Maker | Interview
Ou Ming-Chuang, sitting in chair before us, is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of MakerPRO, an iconic social network platform of Taiwan’s Maker social network. When interview day arrived, three of us, including an editor of MakerPRO and Ou Ming-Chuang, gathered in office and Ou Ming-Chuang wrote the history of maker movement on the whiteboard at one moment and the next showed us the circuit board taken from the drawer.
Ou Ming-Chuang, graduated from National Taiwan University with chemical engineering major, who has been working in the media of IT and the electronic industry for over 15 years. Along with the era of the advent of the Internet, the prosperous electronics industry till current Maker movement fever, “I have witnessed personally the up and down of Taiwan’s technology industry.” as said with smile by Ou Ming-Chuang.
While Ou Ming-Chuang’s peers one by one joined into TSMC or Hsinchu Science Park, taking in high salaries, relatively they needed to give their time and labor up, “ What an extremely tough life” Ou Ming-Chuang lamented：“Taiwanese have strong technical skills, but they are making money with great difficulty and effort.” With the emergence of China, the prosperity of Taiwan’s OEM business was beginning to fade out. This was the time, when Ou Ming-Chuang saw another kind of possibility for Taiwan technology industry. “That was 2012, when Raspberry Pi hits on the market, and the Maker movement became popular. For those talents with the background of IT or electronics, all development environment and application requirements are in place with right time.”
In the same year, Chris Anderson, author of “Makers：The New Industrial Revolution”, the trend master, declared that, “Maker will set off the third Industrial Revolution that will change the world as well as an opportunity for everyone.”
As Ou Ming-Chuang told the story, he wrote down several key milestones of Maker development on the whiteboard. Respectively, they are Open Source and Linux in the 1990s, Arduino in 2005, crowd fundraising platform Kickstarter, launched in 2009, and Raspberry Pi, released in 2012. “I often said that we are standing on the shoulders of pioneers. When we are watching the Maker movement, we must remember what those ancestors had achieved.” Ou Ming-Chuang went on to explain that conventional capitalism model, an economic system in which the production of goods in supply and demand is mostly dominated by large corporations. And those goods are for general purpose and hard to be customized. But Makers help turn over past model and create opportunities for everyone.
Through help from open hardware and open source software, anyone can turn his or her ideas into reality and share them with people through the ubiquitous Internet. The first benefit is to fulfill you requirement to create your own piece project. Then the second one is to share ideas and work with those people who have the same requirements, which may help multiply the target work from one to ten and to satisfy the group of people with small volume products. Then, thanks to the emergence of the crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter, people may raise their first bulk of gold for startup business.
With the help of open hardware, open source software, fundraising platforms and online communities, the whole process, including mass production, marketing and even business startup is no longer out of reach for everyone. “This type of circumstantial transformation has quite encouraging！” Ou Ming-Chuang said with triumph. “In 2014 I quitted my job and decided to plunge myself into this meaningful movement.”
MakerPRO, a social media and network platform, born for professional PRO Makers.
At the end of 2014, a social media and network platform, MakerPRO, was born, targeting groups with professional and technical background, especially for PRO Makers. Hence, “What is Maker？It’s extremely varied and broad, but I tend to define those people familiar with mechanics, IT and software, etc. as PRO Makers.”, as Ou said. These PRO Makers mostly work in technology-related industries, who like to make “things” in their spare time.
At first, Ou thought “MakerPRO” should be set for helping those Makers how to Startup, “Maker to Startup”. Then after four months later, the mission of MakerPRO was migrated to help “Maker to Market”. “The essence of being Maker should feel happy. However, when it comes to start up a business, Makers often bet the farm. Therefore, the more practical ways are to help Maker to Market first, and then go on next stage, Market to Startup.”
Regarding to “Market”, Ou Ming-Chuang is talking about training classes. “ To give an example, as a PRO Maker organizes classes or workshops related to “air box” in one of MakerPro activities, let’s assume there are 20 students enrolled in that classes, and there 20 air boxes are made, thus becoming a mass production. The students whom he engaged become a potential market.” A typical PRO Maker goes to work on weekdays and teaches training workshop on weekends. With more and more classes being held, Maker will get more confidence in what he creates is commercioganic, followed by gradually thinking about starting up a business. And this is the current way how MakerPro promotes PRO Makers.
“What does the role for MakerPro play in Maker movement？And it can be concisely expressed by 3 English words, Media, Social Network and Platform”, said Ou Ming-Chuang. And he continued to articulate “What is the reason for Maker movement blooming all over the world？I think that is because Dale Dougherty founded Make magazine, which is the most important catalyst.” The media always plays as the most important vehicle to convey the Maker knowledge. And running a media for Makers is also the expertise of Ou Ming-Chuang. “Though, Make magazine has the Chinese version, it cannot deliver local up-to-date information, and the MakerPro just makes up the gap to bring on the authentic information and news related to Taiwan Makers.”
At the same time, MakerPRO is also aggressive to manage online and offline Maker communities to do the best practice of the Maker’s spirit. “Our Facebook community has accumulated more than 10,000 members, which can be said the largest corporate account in the Maker circle.”, said by Ou Ming-Chuang . Regarding to off line, MakerPRO also manages numerous entity groups with regular weekly gatherings.
The goals of MakerPRO in 2018 are to continually improve the ProjectPlus platform more secure and complete. Platform would be like the media, but it focuses on online interaction.
For MakerPRO, ProjectPlus is a free service and not for any revenue. Ou Ming-Chuang meticulously explained, “It is misfortune if Makers’ creations are not able to be traced, and usually their approach is nothing more and just a piece work of POC (Proof of Concept), a prototype or a work video. It may be shared with others through platforms such as YouTube, Facebook or many other blogs, etc. More often, it likes a grain sand buried by overwhelming information of cyberspace.” With this view point, MakerPRO wants to build the ProjectPlus platform, providing Makers with a mega space to gather and share their wares.
“The ambition vision of the ProjectPlus platform is to become a talent pool for Makers.” Ou Ming-Chuang calls this a type of Crowd-Sourcing, and outsourcing talent in this context is not about ‘sharing’ but ‘assigning case.’
“If there is an entrepreneur who needs to make smart bracelets, and his expertise is on software application development, but not on hardware. While within the Maker circle, there are many people who maybe familiar with hardware. At this moment, as the entrepreneur posts this project on ProjectPlus, he may get the solution in a short time. We call it the
‘Problem listing and solving. ’ There always have some professionals who have ability to make up for the deficiencies.”
The Advocator of Maker Movement Has Shared 3 Insights
Ou Ming-Chuang talked about the insights that he gained since his involvement in the Maker movement in 2012.
First, it is extremely difficult for people to raise funds. In the past, as the product possessed features, it wouldn’t need much marketing efforts and made it easily to the fundraising platform, the project was easily delivered. But now it requires to strengthen community interactions, then makers may have chance of getting fundraising on crowdfunding platform.
The second observation is about the difficulties to privatize Makerspace in Taiwan. As he attributes, there are two essential reasons：Maker resource is almost free and easy to obtain from government, there are a variety of equipment available all over Taiwan. And Ou Ming-Chuang even wrote a special article（2017）which stating：“If I need to make a piece work which needs a laser cutting, a sheet metal, a model, a mold, an assembly factory or an EMS etc. Some of them are able to be done by making order on the Internet. Others only need to be completed through mail files to those subcontractors. The others can be solved by just consulting people in the factory. So, if people want to do some works for proof of concept, they can buy a 3D printer and buy some open source kits, and just make it at home; to go further, just combine processing resources. Hence there is no strong demand to get help for a Makerspace.”
Finally, Ou Ming-Chuang mentioned that Maker in Taiwan seems to be a short term of creativity. “For example, the projects shown at Maker Fair of Taiwan seem to be the same one as demo in previous years.” Ou Ming-Chuang said that Taiwan is lacking revolutionary creativity because of its long-standing rigidity educational system and culture. He expects all domain experts such as Maker, designer and social entrepreneur, whom could be linked up with group circles with each other, then all can cooperate together to stimulate more sparkle in creativity.
However, Ou Ming-Chuang felt confident about Taiwan Maker’s Capability in manufacturing. “Taiwan’s PRO Maker is really amazing！” During the interview, this remark popped up all the times. “The role of Taiwan PRO Maker is appropriate to serve as a design partner or a consoler for global Makers”, Ou Ming-Chuang said confidently. He believes that Taiwan could take its place in the future of Maker movement.
- Raspberry Pi：The Raspberry Pi, a Linux-based single-chip computer developed by the British Raspberry Pi Foundation, aims to promote basic computer science education in schools with low-cost hardware and free software.
- Linux：An operating system, similar to Microsoft Windows The exact name is GNU/Linux, but “Linux” is more commonly used. Its core prototype was first released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds.
- Open Source: Open source refers to the spirit of openness, through which the technology opens to others and does not charge royalties, and then evolves into a cooperative development model, which is widely used in computer science.
- POC：The abbreviation of Proof of Concept, which means verification of concept, is a shorter and incomplete implementation of certain ideas to prove its feasibility, the purpose of which is to verify some concepts or theories.
- EMS：Short for Electronic Manufacturing Services, also known as professional electronic foundry services. It refers to a manufacturer that provides a series of services such as manufacturing, procurement, partial design and logistics for brand-name electronic product manufacturers.
Ou Ming-Chuang.（2017）. [Different Makerspace] The launch and expectation of PROMaker Lab. Retrieved March 9, 2018, from https://makerpro.cc/2017/07/why-promaker-lab/