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Maker Faire halts operations and lays off all staff (techcrunch.com)
682 points by sohkamyung 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 308 comments



Couple of points.

When I was a lad, making electronics meant you could listen to shortwave radio or talk to people around the world, when there was little other opportunity.

Plus, things like cars were still hackable with a few transistors and passive components, you could make a customised indicator timer, or turbo timer or what ever, and it was probably way cheaper if you knew what you were doing.

Fast forward, very little you can now make is cheaper, or creates a functionality not otherwise available retail/off the shelf.

Now for me, it was great - my dad was a radio amateur, I grew up with the those things, he lectured at uni and I had access to PDP-8 and 11 when no one had a computer at home and most people interacted with punch cards.

I spent literally years of my younger life tinkering and discovered/learned by direct exploration and experimentation all sorts of things eg the rectification of copper oxide, Q factor and how to get it and use it, all the things you can use as earthing and antennas in radio systems (some pretty strange things in there), I wrote and sold Atari 400 games when I was 13 on, learning things like how to write a floating point library in a 6502 in minimal space, create physics engines for games, just to name a few, the list goes on.

Now I have worked as an electrical engineer designing and building large and small industrial power and control systems for over 30 years.

Most days I draw down on some former hobby or tinkering experience in some way in my work.

Not sure the maker movement we have seen recently will create the same trajectory for too may others, maybe I am wrong, but a lot of what I did was because there were no equivalent consumer goods and the best info available was at the local library or maybe the odd magazine if you were lucky.


> Plus, things like cars were still hackable with a few transistors and passive components, you could make a customised indicator timer, or turbo timer or what ever, and it was probably way cheaper if you knew what you were doing.

I nodded when I read this, thinking, "Yeah, and what's the modern equivalent?" Everything seems so high level and complex, like CANBUS in the case of car, USB for PCs and of course so much is locked down.

Then I realised that kids could get a start sticking an LED on a GPIO pin from an Arduino. I believe a PI is basically a PC, but perhaps it could have a few such pins as well, if it doesn't already. PCs used to have parallel ports which served a similar function.

Then from blinking a LED they could incrementally add a few more circuits: 7 segment display, some counters, who knows. Even some analog stuff (to hell with harmonics) are possible -- and controllable from your laptop or phone over network.

Perhaps Evel Mad Scientists or Adafruit has a few things in this direction?


Electric guitars and tube amplifiers might be. But there is a decently high risk in playing with the grounding on those things.

I’ve had my share of grounding faults while plugged into the wall or on stage (and that was just with the factory wiring on a 70’s Traynor YGM4). ...ouch

But guitars are simple enough. You can replace components to add new features or change tone and volume responsiveness and even add certain wiring/component patterns to allow you some gain in the internal guitar circuits.

Old effects pedals as well. There’s a ton of modding or BYO instructions out there.

All the analog, point-to-point stuff is easily-enough hackable anyway.

I mean if we’re drawing an equivalent to a car... the relative starting costs might be high, depending.


Don't mess with tube amps. If you touch the wrong capacitor without knowing what you're doing you could really injure yourself.

That said, there's plenty of safe audio equipment out there to experiment with. Before I got an EE degree, I was building effects pedals in my basement.

Regarding effects pedals specifically, you won't end up saving much money versus buying one off the shelf due to economies of scale, but you can make something really fun and unique by yourself pretty easily.


Definitely agree! Tube or solid state alike. Both can house some dangerously-sized caps.

Guitars are also quite safe and relatively forgiving as you keep the grounding intact.

That said I only mentioned amplifiers as the GP was referring to hacking on cars—so I imagine the project wasn’t targeted at complete beginners when they were wondering about equivalent projects. And draining caps before working on them is one of the first things any tinkerer learns—or learns to stay away from.


No worries. PIs do have GPIO pins, and lots of peripherals to plug into them. Nearly Adafruit’s whole product line is about hooking up random peripherals to I/O pins.

And speaking of custom household devices, I’m about to spend $30 or so at Adafruit to build a thing that texts my wife when her outdoor herb pots need watering. :)


That sounds fun! I've been rebuilding my wife's gardens and adding drip lines / irrigation. I ended up getting an OpenSprinkerPi[1] board to control the irrigation valves I'm installing. There's also a software project[2] that gives it a little more configurability/utility, including tying it into automatic watering based on the weather and such. I'm just having a lot of fun with it, and it seems like you are too!

[1]https://rayshobby.net/wordpress/ospi/ [2]https://github.com/rszimm/sprinklers_pi


Pay more for the humidity sensor. Not the resistive ones, they fail after a short time.


I'll go a step further. Don't pay for any sensor, you can make your own resistive sensor from a couple of resistors. The reason they fail is oxidation on one terminal. If you alternate the polarity as you read the sensor, it avoids that problem.


Adafruit has a cheap capacitive sensor (using a micro controller with built in touch sensor circuitry) — but not that cheap. The polarity flip is a clever idea. Well, part of the fun is wildly over-engineering the thing, right?


Do you have any guide to this you’ve seen or can recommend?


Nope. I just did it once. I'll look around and see if I drew up a schematic.


Yes, but lifetime is still not the best.


Once everything went to surface-mount parts, I lost interest because it all became too difficult to hack.


By the way, there are multiple Arduino CAN-BUS shields out there, ranging from $15-$25.

https://robotdyn.com/can-bus-shield-for-arduino.html https://www.sparkfun.com/products/13262


When I was a boy I'd stop by the local TV repair shop and they'd give me old TVs. I had a lot of fun with them, like randomly swapping the tubes around and seeing what would happen. My mom was sure I was going to electrocute myself.

You're lucky your dad could mentor you with that stuff. I didn't know anybody who knew anything about electronics, so I just floundered around with it. That all changed when I got to college, where there was electronics expertise everywhere and I was finally able to build things that worked.

For example, someone finally showed me how to solder properly. What a difference a couple minutes of help makes!


Strangely enough I got almost no mentoring, he was like, the stuff is all there if you want to use it, I got taken to the uni labs on weekends and the family went to the library once a week religiously.

He was both a lecturer of maths and computing, but also taught teachers how to teach. His attitude was that if you were really interested you needed to do it yourself and learn through successes and failures and build up all the concepts in your own mind - it was the concepts, not the facts that made all the difference going forwards.

Now this is so much more true than ever, because facts and calculations are available as a "service" effectively on the internet.

Abstracting the concepts and synthesizing new ones through extension, application of lightly related techniques/ materials/methods, cross pollination, etc in your mind is the truly irreplaceable skill that leads to disruption and innovation.


I did better with cars, for the simple reason that when I took them apart, I could see how everything worked. With electronics, you need an oscilloscope to see the magic. All I had was a VOM.

Ironically, there were lots of kids taking cars apart in high school, so I could help and get help. But in college, nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in cars. It's still hard to find anyone who is, hardly anyone has a modified car. My (medium modified) dodge wouldn't merit a glance in my high school daze, but today people go ape when I drive by in it.


>With electronics, you need an oscilloscope to see the magic. All I had was a VOM.

The price of test equipment is one of the reasons I went into software despite having an EEng degree. Tinkering with a computer is way cheaper, and I sort of gravitated towards stuff that had software in it, then ended up realizing that I don't really care about electronics all that much. The degree served well for getting a job in writing firmware, I guess.


Where I live, on one day in the year, people could put their bulky junk in front of their houses for it to be collected[1]. Lots and lots of radios and TVs. For my friends and me it was the yearly electronics component delivery;-). At that time the devices often had a pouch inside that contained the schematics. I learned a ton from that.

I also enjoyed the stories from Feynman how he tinkered around with radios bought at rummage sales. I think they are in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" but there is also a recording where he recounts those times in person[2].

[1] https://germany-for-foreigners.blogspot.com/2012/02/sperrmul...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmEoL5C7ths


>You're lucky your dad could mentor you with that stuff.

Looking back on my childhood vs today.

I was underutilized. My parents didnt know past geometry.

At the same time, very thankful my dad got me a computer as a kid. Wish we did more than install video games. But hey, computers broke more back then and I learned how to fix OS or hardware problems.


My 8th grade science teacher taught us how to solder. And how to count in binary using our fingers. He was pretty awesome in a lot of ways.


I think that the gap today between what you can do with an electronics kit and the convenience of something you can get cheaper off the shelves to build something more complex is way wider than it's ever been. Also, you can build way more cool and complex stuff learning software and coding, and using it to put together complex hardware models (such in robotics). The "roots" of electronics are a good way to entertain kids, but electronics amateurs, except for some niches such as electric instruments enthusiasts, are really too small of a niche for an operation like Make Media to be sustainable. Also, the Makers Revolution was probably a fad (not in general, but in the way it was self-depicting in the media).


> Also, the Makers Revolution was probably a fad (not in general, but in the way it was self-depicting in the media).

Fads are useful though. The original way of doing electronics with a breadboard and some 74 series ICs was a fad. CB radio was a fad. The hobby computer market was a fad. The home games console business was a fad. The 8 bit home computer revolution was more of a craze than a fad, but still arguably a fad.

Fads are often driven by the genius of one or two individuals, the author R A Penfold wrote most of the 74 series breadboarding books, Tandy/Radio Shack did their bit in providing bits to people keen to get in on the hobby.

Maybe the maker movement was a bit like that. Take away the Raspberry Pi and the 3-D printer and there isn't so much making going on.

So the question becomes what happens next, what is the next fad?

Someone has probably worked it out in a garage somewhere and the media will cotton on to it in a couple of years time.

A key part of these fads is that it is somehow educational. Not sure anything useful came from people tinkering with any of the stuff involved in these 'fads' but then we wouldn't be where we are without them. This in part depends on when people get on board. If you are the only kid in town in at the start then you learn useful stuff, when it becomes a fad the other kids get pushed into something they can't be that bothered with, the cool stuff has already been done and it becomes commoditised ready made 'meh'.

There was a time when the fad was marquetry. The maker scene of the time had people making beautiful sideboards out of wood with beautifully inlaid veneer. All kinds of wonderful things made of wood. The enabling tools were lathes and there were magazines pushing people to make new and exciting things, nobody needed a beautiful case to show off their Airfix plane collection but people would make such a thing if prodded along. In a way the maker scene is like that with updated materials.


The original way of doing electronics was tag board, hand-soldered components, and valves. Hobbyist radio was a huge thing in the 30s/40s/50s and consumer electronics and computing have their roots in that.

The problem with the Maker movement is that it was never going to provide the same rewards. The appeal of hobby electronics in the 70s/80s was DIYing expensive consumer items for low cost.

In some cases you could DIY expensive professional items. Everyone knew computers were rare and expensive, but you could build one. In your own home. For a not completely ridiculous price. And all the while you were learning what the elements did, and some of how they worked. Thrilling! For adults as well as teens and kids.

There was an aspirational element, a practical element, and - for some people - some interest in the mysteries behind the designs.

The nearest modern equivalent is probably app development, but that's already so rarefied it's not really a DIY scene.

Aduino/Pi are not consumer-friendly. You can build projects, but not replacement products - especially not products that have a modern ecosystem around them.

Tinkering for its own sake still has some appeal, but it's not driven by the same passionate curiosity that drove earlier fads.


> The original way of doing electronics was tag board, hand-soldered components, and valves.

And there was me just pushing a 555 timer into some breadboard. I imagine that some thought this was cheating.

I am broadly in agreement with you, however, I would like to hold back on my judgement to view this tinkering as useless, a waste of time. I used to work with a guy who had no idea about programming but that did not hold him back from having a great time with a Raspberry Pi. With next to no knowledge he was delving in deep into things I would struggle with, despite however many years of UNIX/Linux. Sometimes enthusiasm is wonderful.

Recently I took an interest in how the original arcade machines were programmed. At the time that arcades were a thing I did not see the art that was in the development of these games. The music in Marble Madness is a work of genius but at that time music was about things like a drummer being able to keep in time, not programming a synthesiser chip. Consequently I was not seeing what was really going on in these arcade machines and more wary of being fleeced in dingy arcades, with that feeling of guilt that goes with wasting time. Because I now have a different view of the arcade with this hindsight I am wary of dismissing the fads of today. I like to be a bit more open minded or naive.

During those years when the arcade beckoned I spent my time in a workshop of a different kind - a regular bicycle shop, doing evenings, school holidays and Saturdays. We were always in need of staff but I never had anyone from my school friends to recommend. This was a pity. Every working day I was loving it and getting better and better at doing things with spanners, the vice, everything really. I was not a big user of power tools but if you are holding things for the guy holding the oxy-acetylene torch you are still learning.

I wish there were more opportunities for this learning by doing and getting paid for it. It is a win-win-win. But for some reason - the same reason I could not recruit my school buddies into the bike workshop - we are not having enough of that going on. I feel the maker scene is useful for that, even if people cannot make replacement products they are at least learning tools that make them employable. Even if those tools are not needed in the job there is so much confidence and enthusiasm gained.

If I think back to my former workmate doing things with a Raspberry Pi, the initiative he showed made him employable in tech. He was doing pictures for the website (products) the slow Photoshop way rather than the ImageMagick automated way. Most artworkers are not suited to being taught how to automate their work, you just wouldn't bother to even try. I had a vested interest in him doing stuff the automated way and because I had got to know him through this Raspberry Pi nonsense I was able to explore the possibilities. His knowledge of shell scripting made a whole lot of stuff possible, making my job easier and giving him more day job time for Raspberry Pi tinkering. Luckily he wasn't overly micro managed.


A lot of current "maker culture" is repackaged consumerism: buying costly kits containing pennies worth of electronics based on brand names and fashion. It's not about reducing waste, it's about creating more (unlike the examples you mentioned).


Certainly locally (in London), the people at our MakerLab are heavily focused on repair, reuse and repurpose which is a reaction to the modern world in much the same way that things were when you were a lad.


Me too. I started with my first crystal radio at age 11 with a germanium rectifier purchased from an electronics store and a phone headset donated from the landlord who worked at the telephone company and wanted to support my hobby.

Moved on to Shortwave Listening, QSL cards and at age 15 got my Technician license at the FCC office on Varick St in lower Manhattan because I didn't know any other hams who could administer the Novice license. I think Adafruit is now around the corner from where that office used to be?

I built tons of stuff from salvaged components, did lots of experiments that didn't pan out, accidentally discovered that the inductive spike from a big solenoid powered by a 9V battery is enough to shock! I went on to get degrees in EE and SE.

I firmly believe that right now it's easier than it ever was to get into the hobby. All those old parts are still available and tons of exciting ones are now easy to purchase, with tons of documentation. No more desoldering unknown transistors and playing around with resistors to get the bias right.

I think we all have our motivations for getting started and continuing. There won't be any shortage of curious kids getting involved and building weird stuff. Just take a look at the Arduino forums online, electronics as a hobby is exploding, it's just that people are getting started in a different way.


I think there is a lot of tinkering available still. Raspberry pis and IOT are areas where you can really go nuts.

I do hope we’ll see hardware open up again, and maybe we will with the increasing focus on sustainability.


You can still build interesting devices that are not available off-the-shelf. It's just that these days most of the value (and complexity) lies in the software, not the hardware, and people are both not capable of writing complex software and do not enjoy doing it.

As an example, take a Nordic nRF52832 in a module, connect some sensors or LEDs to it, and you have a pretty neat device that you could access with your phone. But programming it to do something is an entirely different story.


Not the same generation (waaay later) but I too had a PC at home back in the DOS days when computers were not that common. I learned to use the command line before I learned to read and write in my native language.

Anyway, I went through a similar thinkering scene but it was in software, the FOSS scene of the late nineties up to early this decade was very active and there were tons of tools and programs that surpassed retail software of the time.

As for electronics right now, there's some crazy things in the FOSH scene and if I had the money I would get more into that, but when it comes to retail electronic and IoT stuff I'm skeptic: too many corners cut, too many security holes, too much data going into opaque servers, etc. And that's just security and privacy, don't get me started on planed obsolescence and repairability.

And there's still a lot of stuff you can make that have no retail equivalent, from console clones with FPGAs for perfect emulation to car automation with comma.ai


> Fast forward, very little you can now make is cheaper, or creates a functionality not otherwise available retail/off the shelf.

I think this is a matter of perspective. The components you string together are now scaled up, as are the experiences of younger folks.

I think of some friends who were saying "people just can't become a private pilot nowadays", but later I wondered if maybe there are new opportunities they don't recognize (like powered paragliding).


I started out a bit later taking apart the Atari and getting circuit kits from Radio Shack.

It was a lot of fun. I did a good number of electrical engineering courses as part of my computer engineering degree. Now with kids, I plan on doing small projects to pique their curiosity


I also remember Heathkit -- although I can't remember which came first, Radio Shack or them.

Edit: wow, both were founded in the 1920s


I was really bummed out when Radio Shack went bankrupt.

I kept my intro to electronics book I had as a kid. Pages are all yellow, but the activities are still amazing. I will start some of these with my daughter this summer.


I got into Maker Faire and making things, then I ran out of time. I had to learn Kubernetes. My kids were interested then they weren’t. My son is very technical and expressed interest in robotics, but he keeps coming back to game development and blender, and that is fantastic. I have a half dozen micro boards gathering dust for projects I was going to Make. I guess I haven’t seen value enough in my daily life from my little creations, and fundamentally making something novel is remarkably difficult. I’d really like to wire that gear up with MaxMSP or processing and make some beautiful sonic spaces, but for now it stays on the shelf. Is this just me or did something fundamental of that kind of experience undermine the maker movement in general?


Counter experience that still echos a lot of the same themes: I started tinkering with electronics around 2011, the typical beginner Arduino projects with the starter kit you've all seen-- it was enjoyable and I learned a lot, but never made anything that went beyond a toy or learning demo. By 2014 I was gainfully employed and had a little more disposable income so I gravitated towards freestyle and racing quadcopters which I've continued to enjoy through today. My lab and expertise have continued to grow every step of the way, and I've been excited to implement some very basic home automation on my own with ESP8266 kits now that I'm a homeowner. Realistically there isn't much "maker" related things I would see value in beyond commodity tools and a 3d printer, but vendors with FPV electronics touting cool new features or enhanced functionality have a reliable track record of cracking my wallet open. I suspect this is a broader feeling and contributed to Maker Faire struggling to find a niche with reasonable margins amid a race to the bottom in the associated hardware.

Ultimately I suspect Arduino boards gathering dust on the self are the overwhelming majority. People are either interested in it and rapidly move on to more specialized applications (Hobbyist multi-rotor electronics quickly graduated from 8bit AVRs to 32 bit ARMs) or they aren't and the dev kits find room in the closet.


I feel much the same way; I decided I needed a "project" when our child was born and I was looking at finding some things to do while enjoying paternity leave.

I figured I'd either learn android-development, or hardware-stuff. Bought an Arduino kit and never looked back. In my limited experience people dabble at such things then move on, or give it up entirely there isn't too much of a middle-ground.

I still dabble with ESP8266 things two years later; most recently I hooked up a simple 433Mhz radio-receiver to a board, and wrote some code to receive/understand/decode the radio-broadcasts a cheap off-the-shelf wireless temperature/humidity-sensor transmits. This allows me to log the temperature/humidity of our sauna.

Usually I'd wire up a sensor of my own, but I figured it would be less-risky to use an off-the-shelf sensor/transmitter. The idea of mixing steamy saunas with a USB-PSU was a dangerous one, and I even balked at using a rechargeable battery.

There aren't many things I buy for my hobby/practice, just random sensors, or accessories. Most of the time I just order them from AliExpress and take the time-hit waiting for them to arrive.


Basically the same stuff for me-- ESP8266 reading a humidity sensor and flipping a 115v outlet controller on or off for the dehumidifier in my basement. The built in humidity sensor is either hilariously inaccurate or is reading dryer than ambient exhaust air, so having a remote sensor is helpful.

It's all fun stuff and of some usefulness to me personally, but I don't think much of anything I've done has any professional applicability; other than generalized familiarity with electronics and components I wouldn't feel comfortable producing a real product.

Are there actually consumer electronics out there that are just arduino examples glued together?


>Are there actually consumer electronics out there that are just arduino examples glued together?

A lot of the existing power-switches that can be toggled with an app / radio-button are little more than an ESP8266 and a relay. The sonoff-line of smart-switches would be the obvious example.

Sonoff also make and sell RF<->WiFi bridges, but I guess the target market is already hackers rather than consumers for things like that.

Otherwise I've seen a few wifi-controllable LED-strips, and similar things that I'm pretty sure are identical in terms of hardware to what I've built. You can see some crowdfunded projects are just scaled-up home-toys too.

I'm struggling to think of better examples, but I'm sure they exist! In terms of product though it's interesting to evolve something from a bundle of junk loosely coupled to being a thing in a pretty case which can be enjoyed by others. I setup a trivial display to show tram-departures from outside my house, which the whole family uses now and loves. It went from a cardboard-box with a pile of stuff in it to a 3d-printed display, and then later I added the ability for it to be controlled via a HTTP-server, running as an Access-Point when it was initially setup. The whole thing became very very user-friendly. (But at the same time the only real user is ourselves, and trying to sell it would be a bit difficult.)


Most Arduinos are just fancy ATmega breakout boards, and ATmegas are used in some production electronics. You can most certainly prototype consumer electronics with Arduinos and then design production hardware after you've proven the concept.

The Arduino IDE is also compatible with various other microcontrollers, including the STM32 family which are extremely widely used in production electronics. Typically their production code isn't written with the Arduino tools but you can most certainly prototype with it.


The programmable mechanical keyboards are going that way.

Some of the newer ones can trace their lineage pretty directly to Arduino clones running TMK/QMK firmwares. The commercial version is usually going to cut out as much of the Arduino bits as possible and go for a soldered on microcontroller once you're building for sale.


Check out Banggood.com - almost anything you might think to make they probably already make and sell, plus they will sell you just the parts.


There are plenty of real world examples. An Arduino is merely a beginner friendly packaging for an AVR chip. In fact, you can pull out the AVR chip on some Arduino boards, and then you're free to program it yourself, provided you set up your own bootloader.

You'll find AVR chips controlling many, many devices in the wild. My Lulzbot 3d printer uses an ATMega for instance.


I'm one of those "rapidly move on to specialized applications" people who never moved on. :-) My Arduino is gathering dust but somewhere along the line I became a ham radio operator and my world changed dramatically after that. So I'm really thankful to DIY, maker, and hacker culture for all of the encouragement, tools, and tutorials that helped me get to a very happy place indeed.


What about your world has changed due to being an HRO?


Well. I appreciate the opportunity to reminisce. :-) It's only been 2 years for me, but:

First I became a local volunteer for ultramarathons, health care emergency exercises, things like that.

Next I developed a bunch of communications standards to support people in wildfire-type emergencies.

Then I just got really involved in learning about radio tech that uses the internet, and started working on a webSDR project to get a local server set up.

In between all of that I've participated in some ARISS SSTV events via the International Space Station and have some nifty commemoration certificates on my wall.

And finally I made a bunch of new friends and became part of a group that actually mostly observes a really high standard of communications decency and loves to support learning and technology. Through the community I've befriended astronomers, cops, engineers, firemen, physicists, all of those things I idolized as a kid.

This is to say nothing of the gadgetry, the ability to reach out across the world using any number of methods. Randomly getting in touch with a Japanese radio operator whose daughter lives just down the street from where I used to live in Japan. Talking to a Hugh from Ireland and telling him about my son who is also named Hugh. Getting my kids on the air and asking a bunch of radio operators across the US to take turns wishing them a happy birthday just for fun. Knowing they're enjoying it too. Fun little moments like that.


But most stuff at Maker Faire and in the Maker scene in general is in a quite unfinished state. It's easy to get inspired by all the Arduino stuff because it's there. But what about the move advanced things? Of course you could meet some people at Makerfaire who did this kind of stuff, but that was rare. I wish they would have had a clearer concept for that.


I've noticed that it's hard to get really great returns on maker projects. Maybe it's my impatience but software provides me something immediate that's cool and useful. Besides, debugging software is worlds easier for me than debugging circuitry. Also, why are microcontrollers stuck in the C++ world? Stuff like CircuitPython is changing that, but it's not that ubiquitous. I'd love an ergonomic and mature Rust ecosystem on Arduinos, or even a gasp JavaScript runtime. Shouldn't chips be fast enough for this? I'd love to run some basic web stuff on an Arduino.

Adafruit has been driving a lot of usable, rewarding electronics. They've been pushing LEDS (mostly WS2812 and APA102) in usable, prepackaged form factors. I really love their LED strips that are already diffused. They're beautiful and immediately usable. They're a little expensive, but I use their products to try out my ideas. But besides them there's not a lot of companies who make physical hardware appealing and available.

Side-note, why aren't there LED strips with a 3.3v logic level??? Almost all microcontrollers have a 3.3v logic level but APA102/WS2812 have a 5v logic level. Very annoying to convert.


For battery powered applications, you want power efficiency, which often means using “portable assembly” (aka C/c++).

A lot of micro-controllers are run from batteries, especially high-volume products, so there’s always going to be a pull towards power efficient languages, even if your app has wall power available.

Second heeen’s comment on using 3V3 directly. I built Halloween costumes that ran directly off an 18650 powering the Arduino and driving the APA102 LED strings. No issues as the batteries ran from 4.2+ to 3.7 or less volts. If it was life safety, I’d care, but for blinkenlights, I’m willing to push outside the datasheet.


I've been enjoying controlling LEDs via python with raspberry pi. There are good libraries available and it's easy to connect the LEDs to anything else you want to do in python.

Specifically check out bibliopixel for controlling LEDs in python. https://maniacallabs.github.io/BiblioPixel/


Hey I'm building a hardware company to address affordable housing 10x faster than existing approaches, read a bunch of your comments and they seem really insightful. Want to get coffee? Shoot me an email if you're interested at Pbadger27<at>gmail.com


C++, hell, I’d say C. The more abstraction, the less reliability. My group would never use anything but C in our embedded projects. I think it’s the “move fast, break stuff” attitude of non-embedded developers that has poisoned everything.


C++ is a trash language; somebody said it's object orientation is like trying to make an octopus by stapling four more legs on a puppy. It allows devs to abstract to the point of absurdity and obfuscates intention. C is much more hygenic, imo.


In my experience you can drive ws2811 with 3.3v, the signal gets conditioned after the first led.


I’ll be honest - if I had nothing but time and a paid off house, I’d be sorely tempted to just tinker for a while. The bay is no place to do that though - it’s too expensive.


I live in flyover country, with a paid off house, and good income. If you don’t have a mortgage, then it will be medical insurance (which costs just a much). If not that, the college savings, which is also equivalent.


So true. The rent forces you to be on the hamster wheel.


It USED to be the place to experiment. Now it’s the place to try to make money before the landlords get you.


This is likely severely limiting the innovation output of that area. You need breathing space to do groundbreaking stuff.


Check out the Arduino Leonardo for your son. It can emulate a USB HID input device (keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc). So your son can create custom controllers for his games. Just map GPIO to keys & analog pins to xyz scrolling & you’re off & running :-)


Will do! He’s already gotten into a second keyboard for macros and attempting to repurpose a semi-broke game pad. This will be right up his alley!


I had a similar experience until I realized how many other hobbies exist among friends and family that I could apply the knowledge to. I worked with my brother and cousin to add “push to” functionality to their homebuilt telescopes using IC linear magnetic encoders, which are so small they can be embedded in pockets in the wood, making for a much more integrated and beautiful scope than is possible with off the shelf products. Now making a more robust version of a similar gizmo to instrument my brother’s millwork shop. Then a wireless temperature/fan regulator for my grill. Guitar (or keyboard) effect pedals make for an endless series of wonderful, creative projects as well. In other words, all stuff we’d be doing anyway, to which the widget hacking adds an extra dimension of improvement and interest. As a kid I imagine I would have loved to build weird game controllers with my dad. Or customized RC airplanes.

I hope companies like osh park, sparkfun and so on never go the way of radio shack.


I think (perhaps unfairly) that these fun hardware projects are often parents like ourselves harking back to a day when exactly that sort of thing was absolutely fascinating... but that's not the world we live in now. Which one is going to be more rewarding: building a smartphone, or making an app? It's the latter.

That's not to say hardware stuff can't thrive, just perhaps not at the scale venture capital would require.


> Which one is going to be more rewarding: building a smartphone, or making an app?

The counterpoint to this would be: if your child built an app and showed it to their friends, would they be impressed? How about if they built a smartphone?


They'd probably be more impressed with the app. They could all download it to their phone and use it together!


But they already have dozens of similar social apps... it would need to be unique, not just another chat app.


Time is also my problem (I have 3 childs). I also think that the amount of effort needed to produce something with enough polish to be useful (software or hardware) is very high.

IMHO, the quick pace at which everything change is a major cause of this complexity. Even for professional products, for example it is already difficult to find hardware supported by redhat 6. As opposite, see the effect of stability of arduino or ne555.


Your job made you take time out of your regular workday? How many hours are you working, weekly?


The world needs more good software than another person making toy electronics IMO.

I see them as a hobby for electronics people, non-programmer computer types, or just for fun for anyone. But given a choice between some cute electronic that won't leave my house and building a web or github based side project that thousands of people could potentially use, I'd go with the latter every time.

I say that after giving up on my own gaming electronics thing I was building until I realized my time could be better spent and I could buy a finished one from China for half the price.


>> The world needs more good software than another person making toy electronics.

Rather sad to read that electronics is thought of as a toy. It is the "body" which software runs on. I agree cute electronics is probably not that useful but the are many others.


Perhaps it's because you need to invest so much more time to make something useful in hardware. In software it's still possible to make small useful projects.


Hardware is, well, hard. But the kits available can make it much easier and more approachable. You just need to learn the ecosystem -- like learning a computer language and development environment.


In the embedded world, electronics is a useful skill. Also RF design or low power design are very valuable skills.


You kind of seem to miss the major point of stuff being a hobby or interest in the first place. For other people the enjoyment comes from the process of making and understanding, not necessarily having a shiny end product.

For hobby projects (both software and hardware) I generally don't care if they leave my house or if one or thousands see them, that's something I do for me, not to fulfill some hypothetical need of the world.


> The world needs more good software than another person making toy electronics [..]

I'd be just as happy to see my kids getting interested in electronics as coding.


I "run" a makerspace...

I put that in quotes because its barely running, and I've basically quit.

Wealth innequality is extreme. The people who can afford it buy their own 3D printer or laser, do. The people who can't afford them, can't afford to pay dues.

Everybody wants to donate their broken junk to the space, but nobody wants to give us cash to pay the rent.


I founded and am still heavily involved in a makerspace that's doing pretty well (8k sqft facility, 4 staff). Focusing on equipment doesn't work, you have to focus on community building. The only equipment that will draw people are the high ticket $20k+ tools, but you have to have the community first to be able to get those grants.

Seek out grants to start a scholarship fund to pay for people that can't afford memberships.


I think a services/pay-for-use model is much more practical for maker spaces. Even people who can afford the tools don't necessarily want to buy it and have it sitting around. I'd it's available for a decent fee to use when you want, then it's a matter of scheduling.

To cover the people who can't afford it you offer opportunities to earn credit or options


I believe the easiest way to alleviate this issue is to pool together capital to buy machines that can’t be purchased by individuals. This encourages more affluent makers to join and pay dues.


That was the business plan of TechShop. It didn't work out in the long run.

In SF, the TechShop space is sort of reborn as https://theshop.build/ Also, https://www.noisebridge.net/ is still cranking along.


What makes noisebridge more successful? It seems like they have a smaller space and less machines than Techshop RIP but host a lot more meetups.


My impression is it's more a community like most hackerspaces, less "tools as a service" most commercial makerspaces are seen as, so people are more willing to volunteer time or resources.


Noisebridge is a non-profit, whereas Techshop was a for-profit corporation.


That would be my guess. Never actually been there, but I get the impression they keep costs very low. More of an old-skool club space than a modernized work space.


This is extremely difficult to achieve, when you actually put the numbers together. Machines are expensive and people do not like to spend money on memberships. You need a lot of paying members, and if you have a lot of members, you get problems with maintenance, abuse, and equipment wear, as well as all other kinds of support costs.

Source: I tried and decided I can't make it work.


On the other hand, gyms seem like such a similar model: the equipment is expensive, but not individually out of reach for most people who can afford to pay membership fees. And maintenance costs / wear and tear are quite high for gym equipment that's shared by many people.

Why does that model work so well for fitness equipment and not well at all for maker equipment?


I really like your question. I’d offer these differences:

- You get access to a wider variety of machines at a gym than you can afford or store in your home. Whereas you probably just need 1-2 3D printers and power/hand tools don’t take up much space. Also, even if a makerspace had a wide variety of machines, non-members couldn’t tell you what those would be or what they’d necessarily do with them, unlike a gym.

- Working out takes 30-60 minutes. Making something takes whole evenings; that’s a lot of time to spend out. Classes are shorter but have the problem where only novices and moderately interested people want to do them.

- Working out in a room with others is social and motivating. You’re surrounded by people who look like what you’re working toward, etc. Making things with others is also social, but fewer people are used to tapping into that as a motivation to create. And highly accomplished makers aren’t usually as attractive as people in peak fitness. :)


That assumes the more expensive machines provide enough value over their cheaper counterparts for those users to care. Keep in mind that industrial machines tend to be more complicated to use as well.


Why don't you use stuff more powerful than can be owned by individuals? I.e., stuff that's regulated. Then they'd have to come by your place.


what industrial/scientific equipment do you think has regulated ownership?


Lasers, and you can't get certain chemicals without s business


It's a real loss. It likely could have survived as a bootstrapped business, but being venture backed meant either large growth or death. Dale hints at this in the article, and the choices Maker Media has made over time make more sense knowing the pressures of investment were top priority.


I didn't know it was venture backed. I am having a hard time imagining that as a swing-for-fences, 100x-1000x return kind of business. It sounds more like the kind if thing where a cash strapped business works out a long term deal with an understanding property owner who has maker kids constantly asking for a better 3-D printer.


They were part of OATV's[1] second fund.

[1]http://oatv.com


If you knew anything at all about their funding you would know thats not at all why they got funded. Print is crazy expensive and eventually the muse ran out.


Can you elaborate? "Print is expensive" isn't a great reason for an investment fund to pour millions into a magazine publisher. What was the potential upside?


Consider that the washington post was purchased for $250M. That was about four months current revenue. Admittedly Make Magazine is great but probably not pulling in $700M annually.

If they could have convinced a "famous tech billionaire" to purchase Make as a vanity project / property ...


So go online only? Hackaday has been running since ever and seems to be doing well.


"if you knew the thing you didn't know then you'd know the reason"


> muse

I'm guessing you meant fuse. And totally agree.


Or maybe they lost their inspiration?


The problem with bootstrapped businesses is scale. It can be very difficult to do big things like produce a LOT of high-quality original content and start an awesome family-themed DIY fair in the Bay area without money....

On the other side, one of the best bootstrapped DIY events is Defcon. I still remember when they didn't have air conditioning. I know it's not the same and it's not kids friendly- probably why it has succeeded.

My original point is, sometimes you just need to go big, so there is an opportunity to accomplish more. For an entrepreneur, failure is not always the biggest fear; Accomplishing too little can be a much bigger regret.


Subtly, bay area costs are preferred to prices paid by VC backed companies. I built a bootstrapped logistics company in SFBA, and it was brutal. Frankly, we only succeeded/survived because of a single giant deal that involved software and not logistics, i.e. 95+% margin.


What stops a bootstrapped business raising money that doesn't stop a non-bootstrapped business? Is it one of those Silicon Valley "perfect play" things?


Once you take money you have investors. Investors want a return on their money... so now you're a VC backed company.


Bootstrapped is orthogonal to taking money though.



What does bootstrapped mean? I thought it meant self-funded


I thought it meant "got from concept to ramen profitability" but I could be misusing the term so please let me know if I am. :)


It means "got from concept to ramen profitability on your own money" :).


Why would it have survived as a bootstrapped business? Potentially, they would have been able to survive on less than 22 staff, but would that not have meant they could have cut back (likely long ago) to maintain a reasonable burn rate.

I'm sure the VCs noticed long ago that Maker wasn't going to pay back their fund, so while they may have kept looking for ways to make the business a huge success, isn't there some point where the VC cuts their losses and just leaves the business to do it's thing?


I think the way they would "cut their losses" would be to halt all spending and sell all the remaining assets.


VCs are focused on paying back their fund. They know that most of the companies they fund don't have enough assets to get anywhere near making a dent.

Maker has a half decent brand, and if the company isn't forced to shutdown, it is possible they could reach profitability and find a way to be a huge cash cow in the future. Or, that they would just continue on, or sell for a penance one day.

The point being, I don't think, and I'm happy to hear a good argument otherwise, that VC is to blame for the bankruptcy.

VC money gave Maker enough money that they could operate and have a shot at becoming something big. How do we know Maker could have built up what they have built without that support initially?


It's a good point: why is it so hard to scale back? Dale says in the article that he is trying maintain control of Maker assets, which makes me believe the other option is a sale. Clearly, Dale wants to continue trying to build (even a break-even) business, but it's possible that the investors want to sell the assets, preventing this, so there is tension between someone running the business and someone funding the business. Dale says "It started as a venture-backed company but we realized it wasn’t a venture-backed opportunity." Who knows if it could have survived without VC backing, but this statement seems pretty clear that the investors weren't interested in the original direction of the company, and tried to put it on a higher growth trajectory -- hence my reading that the options were growth or death. On the product side of the business, the first customers of the magazine and faire were already Makers, and the interest was very high. Then, there was a big shift to package up all of this maker stuff, and sell it to general public. It didn't work. Had the business focused on the smaller niche group, it may have been viable, but not interesting to VC since the opportunity is limited to people who are already makers. Once the VC is accepted though, it's no longer an option to stay niche, and business decisions (such as opening a physical storefront in SF) only make sense when viewed with "huge-or-bust" mentality. It's mostly speculation, but I've been exhibited at Maker Faire since 2007, have written a handful of articles for the magazine and have friends that worked there.


Rapidly depreciating assets can change this equation. In that case it’s vastly harder to scale back to breakeven.

Think of a VR arcade at a local mall, at the point the decide not to buy new equipment they have effectively already failed. The question is simply do they get more money from liquidation or continue running the business into the ground.


There’s a certain catch-22 to monetizing a community of DIY enthusiasts. Large events are very expensive and hard to do right and require deep-pocketed sponsors. But it’s hard to sell DIY enthusiasts mainstream products because they would rather make it themselves or use the open source alternative. So sponsors may have correctly deduced the spend was not moving the needle.

And in the case of Maker Faire / Make Magazine the vast, vast majority of the things the community members made were not products at all and therefore helping them monetize their own work was really a dead end as well. For a short while Make ran an e-commerce marketplace and I think they overestimated the supply of and the demand for products from their community. Etsy bought a similar hardware marketplace and shut it down when it didn’t perform.

In hindsight I believe the real opportunity for revenue in the maker space is education. I like what LittleBits is doing. I may not pay for an elaborate electronics kit but I will gladly pay a subscription fee to anyone that elps my kids think math and science are fun and cool and keeps them engaged when others kids are tuning out.


Again the poisoned chalice of funding. :(


unfortunately, this. Oh you will be missed, especially by the kids! :(


[flagged]


Please don't break the site guidelines, regardless of how misinformed another comment is. Despite what we'd all prefer, most internet comments are misinformed. Flaming doesn't help.

Instead, if you know more about a topic—which it sounds like you do in this case—please share some of what you know, so we all can learn.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I’ve had a minor bone with make media over their ownership of the term “makerfaire”. To me, a makerfaire is a generic term that has absolutely nothing to do with the magazine.

Our local hackerspace tried to organize a makerfaire, and when we found out how much we had to pay to make media to use that name (I don’t remember the specifics, but it was enough to make us all reel back a bit) we ended up just changing the name to maker “fest” instead.

It’s very sad that the magazine is also dying :(, but I have always been a bit salty of make media’s attempt to own the term “maker”. Perhaps this saltiness was more common in the community. It honestly soured me against any of their products.

I still think that what they did was amazing, but there was just always that little sourness in the back of my mind when I’d recommend their publication to anybody. I think there is a lesson in there about branding. To my mind, allowing thousands of volunteers all over the world to throw “maker faires” is like a dream come true for a magazine like that. It’s a huge amount of advertising and brand association for them. If it was me, I would have put together an open set of graphics and styles for people to use at all of the maker faires, to make sure that every single one of those events was associated with my magazine.


> I have always been a bit salty of make media’s attempt to own the term “maker”

The concept of "people who build stuff as a hobby" is not really new at all. The coining of the term "maker" is, and honestly feels a little awkward to me. However, its possible they were part of the coining of that term, so its probably okay that they tried to capitalize on it.

Maybe if we had a more general/less-branded term to use, it wouldn't feel so forced.


It seems not only forced but a bit back-handed. Like a certain connotation of a lack of...rigor.

Like "coder" vs programmer/software developer.


I mean, as an engineer by BS, makers have a "i'm not a engineer" vibe with it.


I think that was deliberate, the idea was to allow tinkering. The message being you don't have to be an engineer to build stuff.


I don't know, but I assume it was a matter of quality control and branding. "Maker Faire" (with the weird olde english "e" at the end) is distinctive enough that it's obvious that it was chosen to be a trademark and represent an event sanctioned by the company.


> "Maker Faire" (with the weird olde english "e" at the end)

'Faire' is simply French for 'to do' or... 'to make'.


"maker fair" is a generic description, something that can't be a trademark as it's not distinctive (unless it's for a category of thing that's completely unrelated to the term, like you could use it asa TM for apple juice, or something).


The USPTO doesn't agree with you. [1] More likely the examiner considered it "suggestive" which can be trademarked if it's well-known. At this point it is even incontestable. [2]

[1] http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=78893436&caseType=SERIAL_N... [2] http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn78893436&docId...


Did you note my non-use of misspelling.

What's curious to me is that the mark actual has a disclaimer (https://www.uspto.gov/trademark/laws-regulations/how-satisfy...) on "faire", the only slim element of distinctiveness in the mark.

Meaning they're relying almost entirely on "maker" to provide distinctiveness.

If the USPTO has any inkling of sense they'd realise "maker" is a standard English word that is being used for its ordinary meaning (someone who makes things), and does not give any indication of a specific origin.

You can't prevent people using common words, with their ordinary meaning, to describe their own products by registering those words (that's common across all TM systems). Any attempt to sue someone for running their own maker fair using the words maker fair should be dismissed by asking the judge to look up the two words in the dictionary.


I was a Make magazine subscriber since the second year and gave several gift subscriptions. I contributed a couple of small (unpaid) pieces to the magazine, and was an exhibitor (also unpaid) multiple times at the NYC Maker Faire. I thoroughly enjoyed the Maker Faire set-up days and thought they made exhibiting worthwhile. It was like having a back-stage pass to the Oscars of Makerdom - all the stars were there and happy to talk shop. I knew I was creating free content for them that they were profiting from but thought I was getting a fair deal.

My subscription lapsed just about every year for some glitch or another and they were unable to convert any of the gift subscriptions which should have been very easy sales.

My opinion about supporting Make Media changed after the RealSexyCyborg incident in the winter of 2017:

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/kassycho/a-male-ceo-has...

Bunnie Haung (who I met at a Maker Faire set-up day) vouched for her and Dale still persisted in slandering her. I let my subscription lapse and quit going to the NYC Maker Faire. 2017 was the Maker Faire highest attendance and has been declining since then.


>My opinion about supporting Make Media changed after the RealSexyCyborg incident in the winter of 2017:

Thanks, the damage was and is pretty bad- and long-lasting. But, "be like water" and all that. I'm slowly pivoting to hardware development. Studying welding and CNC operations now also.

But- as far as business dealings with Make my one direct experience, in an area I'm qualified to talk about is that their China strategy was simply awful. Just textbook how to fail in China. They chose a Chinese partner that did not understand Maker culture, was incentivized to not support it (even curtail it), and let them run the Make brand into the ground during a time when billions of RMB was going into Maker initiatives:

https://theasiadialogue.com/2016/05/26/makerspaces-for-the-p...

Not just government grants, but parents willing to pay generously for after-school hands-on activities that cultivate creativity. Lego absolutely nailed it, they were and are the model for Make to follow: https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2188280/bric...

I told Make all this last year. Even with all the shit they pulled- I want Chinese kids to have something better than factory jobs making shanzhai shit. I will talk to Make or anyone else if it means more creativity here. I am a true believer- I would make a lot more doing literally anything else if I wasn't. I offered to get Make legal representation, connect them with the investors that were asking for an introduction- just at least hear them out. Nope. Patronizing and dismissive. They were convinced their current Chinese partner had "lots of guanxi" and had it all figured out. It was a huge, huge missed opportunity for absolutely no reason at the absolute height of demand. Now, of course, the Maker market has cooled off: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1003171/made-in-china-the-boom... and things would be much harder.

Make seems to make very bad business decisions, driven by enforcing an in-house ideology and social hierarchy that really has no relation to the Hacker ethic at the heart of the Maker movement.


>Thanks, the damage was and is pretty bad- and long-lasting. But, "be like water" and all that. I'm slowly pivoting to hardware development. Studying welding and CNC operations now also.

Keep at it, you are setting an amazing example here. Very good luck with it all.

edit - if you are pivoting to hardware development, get one of these; http://www.latticesemi.com/en/Products/DevelopmentBoardsAndK...

use this on it; http://www.clifford.at/icestorm/

and this is where you can find some useful modules - https://opencores.org/

Is some of the most fun I have had in ages in making tech do weird shit. I currently have a stepper motor rumnning over optic fibre as the first stage of my new 3d printer build.


There are few companies I look up to as much as LEGO, they had a bad financial time in the 0's, where they had to sadly sell off the parks. But now they have really found what makes them special again. Including expanding to new markets like China. It came as a pretty big surprise for me that they got some Lepin factories closed down and raided by the Chinese authorities. They are as you say a good example of a company that knows how to work in China.


>It came as a pretty big surprise for me that they got some Lepin factories closed down and raided by the Chinese authorities. They are as you say a good example of a company that knows how to work in China.

This is becoming more and more common. Adafruit is another example, really good IP protection in China so no one has knocked off their boards. I have a Chinese IP lawyer I recommend who is great at this, but unfortunately most foreigners feel American IP protection is sufficient so won't spend the little bit it takes to protect themselves (better) in China.


> Adafruit is another example, really good IP protection in China so no one has knocked off their boards.

Could you please (briefly) elaborate on these protections or point me in the right direction to look, ie articles and/or search terms? I mean absolutely no disrespect but as a westerner without any real knowledge of China I only know the stereotype of China being like the wild west where everything gets ripped off. I'm happy to do some research to learn more about it if you could advice me where to look!


>I mean absolutely no disrespect but as a westerner without any real knowledge of China I only know the stereotype of China being like the wild west where everything gets ripped off. I'm happy to do some research to learn more about it if you could advice me where to look!

No offense taken! It seems crazy but things change fast- and yes we still steal loads of stuff and tend not to respect IP not registered in China. I have not found a really good write up in English, I've been meaning to get together with some local friends and do something. But yeah- totally ok to be skeptical, we don't have a stellar track record


I have a couple of really poor Adafruit knockoff I2C PWM expander boards from a couple of years back (Aliexpress seller). The logo/silkscreen is rough, there's a PCB trace missing and the power LED resistor value is too low so the light was blinding until I replaced the resistor. Maybe the situation has changed?


> Studying welding and CNC operations now also.

Muaa Haaa Haaa. Good stuff. CNC is awesome. :)

Seems to turn into a huge (fun) time sink, but expands out the possibilities for creating things.

Looking at your video list on YouTube quickly, it seems like good initial learning:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkmVH8knK60

If/when you're up for a more full-on CNC system - without getting crazy expensive - the Shapeoko 3 is very, very good:

* https://community.carbide3d.com/t/hardcore-aluminum-milling-... <-- stuff done by someone who really knows what they're doing (not me ;>)

* https://carbide3d.com/shapeoko/

Personally, I started with 3D printing too (FlashForge Creator Pro), and moved into CNC after hitting frustrating limitations with that.

Haven't gotten into welding yet (it's on the ToDo list), as no backyard or shed here to do it in. Ugh. :/

In theory, I should be able to find a Maker type place nearby, but haven't investigated that yet.

Any idea if there's an equivalent to the Shapeoko in Shenzhen? eg high quality, but low cost

So far, all I've seen online is the same cheapo stuff (low quality, low cost) that appears in any kind of Ebay search for CNC. o_O


The whole "maker" seem to have long been appropriated:

There is an event going on https://imgur.com/a/5w3P8l4

Shenzhen maker week has no relation to maker fare, but it seem to have surely overtaken it


> My subscription lapsed just about every year for some glitch or another

This exactly -- of all the magazines I subscribe to, Make has (had?) the worst subscription department by far. It was surprising given how important a subscriber base is.


> Dale still persisted in slandering her

FWIW, Dale finally apologized:

https://twitter.com/dalepd/status/927712935987707904


[flagged]


Vandalizing HN by starting flamewars like this will get you banned here, regardless of what the flames are about. No more of this, please.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


> Never forgive, never forget.

Most of the pain in the world is caused by this attitude.


Tell RealSexyCyborg that as she watches people who conspired to destroy her livelihood enjoy their comfortable lives.


I find the idea that people who make mistakes don't deserve "comfortable lives" repulsive. I believe that much of the world's pain is caused by it. If people everywhere tried just a bit harder to forgive and forget, the world really would be a better place. Entire wars would be prevented.

It looks to me that these people (this Dale figure, the Vice reporters etc) aren't impossible dickheads who belong in jail, but well-meaning people who made (grave) errors in judgment. They deserve "comfortable lives" just like everybody else. I bet you've made grave errors in judgment once or twice. I sure have.

(little sidenote: I don't have a strong opinion about this particular debate. I didn't dive deep, I don't know who the key players are. It seems to me that Naomi Wu is obviously the victim here, so I'm on "your side"- but that doesn't mean I agree with your hardline approach)


>It looks to me that these people (this Dale figure, the Vice reporters etc) aren't impossible dickheads who belong in jail, but well-meaning people who made (grave) errors in judgment. They deserve "comfortable lives" just like everybody else. I bet you've made grave errors in judgment once or twice. I sure have.

Dale genuinely could not fit me into his cognitive framework. He was an older guy who'd grown up on "Chinese can't be creative" which there is some truth to- it's really, really tough for us. What tripped him up is numbers- 1.3b of us, our outliers are...well like me. I am unlikely in a small pool- in a large one me, or someone like me is a statistical certainty. He made a mistake- and some people behind the scenes with other motives and their own prejudice who encouraged him to speak up and act on that mistake.

Vice knew. They made no mistake, no confusion, no misunderstanding- it was spelled out for them. Examples were provided of people in very similar situations and what the consequences were. Vice was flat out willing to subject me to state action for the sake of giving their story a "hook". Dale was, at absolute worse a prejudiced old man in a position where that prejudice did a lot of harm- Vice had multiple people involved who fit every definition of sociopath.


> Dale genuinely could not fit me into his cognitive framework. He was an older guy who'd grown up on "Chinese can't be creative"

That's not true. I've met Dale, and the impression he makes is of a very humble, quiet and kind person. My understanding is that he gets along very well with other Chinese makers.

His conflict was with you, specifically, not with all Chinese people, and it's in very poor taste for you to try to turn this personality conflict into a racial or gender issue. You've done this often in your many online spats.


Well meaning? What does that mean? Like intent? You could not possibly read anything but malintent from Dale’s writing.


> I find the idea that people who make mistakes don't deserve "comfortable lives" repulsive.

Some people don't share your attitudes, unfortunately. You can see this since they tried to make Wu's life as uncomfortable as possible, with no qualms whatsoever, all out of extremely fuzzy, purported "mistakes" on her part. Yes, Dale did finally issue a clear and complete apology so that issue was resolved to everyone's satisfaction, but let's be clear on how extremely rare that attitude is. Most conflicts tend to simmer because those who are in a losing position will never want to admit to themselves that they're losers, and change their ways - instead, they will keep behaving as "impossible dickheads", entirely by their own choice. Being naïve about this doesn't prevent or resolve conflict; it encourages more conflict since everyone sees how weak your reaction is to being bullied.


Why do you think that if I say that "never forgive, never forget" is a harmful attitude, I only mean it towards the people who share your opinion about the issue? I think it's a harmful attitude all across the board, on all "sides" of every conflict. I strongly disagree that trying to de-escalate emotions "encourages more conflict".

It's perfectly possible, and much more constructive, to write that you think this Dale is a dickhead without "never forgive" and without denying him a "comfortable life".

Bullies are not going to stop bullying because someone on the internet thinks they don't deserve a comfortable life. At the same time, perpetrating the idea that mistakes ought to haunt people for the rest of their lives, that forgiveness is a weakness, is actively harmful and makes culture more hateful. Plus, you're making a discussion more inflammatory to absolutely nobody's benefit.


Agree that Dale is to some extent complicit in Wus woes, but Naomi herself considers that case closed and settled.

The real assholes are IMO the Vice people, and Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/vice-vs-sexy-how-18216256


>The real assholes are IMO the Vice people, and Patreon:

There's a whole untold story- but Make contacted Vice, which was what caused all the subsequent events.


Okay, interesting! Your story has been an amazing and educational one beginning to end, one I can identify with as far as the cross-cultural aspects are concerned. Sorry for what you have been put through. Kudos to you for your amazing skills, energy and creativity! I hope (or, fairly confident) you will persevere in spite it all. Looking forward to hearing the whole story some day.


>Your story has been an amazing and educational one beginning to end, one I can identify with as far as the cross-cultural aspects are concerned. Sorry for what you have been put through. Kudos to you for your amazing skills, energy and creativity! I hope (or, fairly confident) you will persevere in spite it all.

Thank you!


Come on, even Dale had to acknowledge that his "apology" was totally fake and inadequate, and issue a more convincing one later: https://makezine.com/2017/11/19/apology-to-naomi-wu/ If that tweet and article was the only thing you had to go on, "do not forgive, do not forget" is a totally sensible attitude.


I was surprised to find out that they were backed by venture capital. When he says that "I’m committed to keeping the print magazine going and the Maker Faire licensing program.” I'm assuming that is for the various other maker and mini maker faires that are organized outside Maker media? I think it would be great if they could reorganize as a non profit and continue with a scaled back operation. I also wonder if by doing the interview with the media they are not trying to strengthen their negotiating position with their creditors. I've attended a couple of the Bay Area maker faires, and several ones in San Diego and while there definitely has been a dropoff is attendance and exhibitors (both quantity and to some extent quality) I still think it's a good event and has a lot to offer. I think it would be good if they also had some exhibits focused also on repair and reuse. The last San Diego County Fair I went to I think the neatest thing I saw was some guy from a local phone repair shop fixing phones.


Not indicated in the current headline is that it appears that Make Magazine is halting as well. From the first paragraph:

> [...] Maker Media, the company behind crafting publication MAKE: magazine as well as [...] Maker Faire, [has laid] off its entire staff of 22 and pause all operations.


I wonder if they'll be able to fulfill the N-magazine subscription I paid for when I bought my ticket this year?


Traditionally when a magazine goes under, the publisher sends you the remaining number of issues of some other loosely-related magazine. But since Maker Media isn't a traditional magazine publisher I'm not sure what they can do in a similar vein.


Breaks my heart. I've been a subscriber since the beginning and I've got issue 1 sitting on the shelf just to my left.

I've got a list of things I want to make as a result of reading Make Magazine that would last me 5 lifetimes. If this is, indeed, the end, huge thanks to the entire crew at Maker Media (and the hundreds that contributed to Make Magazine over the years). You did what you did as well as it can be done.


Take a look at Hackspace magazine if you're feeling the loss.

https://hackspace.raspberrypi.org


From the article it seems like he is trying to keep the print magazine going as opposed to organizing maker faires.

“We’re trying to keep the servers running” Dougherty tells me. “I hope to be able to get control of the assets of the company and restart it. We’re not necessarily going to do everything we did in the past but I’m committed to keeping the print magazine going and the Maker Faire licensing program.”


The magazine website is still accepting new subscriptions:

https://readerservices.makezine.com/mk/default.aspx?pc=MK&pk...


I'd guess the print part was the downfall.

The Faires were licensed and should have been cash cows (I see local one is still selling tickets).


Whoa! That seems like a MUCH larger story!


Maker Faire was a really cool event, I also exhibited there once. The barrier to show something used to be actually quite low and it was easy to get in touch with people dealing with similar topics.

On the other hand I never understood why that had so much focus on kids stuff. Of course it's easy to get attention from kids as long as things move, blink etc. But this stuff isn't really sophisticated, neither are the associated workshops - of which there are plenty.

If you think about it, it makes no sense because kids don't have money and complex projects require actually a lot of planning and deep understanding of the topics involved.

I think they should have focussed on more advanced projects. In fact a lot of projects both at Maker Faire but also in the Maker scene in general are quite unfinished. This can be nice when it comes to art but technical projects are most interesting when they reach MVP / release status.


This is an issue I always found was diluting the Makers' movement: everything was mostly focused on beginners.


Part of it might be the reason I've never particularly gotten into Maker culture. It's very easy to make a little beginner project which is fun but doesn't do anything particularly useful. However, more advanced projects either require a) an unfilled need, or b) an artistic imagination. And even if you have a or b, you may still be looking at more money than you're willing to spend.

I much prefer the repair-and-reuse end of maker culture.


There's been some of talk of trying to own the "maker" space rather than fostering "maker" spaces. I suppose that's part of the problem.

I subscribed to Make for a few years in the late aughts but let my subscription lapse because I stopped having time to tinker. It was a great medium to learn until it wasn't.

I suppose many events coalesced over the years leading to its shuttering

- proliferation of YouTube DIY

- shuttering of print media and electronics stores

- cost decrease of prefab devices

- cost decrease in means of production

- bundled kits

- "democratization" of means of production (3d printing, etc)

- Make attitude shift from "hacking" to selling you shit / custom brands

This sucks for the maker community and Make folks but is a serious win for anyone still soldering on or trying to foster the hacker / maker mentality.


A totally naive point of view, but it would be awesome if some players in the maker space that are profitable (Adafruit, R-Pi, Arduino etc..) could band together and form a non-profit to keep this effort going. The maker community is generally so very non-corporate that I'd hope a partisan organization would be easy to form and run with out individual agendas or products getting involved in any overwhelming way.


With a bit of further reflection, I have a 15 year old that lives for computers esp games, taught himself multiple computer languages from Youtube and Khan etc. He actually writes OK code and thinks about it the right way.

He won bits and pieces like Minecraft Mod of the Month, the school EMITS (STEM) prize, at a school that specialises in it etc etc

I thought he was going to program games, but he has decided he wants to be an electrical engineer (which I am) still not sure of the exact motivation, I have a pretty good life with lots of interesting work, maybe he hopes for that.

But, if he wasn't so highly motivated towards computers, I think I would tell him to spend the equivalent time he would spend getting a 4 year or 6 year EE degree and learn to make fine hand crafted shoes. Send him to Florence. Some big money in custom shoes if you build a name and quite rewarding if you like that sort of thing.

An Arduino isn't going to keep my feet warm, dry and stylish, for $800 (or even $5000 in extreme cases) a pair.

And that need isn't going away because Arduinos exist.


Funny you should mention shoes - my wife was demoing making socks at our local mini Maker Faire last year. There is a small, but devoted community of people who use their machine shops to build modern versions of the antique hand-cranked knitting machines used to makes socks. She has a room full of them, and it is a great blend of modern tech, antique machines, and hand crafted goods that was perfect for a Maker Faire.

We're interested to see what fallout this has on such local gatherings, whether they will continue or not.


> There is a small, but devoted community of people who use their machine shops to build modern versions of the antique hand-cranked knitting machines used to makes socks.

Whoa, what? Okay, super interested in this. Especially after seeing so many local schools and universities auction off or scrap what probably amounts to tons of old-iron textile processing machinery.

Please let me know if you have any relevant links! Would appreciate muchly.


My wife is the expert on it, but I know this is the main company she works with for her new machines: http://stores.erlbachergearhart.com/

(She also has a collection of antiques she has picked up over the years.)

But really, you can find most of the links you would want if you search for: "circular sock knitting machine"


In the machines or the people making them? I'd love to see someone build a machine.

There are videos on Youtube of the old machines being used.

Vintage Sock Knitter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N7hsho4Sjg


In Germany we have a German edition of Make:, which is done by Heise Verlag (of c't fame), and they seem to be doing fine (and there is no VC involved). It seems they have licensed the trademark (it was called "c't hardware hacks" before) but operations are done through the Maker Media GmbH. They also organize Maker Faires all over Germany, so I guess it is possible to do this and make a profit, at least in Germany.

https://www.heise.de/make/


It sounds like the wrong type of business for receiving VC investment. Expos/conferences can make good money, but I expect it's a few magnitudes less than what an investor would want as a return. I wonder what the pitch deck looked like when they raised the investment.


I've been a "maker" since I was a kid. Same Ham radio, dad tinkered with stuff, best friends family ran a lawn mower repair business that others have chronicled.

Now most of the things I make are electronics with mostly a CPU, and some way to talk to the remote device but 90% is code. Woodworking is via either my own tools, or a friend's shop.

I'm on the board of a Maker group and our two big things is rental (pontifier's comment) and our insurance. It's sad to see people pay $400 for an Apple Watch and then whine about a $10 a month shop fee.

Interesting thing is Public Libraries are becoming Maker Spaces (not a TM) with printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, etc. Our county built a new library with an "innovation center" in it with all this stuff.

A local museum runs a "Fair for Makers" (again not a TM) that this year had 22 exhibitors in their main building and about 40 outside. Also had craft brew and food trucks, all for $5 a person. No fee to present so it was a nice day for everyone.

Sorry to see them go out of business, I think they started something very cool.


Huge bummer, I loved it as a participant. Didn't realize it was a venture-backed business... for some reason I thought it was a nonprofit.


It had the feel of a non-profit. It's too bad they can't rework Make magazine into something PBS would be into.


The fairs can be reworked into something non-profit, though.


Between this and the tech shop bankruptcy, is there a broader issue with financial viability in the maker industry?


The early issues of Make Magazine were filled with articles about repairing devices, building needed things instead of buying them, cobbling stuff together from scrap. It had a very distinct anti-consumerist vibe, which made it appealing to a lot folks including myself. The Faires were filled with like-minded folks who were there only to enjoy the process of building stuff. What do you sell this group of customers? In my mind, inspiration and a venue to share their projects with each other. Over time, though the maker movement became more focused on commerce, including tools that people needed to buy to become makers, and also startups founded by makers with the goal of selling stuff to the public. I'm surprised that I'm being critical on this point, since I really like business, and was a small business owner myself for years. What I'm trying to say is that Make lost sight of their original target customer profile (maybe due to pressure from investors), which is not an uncommon mistake. Smaller venues will crop up to support folks who like building things, which is a relatively niche group, and there may not be enough of us to support a the size business that the investors desired.


This. It was at that inflection point that I cancelled my Make subscription. It just didn't have the vibe any more. I also remember them developing their own fairly expensive custom ARM development board during the time the arduidnos were rapidly proliferating, and thinking, "why do they think people will buy this?" So maybe there were some sub par investments on that front as well?


> why do they think people will buy this?

Extra salt to wound: and what kind of profit/revenue/result is it going to generate other than the fact that it consumes power? The more I look back at the maker movement, the more it looks a structurally self extinguishing fire.


On the SF peninsula, yes. The TechShop bankruptcy, which was totally botched, left many people angry. (I was a member, but didn't prepay, so I didn't lose anything.) TheShop.build closed their San Francisco location recently, and at one point had an eviction notice on the door of their San Jose location. (I dropped my membership last month.) Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale is struggling to get enough members to survive. Today's email says they have 80 and need 200. (I pay for a membership there.)

Other cities are doing better. Usually because of government support. "We need to retrain workers" arguments play well in industrial cities.

The original Menlo Park TechShop had skilled people doing hard stuff. People making things for the X-prize. People from Stanford who needed more machine tools than Stanford had. People from startups. Gradually that declined. Stanford and Google got their own in-house shops. Then there was the "Etsy crap" era - people using CNC laser cutters to make "hand made" stuff to sell on Etsy. At peak, TechShop SF had eight laser cutters going almost constantly. That died when Etsy removed the requirement that you make it yourself.

Today, maker spaces seem to be mostly learning centers for teenagers. The "STEM" or "STEAM" thing. That's fine, but it's a branch of the college prep industry.


>Other cities are doing better. Usually because of government support. "We need to retrain workers" arguments play well in industrial cities.

NYC has two larger places I know of that basically follow this model. One is subsidized by a community college and is aimed more at professionals (companies, artists, etc.). The other opened a new location (took over afaik the techshop location that lasted a whole week) in a heavily government subsidized building.


TBH, I think there's a missing use case for maker spaces to aim lower on the tech tree.

Especially in cities with mostly apartments, traditional wood and metalworking hobbies are infeasbile due to the size of the tools. It's also inefficient to own them individually if you're using them 3 hours a week.

Make sure the maker space has everything your high school shop class did, market it that way, and you draw in an entirely new demographic to keep the site vibrant and fiscally healthy. There's plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination-- I could imagine someone coming in to use conventional power tools being apprenticed into using CNC equipment or 3D printing to achieve the same objectives, or the electronics enthusiasts pairing up with the metalworkers for custom panels and cases.


Where are Maker spaces in the bay? Only one I remotely know of that still exists is Hackerdojo.


Noisebridge is in SF https://www.noisebridge.net/

Farther out but an awesome space and a bit less intimidating is Hacker Lab in Sacramento https://hackerlab.org/


Disclaimer: CTO of Hacker Lab but speaking for myself here:

We've had more than a few Tech Shop refugees over the past few months/years. Noisebridge is great, and both of our spaces definitely have unique feels and great communities built around them.

I wandered into the space some 5 years ago and what stood out to me echos what above commenters have said - there is a definite air of don't-buy-what-you-can-build or repair within the maker sphere that spoke to me.

While there are plenty of edu institutions and private industry shops out there that have all the equipment we do and more, the community here of folks from different experience levels, background, etc. really makes makerspaces unique.

When Hacker Lab showed up there were only a small handful of coworking spaces in the area. 7 years later, I can't throw a stick without hitting one. I feel part of our survival has been going for breadth - coworking, hackathons, and makeing can all benefit from eachother.

That said, I'm as anxious and unknowing to see where this maker thing goes as the next person.



I ran a maker space for a while. It consistently lost money, as do most of the ones whose owners I've talked to. The only ones that don't "lose" money are generally supported by donations and a core group of owners who are each putting several hundred a month in to keep the lights on (i.e. from an accounting perspective they're still losing money).

In addition, there's an interesting phenomenon in the maker community that a lot of people think IP (models, designs, plans, etc.) should pretty much be given away for free, which limits revenue opportunities.

[Edit to add info in case anyone comes across this in the future]: The #1 issue is actually rent in a lot of cases. There's a conundrum where the people who most want to use a maker space are the same people who want a maker space in a place with high rent (i.e. in a desirable urban area). On the flip side, people who have their own garage / shed / yard are generally much less in need of a maker space (which would be in a cheaper area to serve them) since entry-level prices for most tools have gotten pretty cheap in recent years.

Next is labor cost. If you're not paying yourself a decent salary for your time, you're basically cheating yourself into thinking your maker space isn't losing money. Realistic labor cost should run you at least double prevailing minimum wage in the area for the hours you're open, probably more if you're counting on people to help students with things like CNC machining.

Next up is tools & repairs cost. You can actually get decent tools going for less than you would think if you don't splurge for name brand everything (especially printers, CNC mills, laser cutters, etc.), but if you're open to the public, the public is going to break your stuff. A lot. And you're going to have to fix it or pay someone to fix it. A lot.

Then there's all the ancillary stuff like electricity (likely to cost more than you think), insurance, accounting, payment processing, marketing, etc. etc. Basically, if you want your maker space to make money like a business you have to treat it like a business and that means a lot of overhead.

In short, I don't recommend anyone start a maker space with delusions that it will make money. It probably won't. Only start a maker space if you and a bunch of your friends are all willing to pitch in every month to have a cool place to hang out and work on stuff.


> people who have their own garage / shed / yard are generally much less in need of a maker space

These are the people who also have enough money to actually spend on "doing stuff", but for whom going to a "dedicated space" (away from the home/family) to do it can be a huge inconvenience.


I think one should investigate partnering with their local library. Rent is a big hurdle, and if set up properly, totally win-win.


The co-ops seem to do OK. Dallas, Houston, and Austin all have large and thriving hackerspaces.


The co-op model is basically my last sentence and the fees/restrictions are a lot higher than most people want from a maker space. It can definitely work, though. Also it's important to distinguish between maker space and hacker space. The latter can be profitable since you're often making your money renting out communal working space ala the WeWork model. The former is a lot harder to pull off.


There definitely is, but successful makerspaces that I know of are co-ops. Tech Shop and Maker Faire were great, but my guess is they were “too corporate” to maintain a dedicated volunteer work force, and without volunteers, it’s probably too niche and too low-margin to be a sustainable business.


Maker Faire's business model was print media and events, two notably unprofitable models. Techshop was a for profit chain model trying to compete with volunteer diy maker spaces.

Contrast that with maker focused businesses like Sparkfun and Adafruit.


If Sparkfun or Adafruit decided to take over Maker Media's operations (print media and events) that would be so great.


Tech shop as a public resource could probably be better as a municipal, library-like entity. Any attempts at this model working?


Some public libraries are starting to build makerspaces. Not ones the size of TechShop, but tons of libraries now have at least a 3d printer, and better-equipped ones have some subset of laser cutters, vinyl cutters, sewing machines, embroidery machines, CNC machines, etc., along with classes.

A few examples: https://library.pflugervilletx.gov/services/pfab-lab, https://www.chipublib.org/maker-lab/, https://ignite.hepl.lib.in.us/, https://www.jocolibrary.org/makerspace


I think hackerspaces are a good fit for public libraries. There’s a need for productive space since books don’t need as much space as they once did, nor do computer workstations. It would be cool to set up some of the space for making stuff.


Ottawa has the Imagine Space at one of its branches. Quite popular and some great tools and resources.

I’ve also considered starting a community makerspace in the west end of town, a coop or some sort of publicly funded model. This comment section is a good reminder that we had better have a solid operations plan in place for it to be a success.

https://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/imagine-space-0


Look around at your local public library. Most of them are barely hanging on, except for the ones that haven’t made it.

I don’t see cities investing the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to build out a maker space, not to mention the money to staff it, run the training courses, maintain the equipment and pay for the insurance.


I know of a local library who's actually going through with this. They have a grant and tons of dedicated volunteers to design curriculum and plan out the space. I hope to see that project succeed.


Shit doesn't make money.


Correct. Maker spaces are the loss leader for the services provided. They survive on donations and class costs. Really sad to see, but not unbelievably so.


I went to the maker faire for the first time some 6 years ago when my wife asked me to, it wasn't something I really thought I'd find interesting. When I got there I Realized I was dropped into a community of like minded hackers and builders and art makers. It lead to a real epiphany and I ended up joining a team at Google that ran their Maker Faire presence. Over the subsequent years I built and demo'd some really cool things including a scanning microscope made from a shapeoko, a fully interactive Google Doodle, a demonstration of the North American solar eclipse. I learned a ton of electronics and how to 3d print and laser cut. I went back this year and while Google had a booth, it was scaled down a lot, but still filled with cool projects done by googlers in their spare time.

I was always unimpressed with Intel's high budget spectacle (run by an external marketing firm) and I have to conclude that the indie portions of the maker faire, which aren't particularly cost-effective, are ultimately the most interesting parts. I saw a guy who built a self-solving rubik's cube- servos inside (https://hackaday.com/2018/09/24/self-solving-rubiks-cube/) and met with people who grind their own telescope lenses, etc, etc, and have tons of admiration for their passion and abilities.

With all that said, Make was never particularly well-run and we kind of saw this coming over the years.


The art minded part of it is what is really important to me. Hopefully someone can figure out some way to make that profitable (or at least sustainable) in the future. There is no shortage of tech conferences but I do not see a lot of gatherings where people share and talk about their exploratory projects that are done just because they feel like they would be interesting.


That's sad to hear. I went to my first makerfaire last year, and I got to experience some of the most amazing things ever

- Making my own T-shirt through a heat press

- Watching battlebots fight live in person. I got to see how battlebots were maintenanced and designed. And take a look firsthand on how the Kraken (one of the battlebots) was built from prototype to what it is today (it uses a air compressor which is kind of weird)

- Seeing all sorts of cool cosplay

- really interesting side projects - micro-3d photography and photo stiching of insects, 3D gif makers from 30 cameras in a single room using python, arcattack music from tesla coils, zoetropes, etc

- K-12 local community projects - kids were teaching adults how to solder, make DIY type of stuff, etc.

There's lots more to be said but makerfaire is one of a kind


> it uses a air compressor which is kind of weird

If you want lots of mechanical power in short bursts, compressed air is a winner, because compressing air is a very good way to store lots of energy that you can release quickly, and it can be coupled into mechanical action without bulky coils.

Industrial tooling (you've heard air tools in your local auto shop, probably) and heavy robotics love the stuff.

The big downside is noise, which explains why you might not encounter compressed air in your day-to-day life, even though it is every bit as fundamental as, say, high voltage power transmission.


Air compressor was weird to me because most battle bots AFAIK use a hydraulic systems, Kraken is one of the few to use compressed air. Actually, to be precise they use SCUBA tanks used in ocean diving.

Also they got a cool logo and have their own font-face


I went to the one in San Mateo a couple weeks ago. It is the only time in life I have seen hobbyists, tinkerers, professional engineers, entrepreneurs, hippies, cosplay fans, university students, and kids under one roof.


It poured rain at this year’s Bay Area Maker Faire in late May, which is absolutely unheard-of. I had a really bad feeling when that happened that it might be the end of the venture. The cash outlay to run an event like that must run into the hundreds of thousands, and if attendance was cut in half, then they lost their shirts on it.


> Dougherty said that despite rain, Maker Faire’s big Bay Area event last week met its ticket sales target.


Yea, I had planned to bring my 5 and 2 years old there, but due to the rain, we went to the mall :(


>"1.45 million people attended its events in 2016. MAKE: magazine had 125,000 paid subscribers and the company had racked up over one million YouTube subscribers."

This should be able to pay for 22 staff.


>MAKE: magazine had 125,000 paid subscribers and the company had racked up over one million YouTube subscribers."

Yeah but they are averaging 10k views a video- which is what you would expect from a channel of about 100k subscribers, and they've never really had the views that are typical of 1m subs, so probably something is up there.


Fair, though I would have thought that the best monetisation would come from events and commission on kits and parts. You should expect to, at very best, only just cover your operational costs from the videos and print subscribers. Events on the other hand have the people physically there and, unlike the web, you can be reasonably sure that the people who rented you the building haven't faked the visitor numbers, at least until someone invents better holograms.


Not if you also have to get your VCs the return they are expecting.


I think that there should be an exit clause for VC backed businesses along the lines of, 'well, we were all morons to think this would make everyone wildly rich, but this can be an ongoing business, so lets not shut it down.'


Because investors are paid for taking risk, that decision has to happen at the point of investment. Or, the entrepreneurs would have to be willing to massively sacrifice their upside for their vision.

The exit clause is "don't take VC money if you want to run an ongoing business". Otherwise, the buoyancy of a somewhat profitable business is sunk by the history of leverage, debt, and expectation.


I don't completely understand the logic. After all, if they shut down, the VCs won't get anything, either. So why not keep it running and reap at least little rewards.


Once you take the funding, you have to spend it all on expanding operations, new staff, marketing, promotions etc. If you then can't generate a profit, unless you raise more rounds the increased expenses are going to kill your business. So in this case the VCs cut their losses instead of giving them more money.


Alternatively you should also cut your losses early.


The reality is that this isn't the kind of venture that brings in money, and that's not as much an indictment against Maker Media so much as it is against the adverse conditions of which any venture is up against. I.e., we live in a (flawed) society. At least the ethos behind the Maker movement lives on.


I was gifted a subscription to their publication for years as a kid, but never got as into it as I wanted to. I loved reading about what others had made but felt like I never had the experience or expertise or money to make things myself. In hindsight, I probably could have done lots of cool thints.

When the subscription expired I didn't renew. This makes me so sad to see now - I feel like there's a world where I would have been extremely into this culture, and I feel like not having this publication around will prevent others from becoming that.


Make and the reprints will forever be one of those things that's inspiring to read. In reality, outside of Chinese factories there aren't communities of mechanically inclined tech savvy people interested in spending their time putting together other people's EE projects. Anyone capable of completing a Make project is unlikely to want to follow along and retrace someone else's project unless there's a real incentive to do so, such as saving money or building something that's impossible to buy.


The first Maker Faire I brought the kids to was awesome. Over time they got more expensive, crowded and less fun. The kids complained so much at the last one I decided to stop taking them.


Bummer. I hate seeing cool & quirky things go down the drain.

On a recent visit to SoCal, I saw a billboard for the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. I haven't been in years, I'm no longer a local, but I was happy to see it still going more than 30 years after I first heard of it. Hopefully it's still as much fun for people experiencing it now as it was for me back in highschool!


Does anyone here have context on the pitch that got them $10 million in venture funding? Hard for me to envision how that could have worked, but their VCs must have had a pretty articulated investment thesis.


> "Dougherty said that despite rain, Maker Faire’s big Bay Area event last week met its ticket sales target."

Why would you set a target so low that meeting it still results in bankruptcy?


Maybe we should go back to shop class in public schools. For me at least, this was my earliest exposure to making things, at it set off a lifetime continuing curiosity.


Nothing of creative or artistic value will survive in the Bay Area - I'm done trying to fix this wasteland.


This seems like a predictable outcome in a consumerist society driven by planned obsolescence and the need for infinite growth.


They’ve been paid their owed wages and PTO, but did not receive any severance or two-week notice.

Are there any VC out there that have ethics standards around winding down a failed venture, especially towards termination of employees?


That’s on the founders and management, not the VC. You can choose to plan ahead and make sure you treat employees and customers fairly based on tracking your expenditures and reserves or you can run into the wall at full speed.

We did this. It wasn’t that hard but it required a lot of honesty. Having been through it I’m always shocked when startups fail with no warning.


Yes, those standards are usually about not paying anything including owed wages or PTO (why do you think "unlimited PTO" exists? It means you don't have to pay it back or accumulate it over time, making it easier to reject any PTO request)


This seems like the sort of social good organization that should be revived as a non-profit with government support. This is such an important organization for the future of education and economic innovation.


I kind of wish they'd tried to restructure and reboot with some sort of crowd-funded initiative. Though perhaps they considered and discarded the idea for good reason.


I took my kid to the most recent one in the Bay Area, which was fun. And crowded. And a bit expensive. Too bad it wasn’t working out, but glad we got a chance to go once.


Maker Faire did so much good. No matter what happens, I know thousands of people saw a Maker in themselves because of MAKE and Maker Faire. I know it inspired me.


Things don't last forever but it was impressive that Maker Faire got started in 2006 and survived the Great Recession which hit the Bay Area particularly hard. I went to the Maker Faire twice, the first time being especially magical. But I never went to any of the sub Faires. I think like Tech Shop, expansion was never going to be sustainable.

Again, things don't last forever but I'm grateful for what it was, when it was.


Worked there for a couple of years and really loved it. The people were wonderful, and the Faires were an incredible experience. It will be missed.


Radio Shack should buy Maker Faire.


Only if both get acquired by a Yahoo/Barnes and Noble merger


Makerfaire as an experience was great. Food, wonky projects, competitions, and overall a fun event to hang out with friends, connect with others and learn. I would say kill the magazine and focus on improving the event experience and focus on community building and find a way to reduce or eliminate the dependence on corporate sponsors.

Maybe the community has changed or moved on or matured and makerfair has served its purpose. Maybe this marks the end of an era and it's time to move onto something new. I went 4 years in a row while in undergrad but stopped attending after graduation I think because it was getting a bit stale. Seemed like lots of projects year after year were simple iterations or very similar to previous ones. Also it felt like at some point there was a transition from wow look at this funky science/tech/art project to hey do you want to buy my product?


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