There's this new thing. Quarterly.co has this thing that when I first heard described I didn't quite understand, and was not sure if I liked it or not, so I dug a bit deeper and it turns out I think it is cool. Here's the idea. Quarterly has assembled a bunch of people they call "Curators." These are famous people among whom you are likely to find someone you admire or respect or perhaps stalk in your own Internety way. The curators then work with Quarterly to assemble a box of stuff. Then, you, as Quarterly's customer, arrange to have the box sent. There are four a year (quarterly!). You only pay for them one at a time, so you can extend or cancel your subscription depending on your likes.
Quarterly contacted me to let me know about their service because I had been writing about Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Bill is one of the curators. They sent me one of the boxes arranged by him so I could get an idea of what it was all about. It turns out it was pretty cool.
The box contained two kinds of items. There were some commercially available items selected by Bill Nye, and a few other items that were home made or printed up just for this box, including some documents written by Bill, one with a personal autograph.
The retail items were a salt water fuel cell car kit, a solar powered robotic bug, some zany color changing beads, a nice pen, and a carabiner compass. The home made items included the parts and instructions for making a sun dial.
This particular package costs $50. When I calculate the retail costs of the items available for purchase, it comes to over $50. When I search around for the best price I can get it down to just below $50 not counting shipping. So, it seems to be the case that you get pretty close to what you pay for, with respect to just those items alone. The additional things, the personalized stuff from Bill Nye and the sundial kit obviously add more value. And, the idea is that this collection of stuff was put together by someone you admire (or stalk).
The sundial kit comes with all the parts and things you need to make it work, but every one of those parts is a common classroom item. It comes with instructions to use the sundial in a teaching setting, either with your family or in a classroom, and since the items are commonly available, the project is extensible and can be redone again and again. Also, the sundial kit comes with a well thought out list of links between specific national educational standards and the things learned by using the kit, which covers several items in science and a bit of history.
I'm not sure if I would personally subscribe to this, because I'm more of a curator type than a curatee type. But I can think of several people to whom I would like to give at least one box as a gift. Considering the range of curators, there is actually quite a range of possibilities. Bill Nye is The Science Guy of course, so that's for sciencey people and science teachers.
Do you know Ted Vadakan, Angie Myung, Jon Shook, Kristian Bush, Sean Bonner, Viny Dotolo, Q-Tip, Amanda Hesser, Merril Stubbs, Book Riot, Megan Collins, Brandon Long, Pharrell Williams, Andy Dalton, Siobhan O'Conner, Alexandra Spunt, Charles Tillman, or Coco? Those are some of the other curators representing design, art, style, cooking, sports, entertainment, and other things many of which I know virtually nothing. There's also technology stuff and a home organizing box. But I have friends and relatives who so, and some of them might be getting Quarterly boxes as birthday presents this year. (Too bad most of my extended family breeds seasonally and most of the birthdays have just passed!) There's also technology stuff (e.g. Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and MAKE) and a home organizing box. There's even a blogger that is not me (Jason Kottke) and a Viking (Brian Robison). A full list of curators is HERE. Most of the boxes are $50, but a couple are $100, shipping included in the US.
Here's a video that Bill Nye made to go with this kit (If it does not load properly here, you can watch it HERE.):
This is an interesting idea and I hope it does well. If you get any boxes, let us know how it goes!