The Product Failure Bin

ABOVE: "Wacky Hybrid Appliances" from This Old House On-Line

My family used to have a gag gift that would show up every Christmas in someone's gift pile. The "Boob Bath Mat" never failed to shock and awe.

Each year, it seemed as if the victim never saw it coming.

Lots of time and energy goes into products that never see the light of a showroom floor. So, how did this monstrous mash-up product ever make it to the marketplace?

Someone--a team of someones, in fact--had to propose the idea, design it, send the specs to a factory in China, produce a catalog layout, write sales copy, coordinate the shipping, etc.

Since innovation is being touted as our only way out of the eco-financial desert of Western Civ, we had better get smart about finding, designing and deploying good ideas.

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Tech Solutions on a Shoestring

Want to get up and running on very little capital? OpenSource and web apps are the way to go. This is advice to social entrepreneurs (and entrepreneurs in general) from Jeff Skoll's foundation. Open Source solutions like Ubuntu for free and OpenOffice give an instant operating system and Office suite of productivity tools. Online solutions for websites, shared documents, collaboration and customer relationship management include: PBwiki, WetPaint, Google, Zoho, 37Signals
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Tech Solutions on a ShoestringAlmost all start-ups run into limitations in two critical areas - time & money. You can never have enough of either. Technology is supposed to help you save a bit of both, but it always seems to end up taking more time and more money than it ever saves you. Even when you find a solution that saves you money, it almost always takes more time than you have to give, and vice versa. What choices are available to help swing things back in the intended direction?

Open source tools are free, but expensive in terms of time lost to implement. There are free web services available that allow you to utilize their capabilities - sans your own branding. Gmail is great, but how long can you get away without having your own domain associated with your email? Same goes for free wikis and other collaboration tools.

paraSITE: Inflatable Shelters for Urban Bedoins


This piece about installation artist/activist Michael Rakowitz is amazing. It serves as a case study in problem solving (shelter for the homeless); product design (portable inflatable dwellings); and systems thinking (waste energy from HVAC units recycled as life-giving heat and humidity for the homel

From Worldchanging blogger, Sara Rich:

paraSITE is an exploration of temporary urban living spaces, with an historic point of inspiration, and a more utilitarian/humanitarian purpose.


Michael Rakowitz traveled to Jordan in the mid-90s on a study program where he focused in part on the nomadic tradition of the Bedouins, and the architecture of their tents. When he returned to Boston, where he was a student at MIT, the presence of the homeless population in the city triggered a quandary for him regarding the contrast of a nomadic lifestyle by tradition versus by necessity. The nomadic patterns of the urban homeless, particularly in the cold months, were dictated by the location of heating vents releasing exhaust from HVAC systems inside houses and buildings. Many of these systems had been designed like boxes, such that a person could sleep on top of the vent and stay warm; but viewing this as a problem, the city had begun installing vertical vents which slanted downward off the building, making it impossible to rest on them.