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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Posted By on September 21, 2010, 11:48 PM

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For today's interview we'll skip over the “necessity is the mother of invention” speech and just get down to showing you some interesting creations. Because let's be honest for a second, you don't want to listen to me ramble on about what motivates a person to create stuff, you'd rather hear that from the person who built it and why they even wanted to do it. Which I know, you might think is boring... until I show you this picture below where someone decided they wanted to build a really powerful paintball turret.

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--- That someone, Jared Bouck, the mastermind behind all the inventions you'll see below, started up a website by the name of where he would take all the crazy ideas he had, and built them into working order for an audience to check out. Ranging from computer add-ons for everyday computer upgrades, to comfy geek living like a fridge built into a tower, to interesting toys that could raise some eyebrows... like a fireball air cannon, Bouck shows off all whether it be success or failure and even post diagrams on how to build your own. We got a chance to chat with the man behind it all about his work and the different creations hes made over the years and why he chooses to give away the secrets for free.

Jared Bouck

Gavin: Hey Jared, first off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Jared: First and foremost… I hate this question every time I get it… I'm a geek by nature. I love to create, invent, and do interesting projects and learn through doing. In May of 2004 I started the website to serve as a creative outlet where I could implement my ideas and share them with others. Little did I know that an entire community of like-minded people would coalesce around me and my ideas, using it as a platform for discussing and following their own ideas to see where they might lead. For me, inventing is like breathing. I have to be inventing and innovating or I can't be happy or fulfilled as a person. As part of that process I have come to love everything about posting a new article. From watching and analyzing the logs to getting the inevitable flood of emails that always comes with questions, praise and even criticism. I always respond to every email I get and am continually motivated by helping other people gain interest and learn how to follow their own convictions. The act of doing is ultimately what I believe in. I have found that many people don’t realize how much they could accomplish by doing just a little each day towards their goals. Innovating, inventing, and creating something new are not concepts, they are actions that need to be taken. I think that innovation is ultimately about taking action, learning from each experience and improving upon each new version with new ideas.
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Jared: I personally know how difficult it can be to start the process of turning ideas into action and it is because of this that I continue investing my own money and spare time to give my ideas away for free. I always put my all into every single aspect of a project in hopes that by breaking things down into simple step-by-step how-to guides others will be able to get started. I suppose in many respects I am the text book case of someone who shouldn’t be successful. An outcast in my grade school years, and a very poor performer in school. Through my younger years all I had was my mind and my hands to keep myself busy. Fortunately I found myself in unlikely places and times with small opportunities that guided me to where I am today. This constant preside of those places has been a great drive for me and who knows what tomorrow holds. There are few things that I hate more than an armchair quarterback so to speak. If you are going to open your mouth, you damn well better have some experience to draw from. I spend the gross amount of my time learning, experimenting and adding to proven ideas and concepts. This includes inventing, electronics, micro-controllers, algae, art, web development, web marketing and many other interests that I love. You can read more on my beliefs at this link.

Gavin: How did you first get involved with technology and what inspired you to take it on as a career?

Jared: When I was about six years old I started taking apart miscellaneous electronics at in my parents' house. Eventually they grew to dislike this because my curiosity was not halted by the price of what I decided to take apart. this led to savaging for old electronics through many means to continue my exploration. At the age of eight my father purchased our first family computer and I was hooked. In 1992 I started my exploration and contribution to this new idea called the internet because of all the family members recommendation to my father. How many kids get a 14.4 modem for Christmas? So I guess to answer your question more directly, I believe that we all have natural tendencies that we can follow that ultimately can enhance our interests. I think I was wired from a very early age to explore and understand the world around me through a specific filter. This allowed me to learn and develop my interests in a natural direction of interest.
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Gavin: You went to Snow College for a while, what was your time like down there and working through their program?

Jared: Snow was a great environment for me. I had struggled with academia throughout my younger years and this was not only my opportunity for independence but also to prove to myself that I could perform well. And I did very well, often being asked by the instructors that a good friend of mine and I not to attend class because we were well above the other students. Their program was challenging and interesting and the instructors in general were there because they wanted to be there and there teaching and engagement with the curriculum definitely reflected that.

Gavin: During college and after you started working for different tech companies under several titles. How was it for you breaking into the industry and working your way up?

Jared: Breaking into the industry never really crossed my mind at the time. I had developed an extreme work ethic over the years and any acknowledgment of my talents just pushed me further.
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Gavin: How did you end up getting a gig with Thoughtlab, and what's the job you currently have over there?

Jared: Thoughtlab is a long story that is ultimately full of insane nuances. But in a nut shell I was hired because the owner (Mike) saw my potential. Back in the early days of the company he hired with the focus of potential, team fit and opportunity to the employee. Sadly things have changed over the years, but I was fortunate to be found at that time. Thoughtlab gave me many opportunities to learn, grow and excel in what I was capable to do. Mike really gave me the opportunity to develop my skills to be a major force in the industry both in general IT/Web development and by encouraging me in my side projects and ventures as an author and product developer. As with any mento,r and I definitely think of Mike as a mentor, there is a time to move on. I have left Thoughtlab and started my own company focusing on a holistic approach to web development and marketing with a high degree of ethics as the companies backbone. We are doing extremely well with a full pipeline, growing steadily and producing profit every month.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start your own invention website?

Jared: Well selfishness honestly. I started it simply as a outlet for myself. I had been doing projects for years and years, so the idea of starting to publish articles about my experiments just seemed to be a natural fit. Though at the time it was terrifying.
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Gavin: What were the main goals you had in mind for the website before you started posting?

Jared: Goals... I'm not sure I had goals per say. I simply felt compelled to do it. I thought that I could put some Google ads on the site and publish some articles and see if anyone cared to read them.

Gavin: You launched it in the spring of 2004, what were some of the first inventions you posted, and how did the public take to the content?

Jared: Hahahaha... Oh the memories... The launch of InventGeek was a amazing fluke at an amazing time, a total outlier. The site had been live for three months with only a framework for the articles. One late and sleepless night I decided that I would take a bunch of pictures of a project. I did that and never seemed to have the motivation to write about and just do a real rough outline for the whole article. I was up until about 4AM just doing a raw dump of the article. Now it's worth mentioning that I can't seem to spell worth a shit. And I have some grammar challenges as well. Just again, how my brain is wired. Writing was always a terrible challenge for me, the brain can be bright in some area and dim in others as it compensates for its bandwidth. So I hadn't even run a spell checker on my work when I finished and it was a train wreck wrapped in several other natural disasters. Well that night I emailed a friend and said that I had finished my articles super rough draft and asked for his opinion. He did the unthinkable and submitted the article to Slashdot, at the time Slashdot was one of the most popular sites on the web and definitely the most in the tech community.
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Jared: This started a chain of events that were far beyond my expectations. The project was a "Hackentosh". I took a mac G4 case and modified it with a PC inside. It was a very nice first article from the pictures but the writing was beyond embarrassing. Somehow by strange chain of events it was published to the homepage of Slashdot. Now this alone was an amazing occurrence, that alone would be a fluke of flukes to speak about for some time, but two hours later Apple formally announced they were changing to the Intel processors. Suddenly this little article that I had done and published was not only on Slashdot, but tied to the Apple product launch. Pictures of my project were in newspapers, websites, blogs, and on TV all over the world! In one day my site had 250,000 visits. Damage control: That morning of the article being featured was just like any other morning. When I got into the office I did the usual routine, checked my email, checked a few news sites and then prepared to get to work. After getting into my groove for the day I got a cryptic email on my personal account saying I couldn't spell worth a shit. Shocked and confused I just let it pass, with in five minuets I had a dozen more emails with criticism and complements. Suddenly it dawned on me what happened. With my head in a swirl of confusion and amazement I announced to my team members what had happened. They were equally stupefied. The home page of Slashdot seemed so unattainable, the Everest of geekdom, and there I was on the summit. Immediately I told Mike and he was shocked at my late night's brain dump and how bad it was. Jumping into damage control within 20 minutes, Mike helped me correct the articles grammar and spelling neglect and salvage my article. Though the damage was done, the trolls on Slashdot were having a field day with the site's content. This landed as a heavy blow to me and totally tempered any feelings of accomplishment and success I had achieved. But this event galvanized me, tempered me that the childhood inadequacies needed to be outgrown right this moment and put me on the path to be an author. Though I still abide by the attitude of I write and create because it fulfills me. I don't write for you to criticize me, get off your ass and create something yourself I dare you.

Gavin: How do you come up with the ideas for inventions? Do you prefer necessity products or just stuff for fun?

Jared: Where does inspiration come from? I don’t think anyone knows. When inspiration hits I always write it down. Ideas that are worth while I grow and develop conceptually until I feel they are achievable. In some cases this is 15 minutes, in other cases a matter of months. It varies depending on the concept, amount of work and delivery options. Everything I build I do for fun or I wouldn't do it, this isn't a job for me, it’s a passion. I love learning, creating and teaching. But the common theme is that it is something I am directly interested in or actively learning whether its algae cultivation or micro-controllers or robotics.
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Gavin: What's the process like for you when building something, from design and supplies to the final working piece?

Jared: Well I always start in my head. I have always had an uncanny ability to visualize both projects and processes in my head. This allows for a high degree of prototyping before taking a project to paper little lone to physical form. Once on paper I will define parts, components and pricing. Sometimes it’s a trial and error game. When I did the paintball turret project I created four functional prototypes before I was satisfied with a version that was meant for the public.

Gavin: What do you do as far as funding your work? Is it totally self-sponsored or do people make contributions?

Jared: 99.9% is self funded. The site produces a small amount of revenue from advertisers that really just pays for the site to be maintained and some small projects. As my interests have moved to more formal projects, guides, plans, and kits the expense goes up to match. Its always been a sacrifice, but as I've said, its an outlet for me. It's like breathing. It will happen no matter what. I'm just publishing what I do.
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Gavin: Are there any things you create that just end up as scrap because they just weren't going to make it?

Jared: Not many, even a failed project has the success of learning from the failure. One reason I publish my articles is as a framework of research and development for others to learn from. Its just a step to a final product. There are however, projects that I haven't published due to safety concerns. In 2008 I did a project using some giant model rockets and long lengths of copper wire that we shot into thunder storms. This triggered lightning strikes that we guided into buckets of powered glass and silica mixtures. The result was we produces some strange and beautiful man triggered Fulgurites, or lighting glass to be simple. But when the article came to publish time I couldn't bring myself to publish it because, well, it scared the shit out of me.

Gavin: Do you ever take requests from readers or do you tend to stick to your own ideas?

Jared: Occasionally I have taken the odd suggestion from my readers. I get requests all the time, but I have to be interested to do a project. This isn't a job, it’s a hobby, so it damn well better be fun.
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Gavin: What are some of the things you've created that you're most proud of?

Jared: Well proud is a term I use sparingly, but sites that I feel have had the most impact are SproutBoard, AlgaeGeek and InventGeek. SprouBoard is the first full marketable product I have produce. It’s a motherboard for the Arduino that allows many different applications and has had a very warm reception. AlgaeGeek is a site dedicated to algae bio reactor design and construction. This site has an amazing following though it's not updated often. InventGeek… well… lots of articles there, huh? My favorites? The open source server room monitor, long exposure light sculptures, paintball turret, bio reactor 2, vibrating lock pick and of course the project that started it all, the G3 to P4 conversion.

Gavin: For most of your inventions, the Laser Arduino for example, you post full instructions and diagnostics for others to replicate for free. Why did you choose to post for free rather than sell them?

Jared: Ahh, the million dollar question. I have been asked this many many times. In short… I don’t want to. You see there is something special about open information. Take the breadbox project I did. When that bolt of lightning hit it was absolute in its practicality. Bread comes from a sterile environment in the oven and then molds… Well what if you could keep it in a sterile environment? When I published this article it went through the roof! Apparently there is a need for this. People who suffer from gluten allergies often bake their own bread and it spoils quickly. This was an answer to a need on the market. Within a week I was approached by two companies asking for rights to manufacture the projects. I granted them both free rights to manufacture this project commercially. You see, when something like this is published it makes it nearly impossible to patent and the information becomes public domain. However, I do have some projects I am building into kits like SproutBoard and a few other projects with a gardening focus coming soon.
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Gavin: In turn, a lot of the stuff you've invented has been adapted and improved upon by readers and other websites. How is it for you to see their work further your progress?

Jared: It simply just adds a level of satisfaction that I have started something. When I started the website I was a pioneer in the idea of community DIY. Throughout this I have had many opportunities that I never would have had any other way. I celebrate the creative powers and open imagination of the tinkering, maker, DIY, communities on the web.

Gavin: For those interested in procuring your services or one of your devices, how can they reach you to have something built?

Jared: Just send me an email, I do an awful lot of coaching and consulting so its actually something that is old hat.
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Gavin: What can we expect from both you and the site over the rest of the year?

Jared: I have started a new web development company, a new product line, and I have intentions on a couple other opportunities I am following. I also am a artist in my own right (pictured below) and love to use my brain to create specials and items of interest.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Jared: Well SproutBoard is a product of great interest to me right now, and I have an article that should be publishing in the next edition of Make Magazine that should be of interest… But honestly, not a whole lot to put here.
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