Late at night I like to walk around the financial district in New York city. I live a couple blocks from ground zero and a few blocks from Wall street, the financial ground zero site now. When people and businesses move out of the area, which they seem to be doing a lot lately, they usually throw out tons of good stuff, no one moves in New York it seems, they just toss stuff and buy it again at another location. I have a mental list of all the things we need for the MAKE office that’s in my apartment, why buy stuff when you can find it. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of things thrown out that seem broken but after inspection, are not. We’ve needed a shredder for awhile, paying money for one seems silly, especially since I knew I’d find one on the street. Yesterday was my lucky day, walking back from an evening stroll, there it was – a shredder, a “Fellowes Powershred” in a pile of trash outside one of the dozens of Duane Reade drug stores. It was a little heavy, but I brought it back home and started to poke at it. I plugged it in and the LED lit up, but it didn’t work. Maybe it was the motor, or the sensor. A shredder is not that complicated, there’s not a lot that can break really. Taking it apart didn’t yield any clues, but then I inspected the bin it sits on. There’s a small plastic nub that activates a switch once you put the shredder in the bin, without this you could potentially get hurt if you pick it up while it was on and shredding, without it just doesn’t shred. The little plastic nub was snapped off! That’s a right, a perfectly fine and useful piece of equipment thrown away when it could have been fixed with one dab of glue or a tiny bit of cardboard. Seconds later with a new cardboard nub, I fired up the shredder and it worked, it shreds nicely.
About 5 years ago we started MAKE, a handful of motivated people shared a belief that makers should be celebrated. Through hard work and sacrifice a lot of dreams came true. 16 volumes of projects that will stand the test of time, handed down to sons and daughters, a Maker Faire that has hundreds of thousands of participants, a web site that captures the imagination of millions with the best community online, an online store with the best selection of electronics kits made by makers – in just a few days Make: television will make it’s debut on public television and the web. We didn’t do this by ourselves, you did, the makers.
It was a good year, but also a pretty crummy year too. We are at a defining moment in history, the world is a mess – what we do now will shape generations to come. The solutions to our problems aren’t going to come from the same people who created them. How will we inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers? We all can have a role – makers, teachers, parents, siblings, communities, a relentlessly curious friend. At Maker Faire parents tell us that their kid picked up MAKE or saw something interesting on our site, maybe it was a post, maybe it was a video – it sparked something and years later they’ve gone on to become a maker, an artist, a scientist, an engineer. How can we do more of this everyday, how can we celebrate making things and the people that make them in more ways?
2009 is going to be one of the most challenging years ever, 2008 wasn’t easy, 2009 will test our collective ability to endure. But something is stirring, there is energy out there – people are making things again, people are coming together to share, to learn, to inspire each other, people are starting businesses selling the things they make. If you make something, you’re not alone – through the web, through the pages of MAKE, through videos, through Maker Faires, through the site here, at hacker spaces – we’re going to get through these tough times together and we’ll be better for it. We’re going to “make” our way of it.
2009 is year of the ox – according to the Chinese calendar, the ox is an animal that brings prosperity through hard work. The outgoing Rat symbolises “wealth”. I’m happy to jettison the celebration of stupid, we are what we celebrate, good or bad – reality tv, irrational ideologies, ponzi scheme economies, the dumbing down of things, good riddance to bad rubbish. I can’t think of a more fitting symbol than the ox for the next year, unswervingly patient, tireless, fortitude… hard work. I feel lucky that I work with the best group of people in the world at MAKE, it makes working hard a lot of fun.
We hope you’ve gained something from MAKE over the last year, maybe looked at things a different way, took something apart, put something together – or maybe spent some extra time with your kids building something together. In 2009 we have big plans for MAKE, from international Maker Faires to connecting more makers with makers in person and online – 2009 will not be the year for small ideas and small plans, with your help we’ll celebrating making around the globe more than ever before. In 2009 we’ll ask many of you for help with things we need to do – we can all share mutual responsibility in making things better. I hope to meet more of you online and in person in 2009 to get this important work started, but most of all, meet people who will become new friends as we make this all happen together.
I know there is a lot of cynicism and doubt out there, from snarky comments on blogs to a collective “look the other way” when problems arise – but we’re not going to stop what we do here at MAKE, the makers are not going to stop building and sharing amazing things, the investments of time and resources in the world of making will help build our future – we all know we need to do something. I think America is going through some big changes, the more challenging things get the more gratifying it is to be patriotic, perhaps it’s because I like to fix things.
Maybe we are like that thrown away shredder that now sits in the MAKE office, at first glance it’s broken and not worth anything – but once taken apart, inspected, it’s clear that our motor is strong, our parts all work, we just need some makers to fix our switch to get working again.
Happy New Year makers.