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October 4, 2005

News & Opinion: Make Your Own Magazine Karma

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:52 PM – Filed under: Innovation & Creativity

Does anyone else believe in Magazine Karma? Its a theory of mine that at every point in time there is a hot magazine which carries the buzz, the juice, the spirit and community of a very important yet heretofore unidentified community, who can bond and communicate only through the new publication. Prior carriers of Magazine Karma (MK) would be Esquire long ago, Manhattan Inc., New England Monthly, Spy Magazine, Inc., Texas Monthly, Seven Days, Wired, and Fast Company. There are others to be sure, but these come quickest to mind. My nominee for the current embodiment of MK is Make magazine, which has published a scant three issues to date.
Make combines the spirit of the Whole Earth Catalog with the buzz of the hacker crowd, yet presents the meat in a bright and welcoming format a la Real Simple or any of the Taunton Press magazines. This is a magazine for your bootstrapped, DIY geek. I dont want to imply that its only for the technologically-minded: Make is a ridiculously entertaining consumers guide to hacking that features a wonderfully inclusive tone. Unlike so many publications for zealouts (say, MacWorld, which I study dutifully), Make doesnt tell in-jokes and trade in jargon: it revels in the gee-whiz stuff it can do while making the punchlines very clear to you. You want to do the projects the magazine delights in, whether youre capable or not. Personally, Im ready to go out and make my own night-lit spud cannon!
So why post about it here? Because Make, which is published by OReilly, has been informed in sensibility by the publishers proficiency in technical books. OReilly publishes scads of dense, well-made guides to computer languages, security, and other technical matters. And many of the titles, such as the Missing Manual series by David Pogue, are crucial guides to folks like me seeking to realize the full use of their tools. The service ethos runs deeply from these books to this magazine.
By the way, I consider Make Magazine a business magazineof sorts. While its ostensibly about making stuff, reading it elicits the same sense of admiration I often feel when reading about successful entrepreneurs, whose key asset is the ability to combine their available (or nearly-available) resources to create something thats more than the sum of its parts. Its about solving a problem at a root level with a new and surprising solution, and not merely for the sake of tinkering and showing off but for satisfying a need.
As a former magazine guy myself, I do have one feature Id love to read in Make, and that would be called Break. While I was at Inc. magazine we used to run a business obit in each issue, a nod to the fact that while we sought business lessons from fast-growing companies, there was as much to learn from a monthly autopsy of a venture that died. Not out of ineptitude but reasons beyond its range. Likewise, Make, which celebrates the discipline of making stuff on your own, should walk this process backwards (the joy of reverse engineering) on one cool thing per issue. At any rate, check out this publication.