[conspire] Re: Free hardware!

Christian Einfeldt einfeldt at earthlink.net
Sat Jan 15 13:43:28 PST 2005

On Saturday 15 January 2005 00:37, Eric De Mund wrote:
> Christian,
> On Friday 14 January 2005 22:54, Bill Lazar wrote:
> > www.freecycle.org seems fairly similar.
> Christian Einfeldt <einfeldt at earthlink.net>:
> ] Thanks for the heads up about Freecycle.org. They actually are
> broad- ] er. I am hoping that our diyparts.org site will be more
> directly re- ] lated to computers. There is lots of good stuff in
> there for compu- ] ters, but it might not be as convenient,
> because it is more general, ] and geeks will have to plough
> through other stuff to get to what they ] want. I am hoping to
> focus more narrowly on computer parts.
> In my view--and borne out by eBay--aggregation/coalescing rather
> than differentiation is what will drive up traffic here and is
> what you want.

Thanks for this thought.  When I visited Yahoo, I found it to be 
frustrating.  I have a Yahoo account, and I didn't even know that 
Freecycle existed.  So I am going to offer something to folks that 
is easier to use.

> Why do sellers sell on eBay? One reason: Because that is where
> the buyers go. Why do buyers shop on eBay? One reason: Because
> that is where the sellers go. It's a positive feedback loop.

This is a very good point, IF people don't know what they want.  I 
am hoping to help the GNU/Linux wizards of the world, initially. 

My thinking is based on the ideas of Harvard biz prof Clayton 
Christensen.  I first heard about him while reading the Future of 
Ideas by Larry Lessig.  Christensen's research finds that the 
market leader usually squashes the competition when the competition 
starts out on the market leader's turf.  Big is definitely eBay's 

Conversely, Christensen found that the little guy has a decent 
chance whenever he/she serves "overshot customers", that is, 
customers who are offered the sun, the moon, and the stars, but at 
a price.  

For example, with Windows, you can run Windows Media Player and a 
few other bits of bloatware that you can't run with Linux.  But you 
pay a huge price for running Windows in terms of vendor lock-down, 
unreasonably high prices, viruses, etc.  Okay, so with GNU/Linux 
there are a few narrow vertical market apps that you can't run, but 
you don't have to deal with the vendor lock-down, etc.  Most 
desktop customers are overshot.  They're paying for bloatware they 
don't need or want.  Christensen found that 95% of the Fortune 50 
companies stalled to growth rates barely exceeding GDP from 1955 to 
1995, the years he looked at that stuff.  (His first book, The 
Innovator's Dilemman, came out in 1997).  

Same for eBay.  Most of its customers are overshot.  They have to 
"pay" with time spent searching through stuff they don't need.  At 
least that is my hope. Same for Freecycle, which is a great site, 
and is doing great things for the environment, but for our harried 
geek friends, they don't necessarily want to deal with other stuff, 
such as desks and chairs, etc.  At least that is what I am hoping. 

> The 
> presence of more sellers makes it more attractive to buyers. The
> presence of more buyers makes it more attractive to sellers. 

eBay and Freecycle are both pretty big.  For them, your business 
model is what Christensen calls a "sustaining technology."  It 
helps them better serve their best customers, those who are looking 
for a big place to dump stuff that needs the power of big numbers 
to work.  eBay is a place to sell stuff, and lots of the stuff that 
I am hoping people will list on Diyparts.org has a commercial value 
lower than the cost of shipping, but has a use value that is 
significant in terms of its ability to perform.  

For example, just yesterday I gave an older say 333 mhtz 128 RAM 
vanilla box to a school in San Francisco.  It was still running 
SuSE 7.3, because the sys admin who gave it to me didn't have time 
to install the newest version of SuSE.  The value of this box would 
not justify shipping it to Saint Maarten, an island in caribbean 
that I have been working with, or for that matter, the cost of 
shipping it via UPS across the bay to Oakland.  Rather than pay for 
shipping, I would be better off helping those people by sending 
them the money that I otherwise would have spent on shipping. 

So I am hoping that the geeks who will use the Diyparts.org site 
will 1) know what they want; 2) not have time to go looking around 
on Freecycle; 3) and that they will find that my site supports 
their efforts to bring stuff they need to LUG meetings, etc.  In 
other words, I am looking for "overshot" geeks who don't need bike 
wheels or desks or chairs, but just need a very specific type of 
memory stick, which actually CAN be mailed for the value of the 
stick.  Or maybe they need a power supply.  Or a CD ROM.  Or some 
other annoyingly simple piece of junk.  

> There *are* other on-line auction sites, but ceteris paribus, any
> one with a significantly greater population has an inherent
> advantage over the others.

The trick phrase there is ceteris paribus, which for those who hated 
Latin class means "other things being equal."  I am hoping that 
this is a case where ceteris non paribus, or things are actually 
not equal.  I am hoping that the difference will be that the geeks 
who just need a memory stick or a CD ROM but don't wanna dig 
through Freecycle will use Diyparts.org. 

> Yes, the increased generality makes it a bit more laborious for
> any in- dividual constituency to find what they're looking for,
> but that's com- pensated for by the fact that what they're
> looking for is more likely to be there.

Well, actually, if people have to dig through stuff, they will 
become frustrated, and hopefully leave Freecycle and come to 
Diyparts.org.  Again, I like Freecycle, and have linked them to our 
movie site (http://www.digitaltippingpoint.com , click on free 
hardware), but IMHO this type of service will see significant 
growth levels.  

In fact, I believe that the whole DIY thing (do it yourself) is 
going to explode, and that is one reason that I wanted to call our 
movie the Digital Tipping Point.  I think that the time to sell 
Microsoft stock is now, because just like 95% of the Fortune 50 
experienced growth erosion from 1955 to 1995 to the level that 
their stock was  little more than a bank account is going to happen 
to Microsoft.  I believe that Linux is going to explode, and a lot 
of people are going to be very surprised because it is going to 
happen more quickly, rather than more slowly.   

At any rate, this is really just all about thanking the geeks who 
have done so much for me.  They have built computers for me; 
written code for me (and 10,000 of my best friends); and they have 
built the foundation for a better world through sharing.  
Ultimately, this Diyparts.org site is supposed to be part of that.  
If it works, great, if not, oh well.  

Christian Einfeldt

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