A Book for Patent-Hopeful Inventors

Posted on April 23, 2012
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Now here’s a book that ought to be on technical writers’ shelves, at least if you’re inventive or are working with people who are good at coming up with useful gimmicks. Inventiveness implies trips to the the U.S. Patent office, or at least filings there. And how many of us know reliably how to win a valid patent?

To that rewarding end, James Floyd Kelly, writing on Wired’s GeekDad blog,  recommends John Hershey’s book The Eureka Method: How to Think Like an Inventor. “As a technical writer,” Kelly reports, “I often find myself being introduced to inventors and tinkerers via friends and colleagues.  Sometimes these hands-on folks are looking for help with documenting a design or process, and I try my best to offer up advice or sometimes assistance.”  In the course of “creating instructions or verifying step-by-steps” Kelly often gets asked about patent law.
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Maker Faires Build Community

Posted on April 10, 2012
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Maker Faires look like places where art and technology come together, unless you consider technology an art in itself. But some would find that arrogant. So what’s a Maker Faire?

Many of you may already know, because Make magazine is doing a terrific job of promoting its technology fairs and building community around them. (Building and maintaining a community is an art, too, of course.)  I stumbled upon Make magazine  while surfing the web recently (Dennis Owen, my asssociate, is Encore’s actual technologist).  And besides the magazine, there was a Maker Fair tab and promotions for two types of fairs – big and smaller. Maker Faires are coming up in San Mateo, New York’s Queens,  Seattle, Detroit and Kansas City, while Mini Maker Faires (the smaller ones, obviously) are scheduled for later this month in Lubbock, TX, Westport, CT, and Burlington, NC. If you click on the calendar link, you’ll find both types of fairs all around the world!
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John Muir’s Early-Rising Genius

Posted on April 1, 2012
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We don’t have the space to review the Make blog’s post on “John Muir’s Maker Days” as extensively as it deserves. We’ll simply note that Muir’s youth revealed the ravenous appetite for discovery and application that underlies  a lot of technological gains. (We hope it’s not stretching a point to align Muir with technology, but it seems appropriate in the following context.)

Growing up in Wisconsin, the great naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club (and our National Park System) would get up at 1 a.m., hold a candle to the kitchen clock and find that he had gained five hours. “‘I had gained almost half a day. ‘Five hours to myself!’,’ I said, ‘five huge, solid hours!’ I can hardly think of any other event in my life, any discovery I ever made that gave birth to joy so transportingly glorious as the possession of these five frosty hours.'”

Working in his frigid basement, Make continues, Muir used his extra time to design a self-setting sawmill (to provide extra wood to heat the house on zero-degree mornings), “speedily followed by a lot of others – water wheels, curious doorlocks and latches, thermometers, hygrometers, pyrometers, clocks, a barometer, an automatic contrivance for feeding the horses at any required hour, a lamp-lighter and fire-lighter, an early-or-late-rising machine, and so forth.”

Part of John Muir's desk clock

Inventiveness may need to be more abstract these days, and who needs to worry about keeping candles lit to stay with it? But the zeal for discovery and application is the key factor that drove Muir and that inspires  anyone with a creative bent.
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