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Clubstead is a failure – what went wrong and what can bo done to avoid new failures?

Home Forums Archive TSI Research Clubstead is a failure – what went wrong and what can bo done to avoid new failures?

This topic contains 34 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of Shouri Shouri 4 years, 11 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 35 total)
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  • #818
    Avatar of Steffen
    Steffen
    Participant

    A seastead is a new kind of product which is intended to be used for a new way of life. That gives a lot of uncertainty and it seems obvious that experimenting is needed in developing appropriate seasteads. It does not seem smart to start experimenting with an unnecessary large and costly product. And it will naturally be much more costly and risky to experiment with a 200+ people seastead than with a seastead for a single family or a single person. Likewise, it seems almost absurd to design the first seastead for the Pacific ocean since that is the worst place in the world in terms of waves and hurricanes. In addition, TSI plan a location close to the biggest military power in the world. What happened to the healthy thoughts about incrementalism? Besides, even in seasteading becomes a huge succes in the future, I believe the designed Clubstead will not be popular since it doesn’t allow a family to switch to a new location without having to find a new home.

    The clubstead is a failure. Vince has succesfully argued that the technical merits of the clubstead are not satisfactory. In my opinion TSI should stop throwing good money after bad. How much of the $500,000 has been spent on the clubstead project? What is left of the $500,000?

    TSI has probably spent lots of money and time on a useless clubstead design while directly spending only $500 (a camera for Vince) on what seems to be the best way forward: development of new ideas, especially regarding design of small and stabile low-cost seasteads.

    As long as the clubstead project was secret people outside TSI management had very limited chances of evaluating the cleverness of the strategy TSI had decided upon.Now it seems that:
    1. TSI management severely underestimated the technical challenges of building a low cost stabile platform. To illustrate, here is a quote from January 11, 2009:

    WAYNE GRAMLICH: Prizes are good, but we think will make faster progress by simply hiring Marine architects to design the structures. This is not rocket science.

    VINCECATE: We have a brand new design space and you think the best approach is to hire a single established marine architect firm? No. Prizes are far more efficient at exploring a new design space. I think the above statement does not show respect for the problem.

    WAYNE GRAMLICH: People have been designing floating structures for centuries. What makes seasteads different is that they have very low mobility requirements.

    VINCECATE: They also have high stability requirements and low cost requirements compared to other structures. It is not just a small difference from an oil platform. If you hire an oil platform designer you will get an oil platform and miss out on the really good possible designs.

    2. The secrecy and patent application was a waste of time and money since there wasn’t really any major innovation in the design and I doubt there will be sufficient investor interest to have a Clubstead built.

    TSI management still does not seem to have acknowledged that the Clubstead is a failure as far as I am aware.

    TSI management has underestimated the technical challenges of building a low cost stabile platform because of too little technical knowledge and an unwillingness to recognize that it is the responsibility of the TSI management to understand the important technical details if TSI is to succeed. My opinion about the underlying cause of the TSI problems is that TSI should be run more like a business with a few experts, including minimum one full-time paid person with the capacity and willingness to personally develop and analyze seasteading ideas or at least learn enough important technical stuff to evalute the ideas of others. Instead TSI is a non-profit with no one who wants to personally evaluate which seasteading ideas are worth rewarding (or pursuing?).

    #4960
    Avatar of livefreeortry
    livefreeortry
    Participant

    Steffen, my thoughts about the issues you have raised:

    1) Clubstead is clearly not in keeping with an incremenatlist approach. However, my impression is that Clubstead was originally concieved of as a project with inbuilt income generation.

    I too agree that a cheap, safe and reasonably comfortable family-size seastead would be the most suitable project for TSI to focus on. But I don’t see how casting blame on Patri and Wayne who’re doing a tough job with no precedents and limited resources is fair. In my experience, it is common to take decisions which may later turn out to be non-optimal.

    2) Patri has mentioned earlier that TSI will soon be focussing on family-size seasteads; “Once we’ve published all that and proven the base concept, the consultants are going to turn to smaller designs, the low-cost or single family seastead” http://seasteading.org/stay-in-touch/blog/3/2009/01/05/december-2008-newsletter

    3) TSI is not answerable to us regarding its finances; only to the person who donated the money. While I wouldn’t mind knowing more detail, it is unbecoming to demand accounts of money that we didn’t contribute.

    4) Regarding the merits of a multispar design like Clubstead, it is widely acknowledged that multiple spars impart excellent stability. For example, see the video and discussion in the Versabuoy thread: http://seasteading.org/interact/forums/engineering/structure-designs/versbuoy-video

    Anyway, I think TSI is going to focus on cheap family-size structures now, so lets do some research and make our own contributions to a shared vision.

    * edit: Clubstead is not a multispar design, since the legs are not ballasted. Sorry, mea culpa.

    #4962
    Avatar of Carl-Pålsson
    Carl-Pålsson
    Participant

    It seems to me that clubstead should be compared to an equally sized platform before it can be declared inferior or superior. Also, there are many other factors to consider besides wave motions. Perhaps a bit more waves on occasion is tolerable if this approach makes the whole structure a lot cheaper, and therefore more feasible.

    Also, I don´t think there is only one correct way to build a seastead. As anyone interested in seasteading should know, there are dozens of ways to build a floating structure, each probably perfectly feasible with different advantages and drawbacks. We shouldn´t be searching for a single magic perfect design, because we will never find it.

    It is way too early to declare clubstead a failure. And even if it should turn out to be, then we will have learned how not to build a seastead.

    Personally, I think it looks rather efficient, as in it is alot of real estate for (what looks like) relatively little money. And being designed by professionals, there is a good chance that it will actually be feasible all the way from construction through commission and operation.

    Also, it doesn´t have to be used as a resort type platform. It can just as easily be an apartment block or a time share project, which will make it more “incremental” in my eyes at least.

    I agree somewhat with the critique about the patent secrecy. There is an inherent problem with a design project that goes on for this long without getting any outside critique.

    #4966
    Avatar of vincecate
    vincecate
    Participant

    WAYNE GRAMLICH: People have been designing floating structures for centuries. What makes seasteads different is that they have very low mobility requirements.

    VINCECATE: They also have high stability requirements and low cost requirements compared to other structures. It is not just a small difference from an oil platform.

    Going from the “no-mobility requirement” of an oil platform to “very low mobility requirement” is a huge difference, by the way. Most floating oil platforms are tied to the bottom. This makes it so they do not bob up and down in the waves. It also means they don’t need to burn fuel to stay in position. I am not sure there are square oil platforms that can move themselves over hundreds of miles. There is at least one russian radar platform that can:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tension-leg_platform

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_positioning

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea-based_X-band_Radar

    The “Drillships” use dynamic positioning:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drillship

    #4968
    Avatar of Eelco
    Eelco
    Participant

    Strong words with little argumentation, but criticism should always be welcomed.

    Indeed clubstead is somewhat of a break with incrementalism: it is far more realistic than say, the freedom ship, but it isnt a single-familiy seastead either.

    But cost is very important in designing a seastead. Obviously, there is an economy of scale to overcome. If you want to stay clear of 15m waves, you already need a structure with a mutliple of that in size. If you have to start from a 50m structure anyway, it becomes appealing to put more on top of it than a single house.

    I am highly anticipating the research into single family seasteads, but i am fearfull of the outcome in terms of price, considering these economies of scale.

    If a clubstead can be made to work, although it may not be too politically exciting, it will yield knowledge and economies of scale in production that will undoubtly further the cause of single family seasteads.

    I like Vince’s work a lot, but it is far from detailled enough to draw conclusions about its feasibility. If you have any constructive criticism as to how to bring single family seasteads closer to reality, i am all ears.

    #4973
    Avatar of Patri
    Patri
    Keymaster

    Steffen – you seem to have a lot of strong opinions about offshore platform engineering and naval architecture, including highly technical areas like whether a design has patentable innovations. What school is your marine engineering degree from? And for how long have you practiced in the field? Someone with the education and expertise to fully evaluate a brand new design and see that it will be a failure mere weeks after the first conceptual design has been released, and with a full enough knowledge of the huge field of offshore platform patents to know whether ClubStead has any patentable elements, would be quite an asset to have around. I believe MI&T, our consultants, are hiring, but from your level of confidence it sounds like perhaps you already have your own firm?

    If, on the other hand, these judgements are from someone totally unqualified who has no idea what they are talking about…well…it’s wonderful that you care enough about seasteading to state your opinion, but I hope you’ll understand if we weight the opinions of professionals a bit more highly. Also, if you want your suggestions listened to, I recommend you write reasonable statements about tradeoffs and priorities, rather than sweepingly declaring things as “failures”. Giving feedback in such an inflammatory way is, surprisingly, not a very good way to get listened to.

    If you want to talk to or about “TSI management”, our names are Patri, Wayne, Liz, and James – please make use of them :). Wayne & I are responsible for all engineering decisions related to ClubStead, no need to pretend we are a faceless entity. We are people who perhaps are not as good at sharing our strategy as we should be, but doing the best we can to move seasteading forward. We are currently working on a 100-year strategy document which should give a better idea. In general, while other staff may choose to respond to your post (it’s up to them), I would prefer to address the missing elements of our strategy and vision in public documents that everyone can benefit from, rather than on a person-by-person basis.

    #4974
    Avatar of vincecate
    vincecate
    Participant

    Patri, your seem to have a faith in your marine architects like they were some mystical high priests that you or other common folk should not attempt to understand or contradict. I really think this is not a good way to lead an engineering project.

    #4975
    Avatar of Patri
    Patri
    Keymaster
    vincecate wrote:

    Patri, your seem to have a faith in your marine architects like they were some mystical high priests that you or other common folk should not attempt to understand or contradict. I really think this is not a good way to lead an engineering project.

    Nothing mystical about it, it’s a technical engineering field. I have enough technical expertise in various fields of my own (discrete mathematics, computer science) to have healthy respect for engineering education and experience. I ask MI&T questions and give them criticisms all the time, and I welcome others doing the same. I just believe in doing it from a place of healthy respect for their knowledge, rather than dismissing it.

    Again, I cannot emphasize frequently enough that this is a field where big mistakes will quickly kill you. The ocean does not tolerate screw-ups. I am perfectly happy to see any Jack or Jill write their own website, try their own mathematical proof, or whip up a brand new recipe. When one is designing an airplane, a bridge, a spaceship, or an ocean-going vessel, more prudence is required.

    This conversation is a bit hilarious to me, considering how often I blithely disregard expert opinion in other areas. There has been a running discussion on my blog lately about whether individuals can rationally challenge the scientific consensus, or whether it’s pure arrogance, with me taking the position that an intelligent layman can and should disagree with the experts (especially the experts as selected and distorted by the media). So I assure you that I am not a blind expert-truster! I pick and choose…

    #4976
    Avatar of Steffen
    Steffen
    Participant

    I too agree that a cheap, safe and reasonably comfortable family-size seastead would be the most suitable project for TSI to focus on. But I don’t see how casting blame on Patri and Wayne who’re doing a tough job with no precedents and limited resources is fair. In my experience, it is common to take decisions which may later turn out to be non-optimal.

    Both Patri and Wayne have done a lot of good work. No doubt about that. But there is also a lot of the TSI management decisions (patent, clubstead, non-profit structure, focus on breakwaters, no real rewards to good seasteading ideas, and others) which I find very strange. Maybe there is a pattern which is too many big (management) errors. Or mayby some of it is not errors but just appears so to me because I have not understood or noticed the good arguments behind the decisions? Or maybe it is just about late or poor communication about what TSI is doing and why? Or maybe a lot of it stems from a few management mistakes that everyone could have made? Anyway, $500,000 is a lot of money. It is a huge opportunity to make seasteading take off. Either I just lean back and risk seeing the money gradually disappear into non-successful projects or I can raise a discussion. I chose the last. And I deliberately provoced by using strong words like complete failure and useless. I did it to make sure it was noticed and discussed. Vince’s very polite and technical review of the clubstead did not directly create much notice and discussion. I think something is not working right within TSI and not identifying and correcting it is a threat to the goal of making seasteading succeed.

    2) Patri has mentioned earlier that TSI will soon be focussing on family-size seasteads; “Once we’ve published all that and proven the base concept, the consultants are going to turn to smaller designs, the low-cost or single family seastead” http://seasteading.org/stay-in-touch/blog/3/2009/01/05/december-2008-newsletter

    I am looking forward to the focus on family-size seasteads but the plans seem to change often as do the timetables (although it is not always clear what the timetables are). See second half of Technology section of http://seasteading.org/stay-in-touch/blog/3/2009/02/03/january-2009-newsletter

    3) TSI is not answerable to us regarding its finances; only to the person who donated the money. While I wouldn’t mind knowing more detail, it is unbecoming to demand accounts of money that we didn’t contribute.

    I believe it is TSI’s decision if they want to share its financial information with us, but I think it is OK for me to ask for it. I will fully accept a no. If TSI choose to be open about this kind of financial information the community will become more aware of design costs which will enable more qualified suggestions regarding the best way to move forward. It will also make people in the community better equipped to judge which management decisions were wise and which were not.

    P.S. to the rest of you: I will be busy Monday. Don’t expect fast answers.

    #4977
    Avatar of livefreeortry
    livefreeortry
    Participant

    Carl wrote:

    It seems to me that clubstead should be compared to an equally sized platform before it can be declared inferior or superior. Also, there are many other factors to consider besides wave motions. Perhaps a bit more waves on occasion is tolerable if this approach makes the whole structure a lot cheaper, and therefore more feasible…..

    It is way too early to declare clubstead a failure. And even if it should turn out to be, then we will have learned how not to build a seastead.

    Personally, I think it looks rather efficient, as in it is alot of real estate for (what looks like) relatively little money. And being designed by professionals, there is a good chance that it will actually be feasible all the way from construction through commission and operation.

    Also, it doesn´t have to be used as a resort type platform. It can just as easily be an apartment block or a time share project, which will make it more “incremental” in my eyes at least.

    Carl, Clubstead is certainly no failure; it may represent the future when seasteading is more mainstream. And I take the point about economies of scale. It’s just that my understanding of similar efforts such as the colonization of America, Oceania etc and the causes behind the failure of the freedom ship etc suggest that the beginning must be small scale.

    Large scale projects will involve major financial committments from families (unenthusiastic spouses, minors and pets included) who are understandably reluctant to get on board until seasteading is a tried and tested lifestyle. So inevitably we must begin small with a few hardy individuals to prove the concept.

    #4982
    Avatar of Carl-Pålsson
    Carl-Pålsson
    Participant

    Large scale projects will involve major financial committments from families (unenthusiastic spouses, minors and pets included) who are understandably reluctant to get on board until seasteading is a tried and tested lifestyle. So inevitably we must begin small with a few hardy individuals to prove the concept.

    I believe spouses, kids and pets are a lot more likely to want to move to a clubstead-sized platform than a single-family version.

    A bigger platform will be cheaper for the individual family due to size. Likewise the continous expenses will be smaller due to scale.

    So, the problem is just to try to find a larger number of families or individuals willing to take the plunge (so to speak…). Or with a timeshare, willing to just try it out for a few weeks a year. And if we cannot find enough to fill a clubstead, then seasteading is fucked anyway.

    Regarding previous colonizations, yes people chose to move there as individuals. But I bet most of them still chose to settle rather close to other people, in a community, rather than like solitary hermits on their own.

    Regarding proving the concept, I don´t think there is anything to prove. We already know that living on the ocean is perfectly possible, both in a single family or a larger sestead. We just have to work out the details, and try to make the lifestyle seem as attractive as possible.

    #4983
    Avatar of vincecate
    vincecate
    Participant

    Carl wrote:


    I believe spouses, kids and pets are a lot more likely to want to move to a clubstead-sized platform than a single-family version.

    A bigger platform will be cheaper for the individual family due to size. Likewise the continous expenses will be smaller due to scale.

    A single-family seastead that is island hopping around the North Atlantic seems much more fun than a clubstead-sized platform 200 miles from anywhere. Each island has new things to see, places to shop, etc. There is a much smaller set of stuff on the platform.

    A family is more free with their own seastead. If they want to stay longer at Bermuda, they can.

    Larger size does not automatically lower the costs per person in either capital expenditure or ongoing costs. A single-family seastead pulled by a kite could have much lower cost to operate per person than a large platform that needs to burn fuel to stay in place. I am sure that a BallHouse would have lower capital cost per person than ClubStead. BallHouse with hanging ballast would tip less than ClubStead, and go up and down less in 15 foot waves than edges of current ClubStead (cuts through the top of waves so up/down motion is less than full height of wave).

    As there are more and more seasteads floating around, life on the seasteads gets more and more interesting, so there will be less and less need to visit islands. This is the incrementalism that we need.

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/Migration

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/BallHouse

    #4985
    Avatar of Patri
    Patri
    Keymaster
    livefreeortry wrote:

    Carl, Clubstead is certainly no failure; it may represent the future when seasteading is more mainstream. And I take the point about economies of scale. It’s just that my understanding of similar efforts such as the colonization of America, Oceania etc and the causes behind the failure of the freedom ship etc suggest that the beginning must be small scale.

    Large scale projects will involve major financial committments from families (unenthusiastic spouses, minors and pets included) who are understandably reluctant to get on board until seasteading is a tried and tested lifestyle. So inevitably we must begin small with a few hardy individuals to prove the concept.

    I agree with your general viewpoint here, but you are misreading the data. America was not settled by families rowing over on individual rafts, it was settled by ships containing 100+ colonists each, and representing significant chunks of capital for their day. Columbus’ original voyage was three such ships. This is an example supporting a ClubStead sized start, not opposing it! Note that these sizes are roughly comparable to a human tribe of 60-150 people (read up on Dunbar’s Number), which is the basic living unit we were evolved for.

    ClubStead will cost roughly $100M. The Freedom Ship will cost roughly $10B. In other words, there is a 100:1 cost difference between the Freedom Ship and ClubStead. I’m not saying this means ClubStead is the right price, or the right design, or the right path. But it is a very different scale than the Freedom Ship.

    Take ResidenSea as an example. It was pioneering a brand-new business model, that of cruise condos, closely based on an existing business model (cruise ship vacations), and it cost several hundred million. ResidenSea didn’t start with a 10-person cruise condo, because of economies of scale, and because customers wouldn’t want a boring little ship.

    Something that can be self-funded by families and prove the concept at a 1-10 person scale would be ideal, I agree, but I don’t know that it is necessary. Unfortunately, waves don’t scale down, and the main function of an ocean structure is to avoid waves. This means that the ideal design at various sizes is very different, because it depends on the size of the structure relative to the waves. So we can’t, unfortunately, just keep scaling up the same design. Wayne & I believe this calls for a spectrum of designs of various sizes, which is why we plan to have the consultants next look at larger (breakwaters) and smaller (single-family seastead) designs, perhaps w/ community help in coming up w/ creative designs.

    #4987
    Avatar of Patri
    Patri
    Keymaster
    vincecate wrote:

    A single-family seastead that is island hopping around the North Atlantic seems much more fun than a clubstead-sized platform 200 miles from anywhere. Each island has new things to see, places to shop, etc. There is a much smaller set of stuff on the platform.

    A family is more free with their own seastead. If they want to stay longer at Bermuda, they can.

    Larger size does not automatically lower the costs per person in either capital expenditure or ongoing costs. A single-family seastead pulled by a kite could have much lower cost to operate per person than a large platform that needs to burn fuel to stay in place. I am sure that a BallHouse would have lower capital cost per person than ClubStead. BallHouse with hanging ballast would tip less than ClubStead, and go up and down less in 15 foot waves than edges of current ClubStead (cuts through the top of waves so up/down motion is less than full height of wave).

    As there are more and more seasteads floating around, life on the seasteads gets more and more interesting, so there will be less and less need to visit islands. This is the incrementalism that we need.

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/Migration

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/BallHouse

    I agree with most of this, which is why single-family seasteads are one of the four “paths to a seasteading world” that I list in my talks. We are working on incorporating it into our strategy. The immense popularity of boats and yachts clearly shows there is a huge market for a mobile, ocean-going home.

    The main objection I have to your analysis is the 200 miles part – our current plan for the ClubStead design is for it to be 12 miles offshore, hosting businesses that the US will tolerate within its EEZ such as medical tourism. This makes ClubStead actually much more interesting and less isolated/remote than a single-family seastead. Not only do you get visitors from land, and you get to visit land for events, but the economic situation is far better b/c you can draw on the economy of LA or SF or whatever.

    I also think that larger, combinable seastead designs like ClubStead are more likely to grow into a city, which is a big advantage of this path. But they are also harder to fund and get started, which is a big disadvantage.

    #4988
    Avatar of Patri
    Patri
    Keymaster
    Steffen wrote:
    But there is also a lot of the TSI management decisions (patent, clubstead, non-profit structure, focus on breakwaters, no real rewards to good seasteading ideas, and others) which I find very strange. Maybe there is a pattern which is too many big (management) errors. Or mayby some of it is not errors but just appears so to me because I have not understood or noticed the good arguments behind the decisions? Or maybe it is just about late or poor communication about what TSI is doing and why?

    There is definitely poor communication about why we are doing things, which we are attempting to address by creating a public-facing strategy document. (Financial questions will of course be answered in our 2008 Annual Report, which is required by law). Still, I would personally be much more receptive to your feedback if you asked questions, rather than making assumptions and criticizing me based on them. Just to pick one of your points out, we are a non-profit because the guy who pays the bills wanted us to be a non-profit. It was not a management “decision”, it was part of the funding deal. I also think there are a lot of benefits to this structure for community building and organizing, which is an important part of the seasteading movement. We also need commercial, for-profit companies to make seasteading a reality. They have different roles, both are important.

    If you come with a frame of mind of curiousity, you would say “Hey, so why are you a non-profit?”, and then you could learn, rather than starting out foolishly assuming that it was a bad decision, which gets me angry. I welcome criticism of our ideas and decisions based on an understanding of them, and I acknowledge that we need to do better at communicating our strategy so people understand them. But when our communication is lacking, it is much more effective to ask than to attack. Not just in this situation, but in most places in life. If this is all that seasteading teaches you, it will greatly enrich your life :).

    Steffen wrote:
    Vince’s very polite and technical review of the clubstead did not directly create much notice and discussion.

    Uh, what? Vince’s review led us to solicit questions on the design from the community, including Vince, of which 19 were submitted (several from Vince). Many were answered an hour-long Q&A session with our engineers which we posted as a video, and all 19 were answered in a text document which we added to the ClubStead page. I also created a list for additional questions and blogged that we would keep doing community Q&A on the design if there was continued interest in asking such questions. You call that not much notice and discussion? I would call it being extremely responsive to community feedback!

    All I can say is WTF? It seems like you are trying to find fault with us and ignoring the evidence. We are far from perfect, but you will find feedback much more effective and more often listened to when it is based on reality, not on this sort of distortion.

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