Sneaker Company Turning Fans Into Entrepreneurs Where do Sens. Obama and McCain stand on the big issues in science and technology? Plus, what does a sneaker company have in common with Wikipedia? Tech contributor Mario Armstrong explains.

Sneaker Company Turning Fans Into Entrepreneurs

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I'm Farai Chideya, and this is News & Notes. Where do Senators Obama and McCain stand on the big issues in science and technology? Some academics asked and the candidates answered. Plus what does a sneaker company have in common with Wikipedia? Our tech contributor Mario Armstrong has the information. Hi, Mario.

MARIO ARMSTRONG: Hey, Farai. How are you?

CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. So, you know the candidates are always putting out this position papers on their websites and you know, sometimes they've got a lot of information sometimes not so much, but some scientist stepped up to the plate to ask some questions. What do they asked?

ARMSTRONG: Man they - you're absolutely right. They kind of stepped up to the plate, and I've been tracking this process since early last year or late last year rather, and it's called science debate 2008. So, if people want to look it up the web address is And essentially, they started back in around November 2007, a small group of about six people there. They were two screenwriters, a physicist, a marine biologist, a philosopher, and a science journalist started thinking about innovation and America's policy specifically as it relates to the candidates at that time there were several candidates.

So, they've put out the survey finally once we came to two different candidates for the parties and put out the top 14 questions. They started with 30,400 questions and somehow came up with the criteria to dwindle this down to 14 questions, and the candidates have finally answered everything from national security to technology and education, to pandemics and bio -security and innovation in this country.

CHIDEYA: All right. Give me an example one thing that you and I are both interested in is education. What do we know about these guys, these two candidates and the intersection of education and technology?

ARMSTRONG: Well, they both as it relates to this - the answers in the side by side comparisons. They both obviously see that education is critical to 21st century and that to our economy, to our innovation, to our growth as a digital, strong nation we have to put more into education. I was a little shocked that I didn't see more details from Obama. I saw more specific details from McCain. For example in McCain's answer he said that he would devote 60 percent of Title 2 funding for incentive bonuses for hiring performing teachers. So, that's something that we can actually hold him accountable to. He also said that he would allocate 250 million dollars through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities.

Now Obama has said that he has proposals that are out there, and he has a comprehensive - what he is calling a zero to five program that ensures their children enter school ready to learn and will also give them a 4,000 dollar American opportunity tax credit to help them with higher education. He also has some other things in there as well, but it seemed that both of them really straddled the line on understanding that teachers were critical, that we needed to do something more with our education, but both of them in a little bit of ways had some differences in terms of what they would be measurable, what would be - what they would be measured on if they were to go into office specifically for science education.

CHIDEYA: You mentioned that Senator Obama was not a specific on that aspect. Was there anything else that he was specific on that good or bad?

ARMSTRONG: Good question, I mean he was specific on national security which I thought was interesting because McCain was not that specific on national security. So, at the, you know, the question was what is your view of how science and technology can best be used to ensure national security and where we should put our focus? So, Obama kind of goes into specifically what his administration will do in terms of doubling the amount of research dollars for the Department of Defense, putting in more productive research programs in the Department of Homeland Security and he goes on to kind of explain that. On McCain's side he kind of just talks about as president I will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland. Kind of more generic not as detailed and not as measurable or accountable.

CHIDEYA: All right, well we've talked about how some of the big players both in science and in politics have intersected, but there is also this whole move to really look at the one person called the "folksonomy" of the web, how people navigate, how people cluster, and there's something called crowd sourcing . I have never heard of this, but of course, you Mario have. What is crowd sourcing?

ARMSTRONG: It's a term that wasn't coined by me, but crowd sourcing is the ability - it's like an open call. Think of it like an open call and what we're finding is many companies in the web 2.0 era are now using this. And what it does is it replaces traditional tasks that are done typically by employees, and you outsource those tasks to the public at large. So, for example the public may be invited to develop a new technology or carry out a new design task. It's basically making the crowd, the public, part of your design or development team.

CHIDEYA: Now, there's a sneaker company RYZ, they did something interesting online, explain to me how they put their act together.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, this is really neat. So what we have here it's called RYZ Wear and the head this company left Adidas, he was the former president for United States -for Adidas, Rob Langstaff and he left, and he said, you know what? What if we gave the power? What if we flip the business bottle upside down and allowed everyday people to develop their own designs for sneakers? So you go to the website, you download a template, you used your computer software, you apply your design to the shoe, you upload it, and then the community votes. If you're design wins, guess what? It ends up being in the store and you get a revenue share, a royalty off of the sales of the shoes, and some type of upfront stipend. So you can think about this from a business perspective. He has no design team. He has no millions of dollars on marketing. It takes a Air Jordan type of tennis shoe, 12 to 18 months to hit the market. He can have a shoe design and in the market in six weeks.

CHIDEYA: How do you think this is going to be used in the future, not specifically for shoes, but by non-profits and for profits?

ARMSTRONG: Great point, I mean, it's already being seen. I mean, is a t-shirt company, it kind of done the same thing. We seen it empowering news from places like were it started taking the public to say, hey, what's the most relevant and important news to you? That shows up on the front page. You can look at and the political arena has kind of shown how non-profits can use this. But I think, non-profits are essentially positioned well, Farai. Because they're volunteer powered, they're community based organizations, and they're in the perfect position to tap into this wisdom of crowds. So I think they really should start to understand and research this more, because they can utilize this, especially when they're dealing with strap budgets.

CHIDEYA: All right. Mario, thanks for the update.

ARMSTRONG: Thanks, Farai, appreciate it.

CHIDEYA: Mario Armstrong is News & Notes regular technology contributor. He joined us from the studios of the Baltimore Sun.

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