Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Maker Faire: A Bagel of a Show

I was excited about attending last weekend's Maker Faire...frankly, more excited before I got there than after I left. One review of the event that I read likened it to a science fair, and I think that's a good comparison. To me, it was very much like a county fair, and I don't like county fairs very much. To be sure, there was something for everyone, whether you like greeting cards, woodworking, electronics, knitting, software, flamethrowers, home-built aircraft or even those EepyBird guys with their Diet Coke and Mentos, but that was the problem. There was no "center". The only organizing theme was that everything there was homebuilt, but then how did that explain Disney's display of robotic toys that will be built by the millions in factories in China?

Apparently, I'm not the only one who felt this way. According to John Markoff of The New York Times, Tim O'Reilly, the founder of O'Reilly Media, the company that put the Maker Faire together, was having his own concerns about "cognitive dissonance": "When I saw Mr. O’Reilly he seemed to be in the process of trying to figure out what he had created and how it had gotten so far out of hand. 'The vibe is definitely ’something is going on here, but you can’t figure out what it is,’ he said."

I think that Maker Faire needs more focus. It goes beyond organizing the exhibits better so that related projects and vendors are together. It really means better curating the show, and making necessary decisions about what to include and not include (just as the editors of Make Magazine, from which Maker Faire sprang, have to make editorial decisions every day about what gets into print.)
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