What can the tech industry learn from the Maker community?

Raka Mahesa

June 12th, 2017

Just a week prior to the writing of this post, Maker Faire Bay Area was opened for three days in San Mateo, exhibiting hundreds of makers and attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees. Maker Faire is the grand gathering for the Maker movement. It's a place where the Maker community can showcase their latest projects and connect with other fellow makers easily. 

The Maker community has always had a close connection with the technology industry. They use the latest technologies in their projects, they form their community within Internet forumsand they share their projects and tutorials on video-sharing websites. It's a community born from how accessible technology nowadays is, so what can the tech industry learn from this positive community? 

Let's begin with examining the community itself.

What is the Maker movement? 

Defining the Maker movement in a simple way is not easy. It's not exactly a movement because there's no singular entity that tries to rally people into it and decide what to do next. It's also not merely a community of tinkerers and makers that work together. The best way to sum up the entirety of the Maker movement is to say that it's a culture. 

The Maker culture is a culture that revels in the creation of things. It's a culture where people are empowered to move from being a consumer to being a creator. It's a culture that involves people making the tools they need on their own. It's a culture that involves people sharing the knowledge of their creations with other people. And while the culture seems to be focused on technological projects like electronics, robotics, and 3D printing; the Maker community also involves non-technological projects like cooking, jewelry, gardening, and food. 

While a lot of these DIY projects are simple and seem to be made for entertainment purposes, a few of them have the potential to actually change the world. For example, e-NABLE is an international community which has been using 3D printers to provide free prosthetic hands and arms for those who need it. This amazing community started its life when a carpenter in South Africa, who lost his fingers in an accident, collaborated with an artist-engineer in the US to create a replacement hand. Little did they know that their work would start such a large movement. 

What lesson can the tech industry draw from the Maker culture? 

One of the biggest takeaways of the Maker movement, is how much of it relies on collaboration and sharing. With no organization or company to back them, the community has to turn to itself to share their knowledge and encourage other people to become a maker. And only by collaborating with each other can an ambitious DIY project come to fruition. For example, robotics is a big, complex topic. It's very hard for one person to understand all the aspects needed to build a functioning robot from scratch. But by pooling knowledge from multiple people with their own specializations, such a project is possible. 

Fortunately, collaboration is something that the tech industry has been doing for a while. The Android smartphone is a collaborative effort between a software company and hardware companies. Even smartphones themselves are usually made by components from different companies. And in the software developer community side, the spirit of helping each other is alive and well; as can be seen by the popularity of websites like StackOverflow and GitHub. 

Another lesson that can be learned from the Maker community is the importance of accessibility in encouraging other people to join the community. The technology industry has always been worried about how there are not enough engineers for every technology company in the world. Making engineering tools and lessons more accessible to the public seems like a good way to encourage more people to be an engineer. After all, cheap 3D printers and computers, as well as easy-to-find tutorials, are the reasons why the Maker community could grow this fast. 

One other thing that the tech industry can learn from the Maker community is about how a lot of big, successful projects are started by trying to solve a smaller, personal problem. One example of such project is Quadlock, a company that started its venture simply because the founders wanted to have a bottle opener integrated to their iPhone case. After realizing that other people wanted to have a similar iPhone case, they started to work on more iPhone cases and now they're running a company producing these unique cases. 

The Maker Movement is such an amazing culture, and it's still growing, day by day. While all the points written above are great lessons that we can all apply in our lives, I'm sure there is still a lot more that we can learn from this wonderful community. 

About the Author 

RakaMahesa is a game developer at Chocoarts: http://chocoarts.com/, who is interested in digital technology in general. Outside of work hours, he likes to work on his own projects, with Corridoom VR being his latest released game. Raka also regularly tweets as @legacy99.