3D-Learning is E-learning + 3D Printing

I wrote a short post on MakerShop.co about 3D-learning and some of what I think will show up in the next 5 to 10 years when you merge the e-learning trend with 3D printers. Ultimately education is about preparing people for the future. E-learning is about training people for the future using computers, the web, information systems and multimedia. The future also has a new physical reality with 3D printing so it is only natural that education will need to focus some attention on preparing students for the 3D printed lifestyle and jobs that will emerge.

3D-learning  can also help parents manage screen time, as some parents think that watching DVDs, playing mobile games and doing homework on the computer can be detrimental to the health of their kids. 3D printing gives kids the interaction they seek as their minds race as they can play with toys they build or browse portfolios of other kids work using their imaginations to assemble and re-assemble battle scenes, puzzles, models, or race cars.

Reduce Information Burden and Be Helpful

As a software developer I am constantly bombarded with information from design specs to “what would be really nice is…” and discussions from different people on HOW to do things. This continues to be a burden to sift and organize, but over the years I have learned that some things are helpful and contribute to the delivered product and other efforts waste time.

I do not believe in information overload. Too much information is not the problem. In fact, I want as much useful information I can get at the times I need it. Reducing the quantity of information is not something that is useful to me, because that means being dismissive of other people on the team or myself willingly being ignorant.

To remain smart and learn so I can be smarter in the future then I have to know how to generate the information I need and share it with others effectively. For example, too many meetings and group time is conjecture. It is everyone verbally throwing in their two cents. At the end of the meeting there are very few written words or diagrams or shared artifacts. The really good people take minutes and come out with action items beyond “get it done” or reference items. The other part that is often missed in building software products is shared information artifacts before coding takes place. For example, I was in one meeting today where a couple of people all talked about a workflow of a software application and at the end of the one hour there were no diagrams of the workflow they verbally produced or written instructions. Worse yet, these were middle managers who were not going to be doing the work themselves. The developers who were also in the meeting walked away with the verbal discussion in their head, but no reference material to go back to in the coming weeks as they code it. Most likely, there will be many verbal discussions between middle managers and their programmers in the coming weeks. This in itself isn’t bad. What is bad is what they will be talking about, which is verbally repeating what was said in the meeting or finally understanding the workflow and then coming up with smart suggestions for implementing it.

This brings up another good point. Different people need different kinds of media to truly understand the concept. Just because people agree verbally does not prove understanding or mean the right questions were asked and the right discussions had. A complex system can be described in a picture, a diagram, several bullet points of goals and a descriptive paragraph. This is more information of different kinds but lets people understand before they build it and lets managers understand before they force “solutions”.

So much waste in building software comes from building and rebuilding the wrong things. This is because the problem is not adequately defined. Before the solution can be defined, the problem and goals of the users need to be appropriately defined and shared. A software programmer is the least expensive part of the product when the right software is developed for the right problems and they fit user goals.

Cognitive friction is what happens when people burn brain power trying to understand any information that has so many modes, or is described out of context or in ambiguity. Worse yet, cognitive friction is what happens when people get burned out from arguing for an hour over misunderstood concepts and a week later in a different meeting go through the same process because everyone lost the context between the previous verbal discussion and the current verbal discussion.

To reduce cognitive friction, you have to create and share information artifacts that people can reference any time and that are in different media types so they are readily accessible. If I am in a high level meeting, then to be smart I should have a high level diagram of the workflow meeting. If I am collaborating on a feature with another programmer then I should have bullet points of the goals that this feature should let the user achieve and a paragraph describing the context.

This is how value is generated and learning takes place. Learning is compounded. Not learning does not even help you climb the project wall linearly. Non-learning makes you climb the wrong project walls fast or compromise on the very bottom layer of the right wall.

MakerShop.co Offers 3D Printer Designers Customizable Shops

The 3D printing community website 3ders.org wrote an article about MakerShop.co today. It talks about the customization that the website offers 3D printer designers so they can setup an online shop for their designs, display videos and connect with their fans.

MakerShop 3D Printer Design Shop Screenshot

MakerShop 3D Printer Design Shop

MakerShop also just released a new subscription model with a Basic free account, Standard $5/month subscription and a Plus $8/month subscription. The Basic account lets designers get started, make fans and distribute designs with a few places for customization. The Standard $5 a month subscription lets designers customize more pages with embedded HTML, so they can post YouTube videos, embed images, PayPal Donate buttons and more.

The End of Competitive Advantage – Book Review

I’m reading this book now titled The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita Gunther McGrath. The book is relevant to company stock picking. It describes the new environment that a lot of digital-first (information-first) and other companies find themselves in compared to old industries. The book gives frames of reference to think about the new environment and actionable steps to improve business strategies in this new environment.

An example, in contrast to Warren Buffet (who doesn’t invest in a lot of technology companies because he says he doesn’t understand them) is that Buffet has metrics described in Buffetology and other books on how to analyze the balance sheets and cash flow statements of different businesses and “to compare them to other businesses in the same industry”. The End of Competitive Advantage book defines a new term, “arena” with some criteria to frame competition boundaries in a world where Netflix, TiVo and iTunes show purchases are not in the same industry as the big network operators, but the new companies are hurting the old big network industry. So even though Netflix (on-demand movies technology company on many devices) is different from Network Television (a single living room device with static programming) they compete in the same arena. The book defines “arena” as a connection between a a certain group of customers and solutions/offers.

Another example is Borders was not in the same industry as iTunes but Borders CD music section and whole store doesn’t exist anymore. Borders industry competitors were Barnes and Noble and Books a Million, but they were in the same industry as iTunes and the whole book store industry mostly lost to iTunes.

So industry may not be the most relevant way to consider competitors. This matters in company stock picking because who you compare one balance sheet or cash flow against another matters so you know who the strong performers are and who the weak performers are.

The book also introduces the concept of businesses with transient competitive advantage being stronger than businesses with sustainable competitive advantages. An example is Kodak vs Fuji. Kodak is bankrupt and it defended its sustainable competitive advantage (chemical-based photo processing) until the industry became irrelevant. Fuji invested heavily in different waves and has transient competitive advantage as it rides the wave of digital photography, copiers, printing, etc…

There’s still quite a few sustainable competitive advantage companies in the world, like Coke. They have a brand and large capital investments that form a high barrier to entry, but Borders, Kodak, Blockbuster and others had sustainable competitive advantages and large capital expenditures as well until their industry became irrelevant and their large capital investments became rigid straight jackets preventing them from pivoting and riding a new wave.

Intro to the MakerShop.co 3D Printer Website

Video

I’ve been working on a website made just for 3D printer designers so they can distribute their designs, get fans and monetize their designs. The video shares some of how MakerShop.co can empower you as a designer to reach more people and make money for your hard work. The website, www.MakerShop.co, gives designers a platform to upload and distribute 3D printer designs, blog to their fans and monetize their designs. MakerShop.co is very flexible in that it lets you embed HTML in several spots throughout your online shop. For example, you can post HTML for a video or PayPal button on each design item’s page, in each blog or on the main shop page.

Some of the ways designers can monetize their 3D printable designs are by adding a PayPal Donate button to their site and embedding a YouTube video asking for donations from people that download their designs.

One of the other ways to monetize 3D printer designs is attract a large following of fans that return to your site daily or weekly to check out your new work. Then add Google AdSense ads on your shop and item pages.

Another way is outright selling their designs per download.