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The Tinkered Mind
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July 2nd, 2019
In today’s day of superphones, laptops and apps, we are all users, using something. And perhaps more interestingly, on top of this use, everyone has an idea for an app. Mention you know even the smallest bit about writing code, or make the full blown mistake of mentioning that you are building an app and suddenly everyone pipes up about their own great idea for a new app.
Users, it seems, always have ideas about what else they could use. But this does not make a user a maker. A simple and slightly rude question makes the difference immediately apparent:
“If you think it’s such a great idea, why don’t you build it?”
“Well, I don’t know how to code.”
Perhaps if the idea was really that good, not knowing how to code wouldn’t stand in the way of bringing it about. But this rarely happens. Even actual coders are often too lazy to follow through on their own ideas. Although, to be fair, this might be because coders are a little more familiar with how few ideas when actually built actually prove useful.
We need not confine our discussion of Users and Makers to the world of digital builds. We can think of any product really: a dress, a woman might make for herself, a back pack, a house. Almost everything that we interact with is the result of some maker hauling an idea into reality. And yet, just as everyone and their mother has their own dumb idea bout what the next big app could be, everyone is immeasurably talented when it comes to the easy art of finding something to complain about regarding what someone else made.
Too put this in perspective, imagine the primordial example of the hunter in ancient times. Imagine if this hunter complained about the construction of their spear. What would happen? Either this hunter would hear his own complaint and immediately improve the spear or build a new one, or everyone in the tribe would think him a bit of a moron for complaining about something that is 100% his own responsibility. (Though, phrased that way, many of the complaints that we hear in modern times seem to fall into this category of self-inflicted annoyance.)
The point still stands. If everyone was required by necessity to make their own clothes and cut their own hair, it’s certain that nearly everyone’s sewing and scissor skills would improve tremendously, and fast.
Not only would this have an effect on one’s skills, but it also allows items to be tailored very specifically to individual needs. On top of this, a person can build with an aim of how long a thing will last. And notice how counter these aspects are to the phenomenon of mass production. Longevity of an item sold is rarely a goal because it means less profitability when things don’t need replacing, and individual customization is a feat that puts great friction into the process of mass-production.
Unfortunately, the user is rarely cognizant of the realities of the maker, but strangely enough, the inverse can also be true. When a maker does not use their own product, they fail to see all of the annoyances they’ve built into the product that are immediately noticed by the user.
The only remedy is for each to become the other. The maker fine-tunes their product by using it, but likewise, the user can get a sense of how good an idea is by actually making it. And then using it.