Mesh Potato, Community Wireless, Design by Constraint

I’m hyped about Mesh Potato and I am aiming to be involved in their project in whatever way I can be useful, whether via some connection to Mobile Muse, or just plain old twit-and-post evangelism.

Mesh Potato is an Open Hardware project to create a wireless (mesh) access point that can function as an independent cellular phone network. The goal is to enable groups around the world to offer affordable voice and data services to small communities that cannot afford existing service from the major telcos (or who must use exorbitant but low barrier to entry pay-as-you-go services).

Also quite cool – the design principles underlying their project and goals. By way of Roland I read this article by Steve Song who recounts the strategy, inspired by Ethan Zuckerman’s idea of Innovating From Constraint:

With the Village Telco, we have a wireless project that has a number of self-imposed constraints.

  1. Get pay-as-you-go voice services right.  Data services are a given on a wireless platform but the one thing we want to make bullet-proof is affordable, simple-to-bill voice services.
  2. Make a telco as simple to set up as a wordpress blog.  Wireless meshes, least-cost-routing, etc.  Let’s make as much of that complexity disappear into default behaviours that can be tweaked as the owner/entrepreneur becomes more comfortable with the product.
  3. Be as open as possible.  This is more of a philosophical than a practical constraint.  We believe we can attract maximum participation by making software and hardware as open as possible.  We believe that Open Hardware strategies devices like the Mesh Potato can change the way people think about hardware.
  4. Break even in six months.  The technology ought to be cheap enough and easy enough to deploy that anyone with a reasonable head for business could have recouped their investment and be making a profit in six months.

Simplicity, rather than constraint, seems to be the operative theme here. Still, as a musical aside, this recalls for me Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which is similar in principle (limiting options to incite creative thinking), but which operates on aesthetic endeavor (which is about much more than “problem solving”, ultimately).

Hot potato, hot potato, sez my daughter.

Smartphones, Price Points, and Purchasing Power Parity

Expensive phones are like an enormous test phase, but budget phones are the true launch pad for a mobile technology.”

Well said. Read the rest at All About Symbian. It’s exciting to see the trickle of smart phone functionality into lower end handsets. Perhaps Nokia’s actually been listening to its participatory design researchers?

I am, however, reluctant to consider 90 Euros a “budget” price among the world’s poor, unless a group of 100 people is sharing one phone. A number worthy of discussion, to be sure…

If you’re interested, Ketai has some links to studies in the phenomenon of phone sharing; there’s also Jan Chipchase’s work for Nokia on “unlikely consumers” and “sideways adoption”, for starters.

Up In Ur Transient Droopal. With Announcements.

I’ve finally taken the plunge into Drupal on the label/company page. I haven’t had much need for a main company URL or site, so I’m going to use it as a ‘social media’ (is there such thing as an ‘antisocial’ medium?) sandbox – essentially an experiment in multiple feed aggregation and integration of mobile generated media. I’ll be adding modules over time, and also likely changing the design on a regular basis, when the mood strikes me.

Next Nature :: cyber-implants running amok, and branded butterfly GMOs

Wow. Mieke Gerritzen gives a very provocative presentation on “Next Nature” – which, in its prophetic look at nature and culture combined, is one part Haraway, two parts Latour.

Is the Lift Conference always this interesting? Gerritzen breathes from the same bong as Ray Kurzweil. Who’da thunk it?