Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Hey, Boy Scouts, Be Prepared for Some Digital DIY Competition

I loved the “Reading Rainbow” and “Rainbow Brite” of my youth — and the books and toys that came along with the shows — but every so often, I see something that makes me wish I could be a kid again.

A start-up called DIY is creating an online-offline universe where kids are encouraged to learn skills like woodworking, magic and astronomy from online tutorials and projects. Then they can post pictures of their creations and adventures, and (soon) earn stitched physical patches sent to their homes.

The DIY universe could also include a movie where a troupe of these maker-kids save the world from becoming a soulless mass-produced dystopia (just a little bit of an agenda here!). The project is currently in development with a major Hollywood studio.

So it’s Boy and Girl Scouts 2.0, with a big-screen movie, to boot.

DIY is run out of a former laundromat in the residential Mission Dolores neighborhood of San Francisco. The team includes Zach Klein of College Humor, Vimeo and Founder Collective — an Eagle Scout who flies to New York every other week to work on a cabin he’s building from scratch — and Isaiah Saxon of the digital animation team Encyclopedia Pictura, which handcrafted a fantastical enclave in the Santa Cruz mountains while creating music videos for artists like Björk.

An upcoming DIY badge

(Seriously, those are their resumes. I only hope their guilty pleasures include following the Kardashians.)

Klein and Saxon lose a little bit of credibility in that they don’t have their own children, but they do have youthful energy and a wooden clubhouse built into the interior of their office, which they cram into for team meetings.

You can get a flavor of the aspirational community that Klein and Saxon are trying to build from a sort of trailer they released for DIY this week. They’re calling it the “DIY Anthem.” They say this gives a glimpse of what the movie will be like, though it will combine live action and computer-generated imagery.

Okay, so that all sounds great, but DIY has a long way to go to succeed. The site launched in April of this year, and has just 25,000 kid members so far. Right now, it’s all free, and posts are all public — kids participate with pseudonyms after getting parental permission. Laws around child social networking may change and, if so, DIY could adapt its model. In the nearer future, the service will have subscription options, so users can receive things like the physical badges shown above.

The DIY team (the clubhouse is tucked away in the back-right of the office)

It’s also a bit different for a tech start-up to consider how to connect with potential users, when many in DIY’s target age range of seven and up don’t have their own smartphones.

Asked whether DIY is trying to create a sort of utopia for kids, Saxon said he disagreed. He said he thinks of DIY as an institution for creativity. “We believe that creative confidence — the fearless attitude that you can learn anything by doing, failing, and doing again — is the character trait that most determines success in life.”

Klein added that the ideas behind DIY go beyond kids. He said he considers the notion of talent to be a myth, because people can be good at all sorts of things if given opportunity and encouragement.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google