At this time of year when Sparkfun, AdaFruit, and Arduino tweets are filled with high-tech Jack O’ Lanterns, I thought I’d document the making of an Old School Jack O’ Lantern.
This post is about what I’ve learned about Making through the Robotic Glockenspiel project.
Even at the beginning of the project, I was “standing on the shoulders of giants“:
- Arduino and Arduino Starter Kit to get me going
- a solenoid driver circuit from a Make magazine blog.
- several math & physics web pages went into my own instructions on cutting and tuning chimes
- videos of other people’s robotic glockenspiel projects
- Pages on the format of Midi files and playlists
- Sparkfun Arduino Shields and their customer support folks
- Arduino community notes on some quirks of Arduino shields
- Woodworking pages on using a router to do basic joinery
- I’ve even kept Lowes in business for the past few months, buying the chime and box parts
As I learned things, I’d document them for others:
- I blogged at major points in the project. I could have blogged more frequently.
- I tweeted synopses of the blog entries, to point to the blog
- I made YouTube videos from the very start, of the little soldering projects I built to relearn how to solder
- Once the software was (mostly) working, I put as much as I could think of on GitHub:
Sharing shaped my thinking and the structure of the project:
- Blogging made me imagine what someone like me would like to know about robotic instruments and glockenspiel construction.
- Making YouTube videos made me think about how the project demos well or badly, and pulled me out of the technical bits into the user experience. Trying to make a video of the glockenspiel playing showed me how unacceptably loud it was.
- Tweeting made me think about how to get the word out about what I’d done so far, and what media to use to connect with like-minded people.
- Open-sourcing the project on GitHub seriously changed how I organized the software (I created the libraries and examples of how to use them), and stretched my ideas of what a Git repo was for (e.g., Bill of Materials). It made me think of reusability of the code.
Sharing sends many messages
At work, Jessica and I discussed what Sharing Making says, and came up with these ideas:
- The foreground message: “how to do what I did”. You’re giving people a recipe, that’s hopefully complete enough to be useful.
- It’s a resource list: “Here are links to the sources I used to get where I am with this project”. It lets people find more detail and the people who created those details.
- “I appreciate the work people put into the resources I used” – making a resource list gives kudos back to the authors.
- “How I got here”. It’s a journal, showing your process of creation. Not just the recipe, but a guide to how to be a chef who creates recipes. This is the big reason you want to share your project as you go rather than when it’s “finished”.
- It shows authority: “Now I know how to do this.” “I’ve got chops”
- Advertising that you’re a resource: “I’ve shared this much; ask me questions about problems you run into”
- An advertisement for collaboration: “These are areas I’m interested in” “Contact me if you want to work together in an area”
- Most importantly: if you only share the demo – what you did – you’re only saying “look at how great I am and you can’t be”; if you share how to duplicate the project, you’re saying “I’m nurturing the community”. I’ve seen how when people only post a photo or demo, the first comment on it is “So, where’s the source?”
So far, I’ve only written; I haven’t actually participated in a community
- I’ve blogged, tweeted, youtubed, and githubbed, but I haven’t heard from anyone who’s used this info, and I haven’t offered changes to anyone else’s Open Source project – yet.
- Everything I’ve said about “sharing” is just speculation at this point. I look forward to actually collaborating (in some way) with other people who are into music technology.
- I need to “advertise” the project so people can find it. Once it’s more complete, I can put it up on the Arduino Blog, Sparkfun’s site, etc. I can also do more exercises to make the libraries I’ve created more useful.
- Life is all about creating long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships. Linda says writing isn’t about one fantastic book; it’s about continually writing wonderful new books for your growing audience. In the same way, Making isn’t about one cool project; it’s about building relationships to Make stuff that’s so much more wonderful than you can make alone.
Yup, it plays the Somerset Wassail!
It still needs a set of pushbutton controls and a wooden case, but it’s finished enough to play tunes.
After a few weeks of experimentation, I think I can now write sensible notes on how to cut and tune the chimes for a glockenspiel (metal xylophone) out of metal conduit. This is the first step of my Robotic Glockenspiel project, which I hope to end with a network-connected, Arduino-controlled set of chimes that can play Christmas carols.