Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Maker Movement Manifesto

The current title of my blog is "A Maker in the Making" and I have talked about one of the sparks that caused me to realize that being a maker is what I wanted to do. I feel like i need to define exactly what a "maker" is and what I am talking about when I refer to it as a movement.

I originally learned about makers from a wired magazine article that described workshops called makerspaces where people were matching their knowledge of electronics and computers to make things. Things like tweeting house plants, home automation systems, and a various assortment of flying and moving objects. It seemed like a place for nerds and DIY people to get together. I love learning new machines and nerdy DIY projects are right up my alley. However, nothing like that existed in Topeka, Ks.

Fast forward two years and my friend Jared invited me to go to a makerspace in Kansas City. I was blown away at all of the stuff there. However, I still saw it as a place for DIYer's to tinker and make the stuff that they would be making at home anyway. I didn't realize the impact that places like this were having on our lives.

A few weeks after my trip I went to the library to find a sci-fi book that a friend recommended. On a whim, as I was walking out of the library, I saw "The Maker Movement Manifesto" by Mark Hatch and decided to pick it up to see what this maker stuff was all about.

Here is a quick review of what I found:

Hatch blends a lot of stories in with what I would consider a really good argument for why the maker movement will change the way we develop and manufacture goods. My only critique is that while the content of the book was really good the flow was hard to follow. So here is my breakdown of it.

Chapters 1-3: Introduction
Chapters 4-6: The 3 pillars of the maker movement (my words)
Chapters 7-9: Examples of people, companies, and schools that are getting involved
Chapter 10: A call to action

Chapters 1-3 present an overview and are the intro to what being a maker is all about. This includes the manifesto and its tenants: Make, Share, Give, Learn, Tool Up, Play, Participate, Support, and Change. I appreciated his point about people were created in the image of a creative God and thus creating is part of who we are.

One of the key components to the success of makers is the idea of free innovation and the ability to fail fast. With tools like 3D printers and computer controlled mills and routers people can built prototypes for a few hundred dollars where in the past they would have get engineering firms involved which could cost upwards of $100,000. With this low barrier to entry people are willing to try ideas that they never would have in the past. This allows them to know if an idea will make it or fail rather quickly and cheaply. While a few hundred dollars is not free, compared to $100,000 it might as well be.

Lastly as part of the introduction Hatch explains how important the community of people is to the success of an idea. While some people can go it alone most of the success that people are having is through communities that provide connections to other people and an atmosphere of creativity.

Chapters 4-6 are the real meat of Hatch's argument. I call this the three pillars, better yet the triforce of the maker movement. They are: Access to tools, access to knowledge, and a delivery system to reach an audience.

Access to tools is important, really important. What tools you might ask? Well here is a list. We are talking laser saws, 3D printers, plasma cutters, industrial sowing machines, computer controlled routers, and much more. This thing is these tools are now cheaper, more powerful, and easy enough to use that the average person can do it. You can literally download the plans for a couch, tweak them to fit you style and space, pickup the wood at a hardware store and run them through a set computer controlled tools. YOU CAN PRINT YOUR OWN FURNITURE. This can only happen if you have access to the right tools. Places like TechShop are providing access to these tools to anyone who wants it.

Access to knowledge is just as important as access to tools. We are living in an age where if you want to learn how to do something there is an example on the internet. Never before have we had this much access to general knowlege. Not only that but makerspaces provide classes where you can learn how to use a new tool that might help you get your project done or maybe done faster. They also provide a place for people to collaborate. Makerspaces are full of engineers, programmers, artists, accountants, business people and more. Finding someone who can show you how to get past a problem or who is even willing to partner with you is not only possible but likely.

Access to a delivery method is also important. People are not only able to create really cool things but they are able to get them to customers in ways we have never seen before. Need funding? Kickstart it or put it on Indiegogo. Need an online store? Etcy gives you are store for free. Need a cheap manufacture? Alibaba will deal with you and handle you manufacturing needs. You can even outsource your HR and payroll if you get big enough to hire help. You bring the idea and every other part of your business is handled for you.

Chapters 7-9 give examples of people, companies and colleges that are embracing this. For example Jack Dorsey used a makerspace to prototype the first square. People have prototyped incubators for children in the third world and are saving the lives of kids world wide. The worlds cheapest drip irrigation system, folding kayaks, and even certain jet packs were all developed in makerspaces. Companies like ford have set up 40,000 sq ft sites and have partnered with TechShop to set up these kind of spaces.

By chapter 10 I was hooked. I didn't need a how to get involved section because I was already planning on how to move to San Francisco and beg Mark Hatch and TechShop to give me a job. Since that is unlikely I have found a makerspace here in Lawrence that I am going to check out. If you haven't figured out what to do at this point he has some tips about how to get involved.

Here is the first chapter of the book in pdf if you want to read some of this for yourself.

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