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Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.

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Archive for April, 2012

Temp. Furniture

Moving can be overwhelming, especially when you move from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished apartment or far enough to leave/sell your old furniture. When this happens, and you move into a new house or apartment, you’re confronted with a vast emptiness that needs to be filled in order to reach a certain level of comfort. Beds, chairs, tables are some of the basic necessities that are often missing, and unless you have another temporary apartment or hotel during the first few weeks, you have to make a lot of purchases very quickly.

As a result, people in this situation end up making a lot of purchases without being able to give too much thought to each item they buy. Ikea, carrying almost everything for the home at very reasonable price points, becomes the ideal shopping ground for comfort-desperate new apartment renters. In the mean while, speciality stores and custom furniture stores lose out.

The solution? A temporary furniture company.

There are some companies out there that provide temporary furnitures, but they are intended for people on temporary assignments and as a result, relatively high quality and expensive. The kinds of temporary furniture I’m imagining are the cheapest possible alternatives to achieve a minimal comfort level so that people can spend a little bit more time trying to find the right furniture for them (looking for furniture mr. right, not furniture mr. right-now). These would be plastic foldout chairs and tables, inflatable mattresses, even inflatable sofas. Style and design doesn’t matter, it’s all about reaching the minimum functionality (Imagine the cheapest furnitures you can buy at Walmart).

I’d imagine the cost for such a service would be higher for the delivery and removal than the actual furnitures themselves, so the price structure could be set-up in a way to not discourage longterm rental (higher base fee, lower weekly/monthly fees).

While the desirability of such a service is easy to argue, I wonder if there is a business case here that could be financially viable. This will most likely only work in areas with high population density and high traffic of people movement, like the Bay Area or New York City. Even then, will there be enough demand for such a service? How would one advertise something like this that has never existed before?

This is another one of those ideas that I like but don’t feel strongly enough to act on. If anyone wants to take it over, start a company, I would be delighted as I would have loved to use something like this when I first moved to Frankfurt.

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Internet – Polarization and Teaching it

I’ve written about polarizing technologies in the past, and I was inconclusive about the internet. Today I came across a post from Kevin Drum who believes that the internet will polarize people’s cognitive abilities:

[T]he internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the background to ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a head full of nonsense. But if you do know how to use it, it’s an endless wealth of information. Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality. Caveat emptor.

I couldn’t agree more.

Thinking more on the subject, I’ve realized that an introduction of any kind of tool will result in some kind of polarization. The advent of writing separated those who are literate from those who aren’t, the invention of the automobile separated those who could drive and those who couldn’t, and the proliferation of information will separate those who can deal with it from those who can’t.

The issue here is not just digital literacy either; it’s how people use the tool itself. Like most media, it’s easy to get caught up in entertaining but mindless content. Websites are battling for people’s attention and clicks to maximize their ad revenue by throwing up shock articles and other assorted crap. It’s easy to get caught up in celebrity gossip and fanboy blogs while ignoring harder to digest but higher production content.

The reason that TVs have such a bad reputation these days is that they’re full of what people consider crap. However, TVs as a tool isn’t inherently bad. Use it correctly and access a wealth of timely information.

This of course does not mean that we should dispense the tools we’ve created. Instead, we need to do with the internet what we’ve done with all the major tools in the past: teach people. We need to teach people how to navigate the swarms of information available online, evaluate it, and make sense of it. My memory of middle school and high school research projects revolved around books which had a minimum level of inherent authority. Now that anyone can put up anything online, people need to be taught how to gather the relevant information and present it accurately. While the information savvy have grokked this naturally, I worry that we will be leaving behind a lot of people who aren’t fortunate enough to have a good mentor or be gifted.

What we should absolutely not be doing is limiting people’s access like banning Wikipedia from schools.

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