The mission of 7commons is to facilitate collaborative ownership and cooperative use of production resources that are

  • too expensive to afford on your own
  • too difficult to maintain
  • too infrequently used to justify
  • too rapidly depreciating given an individual level of use

In the prototype offering, we are assessing the value of collaborative ownership by soliciting interest in programs that can be realized through community effort with the help of 7commons. In the course of executing this prototype, we will connect people with similar interests and provide resources such as facilitation, scheduling, legal resources, and document templates to get people started with their sharing project.

recording  r25 kitchenletterpress

Go to 7commons.org.

Animating the stencil ‘How-To’

Spent a bunch of time this weekend trying to work out how to show the stenciling process using an animation of the user’s uploaded stencil. Here’s what I have so far:


This is a pretty large file, and it will take a long time to load, but I should be able to reduce the size and compose it more efficiently. Meanwhile, I think the transitions capture the essence of the painting process.



STiL is an app for smartphones that helps you capture a person, event or place using sound and images, and share it with friends, family, or the world. A sumry is rich and immersive–like a video, but compact–like an image.

What is it like to be standing at the gates when your child gets out of school? Who’s still left around the pool just before dawn on the last day of Spring Break? Can you remember the sound of the fishmongers in the Sicilian market at the height of summer? STiL takes a special moment and makes it accessible anytime, anywhere.

Create a stil simply by taking pictures. As you shoot, STiL records the sound too and when the event is over–presto!–you have an enhanced presentation of images and audio that you can share anywhere you like.


SoundSalad: No Focus Group Required

My dad and I are both into sounds. I’ve never gotten heavily into video because it’s extremely expensive to produce good quality video; it’s hard to preview it; and it’s a real burden to watch video that is produced by amateurs. Sound is something else. Sound takes you back–sound helps you make sense of your surroundings.DIY SoundSalad lets you create your own ambient sound environment from sounds that are uniquely *yours*.

I love making apps with my dad: never thought we would be doing this, but it’s a lot of fun; and my dad is professional and competent in all things, so I never worried about what it would be like to collaborate with him.

So, this DIY tool is something that neither of us had to ask, ‘is there a market for this?’ We know the market: it’s us. My dad made a similar activity already for the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. I’ve used sound generators to help me sleep, and made other apps (like Carolina Crickets and Peepers and Chimes and  Southern Sleep–with Phil) that all want to help us relax better with soothing sounds. My dad, coming from the electronic music theoretical side of things, thinks more along the lines of an audio performance–but many of our goals are the same.

So over mid-day breakfast at Burlington Diner a month or so ago, we sketched out the basic parameters for how such a sound generator would work: he built some CSound files; and I wrote SoundSalad around it. We’ll see how it goes. Talking to prospective users is all very nice; but it’s liberating and rewarding to create something every now and then without an external focus group.


House Beautiful?

As soon as the standing work table was together, I immediately sketched three new things that I wanted to make right away. One of them was an answer to a problem I’ve been having for a long time. Like most folks,  I’ve tried a half dozen different types of compact flourescents and have never found one that I liked half as much as an incandescent. And for the last few years, I’ve felt especially bad about stocking up on incandescent bulbs while everybody else I know is sucking up and going green. So, I started with three goals:

  1. go fluorescent in one room
  2. use stuff I already have
  3. make a really pleasant environment with light, so that I don’t miss my warm incandescents

I was inspired by the Clairol makeup mirror my sister had in the 80s (and by countless hotel bathroom lighting setups since then)

So I started sketching light fixtures: things that would take days to source materials for, and weld together and balance and hang. My fundamental design used a fluorescent office / worklight as the core, and had a diffuser and then an ornamental fabric layer on the outside. I had in mind that it would be a half-cylinder, and sit on the floor and the lighting element would be floor-to-ceiling. Something like this–

I was afraid of fluorescents since college, when headaches and malaise suffered in a basement electronics lab caused me to change majors (and probably career paths). So I read up: and found that non-sucky fluorescent lights do exist. The T8 format (1-inch diameter bulbs) are way better than the older T12 format. They can be made to be silent and non-flickery, because of an electronic ballast which converts 60Hz power to 10KHz power.

At the store, I found that fixtures are 4ft or 8ft; nothing in between. So I figured out that 4ft is about all I needed to give me light from about thigh-high to head-high. Once I got home, I thought about hanging the fixtures from expanding bolts in the ceiling; but then realized that the fixtures fit naturally right into the corner cut-out. So, just hang it from the picture rail. Once I was into using the picture rail, I visualized hanging the diffuser material and the ornamental fabric from the picture rail as well. For the fabrics I happened to have some white sheer curtains in a packing box from North Carolina; and some leftover spun-fiberglass sheeting from a Startup Weekend project some months back. I was eager to get rid of both of them, because I couldn’t see another application for them arising soon. A half-hour later, with some judiciously drilled holes in the fixtures, and prolific use of hatpins, I had a very pleasant lighting solution in my living room that’s super cost-effective, green, and swanky.


Stand Up and Work: Part 4

Got a little lively with the standing desk / table this weekend. Dark walnut stain: I like the ashy dark bown of it.

I went ahead and stained the upper surfaces too–there’s enough variation in the dining room already.

Things you Forget

I had started with a design on paper, with a few dimensions and a sketch of how it goes together:

I knew I wanted the table top to be 32 inches across at its widest point, and I felt that this would fit easily through the doors of my apartment. Tables have the special quality that you’re able to turn them sideways (usually)–right? As we worked out how everything would fit together, I kept pushing the legs further and further out toward the edges, though, essentially creating a 32-inch wide barrel that was also 44 inches high.

In software design, I often say to the team: “Imagine it’s the day of the launch. What does that look like? What does the first user do? How does he find out about our service? What does his interaction look like, step by step? What has to be in place for him to have that experience? What’s the first thing that will go wrong?” There are parallels in physical design. You have to be able to get the piece of furniture into the place where it was designed to be used. For Linda and me, that meant removing the doors to the room and *barely* wedging this piece through the door. The funny part was, we had already asked and answered the question about how to get it *into the car* to get it home…

It still needs stain, but that’s for another weekend.

trying it out crane style

Stand Up and Work: Part 3

So after we did the cad, cutting, drilling and basic sanding at TechShop, we took the pieces home and I started fitting them together. This was my first time out with wood glue, and the three-legged construction doesn’t exactly lend itself to a standard clamp setup. So I use a bunch of exercise bands and it holds together well enough to set up overnight. The trickiest part here was planing the table support to the right height so that the table top could meet the support evenly.

The next night, after the platform had set well, the table top went on.

Parts List for new Standing Desk

Parts list for standing desk:

  • Two 36-inch pine table top rounds (pine: $40 each)
  • Four palette 3×3’s (Doug fir, $1 each or free if you ask nice)
  • 1-inch thick pine plank
  • two 3/8-inch dowels
  • wood glue

We got all this in one go at Builder’s Supply Hardware. I expected to have to go back for more stuff, but we never did. Partly that was because we built it at TechShop, where we had access to:

  • table saw
  • band saw
  • jig saw
  • radial arm saw
  • drill press
  • cordless drills, and complete bit sets of all sizes
  • lathe
  • clamps
  • bins full of spare wood bits
  • measuring tapes, angle measures
  • belt sander
  • printer
  • cad software

And of course, I had to have one other resource at the ready:

  • Linda


Standing Up

Flex. Squirm. Hunch. Squirm. Stretch. Repeat.

That was me for the last five years, working at my dining room table, sitting on a bench or a chair. My old Herman Miller chair moulders in the basement: I can’t seem to bring that bit of consulting-era industrial sitting-down-ness into my living space right now. So, on the plane back from a visit to North Carolina, I sketched this:


Over the holiday, I got Linda to agree to help me for a day to build it.