Archive for category Meta

Why I am kind-of a Maker

Deb Chachra has a great article ‘Why I am not a Maker’ If you bother to read this site, I suggest you all go read it now, since this post is a continuation of that conversation. It’s a good and fast read, bit a bit scatter-shot. Done? Good!

My first take at adding to the discussion was mostly a list of sections of her article I disagreed with. But that was pretty crappy to read, and a crappy thing to do. Especially given how much of her general idea that I agree with, even if I disagree with the details.

My second take was to outline where I agree and/or disagree, or just don’t know where I stand yet. That was very long and tired and kind of hair-splitty for my taste. Really, just a bunch of overly complicated footnotes to the article.

This here is my third take at contributing to the discussion, and I’m going at it in a totally new (to me) way. I’m going to assume for the rest of this article that Deb is 100% correct, and is a perfect reliable witness. Take that, mix it with my own political/social point of view, and what conclusions would I then draw? I come up with 3 idea:

  1. Maker culture is deep into the late cycle of co-option by market system(s).
  2. Maker culture is American sub-culture, and by trying to be ‘apolitical’ is just generic./li>
  3. Maker culture is has become a self-aggrandizing big-tent Evangelical culture.

Co-Option: Put a ‘Maker’ on it !

The ‘Maker’ culture is being ‘green’ed. By ‘Greened’ I mean, it’s reach the point where it’s meaningless in it’s generality, and is just glued onto crap by people trying to sound like they have a clue. Glued into job posting, events. Stores cough Radio Shack cough using it to sell crap, it’s flavor of the month, like weird eggplants a few years ago, and the ‘Green’ label that is slapped on anything and everything. Thank you marketing and the desire for social/cultural capital for sucking the meaning out of a once useful term!

Politically: Generic American Flavorless.

Look, we live in a country with less female representation in congress (19%) than Saudia Arabia. We are the only ‘1st world industrialized’ country without paid paternal leave. For whatever reason, despite a pretty radical ‘left meets right, had some drinks, and fights, and then makes out behind the bar’ hacker community, ‘Maker’ community is politically and socially just a crappy rusted mirror of general American society. So like the US overall, it’s a great concept that got off to a good enough start that in success, it’s forgotten as it started core, and it’s weirdo’s and screw-ups that created it in the first place.


I love the section on the forced embrace of ‘I make BLAH’ nametags. It reminds me of the you-must-hug-us greeters at a lot of Evangelical churches growing up. It’s imagined as an attempted to be welcoming. It turns into a giant awkward turn-off, and in reality provides more comfort the hugger than the victim. Everyone must Code. Everyone must love Jesus. Democracy Will Work For You, Or We Shoot!

In reality, I don’t agree with a lot of what Deb said. I think a lot of her specifics are wrong, and that she mashes maker culture into startup culture. But for all the details I disagree on, don’t want to invalidate her overall point, or to undermine her experience, both of which I agree are spot-on. (And her awesome advice-to-younger-self is also spot on).

The Maker movement has shifted away from it’s scrappy rebellion stage, and large sections of it are building Start Destroyers, or just too busy buying TARDIS trinkets at Barnes and Noble to notice as the local mom&pop PC store is bulldozed over.

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Writing in 2014

I often get stuck writing essay’s, since I come up with counter-arguments as I go. I’ve always admired Darwin’s writing style, in that he builds a nearly airtight case from bottom to top, all the while making it clear where is is estimating, where he is fudging detail (and willing to admit or discuss it) or where he is generalizing, and *why* that generalization is a good place to start.

In the last year, I’ve written a lot less than I’d like to. I have in my task-tracker to write a weblog post twice a week, but between the new job, a young kid, and life I’ve really not had the time. Which is to say, I’ve had time to write, but not time to go back, and re-edit articles to be as airtight as I want (which is still, well, not so air-tight).

In 2014, I’m going to get back on the train to write more often. I’ll be leaving wikipedia style superscript[1] notations where I’ve skipped detail, or where I have to admit some details need refining. Maybe I’ll get back to those articles to edit and refactor, maybe I won’t. But at least I will get the ideas out there, and into the world.

[1] you know. These footnote thigies

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The Shadow of a skillset

Greek literature and culture had this concept that the very thing that makes you useful, great, or excellent is often your undoing. A kind of cultural every coin has two sides that really speaks to me, and somehow is an idea that resonates with my own experience in life.

  • I am excellent at starting things. Flip side: If there isn’t a definitive deadline or goal, I have trouble finishing them.
  • I make an amazing executor of community vision, and can grow them well Flip Side: I’m often fragile with my own personal vision, and if it has to mutate as it grows, I often get discouraged or stop liking it.
  • I am great at building community and collecting/filtering input Flip Side: Sometimes I let 2nd rate ideas or bad actors get away with things, because I don’t want to kill open feedback.
  • I am great at building community and collecting/filtering input Flip Side: Sometimes I let 2nd rate ideas or bad actors get away with things, because I don’t want to kill open feedback.
  • I am very honest about estimates and expectations. Flip Side: I can be too honest about problems or drawbacks, and have people use that against me.
  • I want to be a craftsman of several things Flip Side: It is unlikely I will ever reach mastery of any one thing.

In each of those cases, I learn and grow over the years. and those problems are less of show stoppers, and more of minor gotcha’s each year. I learn more and more how to lean into my skills, and lean into the blows dealt to me by the flip side of them. That wasn’t too hard to learn. The hard lesson is that when you try to fix the drawback, by definition you undermine the very skill the drawback counterpoints. Like a bad videogame skill selector, as you move one slider, the other magically adjusts too. Just due to time/space/brain constraints one can’t be everything, everywhere, or everybody.

I think it’s smart for everyone to ask themselves the two questions: ‘What skills do I have?’ ‘What are the shadows of those skills, the skill-inverse that is a drawbacks or can cause problems’? I think most people can answer the first. It’s obvious, and frankly kind of easy. It takes a lot more insight to understand the 2nd, and live with the implications of that answer. Of course, the real zinger of a question is then ‘So how do I setup situations, collaborators, and work to boost the 1st, and soften the threat of the 2nd.

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Prey Modeling

I’m reading just now this article on Predator Prey modeling. It’s a pretty cool system, and I’m surprised that I’ve not run across it before now.

I’d love to look into how this model could be used to predict companines moving into (and out of) product or service spaces. It seems that a lot of companies change their sales and features pretty responsively to the market conditions of the time. It seems this model could be used to follow and predict some of those behaviors.

This is (of course) especially interesting to me because Open Source companies (hardware and software) are probably more susceptible to those kind of changes, because they don’t have as much lock in.

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A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked

—John Gall

2nd Post (launching new site)

So, this is the Second Post! and in general bad form, as most second posts are.  This is mostly a test to be sure the website is running, and my new user account is solid.

This website is my professional (or pseudo-professional) website, where I’ll be posting about work, community events, and generally being a public person in the world.   I’ve wanted and needed a bit of a firewall between public and private life, and since I communicate a lot through the web, this is part of that division.