Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Long Tail of the Social Stationery Market

Personalized Triple Thick Stationery from Minnie & Emma Correspondence
Personalized Triple Thick Stationery from Minnie & Emma
When I first encountered Chris Anderson's The Long Tail in 2006, I told my work associates that it was the most important business book that I had read in a decade. Anderson predicted that the nearly unlimited product choices available in online media services like iTunes and Rhapsody would not only transform the music industry, but also impact the future of all businesses.

Rhapsody was eclipsed by Pandora which is suffering at the the hands of Spotify, but the basic premise was completely accurate. Today, no matter what you want, someone makes it, Google will find it for you and Amazon will get it to you in two days with free shipping.

It has taken longer for the Long Tail effect to impact the social stationery market. Just a few years ago, when people wanted to send out a card or write a quick note, they would pick up something from a Hallmark store, a discount store or an office supply store. You had to live with the limited number of designs those outlets carried.

HP Indigo Presses are used for on-demand printing at Black River Imaging
Today you can match your card and notepad to your personality and even your mood. Hundreds of specialty boutiques, online stationers, even Etsy shops supply unique and personalized stationery and gifts. These companies are able to provide such a wide variety of choice because of the on-demand printing capability of the digital press.

Before the digital press, the only way to reduce the unit cost of a printed item, was to increase the number units printed. To launch a new stationery brand required a gigantic investment in inventory along with storage space and a distribution network to move the items to the retailers. To keep these expenses manageable, companies limited the number of different designs to those that had the most general appeal. Most social stationery companies still operate that way.

The New Dime Store in Brookside, Missouri
The New Dime Store offers unique stationery by Ann Page
On-demand printing allows a stationery brand to launch without any investment in inventory. They can focus on design and sales without printing anything beyond a few samples.  When the orders begin to arrive, they print exactly what is needed and send it to the store or the final customer. Without worries about inventory build up, they can offer a greater number of standard designs and customize designs to fit the regional tastes or the preferences of a particular store.

Minnie & Emma Correspondence is a perfectly example of this new trend. Created by a group of New York City designers who love smart design and clever execution, they offer luxury stationery and gifts that allow "you to communicate in a simple and tasteful way." They encourage their customers to "push the envelope and work with our designers to create something unique."

Thank you card by Minnie & Emma Correspondence
Thank you card by Minnie & Emma Correspondence
What personalized items have you ordered lately?

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning About 3D Printing

Robo 3D Printer
Robo 3D Printer
3D printing, or more precisely, additive manufacturing, is one of my favorite areas of research. I believe the technology fits perfectly with the long term trends of more personalized products and shorter manufacturing runs. Here are some of the best sources for 3D printing information and news:



 

The Basics


How to 3D Print - Beginners Guide via 3D Printer Plans

3D Printers For Sale - A guide to consumer level 3D printers that is maintained by 3D Printer Plans


3D Printer News and Blogs


3DPrint.com

3DPrintingIndustry.com

3DPrinterPlans.info/blog/

Tctmagazine.com

Shapeways.com/blog


Investment Opportunities


These are publicly traded companies that manufacture 3D printers:

Stratasys

3D Systems Corp

Arcam AB

ExOne

Voxeljet AG

Organova Holdings


 3D Printing Services


Shapeways

Sculpteo

i.materialise

Cubify

Red Eye


I feel this information is important enough that I have included it as a new page on this blog to keep it more easily accessible.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Beautiful Rio Grande Gorge

180 Panoramic of the Taos Valley
180 Panoramic of the Taos Valley
Terri Admiring the View of the Taos Valley
Terri Admiring the View of the Taos Valley
While in the Taos valley, we decided it would be a perfect opportunity to do some hiking in the Rio Grande Gorge at the Wild River National Monument. The images below are 360 degree spherical panoramics. Click on the captions to view them in the Google Panoramic viewer.

Spherical Panoramic of the Trail to Arsenic Spring
Spherical Panoramic of the Trail to Arsenic Spring


The Rio Grande as far as the wife can see
As Far as the Wife can See

The Petroglyphs Near Arsenic Spring
The Petroglyphs Near Arsenic Spring

The Rio Grande River at My Feet
The Rio Grande River at My Feet
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Photogenic Fechins

Nicolai Fechin Self-Portrait
Nicolai Fechin Self-Portrait
Nicolai Fechin was a Russian-American painter who lived in Taos, New Mexico from 1927 to 1933. This week, Terri and I visited the house that he built for his family and were very impressed by the adobe architecture, the hand carved woodwork and the beautiful portraits that Nicolai painted of his wife and daughter.

Alexandra Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
Alexandra Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
Nicolai was born in Russia in 1881 and studied at the Kazan Art School in St. Petersburg. He married Alexandra, the daughter of the school's director in 1913. Their daughter Eya was born the following year and after the divorce of her parents in 1933, she moved with her father to New York, then Santa Monica.

Eya was a frequent model for her father and played a critical role in the preservation of the Fechin House in Taos.

Eya Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
Eya Fechin by Nicolai Fechin
While visiting the Fechin House, I couldn't resist capturing a Photo Sphere of the Garden. You can take a look here.

The Garden of The Fechin House in 360
The Garden of The Fechin House in 360
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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Fechin is Fetching in 360

The Fechin House and Taos Art Museum, Taos New Mexico
The Fechin House and Taos Art Museum
The Fechin House in Taos, New Mexico seemed the perfect place to test Google's new Photo Sphere app for iOS. The new iPhone app lets you capture a 360 degree view of any location by capturing a series of images in all directions.

The Photo Sphere app leads you step by step through the process of creating the sphere by showing you a series of orange dots that indicate each view you should capture.  In addition to shooting in all directions on a single plane, the app also has you capture images pointing up and pointing down to create a complete spherical view from your current location. The hardest part about using the app is standing in exactly the same place, without falling, while turning in circles to capture each of the views.

The Fechin House in 360 Degrees.
The Fechin House in 360 Degrees.
After your sphere is captured, the software requires a few minutes to stitch the images together to compute the sphere. You then have the option to upload the image to Google Plus where it can be shared and evaluated by Google to be shown on Google Earth.

The 360 degree images are more interesting than attractive when viewed in a two dimensional plane. They are both fun and attractive when viewed through the Google Panoramic Viewer. Click here to see this sphere of The Fechin House.

The Photo Sphere app is fun and as it gains more and more users, it will be a tremendous supplement to the increasingly complete view of the earth provided by Google Earth.

Where do you want to capture 360?

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Drug Delivery Via 3D Print

Biodegradable 3D Printed Implants for Drug Delivery via 3DPrint.com
3D Printed Implants for Drug Delivery via 3DPrint.com
The most interesting story I found this week about 3D printing explains a new method of delivering antibiotics and cancer treatment drugs using 3D printed implants. Researchers at Louisiana Tech University have used a Makerbot Replicator to print biodegradable implants using a filament infused with the medication.

3D printing allows the implant to be shaped in a way to provide even and efficient delivery of the medicine directly to the area of the body where it is needed. Delivery of the drugs directly where they are needed is more efficient and reduces side effects. The ability to make the implants on an inexpensive home printer has broad implications for creating personalized treatments anywhere in the world.

What is the most interesting 3D printing story you read this week?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Curse of the Visionary

Clock via Pixabay
I have written often in this blog about the value of being able to predict the future and provided several suggestions on ways to develop predictive skills. Understanding nascent technologies and societal trends can boost your creativity, your career and your investments. But that vision comes with a price.

Any careful consideration of our current situation and possible paths forward can generate frustration and fear in several ways. I call these the curses of the visionary.

The Ability to See What Could Be


There is much wrong with the world that could be different if better decisions were made about the deployment of resources and technology.  Few voices in the media and even fewer in government seem to have a clear understanding of economics or psychology. When bad policy is destined to produce poor results, there is little joy in knowing that a little earlier than most people.

The Ability to See What Will Be


If you assemble a series of possible scenarios and try to assess the probability of each actually happening, many of those scenarios will be unpleasant. Our economy thrives on creative destruction and it is never totally clear which side of that destruction any one of us will land. Survival requires preparation for the most probable obstacles but obsessing on the risks leads to fear and doubt.

The Inevitability of Generating Anger


Those who are heavily invested in the status quo don't want to admit the necessity of a course change. Visionaries are far more likely to be greeted with laughter or rage than appreciation.

The cure for the curses of the visionary is action. Choose the path that appears to be the most probable route to success and get started. Action can change the future. Action is the perfect distraction from fear and frustration. And action leads us around the curve or over the hill where the path ahead is easier to see.

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