Monday, October 15, 2007

A Democratisation of Penguins (Puffins? -ed)

The man who gave us the ‘long tail’, Chris Anderson, is now giving us the democratization of technology. An approach, which effectively extends the boundaries of innovation, out past to the enterprise and onto the web. Companies such as Lego and Proctor and Gamble are actively using the resources of people who are interested in what they do in order to enhance, develop and create new product. Best of all it can often cost them nothing and certainly less than having R&D staffers!

Anderson, along with his 8-year-old son developed a airborne surveillance device using Lego Mindstorm’s kit as processing and control foundation. They added a gyroscope, infrared vision for stability, GPS capability, a cell phone-based coordinate input scheme to guide the model and a basic imaging system to conduct "reconnaissance" at the destination. The data was then sent back over the same 3G network to the cell phone communications system.

This extension of technology enables organisations to think outside of their box and tap into enthusiast who will take them to a different place. The cost of Anderson’s UVA was only $1,000 compared to the multi million price tag for military UAVs. Lego effectively get the intellectual property for providing the Mindstorm kit.
So we then visited, a Penguin owned web site which had been reviewed by Booksquare. We opened the site with some trepidation and found it ‘different’. This Penguin site has obviously been designed to appeal to youth and is edited by 13 to 18 year olds. The graphics are certainly hip, grey and lime green colours with clever image shots make an engaging feel, but why go here and not onto Bebo, Myspace, Facebook etc?

Children can become one of the team and to do so need to submit a review or short story and 50 words about why they want to be involved. It certainly offers something for everyone from book reviews to designing jackets.

For once the Penguin branding is discreet and if you blink you may miss it. So why come here and what’s in it for the young aspiring writer? Perhaps Penguin has found a way to democratise literature and harness new creative blood , monitor trends and hopefully not for free.