Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Maker in the Making

Let me tell you a little story. Our office has a slight problem. We have two bathrooms. One for the women and one for the men. This might seem like a normal setup but consider we have 22 guys and 9 women. In the past this ratio has been even higher. The mens bathroom door is closed more than it is open and for some reason the women's bathroom is off limits?? The bathroom exists on one end of the office so people on the other end can walk all the way across the office only to find that the bathroom is closed.

Thus we have a conundrum. Do I stand here and wait or go back to work. Often people decide to stand and wait because even if they went back to work there is no guarantee that the bathroom will be open the next time they come and working with a full bladder is often difficult. So we have people milling about around the bathroom all day waiting for their turn.

We brainstormed quite a bit about how to solve this problem and in the end we decided that since we are a software company a software solution was needed. I convinced our hardware guy to buy me a NetDuino since I mostly deal in .Net I figured it would be the quickest platform to get up and going. After a few lunch breaks of messing around I was able to get a working app going that would take a button signal and write the result out to a file. We drilled a hole in the top of the door frame and put in one of these. One of our web guys helped me write a php script that would put the status up on and internal website. Now anyone could go to our internal website and see if the door is open or closed. This doesn't guarantee that the door will be open when you get there but it is better than nothing.

This spawned a bunch of improvements by other people. The internal website has a cool picture of a door now. There is a chrome plugin and a tray icon with notifications. All it took was someone getting the thing started. I am pretty sure that just about every male in the office uses it and it is one of the first things we tell new hires about.

This little thing created a spark in me that has recently turned into a flame. I had my taste of being a maker and I cant get enough. I also have given up on pure intellectual pursuits. Thinking for thinking's sake isnt for me. Thus I declare 2014 the year of doing. Cool ideas only go so far. You have to put them into action. Life is about action and no one will look back over their life and say, "Man we had some good thoughts when we were younger." This will likely involve some big challenges but I am excited about solving them.

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