In my earlier post on the Maker Faire, I provided a lot of pictures and tried to convey some of the excitement of the event. In this post, I’ll grouse a little about some of the negative aspects. If you are put off by criticism, go read the other post, and ignore the rest of this one.
Here are a few things that bothered me:
- There were few (no?) vendors selling the capability to make tiny quantities of printed-circuit boards. I know such vendors exist locally, because EE and computer engineering classes at UCSC use their services, but I didn’t see any there. A few small companies were selling boards and a few were selling or giving away plans for boards, but no one (that I saw) was advertising the essential service of making the boards.
- I also did not see vendors selling useful parts that normally are hard to find retail except sight-unseen from the web (like servos, h-bridges, project boxes, brass gears, propellers, wheels, and so forth). It would have been great to have a few of the big web sellers (like Digikey) there in person with some of the more commonly needed parts. Even if they were just showing and not selling at the Faire, it would be great to see some of the parts in person before ordering.
Perhaps Make magazine wanted no competition for their highly marked-up goods? (I know they have a huge markup, because the OWI arm that they sell for $50 is available retail from the manufacturer’s web site for $30.)
- The San Mateo Fairgrounds are far too small for the size of the crowd. It was uncomfortable to move around, lines were very long to get into the fairgrounds, at lunch time and at all the bathrooms, and we probably missed some of the more popular displays because we couldn’t get close enough to see what they were. There were no quiet places to get away from the crowds.
- Food was ridiculously overpriced—this is a standard problem at fair grounds, and was no worse here than at other fair grounds, but it was still a rather large hit to the wallet. I would likely have bought more stuff from the main vendors, if the sticker shock from the food had not been so high. Most of the food vendors posted prices that included all taxes (the only reasonable way to quote prices), but the gelato vendor surprised a lot of people by adding 9% on top of the posted price. Given that they were already charging $5 for a scoop, they could have followed custom and posted prices that included all taxes.
- The ticket booths did not have functioning credit card machines, so I had to pay cash for entrance. Luckily I had been to an ATM machine just the day before in anticipation of needing cash for food and purchases at the Faire, so I had enough with me, though spending so much of it on tickets for everyone cut down on how much I was willing to spend once I was inside.
- The Faire charged $5 for the schedule, so we never knew when any special events were supposed to happen. The last time I went there was a highlights schedule on the free map that said when the major events were. I missed that courtesy.
- The fire sculptures this year seemed less impressive than in some previous years.
OK, that’s enough complaints from me for today. Maker Faire was still worth going to, despite the problems, and I’ll probably go again next year. But I hope they fix the more easily fixed things (like getting more parts suppliers and prototype production companies to participate).