Ignite 18 + “The Maker Moment”

Last Thursday I participated in my first-ever Ignite, a multi-city live event series that operates under a brilliant tagline for the ADD era: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

UPDATE: I just added the video of my session above.

This was not only my first time as an Ignite attendee, I was also one of 15 speakers for the night, each of us charged with delivering a 5-minute talk, backed up by exactly 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds (which is how Ignite keeps the “enlightenment” flowing).

And the format wasn’t even the most daunting part; my fellow speakers included heavy hitters like Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn; social media marketing maven Shauna Causey, and Virgina Tech massacre survivor Kristina Anderson (among many other super-talented folks).

My topic for the night was something I say every day in private conversation but had never before delivered in public. The video is are embedded at top if you want to sit through the whole pitch but the tl;dr version is as follows:

  • We have arrived at a unique moment in the history of technology and human society: what I call “The Maker Moment”
  • The explosive growth of global connectivity, coupled with the collapse in the cost of software development, has made software the “operating system” of human progress — the most efficient lever for positive change in the world.
  • The rate of positive change through software is limited by one thing — an acute global scarcity of “digital creatives” skilled in all the disciplines needed to create effective software tools and experiences.
  • As explosive global demand for these skills collides with acute scarcity, makers are empowered as never before — whether they realize it or not they are the “limiting reagent” in the global economy, and talent (for the moment) is more powerful than capital.
  • This condition won’t last forever — maybe five years, maybe 10 — but makers with a passion for positive impact shouldn’t wait to claim their power and seize their opportunity to create change.
  • There are several concrete steps that any maker can take to maximize his or her chances of making an impact — simple things like moving to a city with lots of other makers in it; or leaving a digital crumbtrail of their skills and passions online for others to find — all the way up to the big leap of building their own company.
  • No matter what they choose, the “Maker Moment” means that failure is impossible for talented digital creatives — even if they stumble the market will reach down and pick them back up, because their skills are too valuable right now for the market to miss out on. The only failure is not to try.
  • Makers don’t have to change the world all by themselves — traditional economic actors like financial investors, big companies and even government and non-profit players are all eager to participate in (and profit from) digital innovation — but makers are the drivers in a way they never have been before.
None of the above will be news to folks who are already embedded in the innovation culture — startup founders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurship advocates.
But I’m on a mission to drive this idea as deep into mainstream culture as I possibly can — so that nobody with the skills and passion to create positive change misses this unique moment to shine. 
If my Ignite talk — or the ideas behind it — encourages just one more digital creative to realize their true power and become an author of the future (and not just a passive consumer) it will have been a night well-spent.
Thanks to the Ignite Seattle crew — and especially Bryan Zug and Scott Berkun — for the opportunity to present. And if any of you have an idea you care deeply about and want to share with the world, I strongly encourage you to submit your own Ignite talk — it’s an amazing experience.

P.S. Special thanks to Adam Tratt and the gang at Haiku Deck for making my slides beautiful.


  1. Hakon Verespej

    Very cool. I hope you’ll upload the video!

    I too feel that the imbalance won’t last forever. In particular, as a software engineer, I’m constantly exposed to the huge demand for software development skills and have seen plenty peers getting what many, including myself, would consider absurd compensation offers. I imagine that the market imbalance will entice more young people to pursue educations in software development. I don’t have numbers, but it’s not hard to imagine that the age of software developers is currently skewed toward the younger end, so even if the number of new devs per year remains steady, the overall number of devs will increase as the current generation ages. I also expect that technology will reduce the amount of skill required to implement e.g. useful apps and services.

    Chris, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on where the return to Earth will originate from.

    1. Chris DeVore

      Thanks for the note. I don’t think my crystal ball is any clearer than yours, but markets have a way of equilibrating themselves over time. My best guess is that a combination of better software platforms + tooling (creating more productivity per developer-hour), plus more software abstraction (pushing currently developer-only tasks up to non-technical users), plus the inevitable-but-slow labor market response to demand will slowly reduce the strain over the next 10 years.

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