We can make things better…

Folks, these are the best of times and the worst of times, as they say. I live a couple blocks away from Wall Street in a crummy apartment that is getting torn down as we speak. There are piles of ironic rubble everywhere. As I pack up electronics, copies of MAKE, and tools, it’s becoming clear to me that we have an historic opportunity to make things better, not just immediately, but for the future. We’re all likely to feel financial pressures with inflation; our dollars won’t go as far, so our interests and hobbies should be ones that give back. I’m pretty sure “DIY” is going to get even bigger, as more people will be making things. Some make because we want to, some because it’s all we’ll be able to do.

When we are young, we have lots of time, but not lots of money, so we play, we tinker, we explore. I think we’re going to have that opportunity again. The things we make, the tools we use, the books and resources we buy need to work harder for us and be things we not only learn from, but pass on to others, including children. We can spend more time together at meetups (MAKE, dorkbot, etc) and collectively form places, like hacker spaces and tool shops (NYCR, etc) to pool our resources. We can invest in hobbies that will give back, like electronics, woodworking, and DIY in general. Being able to make, fix, repair, and build might be the most important skills to develop. We really only have each other, and I think we’re all better off when we’re able to be self-reliant when we need to be.

We have a lot of challenges ahead. I’m an American and I tend to think that we are at our best when we are challenged the most. It doesn’t get more interesting than this. There are energy problems we’ll need to solve. There are education problems we’ll need to solve. If you’re a parent, you’re in the best possible position to help. You never know what will spark a kid’s interest, so you expose them to lots of things. I don’t have any kids (yet) but after a few years of doing Maker Faires and talking with thousands of parents, I know that electronics seem to be one of those things that kids go crazy with. I’m not sure how we’re going to make the world a better place, but I know we will need scientists and engineers.

As 2008 comes to a close soon, we’re doing everything we can at MAKE to inspire the current and next generation of Makers, who will be creating the next chapter in this story. We have a Maker Faire coming up in Austin (October 18-19). Tens of thousands of people will come together to celebrate making things. We also have a giant sale going on for the rest of the month (only a few days left): everything in the Maker Shed store is 10% off, and you get a free Maker’s Notebook automatically added to orders over $25. Use discount code CRZYDAN at the checkout. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a time to get started with electronics, this is it. Pick up a soldering set, a kit or two, and maybe an Arduino. There are dozens of people I know who got started and within just a few months were considering new careers; some have even started their own businesses making electronics.

I know there are lots of things you can do with your time and money, and I want to thank all the folks who support MAKE: everyone who visits our sites, watches our videos, reads our books and magazines, and comes to Maker Faire. We’re just one small group in a giant community that is trying to make things better. MAKE is just a collection of Makers; we didn’t create this group of people — they were and always will be out there. I hope we’re doing a good job celebrating this movement and inspiring folks. If you think there’s more everyone could do, I’m certain you will join in and help.

16 thoughts on “We can make things better…

  1. JP says:

    that was a very thoughtful post. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. mlange.myopenid.com says:


    “MAKE: Things Better”

  3. chris says:

    I’ve been reading the Make blog pretty much since its inception. The things I’ve read and learned about on here have enriched my life in ways I’m only beginning to understand. Unlike a lot of people I know, when I see a problem now my first instinct is to find a solution of my own accord, and this is something I credit to the entire DIY movement but especially MAKE.

    Thanks for doing what you do.

  4. macetech.com says:

    Thanks, MAKE, for publicizing the notion that not only should we talk about things, but we should actually get up and do things once in a while. Millions of people have yet to be convinced that they can do more than be passively entertained. Keep up the great project articles and the publicizing of unique objects and their makers. Support your regional MAKE: meetings. Expand Maker Faire to other cities or even other countries, if possible. Let’s be the nation of tinkerers we once were.

  5. Mike Dixon says:

    Well said, P.T.

    I couldn’t agree more, these are uncertain times, but it’s good to know that people are finding value in reconnecting with the things around them, and taking a proactive attitude toward understanding the technology, science, and craft that surrounds us.

    The world moves pretty fast, and if average people can’t have a hand in the things that have increasing influence in our lives (electronic and otherwise), we are setting ourselves up to have no choice but to give up that control down the road. Luckily, curious minds strive to understand, manipulate, and change these systems (technology, energy, etc.) in a ways that bring power to the people. MAKE, along with many other outlets, serves to document, share, and promote knowledge that helps people think and do things for themselves, and I suspect we’ll be needing plenty of people who can do that in the future.

    DIY is very empowering as a philosophy because it carries over to art, music, business, and anywhere else where people want to do things without having to worry about the reasons why they probably can’t (or shouldn’t), and it’s really inspiring to see people so enthusiastic, hopeful, and in love with what they do.

  6. agreed says:

    have been kicking around the idea of getting an arduino (especially with the sale and free book and all) but they are out of stock. apparently im not the only one… just the late one….

    nice post.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Too bad we can’t go back to the good old days before technology, consumerism, and the modern nation-state. If only we had avoided dependency on such “crutches” as the wheel, soap, and cotton underpants, we’d all be much better off. Of course, our life expectancy would be a fraction of what it is today, most of us would live and die in the same hamlet under the absolute authority of a feudal lord, and the occasional famine or plague would wipe out many of our loved ones, our fates would be determined by birthrights, and nearly all of us would work 80+ hours a week.
    Or we could avoid all of this by going one step further back before the invention of agriculture. There, about 20%-50% of all infants were killed to preserve mobility, the top causes of death were accident, animal attack, homicide, and childbirth.
    Stop romanticizing the good old days when we fended for ourselves and people were less greedy and more spiritual. “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake” wrote Joyce.
    Today’s economic woes are not trivial, but it is ludicrous to call it a “greater depression.” Are you f-ing kidding me. Our real GDP is more than five times larger than it was prior to the great depression. Our economic growth is still barely negative. A few financial firms have gone bust, some people lost homes that they apparently couldn’t afford in the first place, unemployment is up a couple of points (though still far lower than most Western European countries), and fuel costs are higher than they were a couple of years ago.
    It would be the greatest folly to abandon the very mechanisms that have created all of the affluence we see around us because we’ve hit a bump in the road. Specialization and free trade have brought us luxuries that our grandparents couldn’t imagine and lifted billions of people out of poverty.
    Some people need to constantly believe that apocalypse is just around the corner. I’ve often wondered why. Are you such a misanthrope? Is it a hope of the second-coming? Is it because you want to vindicate the socialist-idealism of your college years?
    Look at your own lives and the lives of the people around you. Then read up on what life was like during the great depression (and in the centuries and millenia prior). Blogger Mikey Sklarr is an idiot.

  8. efftee says:

    How about getting a bunch of makers together to purchase (or adversely possess) some ghost town? There are plenty of modern ghost towns in places where industry has just up and left. Wherever it is, it has to have those super cool Australian analog traffic lights!

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