Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Sep 2016 12:12:47 +0000
Sat, 30 Jul 2016 02:56:00 +0000
Thu, 28 Jul 2016 21:36:00 +0000It's time for me to leave the leadership of TinkerMill, the Makerspace, to the next generation of members.Monday, 7/25/16, was my last Board of Director's meeting and a new board was elected Tuesday night. After three years, I'm no longer part of the team running TinkerMill and am now just a regular member.TinkerMill started in May of 2013 as the simple idea that I wanted a makerspace in Longmont, where I lived. I'd been a member of denhac, the Denver hackerspace, and was tired of driving to Denver multiple times a week. So, I started talking to people.First (among several people) was the VP of education at SparkFun, Lindsay Levkoff. She and I met at City Cafe, one of my favorite places to eat, and decided, 'yea, this is a good idea'. She had a URL called "TinkerLab" which we considered as the name. We settled on TinkerMill though because one of the first places we (almost) rented was an old flourmill.So, we used meetup.com (highly recommended). I posted a meetup and thought, if 4 people show up, we'll have a second meeting. 6 people showed up and we haven't missed a weekly membership meeting since.Within a month, we'd created a non profit Colorado Corporation (June of 2013). Within 2 months, we had about 30 members. Within 6 months, we had 50 members and we had a space - about 4000SF in a soon to be torn down mall). Around a year or so in we got our 501(c)3 non profit status. We found a new home (about 10,000SF indoors and another 3/4000SF of covered outside space at 1840 Delaware Place, Longmont CO., where TinkerMill still lives.We created bylaws, a board of directors, documents, structures and processes for protecting the membership and a culture that, apparently, is working well. I served as president the first two years, and the last year as a director on the Board of Directors.As of early July, 2016, we have around 400 paying members making TinkerMill one of the largest makerspaces in the USA. It's become a true melting pot of people from all walks of the creative life. From bits - computers and software - to atoms - metalwork, pottery, woodshop, plastics, robotics, blacksmithing, welding, wetlabs, glassworks, silversmithing, music, amateur radio, recording, art of all types, scouts and other kid friendly learning, sewing, prototyping and coming up with new art, products, companies and, well, just creating and innovation in general.It's also become a place with over 100 classes a month (often more) on everything from how to use a 3D printer or lasercutter to how to throw and fire pottery to how to program arduino chips and build robots and drones to how to develop a new game (software, board, cards, dice, you name it).Everyone at TinkerMill is an expert at something.It's, (initially) by accident, then intentionally, turned into a kind of incubator/accelerator and center of entrepreneurial activity for the area. With members from all over the front range, and several small companies forming and growing within TinkerMill's walls; new products, businesses and primary employment are being created in a place, and in areas of interest, that have never happened before in Longmont.Although I'm the original founder and had a significant part in getting it started, the real star here is the membership itself. The members of TinkerMill made it what it is today. In the last year, we even found our new, very capable, leader: Ron Thomas, our full time Executive Director.One person can't create a group of creative artists, craftspeople, scientists, developers, engineers and entrepreneurs like this though. Even the membership can't really do it alone. It's something an entire community has to get behind and that very much happened at TinkerMill.The City of Longmont (Sandi Seader in particular, as well ad Harold Dominguez) have been very supportive, with the City Council (in a 6-1 vote) providing us with a $60,000 grant for equipment in our 2nd year, which helped jump start our members[...]
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 23:55:00 +0000Last Monday, I went to check on my youngest brother Brian, and found him slumped over in his easy chair. He'd passed away the night before. He was 50. He'd developed lung disease (a heavy smoker most of his adult life) and it took him, peacefully, in his sleep.
Tue, 26 Jan 2016 15:39:00 +0000I met Marvin Minsky in 1989, right after he joined the MIT Media Lab (Apple, where I worked at the time, sponsored the Media Lab and I was there as a representative of Apple checking out what they were doing and what we could learn from it).I remember him, literally, bouncing off the walls with energy. He never sat once during our encounter. An incredible mind with phenomenal insights. He will be missed.
Sat, 26 Dec 2015 17:19:00 +0000For anyone who knows me, I've never been a big fan of the holiday season. It's taken on a bit more of a personal flavor this year with a pretty unhappy pair of losses over the last 2 months.On Nov. 5th, my dad, Ken Converse, passed away. He was 88.He was a kind and gentle soul. The youngest of 8 kids raised during the depression by only his mother, a widow, and the mean streets of Pipestone, S. Dakota. He served in the Navy in WWII and was in the fleet that was present when Japan signed the surrender. He met my mom while skating (he was, at the time, a bit like a skateboarder would be today in his youth) and asked her to marry him while working at a dairy where they both ended up at during the same period (he was, for a short time a milkman..yep, for reals). That's not where his real interest lay though. While in the Navy, he became an electrician's mate and, for most of his professional life, he was the equivalent of an un-degreed engineer everywhere he worked. He spent most of his working life (30+ years) at IBM in various positions and lived a long and happy life with my Mom, Betty Converse, who's, thankfully, still with us and in reasonably good health.A day before Christmas, my brother Craig died after a surgery that he hoped would end the pain and possibly help repair the damage done to his spinal cord in a car accident 9 years ago that made him a near quadriplegic. He was 53.Craig was a huge man, in both physical size and in the size of his heart. At 6'6" and weighing in at 250-300lbs most of his life, it was hard to call him my "little" brother. I did call him my less infinitely wise and younger brother as often as I could though, much to his (feigned) chagrin. He was, like our dad, a gentle soul. An architect by training, deep down, his real nature was that of an artist. A very good one at that. He spent the last several years of his professional life designing schools and involved with educational institutions before the accident. His lovely wife Kate took excellent care of him until the end, making his life as good as it could be given the circumstances. She will always be a part of our family.I miss my Dad and my Brother, both, terribly.Treasure your family and friends. In the end, they're really all that matter.Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:20:00 +0000
Wed, 12 Aug 2015 23:44:00 +0000allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mHMxZiBB4es" width="480">
Sun, 09 Aug 2015 02:01:00 +0000I founded TinkerMill a little over two years ago with a room of 5-6 people one Tuesday evening in one of our local public school meeting rooms.Over the last two years, it's grown from an idea that we needed one of these in Longmont, to the largest makerspace in this 10 state region, with hundreds of paying members, over 1,000 online members, 10,000+ square feet of space, an incredible array of tools and capabilities and, most importantly, an incredible community of creative people, all experts at something.I've been the president for these first two years; I said when I started that I'd lead it for a year, two tops. Here we are, two years later and it's time for me to pass the torch; I told everyone that if nominated for president again, I wouldn't accept.Soooo... Although I'm still on the board, mostly to provide a smooth transition, as of yesterday, I'm no longer the president. We elected a new board and the board elected new officers (President, Vice President and Secretary). Here's the lineup:Clint Bickmore (New President)Greg Collins (New Vice President)Matt Stallard (New Secretary)Fara Shimbo (Director)Scott Converse (Director)Ron Thomas remains our executive director.Chris Yoder remains our Sgt. at Arms.Steven Alexander is our new Treasurer.I'd also like to say: A truly deep and sincere thank you to our departing board members: Karl Niemann, Lee Sutherland and Dixon Dick, all Founders of TinkerMill and all incredible contributors over our last two years of existence. I'd also like to thank Jeff Cragg, also a TinkerMill Founder, who served for over two years as our treasurer as we grew to become what we are today. Thank you to all of you. It's been a great ride so far, and I think we still have a long way to go.There are many adventures ahead with Makerspaces and TinkerMill around creating new kinds of education, innovation, economic development engines and furthering the creative collision of art, science, technology and entrepreneurship. I'm not going away, I'll be there, trying to figure out how all this fits into the future, in Colorado, and many other places, and I hope many of you will be right there, with us.Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Mon, 11 May 2015 16:52:00 +0000Here's my current stormchasing setup. A phone and 2 tablets on 3 networks (Verizon, ATT, Sprint) and the linux based in dash system that comes with the car providing GPS and maps. Each device runs different multiple/software apps for tracking (radar, reports, ground crew real time report tracking, etc.).BUT... this time around... tons of storms but nothing to actually see. The storms were so big that they tended to hover low to the ground (with so much precipitation they looked like they went right down to the ground after only a few hundred yards.This is unusual. Tornado's generally require the ground to be warm first, which means you need a sunny morning to warm up the ground and then you have these majestic thunderstorms forming that you can see from many many miles away. You also, usually, have mornings to track and find good potential storm cells to view and, hopefully, take video and pictures of of.Not this time.This 'solid to the ground' cloud wall went on for hundreds of miles. If a funnel cloud dropped down more than a hundred or so yards in front of me, I wouldn't have been able to see it.There were also some pretty freaky artifacts of the storms like baseball sized hail (some locals claimed grapefruit sized).So, with the prospect of smashed windows, funnel clouds dropping down on top of me due to crappy viability for hundreds of miles and the general bummer feel of this set of storms, I'm done chasing these things; at least for now. I'm still taking off the time though. I need some time to evaluate stuff and consider what's next in this adventure called life. We'll see. :)Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Sun, 10 May 2015 16:39:00 +0000Heh.... Longmont now has the fastest internet in the US and the 2nd fastest in the world.
Sat, 18 Apr 2015 17:46:00 +0000Excellent article in The Atlantic about how makerspaces jump-start innovation and new business creation at a local level. We've seen this, in spades, at our own makerspace: TinkerMill. The picture above is of the first test unit production of a new patent pending product that was conceived, prototyped, internally crowdfunded by TinkerMIll members and is now going into first run production.It's an essential oil extraction appliance- effectively a vacuum chamber that allows you to create essential oils from almost any biological source, by boiling it down in ethanol at very safe (low) temperatures. It's called "The Source" from a company formed at TinkerMill called ExtractCraft (I'm a co-founder). The number of markets it addresses is pretty astounding.Without our makerspace, this product would never have been created. The people with the right mix of skills would never have met. The tools to prototype the ideas wouldn't have been available. The funding would have been much more difficult to find (if it was findable at all- our own local professional investors who are more software only focused passed on the idea). In short, there wouldn't be a product, or a company, without the makerspace.The article (link below) about how these makerspaces work and effect local communities is insightful and very much worth the read:http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/04/makerspaces-are-remaking-local-economies/39080Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 00:56:00 +0000
Mon, 02 Feb 2015 18:49:00 +0000Brad Feld had a great blog post on small companies working with big companies a few days ago that really struck a cord with me.As some of you know, I founded and am president of TinkerMill, a 501(c)3 makerspace that focuses on education - particularly STEAM related education- a hot button area right now, and new business incubation- the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Longmont where we're based. We grew from an idea to the largest makerspace in Colorado (and, it seems, this 8-9 state region) pretty quickly, so we attracted the attention of quite a few organizations out there.As a result, over the last year and half or our existence, we've tried to work with the various entities (NPO's) that are involved in most of our day to day lives. Municipal and state government; the local public school system and their private counterparts, the charter schools, as well as the local community college and some of our local economic development folks.Overall, I've found the experience to be mixed. We've had good interactions with the economic development folks, like the Longmont Area Economic Council (LAEC), as well as the City of Longmont itself- their senior staff totally get's what TinkerMill is about. Both have been very supportive (in action and in financial support). As always there have been a hiccup or two here and there, but all minor so far.Our experience with the schools, particularly the big ones (SVVSD, our local Public School district) and Front Range Community College (FRCC), hasn't been so good. Not bad, exactly, but not consistently good.It's effectively mirrored the exprience Brad talks about in his dealing with 'big companies'. He sums it up perfectly with this comment:"we’ve had many interactions at many levels over the years – some good, some bad, some complex, and some perplexing"That's a near perfect reflection of our experience with some large non profit/educational institutions we've known the last year. I won't go into details here, but after banging our heads against the 'rules' the schools operate by (which seem anathema to operating in the 21st century, and within a local community on terms they don't completely control), we've pretty much given up trying. Or more accurately: Trying as hard. Our doors are always open to discussion, but only if it's followed by action and actual implementation. Talk is.. well.. just talk.Sadly, it's not the fault of the change agent's trying to make things happen inside these educational institutions, it's almost always the bureaucratic back room that kills off being innovative. I suspect it's mostly a risk aversion thing.The sad truth is, however, places like TinkerMill, over time, can augment these institutions significantly. By not working with us, these existing 20th century institutions are taking the very real risk of being "Uberized" by 501(c)3 non profit educational entities like TinkerMill. It's not unlike little companies disrupting (and often dismantling) much larger companies, only, here it's the school system and, in some cases, the public libraries (many have gotten stuck in the 'we're about books' mode vs. what they're real mission is: Knowledge Distribution).It's interesting to see patterns repeat, and boy do they. From Brad's experience with small and large companies interactions to our recent almost mirror like experience between small new innovative non profits and large stuck in their way(s) NPO's. Indeed, the patterns just keep repeating.Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Sun, 01 Feb 2015 19:10:00 +0000
Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:45:00 +0000www.pkverlegerllc.com/assets/documents/141217_Rise_of_the_ManufRacturers1.pdfFascinating analysis. Short read, worth checking out.Oil production as manufacturing. This scenario sounds very very plausible, even likely.It compares what's happening in oil production to what happened in the computer world (from expensive mainframe to low cost distributed PCs). Think of today's Exxon as IBM making expensive mainframes (traditional expensive ...billions of $ to startup... and deep oil wells in expensive to extract places) vs fracking ($10 million, dropping rapidly to startup, with the ability to shut down then quickly restart as prices rise and fall).Add this happening in low cost places (i.e. not the U.S.), and you can see how this is, indeed, the future of oil, and low oil prices.Hmmmmm....lots of good there, but, even more (really) bad. Hopefully the wind, hydro and solar folks will keep the cost curve dropping fast. It's now a race to the bottom.Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Sun, 25 Jan 2015 12:51:00 +0000Our local newspaper has been very supportive of TinkerMill.
Tue, 30 Dec 2014 22:14:00 +0000It's been an amazingly interesting and productive year here in Longmont, CO.We created a makerspace in mid-2013, but it really took off this year. We call it TinkerMill, The Longmont Makerspace. We received our 501(c)3 public charity status this past summer.We went from a small group of 6 people showing up for a meetup at a local school's 'Career Development Center' facility in May of 2013 to a few dozen folks at the beginning of 2014 to over 150 paying members and almost 640 meetup members as of the end of 2014. Not bad for 18 months.This makes us the largest makerspace in Colorado and, as far as we can tell, the largest makerspace in this 7 state region. You have to go all the way to Austin, TX. to find one larger.Our primary charter as an educationally focused non profit is to create a collaborative commons where our members can learn from each other, teach each other and create, pretty much, anything, from art to personal projects to new products, services and businesses.We started the year out with an average of 55 classes and events per month and consistently grew that over the year to as many as 120 classes and events per month (in some months, holding up to 14 classes and events in a single day and averaging 4+ events per day, every day, all month long).We've had almost 1,000 classes and events at TinkerMill in the last year or so. From the art of making cheese, to programming Arduino chips for robots, drones and 3D printers to how to forge a sword, weld and use a throw wheel and kiln.We're experimenting with a concept called 'nano-degrees' and we put together a new kind of class to teach people how to prototype products using 3D printers. We're doing it hand in hand with our local Front Range Community College's staff and their incredible million dollar precision machining facility. If you teach people how to prototype using the latest tools like 3D printers and how to make real product with serious machining tools like a Bridgeport GX 250, you've got the makings of a true high tech/advanced manufacturing economy renaissance.There's a pretty good chance that if you want to learn it, someone at TinkerMill can teach it. Or, if you're looking for a co-founder of a company, you'll likely find someone for that as well. Our membership is made up of 70% technical people (engineers, developers and technologists), 20% creatives (designers, artists and artisans) and about 10% business focused (startup people, entrepreneurs, potential investors and general biz folks).We moved TinkerMill into a new space at 1840 Delaware Pl, Longmont CO. in May that's a little over 6,100SF. It's made up of offices and workshop space packed to the rafters with awesome tools, workspaces and incredibly creative people. We're expanding Jan 1st of 2015 to include a couple of thousands more SF of prototyping lab and incubator-ish space to help our members do even more learning, teaching, creating and starting up new businesses.We have a healthy and open relationship with our city government and have been heavily involved with programs related to teaching kids during summer and after school programs as well as putting together a civic technology series of classes to help Longmont residents into the 21st century. We received a grant from the City of Longmont ($60K) to buy a large array of new prototyping gear that we'll be using to teach our city's residents to use for creative projects as well the conjuring up of new products and, hopefully, new businesses.Longmont is one of only a handful of cities that's building a munici[...]
Mon, 01 Dec 2014 19:03:00 +0000Every so often I read a blog post that's really relevent our day to day life. This is one of those. A friend of mine, who writes an outstanding blog on living a simpler life,wrote up a great post on exactly why AWD just isn't worth it. Worth a read.
Sun, 12 Oct 2014 17:56:00 +0000Every so often I run across an article that really makes me rethink a position I may have had for a long time. This blog posting from Foss Patents had that effect on me this morning.In Oracle case, Google has gone from fighting API copyright to attacking all software copyrightI have to wonder on this one. I'm not sure the author is thinking clearly about the intent of what Google is doing re: copyright. Personally, I think software copyrights have been severely abused over the last couple of decades, and what Google is doing now is trying to put copyright back to where it should be: A tool to protect written works, not software products.I'd also go on to say: Opensource. Yea... opensource. Eventually, I would hope, everything will become opensource and companies will compete on capabilities and not the size of their legal teams. This applies to hardware as well as software.And something to consider: The (now) largest economy in the world. China's lack of belief in copyrights and patents (I like to judge based on actions, not words) will eventually overtake the western worlds approach to ownership. When the guy who owns all the factories doesn't give a s**t about your patent, AND owns the largest marketplace and middle class in the world.. well, whistle in the wind all you like kiddos... you don't get to keep your toys in a world like that. I'm not saying this is right; I am saying, it's happening right now and there's no way to stop it.Elon Musk and Tesla got it right: Get a patent, but don't use it as a blunt instrument to kill your perceived enemies. Use it as a way to protect the idea from being locked up by someone else by giving it away to everyone.Naive? Maybe. Better for all businesses in the long term? AbsolutelyScott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Mon, 03 Feb 2014 03:33:00 +0000
Sat, 28 Dec 2013 14:45:00 +0000I landed in Billings, MT. last night. Dark and cold.
Sat, 28 Dec 2013 14:31:00 +0000I'm off on another drive-a-bout.
Mon, 04 Nov 2013 17:09:00 +0000Really simple stuff, actually. Yea.. we've all heard it. We also forget and the occasional reminder doesn't hurt one little bit.
"The first is the 80/20 rule. When running Feld Technologies in my 20s, I remember reading a book about consulting that said a great consultant spent 20% of their time on “overhead” and 80% of their time on substantive work for their clients. I always tried to keep the 80/20 rule in mind – as long as I was only spending 20% of my time on bullshit, nonsense, things I wasn’t interested in, and repetitive stuff that I didn’t really have to do, I was fine. However, this time around, I’d somehow gotten the ratios flipped – I was spending only 20% of my time on the stimulating stuff and 80% of my time on stuff I viewed as unimportant. Much of it fell into the repetitive category, rather than the bullshit category, but nonetheless I was only stimulated by about 20% of the stuff I was doing. This led to a deep boredom that I didn’t realize, because I was so incredibly busy, and tired, from the scope and amount of stuff I was doing. While the 20/80 problem was the start, the real root cause was the boredom, which I simply didn’t realize and wasn’t acknowledging."
Wed, 23 Oct 2013 20:18:00 +0000Apparently, the US Legal System hasn't kept up with the use of words in the English language over the last Ten years.From the blog Digital Bond:Call Yourself A Hacker, Lose Your 4th Amendment RightsIt seems all you have to do is saying something like this: “We like hacking things and we don’t want to stop” on your website, and a court can decide you don't deserve your Constitutional 4th Amendment Rights protecting you from unreasonable searches and seizures.Read the article and decide for yourself, but, this tells me using the word hacker in my little world of hackerspaces just got a lot more tenuous. And that's sad.We use this word because it fits what we do. We hack things up by taking them apart and putting them back together in different, often better, forms. We hack together something new out of nothing. We hack our way into something that's broken or dead or no longer useful and fix it, bring it back to life and make it useful again; often with a new purpose.Telling us that using the word hacker can cause a suspension of constitutional rights and protections, is just nuts.So, now I'm thinking we should consider renaming our local hackerspace.From this:TinkerMill, The Longmont Hackerspaceto:TinkerMill, NOT Longmont's Hackerspace, but something else, like, close, but NOT a Hackerspace. Really. Sigh.I'm starting the lean toward creatorspace. I like makerspace, but the Make Magazine folks (i.e. O'Reilly Publishing) have made it clear that they own that name (maker, makerfaire, etc. etc.). I'm pretty sure any place calling itself a Makerspace is going to have to, eventually, pay the Make Magazine guys a royalty fee.So, as an alternative to Hackerspace, maybe Creatorspace is the way to go. I know NASA calls their hackerspace "Creatorspace". Maybe it's generic enough that all of us can start using that phrase to describe what our hackerspaces really are without opening ourselves to the risk of a 4th Amendment Rights suspension.I can't even believe I'm writing about this, frankly. Our legal system could use a good dose of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training.Scott on life, politics, podcasting, technology & business [...]
Sun, 13 Oct 2013 18:42:00 +0000Lately, a bunch of people have been asking me about hackerspaces and makerspaces (same thing, different feel to the words, go with whatever you prefer).I guess it's because I was a member of Denver's hackerspace (denhac) and on it's board of directors. I also started the Longmont Hackerspace (TinkerMill) in the spring of 2013 and have learned a bit about the current state of hackerspaces, getting them started and running them. This post is about starting the basics of how to start one with some specifics and some examples. I may do more on running them in the future, but for now.. just get started.A bit of background:There was a time, 5-6 years ago, when it was hard to get people to understand what a hackerspace was. That time is no more. It's significantly easier to start a hackerspace today than it was even a year ago.The two things that have changed are awareness of what a hackerspace/makerspace is, and tools for gathering like minded folks to help get it going, fund it and run it.There's a kind of movement happening not just in the US, but globally. You could call it Do It Yourself (DIY) or hacking, or making. It's all the same. People want to take control of their lives and their surroundings more. They don't want an off the shelf from a large conglomerate retailer. They want to make their own. They also want to learn about how things work, and how things work together. Mixing technology with art and with business and civic awareness. Delving deep into education, both primary and adult. A hackerspace is a sharing of tools and knowledge as well as a place of collaboration that every city in America (really, the world) should have available to it. And every city should encourage and foster this for no other reason than new business formation and better educational levels for it's citizens.How to start a hackerspace / makerspace:It's substantially simpler than you might believe. Don't overthink it, just do it. 1) Go to meetup.com and create an account. Set up your first meetup and call it [name of city/town] Hackerspace Meetup (or if you prefer Makerspace Meetup). Meetup is a truly wonderful service and worth every cent they charge for it's use.2) See how many people show up for the meetup. It it's 4 or more, you have enough interest in your town to create a hackerspace/makerspace.3) Have weekly planning meetings. Leaders and truly interested folks will emerge. This is your initial leadership team (and likely, the bulk of your first Board of Directors). Once the leaders emerge, you're ready to start collecting money (membership dues) to pay for rent/utilities on a space.4) Set up the rules. You'll need by-laws (keep it simple) and you'll need paperwork that covers the various legal and liability issues of setting up a hackerspace. Don't do this from scratch, it's already been done: Copy other hackerspaces work. When we created TinkerMill, we copied several different hackerspaces documents. The basics you'll need are:a) By-Laws. These are the rules by which the group operates. (Generic example: http://goo.gl/NG2rgq)b) Member Services Agreement (generic example: http://goo.gl/ETDYN9)c) A simple but complete liability waiver (generic example: http://goo.gl/QY08Qh)d) A set of policies and pro[...]