Shenzhen Maker Faire 2014: 12 essential reads before you go

March 23, 2014

Notes, research, reading ideas before the 2014 Digital Mission to the Shenzhen Maker Faire.  


1. The Shenzhen Map for Makers is available as a PDF from SeeedStudio

2. HXLR8R do a Hua Qiang Bei Map for Makers. Click on the Slideshare link to download the PDF, or get it here; HAXLR8R pdf. Update: Nico writes: The font in the HAXLR8R map was too small to read when printed, so I made a version of page 2 with a larger font: It’s not as pretty as the original one, but at least it’s more readable. 🙂

2.5 Oomlout’s new photographic and data map of Hua Qiang Bei System. Tonnes of details here – navigate via the map and find pages and photographs for all the big markets.


3. Here’s a good one-stop-shop for Shenzen food, accommodation, money, phone card and toilet paper tips: Hacking Shenzhen by Lisa Q Fetterman from Nomiku;  “You will not have a productive time in this town unless you do as the locals do.”

4. Dangerous Prototypes have a huge amount of information on their blog behind the Shenzhen tag. Highlights include How to make friends in Shenzhen, How to ship stuff home from Shenzhen,  market tour; Day 1, Day 2 and more, Day 3; “Almost every night, random Chinese people would shout out in their best English, “Hi how are you?!?”. I would reply, “Hěn hǎo, nǐ hǎo mā?” (Good, how are you?).

5. Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang, creator of the Chumby, has been visiting and writing about Shenzhen for years; his blog has a ‘Made in China‘ category that goes back a long way. In 2006 he wrote:China is all at once communist, capitalist, rude, and innocent. It’s the fearsome global economic powerhouse, yet shockingly third-world… Communism is essentially gone, and in its place has grown the most terrifyingly capitalistic place on Earth…The most remarkable thing about China are its sheer numbers, and how it compares to America.

6. Engineer in Shenzhen is Bob Badderley’s blog; he was on the first year of the HXLR8R hardware incubator program while developing his DigiTally scoreboard. Highlights include: How people get sick in China and How to Eat in Shenzhen; “There’s no ‘breath of fresh air’ to be had. Running is harder, stairs are harder, and your lifespan is probably shorter every day you are there.”

7. Understanding Shenzhen electronics markets is a great in depth post from 2011 explaining what’s going on in the markets; who the traders represent and how to do business with them; “These guys will happily gives you samples, but the expectation is that you’re trying them out in your design with a view to buying, rather than freeloading for a 1-off project.

8. Akiba from Freaklabs went on a MIT maker’s tour of Shenzen in 2013, and took copious notes; “I can feel a lot of my attitudes towards design changing by seeing the manufacturing flows and factories. Previously I would unconsciously limit myself to different possibilities because things like doing an injection molded enclosure felt outside of my reach in terms of cost and volume. After seeing and talking to the people here, many are willing to take on all kinds of projects and offer a lot of help.


8.5 Hackthings is the blog from the makers of the Poppy 3D camera. Their China category is full of useful posts: “Being here in person is completely different. The mechanical engineers are in the next room. The factory floor is just across the parking lot. The bag supplier, the neck strap maker, the printer, the box maker — all of these suppliers are located within minutes of the factory. We can make decisions, iterate, refine, test, and get fresh production-ready samples all in hours or days instead of weeks. And language barriers are greatly reduced face-to-face, especially when you can both touch the same physical product you are working on.”


9. A fantastic interview with Mr Chen, Shenzhen SMT Fabricator and rooftop organic farmer’ “He was very business savvy, and even had a slogan: 花小钱,赚大钱 which roughly means spend less and earn more. What he was describing was a lean operation where he had digital fabrication tools that allowed him to retool and switch around really quickly and efficiently. His house was doubling as his production floor so he had very little overhead. He also understood that he needed to find niche markets in order to remain competitive.”

10. The Economist covered the Chinese maker movement last year’ “shanzhai producers have long adapted mobile phones to the needs of people in the developing world. For example, unlike mainstream manufacturers, they championed mobile phones with dual SIM slots, ideal for Africa and India where users often switch networks to reduce costs

11. A long detailed piece (from Ethiopian Airlines in-flight magazine, obviously) about Shenzhen’s first maker space: “Product innovation is the No. 1 differentiator for U.S. companies today. If China’s won the manufacturing game, it’s still lagging behind the West when it comes to original creativity. The impact of this gap is far-reaching for China. The country earns less than 5 cents on every dollar spent on the global consumer electronics that are manufactured within its borders. The rest is divided up among other companies in the value chain — especially those that hold the intellectual property and brand power.” 


12. Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, by Guy Delisle which is a great but  depressing read. Guy spent three months in Shenzhen in 1997, and it will certainly put you off visiting a local dentist.

Screenshot 2014-03-23 18.11.21

One Comment

  1. Niko says:

    Great list, thanks!

    The font in the HAXLR8R map was too small to read when printed, so I made a version of page 2 with a larger font:
    It’s not as pretty as the original one, but at least it’s more readable. 🙂