I spent a big part of my childhood in our basement — no reason to call the police. I loved to waste entire days at my father's workbench, taking old electric devices apart with my best friend, not being able to assemble them again and building our own little gadgets for our treehouse.
DIY stores have always felt like toy stores to me. All those shiny tools and building materials — I tried to imagine how big our treehouse could have been when we would have had enough pocket money to buy more equipment and supplies.
My DIY past is still massively influencing my daily work. I learned to code by taking other people's code apart and trying to build my own stuff out of it. I've always suffered from a massive "reinvent the wheel" sickness and it taught me quite a lot. Building your own things — no matter if it is software or a slingshot — is one of the most satisfactory things you can do in life.
For software your DIY store is the web and all the components and tools are for free. The only cost is the time you spend on it.
We have a massive plug & play culture nowadays, which is quite the opposite of DIY. People expect things to just work and that's fine. Most people don't have the time to take things apart and learn how to rebuild or fix them. There's no need to know about the internals of your washing machine or the website you just visit. Our focus is somewhere else — finding the balance between our work and life.
While you can clearly see how the plug & play culture is growing everywhere around us, I feel that many people begin to look for something else again. Something more substantial, more passionate. A bit more DIY.
There's a massive difference between the things we plug in and they just work and those things we build on our own — it's our dedication. It's the personality we put in them by spending time on them. They might not turn out perfect, but that doesn't matter. It's about creation instead of consumption.
When we talk about user experience many forget that there's a huge component of how we feel when we use software — and that's how we feel about the software. The plug & play culture has brought many great new inventions and innovations. The web is full of plug & play tools and services that are out there to make our lives easier without thinking about their internals. That has worked for quite some time, but I think that time is over for many of us.
It's becoming extremely hard to trust and impossible to feel personally connected with one of those shiny apps and services out there. I remember a time when you read about a new start-up and the team behind it and you could feel the passion and the excitement — and it was most probably real. Nowadays everything feels shallow. You feel sold before you even sign up.
At least for me it has led to a revival of my DIY past. Instead of spending time on something that might be sold or shut down tomorrow I much rather put on some safety goggles and build my own thing.
So far I built a personal replacement for Zootool, a private Day-One for my family and a small tax helper app. All of them would never be publishable in their current state and they are far from perfect, but I love how they turned out and to use them on a daily basis.
There's an endless list of ideas for more personal apps and projects. It's a bit like standing at that workbench again, thinking about the possibilities and it just feels great!