Making communities

There is life out of the social networks. There is life on the internet out of the social networks. Actually, intelligent life. Let me recall for you how the internet helped create great sharing and collaborative communities way before social networks were even an idea, and how these have given rise to the most interesting phenomena to emerge on the web in years: hacker-spaces and crowd-funding.

It all began in the late 80s-early 90s, when internet was not more than commands prompts and Mosaic. When people made software and shared it for free under incredibly clever names as postalfree, requiring you but to send a postcard from your city to add to the author’s collection. And then came linux, with people getting together just to create something they deemed necessary.

For many years, open software community kept growing, with bigger and bigger projects, but also small ones without which our computers would not be the same.

And then other people got together just to share what they knew and grow incredibly huge info sites. This was IMDB. And then Wikipedia…

and so many after those.  And also these collaborative web projects kept growing and new projects came about. Of these many changed, many died, many still stand and many even betrayed their true origin. But also forums, which do not belong to  projects, contain such a vast amount of information and experience that it is not possible to harness.

Simultaneously, people who like to ‘make’ things (‘makers’) have gathered around these ‘making communities’. They have made communities of makers! To share information, tips, and help each other build anything you can think of. And the mid two thousands saw the emergence of open-hardware: arduino,  reprap… and many followed. But reprap made a difference. It was based on the phylosophy of creating a machine that could replicate itself with the final objective of reaching everyone everywhere and allowing them to have a tool, a real Swiss knife. And this idea permeated the minds of makers communities that have since searched for ways to bring home at the cheapest cost possible technologies that seemed too far away from the common man: 3d scanning, 3d printing, holography.

I was there, I’ve seen it happen and I can tell you about it.

I love these communities, the knowledge, the craft and the generosity.

I valued them for what they had  already achieved. But I did not expecgt though, that they could evolve into something better. And yet, they have. While they still live and grow, they are the seed of two phenonena I still marvel at: the hackerspaces and the crowdsourcing.

Hackerspaces, or makerlabs, or makerspaces are places where makers and wannabes gather share and build tools and ideas, and create and learn and teach. They are blossoming everywhere (though in Spain not as much as I’d like), each one with its onw rules, features, equipment and charism. And they offer a new space to share all that was previously virtual, in real life.

And then crowdsourcing. People deciding to take risks, invest their time and make things for the community have found that the community is more than ready to economically support them, funding them when they offer something new, interesting for a fair price. Many new companies have started based on many small contributions… no need for venture capital, or guardian angels… just the customers trusting the maker and paying in advance.

Interested? Come and listen to me tell you about it at TEDxPlazaCibeles

By Arturo Pérez Muals @theotocopulitos

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