Via Planet Apache Assaf Arkin‘s post lead me to Matt Webb’s delightful talk about design. Which notes in passing a project to treat the newspaper’s printing plant as a kind of cloud computing accessory. I’m fascinated by the idea of plugging unique peripherals into cloud computers, or maybe maybe just the network OS. But it’s particularly delightful to see old media repurposed this way.
Jane Jacobs is the first place I encountered the idea repurposing idle capital equipment during the off hours. Booking the local school auditorium for commercial concerts. Letting the library out for weddings. Letting your firm’s idle cube space out as office space to for small businesses. I used to think about that when ever I gazed out the back window at the idle climbing structure. These are just coordination problems, and that’s one of the things the net gives us new tools to tackle.
I’m increasingly convinced that the cloud computers are really all about enabling the handling of impulses. Enabling new kinds of systems that survive entirely because they can capture the value in the rare moments when they are slashdotted. Mast years as a business model. Why can’t I have the impulse to print up a 1000 copies of a little newspaper and have it delivered to my door tomorrow by the Boston Globe’s printing and distribution infrastructure?
I started last week at AnnArbor.com , which is a new newspaper that uses some shared printing and distribution infrastructure. Fortunately I have no responsibilities for actually pushing any print out the door, but I’m pretty sure that there is enough unexpected complexity in the paper path and enough one time setup costs that you’d have to redesign a lot of things to make this work.
(but I could be wrong; remains to be seen)
I’ve floated the idea of tapping into the idle time of various capital equipment for years. That’s the first time I’ve heard the ‘one time setup cost’ objection. The most common objection is security, followed by who’s going to pay the janitor’s overtime? If you get into deeper then switching cost comes up, i.e who’s going to pack up the 5th grade class room before the summer program moves in? That’s a little like the startup.
But, yeah, I’ll admit it. I was just bemused by the idea of saving newspapers from the cloud with a the cloud idea.
Homework: how to use cloud computing to handle the blueberry impulse.
I think you have to frame the question as a flexible manufacturing question. Just like changing an auto plant from making one model of car to another, there’s a certain complex workflow involved in print production. Certainly it’s not insurmountable – and some operations are set up to have a quicker turn between different operations on the same line.