For ten years Make: Magazine has been sharing stories of people making incredible projects, from flying robots to whittled spoons to bee keeping, and has been a central pillar of the maker movement. Helping to ferry that enthusiasm along is Mike Senese.
Mike’s been building stuff in the name of science, experimentation and learning in a variety of media; you might recognise him from appearing on the Science and Discovery Channels, previously hosting Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and more.
Personally Punkin Chunkin (in which teams compete to launch pumpkins as far as they can with air cannons and catapults) has gradually become a Thanksgiving family tradition during those lazy post-turkey afternoons when we’re all weighed down with gravy, and I appreciate Mike’s advocacy work in the ballistic gourd industry.
Nowadays Mike is the executive editor of Make: Magazine, still working tirelessly in that field of exploration and education through creation. He’s also obsessed with making the perfect pizza. We caught up with Mike to learn a little about how he works.
Location: San Francisco
Current Gig: Executive editor, Make: Magazine
One word that best describes how you work: Compressed
Current mobile device: iPhone 5s
Current computer (and what OS is it running?): Mac laptop. I’ve been using a 13″ MacBook Pro for the past few months, running 10.10.2 (Yosemite). I just put in a request to switch back to a (maxed-out) MacBook Air, for the battery life and weight advantages. Turns out the MBP Retina screen just isn’t that important to me and its small performance advantage isn’t noticeable from a magazine editor’s perspective.
What apps, software, tools can’t you live without?
For sit-down interviews I usually use the much-overlooked Microsoft Word “audio notes” function, which records the audio and queues it up with the notes you type — great for making notes to find key points in a conversation.
I live with a second screen set to Chartbeat, our website’s live-traffic dashboard.
Our site Makezine.com is on WordPress; the magazine is made with the standard Adobe Creative Cloud programs. Whenever any of those go down I tend to sit and weep quietly, or search for the most appropriate reaction GIF to express my rage.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I’m a big fan of standing desks, but with our recent office relocation, I’m currently seated again. I try to keep things tidy, but my desk often has various Arduino and Raspberry Pi components scattered about, micro-controllers I would love to be better at using, or random tools we’re considering for review.
I span my laptop screen and a 28″ monitor, with an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
As deadlines get closer, I tend to relocate to open seats around the office more and more frequently. Even those of coworkers who just stepped aside for a break.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Not much of a life hack, but the only way I can catch up on email is not having connectivity. The closest I got to inbox zero was last year when I had two trips to Europe in a two week period.
I try to queue up as many emails on the train as possible, and send them when I get back to an internet connection. I’m typing this from BART.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
Standard 2×2″ yellow Post-It Notes. I’ve got stacks of them with each day’s tasks. I make tiny checkboxes, cross them out and keep the list when done. They become a diary — it’s odd how many memories and emotions are stored in those little shorthand notes.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
My Nikon camera. I’ve always loved photography and have continually upgraded my gear for a long time. We had a baby last year and I decided that it was the right time to finally get a full-frame DSLR and some high-quality lenses. I carry it with me almost everywhere, although man that nice glass is heavy.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
Outside of work, my big passion is making pizza. I realised years ago that homemade pizza, while fun to make, is usually a let down to eat, so I set out to figure out why and learn how to overcome that. Turns out there’s a huge online pizza community made of incredibly smart and friendly contributors.
I’ve learned a lot of tips for getting a homemade pizza close to what you’d find at a high-end, wood fired pizzeria, although I’ve also discovered that, like most things in life, the better the pizza, the more work that is required for it.
Through that community I’ve made some really great friends who continue to be a big inspiration to me. Guys like PizzaHacker and Paulie Gee — who started simply as passionate hobbyists but then jumped in, opened their own restaurants, and are now killing it.
What do you listen to while you work?
Usually nothing. Sometimes just Pandora or iTunes radio and when I do while working, it’s usually scores and soundtrack music. Like the music from Downton Abbey — wonderful, serene.
What are you currently reading?
For books, I’m slowly reading The Hobbit to my baby — I’d actually never read the full version. But this week, most of my free reading has been how-to websites about tomato-growing tips-specifically researching ways to overcome a windy location for a garden. Apparently tomatoes hate wind, which may be why mine have always struggled.
How do you recharge?
Playing with my baby son. Working on my little garden. Building things in the garage. Surfing, when I have a few free hours, which isn’t often.
What’s your sleep routine like?
Long gone are the nights where I’d stay up until 3am. It’s pretty wild to be up until 11.30pm these days. More frequently, I fall asleep in bed with the baby at 8pm and wake up a few hours later, then again at 6am. I don’t use an alarm clock unless I have a super-early flight.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ____ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Every job is being done by schmucks, so why not you?” That comment changed everything I think about the world and what I can do in it, and has brought me some absolutely amazing experiences.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers or fans?
The best part of my job is seeing what amazing thing has come from the community every day. Impressive, imaginative creations that never cease to blow me away. I welcome everyone to share their projects, it’s the fuel that is helping push us forward in so many ways.
We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.