Bottom Line: 60% Awesome.
As usual, the place is chock-full of interesting, terrifying, thoughtful, creative.... things. One standout this year seemed to be a larger corporate presence, and with that, a new degree of proprietary information that seems to be the antithesis of the Maker culture. Chevy and Ford had large advertising exhibitions that were actively collecting marketing data, as well as the next generation of flavored tapwater marketed to youth by major corporations.
Prices on everything were higher this year, but without any commensurate increase in quality or experience. The Saturday morning parking situation was uncontrolled chaos. One of Saturday's major attractions (Adam Savage of Mythbusters) spent the early portion (up until I left) of his presentation with his back to most of the audience and a malfunctioning(?) sound system.
So that's my complaining. Now for the cool stuff:
I met one of my longtime Flickr contacts, Lane Hartwell. She's very pleasant in person, although probably had no idea what to make of me. I've followed her stream for years, so there's this odd familiarity I have, but she's got NO idea who I am. Welcome to stardom, Lane.
I got to see the famed WETA Legs in action. Definitely a top notch invention. You know who'll make good use of these? Farm laborers that harvest or maintain orchards.
I met David, the artist behind the Wondermark comics. I'm desperately trying to figure out how to get someone like him to do graphic design work for my upcoming CD.
The donuts! Oh god, the donuts! Harvey's gourmet donuts! I'm telling you right now, I'm working every angle I can think of to get this guy at my September concert, because those fresh donuts will SEAL YOUR MEMORY of my show like nothing else. Why? Because Harvey friggin GETS IT: His donuts are delicious - the highest standard is his baseline. He watches his cooker like a hawk. The product is CONSISTENTLY GOOD and he never changes the terms on you. And because of that experience, I will seek out Harvey and his delicious donuts. Note to event producers: This guy has a built-in audience.
The donuts. They call to me.
The Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club had an exhibit of restored antique automobiles, all of which (I believe) were more or less functional. (I even got to honk the horn on the Model T). The engine work was really something, especially the copper plated cylinders and leather fanbelt. Yes, leather.
These are interior (or maybe even stage) lamps by Jason Dietz. He calls them "UFO Kinetic Sculptures." They are very nicely done. You've probably seen a hundred variations on this kind of lighting (ala Spencer's Gifts) but his are set apart by the UFO's on the top. His materials are maybe obvious in one sense, but his unique assemblage is a step above. They're gorgeous.
A group called Stay Visible had a kit that allows bicyclists to display readable messages on their spinning wheels with coordinated LED's. Great idea for general visibility, if you ask me....
One last notable highlight was the MAKE marketplace (the bazaar bizarre). Here one could find basic home fuel cell kits (experimental/teaching, not functional), hundreds of components from motors to capacitors, all kinds of hands-on experimental things, arcane game programming kits, etc. (Why does all the cool stuff come from Japan?)
I think it's still on the to-do list for next year, but I'd like to see more Makers sharing and fewer major corps promoting their own wares.