Lego Mindstorms NXT

Wired writes about the next version due out in August:

Four years after its release, version 2.0 still sells 40,000 units a year at $199 a pop — with no advertising — and has become Lego’s all-time best-selling product. The market is almost evenly split between parents buying the kit for their budding engineers and grown-up geeks who build Mindstorms robots that can scale walls, solve Rubik’s Cubes, or pick blue M&Ms out of a pile.

The kit, due in stores in August, looks nothing like 2.0 and isn’t backward compatible. Users still program the bots from their PCs, but everything else about the experience has been changed. The centerpiece of a Mindstorms kit is the RCX brick, which acts as the robot’s brain. It receives input from sensors and sends instructions to motors, breathing life into plastic-block creatures. The new brain has a 32-bit processor — a huge upgrade over the old 8-bit processor — allowing NXT bots to perform more-complex tasks than their predecessors, like ambling with a near-human gait or reacting to voice commands. The chunky yellow brick in the old kit — which looked like SpongeBob SquarePants — is gone, replaced by a gray rectangle that could be the love child of an iPod and a first-gen Gameboy. The programming language has been revamped, as have the sensors, motors, and I/O ports. As a result, Mindstorms NXT robots look and act far more realistic than their predecessors.

But the boldest part of the Mindstorms overhaul is Lego’s decision to outsource its innovation to a panel of citizen developers. Relying on the MUP is a gamble that Lego hopes will lead not only to a better product but also to a tighter, more trusting bond between corporation and customer.

2005 Learnings

Tom Foremski writes:

1-Blogging is the most honest form of self-promotion bar none because if you can’t walk the talk you won’t get the clicks.

2-Content will be king because all those links have to point to something of value–otherwise they are pointless.

3-Every company is part media company–it is both publisher and publication and tells stories all the time.

4-Every startup company should be able to say what it does in 20 seconds–not 20 minutes.

5-The old media is dying much faster than I expected.

6-Attention deficit disorder is affecting all age groups–especially those that spend more time online.

7-The more that I write the more authentic I become online and offline.

Digg Dynamics

Alex Bosworth writes about the site that’s rising fast as a competitor to Slashdot:

There are five groups of people who make what it is.

There are the readers: an educated guess would be that probably ten to twenty percent of those ever click ‘digg’, they are mostly just there for the end product of the digg machine: an array of interesting news and links often presented before the other news sources.

There are the diggers: some percentage of the readers, probably ten to twenty percent. They bother to vote for the stories on, which changes the numbers next to the stories and enables stories to get to another queue – the diggnation podcast.

Then there are the hardcore diggers – people who sit in the queue of submitted stories and watch for breaking news that should make its way up to the front page, or report stories as being spam or irrelevant.

An even smaller subset of users are the submitters: people who post fresh stories. It’s difficult to post a fresh story to digg at this point, it’s a competition for who can submit it first.

Finally there are the news publishers themselves, often bloggers who want to get readership for their content.

What’s really interesting about these groups is that each of them is required for the system to function, they all came together relatively quickly, and each of them have different and complementary rewards for what they do.