Smoking 3-D printed Camels in the boys room
The latest news from the CNBC Disruptor50 companies upending the status quo in the markets:
I was never the handiest kid in the world, but I remember in those days of being forced to take shop class a particular assignment where we all had to make M&M dispensers out of a few chunks of wood and discarded jars of jam. I can still sense the supreme satisfaction—when all was said and done (and lathed)—of using my fingers to pull out, from the delicate wooden cylindrical slider piece that lay underneath the jar, one bright, little M&M ready for my nourishment. (All, no doubt, funded by a generous public school system grant from Mars Corp. to make sure that if we weren't already hooked on M&Ms, they had one more chance to get us.)
Well, the times they are a-changing when it comes to school projects—and for those who want to "generously" fund "a (insert product name here) for every student."
Makerbot founder and CEO Bre Pettis, a former schoolteacher himself, has become the latest "big-hearted" member of digital economy with a big dream about what every student in America needs: his product, of course! Whether it's Apple and its iPad; Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg "taking over" the Newark, N.J., school system by force of generosity; or Google Glass Class—the yet to be invented product that allows you to attend school in the corner of your eye while sitting in one of Google's self-driving cars—there's no shortage of Silicon Valley product placement. Makerbot has even figured out a way to work crowdfunding into the dimensions of this new effort, teaming with DonorsChoose.org to allow individuals and corporations to fund the purchases of 3-D printers for schools.
(Read more: What investors need to know about 3-D printing)
Charles Best, founder of CEO of DonorsChoose, said, "The impulse to construct is deeper than a teaching strategy. It's a human need." You just have to love how selfless and in touch with the human spirit and drive these tech guys are. Indeed, one could even say the need to construct a market for your still fledgling, much-hyped product is as great a demonstration of human need as any.
A 3-D printer in every classroom in America. Why just imagine the possibilities. For one, the NRA would no longer need to recommend armed guards and armed teachers in all of America's schools, because our kids could just print the guns on their own when the teacher isn't looking. Substitute teachers would be able to get in on the action, too, when they reach the point of such utter frustration and humiliation at the hands of borderline-evil teens. Smoking in the boys room? Print an ashtray, you slob!
I'd say at this point the only thing "safe" to say about this brilliant idea to rescue education is that whatever the 3-D printer spits out, it at least isn't likely to be any worse than school cafeteria rectangular blocks of pizza.
(Read more: Charts that changed the world)
It couldn't have happened without Kickstarter: Episode #4,372,659
Normally, there are plenty of oddball Kickstarter projects to profile, but the criminal ones have been less high-profile, or at least less interesting. Until now! A lucid dreaming device ... Well, enough said. But as the Wall Street Journal reported, "On Monday night, the creators of Luci, a device that induces lucid dreaming, abruptly pulled the plug on their Kickstarter funding amid a flurry of fraud accusations. Former backers celebrated on the project's Kickstarter comments page, calling it a 'happy happy ending' and a 'great result.'"
More than $363,000 Canadian dollars will be returned to 2,569 backers. And it was backers of the project who led to the project being exposed as a fraud. One backer, in particular, noticed some red flags after throwing a bunch of money at the project.
To think (or dream!): Backers of the project didn't think there were any red flags in a device being created for the purpose of inducing lucid dreaming in the first place. Well, what can "we" say except, Go back to sleep, Luci investors!
Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, may be separated with enough gossip-page ink recently spilled over the conjugal goings-on within Google cubicles, but they are still biking buddies. At least, that's what "we" took away from this recent interview that the 23andMe founder gave to the New York Times, in which she repeated almost everything she had said in every other recent interview about the future of personal genetics, but added: "Sergey's incredibly supportive of what we're doing, and he encourages me all the time to push the envelope. We're very good friends. We biked to work together this morning." Readers also learn Anne recently went to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's Halloween party and thinks that right now the atmosphere in Silicon Valley is fun—almost "too much fun." She was not referring to the soap operatic turns within Google's dating game, but housing prices. How pedestrian.
As for the revolution in personal genetics and the tipping point coming soon for the amount of personal genetic information collected and how it will lead to breakthroughs in disease research: Been there, done that with Wojcicki before.
One more take on Etsy's 'sellout'
Online crafting marketplace Etsy recently announced plans to allow sellers to work with "manufacturing partners, as well as to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their goods—all provided that the sellers demonstrated the "authorship, responsibility and transparency" of handmade items. The response from many Etsy crafters: sellout!
Not so, says Elizabeth Wayland Barber, a professor of archaeology and linguistics at Occidental College and author of "Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years" in a New York Times op-ed.
"Etsy's latest move is entirely in line with the history of handmade goods, a history that is more complicated than the simple term "handmade" implies. The artisans have run head-on into the problem that led to the Industrial Revolution: Making things by hand is slow. Really slow. Nearly 4,000 years ago, when Assyrian women wove fancy cloth for their menfolk to sell hundreds of miles away in what is now Turkey, the problem was already there. We have the women's letters to prove it." You'll have to click over to Barber's article to read the letters yourself.
Meanwhile, Etsy has topped $1 billion in sales for the year, according to this report on Bloomberg. Talk about a sellout.
(Read more: 10 surprising ways companies use your private info)
Cord-cutting: It's finally happening
This year will probably be the worst for the pay-TV industry in terms of customer retention, according to a report from independent research firm MoffettNathanson, covered by the Los Angeles Times. The pay-TV industry—which includes cable, satellite and phone companies offering video service—lost 113,000 subscribers during the third quarter. Cable operators lost 687,000 subscribers in the period, according to the former Wall Street analysts' estimates, a much bigger decline than the year-ago period. "The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever," Moffett and Nathanson wrote.
And it may get worse: U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill this past week to help online video services and Aereo challenge cable providers.
The Airbnb war versus NY Ag gets even nastier
Leave it to the New York Post to dish the really good dirt in the world's funniest—we mean dirtiest—battles. The war between Airbnb and the New York attorney general over a subpoena from the Ag requesting records on NY Airbnb hosts led the sharing economy company to this week post emotional stories and videos on its website from NY hosts, including "widowed grandmother" Judith. There is also Tama Richardson, who says Airbnb helped her avoid bankruptcy.
Middle-aged rockers vs. Spotify: Track 1
"We" have spent a good deal of time detailing the battle between the old men of rock and streaming-music service Spotify. But really, some of them are actually middle-aged men, so we apologize. Including the latest, Beck, who took the opportunity this past week to spew his bile about the evils of Spotify.
"It's something that is coming like it or not," Beck told Stereogum. "But I pose the question of how I can hold on, because what Spotify pays me is not even enough to pay the musicians playing with me or the people working on the disks. The model does not work."
Audiophile Beck also had a technical complaint: "I think the saddest thing about streaming is the issue of sound quality… it's like watching [Citizen Kane] on your phone."
—By Eric Rosenbaum, CNBC.com