Hey there Reddit - I’m Bilal Ghalib!

[update: Done with lunch! Where'd everyone go ;D?!]

My “thing” is creating inclusive spaces to solve problems, start businesses, and strengthen our communities. There's a movement happening; and we want to see it go global. I’ve been traveling the world spreading maker love - including Iraq, Lebanon, Berlin, and a bunch of other places.

This January, my friend’s 3d printing/rapid fabrication company danger!awesome brought a new type of hackathon to Boston. Our take on the hackathon was more of a free month-long workshop, which you can see a video about, here and learn a bunch about here, on our diysustainability.org workshop site.

We've been experimenting with a new educational principals and format for how maker culture can impact environment and community. Many participants weren't makers, engineers, or designers; to be inclusive, danger!awesome helped with design, fabrication, and training.

We are:

  • Bilal Ghalib, Artist, Activist and Catalyst
  • Nadeem Mazen, CEO of danger!awesome
  • Dawn Danby, Lifelong Sustainable Design Practitioner

What should you ask? Well, anything you want. We’re most passionate about the future of 3D printing, rapid fabrication technology, social justice, helping others create their own DIY Sustainability experience, and our mission to spread high-tech tool/training access to everyone.

Verification: https://twitter.com/bilalghalib/status/585243836991066112

Comments: 296 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

mis4mike68 karma

People say one problem with Marx is that he put economics at the heart of society and left culture, ritual, belief, and community off to the side. The maker movement shows promise to re-imagine community-based production but I worry it's too technically focused or too technologically optimistic.

Can you assure me that creating productive community spaces will eventually lead us to a more just culture globally? How do we bridge the gap between producing the things we need to live and changing the way we live altogether?

Do you think maker-style production will be able to replace capitalism in the long (or short!) term? Are there any areas that seem like quick wins if this is our goal?

nadeemtron36 karma

This is the greatest. Greatest question ever. Someone gild this person!

Ok so basically my view on this comes from a pedagogical perspective first and foremost. Human beings love to make and explore - it's intrinsic. Lots of people have lost touch with the everyday opportunities for that (and your reference to a Marxist critique/the importance of culture, ritual, and belief is in the same vein, I believe).

I believe that education will eventually hit a wall with standardized testing as frustration builds around the achievement gap and our robotic, impersonal way of dealing with this structural problem. We will almost certainly begin to emphasize hands-on, project based, and interdisciplinary work - and we will find a way for our education (the humans, and to a lesser extent the curricula too) to tap into individual students' passion.

Now back to your question: I think that community spaces like danger!awesome will begin to blur the line between education and fun, as well as the line between school and production, in a healthy way. I believe that when people are empowered to design and fabricate for themselves (as a basic k-12 skill and, to some extent, as a basic human right) - and when people do this in cohesive, community-oriented groups - the outcome will be extremely positive, with populist economic and social benefits.

Bridging the gap between production and lifestyle? I should probably leave that for Bilal, but I'll say briefly: I think the two will grow together, as long as spaces like danger!awesome are careful about how they engage for-profit attitudes in service of the community and towards empowerment of the individual maker.

Maker-style production replacing capitalism in the short term: no. The production technology simply isn't up to the task of printing a chair or synthesizing an ink cartridge on the spot. In my lifetime, the technology may be ready. BUT! In answering this question, we can't forget the special interests and "system" in which we operate. There's not necessarily a cabal of interests who will keep us disempowered, but we can't forget our culture of capitalism and the way in which American Capitalism (as opposed to Smithian Capitalism and many other types of capitlaism) is predicated on a pyramid scheme type distribution of wealth and economic mobility.

</impromptu manifesto>

ke7ofi4 karma

we can't forget the special interests and "system" in which we operate

The good news is that decentralisation of manufacturing and design will help to mitigate that issue to a certain extent. There’s nothing inherently wrong with capitalism; it just doesn’t force people to behave ethically. Hopefully hackspaces (and similar) will help to at least give people a little more independence.

ImFeklhr3 karma

The movement just needs new terminology. Hackspace and makers? That's the best we could come up with? Someone disrupt some better words.

bilalghalib7 karma

Disrupting some words is a hilarious idea. Xho trammery glew mosa underlucked, yet ratun toz threeza. :D

I agree that these words can be exclusive, I sprinkle collaborative creative spaces, maker spaces, hackerspaces, community spaces around. If I keep talking and using all these words I think the drift will be caught be a wide variety of people.

The big thing I'm grappling with about is the benefit of calling it the same thing globally to help people find each other. VS the importance of having a local language like arabic to keep it real to the space it is emerging from.


ke7ofi1 karma

Spralch metarz ufan, vorpal vorpal lah lois corral!

bilalghalib1 karma

Zizzlewut vorpal, haha, vet zizzlewoo splarch! Haha, can't believe you went there.

bilalghalib2 karma

We're thinking similarly on this. The space encodes ethics you know :)

ke7ofi2 karma

The space encode ethics

Would you mind rephrasing that?

bilalghalib2 karma

Well let me express two things that might help you understand what I mean. First of all I see hackerspaces as an offlining of the open source values the free software and other online movements have been expressing for a while. So being in a hackerspace you're connected to a heritage of sharing and collaboration. Same thing happens when you use an open source tool. You're touching and tied to and benefitting from values. That can/should have an effect on how you behave in the future. The golden rule rules.

Secondly a space that's designed with accessibility in mind, has an open door policy, tools that are within reach, stage space that is easy to rent. It expresses values that inform behaviors within the space. Architecture - like code - is law.

That works for signage too :)

ke7ofi1 karma

Architecture - like code - is law.

My local hackspace is just the cheapest building they could find. The implications, if one takes your statements literally, are pretty amusing.

bilalghalib1 karma

The "law" of by any means necessary? ;)?

immerc1 karma

How do you deal with someone who abuses the commons?

You mention the free software community. Right now there's a lawsuit against VMWare in Germany because they're allegedly not in compliance with the GPL when it comes to some of their drivers. Free Software advocates often have to deal with this sort of thing: someone takes GPLed software, modifies it, then refuses to release the modifications to the rest of the community.

I can easily imagine a similar situation in a ____ space where someone violates the spirit of the space but maybe doesn't conclusively break the rules, or breaks the rules in a difficult to prove or difficult to enforce way.

bilalghalib2 karma

True, this is hard to figure out. There are often processes set into place to do conflict resolution. One of the key tools I realized too late I haven't been talking about is non-violent communication and strategies for working across difference. Thanks for bringing it up :)

bilalghalib16 karma

I love this question and probably will love you.

Since 2009 I've been helping people set up hackerspaces around the world and visited more than a hundred. I //know// what you're talking about. The hope and optimism of the transformation of capitalistic culture into one of creativity, connection and support that comes with growth of these community spaces around the world. It's interesting to see that in 2009 we saw the start of a fast paced growth of hackerspaces internationally which isn't slowing down. There's a reason it happened in the wake of the economic collapse in 2008. I myself just graduating college and not looking forward to trying to get a job, instead I started a makerspace and then a business. Then in 2011 after the arab spring I started GEMSI.org initiative to share this value system with the middle east. Fundamentally the support we can offer each other inspired me more than transformation from the top down. This rearchitecting and redirecting of our efforts away from individualistic capitalism into an off-lining of the open source sharing value system is struggling with a lot of the cultural elements that define success today. Getting series A funding or being the "first" to do something. The IOTification of much of the fun creative fun projects you might have seen for the last 5 years in hackerspaces around the world is one way you can catch the drift of the culture.

Now I have no problem with business. In fact GEMSI stands for the Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space initiative. I recognize that there are needs and economies work. But the values I was excited to share is the vision that we together create the world around us, the responsibility and engagement of entrepreneurship. But after years of sharing "how" we do things using open source tools, sharing community spaces internationally, I recognize that there is too much tool centrism. The language and frame with which we've been attracting people, 3D printing, hackerspaces, open source tools have attracted more attention on the //things// happening. Not the philosophy of support, sharing and openness.

Initially I thought that when we bring hackerspaces to places with challenges we'd see projects coming up that address those that would return to the west and inform how people see how we use those spaces. That happened, but it wasn't the norm. Often we see spaces cloning the image of success (fire breathing dragons) in hackerspaces from the western world. Since this is a cultural issue and to not be prescriptive I've started sharing philosophies and frameworks within the global maker community world.

So basically no, I can't assure you. But I can promise to you that these questions are high on my list of priorities. One of the ways I'm attempting to change the conversation about what we do in makerspaces is starting the DIYSustainability effort. It's not mine, I've only started to propose a set of principals that can transform the workshops/actions we take in hackerspaces that will direct our efforts into connecting to issues of sustainability. http://www.diysustainability.org/principles-to-explore-for-a-global-diy-sustainability/ The workshop and the videos we produced are ways we're trying to share stories and practices other spaces can reproduce.

It's a tough and hairy question which requires people like you asking this question often. Being critical about if we're actually doing what we're setting out to do and being honest about it.

There is so much possibility. People are getting in touch with their creativity. My main perspective is that if we focus on the community aspect, learn to work across difference, build close relationships we will start to see a transformation of what happens in these spaces.

Recently I returned to Lebanon's hackerspace Lamba Labs. https://www.facebook.com/lambalabs and I was really moved to see something. The space has been closed for a year, all the tools went into storage and you might have called it a "failure". Sadly one of our most active members Raja developed cancer and died. This is his video describing the importance of care in the community space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6caqvenGUx0 I was hoping to visit him before, but I missed him. I did arrive to see the community get together, visiting his mother helping fill the house and bringing her some comfort. It made me cry. I realized that the thing these hackerspaces build that's indestructible are relationships. The hackerspace crew is now reforming in the wake of his death inspired by his life. That to me is a beautiful story worth sharing with the rest of the maker world.

I'll be giving some talks at republica about a concept I call "singing with the universe". Simply the idea to realize the beauty of our collective actions we must look within and see what we have to offer, look outside to see where we're being called - feel how we're motivated to act - and then do.

Sorry for the longwinded response. I hope I've answered some of your questions, sorry to respond with questions myself. Let me know if I missed anything.

Stay wonderful!

tinkglobally1 karma

Bilal - I printed a larger version of a partial leg (your uncle's? edit: cousin's) for you using a larger machine (Type A Machines) a couple years ago when you were in San Francisco. It's time for me to get back into the OS Hardware/sustainability/makerspace world en force. When's the next time you'll be in San Francisco? I'd love to chat.

(I almost threw my hat in the ring when I saw that /u/dawndanby was looking for marketing help last month, but didn't have time to do the application justice.)

bilalghalib1 karma

Aww! My cousin with the amputation recently died. Here's some work about that for those who don't know: http://www.instructables.com/id/Prosthetics-Modification-for-Pain-Relief-of-Pressu/ https://medium.com/@bilalghalib/baghdad-hackerspaces-diy-prosthetic-socket-project-213ef9d636d1

I'd love to connect - I just left SF two days ago, but I come back in a month! You can find me on twitter: @bilalghalib, reach out and lets stay in touch! I have a ton of thoughts about the sustainability/os hardware/makerspace world and would love your input and ideas :D! +BG

mis4mike1 karma

Thanks Bilal! Sorry for your (community's) loss. I tentatively love you too!

I wonder how well "internet culture" bridges gaps between would-be makers around the world. Also, I didn't get the reference to "fire breathing dragons" - is that shorthand for big flashy projects without a lot of practical application?

bilalghalib2 karma

Thank you, I'll share your thoughts and care with the crew next I see them :).

I host a weekly open call for people doing projects / running maker/hackerspaces around the world. We translate a bit between arabic and english and it stays pretty small which is awesome. More small scale and continuous interactions is important to making real connections between makers around the world. Yeah, FBD's are projects that are valuable for the learning that goes into it and the inspiration they give for exciting people about making, but I think there are ways to also bring that excitement and education into projects that make a difference. It actually feels really awesome to help someone. This is how meaning happens.

425ranger19 karma

My question is what in the name of all things good does any of that mean? seriously. ELI5 thanks

bilalghalib5 karma

Can you be more specific, what are you confused about. Here's some concreteness: 1) Makerspaces are places where groups of people share tools and space and support each other in creating things. Often with tools like 3d printing, laser cutting, and electronics - but many have a wide variety of tools and often focus on some particular topic - like electronic musical instruments. 2) We have run a workshop in Cambridge in January 2015 inside one of those spaces called Danger!Awesome. We brought people who work on urban agriculture together with creative people who wanted to work on projects that made a difference on sustainability. By bringing these people together in a space and encouraging people to understand each other and the problems they face, we helped connect the creative work that came out of the workshop on sustainability issues.

Those are two things that are pretty specific. Let me know if you have any other questions :D!

425ranger1 karma

That does help, thanks for the AMA. Seems a little Kum-bye-yah but that's cool. All the best!!!

bilalghalib4 karma

Thanks! I also encourage you to research the history of Kum-bye-yah in the civil rights movement, it's got an amazing story :)!

TheDopple1 karma


bilalghalib1 karma

PS /u/TheDopple - Do you or anyone else have access to a mass spec? I sorta need one :)

tinkglobally1 karma

Do you need to own one of your own, or do you just need to be able to send in a few samples?

If it's the latter, I might have a connection for you.

bilalghalib1 karma

I just have three soil samples I'd like to check into :)

LordButano16 karma

Whenever I see promo material for home 3d printers, all that they ever show are little useless trinkets that they've made. Can you give us some examples of useful things one might be able to do with an affordable 3d printer in their home?

bilalghalib7 karma

Small scale home based 3D printers are often used to excite people into joining a makerspace, impress potential partners, and create plastic waste. You're absolutely right in questioning what people can do with this empowering technology. I will point to my other answer and suggest that there's a strong educational element that is needed, if people can't design they will simply scan and print or print files they found online. There are some simple and interesting things that you can print, like a lens cap for your camera https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:619943 but really things make best advantage of this machine when you're designing things that fit directly into your life. Prototyping isn't really a home activity yet like scrapbooking or making a lasagna just the way you like from scratch. But people love lasagna and will learn the tools and processes to get creative in making food. Maybe it's a bit hopeful, but perhaps we can get that way with our consumer products too - and in this vein open source hardware in general is an important aspect.

Another frame is that that question you've asked is precisely the reason why we started the DIYsustainability.org concept. We are seeing the great potential of these tools and creative capacity that people are reclaiming through the rise of makerspaces in schools. The whitehouse maker faire is just a high level (and kinda late) nod to what's already happening all across the country and the world. But the maker faire isn't a science faire. There isn't a clear guide that can help steer what we make. I believe there are so many reasons to make for fun, to learn, to connect with people, and to explore the amazing world we're in. The DIYSustainability tries to take all that and direct the creative outputs towards creating a more sustainable world for us all. Enough plastic trinkets, let's start making sense, beautiful, fun, connective sense!

esharkin8 karma

I work in a rapid fabrication studio where we teach classes on and give access to many cnc machines. I see lot's of cool projects and people doing what they want, which is awesome, but I often worry about altruism in this environment. It's a catch 22 in our shop to encourage people to succeed but then see it springboard them into larger scale manufacturing that requires outsourcing and it bothers me on a personal level to see some people make such big personal gains instead of thinking on a larger scale like you're talking about.

How to you hope to encourage the use of this technology and especially the access to it for altruistic causes?

bilalghalib1 karma

Really important to articulate the values that make all that possible. The main two I see as supporting your case is collaboration and relationships. Talking about how we create real value by connecting to a persons problems takes the wind out of the sails of "//I// am making something great from my head!" Secondly talking about collaboration and giving experiential proof about the success and strength of working together helps bridge the "you can do it! Go be successful!" with the "doing it together helps! Care for each other!"

I have a list of values that I think transform creative projects here: http://www.diysustainability.org/principles-to-explore-for-a-global-diy-sustainability/ We applied these to the DIY Sustainability workshop and you can read out lessons learned here: http://www.diysustainability.org/principles-to-explore-for-a-global-diy-sustainability/

Again, these are all open for suggestions and modifications. They should probably be a wiki. Let me know what you think!

swiftjustice256 karma


bilalghalib2 karma


jafbm5 karma

Explain to me like I'm five: What is the maker movement?

bilalghalib0 karma

I've given a talk where I describe it pretty clearly I think. I don't think entirely like this but this is a short and simple description: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsAcD5z9OtQ

If words are your style: Hey, do you like to make?! Of course it's fun! Most people start off like that, but when they become grownups they forget they can be creative because people told them they can't. That's really sad. It was a lie so that they could sell them things and make money.

But today more and more people are coming together and making things. They are sharing what they make with each other in places called maker spaces. That's really nice of them to do that because it helps other people get excited about making too.

More people are sharing their excitement and the way they make things. Because they're so excited to make, they want to share. This helps other people forget the lie that they aren't creative and make things too. It is so nice to see so many people sharing their ideas.

People also share their pencils, printers, and other tools they use to be creative! They also share space to be creative in so they have a place for those tools. This is really good for people who don't have money to buy tools or the space to work.

Many people are remembering how to be creative because of all this sharing. People are making new kinds of tools to be creative too. Now people are out of the lie that they aren't creative. They are now asking a very important question. What do we do with our creativity? This is a much nicer question than what can I buy?

What do you want to make?

blackwidow_2115 karma

What are current limitations of 3D printing that you think can improve in the future (other than speed and cost)?

What are the possible drawbacks of 3D printing, or the possibilities of turning something good into harmful? (Again, other than cost and speed. I'm thinking of the downfalls of what 3D printing may possibly do to businesses, or possibly making non-metal weapons, etc.)

bilalghalib1 karma

Some things that come to mind: Embedded electronics including transistors and internal wiring. Better support material or support material alternatives. Smaller smoother prints to support the printing of nanochannels for biological systems / vasculature. More materials. More materials in the same device. Connecting 3D printing inline with other manufacturing processes.

Problems? Gray goo. 3D printers which print crappy specialty coffee. The questions you're asking are important and I'll be honest with what I think. I really can be wrong about this and am open to criticism but if 3D printing takes away manufacturing jobs it might bring a dip into employment and thus the economy. But I don't believe that man was made to do the same repetitive action day after day. There's so much to discover and explore both within ourselves and the universe at large. I don't expect nor want a Walle moment where we're useless and fat. A thought I had recently was perhaps if we completely automated transportation systems, the operators can walk around the trains and talk with people about their days, where they're going, give them relationship and travel advice. I believe that using people like machines is bad for people and not as effective as using a machine. Sooner or later the machine will come. We will probably lose the large scale tiny task automation manufacturing to machines. But I still believe in craft and I believe that people have an affinity for both working with their hands and give value to people's time. That's the fundamental humanity in hand crafts that I see. The reason it's worth more is not the intricacy of the object, but the effort, tradition and love the crafts person put into it.

As for being scared of what 3D printing makes possible, this has been a fear for a long time as each new tool comes out - we must remember where there's a will there's a way. The tools is just a tool. It might open up possibility for a greater number of people interested in harm to do it using this tool, but the real issue is the motivation. If the motivation is still there there will be a way for people to do harm. Let's start having a conversation about the underlying reasons for the motivation and work on that.

Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful questions. There is tons to say about this but hopefully I've shared some food for thought and the start of a conversation. Double hugs yo

edabot2 karma

How does the maker movement help to cause any large-scale change?

It's a lot of fun to use all the new digital fabrication tools and make stuff. The end goal of that is typically a community of people who are supporting each other in making stuff. However, regular talks with local politicians can have vastly larger impacts. Is there any focus on helping people to move up the chain?

bilalghalib1 karma

This is a question for Nadeem since I have mostly focused my efforts on the grassroots aspect of maker culture. I will address the large-scaleness though since that's the potential we're seeing and attempting to unlock with the DIYSustainability initiative. The spaces have now gone global, there are thousands of spaces with tools at the ready. But the large scale change isn't happening because the culture is still young and is budding and defining itself. Many people are still just getting on board and getting access to these spaces and tools. While this educational transformation is happening it is critical that we share the values that first made the movement possible. Sharing, openness, collaboration - first started in online virtual worlds. By reminding people using an open source 3d printer, or the shared space of the values that inform the places we're in I believe we also inform what we make in those spaces. Values like diversity and access came offline and into our hackerspaces but they've got a constricted definition because of the first hop into a tech focused community. We need to go out of our way to bridge and build relationships with people who understand challenges and show care and support, visit their spaces first and then invite them to ours. Makerspaces have a possibility to have a grassroots change, you can read a short version of the mission and links to our approach here: http://diysustainability.org/vision


moodwaffle2 karma

Could the technology you are advancing be used for nefarious means, such as improvised bomb-making? If so, how do you propose to limit use to altruistic purposes. Correct my perception, because people who want to harm others tend to be very creative, and the demographic you are working with has some stigmas attached.

bilalghalib3 karma

I've heard this often ... "aren't you worried about terrorists coming into the space and making awful things?!"

Let me tell you a notsosecret - they already are finding way to do horrible things. They will find any way possible to make their nastiness. They use broken cellphone detonators, brain wash children and manipulate media.

I would be glad for someone who's feeling the pressures of society, the lack of support, the fear of other, to come into one of our hackerspaces in the middle east. Lamba Labs and Fikra space (Lebanon/Iraq) are two places where I get the most hugs in the world. I'm sure other people feel that too. Even in Basra (south iraq) where I felt like an outsider and afraid for my life, the hackerspace crew folk put me at ease and welcomed and accepted me. The ethos of the space and the culture will either push away or dissuade those who have evil intent.

Giving people access to space, community and tools seem more like a way to prevent people from going down the path of evil by giving them hope than anything else.

This is how I see it. :) +BG

samersh2 karma

What is more important for you, to make change in the world, or to connect people together in the world!??

bilalghalib1 karma

I believe that the desire to make a change has both good and bad motivations which affect the real impact.

True connections between people leads to care, and care leads to motivating actions. If we had friends in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agbogbloshie - we would be really conscious about the tons of waste we send there every year.

For me heart first - hands later, it's the way I don't have to pick one or the either.

WinterVein1 karma

Salaam alaikum. what part of iraq are you from? south or north?

bilalghalib1 karma

Mom from the south, dad/grandpa from the Kurdish region, family house in baghdad. Nice right? :)?

WinterVein1 karma

:D my mom is partially Iraqi, her iraqi heritage is from south Iraq, are you shia(even if you are sunni you are still cool)? :)

bilalghalib1 karma

I have a funny video about my Iraqi heritage. It's an essay I wrote while working in Basra this summer. I hope you enjoy it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leXz-qKGPI8

bipolaron2 karma

What was the most unexpected part of starting hackerspaces in Iraq? What kinds of special and unique problems and opportunities did you encounter in that environment?

bilalghalib6 karma

I wish I could invite both the Fikra Space (Baghdad): https://www.facebook.com/FikraSpace?fref=ts and Science Camp (Basra) https://www.facebook.com/groups/777735108915585/ crew to answer this. I invite you to go to their pages and talk to them, they're really friendly and many speak english!

For me it was realizing the normalcy and common language of creativity across cultures. I hadn't been to Iraq for 19 years and was kind of terrified. But we started together, Murtadha Al-Tameemi did a dreams workshop where people expressed their hopes and aspirations and I saw myself in much of their visions. Some wanted to start their own radio shows, or to be actors, or to bring 3D printing to production to the country.

There are problems with access, picking a neighborhood will often identify your affiliation with one sect or another due to the highly divisive nature of the country. My Iraqi family were always afraid for me when I would go to the neighborhood where the space was. But I went, and others from different sects did as well... but who knows who felt excluded, we never met them. Women are often limited in their ability to mingle with young men, so having a gender diverse space could mean social problems for the ladies that attend. These are just my feelings, I'm sure the Iraqi's themselves have different views :) - again, ask them!

The opportunities? Endless. Creating even the smallest amount of hope for creating a future together in Iraq is a big deal. Most people want to leave, these kids are making something there. Some of the original founders have started an app making business, and Nawres in the south is working on robotics trainings for women. So there's finally a gulp of fresh air in Iraq.

I used to be terrified of going into the country. Every time I'd try to get a chauffeur from the airport. I now feel like there's a group of people there who I trust and can whatsapp them from the airport and get a ride. That trust is a miracle for both me, and I think them. I hope these initiatives keep growing and being more inclusive.

neon7062 karma

What is your favorite sweet food?
Have you ever tried marijuana? What is a strange fact about yourself? What is your perfect retirement?

bilalghalib1 karma

My favorite sweet food is mangosteen, it's a fruit and super delicious. I had a great time eating tons of delicious fruit this summer.

In terms of retirement, I'd like to continue to do projects all through my life, I'd like to have more stability in terms of where I live and not worrying about food though.

Marijuana? Not my thang ;) I mess with my brain enough with my meditation practice, haha! But I'm curious why do you ask?

zacpariah1 karma

Hey guys, awesome stuff you're doing. I'm working on starting up a home gardening business, and I was wondering what your perspective was on Aquaponics. Is this a viable option for making food at home? Any insight you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

bilalghalib1 karma

Of course! There's a ton of practical research going on at schools around the country. I remember a rotating aquaponics garden at NYC Resistor hackerspace in NYC if you're anywhere near there. My roommates build an aquaponics salad garden at work. Growing things is beautiful and the cyclic system of aquaponics really takes advantage of a micro ecology.

There are some great links to open source aquaponics systems in this link: http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Aquaponics

good luck and remember to share what you discover! :)

ZombieMMMBrains1 karma

You ever wonder about getting killed while trying to change the world?

bilalghalib4 karma

I'm not trying to save the world. I'm searching for understanding myself, the world and my motivations to help me create beauty with my actions. If I die in that process, I'm not sure what else I could have been doing.

o-I1 karma

I really like this attitude. It's inspiring.

I think most of us in the west have a hard time understanding how dangerous your work actually is. I applaud you for getting past the fear and sharing the spirit of radical self-expression with the world.

bilalghalib1 karma

Thanks for sharing. I really don't view myself as doing any form of sacrifice. Sometimes there's fear but most of the time I'm surrounded by lovely people who I love. Getting past the fear into authentic human connection with people I would never know or see otherwise is so worth it. Being able to bring that connection to others brings me joy. There is no sacrifice :)

Also, do you know me? You speak like you know what I do... and with my website: bilalghalib.com/does being down, I think it'd be kinda hard to figure that out ;D! Haha! +BG

moonflash11 karma

Hi ! Thanks for doing this AUA. Well, I'm currently a bachelor's student studying mechanical engineering. I quite like the idea of 3D printing and am quite sure that the future belongs to similar technologies. My question is: I would really love to start my own company or business once I'm done with college. But I'm not really that creative. So what kind of oppurtunities are there for a mechanical engineering in the current market with respect to 3D printing? Also what new technologies similar to 3D printing should one keep an eye on that are bound to become very relevant in the near future? Thanks again! :)

bilalghalib2 karma

How are you possibly not that creative? Who's idea is that? Do you know your mind is creating everything you see, it's dark and soundless in your head. All you experience is your creation. Dig on that for a while!

Ok, so let's forget about the tool. They'll still be there. Let's ask the main question. What do I make?

My suggestion is to find someone you really care about and ask them about their lives. Be really curious about what makes them happy and what sort of things bother them. This makes brainstorming and creativity a LOT easier. Don't be overwhelmed by "YOU CAN 3D PRINT ANYTHING" that's an impossible way to start a creative process. You need to constrain your thoughts so you have borders to push up against, it's a lot easier to move in water than in a vacuum. Find someone lovely and follow them around. Imagine what it's like to be them. Ask how you can help them. This is not just a way to understand what to make, but also a way to experience purpose in life. To give is to find meaning.

Stay wonderful and let me know how that goes for ya!

TheGnuGuy1 karma

If you had to choose one country to live the rest of you life in, which would you choose?

bilalghalib1 karma

Toughie, why would I have to chose? I think I'd pick America, it's huge enough to have so many kinds of America :)

Link-1 karma

What's your view on Bitcoin? Do you think this technology will have any impact on the Hacker movement/DIY world society?

bilalghalib0 karma

Bitcoin is another scarce resource that can be exchanged for people's time. It's money. But the fact that no country owns it and the mostly deregulated nature (for now) means that places like Lebanon that doesn't have access to PayPal and global markets can trade with people internationally. Exciting! Now we have to decentralize shipping! Teleportation? Boat drones?

HerrProfessorDoctor1 karma

Howdy. I run a university lab born of Maker Space but now really focused on 3D visualization in the education space (printing, scanning, design, interactivity, etc.). Where should I be looking for collaborators who have great ideas and with a little bit of university resources could really do some impactful work?

bilalghalib0 karma

PERFECT QUESTION! This is exactly where we were before starting the DIYSustainability.org workshop! Our realization was we needed outside ideas and deep knowledge of challenges to make sure our creativity had that impactful work you're talking about. So we did some outreach finding people who worked locally on sustainability challenges and invited them into the makerspace.

If you can help bring people who understand and are passionate about an issue and develop connections with people within the makerspace, you're well on your way. We developed a structure to explore that called the DIY sustainability workshop, you can see how we ran it and what we learned here: http://www.diysustainability.org/principles-to-explore-for-a-global-diy-sustainability/

Something important to keep in mind, perhaps keep the challenge closer to home. In Cambridge we worked with nonprofits that focused heavily on issues within the region and that proved to be really valuable as participants and practitioners were steeped and impacted by the issues they were bringing up.

Lovely question and if you want I'd gladly chat with you more, we're always interested in more programming that helps makers make impact.

Eijin1 karma

bilal, what's your view on jacko's truancy problem regarding metachapel?

bilalghalib2 karma

Oh my garrulous grubule, go grieve for gold in a grumple! Given that, gestures galore! \o/

Lastonk1 karma

How much space and how much would it cost to make a middle school age friendly maker space in a Seattle suburb?

bilalghalib1 karma

Hmm, there are so many different approaches that this is too general a question to answer easily. I would start of with expressing clearly what the objectives for the space are, perhaps some imaginary scenarios and dreams. From there we can work backward to match our dream with our resources :)

TheEternalRubberDuck1 karma

Have you considered expanding GEMSI type operations to disadvantaged areas elsewhere (ie: Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia)? Also, never thought I'd see you on a front page AMA.

bilalghalib1 karma

Aww, thanks! Of course! Actually we get both Altin from the Pristina Hackerspace in Kosovo and Max who's off to work in Pakistan regularly on our GEMSI calls :). I've also started working more in India so we'll see.

But it's a problem of resources and my abilities to organize. I'm a much better inspirational leader and vision setter than I am a day to day operations guy. There are some people who are willing to help as we're looking to boot up, get more organized, find clear roles for volunteers and such. But without any funding as a completely volunteer driven organization I've found it hard to manage. Sometimes I question getting paid for something I view as my volunteer work and sometimes I wonder if GEMSI will grow and have a larger impact if we take grants and/or start a for profit branch to fund our activities. So many questions. Mostly just questions.

It's beautiful to see what GEMSI has done, but having it be a side project for years has limited our impact I believe. Also my vision is shifting from how we can make things together to why, and I've been teaching more design thinking practices, sharing values that transform our creativity and giving talks on doubt and questioning motivation. Finding ways to share these things without sounding condescending or prescriptive is my current challenge. I'm really just excited about the possibility to bring beautiful people together to create beauty on our planet.

Stay wonderful and thanks for the Q! (wanna help me get organized?)

SolidCitizens1 karma

What are your thoughts on projects started on an open source basis becoming closed as they grow in popularity? (ie Makerbot, Shapeoko 3, etc.)

bilalghalib2 karma

Here's a list of things that are good: Bre now can start investing in hacker culture ;D It's a form of a success story even if it's not the one I prefer. It validates the process of hacker entrepreneurship through the previous culture's success stories. Having these questions come up bring up the idea that there //is// room for open source business models. The prior work which was open source is all publicly out there.

Here's a list of reasons why it's bad: I'm jealous of their success. Wait, cross that out. Crap.

bocaciega1 karma

Hi there! I'm a native Floridian who has been experimenting. Growing my own food for a while and trying out unique, rare, or indigenous annuals, perennials, and trees. I have about 30 different fruit trees and a large backyard garden and eat mostly everything and also I give away a lot of produce, seeds, and plants. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to take my growing to a level I could possibly make some money or just reach a larger group of people to educate about the ease of growing your own food especially in florida, since we have abundant sunshine and abundant rain. I was thinking of starting a kick starter to acquire a plot of land locally to build a large food forest/ permaculture project. Any advice ? Thanks!

bilalghalib1 karma

This is amazing! I think you should connect with my friend shubz who does the project www.afforestt.com/. He's been working on a business model that encourages people to build forests in urban settings. His current goal is to share a framework/methodology to help others do that worldwide. You have to get in touch! :D

Gulanga1 karma

What is the easiest sustainability DIY project that anyone can make that you could recommend?

bilalghalib4 karma

The simplest DIY project can be to simply look at your life and find ways to reduce your impact. Reduce the amount of new things you buy, repair torn clothes, support farmers markets, grow your own herbs. It's a simple answer, but it's the simple starts that can help many people get excited to change their behaviors and together have a more significant impact.

Hmmm, here's a weird idea: I think fasting more will help. Fasting from food twice a week and fasting from buying things one week out of every month. :D +BG

TheGnuGuy1 karma

Where do media, technology, and human rights intersect and which medium is most conducive to expressing the overlap?

bilalghalib2 karma

What a question. I think I'm going to have to simmer on this one for a bit if you don't mind. Do you have more details or ideas yourself? Have you been to the hacker camps in Germany? That may be the right forum to ask this question. I'll be at re-publica.de/en/ exploring some of those ideas during my talk.... It's fundamentally exploring a new way of connecting to journalism.

DieselFuel11 karma

Do you know any good masgouf restaurants in the states?

bilalghalib1 karma

Go to Dearborn MI :D Also, you must be Iraqi, who are you? ;)

salladallas1 karma

Sustainability, community and culture seem to be covered, but one of the main links I see missing is the mention of food. Isn't food and available resources the foundation of culture? How do you see sustainable food production working with maker bots?

bilalghalib2 karma

So we didn't use any maker bots in the workshop we ran in January. But two out of the three of our teams worked with food. We held potlucks every Wednesday and Saturday. You're absolutely right, food is critical for both culture and the sustaining of human life. Food is life.

Thanks for bringing this up in the AMA, check out The Food Project http://thefoodproject.org and City Growers http://citygrowers.wordpress.com To see the kinds of initiatives that were the first to participate in a DIY Sustainability flavored workshop :)

efhramn1 karma


Whatever happened to your screenprinting shop?

bilalghalib1 karma

That was some shop. It was the start of my experiencing community creativity. We shared the tools with artists, we hosted art galleries and musical shows. We experimented with a micro economy where everyone was making and collaborating. It really informed my work and life after that. Those were a good 6 years.

I moved to California before understanding leadership transfer. I was evicted because no one paid the rent. We survived for a few more years by starting a partnership with the Neutral Zone, a local teen center in Ann Arbor MI. We taught entrepreneurship and creativity and in turn had free rent. I passed the company on to my lovely cousin Sarms, but the company couldn't survive a second leadership transfer after that.

It's now a public resources for young people in Ann Arbor at the Neutral Zone. I hope that the energy and philosophy of being able to actualize your ideas and support yourself financially at the same time continues through those tools and the educational support around it.

Still get the itch to make tshirts though! I have so many new ideas....

PM_Me_Stuff_Please_1 karma

Why haven't you invented a reverse microwave that can cool down my coffee 30 degrees in 30 seconds?

bilalghalib2 karma

Put it in a bowl toss it up as high as you can and catch as much of it as possible. Does that work? (please don't hold me liable for your burns)

PM_Me_Stuff_Please_1 karma

I like your moxy. Did you see the doc Hot Coffee? Holy shit we were lied to

bilalghalib2 karma

No, what does the dox say? "nee nee nee nee nee nee nah neee"

PM_Me_Stuff_Please_2 karma

I don't get it but I like you. It'd be fairly simple to change the world for the worse. I'm glad you're playing the long con to do the opposite.

bilalghalib1 karma

The long con. Kinda sounds like a good book title. :) - I actually had no idea what oh shoot. Hot Coffee is a documentary. Not a Document. Hahahaha!

long-shots1 karma

Where does sustainability reconcile with profitability ? And how?

bilalghalib1 karma

There is a thought that if you make something that eases pain for someone then you've created something truly valuable and thus profitable. I believe that maintaining our beautiful planet is truly valuable in that sense. How much pain is there just in asthma in cities like Beijing, that must have some value.

Also I don't want to belittle the irreplaceable value of something like a species going extinct. That's a serious loss. But if you're wondering about $$ profit there's that. Also, there was an awesome radio lab podcast on value that you should check out, it went and figured out the value of our environment in monetary terms for the benefit it has doing stuff for us, like pollinating and watering our crops :) www.radiolab.org/story/worth it was way worth a listen! :)

TheChosenShit1 karma

Do You Like Poetry?

bilalghalib2 karma

I got the reference ;D! Are you Indian? :)

TheChosenShit1 karma

Yes Sir, I am. :D

Ninja Edit: And "Ghalib" is reeaally popular here.

bilalghalib2 karma

/me laughs! Of course, :D! Do you have a favorite Ghalib poem?

nemothebarbarian1 karma

Mr.Ghalib, I'm wondering, as a fellow Iraqi American, what sustainability projects you have in mind for our country?

bilalghalib2 karma

Yeah, we have tons of important stuff to deal with "backhome" one of the projects I'm working on with the Science Camp hackerspace is the issue of Depleted Uranium. The 1400 tons of the slightly radioactive heavy metal that has been dropped on the country over the years. Identifying where it still remains, and figuring out how it is affecting people is the core of the project described here: http://blog.safecast.org/2014/04/safecasting-iraq-open-data-to-open-doors/

Also, landmines after years start to degrade and leak chemicals into our beautiful rivers. Also if they don't degrade they just kill people walking around, so that's aweful.

These are two issues to start off with. Thanks for bringing it up! :D +BG

nemothebarbarian1 karma

Thank you for doing this. Will you be taking part in any future projects on the marshes?

bilalghalib1 karma

Thank you for your interest! I'd be so interested, do you know of anything going on? The marshes are such an important and historic natural resource. The world will be deprived if they dry up.

WinterVein1 karma

Salaam Alaikum, Im a shia muslim with partial iraqi descent and I look up to you. What are you currenty working on?

bilalghalib1 karma

I'm working on many things including the DIY sustainability program. If you're interested in seeing iraqi hackerspaces check out http://facebook.com/fikraspace and also Science Camp in Basra: https://www.facebook.com/groups/777735108915585/

I'm also working on an Iraqi issue of depleted uranium: http://blog.safecast.org/2014/04/safecasting-iraq-open-data-to-open-doors/

WinterVein1 karma

Very cool! I didnt even know Iraq even had a uranium supply after Saddam. Im sorry if this is somewhat personally political(because your south iraqi and kurdish i assume you will probably agree with me on this but im not sure), Do you think Saddam is evil? if not why? do you think Saddam was better than the current state of Iraq now for shias? how about sunnis? I also enjoy programming so i wish I could attend your hackerspace. Do you do just programming or also science expiriments and projects? which part of Iraqi is your friend from ? :) Jazakallah khair

bilalghalib1 karma

So the uranium is depleted and is basically radioactive waste that was used as ammo during the 1990/2003 wars. I'd rather not discuss Saddam on this forum, the most I will say is that he's dead and we're still living in the legacy of his absence. We need to find ways to move forward from where we are right now - acknowledging the past but looking beyond it. If you're in Iraq Baghdad, you should hang out with the fikra space crew! Facebook.com/fikraspace or if you're closer to basra, check out science camp: https://www.facebook.com/groups/7775108915585/

WinterVein1 karma

I dont live in Iraq and i dont speak arabic, so hanging out with you guys is kinda impossible. I speak Persian though(I heard persian is spoken by some iraqis sometimes in karbala, basra, najaf). Ill check out your facebook page, so Wow, the Uranium problem sounds dangerous, has anyone been hurt? I think my mom told me about how it killed lots of kids in the 90s. Ill check out your video :)

EDIT: the basra story sounds scary, Inshallah you will be safe :).

On an unrelated side note: have you been to dearborn ever?

bilalghalib2 karma

I grew up in Ann Arbor, of course I've been to Dearborn! The video talks about the uranium issue :)

The issue with depleted uranium rounds is that it hasn't been linked to adverse health affects and is currently still a conventional weapon. That means next war it will be used again. That's one of the reasons for a open data citizen science exploration of where it is / the effects. +BG

WinterVein1 karma

wow, the uranium issue seems scary, i will look into it. How is ann arbor? and ive never been to dearborn, but is it true that it is like half lebanese and iraqi?

P.S. Come check us out sometime on /r/arabs and /r/iraq :)

bilalghalib2 karma

Dearborn is really really full of arabs - tons of Iraqi's after 2003 and has had Lebanese for a loooong time :) - Henry Ford used to bring them over as engineers :)

dj50tonhamster1 karma

+1 for the Fikra Space guys. I met several of them when I was on vacation in Iraq last year. (Didn't get a chance to see the space, unfortunately.) Very nice guys who are fighting against the odds to establish a maker space in Baghdad. Difficult, no doubt, but they're trying their best. Any support people can give them will be most appreciated. :)

bilalghalib1 karma

Wait, you really met up with them? Who!? Do I know you? I can't believe you went to Iraq on vacation! I think great support is simply following them and sending them love over facebook. Make friends with an Iraqi today! http://facebook.com/fikraspace

IHeartJolene1 karma

Do you see any of the effects in a loss of creativity due to the perception that everything can just be downloaded and printed? I work part time in an industry that the only way to sell product is to be original. As soon as someone copies your work, you can't sell your original designs anymore. Thank you.

bilalghalib2 karma

I do hear that and that's opening up a huge can of worms from the benefits of small labels giving away their creative work VS huge industries and labels all the way to the awesomeness of the REMIX http://www.ted.com/talks/kirby_ferguson_embrace_the_remix?language=en

It's up to the creators of the content to decide what model to publish under, Creative Commons or copy protected. There are a lot of decisions and experiments needed to figure out how to support and inspire more creative work and there's tons of people working that out. Ze Frank puts out content like the show. There's the idea of 1000 true fans that Kevin Kelly puts out: http://kk.org/thetechnium/2008/03/1000-true-fans/ and more.

Increasing creativity, hat tipping to originators of creativity while bringing new work and putting ownership back in the hands of the creators by forging relationships with fans rather than their wallets channeled through the industry seems like a kinder more gentler form of patronage of the arts :)

Just ideas and there's a lot more to explore here. Thanks for asking though!

mrmojorisingi1 karma

Do you know Ali? Isn't he the best?

bilalghalib2 karma

Makhzoomi? Salami? Haha! I know a ton of Ali's!

mrmojorisingi1 karma

Haha Ali Mohammed. He was one of the founders of danger!awesome. I worked with him at WMBR back in the day

bilalghalib2 karma

Well, we've run across each other. But while at DA I mostly was hanging with Nadeem :)

ShaneSpeaks-1 karma

Thank you for this AMA!

I manage the tech services department of a library system in a very small, very poor county in Florida. We recently received an innovation grant to establish a makerspace in our library system.

I'm tasked with constructing a makerspace for less than $10,000. I've pretty much got it all figured out but I'm having trouble finding what may bring people in to use the space. Could you give some examples of some of the things you guys do to get the community involved in makerspaces?

Thanks much, love what you guys do.

bilalghalib0 karma

Wow, I'm so impressed, so many amazing questions and lovely people!

So in the case of maker spaces I advise against if you build it they will come. A pattern that many people have experimented with in the past is to simply start having "show and tell" events months before opening up the space. You're looking to find the core community members. Consistency and postering will help build up momentum.

One big tip is do not do this alone. Once you have 6 people who you are excited to work with setting this space up, it's go time. Making sure this core group is diverse in interest, age and gender is critical - especially if you understand the principle of like attracts like.

Being in a library gives you a lot of exposure, I'd be sneaky and put flyers in crafting, drawing, programming, etc books ;D!

I've written up something about how and why to start a space here: http://www.gemsi.org/2013/03/start-a-hackerspace-diy/

Gladly will talk more! Also I have a weekly chat every wednesday with a group of people who are currently setting their spaces up that you could join.

Last two resources: https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/Design_Patterns and schoolfactory.org has a document somewhere too. They also consult on this topic and could be down to chat!

Stay wonderful!

molomo-1 karma

Hey Bilal! I know you were working a documentary of makerspaces in the states. How did this project shape your understanding of maker communities? What did you learn? What factors lead to successful and sustainable collaborative spaces? What are the biggest obstacles to creating integrated and inclusive communities around the space? PS. what ever came of the documentary?:)

bilalghalib0 karma

Ok, I've tried to shoot a documentary four times! It's a lot harder than I thought. All the documentation from the Two Hands Project can be found here: https://archive.org/details/twohandsproject ... unedited.

Back in 2009 after my tour interviewing over 50 hackerspaces across the country my main conclusion was that these were PBLES - which stands for Passion Based Learning EnvironmentS.

I then came home to Michigan to start a space called allhandsactive.com and while doing that also started working in entrepreneurship building robots with Robotics Redefined. The idea behind self employment and seeing my hand at creating the world around me was really inspiring and so when the revolutions happened in the middle east around 2011 I realized that we needed a grassroots support system - and entrepreneurship as a value could do provide that. But incubators wouldn't support the grassroots, needs, urban interventionism ethos I was so inspired by - so hackerspaces was the framework I thought could share these values.

Sustainable spaces? Man, that's a tough one, each context is so different and so many places have different funding / support models. One critical thing to note is the way the space is funded will drastically influence the activities. Basically if you eat tubers you spend your day harvesting, if you eat meat you chase animals. Ask yourself what actions do you want to take and have the funding model connect to that.

To answer the question of sustainability my only thought is keep an open mind and have a large board. The more people who are thinking about how to support a space brings in more ideas - and are also a resource to tap themselves ;D.

Inclusivity is always hard. I remember seeing a group of 4 white male programmers talking about the importance of diversity in a space - speaking about programmers who worked on unix issues and others who did robotics. Whoa. Clearly putting up the ethos of the space and having it also on the membership documents is important. Food, hanging out, visiting people in the hospital when they're sick, doing something you don't know how to do together (like start a business) are all things that show vulnerability and connect hearts.

PS, I tried to shoot a short documentary while working on a hackerspace in Lebanon and actually got it done. Collaboration with people who know what they're doing, yay Karen Abad and Justin Jach! https://vimeo.com/75325649

These are all huge questions that I could go on about, but I hope this is a good start. :D (Do I know you? :) )

Gohagan-3 karma

How many American women have you bedded? How many Iraqi women have you bedded? Which is better? Don't lie.

bilalghalib11 karma

First of all I don't view women as conquests. I really value my relationships and find that people all over the world are creative and inspiring. Also... I can't afford beds, I sleep on couches.