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Making is Hard To Do

By Dale Dougherty Co-founder of O’Reilly Media, Founding editor and publisher of Make magazine, Co-creator of Maker Faire

At the core of the maker movement is the idea that we are more than consumers; we are makers. We are producers, creators, builders and shapers. Makers are enthusiasts who love what they do and want to share it with others, as seen in Make Magazine. Makers are mostly amateurs.

Makers “scratch their own itch,” to use the phrase that Eric Raymond coined to describe what motivated Open Source developers. Making technology do what we want it to do and adapt it to our creative and personal goals is very satisfying. This desire to satisfy ourselves and our interests is at the heart of a growing DIY (do-it-yourself) culture. Yet this is a culture that is very personal and intensely social. Makers are builders of communities that organize around shared interests. We’ve seen the growth of maker communities, both online and local.

There’s no better place to meet makers than this weekend’s at the NY Hall of Science in Queens. You’ll meet hundreds of makers who exhibit their creative projects that use technology in innovative ways. You’ll be among thousands of others who we hope get their first hands-on experience making something and meeting others who are makers.

If consuming is meant to be easy, making is hard by comparison. While a lot of DIY projects may be easy to do, many of the projects that makers undertake are hard. Hard as in hardware. Working with hardware isn’t as hard as it used to be. Hardware is now benefiting from the same forces that allowed open source to reshape the software industry and create the web economy. Makers are part of a prototyping revolution that is inviting a new audience to design and develop products. Open technologies and new collaborative processes just might change the way we make things at work and home.

Yet if the maker movement is to continue to grow, we must understand the importance of community building and broadening participation. Maker Faire has served as a catalyst for community building. There are over 60 Maker Faires worldwide this year. Maker Faire helps to identify makers so they can find each other in a community. It also helps to invite others to participate and learn to become makers.

The growth of hackerspaces and makerspaces is crucial to the success of the maker movement. These physical workshops organize tools, materials and expertise for people. They help to prepare makers and train them to do things that many of us would think are hard to do. It’s also important that these workshops be available for young people. Many existing spaces cannot serve young people because of liability reasons. We need find ways to include young people in the existing spaces or by setting up unique spaces that are focused on the needs of young makers. That’s become a personal goal of mine – to extend the maker movement to schools and reach more young people.

We need more places in our community where young people can go to learn and gain the experience of making. And we need more mentors and other volunteers to provide expertise and personal support. We have two key initiatives: the MENTOR Makerspace program and the non-profit Maker Education Initiative. The Makerspace program is a DARPA funded program to establish physical workspaces in up to 1,000 high schools over the next three years. We have just launched our initial round of pilot schools in the Bay Area.

We’ve also set up the non-profit Maker Education Initiative to work with partners to develop model programs that provide more opportunities in our communities for young people to engage in making. One of its programs is Maker Corps, which will help organize volunteers in communities to help develop young makers.

We want everyone to understand that they can become makers. While it’s not necessarily easy, it is possible. For those makers who develop and share their own creative projects, it can be very satisfying.

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