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A Nation of Makers

A Nation of Makers

Time and knowledge are two of the most valuable currencies we have to offer one another. I’ve spent a large amount of my time teaching others how to share and creatively apply their knowledge. New ideas are created through this process which are not just valuable to the recipient, but to the rest of society. Sharing knowledge allows humanity to move forward. One of my favorite metaphors for this comes from Bernard of Chartres where he observes that we have seen what we are able because we stand on the shoulders of giants. This is another way of saying that we are able to discover new ideas because we have been made aware of other’s previous discoveries.

Our gained knowledge has lasting impact. This knowledge enables us to reclaim discarded or dysfunctional items for new purposes, solve hyper-local problems ourselves, inspire our youth toward socially-responsible action, and achieve goals much bigger than any single one of us can solve individually. This knowledge democratizes manufacturing and craftsmanship. It educates us on ways which are gentle on our environment and good for local economy. And it will be important for our children to assert their ownership over the world around them instead of expecting profit-motivated companies to put our best interests first. Ensuring that we share our ideas and knowledge will enable our kids to do that.

“Giving more Americans the opportunity to make, invent and create is critical to our future. Making can inspire more young people to excel in STEM education, promote entrepreneurship in manufacturing, and empower more people to solve problems in their communities.”

– Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Creating opportunities for sharing knowledge in an open and friendly environment has been an important goal for me in many of my volunteer projects. I started with South Florida Hack and Tell which offered a format for short project demonstrations culminating in a friendly Q&A session. The Miami and Palm Beach Mini Maker Faires were large-scale celebrations of creation which allows visitors to literally poke and prod while satisfing their piqued interest. The creation of South Florida’s first non-profit makerspace, The Hacklab North Boynton, was founded and purposed as a permanent facility to exercise creativity and innovation. Each of these projects has built upon the previous work and increased the yield and impact of the knowledge and time investments offered by those involved.

While these endeavors have all been personally pursued, there are many others in South Florida who are doing the same. Events which emphasize idea distribution such as Pecha Kucha, TEDx, and Code for America all have a presence in South Florida. Other businesses are finding ways to include permanent space for creative exchange into their business model like Young Makers Lab, 01, Moonlighter Miami, Ecotech Visions, and Miami Industrial Arts. Schools such as Poinciana Elementary in Boynton Beach, The Greene School in Boca Raton, Pine Crest School in Forth Lauderdale, and Miami-Dade College are including hands-on, application-based learning to reinforce their normal core curriculum. Not to mention communal organizations which catalyze relationships between businesses and creative individuals such as Palm Beach Tech and Refresh Miami. These local efforts are part of what many are calling the Maker Movement, a not-particularly-new spin on the old “Do It Yourself” mantra which encourages us to Learn by Doing. And at the middle of these efforts are other individuals like me, who are investing their own knowledge and time, who are the reason for pushing the imaginations of so many people further and making their community better. (I encourage you to learn more about these efforts and get involved!)

Maker Faires and community workshops where people congregate to share knowledge and time can be a worthwhile investment, however these are roads which are not often traveled. These are new ways of doing business, of attracting attention, and of promoting social change for the better. Quite often, much of this has never been done before and the infrastructure to support these individuals does not exist yet. As the Movement continues to grow, this infrastructure is eventually created to support even bigger change. And that brings us to the next chapter of our Maker Movement.

Earlier this year, hundreds of organizations from across the United States who run businesses which exist to spread knowledge convened on the White House in Washington, D.C. to discuss how they were impacting their local community. That conversation has continue through several meetings, lengthy discussions, and thoughtful discourse since and culminated in an important announcement which we made on November 15th: the formalization of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping makers called The Nation of Makers. The non-profit will support maker organizations through advocacy, the sharing of resources and the building of community within the maker movement and beyond. Whether you acknowledge the Maker Movement or not, this organization is will be instrumental in improving our local impact in South Florida and across the broader United States.

Nation of Makers will support the full range of organizations that impact makers by encouraging connections, broadly sharing resources, facilitating funding opportunities, engaging in policy development, and advocating for the Maker Movement. The organization will help maker organizations amplify the passion, innovation, creativity, and diversity of the maker community, and maximize both its local and global impact.

– The Nation of Makers Launch Press Release

We have attracted some fantastic thought leaders who also happen to be makers to our Board. Among them include Harley K. Dubois, co-founder of Burning Man, Pamela L. Jennings, Professor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Winston-Salem State University, Adam Savage, head of Tested.com, and Stephanie Santoso, former White House Senior Advisor for Making. I’m proud to be part such an excellent development and I encourage everyone to learn more and get involved. Here is Adam Savage with a short announcement of the non-profit.

I am enthusiastic about the years to come and am thankful for being able to support such an exciting and impactful movement. The Nation of Makers has gathered over 300 formal letters of support from organizations, universities, governments, and communities. Sign up for the newsletter and learn more about the Nation of Makers at http://www.nationofmakers.org.

On Manufacturing Your Own Serendipity

On Manufacturing Your Own Serendipity

People who spend their money on the slim chance to win millions are derogatorily referred to as gamblers. “These people have a problem and need to get help,” but I understand the satisfying feeling of spontaneous and beneficial discovery. Or in their case, discovering their bank account several times larger than it was mere seconds ago. These people aren’t really addicted to spending their money. They’re addicted to serendipity. And sure, some extra money is a pretty shallow victory. But with a more altruistic goal in place, serendipity tends to be a pretty satisfying experience. It’s the reason I’ve gambled upwards of 100+ hours of free time in the past six months to helping strangers improve themselves and their lives. It can be difficult for people to understand why I go out of my way to help others, but that’s only because they are looking at the  short-term benefits. In reality, I find a wealth of benefits that come from listening to other people’s struggles and then helping find ways to solve them.

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What Google+ Does that Twitter and Facebook Doesn’t

What Google+ Does that Twitter and Facebook Doesn’t

I said I wasn’t going to jump into the buzz machine to talk about Google+, but I think the broadcast model used here is pretty interesting.

I made a comment in response to someone wondering “How do I post something on your wall”. This is the Facebook paradigm which takes a graffiti approach to sharing information publicly. While you can “tag” people within your status updates (which is a relatively recent addition for Facebook) to draw their attention to your thoughts, you could also go to their wall and share your thoughts with them and everyone else who happens by (if they’ve set the permissions to allow this).

In contrast, G+ gives you a way of organizing individuals by the “circle” you both are socially connected within. These organizations are your own and you use these circles like a control access list to direct your thoughts toward the individuals contained within them. So my initial response to them was they were attempting to replace “Broadcast” with “Subscribe”. But I had it completely wrong. It seems to be a bit of both.

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