A Custom Search for Makers

sunjardiagram.jpg“Makers” are geeks who build custom creations out of more than bits. Make Magazine has popularized this, but it’s also part of the larger prosumer trend. This is more common than you’d think, and it’s easy to start with small projects like this cool Sun Jar.

When you’re looking for parts for a robotics, mechanical, or device project, it’s sometimes hard to find what you need. The part names can overlap with other common words, which then throws off a regular search (for example, try searching for an “ARM cable” when you’re actually looking for a cable for an Advanced Risc Machines CPU board). Or, more commonly, news and press releases come up in results ahead of the products you’re actually looking for.

So here’s an attempt to apply Google’s Custom Search to produce better results for anyone sourcing industrial or electrical parts for your next creation. I’ve collected the best resources on the web I know of for finding this stuff.

If you’re a Maker, let me know if you find it useful or if you know of other good sites to add. Just enter the kind of part you’re looking for into the search box immediately below.

You can also get a page to bookmark (and a google gadget, etc) with the same results at the homepage for this custom search.

Attention, Advertising, and The House

We’re in an “attention economy” where there’s so much interesting stuff going on, that it’s tough to rise above the din. Eventually, providing good content or a good service will get you noticed, but ‘eventually’ can be a long time… and the rest of the world isn’t standing still.

So we advertise. Well, actually, I haven’t bought any adwords yet, being the cheapskate that I am, but the smart people advertise. And the smartest people of all are the people running the ad networks. That is, Google. Millions are gambling, but Google is the House. You may win or lose, but the house will always get their share. In this case, with all the ads flying around, the house is now a $150b dollar company.

So what if a bunch of buddies just get together for a friendly game of poker? No house. No cut. In the online ad world, this used to be called ‘banner sharing’, and it mostly went the way of the banner.

What’s old is what’s new again. A new, free service called adGridWork has been getting some attention. You put an ad block on your page, and you get an ad which is displayed on the other member sites.

The more click-throughs you generate, the more impresssions you get. Unlike the old banner sharing systems, adgridwork is trying to learn from what Google got right about ads: unobtrusive, relevant, helpful. They match the ads to pages based on keyword, etc. (although the matches so far are not that great — perhaps as the body of ads increase, they can be targeted better).

They’re a donor-supported-service so far, but I wouldn’t begrudge other forms of revenue. For example, they have a very specific, motivated audience showing up at their site to configure and re-configure their ads — adwords ads here might generate good click-through (with a cut to the house, of course).

Leancode_source_dec_61.gifSo you’ll notice the “free ad co-op” block on my right sidebar. It’s other people like me trying to make people aware of what we’re doing. Feel free to click — nobody will get paid, but you’ll see a related site, and I’ll get the ad for this page displayed in a few more places. This blog doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic, but I’m happy with what this network has steered my way .. traffic is up 29% in the days since joining the network.

And the house won’t get quite as much of a cut. A little competition and a few more options that way can only be a good thing… right?