Talking to makers: How to engage people who build with their hands

Oracle’s Jim Grisanzio talks shop with Make: Magazine’s Dale Dougherty.

By Jim Grisanzio | July 2021

Oracle’s Jim Grisanzio talks shop with Make: Magazine’s Dale Dougherty

Dale Dougherty, Jim Grisanzio, and Chris Bensen. June 2021.

I met Dale Dougherty in late 2004 at a dinner in a Silicon Valley restaurant with some mutual friends and developers. At the time, I worked at Sun Microsystems. Dale worked at O'Reilly Media, the publishing company at the heart of the open source community. We gathered to discuss collaborating on programs to build open source software communities that I was involved with at Sun.

During the conversation, Dale whispered to me that he was starting a new project—a magazine called Make. It would be online, sure, but the main product would be print. It would cover how people around the world build things—real things—not just software, but things that you can hold in your hand. And it would be beautiful. He was really excited about it.

As I recall, way back in 2004 magazines were starting to leave print and go online. But Dale saw a real need for something different. And he was right. Make: Magazine, which was launched a few months later, was a massive success. Over time, the whole project expanded to include large Maker Faire conferences that attracted a passionate, worldwide community of makers that continues to grow today. It would become normal in tech circles to see tens of thousands of people to attending Maker Faire events.

I invited Dale to join me on the Oracle Groundbreakers Podcast because what he does is related to what we do on in Oracle Developer Relations. Most software developers know of Make: Magazine, and many of them have attended and even participated in Maker Faire events. Our team also makes things, and our lead maker these days is Chris Bensen. Before the pandemic, our team would go to conferences, such as Oracle Code One, and run a large Developers Lounge filled with demos of Oracle products as well as some experimental (or even just fun) projects to demonstrate what could be possible. This activity is a core part of the software community building process—providing interesting spaces in which developers can gather and collaborate.

Since both Dale and Chris have a lot to say about their respective fields, I ended up with too much content for a single program so I split things up into two separate conversations. In the first episode, I talk with Chris about his personal experiences as a builder and at Oracle, building demos and entire experiences for developers at our conferences. He’s a software engineer, of course, but a builder at heart.

In the second episode, Chris joined Dale and I for an extensive dive into the global phenomenon of makers. We get into some history, specific maker community innovations, COVID’s affect on builders throughout the world, as well as some new projects that Dale and Chris are working on. These gentlemen are passionate about their art—building things that matter with their bare hands and then sharing what they've built with the world. I loved both conversations. Hope you will too.

On the Mic

Dale Dougherty

Dale Dougherty

Dale Dougherty is the founder of Make: Magazine, creator of Maker Faire, President of Make: Community, and a board member of Maker Ed and O'Reilly Media.

Chris Bensen

Chris Bensen

Chris Bensen is an engineer on the Oracle Developer Relations team and a software architect, photographer, and professional maker.

Photo: Oracle

Jim Grisanzio

Jim Grisanzio

Jim Grisanzio is a senior community manager in Oracle Developer Relations. You can follow him on Twitter @jimgris.