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February 09, 2008

Giving It Away, Making Money

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The burgeoning "Internet Economy" is redefining operational assumptions and models for all organizations within the public and private sectors. This is particularly evident as free access to information increases and the clash between open source and proprietary development of software intensifies. But the transformation underway does not stop in the realm of bits and bytes; it is spilling into the traditional mainstays of agriculture and all types of industry and threatens to alter our most basic tenets of how to market, value, and receive compensation for our creativity, collaboration, and contribution. This posting explores some of the novel approaches underway in response to these changes and set the stage for viable business models in the near future.

The long tail of the Internet provides opportunities for individuals to post information, knowledge, experience, and insight from one location and reach potential audiences almost anywhere else in the world at any time. Countless millions of individuals, businesses, and organizations of all types use websites, wikis, blogs, etc. to do just that. Collectively, the number of intelligent insights and innovative ideas posted every minute is sufficient to change the world many times over.

Despite the countless, remarkable observations and viable solutions presented, it is difficult for all but a narrow slice of contributors to make a living from doing so via Internet media. Unless there is a subscription fee to the site, the content of postings is free to read. In many instances, incorporating or reproducing that content elsewhere only requires acknowledgement of the original contributor / author to do so.

Under these circumstances it is difficult to receive payment for the work itself.
Instead, payment is made based on what else readers do in and around the material they are reading: how many embedded links they check in the posting, how many advertisers around the periphery of the posting do they visit, how many RSS feeds and email notifications to they elect to receive, to name a few.

Continue reading "Giving It Away, Making Money"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Saturday February 9 2008

updated on Monday February 11 2008

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October 09, 2007

Greenhouses That Change the World

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Rick Nelson is the inventor of SolaRoof, a novel approach to greenhouse design and function that integrates a unique covering, heating / cooling system, and infrastructure / framework. It will revolutionize the greenhouse industry. More than that, once the materials are certified for use in human habitation, it will be disruptive to the housing and building industry as well. So what is SolaRoof, anyway, and why does it carry such potential to change the world? Let's find out.

Revolutionary Technology:
The greenhouse construction is unlike any other. Rather than a single layer of covering or glazing there are two. Each layer is a laminate of woven fiber mesh sandwiched in between two sheets of transparent plastic material. The laminated layers are sealed against the top and bottom of the roof and wall frames to create air-tight spaces. This combination by itself offers hardly any insulating value. However, fill the space with bubbles--yes, bubbles--and the equation becomes totally different!

The distance between the two layers varies depending on the desired amount of insulating value. Each inch is roughly equivalent to an R-factor of 1. A distance of a little over a yard yields an R-factor of nearly 40. That is almost unheard of in traditional construction techniques. And given the transparency of the two layers of covering, over 80% of the photosynthesis-catalyzing sunlight reaches the inside of the greenhouse.

In the SolaRoof webpage: Green Buildings for Urban Agriculture and Solar Living, two illustrations show how the process works from one extreme season to the next. Quite ingenius!

Continue reading "Greenhouses That Change the World"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday October 9 2007

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September 22, 2007

Cycles of Communication and Collaboration

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Recently, several of us were going over the litany of new terms for communication and collaboration "tools" that were less than 10 years old: blogs, mashups, crowdsourcing, webinars, podcasts, etc. just to name a few. It became obvious as we discussed it further than many of us in the conversation were relatively clueless when it came to defining what each is, what it does, how it works, and what were the benefits. As in most instances where there are too many dots and no clear picture in mind to connect them; a framework would be helpful.

The quadrants and circular arrow in the diagram below illustrate a progressive path of organized social interactions. It starts with the blog: the primary virtual means by which an individual, almost any individual who has access to the Internet, announces to the world�?here is who I am, what I think, and what I care about. It is a powerful statement of independent thought, self-awareness, and clarity of purpose that any blogger makes simply by posting a message.

Communication and Collaboration Cycle without Examples - Halfsize.jpg

When individuals put themselves out there, they are likely to be "discovered" by others who share common principles, interests, and affinities. One of the most likely places to be "found" is in a social network. In these far-ranging open communities individuals extend their connectivity, learn more about themselves and each other, strengthen their affiliations, and become more intentional about doing certain activities together rather than individually.

Continue reading "Cycles of Communication and Collaboration"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Saturday September 22 2007

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July 15, 2007

What Is an "Integrated Solution"?

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A colleague of mine called the other day and wanted to know how I would answer the question, “What is an ‘integrated solution’?�? It seemed that he was entertaining this concept with others in senior management and he was struggling to find an answer that didn’t sound like gobbledygook or pure philosophy and offered nothing pragmatic. In typical management fashion, he needed an answer right away. And, it would be particularly helpful if it could be condensed into a 10-second sound bite that anyone could comprehend. Of course, pressing all that knowledge and insight into a 10-second statement is quite a challenge; one that launched us into a 30-minute animated conversation. Here’s the 10-second version:

An integrated solution:
* Targets what a specific customer’s organization�?business, not-for-profit, government agency, etc.�?is providing (portfolio), the manner in which it does that (model), and the context in which it operates
* Appeals to the combination of values considered most important by an individual customer
* Provides a package of products, services, and technologies that function more effectively as a whole than the sum of the individual elements that comprise it

So, what is so difficult about that?

While this definition of an integrated solution makes intuitive sense, it challenges management’s conventional wisdom. Here are some reasons:

Continue reading "What Is an "Integrated Solution"?"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Sunday July 15 2007

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July 12, 2007

Thoughts about Value-Add

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Value-add dominates our economic scorecard. It is relatively easy to calculate in a manufacturing setting where value is added through material transformation at each step as a product moves from raw material to finished goods. Customers monetize this value by the purchase of products they anticipate will add value to their processes. Value-add also pertains to certain services, like financial and legal, that require a certified, licensed, or bonded provider that possesses or delivers specialized skills or knowledge. The consequence for not utilizing these services is the customer assumes risk.

The concept of value-add also plays a role in information technology and data services. Here, though, the meaning is vague. What value can be assigned to having data or to having data in a usable format? This instance of value is intangible and determined by the receiver of the message. Nowhere is intangible nature of value-add more evident that in marketing strategies and advertising campaigns. Information that induces a user to pay for a product or service has value only to the producer. Value-add for the customer or client occurs at the next step�?the point of utilization.

So much for the traditional view of value-add. Here is where the current issues of globalization – localization come into play. A robust business strategy can entertain and exercise both sides!

Continue reading "Thoughts about Value-Add"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Thursday July 12 2007

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July 10, 2007

A Broader Framework in Which Localization Occurs

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One of the drivers behind technology development is the quest for human equivalence �?the point where technology performs at a level of functioning that is equal to or greater than the functioning of the human brain. While it is speculative at best to estimate if and when such a goal is achieved, recent history illustrates that the increase in capability and capacity of technology is ramping up a rather steep slope. And if we are to trust the application of Moore’s law, technology’s prowess is doubling every 18-24 months. At that rate, it doesn’t take much to project a future wherein technology is closing in on human equivalence.

As a trend develops it is useful to be able to track its progress and anticipate its trajectory. Choosing or crafting a set of markers that give indication of a trend’s speed, depth, and scope as it gains influence and becomes an impetus for change is critical. While there are many markers from which to choose, the most durable and universally applicable sets concerns value added, particularly, where and how value is added.

The simple Wikipedia example about making miso soup from the above link is a good one to illustrate how advances in technology change the value-added equation. First, the value of the soup as the end product is comprised of the value added by the farmer to grow the raw product, soy beans, plus the value added by the processor to the soy beans to produce tofu, plus the value added by the chef to the tofu to prepare the soup. This “value package�? utilizes a combination of equipment, input, labor, and know-how applied in various locations, stages, and timeframes�?and is based on a specific capability and capacity level of technology.

What happens when technology develops further? There are several possibilities: the soy beans are grown in close proximity to the preparer; the yield of soy bean plants and desired quality and characteristics of the beans are increased; the equipment that harvests soy beans conducts post-harvest operations that condition the beans for making tofu; this equipment is smaller and more compact which accommodates localized production; methods of packaging, storing, and shipping soy beans or tofu are more integrated thereby consuming less energy and taking less time. In these instances, advances in technology are applied to the value-added equation dramatically altering the value package. The result is a system utilizing less costly and more productive equipment, requiring fewer inputs and less labor, and deeply embedding human knowledge and experience into new processes and tools. This has the potential to be transformational�?and in relatively short order, too!

Continue reading "A Broader Framework in Which Localization Occurs"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday July 10 2007

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July 08, 2007

A Voice for Localization

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In response to my earlier posting about Localization, Bob Banner, publisher / editor of Hope Dance Magazine sent me an email noting that Julian Darley was the founder and director of the Post Carbon Institute. While James Howard Kunstler is an Institute Fellow, he has his own website that covers a wide range of related topics. Please note that my 6 July posting is now updated to reflect this correction.

Bob also mentioned in his email that Issue 62 of Hope Dance Magazine is "...a special issue we did on RELOCALIZATION that features BALLE, Judy Wicks, the PCI, Michael Shuman's Small-Marts, Local Living Economies, Bill McKibben, many book ad film reviews, a LOCALIZATION FILM FESTIVAL and more.. all in a tabloid of 56 pages." If you are interested in Localization, you will find this issue chock-full of useful information that can be quickly applied in a wide range of localities. Take a look!

In addition, he printed an extra 2,000 copies that are available in lots of 50 for $25, which includes shipping. If you be interested in hard copies for local distribution, please contact Bob and Hope Dance at this embedded link.


posted by Steve Bosserman on Sunday July 8 2007

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July 06, 2007

The Case for Localization

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Over the past five months I have dedicated considerable attention to “localization.�? According to Wikipedia, “Localization may describe production of goods nearer to end users to reduce environmental and other external costs of globalization.�?

The Relocalization Network, which is affiliated with Julian Darley's Post Carbon Institute defines “relocalization�? as “…a strategy to build societies based on the local production of food, energy and goods, and the local development of currency, governance and culture. The main goals of Relocalization are to increase community energy security, to strengthen local economies, and to dramatically improve environmental conditions and social equity.�?

Another way to consider localization is to see it as the shrinkage of distance between the point of production and the point of utilization or consumption. It is the conversion of bits and bytes into material form as close as possible to where that form will be used. In contrast, globalization is the virtualization of experience, knowledge, and innovation so that intellectual property created can travel from anywhere to anywhere quickly, easily, at minimal cost.

Continue reading "The Case for Localization"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Friday July 6 2007

updated on Sunday July 8 2007

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February 12, 2007

Boids, Integrated Structures, and Renewable Energy

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About 20 years ago, Craig Reynolds, developed an artificial life program entitled, Boids, that simulates the flocking patterns of birds. One of the compelling features of Boids is that despite random starting points and infinite range of action enjoyed by each boid, through adherence to three simple rules a consistent behavior pattern among the boids is quickly established and maintained.

Boids exemplifies a principle in complex adaptive systems termed “emergence.�? Emergence is a key concept in organization design. It has particular relevance when the issues of control, dependence, and autonomy in centralized and decentralized structures are recast into integrated structures such as networks, communities, and teams.

My previous posting, “Lessons from the Grid,�? focuses on distribution of responsibility and authority to generate electricity, by whatever type of renewable energy source, to individual homeowners and business owners. Net metering connections to the grid enable owners to sell excess electricity generated to the utility company and draw from the grid as necessary during times of insufficient electricity generated locally. This is a win-win solution: an expanding network of home and business owners, representing multiple families, neighborhoods, and communities, are actively involved; participants meet their individual and local needs, first, then, sell their surplus to meet regional and global demand; and, the localization of electric power generation through “green energy�? is more efficient and consumes less “brown energy.�?

Continue reading "Boids, Integrated Structures, and Renewable Energy"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Monday February 12 2007

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February 07, 2007

Lessons from the Grid

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The electrical power grid is a study in organizational behavior. Take how electricity is generated and distributed to the point of consumption. Huge power plants or arrays�?fueled by “green energy�? sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric, or “brown energy�? sources such as fossil fuels and nuclear�?concentrate electrical power generation to take advantage of “economies of scale.�? The resulting current is transmitted through an extensive redundancy of power lines, cables, substations, circuit breakers, switches and transformers�?oftentimes referred to as the “power grid" �?to individual consumers across wide areas.

Organizationally, this is a centralized model. Power is concentrated in a select number of locations and authority is distributed to other points as needed and according to priorities driven by limited supply during periods of peak demand. The overall system, no matter how inefficient or costly, strives to be convenient, available when needed, standardized in delivery, and transparent during use. The goal is to please the most and dissatisfy the least so that fundamental assumptions about the design of the system are unquestioned, significant investments in infrastructure modernization or extensive system redesign are delayed, and increases in operational costs, along with services, are passed fluidly to the consumer. In other words, the existing power structure prevails and remains unchallenged and the consumer is dependent on that structure to get what is needed and wanted.

For every movement, there is a counter-movement. There are those who regard being “on the grid" as a lifestyle that epitomizes wanton consumerism, promoting waste, excess, banality, and destruction of the environment. Their alternative is to live “off the grid�? disconnected from public services including electrical power. Initiated during the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the “back to the land�? movement is often synonymous with off the grid solutions such as energy from solar, wind, and biomass sources.

The off the grid approach represents an alternative organization structure�?a decentralized model. In this instance, power is held by a wide range of relatively small, independent individuals / families who are in total control of an electrical power system that meets their consumption requirements. As with many decentralized structures, one’s destiny is in one’s hands. However, the limits of these structures become apparent when consumption patterns change and more power is required or disaster strikes and there is no opportunity for a quick recovery.

Continue reading "Lessons from the Grid"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Wednesday February 7 2007

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