarking, comparative analysis and revision of content to best generate desired results can be a complex series of steps, each with its own challenges.  Jeff will show participants best practices for workflow management around digital content development and delivery that will maximize your return on your investment of time and resources.

Milwaukee: Tuesday, March 9

Madison: Tuesday, March 23

Realizing Results Demands Real Measurement: AIDA

Presented by Jeff Larche, Digital Solid

Jeff takes a deep dive into web page analytics to show participants specific measurement tools/methodologies designed to measure the sales cycle effectiveness of each page using metrics around AIDA: Attention, Interest, Decision and Action.

Milwaukee: Tuesday, April 13

Madison: Tuesday, April 27

These workshops are unique in the area and are reasonably priced, so they should fill up fast. I suggest you register right away.

They should also be a lot of fun. I hope to see you there!

Make a REAL difference this holiday in helping those in need: Here’s a Head Start!

Milwaukee has been hit hard by this tough economy. We’ve all felt it. But this recession has hit those most vulnerable in our community the hardest of anyone.

Holiday GigglesTwelve months ago I and a small group of friends decided to get off our butts to provide help to those least served in Milwaukee, in ways we could really see and share. Here’s that post about the extraordinary 2008 Head Start Holiday Celebration. In order to qualify for Head Start support, a family of three cannot have an annual household income of more than roughly $18,000!

We’re doing it again this year and we need your help. We’re not with Head Start, but we’re volunteers helping Head Start throw a holiday celebration that will last for weeks to come.

Please read this post on my personal blog site. Then consider a donation of $20 — or whatever you can afford — to make this event even better than the last.

donate_100_postIt all comes together on Thursday, December 17, 2009. Please read about it, and contribute today!