When KipKay started making videos for Make: Magazine, I was exposed to something that I had never seen on Make in such numbers before: trolls. Now I’ll admit that I don’t particularly like KipKay’s style, but it’s not going to cause me to stop subscribing to Make, or say mean things about the magazine or KipKay. If I don’t like KipKay’s video’s, that’s fine because no one is forcing me to watch them.
I’ve seen a few other such comments recently, and I wanted to write this post to respond to them. Yes, it’s true: you can probably find a lot of the information that is in Make on the internet. It won’t be as neatly compiled, it won’t be neatly bound, and you’ll probably have to cobble together a few different tutorials that may or may not fit well together, but for many projects you can do it. Yes, Make has advertising, and gets (used to get?) funding from that purveyor of electronic snake-oil: Radio Shack (Radio Shack, if you’re listening, I love you, but the quality of your parts is terrible and Digikey is so much cheaper… I’m sorry… can we still be friends at least?) Yes, they occasionally, or even frequently, post projects that are not strictly necessary, or even practical. But if you’re focusing on those aspects, then you’re completely missing the point of Make.
Make, for me, is about inspiration. When I pick up a copy of Make Magaszine, I usually read it cover to cover. What keeps me interested – even though I might already know how to build a lot of the projects, or know where I can find them on the internet – is the creativity, the ideas, and the style. I enjoy seeing DIY art and technologies and what other people do with them, and then thinking about how I can use those applications to make my own projects even better. Before I started reading Make, I didn’t know what an Arduino was, I didn’t know how to program a microcontroller, or half of the other practical electronics things I now know, and I didn’t know that there were other people like me in the world or where they were. If I hadn’t happened upon Make: Magazine one day, sitting on a shelf in Borders, I wouldn’t have learned about Kite Aerial Photography (one of my favourite long-term hobbies,) or Makerbot, or Arduino, or even Digikey, Jameco, and Mouser.
This leads me to one of the most important aspects of Make: kids. Kids don’t know what they’re looking for. They’re just looking for a certain kind of mental stimulation. For example, when I was a kid, I wanted to learn anything computers, electronics, or space. I didn’t know that what I was looking for was called circuit analysis, circuit design, digital circuits, computer engineering, boolean algebra, or amateur space exploration – I didn’t have the knowledge or the vocabulary to know what I was looking for, I just know I was looking for it. For you and I Make is fun, but for kids it’s essential. We live in a “why make it when you can buy it” society, and that’s killing us. If you buy everything and make nothing, you’ll very quickly find yourself unable to buy anything, and without any skills you’ll never be able to. Today’s kids need Make to help satisfy their curiosity and to foster their creativity and ingenuity.
So to wrap it all up, Make isn’t valuable because it’s an all purpose “How-To” manual, or textbook. Make is a source of inspiration. And if that isn’t enough for you, no one is forcing you to read Make. If you like it, read it. If you just want to find instructions on the internet, google them. If you want to see different content in Make, or you want to see it done differently, then make a suggestion (you can e-mail anyone on the Make team with suggestions.) If you’re ideas are radically different, then start your own magazine!