How do we make tool building more profitable?

[This was copied from stack exchange before deletion. It is a good question, but not a good fit for SE, so I am moving it here.]

How do we make tool building more profitable? [on hold]

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Background: We have a huge income disparity returning after a century of middle class success. One component of this disparity is that building a popular product (iPhone, self driving car,, etc.) requires a lot of technical knowledge and skills. These skills only come naturally for a small percentage of the population. Normally that would be fine because they could do what they do best and everyone else could do everything else that needs to be done, but as we automate everything we are approaching a point where technical knowledge will be required to do anything.

We can try to teach tech to everyone, but right now the tools are so terrible that getting someone to the point where they can make something useful takes too long to be economically practical in the majority of cases.

If every tech genius focused on building better tools that could be used for creating products instead of building the products themselves, then anybody else could come up with an idea for a greener air-conditioner and design a prototype in a few weeks. I would love to build better tools myself, but fixing Linux, PHP and WordPress is not going to feed my family.

Question: How do we get the best and brightest in the tech world to focus exclusively on building tools when all the money is being made by makers of products. Is there a way to make tool building more profitable?

I am specifically looking for a business solution, not a government solution or grants. Extra bonus if your idea involves starting a business that will drive up demand for tech tools.

edited yesterday

asked yesterday

Luke Gedeon
put on hold as off-topic by Matthew Haugen♦ 22 hours ago

This question appears to be off-topic for this site. While what’s on- and off-topic is not always intuitive, you can learn more about it by reading the help center. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

“Questions seeking general brainstorming or review (“What do you think of this idea?”) are off-topic because questions here are expected to be relevant for a variety of people in the same situation. Reviewing an idea or product only helps one person at a specific time. Instead, try asking about a specific business approach and cite yours as an example.” – Matthew Haugen
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit your question.

Really you could build a greener air-conditioner if you only had the right tools? Do you know the laws of thermodynamics? Do you know what a Carnot cycle is? You really think inventions are limited by tools? Eisenstein discovered the theory of relativity with a pen and pencil. Franklin discovered electricity with a kite, sting and a key. I want the best on brightened focused on stuff to make my life better. And there are LOTS of tool makers out there today. If you know how to fix Linux then you should have no problem feeding you family. – Frisbee yesterday

Let’s say that this was my field and I came up with an idea I wanted to test. In addition to being an expert in my field I would have to learn about 3d modeling, circuit boards, programming, etc. or learn to get funding and hire people just to get a prototype to test my idea. If I can buy an arduino, use a vr-gloves designed to manipulate 3d objects, and code in a language that doesn’t require hours just to setup a dev enviro, I might be able to do it on my own. The stuff that makes your life better gets built faster and more bright people are able to participate because of better tools. – Luke Gedeon yesterday

As for the kite and key or pencil and paper (I always assumed he used chalk but anyway), my point was that those days are fading, not that they never existed. Those were exciting times. And to some degree we can still do a lot of pure science with simple tools, but when it comes to applied sciences, things are getting downright complicated. And I do know how to fix linux, but it is going to take 10,000’s of hours to do it. How do I feed my family while building that? You said it was possible, please tell me how. That is what this question is all about. – Luke Gedeon yesterday

Oh, wow! I was totally not suggesting taxes. I was trying to say that I want business suggestions not government solutions. I will reword that. Yes, I am feeding my family quite well, but that is because I am building products not tools. I am surrounded by brilliant people whose products could turn out so much better if they had the tools that I could be building for them. Did you say raising capital for a better open-source OS, and a better programming language and IDE is simple? Please teach me how to do this. – Luke Gedeon yesterday

I think this feels more like a discussion question than something objective. With more details of a specific situation, it would be easier to give a good answer. There’s an interesting basis of a question here, but it’s currently too abstract to be a good fit for our format. – Matthew Haugen♦ 22 hours ago

The fact of the matter is, there are people that spend all their time improving tools. Even outside of all the hours put into open source projects, think of for-profit tools like Visual Studio. Microsoft spends tons of money improving that. Additionally, there are lots of programs out there for non-technical people to gain domain knowledge. So what makes those not fulfill your target here? – Matthew Haugen♦ 22 hours ago

I am going to split this up into a few concrete questions. I have several things I want to build that I don’t think fit with traditional funding or even crowd sourcing. I thought I might be able to solve them all with one general question, which in retrospect is silly since I get more points asking separate questions 🙂 One last question for @MatthewHaugen or other experienced user, should I remove this question or leave it as a monument to my stupidity? – Luke Gedeon 9 hours ago

@LukeGedeon This question isn’t stupid. There are lots of good questions out there that are just too broad or abstract for the Stack Exchange model–that doesn’t make them bad questions. Aside from that, though, because this is closed and it doesn’t sound like you want to edit it (the right call if you’ll be asking them separately), you’re free to delete it, or the system will automatically delete it in some amount of time. Assuming you don’t expect this iteration to go anywhere (through edits or whatnot), I’d probably just go ahead and delete it to get the rep. But it’s totally your choice. – Matthew Haugen♦ 6 hours ago
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Intolerance No Longer Tolerated

We often speak of tolerance as if it were a virtue or a weakness. It is neither. It is a preference. If we choose not to tolerate certain things, actions, or people, we can expect to bring on ourselves some degree of intolerance as a result. If that is an acceptable result then it is a reasonable course of thought.

On the other hand, if we choose to be tolerant, we cannot expect by virtue of that attitude toward others to receive that same tolerance toward us or our views. On the contrary, we are likely to be despised by antagonists on all sides of us for our failure to join them. We might have to become quite tolerant of intolerance itself or seek shelter from the crossfire.

In either case, tolerance is not something we should or should not do. It is one of several equally legitimate ways to cope with the reality that humans have different preferences, beliefs and even convictions. Other solutions include separation or seclusion, persuasion and even coercion. None of which is a moral requirement. They are simply different ways to live.

Coercion, however, is not recommended except in the rare case where the highest of powers is in complete agreement with the nature and direction of that coercion. Since possession of that power is rare and agreement is seldom the case, we generally recommend one of the other options.

Those who believe tolerance is a moral imperative have most likely rejected separation and persuasion leaving a false dichotomy between coercion and tolerance. Then recognizing the dangers of coercion they are left with no option but to concede that intolerance is intolerable.

These are the saddest of all people. They feel compelled to coerce into seclusion those who have chosen persuasion, persuade into confrontation those who would choose seclusion, and alienate those who truly understand and practice tolerance.

Port WordPress from PHP to Swift

Note: This is still a draft. I will be editing it as I continue to discuss it with the community, and as I get time to fill in more details.

Apple is open-sourcing the super popular Swift programming language this year. With the language now available on Linux and probably windows shortly after that, it is only a matter of time before many projects written in flavors of C will be ported to Swift. Even PHP could eventually be written in Swift. But, why wait?

We could port the subset of PHP functions that WordPress plugins and themes use along with porting WordPress core. If we do it right, a simple script could convert plugin and theme code to (not-very-efficient) Swift code. Then as plugin authors learn Swift they can make there code more efficient by using native functionality instead of the interface functions we created for the transition.

There are probably nuances of how a ternary is treated that will make using a search and replace code conversion very difficult, but I wouldn’t it be awesome if it worked? I am quite literally thinking of creating a library of functions that allow running WordPress in Swift. After the conversion is done, we can continue developing WordPress in Swift and start taking advantage of its native capabilities.

Ok, your turn. Tear the idea apart, and I will update to make it more feasible.

Profile Update

Not being one to toot my own horn, I have never been much for profiles. However, I am frequently asked for a list of sites I have built or worked on, and so I figure having a place to keep track of them will be handy. Also, I am including screenshots because some have been subsequently redesigned (a site’s design should be updated every few years at least) and/or domains have changed.

Sites where I was responsible for both (re)design and development – frequently on a very tight budget: (screenshot) (screenshot) (screenshot) (screenshot) (screenshot)

More recently, I have been working primarily on the backend code for existing sites and building new sites based on designs by someone else. (screenshot) (screenshot)

Playing with CSS3 and overlapping borders

I needed a dotted border for a project I am working. No problem. Right?

border: dotted 3px #bbb;

Except that I needed to connect the dots. To do that I needed to overlay one border on top of another. The best way to do that right now is with :after positioned absolute.

.dash {
position: relative;
box-shadow: inset 0 0 0 1px #fff,
inset 0 0 1px 1px #000;

.dash:after {
content: '';
box-sizing: border-box;
width: 100%;
height: 100%;
left: 0px;
top: 0px;
position: absolute;
border: dotted 3px #bbb;

Notice that I used box-sizing: border-box; to get my border on the inside where I need it.

Worked out pretty nice. I also added:

border-left: 3px solid white;
border-right: 3px solid white;

Since I only needed the border on the top and bottom. I would have to get a bit more creative if I had a textured background.

A New Kind of Maze

While promoting our kickstarter project I decided to build a simple visualization of a 3d maze.

I have seen quite a few and (even after doing this) I still haven’t found one that I am happy with. The method I show below has the advantage of showing two levels at the same time. Somehow switching between layers and having the walls marked more clearly seems a little easier.

Here is the combined image. As you start in the top left and go from block to block you can cross over any gold lines but not any of the blue ones until you come to a gray box. When you get to a gray you can change layers and start crossing blue bars but not gold or you can stay on the same layer and just cross over the gray. Your goal is lower left where you can cross out of the maze on the gold level.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 5.34.54 PM

To maybe make it a little easier I have included the two levels separately. The rules are still the same. The paths are just easier to see.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 5.23.50 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 5.20.49 PM

I also experimented with having holes that you can pass through to the other layer and used the gray boxes as a solid floor. Essentially the inverse of the first example.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 4.04.56 PM

Let me know if you have any ideas about how to make this easier to read.

Maze Flyers

Four Variations of
Maze Flyer - Looking For a Game

Maze Flyer – Looking For a Game
Maze Flyer – Off the Couch
Maze Flyer – Bring It to RI
Maze Flyer – Get Smart

Also here is a tear-sheet or mini business cards
Maze Cards






Slides for WordPress Providence Meetup Feb 2014

[seoslides embed_id=”46ca9d666c55″ script_src=”” overview_src=”” title=”Content Ownership” site_src=”” site_title=”Codex Atlanticus” /]

A real-life, multilevel, walkable maze!

I am not sure whether to call this first-life, real-life, real-world, brick-and-mortar, or just real… literally. 🙂

Point is: This is not a computer game. You will get out of breath. You have to get off the couch to see it. You can really get into it. No, really, like into it. You can walk around inside and really get lost… for real.

No overhead maps, no cheat-codes, no energy boosts, and no second chances. If you miss and jump into the pit of lava. It’s all over. You signed the waiver.

Check out the Kickstarter project!

What on earth am I talking about?

A real maze that you can get lost in. Think corn-maize only better.

Where? When?

Hopefully by June in Rhode Island and several other cities soon after that. Back the project on Kickstarter and vote for your city.

I will be adding more detail over the next few days. Please comment on this post with questions and/or suggestions.

Snake Oil

A few year’s back I wrote marketing copy for a snake oil company – just for the fun of it. I have lost track of most of them, but here are the few I have left.

Having trouble solving the last straw? Fail early! Ask early! As soon as you ask, the answer will magically appear in your own mind. Having trouble failing early? You need Snake Oil (TM) from Nobody’s Business!

Real words don’t sell. You need Sssreal Words. Sssreal Words (TM) – Another smooth product from the original inventors of Snake Oil, Nobody’s Business: Tantalizing the English speaking world Sssince 1066 (TM).

New product from Nobody’s Business: Snap Snake Oil – Abrasive and Explosive in a fun way! The friction from a snap is sufficient to ignite it, causing a series of explosions that sound approximately like a thousand rattle snakes.