In his 2013, second term State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned 3D printing, that it “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything,” mentioning the additive manufacturing hub the US government is helping to fund in Youngstown Ohio and three more they are about to launch, suggesting Congress should “create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made in America.”
When the President of the United States mentions a technology such as 3D printing in the State of the Union address you know his staff have undertaken substantial research from every possible angle, that his aides have spoken to engineers, economists and experts in manufacturing to understand the revolutionary potential. When Obama mentions a ‘network of additive manufacturing hubs’ he is at the same time validating the Shapeways business model, that consists of a network of manufacturing hubs, in both the USA and Europe that bring manufacturing closer to the people that buy the products. Creating products and jobs locally.
When Obama says 3D printing will revolutionize manufacturing, he is not speaking only of the technologies we have at hand today, the technologies that allow Shapeways users to create their designs in Nylon or Stainless Steel to sell to people around the world, he is also speaking of the technologies that will soon evolve. When you will be able to 3D print plastic and steel composites in a single 3D print, when you will be able to 3D print electronics into your products, when you will be able to make things that are beyond the realm of the imagination right now.
Think back to five years ago, when the ability to 3D print your ideas was extremely expensive and the option to buy and sell 3D printed products simply did not exist. Now for us at Shapeways it is the new normal, Obama and his advisors obviously think that 3D printed products will soon be the new normal for the rest of the world, really soon.
This is the first of a multi-part series written by our lead data scientist, Eli Finkelshteyn, on how and why we built the Backplane analytics portal from scratch.
Before I joined the team, the Backplane was using both Google Analytics and Mixpanel for front-end logging. While I liked both of these — they were definitely nice, quick solutions for getting a basic idea of what’s happening on our site — I saw a few problems:
- These solutions have no security.
Both apps use simple, easily emulated front-end calls to send data. A quick search of StackOverflow is all you need to figure out how to scam this.
Because of that, if someone wanted to send us (or anyone else using these tools) a bunch of bad data, there’s nothing really stopping them. Sure, that’s a pretty boring hack and the hacker will never really see the results, but it is still easily doable, and that’s scary.
- We want to keep all our logged data.
Initially, this wasn’t such a big concern, but now that we’re getting bigger and have the resources, warehousing our data instead of just computing our analytics from it is a big win.
Having this data means we can log everything now, then go back and ask questions later. If we think of a new metric, now, we don’t need waste more time collecting new data before being able to analyze a trend. We can simply run a quick pig script on the old data over EMR, and have aggregated numbers and a graph in minutes. This is in addition to being able to use our old logging data for machine-learning gold sets when we happen upon an awesome new idea for a recommendation system or a classifier.
I know I’m not the first to say it, but old logging data is gold. Don’t just throw it away.
- We want to be able to graph whatever we want however we want.
For basic analytics, Google Analytics and Mixpanel are great. If you’re at a start-up with just a handful of employees, these two tools can get you far enough. Plus investing the time necessary to build out your own analytics tools before you’ve got a great product or users is a bad idea.
For Backplane, though, now that we have both of these, we’re starting to get smarter about what metrics we’re looking at. Many of the statistics that interest us, we can’t easily get out of Google Analytics or Mixpanel. If we want to know how many registered users came to a site at least 2 days out of the last week (to get a sense of how many regulars we have), we’d be out of luck without our internal tools. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
- It’s not cost effective.
This surprised to me. Backplane has over 700,000 registered users, along with more than a hundred thousand lurkers. With so many users, we have several metrics we were interested in and that we’re sending data points for.
As an example, we sent 34 million data points in September of 2012. Mixpanel’s pricing plan charges $2000/month for 20 million data points, so you can imagine that we were paying a significant amount more. Because we’ve grown even more since then, these bills were only going to keep growing.
Conversely, to do the same thing ourselves costs us about $600/month in equipment costs, about 1 month of a single developer’s time up front, and maybe 1 day out of the month of developer maintenance time tops. This gives us a robust, secure setup that can handle a few million users at current typical usage. That’d be half the price if we were sending only 20 million data points, and, like I said, we’re sending way more.
The next part in this series on our analytics portal will cover how we setup logging and data warehousing and why we did it the way we did it. Stay tuned!
But having an Instagram account is like having an abundance of money in a dead currency. So much nostalgia and meaning have been shoveled at us that the aesthetic has lost much of its ability to affect. Merely making your photos evocative of photo scarcity doesn’t make them actually scarce or make others covet them. There’s a deep mismatch between the aesthetic language of Instagram and the affordances of the network. Despite all the manufactured nostalgia, your photo disappears down the stream, largely unnoticed.Pics and It Didn’t Happen – The New Inquiry (via thisistheverge)
“I want to dowse you in green paint & spank you like a disobedient avocado”
Creepy Cupid: http://jes3.com/12JL8Zm
To my mind, the world would be a much pleasanter and more civilized place to live in, if everyone resolved to pursue whatever is closest to his heart’s desire.How to avoid work and do what you love – a 1949 guide. (via explore-blog)
(Source: , via explore-blog)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup - Class 9 Notes Essay
Here is an essay version of my class notes from Class 9 of CS183: Startup. Errors and omissions are my own. Credit for good stuff is Peter’s entirely.
Class 9 Notes Essay—If You Build It, Will They Come?
Distribution is something of a catchall term. It essentially refers to how you get a product out to consumers. More generally, it can refer to how you spread the message about your company. Compared to other components that people generally recognize are important, distribution gets the short shift. People understand that team, structure, and culture are important. Much energy is spent thinking about how to improve these pieces. Even things that are less widely understood—such as the idea that avoiding competition is usually better than competing—are discoverable and are often implemented in practice.
But for whatever reason, people do not get distribution. They tend to overlook it. It is the single topic whose importance people understand least. Even if you have an incredibly fantastic product, you still have to get it out to people. The engineering bias blinds people to this simple fact. The conventional thinking is that great products sell themselves; if you have great product, it will inevitably reach consumers. But nothing is further from the truth.
There are two closely related questions that are worth drilling down on. First is the simple question: how does one actually distribute a product? Second is the meta-level question: why is distribution so poorly understood? When you unpack these, you’ll find that the first question is underestimated or overlooked for the same reason that people fail to understand distribution itself.
The first thing to do is to dispel the belief that the best product always wins. There is a rich history of instances where the best product did not, in fact, win. Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current electrical supply system. It was, for a variety of reasons, technologically better than the direct current system that Thomas Edison developed. Tesla was the better scientist. But Edison was the better businessman, and he went on to start GE. Interestingly, Tesla later developed the idea of radio transmission. But Marconi took it from him and then won the Nobel Prize. Inspiration isn’t all that counts. The best product may not win.
Good morning, and welcome to the Black Mesa transit system
An upgrade, years in the making…
When we imagined Tumblr more than seven years ago, we dreamed of offering creators a new canvas. Every post would be a raw look through the author’s eyes and mind. We imagined the interface disappearing as these subjects came to life.
For years, this vision was challenged by limits in browser technology and an increasingly daunting set of Tumblr features to support. But today, we take a huge step.
After months of careful crafting, we’ve reduced creation on Tumblr to its essence, while carrying over every single feature and making room for some BIG new ones (like completely customizable drag-and-drop photoset creation, faster uploads, and inline reblogging!). We can’t wait for you to try it.
The upgrades have started rolling out and will be available for everyone by the end of the weekend. Most of the bugs and omissions you’ve reported have already been fixed, but please let us know if you run in to any other issues!