Welcome Rafe Needleman, Editor-in-Chief

Maker News
Welcome Rafe Needleman, Editor-in-Chief

I’d like to welcome Rafe Needleman as our new Editor-in-Chief at Make:. We have not had an editor-in-chief for some time — the wonderful Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing was the first and founding editor-in-chief. After eleven years, we’re looking for new leadership as the magazine, our websites and our events continue to respond to the growth of the Maker Movement.

I asked Rafe a few questions so that he can talk about his experience and share his own insights with makers.  — Dale

Rafe Needleman

Rafe, you have had a long editorial career that spans BYTE Magazine (one of my own favorites) to CNET and most recently Yahoo Tech. What is it about the role of technology and the people behind it that you find so fascinating?

I got into tech journalism because it blended my two passions: nerding out on tech, and writing. Before my first editorial job (at InfoWorld), I was a computer repair guy, then a database programmer, then an IT dude. All self-taught, of course. But as much as I found working with technology fun, what really got me going was seeing what all this rapidly-evolving technology was doing to us as people, and to our society. So tech journalism for me has always been about people and tools, and the co-evolution of humanity and technology.

And I dig getting hands-on, usually before the technology is ready to do what I want. I taught myself electronics and a modicum of plastic forming skills so I could make an LED sound-and-light ray-gun when I was a kid. I made my own nearly-real-time space battle game on a text terminal on my high school’s timeshare computer. I even wrote an email app for a computer store where I was working, back when the computers had to be connected by ribbon cable and couldn’t be more than 10 feet apart or the signal would degrade.

I was partly self-taught, but never alone. There were always people to help me along and share. I learned vacuum forming at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. I took a BASIC programming course at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. In most of my experiences learning new skills, the people teaching were just as excited about the possibilities as their students. That really makes a kid want to give back. This job is the best chance I’ve ever had to do it.

What excites you about the Maker Movement? 

Definitely the people. The raw enthusiasm of everyone who is making or hacking technology to do what they want. Their unsuppressable drive to always do more, and to do it their way.

I also believe that the Maker Movement is a cultural reaction to the growth of amazingly capable but opaque technology products, and to some extent how governments use technology as a layer between the people and their officials. The maker movement is a re-claiming of technology for individuals and their tribes.

If you were to ask me, I’d say what excites me is the people — the Makers and the Maker community. I want more people to know about what Makers do, how they do it, and the impact that they are having. I like connecting Makers to each other. How will you participate in this community?

Make, Makezine, the Make books, Maker Faires, and the Maker Shed are all community resources. I will do whatever I can to bring ideas and people and resources together. Whether it’s making sure we have the best range of projects and tutorials, or getting unsung hero makers in front of an audience, or pushing to make sure educators have the best tools and training available to nurture the next generation of makers, I’ll either be there or be pushing projects that get us there. You’ll see me out in the field, talking with Makers in their shops and then writing about their experiences, or podcasting, or doing videos. I’ll be at events, learning and sharing. I’ll be using the reach of the Make: media products to be sure the most creative people and projects are exposed to those who could benefit the most from the knowledge.

In coming to lead our editorial team, what should we expect from you?

This is the job I’ve always wanted, even though I didn’t know it when I started in this career. So the first thing to expect is enthusiasm for the Make: media properties and for the Make: mission. I hope I can use all my experience and expertise to help the team cover what needs to be covered and build what needs to be built. I want to make sure we’re all part of the community, too: The Maker Movement isn’t happening in the Make: offices. It’s everywhere else.

rafe and son at makerfaire

You’ve had experience with magazines in print but clearly our future is connecting more and more to the maker community. Can you talk about your vision for what Make: can become?

Make is a community above all else, and a publication to support that. And while print is beautiful and tactile, only when it’s online can media can really connect people together, sometimes even in real-time. The opportunity is to serve the community of Makers, to let Makers’ enthusiasm affect our editorial work, so that we can give back even more than we take in.

My vision for Make: is to do what the makers need. If it’s more stories of a particular type, fine. A better Web site, fine. Stronger online community resources, sure. More integration between Maker Media’s various media properties and events, almost certainly. More physical events? Stronger partnerships with other makers communities? Other media properties like podcasts or videos? It’s all on the table. The last thing I’d want to do in the days before I officially start the job is to say, “this is my vision,” and expect that I’m right about any of it. Certainly, I have my own dreams for Make:, but so do our readers, and I want to hear from them and the current editorial staff before I say I know where Make: is going.

You can email Rafe at rafe@makermedia.com. You can follow @rafe on Twitter.

10 thoughts on “Welcome Rafe Needleman, Editor-in-Chief

  1. Welcome Rafe Needleman, Editor-in-Chief Sherry Huss says:

    Welcome Rafe!

  2. rafe says:

    Thanks! Can’t wait to get started with this awesome team.

  3. Jotham Mcmillan says:

    Hi Rafe! Since you asked, here is what I would love. Make magazine has great articles and I have a nice personal collection. However, what I would love is a curated collection of articles and tools for individual topics on a webpage I can link to that is continually updated. For example, say I wanted to do CNC machining, I would like a page on just that that has the intro_to article, various articles and links to some of the commercially offered CNC machines that are suitable for hobbyists such as ShopBot, NomadCNC and upcoming models like PocketNC. Ideally with comparisons of their attributes. The work that Make Magazine has done for 3D printers and microcontrollers in standalone guides are exemplary. Currently, the topics on the website have all the information but it’s kind of thrown up there in a hodgepodge as opposed to a structured format suitable for reference (like the printed guides already are). The key words here are curated and updated. Just my two cents. Community members could be designated at subject matter experts for each curated topic and help with updating.

    1. rafe says:

      Thank you! I’ll see what I can do. What else?

      1. Jotham Mcmillan says:

        Well…since you asked :) I would love it if the Maker Pro section of the site was fleshed out a bit more. I read everything I can get my hands on but the challenge of going from a few prototypes to a Kickstarter to local manufacturing to order fullfillment is still a huge gap of knowledge and resources. Currently, it seems as though an incubator serves that role as guide however those are limited to whatever the incubator thinks is investment-worthy. Anything to help the small craftsman make the leap would be amazing (without losing their shirt).

        For example, I am working on a small LED-based project, I could probably figure out the CNC side of things (using my Nomad 883) and take it to a local machine shop in the Bay Area. However, if I wanted to move to injection molding, I barely know where to start. The only reason I might be able to make progress is because I met up with some great guys at this year’s Maker Faire who are farther along than me and encountered the same questions. This is the gap that I personally wish were filled. Thank you for asking.

    2. sophiacamille says:

      Hey Jotham. I think this is a really great idea. I do notice that there’s a page for 3D Printing here: https://makezine.com/3d-printing/ although not sure such a page exists (yet?) for CNC machining.

      1. Jotham Mcmillan says:

        Sure, let’s take this page as an example. When you load it up, you are confronted with recent articles, news snippets, etc and it goes on and on and on without context or organization. However, if I open up one of the Make guides to 3D printing, it has a table of contents and goes into describing the reasons for 3d printing, current technologies, etc. Obviously, you don’t want to poach all the contents of the guides because Make magazine is not a charity. However, it seems like all the existing articles on that page could be dropped into numerous buckets and organized by a table of contents on the currently non-existent left frame.

        In particular, I would love to read the thoughts of folks who follow that space as to what stuff is really groundbreaking vs. incremental. For example, the disadvantages of deltabot-style printers and how new companies/kickstarters might be addressing them (fully formed frames vs. assembled). Make: tests and uses more different 3d printers than anyone else, their insight and future projections are extremely interesting to myself.

        Due to the original 3d printer guide, I bought an Afini H-series and it has served my purposes perfectly. The expert reviews in the guide are what helped me choose my path. Over time, I added different build plates (borosilicate with Build-Tak) as my comfort level got higher and I talked to Afinia experts. Those kinds of insights such as Build-Tak would be nice to have on a curated 3d printer page.

        1. rafe says:

          Bookmarking this conversation so I can add it to my list of things to work on when I start the job. Thanks for putting your thoughts down, it’s great.

  4. goroe69 says:

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  5. Gleb Budman says:

    Congratulations Rafe on the new role, and Make on the great hire!

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty
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