Today’s the Day!
Get out there and make something besides HTTP requests and log files…
In thinking about how I love to make and create things, be it art, music, electronic things, software, blog posts, cookies, photographs, accessories…. I think about why I want to make and create things, and I think it has to do with a few things.
I’m Cheap. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like spending money. My regular purchases tend to be things like food, gas, and rent. I pay the bills and I while I do pay for the tools I need to do my work (whether that work is “work-work” or “make/create-work”) I really don’t like to frivolously spend money on things, especially if I think I can make it myself. I prefer baking many of the foods that I eat over buying packaged food. I like knowing what’s in my food, and try to avoid certain things, so this helps a lot.
I’m DIY. I’m not sure how much the Do-It-Yourself label has been diluted (or perhaps spread is a better word) in the past 20 years or so, but 20 years ago I was printing my own zines, and stickers, and patches and t-shirts, and starting my own bands, and booking our tours, and booking shows for other bands, and putting out our own music (all of which was much harder to do without the World Wide Web) and for me, it feels good to do things myself. I see so many services online nowadays that provide things I can do myself, so I do them myself. There’s all this talk about outsourcing everything and putting it all in the cloud, but I often like to do it myself and be in control of things a bit more. I fear we’re creating a generation of people who expect “someone else” to do everything for them.
I’m a Legacy. My dad, and his dad, were both what we now call “makers.” They were both experienced woodworkers who build their own furniture, and could repair things, and had great collections of tools and knew how to use them. To this day, when I visit my mom’s house, I love the fact that the end tables were built by my dad. I’m a terrible woodworker in comparison, but I’ve taken to making other things, and when I do make something out of wood, I tend to paint it black to make it look cool, and to cover up my poor craftsmanship. When I make things, I sort of feel this connection to my family, who also made things.
I’m Fun. Who in the hell would ever think a pair of servos and a puppet would get such attention? Much of my making and creating things is done in the name of fun. Getting an idea and being able to execute it, to me, is a formula for a good time. If others enjoy it, it’s that much better… but I’m fine with being selfish and saying that it’s enjoyment in making and creating things that keeps me doing it.
I’m Cool. OK, I’m probably not cool, but what is cool is that it inspires people, like… my kids. (They might be the only people left who think I’m cool.) My daughter made me a cake and I’m still floored by how awesome it was. Knowing that they see me make things, and in turn want to make things, is top notch. I love it… I don’t even care if I’m not cool anymore.
So my plea to you, dear reader, is to Make and Create… Do Something! Don’t just be a passive consumer, buying a pre-packaged life, figure out what it is that you can bring into this world. If you’ve got ideas, take action on them, make them a reality, don’t be afraid of failing because failing is just what you do before you succeed.
I’ve been playing with some new lighting techniques (learned at Z2 Photo) and figure I’d give it a try while creating an inventory of some of the tools in the “2XL Makerspace” (also known as “my basement workshop.”)
These tools belonged to my dad, and they still work quite well. I find it interesting that many of the tools we use today (computers, phones, and even software) will not be used by our children when they are our age. By that I mean, the actual tools we use. If you’ve got a PowerBook now, you’ll probably replace it in a few years, and then replace that, and replace that, and on and on… in comparison, the jig saw and the drill press were the exact same ones my dad used over 25 years ago to make things.
Maybe the cycle is just sped up… I just gave my kids the old 20″ iMac because I replaced it with a MacPro. Of course in a few years that iMac will seem slow and outdated, or it will break, or die, or somehow become useless. The lifecycle of our tools for digital work seems so short… My youngest daughter asked if she can have my DSLR when I get a new one. Is it normal for her to think I will get a newer (better, faster) camera at some point? I’m sure I will… but I’m also sure that in 10 years she’ll be able to buy a newer (better, faster) camera for half of what I paid for mine.
Is this the price of progress, or is it just the difference between tools that create things in the physical world vs. tools that create things in the digital world?
Following up on my Consume / Create post, I was thinking about Apple’s current product line, and wanted to graph it out.
At the far left end is the iPod, which is almost an exclusively “consuming” device. I don’t know what kind of content you could create with an iPod. I mean, you could create content, it’s possible, but I don’t want to think that hard about it. Next up is the iPad, which is a cross between a big iPod and big iPhone. You could create written content, but it’s got no camera, and very limited connectivity in the way of input ports. (See Could No Camera Be an iPad Killer? and Parsons’ Students Shrug Off Apple’s iPad. No Camera, No Creativity) The iPad is a new device, so it’s hard know yet where it will fit into the landscape, so I put it before the iPhone. Now the iPhone has a camera, and you can play music on it, and (possibly) shoot video, and you could type up your novel on it, though you’d likely go mad in the process.
OK, so the iPod, iPad, and iPhone are mostly consuming devices anyway, but two of them let you create things, but there are various levels of “creating” thing, and honestly while my copywriter friend could tap out a killer headline on an iPad, my photographer friend is probably not capturing the next great image on an iPhone. I’m mainly focused on media creation.
We then move on to “real” computers, starting with the MacBook Air. It’s got a camera and one single USB port. I don’t see this is a serious computer for serious media creators. It is a super-lightweight laptop great for the traveler/writer/business person. Skip it. The low-end MacBook (often called “the whitey”) is next. Low-end. It’s got two (yes two!) USB ports, and Gigabit Ethernet, but no Firewire. And, it’s low-end, which means it lacks power. Really. It does. (Luckily, it has a built-in camera!)
I put the Mac mini in there next, as I think it’s a step up from the low-end MacBook. The Mac mini has a bunch of USB ports and a Firewire 800 port, which means I can connect something like a Panasonic HVX200 HD camera and move that footage. I can also connect a Firewire card reader and get 24MB RAW files from a DSLR or RED footage onto it at a reasonable pace. The Mac mini is no powerhouse, but connectivity-wise, it’s moving up the ladder.
We then move onto the iMac and then the MacBook Pro. The iMac is a nice computer, and you can even get one with a 27″ display that’s pretty adept at editing video. I put the MacBook to the right of the iMac, mainly because on the high-end configuration you get the ExpressCard slot, which will let you connect eSata drives, which is a step up from Firewire. The MacBook is obviously better for portability, and the prices (and features) intermingle a bit between the two lines. The latest 27″ iMac is available in a Quad-Core configuration though, which is some serious power, so I’m still not sure of the positioning of these two.
And as long as we’re still talking about that Quad-Core iMac, let’s compare it to the Mac Pro, the granddaddy of Apple’s Creation Stations… If you’re wondering whether you can forget the Mac Pro and just get a top-of-the-line iMac, well, that depends on what you are going to create. You can read Why It’s Still Smart to Buy a Mac Pro and as someone who maintains a Mac Pro with 4 internal drives, an AJA IO card and two G-Tech eS Pros which pulls in footage from the HVX200 as well as the RED ONE, I can tell you I wouldn’t dream of replacing this Mac Pro with an iMac. Not yet anyway…
What about price? Hmmm, I figured it would be worth reorganizing the above graph with cost being the variable.
Once again, the order isn’t perfect, but I think it’s a quick overview, and worth comparing to the graph above to see how they differ.
Anyway, now that you’re done consuming all these silly words, get out there are create something! From what I hear, it’s easier than ever before, and the equipment you need is cheaper than it’s ever been! :)
I think a lot about consuming versus creating. Consuming media comes easy to most people. The old world of broadcasting was dependent on consumers: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, the music industry, and on and on… they had to do one thing: pump out content that people would consume, and they did it well. 20 years ago if you wanted to create your own media, be it music, photography, writing, whatever, you had a lot of work to do to get any sizable audience to see it. Bands had to physically go out and play, go on tour, put on great shows, play good music, and hope people told their friends. Self-publishing a book 20 years ago? Getting your photos in front of a world-wide audience 20 years ago? How was that done?
Of course the World Wide Web came along and changed things quite a bit. Creating things became much easier, and distributing them even easier! You don’t even need to press vinyl or CDs anymore, or get prints made from your photos, everything is electronic now, and wowza aren’t we that much better off for it! The odd thing is, I almost feel like we’re reaching a point where consuming is overtaking creating, even though it doesn’t have to. I don’t know if it’s due to more “average” people using the web, or people have grown tired, or the novelty has worn off, or people are not staying discontent with the status quo. Creating new things should be more within our reach than ever before, but you’ve still got to have the motivation to do something about it.
I could blame social media. If I want to be a curmudgeon, I could say that 10 years ago I remember reading (and hopefully writing) so many blog posts about what people were creating and doing and ideas and thoughts and stories… and now it’s just simple to write a snarky comment in 140 characters, or click a ‘Like’ button next to someone post. And yeah, I’m guilty of this too, and maybe I feel bad about it sometimes because I’m one of those people who feels this need to create things… I feel like I can’t not try to make new things. They tell me that’s the curse of being creative.
But it’s not all bad… some amazing things happen every now and then. Consider that you can get the equipment to create “professional” level work for a mere fraction of the cost of what it would have taken 20 years ago, and we should be seeing an explosion in creativity. The tools are available, so it’s a matter of the creators getting the tools, and being able to focus on creating rather than consuming. If you’re not careful, consuming can be the enemy of creating.