How the #makers
I've been creating stuff since I can remember myself. Over the last decade or so, my creations have been around physical computing, embedded systems and visual art. I'm really excited about the possibilities in this field and keep pushing my own boundaries and sometimes the boundaries of the entire field. I work hard, spending endless hours, reading, learning, experimenting, exchanging ideas. Not easy while having three little kids and a day job, but the urge to create is stronger. Sharing has always been an important part of my creation. Some of my projects have been around enabling the community to do things that were previously pretty difficult. For example, I created the IOIO board and distributed it and other people have picked it up and built beautiful projects around it.
I had heard of Maker Faire years before I had the opportunity to attend. It had always seemed magical and I knew that this place is full of my own kind. The first time I went was mind-blowingly fun! And since then, I've been going every year for the past five years, usually exhibiting and sometimes bringing my kids along to learn and be inspired. Every year I work very hard to prepare something new and fun for the Faire. I take great pleasure from the interaction with visitors: I like seeing people smiling at my creations, I like seeing how my work makes them think, inspires them, makes them ask questions, propose new ideas. I love talking to people about this stuff. I like seeing kids being surprised and delighted by thing they didn't know were possible.
Every year I get better and my projects become more sophisticated and novel. However, every year I feel that the attention of the visitors to my work decreases and that intimacy we used to share is almost gone. One could argue that I lost the touch and my works are no longer as exciting as they used to be. This may as well be true, but I feel that it is not the main reason. I feel that Maker Faire has changed a lot. Over the years I've seen an insane increase in the number of commercial entities exhibiting there. It started mostly with smallish companies that are targeting makers as their customers, such as 3D printer manufacturers (enough, already!) and slowly grew into tech-giants wanting to have a strong presence there to improve their branding in the eyes of consumers and appeal to creative makers as possible employees. These commercial entities are spending significant money and engineering months on their booths. And surely enough, they are building some impressive installations! How can the individual hobbyist, working from their garage, as talented as they may be, compete with these projects? Indeed, it is almost impossible.
I have almost no doubt that Maker Faire is more profitable than it ever was. But it sold its soul to the devil. It is no longer about the Maker spirit, but merely a Maker-themed trade-show. Visitors are overwhelmed with the content, almost to the point of sensory overload. I have witnessed many people wondering around seeming completely indifferent to anything that is not a crazy production. Totally missing out the experience in appreciating the beauty and joy of the little things that individual people have made with a lot of love, passion and hard work.
I don't think I'll be going to Maker Faire again. I'm saying this heavy-heartedly, since it used to feel like my home field. Maybe something else will come along...