A Maker’s World

One of the most exciting things happening right now is the maker movement: everyday people taking big ideas from conceptualisation through to reality.

In the IT world, this is nothing new and I have always felt a bit spoilt by this. Ever since the dawn of the information age people have been realising their hair-brained ideas, often on their own and without external help (or hinderance!). Inherently, programming lacks the constraints of the physical world as there’s very little upfront spend required and no expensive manufacturing involved.

And now this same philosophy is starting to take hold in more traditional industries, aided by the very technology that helped inspire it. They’re calling this new breed of pioneer’s “makers” and they come from all walks of life: from artists to jewellers, to scientists and fashion designers. This exciting DIY movement has seen a resurgence in interest over the past couple of years, with inspiration from Maker Faire (an annual gathering of makers that takes place in multiple cities in the US and the UK started by Dale Dougherty), the proliferation of 3D printers like Ultimaker, electronic prototyping platforms like Arduino and outsourced “making systems” such as Ponoko.

With everyday people taking control of the design, implementation and ultimately the marketing and distribution of products, traditional (i.e. complacent) industry should be more than a little worried about its future in a connected world.

Watch Dale Dougherty and others from Pixar et al talk about the Maker Movement at Google Tech Talks:


My new hero: Peldi from balsamiq

Back in October, I had the privilege of attending the Business of Software 2010 conference in Boston (some photos I took here).

It was an incredible experience which has been very well documented all over the Interwebs (my favourite account being from a super smart and lovely person I met at the conference by the name Lisa Wells).

That’s a hard act to follow, but I did want to make mention of a particular talk from a one
Peldi Guilizzoni, who hails from Bologna in Italy. Let me tell you Peldi is one heck of a guy. Armed with nothing but a MacBook Pro and a slightly unnatural penchant for vinegar he managed to set the UX world alight with his little (but gradually expanding) company’s wireframing tool. He launched balsamiq back in mid-2008, was profitable within 3 weeks and has now turned over in excess of $2M $4M (thanks Peldi :)). All in 27 months!

Impressive though this is, what I love about what he’s done is that he’s made his business about more than just selling a useful software tool. When you’re buying his software what you’re actually buying into is his simple philosophy: that life is too short for bad software. Peldi began his startup journey by focussing on solving this specific problem, but I have no doubt the idea for balsamiq had been brewing in his mind for a while during his latter years at Macromedia/Adobe.

What really surprised me about his talk at BoS2010 was how much personality Peldi brought to the table. In an industry that is unfortunately quite often marked with elitism and pedantry, Peldi’s light-hearted and candid approach was a breath of fresh air. He’s also a bit mad but a little of that can be a very useful thing! I found something about his story so relatable that I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my own life throughout his talk.

Since returning home to Sydney, the fires of inspiration have been rekindled and following Peldi’s example I will be documenting the progress of my own startup journey here. Wish me luck. By the trembling in my knees, I’m going to need it!

P.S. Videos from the conference have not surfaced yet but I strongly recommend checking out his performance (that’s what I’m calling them now) at the Less Conference 2010:

Driven to distraction

When it comes to creativity, few things disrupt the process of generating and refining ideas more than disruption.

This is particularly an issue in my busy (open plan) office environment, where my train of thought is often derailed a number of times an hour.

I’ve found that there’s a deeper level that my mind needs to get to (and stay in) to allow the process to take its course, thereby allowing me to deliver quality work.

I’m certainly not a special case at work, everyone in the team is affected by this issue to a varying degree. I think why I get disrupted perhaps more than most is because I’ve made myself a single point of dependency within the team.

It’s great to feel valued but in the end it can be a bit of a noose around your neck.

So until I’m able to create a clone of myself, I’ll instead focus on distributing my knowledge around and delegating responsibilities to other team members. Only then can I expect the distractions to reduce and allow me to refocus on the creative process.