Katie Covington: Making fun with Open Source for Makers

Katie Covington at the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas

DIY API open source

For Makers. #futureDIY

Katie Covington quit her job and started Open Source for Makers (http://www.opensourcemakerlabs.com/ ), where makers gave designs away for free. She explained how those interested in developing the project figured out how to share their designs for physical things, while still generating revenue.

By sharing ideas for projects, she generated a demand for source materials through sharing the knowledge. She realized that makers wanted to create and, once inspired, they want good sources of raw materials for their creations.

Covington explained how the makers jumped in with suggestions on new projects and products – and then they bought materials through the website from advertisers to use in the making.

Katie Covington quit her job and started Open Source for Makers.

Open Source for Makers works with suppliers, such as companies in the New York fashion district, offering materials that makers can order online. Her “tribe” helped her build the Open Source for Makers brand. And she connected them with unique materials that can’t be found at more traditional suppliers, such as Hobby Lobby or Michaels.

She described the way the website “takes away the friction” of hunting for materials by offering materials online in a way that is pleasing and useful for her website makers.

Covington’s advice for how to start your own company:

  • Go where your customers are (for her, this was Instagram and Pinterest)
  • Create content for that medium
  • Keep it fresh
  • Go offline
  • Work with users and test quality of tutorials, materials, etc.


More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive


2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas


Shut up and take my money: John Biehler and 3D printing

SxSW 2013 John Biehler on Pre Pettis & MakerBot

What John Biehler said when he saw Pre Pettis and MakerBot on The Daily Show

How 3D Printing Changed John Biegher’s Life

John Biehler bought a 3D printer as soon as he saw one demonstrated on The Daily Show. He’s been experimenting with it and extending what can be done with it ever since. Biehler formed a forum for 3D printers – 3D604.org (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/3d604 ) – and the forum is burgeoning with inventors and interesting conversations about the endless possibilities these devices present.

SxSW 2013 Connor Zwick: hardware is the new software

John Biehler at the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas

He brought a 3D printer to the 3D Printer Village in Vancouver at the 2013 Maker Faire (http://www.vancouvermakerfoundation.org/events-and-programs/vancouver-mini-maker-faire/ ) and particularly enjoyed the reaction children have to the device.

“They see it and realize it can make toys and parts to build with. Then they basically say ‘get out of the way’ start they start using the printer. They want one now.”

It turns out that an Xbox with Xbox Connect can be turned into a 3D scanner. This is a good thing. Connect a 3D scanner device to a 3D printer device and what is the first thing you do with it? Apparently, you make people; that’s what Biehler did.

“We scanned people and printed their faces and heads.”

SxSW 2013 Dita Von Teese in 3D printed dress

Dita Von Teese in a 3D printed, fully articulated printed dress. 


3D604.org group  https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/3d604

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive


2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas


It’s alive! (responsible journalism). But newspapers are history.

SxSW 2013 Craig Newark, Poynter Kelly McBride: responsible journalism

“Craigslist” Craig Newmark, Poynter Kelly McBride on responsible journalism, at the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive 2013 in Austin Texas

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh – or they may kill you – Oscar Wilde. (Quoted by Craig Newmark at SxSW interactive 2013)

New standards of journalism in a new age (of journalism)  

Someone from Poynter went through the crowd, handing out a small pamphlet titled “100 Ideas to Make Your Journalism Better” to the large audience who had come to hear Craig “Craigslist” Newmark and Poynter’s faculty member Kelly McBride talk about what has gone wrong – and what’s right—in modern journalism.

“Journalism should be the immune system of democracy,” Craig told the crowd. “Without information, how can we vote responsibly?”

Excited, maybe a little bit nervous, but with a strong edge of humility, the well-known founder of Craigslist described himself as “a nerd” who became a customer service professional.

He and Kelly McBride summarized the recent woes of journalism. More than one-fourth of all journalists have been laid off since 2007, in part due to economic disruptors such as Craigslist, which took away a valuable source of revenue for newspapers (the classified).

It’s not that people aren’t consuming news content. But spite of the growth of digital news delivery, for every dollar of digital revenue $7 in print revenue has been lost.

You can tell the organization is eating itself when a bastion of supposedly solid journalism like CNN chooses to eliminate its own investigative news journalism department.

In addition to the economic struggles of the news industry, the journalism food chain has changed. Once the pecking order was local reporters, then mid-size newspapers, and finally national news outlets. Nowadays, entertainment news and social media is at the top of the pile, with mid-size news, national news, and national magazines in the middle and local news at the bottom. This topsy-turvy situation has encouraged gossipy, sensationalist news and the viral spread of misinformation.

It’s hard to judge the quality of the content being served in a business forced to put journalists on a “hamster wheel” where writers pump out content on constant deadline. Effective investigative journalism  takes time to produce.

In contrast, the Poynter Institute is supporting a journalistic environment where there is sufficient time to think—and it’s building a new framework for ethical, community journalism.

This means turning away from the current farce of “balanced” news, where manifestly absurd, offensive ideas are given a voice to counter sanity, in order to pay lip service to “fair” reporting.

McBride derided the cliché of presenting a news story in the “two viewpoints” pretense of objectivity.  This artificial creation of false balance – reporters giving equal weight to opposing views even though one viewpoint is demonstrably false or irrelevant, is a big part of what’s wrong with the craft of reporting.

So, how should a responsible journalist write a story? According to McBride, good journalists get smart (informed)—and then speak with authority about what’s going on.

Journalism and ethical reporting

One of Craig’s pet peeves is broadcast  journalists interviewing talking heads that sit atop PR hacks and lobbyists—“ A responsible journalist shouldn’t interview people who are paid to lie.”

SxSW 2013 Craig Newmark: don't interview people who are paid to lie

He says being a news reporter is one of the most difficult careers to pursue but it is only a worthy calling if you deliver information that others can trust. We are in a bizarre situation right now, where we might feel more “truthiness” from watching an  “entertainment” show like The Daily Show, and find it surreal to discover news “actors” (as opposed to anchors) on global news networks, whose only involvement in a story is reading the words off a teleprompter.

SxSW 2013 Craig Newmark: responsible journalism immune system of democracy

Integrating journalism into communities

Social media has been a disruption to traditional journalism. The product has been the article, photo, or Vine/Youtube post as content. That social news product enhances, and helps to build, community. Citizens can inform themselves with the right tools: consider Politifact, a great combination of news and nerds.  (http://www.politifact.com/ )

But news gathering by community journalists, according to Newmark and McBride, are not rivals to professional journalism, although they augment and help to redefine its purpose and methods.

Consider the news opportunity created during the Huffington Post Obama fundraiser when the phrase, “clinging to guns and religion,” was released by the media. Consider how the recorded and shared  “48 percent” quote during a Romney fundraiser may have altered political outcomes.

Journalism is also a business. But it should differ from other industries, where the product is perceived as a means to an end. With responsible journalism, community should be the end product of the reporting of truth.

Traditional journalists saw community as a resource to create something else. McBride says that we should rethink this and recognize that community is an end in itself.

Newmark says that citizen journalism is good, but we need trained editors, content curators, fact checkers, professional writers and professionalism in every area in order to have responsible, quality journalism.

McBride and Newmark shared two lists of journalism values for the audience to consider. One was time-honored, from Mother Jones; the other is suggested by The Poynter Institute  for journalism in a new era of community.

SxSW 2013: journalists should get smart to speak with authority

Mother Jones: journalism values

  1. Seek the truth and report it.
  2. Be independent.
  3. Minimize harm.
  4. Be accountable.

New set of journalism values suggested by Poynter

  1. Seek truth and report it.
  2. Be transparent (about what you know and what you don’t know).
  3. Engage the community as an end.

Poynter has a book out if you are interested in finding out more about their ideas of what journalism could become. http://about.poynter.org/about-us/press-room/poynter-publishes-definitive-new-journalism-ethics-book

And Craig Newmark is out there, talking at events like SxSW Interactive about responsible journalism, trying to help, supporting groups like Poynter: “A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do. Nerds are always outsiders.”

SxSW 2013: Misinformation travels faster than the correction

Responsible journalism is the immune system of democracy – Craig “Craigslist” Newmark

Listen to the presentation on Soundcloud

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive

2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas

One virtual singer, unlimited creators. Hatsune Miku: The open source girl who conquered the world


The Hatsune Miku demo booth at South by Southwest Interactive 2013. #sxswmiku

The creators of Hatsune Miku, the virtual singer software, discussed how the vast collaborative effort that is expressed via Miku blurs the perceived boundaries between audience and star at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival 2013 in Austin, Texas.

Miku is singing synthesizer software that is virtualized as an anime of a young female pop star with an abundance of ponytailed blue hair. The full name, Hatsune Miku roughly translates as “First Sound from the Future” — and it is a welcome sound, one that is incredibly popular, with millions of fans worldwide and hundreds of YouTube fan-based music videos.

Many of the Miku fans — not all of which are young Asian females — create songs and share them within the Miku community, where they are vetted. The user of Miku creates lyrics and a song: the Miku vocaloid software sings and performs the song. Fans vote popular songs up. Songs that make it to the top in the eyes of the fan community have a chance to be selected for a virtual digital performance.

A virtual singer, projected as a hologram animation to sold-out venues, performs digitally for a live audience who respond with the same enthusiasm they would exhibit for a live performer. But the audience cheers as much for each other as for the virtual singer, because the fans create the music: the boundary between performers-artists and audience-fans is blown away like digital dust.

SxSW 2013 Crypton CEO Hiroyuki Itoh MIKU culture

Crypton CEO Hiroyuki Itoh. MIKU Participatory culture, boundaries vanish between fan, artist.

Crypton Future Media CEO Hiroyuki Itoh and his creative team tried to explain to the Austin audience, most of who had not experienced a Miku performance, how Miku, the virtual singer avatar, provides creative collaboration as songwriters create and post songs, which are enjoyed and voted upon by fans.

Each song comes with a unique copyright, with variable copyright options available to the creator who uploads the image for sharing with the community.

Revenue for Crypton may also come via mobile games and advertising. Interestingly, Miku fans seem to enjoy it when the company partners the Miku image with large corporations. When they see Miku’s image coupled with a popular food or drink franchise, they see her success as their success.

Although the software is mostly sold and used in Japan and other Asian countries, it has international appeal. Miku has crossed beyond Japan and is now an international phenomenon, as the software has been bootlegged into Thai, Russian, Spanish, and other languages.

There is also a virtual interface—Miku dance software. Downloadable Miku skins are also available to overlay onto the singer, making changes to the singer’s appearance for the users. All of the skins and other options are free to users.

Itoh observed that Japan’s fan culture appears to be much more coherent and organized than in the US. This may be a factor in the success of the product. But Miku is not a human idol such as a real-life singer: Hatune Miku is a symbol of an idol, and one that evolves and mutates through mass audience input.

SxSW 2013 MIKU virtual singer, open source

What is fascinating about the Miku project is its participatory culture and vast complexity: users’ content freely contributed, collaborative creation, celebration of the idol at conventions, in games, in role-play, at live concerts.

The music software and the music created with Miku software is profoundly misunderstood by the US media, where journalists have sometimes described Miku as a “fake” singer. The user of the word “fake” has angered Miku fans worldwide, and has led to death threats made by fans towards journalists.  Fans activities have been denigrated in racist and simplistic tones as “one more of those weird things Japanese people do.” Judgmental and naïve descriptors such as “fake” fail to describe Miku. A more enlightened understanding recognizes that Miku music is participatory and collaborative.

SxSW 2013 MIKU virtual singer

Hiroyuki Itoh, Cryton CEO, Tara Knight, Kanea Maraki, and Alex Leavitt were the panelists at the Miku presentation at South by Southwest 2013. 

Itoh said that part of Miku’s success could lay in the fact that she has no back story. Miku just is: the fans overlay their own stories onto the avatar. Although the software is not open source, the creation is open-ended and invites user input. Miku is a crowd-sourced character. And the crowd controls the image, punishing those who push the boundaries defined by the majority. User generated content, fan generated content define Hatsune Miku.

The original Miku image is of a 16-year-old girl singer. Fans create artwork of their idol. Hatsune Miku is evolving visually as an animé image as well as musically. The fans spin off the original “no story” girl singer into extreme creations. Abuse of the image happens. Porn images and slasher fantasies of Miku pop up on the web. Fans swarm onto anything that is not canonical and kill it on YouTube, with thumbs down votes and vitriolic comments. What is wanted, what is not wanted, is managed by the fans.

YouTube’s up or down votes affect the algorithms that determine which videos will be offered when users search for Miku content. Fans check in every few weeks and rank new Miku videos. They curate and compile evaluation videos about Miku music videos. The things the fans like get pushed up and those characteristics enter the canon.

As the creator fans create the content, they evolve Miku into what they want her to be. The fans are in control of the Idol they are creating.

Creators and artists are often captured by their creative games. There could come to pass a future where Miku evolves into something more sentient, with perhaps an AI element.


The Miku software sales team at the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive this spring, bringing something completely different to an event that thrives on invention.

Links of interest:



Corruption Garden – English & Chinese Sub – Megurine Luka. Classic, early example of the use of Vocaloid singer

“decadent flowers, bloody memories
lamentations of flowers, graven miseries
silence that will never return
please lead the mistakes of this world to a rotten end
now before this world is over
what’s left in my hand are the ashes of a flower”

– Corruption Garden 

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive


2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas


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