Thursday, September 4, 2008

Innovation Collaboration

I've been reading Technology Review. One of the problem with reading magazines is I get all these great notions about how the world works and how I could make it better that I have little hope of ever acting on, which can be depressing. Especially when the issue is has the annual list of "Top 35 Innovators Under 35" and I just turned 36 and haven't made a killing at anything or... well, I'd say "brought something new and cool to market". But I guess that's not quite true. I used to make sensors for airbags that are now in the Wii-mote and they were novel, useful, and innovative. They weren't my idea, but I was a small part of the team that made it happen.

One of the things about the world is that no one does anything all on their own. At least not anything good. The best tattoos are a collaboration between the artist and the canvas who commissioned the work. The best and worst thing about glass for me is working in a team, relying on others' skills to complete a project successfully. I can blow some glass on my own, but I almost always feel better about stuff I made collaboratively.

At work, we have photo, etch, metals, dielectric and implant engineers. I take care of sputtered metals, another engineer takes care of evaporated metals. I'm developing a new process that is not working as smoothly as I expected. And while my role in making it happen is imperative, if I get hit by a bus, someone else will eventually be able to solve this problem. So I'm important, but not essential.

I think I'd like to see myself doing something where I feel more essential. I keep thinking I should have a bigger role in creating something in order to feel successful. Yet on a day to day basis, I want to be inessential enough to be able to take vacations and naps. And I don't send out email updates about glass. I don't know how to imagine a life where I'm the driver behind a grand scheme because I'm not good at organizing people (I should stop repeating that to myself, I know, I am working on the skills) and my imagination in that regard - how do I imagine a day at work? - is lacking. On the other hand, I can pay my bills, take vacations, I have friends, I eat well, I could exercise more, and blogger lets me keep my thoughts here for free. All ways I define success and happiness.

In the meantime, I have thoughts I think are important. I'll just leave them here so I don't lose track.
  • Why don't we harness the heat in a car interior to charge batteries? The vast majority of cars drive in the morning and at night and sit idle in the sun all day. Even in northernish lattitudes, the inside of the car gets hotter than the surrounding area. Even in dim sun there are temperature differentials. Why not install a thermoelectric converter that just chugs along all day powering up your car batteries from this heat? This wouldn't provide enough energy during the drive - use it on a hybrid or to supplement a plug in car. But if it could significantly offset the amount of gas or power plant fuel needed, and happens when you're not around, that's all to the good.
  • I just read a book that had all sorts of fun turns of phrase in it. I would love to use one of the scanner pens to highlight quotes, but I'm not going to sit near my computer to do it and the only wireless one I saw was all excited about copying whole pages. NO!!! I just want 4 or 12 words at a time. And I want it to look up the ISBN so the quote can be saved by book/author/page, time/date and tagged as a "colorful turn of phrase", "fancy idea", "musing on the nature of life", "idea for a date", etc...
  • I would like some of my webstuff to be in different frames, but I can't handle the constant scrolling. I'd like to shrink most of my toolbars and replace them with a IM window, a bookmark set. A list of topics to explore when bored. A notepad to put the "TBR" links that I don't want to bookmark exactly, but don't want to lose yet either. (Actually, this might be my big idea here - the TBR bookmarks - although they'd probably all be obsolete before I checked them out.) But I would want all this stuff to be peripheral to the main screen while still having a presence without being a chaotic presence.
  • It would be kinda cool to have my email be in a message board format where I can "expand all" so I don't have to leave windows and return, but scan for stuff I want to see and move on. If I could tag the messages without waiting for anything to "take" but the typing/clicking, then set up rules for messages AFTER I've read them, rather than before that would move the messages to relevant folders, that would be awesome. Some email is just chatting, some is archival (not much), some I want to hang on to for weeks but not years. Or I want to save a snippet, not the entirety, without losing the source/time/date or having to create a whole new fileset that I then have to organize.
If you guys have any ideas about things that would fix your day that you'll probably never do yourself, go ahead and post . If I ever make a fortune on it, I'll treat you to a nice dinner.

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