Monday, May 22, 2006
Three Thousand Visitors
Are your my three thousandth visitor? I don't know who you are, but I'm pretty sure you're in Downers Grove, Illinois. Send me an email or leave a comment so that I can get in touch with you to send you a Party Hat for Potash. Knowing that I'm a poor counter, the three thousandth visitor may be from Pittsburgh, or from Paris, France. If you live in one of those two places and believe that you're the three thousandth visitor, contact me for your Party Hat for Potash.
Thank you all for visiting me here. I didn't expect to discover such a wonderful community of people when I began this blog. I am privileged to meet some of you by way of correspondence. It's my pleasure when you introduce yourself. Please feel free to comment.
The flowers in the picture are Bowles Black pansies. E. A. Bowles was a renown English plantsman and author. It surprised me not to find a good Web page about him because so many plants are named after him. Here's a link to his house and gardens. Also so far as I can tell his books are out of print in the USA. However in the late 1990's Timber Press reprinted his books of the seasons in his gardens. Copies are available through book sellers via Advanced Book Exchange--I love that Web site.
For some reason "Black Pansy" should be a name like Black Adder; my alter-ego perhaps.
Hash at White African has the tagline: "Where Africa and Technology Collide." He's got a great proposal (warning: opens a PDF)for a Web-based search engine to be accessed by mobile phones in Africa. Do check it out if you haven't already, it's a great idea. I rambled on over there about African mash-ups. Because he's a nice fellow, he encouraged me to write about what I mean. Alas, I've been meaning to, but my ideas always seem so squishy.
One of my ideas that seems worthwhile are tiny books that I wrote about a while ago calling them Cracker Jack Books but a commenter said Microlibros and that's a better name. Central to that idea is the observation that reading and writing are complimentary. We need more books generally distributed and we need more writers. One of the truly great innovations of computers and the Internet is they allow ordinary people to publish on their own. But in most of Africa computers and the Internet are still relatively rare. The question then becomes how to leverage the capacity to exchange information broadly in Africa. Paper has a role to play. Tiny books have the advantage of being inexpensive to print, even with regular computer printers. Because three books fit on a single sheet of paper printed on both sides, for the cost of a first class stamp fifteen books can be mailed. The premise is that they could be sold for a few pennies a piece.
It's a good question whether anyone would want to buy them. I can imagine that people would. Folded accordion style, each book has ten frames; allowing for a cover that's nine frames. Perhaps dating profiles or want ads would be worth purchasing, and certainly the frames lend themselves to comic strips. But even leaving aside the problem of whether anyone would buy these books, it's pretty clear that the profit to the seller is quite small. What I envision is that these books could be sold in a folded cardboard display. Such a Microlibros bookstore would be an additional profit center to some other enterprise.
My friend Pingting really knows music. I love to visit him for so many reasons, and the music he plays is a big one. Earlier in the spring friends gathered around a little fire in his back yard. He played playlist from his i-Pod by a small transmitter to a transistor radio. Wow that seemed so cool to me! I imagined how useful that capacity would be in Africa. Not the least of the advantages is in dealing with uncertain electric supplies.
I only vaguely know about these gizmos. Apparently there are i-Mikes too, and have read about some of the ways that i-Pods are being used in schools. Pingting told me the transmitter cost less than $50. But I was impressed to see a post at the always remarkable we make money not art blog. A link in that post is to a manual to make your own transmitter. Very often locally made technology works best in Africa because it can be locally repaired. This manual is a great example of lovely people: Lotte Meijer, Tetsuo Kogawa, and Adam Hyde, creating something good.
Mash-ups: Okay imagine a water carrier who has additional profit centers of Microlibros, and sponsored Podcasts. Or I think it's also possible to imagine a stand alone business rather like the Town Criers of old, people engaged in the information delivery business.
There are other ways of delivering information certainly, but I want to add one more: seed exchange. Food security is a fundamental necessity and locally produced seed is plays a role. Seeds are elemental information carriers and seem to fit neatly with this information delivery business.
MobMov is such a great idea, I can't wait until it takes off like wildfire. MobMov is "mobile movies" and they aim for a true Drive-In movie experience and so differentiate themselves from Guerilla Drive-In. Everyone admits Guerilla Drive-In is a great idea, and it's probably a little closer to what I imagine being great in parts of Africa. But the big obstacle is the cost of a digital projector. The Internet is so great because there are sites like Build Your Own LCD Video Projector. As in the case of the build-your-own i-Pod radio transmitter, the advantage here is not only cost but serviceability.
I still haven't answered Hash's call about African mash-ups. It's a start.
Claim Your Party Hat
Remember: if you're the three thousandth visitor, contact me so I can mail your prize to you. Again, thanks to you all, dear readers.