Reporters' Roundtable: Inside the mind of the Maker FaireDale Dougherty, founder of Make Magazine and the Maker Faire, discusses the human need to create, hack, and tinker. Plus, a tour of the Make labs.
Hi everyone welcome to reporters' roundtable primary -- in this is our weekly show on a single tech talk to each time. Now we are about one week out from the maker Faire. For those few who aren't familiar with this -- here in the Bay Area or its off shoots in Detroit -- New York this is the state fair for geeks. Instead of jam competitions there are radio controlled battleships shooting out the little ball bearings -- each other instead of line of people -- channel allows you have. Workshops to build model rockets one of the -- I went to the singing act was -- on -- new singing the theme of star -- The maker Faire is the -- you wish you had when you were -- -- and now it exists now. The maker Faire is put on by the technical publisher O'Reilly Media. And is that a large part the brainchild of -- Doherty who is our guest today. -- in addition to starting maker -- also launched is the editor and publisher of make magazine which may have seen. The magazine of projects you really should do especially if you have kids -- a lot of fun. We'll be talking with -- today about make magazine most importantly about the maker -- which in the Bay Area launches on May 21. And also about the whole mindset the maker -- that. And what's happening in the economy that is affecting. This movement towards the DIY do it yourself culture and other related topics. Bill thanks for having us here at Writely can thank you and outing and oh well welcome to the roundtable must -- So let's get started -- make magazine and why the -- I think you know that. Best answer is that people would are doing incredibly interest -- things and I just sought early. And thought this this is serious this is important and you know it comes from the side opposite idea that. I geeks are playing with technology. They are. Doing things with it because they find it interesting and they don't necessarily know where they're going with it like when it might become like a business or. A gadget. They just wanna -- exercises and get to know what that technology can do and what they can do themselves. And you know an eyewitness or -- so I put in the context of work that -- -- about hacks and hacking and hackers and and really saw that today's hackers were also working on hardware. They weren't just hacking software on a computer that really -- me this idea that -- be hacking the physical world it. That our cars and houses and everything in between. Would be. Fair game now as technology advances consumer technology advances the equipment that we use the cars washing machines of course the computers. Becomes more advanced and harder to get down to the metal -- Is is the may mindset that that you work here a reaction to that or because of that. -- the -- and make an announcement open source. I think it again big influence in this community which -- led to ideas of open source hardware. So that just as we see closed source software we see open source for hours beginning to see the rise of open platforms as wells -- platforms. I don't think one. Ends up winning I think we -- an ecosystem which they both take advantage of their own. Attributes in and add value -- -- market. So I think you know while it's true that a lot of things. Like our cell phones are locked out. In at the same time you know Google -- happens this week and they announce an accessory kit that's based on open source platform -- we know plug into one of their phones. And be able to connect to the world of sensors and connect to the senses and in the phone and do existing applications at the arguing it was a very interest in case that's and a new. Micro controller platform. Talked with a little about that and what is it and why it matters to people who were trying. The bill that -- -- -- that was. Apple to -- Actually Apple to would be perfect if I -- -- -- -- that's about it further show that it actually goes back -- that it is like the early days of computing there are based on. On on simple platforms. That hobbyists created like Steve -- -- and it's essentially computer. Not -- powerful one not a particularly full featured on it is simply a board with inputs and outputs. But it allows you to do a number of interesting things. That. Have to do with Apple's controlling satellite in the sense there -- some input -- want to monitor you and you wanna do some processing and that and and there are some output so it might be that there's a motion detector. Those in you know you trip that and and it turns on a light or sound -- -- -- that the class of application. Net for -- -- -- that it's very simple there. But you know you wouldn't. On the form factor other other things. You wouldn't do that with a regular computer even though you could in ways but some of this. Electrical components are harder to connect to computer as a result. So but I think the most important thing just like open source software. Open source hardware has begun to build its own community. Where there's unique expertise. That other people can tap into and people are sharing applications and code and ideas. And and that's really what's exciting. Let's talk about robots -- and yes. I took my son who at the time was about four to one of the robot battles here body about a year ago. And it was a pivotal moment in his in his development from that point on he was fascinated by robots and he wants to build them out of Lego which is. Tough for four year old what is it about robots and the the creation of these devices that whether they're autonomous or not. We build to. Do things and more partly to destroy other robots. One of our basic instincts is to be able to control something. And and and -- robot sort of gives us that little package like to make that move -- make it move fast cannot make it jump can I do all the stuff. And programming in that context becomes this exercise in controlling something else. I wanna talk about one of things -- talked about the top here which is the economy. I don't think it was as in bad shape when you launched. Make magazine or even the maker -- but since the recession people have a lot less money has that. Impacted the DIY culture both in technology and elsewhere. Try to answer that one -- I don't think so in a certain way. In the original DIY movement in America is associated with the recess at with the depression 1930s. People became handy and in other cultures like Australia where there was a distinct lack of resources for a lot of reasons. DIY. Oh becomes an important strategy for dealing with. The constraints the living under and you know our problem in America as we have actually too many resources we we have tons of things. And I I think today where it comes a little bit more looking at things like global warming environmental isn't a saying you know. What do I you know and and might just creating things and up and landfill how can reuse recycle -- -- make something. And and to some degree be smarter about the things that I'm. I'm -- site I think there's almost a design sensibility that's that's driving some of this. But I I I I I would add that that. You know that. This is a source make and the makers are entrepreneurial. They are trying in many cases to start a business some wanna be hobbyists and keep that private and others are making kits they're making devices. -- are finding new ways to create value. That large companies would have been required to do previously so there is an economic story here but I don't think it's hard scrabble. -- -- Now one of the things that makers have now which they didn't even a few years ago is is incredible new tools in particular we're seeing a lot of things like tech shop and -- space is open up and they have in them. 3-D printers and things like that talk to us about the importance of these and who. Tools to take ideas and make them make them physical. Well it's a whole -- personal fabrication and I think we are actually seeing new technologies -- I'd have to say that. We mentioned Apple to in the personal computer I think the personal 3-D printer -- kind of our. You know core technology that's come out of the maker world so far -- company and Brooklyn. Maker -- industry uses is. In taking something that exist on an industrial level twenty or 30000 dollars. -- just like the mainframes and in the created something. App hobbyists level for under a thousand dollars but in addition to that we're seeing laser cutters were beginning to see the price of these things come down. But it's it's really that. A lot of this technology was imagined for only an industrial -- And and we're seeing it move from that to a personal sounding like it might be a factory. You of these existing factories but they might be in your garage but what you have -- -- here -- and some of the things that. Illustrate what -- -- well I am the reason there's no and here yet is it. I use. Interns I have interns from a junior college girls' junior college in the coming in the afternoons after school. For so that if if it did so and they're here late at night usually -- 8 or 9 o'clock. And there's a couple things but mostly what they do as we get into submission from an -- -- he's built project and he documents that for us. I'm we take that give it to our interns and say see if you can build a we'll give us supreme yards seem jarring or Marines there -- -- Tesla coils the size of the size of any hands. What's that well as well and again he's an account sometimes we discover something new bring back -- it has a close last year we. Question what about our innovations such -- to create a big dark call them and in that we had. Market -- which is musical -- coils. So it's Tesla coils that are like you know reacting to music and guys are playing along with it. And it's fabulous it -- it just really stands out. And in that -- we have other sort of things that are driven by light need in the darkness and I'm looking forward to the new things will happen there. -- -- a piece large piece by Michael Christian. That was a burning man and it's on its its large globe -- four layers of and Needham analyst with Indian side. I think that will be interest thing. We have up outside we have a really large piece called colossus. And it's. It's like seventy feet tall. And from -- -- large stones and and it's just this massive piece. But like the may -- you know he grabbed hold of it -- you can move it around now you mention briefly burning man and it seems to me that there is a psychological threat that runs from burning man into the steam punk movement into the maker movement. Psycho analyze this connection for well I don't -- Psycho analyze it but I think -- at home really great signs of of creative culture in this emerging. Sense of what people can do themselves and their own creative instincts. One win. You know and and often has this strong social context. You know -- we talk about social in terms of FaceBook and obvious things but so that's agreement. Are bringing 40000 people -- -- And they're not it's not just a rock concert where there out there sitting down listening they've built something they've made something there. You know there they actually have to make their own shelter so I can't think of anything. You know would be a better predecessor and and connector to -- -- than -- burning and in. You know some people said we're we're kind of you know what would that. We're we're. Currently takes in the adult elements out of the burning man. But you know these are often the -- it's a Bay Area and then burning it in many ways its origins are here. And many of the people that participate burning -- participating here. In various ways and we're just another venue for them I think the difference this is a really family friendly event. And and I think even talking to -- community kind of realized that you know they're beginning to have kids -- how do you connect them into this creative culture and and that has technology. And lots of other elements to. That that's -- I think that the connections. Speaking of kids. Make magazine is lot of fun burning maker Faire is there's a great family entertainment but there is an underlying thread of education. Learning how to do stuff learning how things work how to do things for itself. Having worked on these projects for -- -- what you think about how we make education better for kids based on what. You've seen from the way to make projects work. Great question I mean I really. Spend a lot of time last year and a half or so and partly. You know it's -- is initiated by just seeing kids maker fair and seeing how alive they are -- in -- and and their parents recognizing that saying. Now and you know Johnny really likes the willingness non they didn't know that so that's important. I didn't -- teenagers reading the magazine and I never expected this to be sort of -- young person's magazine but. To them it reads like a skateboard with -- skateboarding magazine it's cool. There's things to do. And and I think at the heart of maker Faire. Imagine that there was a chance to learn from other people you know not from books not from video but to -- asks summit he went to get the idea. And how do you put that -- that together and how does actually work and that's. You know that this -- the most probable transmission. You know knowledge that that we can imagine. You know and and yet it's still effective today so when you ask the question about what does this tell us about schools with reports for teachers and it's. Well first of all might you know we bring about 500 teachers maker -- each year given tickets and we do surveys -- them and and there they're hungry. For things they can do with the kids -- -- classroom to engage them and and I think this idea of projects. It is is really important. For most people don't live in the Bay Area or Detroit or New York I know I imagine that there are smaller and more off -- of maker fares coming. But for everybody else. What -- recommended for parents who might not be quite so technically adept or crafty. Who who they see a spark in their in their kids. A young child to teenager whatever. You modulate those snap hits -- what do you recommend for you yet. If -- mean well it's another great question because I'm in -- depends on the agent and a lot of things. You know when it indicates a young doing projects together in building a rocket setting off -- stuff and this is. Party inspiration from make was thinking about you know you can go back and find fifty year old sixty own projects and popular mechanics and and and say hey that's still fun you know kids haven't done that today. So. It you know there's a whole. You know online particularly -- you -- Millions of projects to -- so some you know that what to do is is. Really depends on what your interest are and I think that's especially get to teenage against the music -- -- instruments synthesizers. You know if -- -- -- robots let's let's let's that the let's do something here. There -- a lot entry points that are kind of small inexpensive and and if you keep going you know get up to those 3-D printers laser cutters. So. But I think it's it's really that invitation to do stuff that needs to be. You know brought back on -- is a great place to do it. But my my vision around maker Faire is that it's it's a community based learning and in other words. Learning is not limited to schools. It's exist in our community they're smart people -- interest in people there's creative people all around us. And if we -- in every community in America network them together whether through a mini maker Faire that we offer or just a makers club or something else by another name. You know how you take what you're doing and connect to other people make it social and and then it begins it. Build a new you've created an audience for what you do. And an opportunity other people who do interest in things I think that's the dynamic we'd like to see in some ways even if it happens in school we've gotta get the work product out of school. And connect more into the community. Now we got one question this is from a listener of the show. Who says how -- make culture impact the rest of the world in. In the next fifty years question African nations he says and other parts of the world emerging are filled with makers and inventors of the future how will make -- -- you know great. Well I have a good answer to Africa because America local four has started maker -- Africa and its and its third year. So his idea. Around it and have to give him all the credit -- he's putting together and said maker -- is a great idea for Africa. And I'd like to run with it and we said great there's no way I can figure that out so. -- Really -- -- want to highlight the makers in. African culture -- -- this that the native people what they're doing there or not. What it westerners want them to do not importing technology now asking them to learn it but how -- they solve problems in that world whatever kind of creative. Making it happens in in the -- so. You know they were gonna first year in Kenya last -- and I'm so configured with an -- as -- -- Cairo. -- -- -- -- -- You know every culture make is is being published now in Korea Japan. And China. So I'm not that really is something worldwide about this maker movement and ends -- blend of traditional. Activities thing in every culture has its own making. -- in its own reasons for making but there's also I think a new moment. For understanding it today and in on trying to get a view of it as much as anyone else like why are people doing all these things today -- -- now as opposed to not ten years ago. -- They'll thanks for much thank you. You get tickets for the maker Faire -- in the -- -- had maker -- with the union dot com. Is the weekend of may 21 and -- second. Thanks again we'll see you next -- on record.