I’d like to welcome Ken Denmead to Maker Media. He’ll start May 13 as editorial director. He replaces outgoing editorial director Gareth Branwyn. Ken has been editor and publisher of Geekdad and publisher of Geekmom, which recently struck out on their own. Ken is a civil engineer who will be quitting his day job to join us at MAKE. We’re excited to have his energy and experience to help us shape our online community.
Here’s a short Q&A with Ken to help you get to know him.
When did you realize that you’re a maker?
It was only after my first Maker Faire in 2007 that I started thinking about it in those terms, that a person could consider themselves a maker. Really, I’ve been “making” all my life, from helping my parents restore English sports cars as a hobby growing up, to figuring out how to fix the computers and expand the network at my job in the construction industry, simply because no one else knew how or wanted to try. I’ve been building things, and hacking things my entire life. Indeed, as an engineer, I’ve been trained to want to know how things work and to endeavor to improve them. But it wasn’t until I’d experienced a Maker Faire and was dropped into the creative soup of the maker zeitgeist that I grokked I was really already part of it.
Tell us how you got started on GeekDad?
I discovered and started reading GeekDad in early 2007, not long after Chris Anderson (then editor-in-chief at Wired magazine) founded it as a place to share the projects he was doing at home with his kids. Not long after, Chris put out a call to the readership for people to become contributors, and I gave it a shot (even though he explicitly stated he didn’t really want more folks from the Bay Area). I knew if I didn’t try, I’d kick myself for passing on the opportunity, and against all odds he asked me to join. After that, I went to town. GeekDad was the best definition of who I was, and I loved the writing and the community. By September, after I’d started the podcast, Chris asked me if I’d like to take over leadership of the site, and I agreed without hesitation. One of the top three life decisions I’ve made!
So, you’re a geek and a dad?
Precisely. My geek cred is that I’ve been playing role-playing games since elementary school (original D&D Basic box set FTW!), and living on the internet since 1992 (on my Mac IIgs). I was even a Guide on AOL back in the old days, moderating chat rooms. These days, besides from running a blog or two, I’m obsessed with connecting everything in my house to the internet. And my dad cred: I have two boys, one in junior high and one in high school. Becoming a dad didn’t mean (to me) needing to change the geek side. As a parent, I hope my kids will enjoy the same things I enjoy, but I recognize the importance of letting them be who they’re going to be, and find their own ways. Indeed, my older son is very passionate about sports, but in a geeky way, and thankfully he can quote Monty Python and Doctor Who with the best geeks around. And my younger son is a geek through-and-through, the kind of kid who will go back and re-play video games multiple times, just to see everything. I’m pretty proud.
How do you see your new opportunity to engage the maker community?
This is a wonderful chance to rub elbows with the greatest group of people in the world. Anytime you can engage with people who are passionate and creative, you’re going to come out of it enriched yourself. I’m humbled by the things I see at Maker Faire every year and knowing I’m going to get to work with these people and help them find a platform to show their amazing work off to the world thrills me to no end.
Core to our mission is welcoming all kinds of people and inviting them to become makers. How might your experiences with GeekMom help inform how we connect with a diverse maker community?
Everyone who wants to make, and who therefore wants to be a maker, should be able to do so, full stop. The interesting thing I learned over the years of running GeekDad, and then helping found GeekMom, is that the most important thing I started with was just the “geek” part. My personal definition of geek has been the type of person who is so passionate about a hobby or pursuit that it may cause them social detriment from time to time. There is every kind of geek in the world, and if you consider yourself some kind of geek, you should also aspire to recgonize the other types, and embrace them as parts of your own meta-community. When I started running GeekDad, I didn’t look at is as a site for dads so much as for geeks in general, and at the time, we had a mom there as well (Asha Dornfest, founder of ParentHacks, who is a friend to this day). And I added more moms, because I wanted the site to simply be about geeks and parents.
But names, and brands do mean something. It was funny that, even at the first Maker Faire where I ran the GeekDad booth (2008), people would stop by and ask, “this is great, but where’s GeekMom?” After a while it got tiresome to try and explain our attempt at inclusion, and when the domain became available, it just made sense to start GeekMom with the moms who were at GeekDad. And that worked – there is a different voice to that community, and sometimes those differences are important to allow develop.
Looking at MAKE I see a tremendous opportunity. Makers can be anyone. Calling yourself a maker doesn’t mean you’re a man, a woman, young or old, of any given ethnic or educational background, or any other classification. It just means you like to make. And with that as a starting point, everyone has a chance to get involved, be part of their own sub-communities (with their own distinctive voices), but not lose the connection to the meta-community of being a maker.
Which machine would you most like to own, if you don’t already? A laser cutter, a 3D printer, or a CNC machine.
Do I really have to choose? Which one fits best in the back of my Mini?
Seriously, I’d go with the 3D printer first, as I think I’d ramp up to making it useful the quickest (and I really want an army of tiny plastic Daleks). Second would be the CNC, simply because my father, who is a lifelong woodworker and craftsman, would drool over it. The laser cutter would be dangerous in my hands, as I’d probably end up trying to etch Tolkien illustrations into the doors of our stainless steel refregerator (“Speak ‘lunch’ and enter”).
Please leave your own welcome for Ken in the comments and feel free to share ideas on how we can improve our website. Also, look for Ken at Maker Faire Bay Area.