Standard, perfunctory photo of code for when you need an image and don’t really have anything else.

Launching maker.json

Another step in building community and busting silos in the Maker movement.

tl;dr: Check out the repo.

Earlier this year (prior to my departure and sadly before closing shop) the World Bank Innovation Labs to start contributing to the global Maker movement. Our other colleagues in the Bank had started down this path already: sponsoring prizes during the 2014 Fab10 conference and contributing to the Makers for Development report to name just a couple. We sponsored a Make-a-thon in Bangladesh and wondered what next. Where to begin? Where is the need and the opportunity greatest?

I began to ping my colleagues closer to the Maker movement. “Where’s the list?” Our collective and most comprehensive list of, at the very least, where these makerspaces are.

Expectedly, I did not get the list. What I did get was a link to five Google Sheets put out by the Ananse Group (which has since grown immensely in the past month), the open.co online database of hubs, Fab Foundation’s map and underlying API, the TechShop locations page, and the Hackerspaces wiki. Not everything but not a bad start and, while not consolidated, obviously good people have not only asked this same question before but are actively doing something about it so much love to all these teams.

However, that left me with CSV, JSON, and HTML sources. It left me with some teams asking certain questions such as, “What kind of tools do you have?” or, “Do you charge a fee?”, while others collected only basic information. On a technical note, it also provided responses stored different ways, too: a list of a space’s social media profiles stored in a long string in what could be better served as an array to facilitate parsing.

When the answer to this introductory 3W (Who’s doing What Where) question is a variety of sources with a variety of questions in a variety of formats, at best someone is going to hunt and peck for only their most immediate question with no guarantee of an answer and almost zero chance to explore this data toward realizing further connections.

Time to scrub in to helping make sure the Maker movement better knows its neighbors.

In 2014 BetaNYC launched civic.json, “a metadata standard for civic technology projects that is intended to complement project information in a github repository.” I was introduced to this last year through Code for DC, who “have extended their specification to make it useful for a broader user base. In doing so, [they] aim to foster collaboration and reuse across government agencies, municipalities, and the citizen-government divide.”

Building from these efforts and lessons — and following up on what has been an excellent National Week of Making — I’m launching maker.json to promote standards in the information we share about DIY spaces around the world toward fostering further awareness and improving collaboration.

In place, we use this as a template to build APIs with stronger, faceted search results, building in guaranteed results, which spaces are still active, which are public, and what type they are as well. While there’s a focus on makerspaces specifically, the information collected includes tech hubs, coworking spaces, hackerspaces, artist spaces, and more, and we don’t intend to leave those out.

Happy to report that’s already underway.

Next Steps

Soft-launching this at Maker Faire National last week, that helped plug me into the aforementioned Ananse Group. They’ve been doing, I think, some of the best work involving others, holding ideation sessions to best capture the complexity of this space without shutting out ideas or creating something bloated and unmanageable. They also have a smart stack planned where I plan to fold this work into that. Stay tuned for that launch in the coming months, especially with an update around August.

Presenting maker.json at the 2016 Maker Faire National. I don’t know what I was saying with that expression but must have been something like, “you ain’t gonna find cheapah JSON anywheah else on the mahket than right heah, guy.” (Photo/Kate Gage)

I’m also — as I so often am — inspired by my colleagues at 18F and the .about.yml standard they have created is another option to start implementing, a more human-readable format for collecting this information. I’ll start work on that as well per what is likely the v2 specification on which we’ll launch the API.

If anyone would like to chime in on this specification or help, please do shoot me a note! Help, advice, or comments are very welcomed.