Monthly Archives: December 2013

Looking into week 1

This post is the last progress report, aka. “horrible clarity” for this year of 2013 – and the first one for the coming 2014. The end of the year tends to inspire people, as deadlines usually do too. Hard to shake off the “I’m older one year, what happened during that time?” feeling. Thus besides the regular review, let’s do a yearly one as well at the end of the post.

Printer printing science paper
Printing circuit diagram of laser diode current driver to study

Horrible Clarity

Learned last week

Upon recommendation, I finished reading Making Ideas Happen, which struck me as an interesting mix of GettingThingsDone+Evernote+Sparkfiles, though it pulls together a lot of extra experience, and while it doesn’t feel too deep, it does inspire. Filled quite a few pages of notes, and have a dual conviction of I’m on the right path with what I’m doing, and that there are a bunch of things I want to do. When being in it for the long run, this kind of things do matter.

Had a discussion with an electronics developer friend, who does digital designs, as well as partnering with a factory here in Taiwan to produce circuits. Apparently if I have a circuit schematics, turning it into a PCB is about 38,000TWD (~1300USD) and printing 10 pieces of it is another 12,000TWD (~400USD). That’s a good figure to know, even if at this point I cannot afford it, so going to have to work around that. Especially because no “development” is included in this, so if I have errors in my schematics, I’ll have errors in the prints too.

Been reading the scientific papers describing the first product I’m considering for implementation. I have a better feeling what it involves, while I don’t think I’m much closer to the physical implementation. Need more sweat put into that. This topic also started a thought for an adjustment for the business model – instead of being the Adafruit of scientific instruments, could it be more of the Etsy of sci-inst?

From my network I got contacts to a shirt printing company in the US that seem very interesting. Following up with them as well, as closure on this project would definitely raise the morals, and would give me some tangible effects to ascertain that “I’m here”.

Had a very fruitful discussion at The Entrepreneurs Society of Taiwan about the idea to crowdsource the business on IndieGoGo, though it mostly turned into ideas about where to register a business (HK, BVI, Cayman Islands, Singapore instead of Taiwan). Since the stakes are unknown to me as a first-time founder, it’s hard to make an informed decision. The advice coming from seasoned entrepreneurs is certainly something to consider, while I feel it could be useful to send my limited mental bandwidth on elsewhere in the business development. Taking notes and letting it brew in the back-brain for a bit longer.

Looking forward

I feel I need to know more my environment, thus want to make a survey of local researchers (physics, electronic engineering, and maybe other related fields) within Taiwan. Those who I don’t know yet, I should get in touch over email, and preferably in person as well. Foreign researchers are also important to know, though that can be delayed, unless I can come up with really good reasons why jump abroad already. This would serve as an important platform for collaboration.

Do the schematic layout of the electronics board I’m considering building, and if possible, a naive PCB. Put all of these on the wiki, and that would serve as a stepping stone and a basis to reach out to people about it. I have to show I’m doing something not just talking. Theory is that invested work and open sharing (open source everything) encourages people to contribute.

Finish some kind of shirt printing, either in Taiwan or from abroad, even just a few copies. Make them business cards finally.

To see if I would be a good teacher, talker, presenter, I’m preparing a science workshop for the 2nd week of January about the physics of 3D printers at the Taipei Hackerspace. Have to put in the work to actually (re)learn the relevant physics. It should be fun for sure.

Taking that idea even grander, I’m considering organizing a conference about scientific instruments. No concrete plans, but here are the lines I’m thinking along: do it in Taiwan for the local community, though in English; pick narrow enough topic to be able to pick good talks; engage both professors (probably physics and EE) and industry, framing it as a chance to meet and exchange ideas; make the talks different that it’s not just boring presentations: Ignite style talks of 5 minutes & auto-advancing slides for example (I can’t even contemplate how to pull that off); do some activity or workshop to do something more hands-on, that gets to people; charge entrance fee, a bit but not too much, to cover costs and if possible use a bit of bootstrapping but quality is the priority; find partners to do this from the survey I’ll be doing; schedule it not further than 2 months in advance to keep the pressure on.

The Year Back and Ahead

Without reservations, this was an awesome year. It’s all in the retrospect, so I’m surely being biased.

The year started at a cushy research position, with making some interesting projects, while being frustrated in lots of others. Lots of stress in one hand, and much more safety in the other. Having been forced to leave that place in April, 8 months too early, feels exactly what I needed – in retrospect, it took time to take that view.

In the last 8 months, lots of projects flourished, and I started to find my voice better with this project as well – ever so slowly. Founded the Taipei Hackerspace earlier this year, and could put in the work to move it forward. Joined projects, some that got somewhere, on others the jury is still out.

Came up with a name for this project and registered it in August. Talking to other startup founders in the same shoes, Autumn got a boost and I dared to reach out to ask questions directly to my target audience. Got very interesting and encouraging answers. Started these reviews in November, and progress is much more visible now, to myself as well. I’m clearly touching on a point that is important to people.

For the coming year to be able to be here writing a review again, I’ll need to focus on implementation, it’s that simple. This is of course pretty much a tautology, but way too often I take my eyes off the goal. That doesn’t cut it anymore.

Happy New Year everyone, let us all kick some ass. ;)

Progress report: 2013 Week 52

Continuing along with transparent development, the notes for this week.

Learned

Checked out a bunch of t-shirt printing websites both in Taiwan and in the US (one should be cheaper, the other is more technical thus might be better serviced), but so far there’s no good overlap between small volume and good price. Have a few interesting leads though, will follow up with those.

Have chosen a design that I would like to do as the first product (no quotation marks around that word). Now starting to take all the steps needed to get from a circuit diagram to an actual layout to printed PCB to a box that can be shipped. For this I will definitely need some electronics designer help. While I thought I have a couple contacts who would like to help as well as could, “other people” turn to be always a weaker link. Now making new connections in the hardware circles and learning how to do it myself as well. The first version can be crappy as long as it is not broken. Open hardware is built around open innovation as well, so it’s only natural.

Had adjusted the frontpage a bit, though I’m sure it doesn’t go far enough. It’s better navigation and will try to get it in front of more relevant people and adjust upon feedback instead of just playing with it.

Loads of students showed up
Students report their progress at the interactive design workshop, National Taipei University of Technology

Been participating in an interactive design workshop at one of the local universities here, and it’s really inspiring how far the students (graduate level) have gone in a bit more than a week. Puts most of our projects at the Taipei Hackerspace to shame. Lot to improve on.

Coming week

Step on the FPGA consulting project, it’s starting to be ridiculous how much I under-prioritize it. I did look around though, and I feel that for future improvements, should need to learn MyHDL, that would totally fit into the philosophy I’m trying to cultivate here.

Follow up on the documenting / white paper writing project I was planning. Have to start and reach out to the people who are doing research in the fields I want to address (Ytterbium & Strontium, most likely).

Follow up with t-shirt and card printing, get that design and get it made. The setback is that I found a whole pack of still okay cards, so feel less pressure.

Do research into the PCB layout of first project and ask for help to improve on the circuit before laying it out. Add information to the wiki and the forums. Don’t spend much time on it, but do some initial effort at least.

Research into whether I could do a financing round with IndieGoGo for this. Initial feedback of people is very positive, main issue is making it creative and interesting, and also credible.

Probably there’s a lot more to this. It’s Christmas-week, though, so let’s see what can I fit in the holiday season. Hope everyone will have a very happy time!

Horrible Clarity, or transparency

Five weeks ago I have started a little closed mailing list with the idea of having similar early stage startup founders on it,  sending status update and progress report every week at a set time. The purpose is to learn and keep kicking our collective butt, which hopefully results in a faster development than what I could do by myself.

Still, after talking to half a dozen people I wanted to get to the list, it’s still only me. Then last week, during one more sort-of-pitching to a friend running his startup, he asked me why don’t I make the content of my emails public anyways, putting it up on this blog, for example, what else are blogs for anyways?

Thinking about it, I don’t have a single good reason why I haven’t done it already, except for that “it wasn’t my original idea for the list”. So now here is it, after 5 weeks of emails that feel already useful, though to a limited extent, here’s the first completely open status report for this project.

Scaffolding, need to keep building.
Scaffolding, need to keep building.

2013 Week 51

I’ll divide ideas into two categories: things I’ve learned last week, and things I want to do & learn this week.

Learned

To my deepest shame, not that many things happened (to Moonpunch anyways, other projects are rolling)  last week.

Finished the first edit of my Python in a Physics Lab paper (to be submitted to The Python Papers). The editing did a great amount of good to it, especially my own getting back to it and updating some parts. I find that there are interested people even in this topic around in my circles. This is just one step in the many ways to reach out to the community and building rapport. Not high priority, but was time sensitive. Definitely should not leave it to the last minute next time.

Did have plenty of discussions about business development about other people’s projects, electronics development about my stuff, and ideas about how to work better – which resulted in this blogpost as well. Now I really have no excuses not to dive into implementation.

Coming week

The items are not ordered in any way, just as they come to me.

Want to figure out documents to write that could be useful for the community. Have some ideas already, along the line of the Alkali D Line Data docs by Daniel Steck, though that’s even niche within a niche. Need plenty of research too, so definitely not a final decision yet.

I have an FPGA project consulting gig (well, less than a gig, but more than nothing), I do have to make serious progress on it to keep my promises. Also, FPGAs are definitely tools I’ll want to use sooner rather than later, so would be likely useful to start building up that skill- and toolset.

I have a list of 5 potential products I am considering to work on first. Prioritize them, choose a single one, then move heaven and earth to get it onto a working stage. This would be the only way I can test all the possible processes needed for this whole project to work.

Rewrite the frontpage to be clearer about what the heck this really is. Use the things I learned from editing and be ruthless. Find people to test the new version with (in the target audience of research scientists!)  and look at the analytics. Be thoughtful but don’t optimize (yet).

Hash out a study plan for the areas I’ll need to brush up on or learn from scratch. It will likely be a physics/electronics/maths/software dev/business mixed curriculum. At this point I cannot even imagine how to prioritize within those, it just feels overwhelming. Got to do it.

Finish up the graphics for t-shirt and name card printing. This is low priority, but would likely have a very high impact on my moral.

Horrible Clarity

As an aside, I named the mailing list – and now this series of posts – Horrible Clarity, after some thoughts on Seth Godin’s rules of naming a company, and some extended flipping through of randomly generated adjective-noun pairs (because that’s how we roll). And it does fit.

Now it’s getting late this Monday. Get some good sleep, and get on with it.