What happened to you, Maker Faire?
I attended Maker Faire Bay Area 2016 this past weekend and noticed quite a few significant changes. In previous years, Maker Faire's central focus was on products and tools people can use to "make their thing." This included prototyping hardware, software suites, development boards, kits, tools, clubs and organizations, and activism. Retail presence at Maker Faire was limited, with the central feature being the "Maker Shed" where makers can stock up on boards, kits, parts, books, tools, and other material that would help them make their thing.
This year, that hall was renamed "Maker to Market" and filled with dozens of smaller names, mostly Kickstarter/Indiegogo product campaigns, all selling what they created with various "maker tools." Very little about the tools themselves. There were some things that didn't feel like they belonged: like "Tile." I love the Tile product and their office is just up the street in San Mateo, but it's not made with "open maker tools" and I couldn't find any mention of an SDK on thetileapp.com to invite other makers to use it as a platform for invention. ARDUBOY is a great example of a very neat product made with Arduino, but it's not extensible in any way and owners have no access to the GPIO on the Arduino without delicate soldering on to chip traces. (I still want one, but they were out of the green PCB style.) If this was supposed to be a hall for startups, there were the "decidedly-not-startup" people in there, like GE.
Make replaced their first-party sales in Maker Shed AND most of their demo space in the main hall with a Barnes and Noble store inside the main hall. Instead of buying a $40 Raspberry Pi from Maker Shed, you could instead buy a $140 "Getting Started with Raspberry Pi" kit. Additionally, you could buy all sorts of price-inflated kits or books and a number "not for makers but for sale" toys like a large display full of Star Wars Sphero toys. None of the "smaller but popular among makers" were represented if they weren't big enough to get picked up by Barnes and Noble. I couldn't find any Parallax or Adafruit products for sale. Sparkfun was present, but by way of demonstration in Intel's booth. Want to buy a new "learn to pick locks" kit like you did last year? Barnes and Noble will sell you one after taking down all the information on your driver's license.
Nvidia and Microsoft did it right: They showed tools that they were providing to help other Makers invent their thing. Microsoft had partners present in their booth space, but none were actually trying to sell you stuff. They were just showing what they used Microsoft's tools to create. The Nvidia Jetson TX1 board display was impressive and the people showing it off were equipped to answer questions about it, but they weren't trying to sell you the board at the Faire.
There were some staples that kept the Faire from being a total flea market: Adam Savage and other speakers, some reliable attendees like R2-D2 creators, Printrbot, Justin Kohn, and a couple dozen remaining "small but inventive" names. It's always a pleasure to say hello to Lenore from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and see the amazingly beautiful and educational MOnSter 6502 designed by Eric Schlaepfer.
Before I close this post, I want to bring more attention to attempted legislation in California to criminalize competitive drone sports. I was unaware of this until the EFF told me about it at the Faire. This is dangerous legislation as it does not define "can cause damage to property." This kind of law should not be passed unless California is also prepared to ban other sports that can cause property damage. Like baseball (bats are a weapon, right?) or car racing or self-driving cars (because a vehicle can cause significant damage to property) as well.
I hope next Maker Faire returns to the focus of "tools, ideas, parts, clubs, and organizations for makers" and away from "buying things other makers have made."