Sufferin’ Summits Hill #8: Somerset & Traverse

Highland/Somerset <= Somerset & Traverse => (mostly) down to the finish!

Breaking news!

I came up with a new climb that takes the bottom and tops of “The Zoo” and stuffs the ugly Montreux => cutoff right in the middle, and I have used it to replace the existing Montreux-Zooma climb in Hill #4. The change adds 14’ in elevation and cuts 0.2 miles off of the entire route.

I’m calling the new climb “ZooMonZoo”. I’ve updated the description for hill #4 to the new route and included a brief discussion of why I chose it.

Anyway, onto the description of hill #8, the last one in the ride.

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For many years, I thought that “Somerset” meant climbing up the road we just descended, because that was the only route I had ridden. At about 450’ and a nice section of about 16%, this is certainly a challenge. And then, one day, I was looking at maps (because I lead a Tue/Thu night ride and like new routes), and I realized that there was a route from the west that I had never heard about.

So, I went and rode it, and found out why I had never heard about it.

The route is mostly easy to follow, though there are a couple of places where you need to pay attention. Start up the first pitch, and when the road ends, turn right. Take the first left and continue climbing, following the road as it curves around. After the big curve, you are looking for the first turn to the left – 136th Pl NE. If you miss it and you run into Highlands drive, turn around and come back.

After the turn, there is about a half mile section that will end at Somerset Blvd – the one we descended down earlier. We turn right, then right again on 139th Ave, and a final left on SE 47th. This section is easy to navigate; just keep turning on the streets that go up. At the top, turn around, and enjoy the last great view of the ride.  We don’t have the altitude we had at the earlier climbs, but there is nothing in front to block our view.

Now, it’s time to traverse to the east towards the finish.

We descend back down to Somerset Blvd and turn right. The first pitch is a steep descent with a stop sign at the bottom. Turn right, and then take the first left on SE 49th. Continue straight until it ends at 151st Avenue, which we travelled earlier on the Summit climbs. Turn left and take the first right on SE 48th. This will curve around and change names a couple of times, and finally end at 159th Pl SE.

Turn left, and then take the first right on SE 48th drive. This will take you to a short bike/ped section and then a steep descent down to 164th with the usual stop sign at the bottom. Turn right on 164th, ride up to the stop sign, turn left, and then after a quarter mile, turn right into the shopping center.

Go inside the market and buy yourself something cool to drink and maybe something to snack on. You have made it; all that is remaining is a 3.5 mile ride back to the starting line, which features a 1 mile screamer of a descent (with, unfortunately, we need to turn off of in the middle) and a whopping 39’ of additional climbing.

So, that’s the course. Unless I change it.

4.6 miles, 861’

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Sufferin’ Summits: Hill #7–Highland/Somerset

#6 Summit North <= Highland/Somerset => ?

This section is mostly a portage from our last descent to where we will start section #8, but there is no reason that a portage can’t be fun.

We find ourselves back on Forest Drive. After just over half a mile, we turn right on Highland Drive. This climb goes steep/flat/steep/downhill/steep/flat, and will take us into a notch between Somerset hill to the west and Summit to the east. After a short 1/4 mile rest, we turn left on Somerset Blvd, hit the crest, and then continue down to the North. Nice views here, but at 15-16% you will be needing to use your brakes.

We eventually come to an exit where you can see a traffic light to the left. Turn left to the light, and then turn left to get onto Newport Way. Once again, we have a descent that we are going to be turning off of, so watch your speed. After half a mile on Newport, the road will curve right but we turn left on 130th Place SE, then left on 130th Ave SE. Continue straight on this road; you’ll know when you’ve reached the start of the next hill.

3.9 miles, 359’ of climbing

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #6 – The Summit Strikes Back: from the north

#5 Summit South <= #6 Summit North => #7 Highland/Somerset

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Note: I hadn’t ridden the section on Squak for a while when I wrote it. I rode it last weekend and re-wrote that section. You should go read it now so that you understand what the descent is going to be like and don’t ride your bike off the road.

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After the nice descent down from Summit and replenishing our food and water supplies, we’re going head west and do something a little different and easier.

Ha ha! I make joke! We’re actually going to climb right back up the hill that we just came down. This is a climb I do fairly often; it’s near my house, the roads are good, traffic is light, and there’s a surprising amount of up. And there are a few different routes to take.

We, of course, are going to take the hardest way up. It’s a bit convoluted, so you’ll need to pay attention.

Starting way down near the water, we turn right on East Lake Sammamish, and then turn right into the Forty-One Point Five development. Follow the road as it turns right and then – you guessed it – starts going up steeply. After a couple of left turns, it will top out. As the road turns left, look for a path on the right; I *highly* suggest getting off your bike and walking it as there’s a tight turn and it can be mossy. Turn left on the path and descend down to the bridge, and ride over it the other side, and turn right on Newport Way.

After a easy 1.2 mile climb – enjoy it because it’s pretty much the only one all day – the road flattens, and we turn left on 155th Pl SE. Just look for the very steep hill. Follow the road as it winds up; when it flattens, turn left, and when it flattens again, turn right. When the road ends at SE 46th, we turn right. That road ends on 150th, where we turn left and climb up on the road we descended recently. Keep climbing until you reach the park:

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and then follow the road to the left. Take the first left, and that road will lead you back to the gate you climbed over earlier.

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Cross it again. Turn right when you hit the main road, work your way around, and descend down the south side. Watch your speed as there is a stop sign at the bottom.

Turn right at the bottom, and follow the road down until you hit Forest Drive.

It isn’t the most continuous climb around, but this section nets us 1100’ over 5.9 miles. That is our 4th climb over 1000’ in elevation gain.

Route and climb info. Click to view.

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #5–Summit South Complex

#4 ZooMonZoo Complex <= #5 Summit South Complex => #6 Summit from the north

 

As we continue to work our way to the west, our next hill is the very uncreatively-named “Summit”. We will continue the theme of climbing the same damn hill three times, but there will be a nice descent when we’re finished.

Turning left out of Lewis Creek Part, we descend for about half a mile and turn right on Forest Drive. This road is a great descent, but pay attention; we need to turn right after 1 mile onto 142nd Ave SE. The road will wind around as it climbs and oscillates from steep to really damn steep. It will eventually turn right and the gradient will ease. Continue straight until the road ends, take the connector path, then turn right at your next opportunity and descend back down. At the stop sign, turn left.

Turn left into “West Summit”, and climb straight up, follow the road as it turns right and loops back down. Turn left and exit down the way we came in, and turn left at the entrance.

After a short steep section, turn left at the entrance shack into “Summit”. This road is undulating; hard/easier, harder/easier, hardest/easier. When you hit the stop sign, turn right and climb up until the road crests. There are some decent views to the north here, but they aren’t as good as Pinacles or Belvedere. Ho Hum.

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Continue straight and take the first right, then look for a “Dead end” emergency vehicle access road on the left.

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This will take you to a gate that you’ll need to carry your bike around. Turn right at the next two intersections and you’ll be on a nice straight descent to the north. The Sufferin’ Summits road crews have been hard at work repaving this section, so the pavement is exquisite.

Before the road hooks to the right, turn left on SE 46th, and then right on 148th. At the second stoplight, you’ll be in eastgate, with a gas station (food & water) on the right. There’s also an Albertsons in the same complex. You will definitely want food and water for the next section.

Turn right onto 148th (well, 150th now), and immediately turn right on SE 37th. This will take you under the freeway, through a stop sign , and then right again onto 164th Pl SE, which takes you all the way down to the shores of Lake Sammamish, the lowest point of the ride and the perfect spot to start our next climb.

1105’, 8.6 miles.

 

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Sufferin’ Summit Hill #4 – ZooMonZoo Complex

#3 Talus <- #4 ZooMonZoo –> #5 Summit South Complex

This section presented me with a real quandry.

For a long time, “The Zoo” was the king of the climbs – and with good reason: it was the hardest/tallest/closest climb around, and it had a nice fast descent. Just down the road was little brother Montreux, also a hard climb but only about half the total elevation.

I made an attempt at melding the two of them together using a cut-through path on this route, but not really successfully; the cut through was gravel – deep gravel – and it didn’t really make the climb any harder. I did it once, but never went back.

Then, something unexpected happened – the City of Bellevue paved a path that connected the developments above Montreux to the Zoo route, and Montreux-Zooma’s revenge was born.

Which returns me to the quandry. Which route should I choose? It seems wrong, just wrong, to have a hard ride and not climb the granddaddy of hard climbs…

But, in the end, I decided I had to go with the difficulty, and so we’re doing Montreux-Zooma…

And that’s how the original description for this section went. But, I got to thinking about it a bit. The reason that Zoo was dethroned was not because of Monteux, it was because of the climb that connects the top of Montreux to Zoo. And there’s a way to combine the first half of zoo with that part – using the cut through I had abandoned before – into a new climb, which I’ve named “ZooMonZoo”. it looks good for the ride on paper, with a tiny elevation gain and an overall reduction in ride length of 0.2 miles.

So, I went out and rode the new part to see what is was like. I hadn’t done Zoo yet this year – mapping out this ride generally put me elsewhere – and I’d forgotten what it was like. Montreux is a hard and painful climb through a nice and boring development, while the lower part of Zoo is a hard and painful climb past a zoo and through a delightful forest that reminds me of the Mt. Constitution climb on Orcas island. And the cut through is easier to ride than it was previously.

So… we’ll be doing ZooMonZoo instead of Montreux-Zooma.

This is the hardest section so far, and it’s easy to miss turns, so pay attention…

The entrance is easy to find; there is a “Zoo” sign on the right.

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and another zoo sign on the left:
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We turn left and immediately hit a steep pitch. After a bit of back and forth and steeper and less steep sections, we near the hairpin. If you look closely, you will see that the sign says it is a 15 MPH turn, which is pretty tight.  And you can see why I call the climb “delightful”.

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We continue on a bit, and the 15 MPH turn morphs into a 10 MPH turn.


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It doesn’t show in the picture, but the inside of the hairpin is really, really steep. Like 20%+ steep. It is also a bit torn up from car traffic. You will be much happier if you stay out near the center line, where the gradient is less and the pavement is a bit better.

Soon after the hairpin, the gradient eases, the lower part of the Zoo ends, and we turn right onto the middle section. We ride straight for 0.5 miles, and just when we can glimpse the steep rollers that finish the middle section, we see our turn-off on the right. Don’t worry, we have something more fun than the steep rollers in store.

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The cut-through is in pretty good shape; it’s easy to ride in the first section but the gravel gets a little bit deeper near the other side; I didn’t have any trouble on my 25mm tires but I suggest paying attention. We take the first left, and that will take us down to Village Park Drive – the top of the Montreux climb.

We turn left, and start to descend. After half a mile, we will be turning left in “Findley Court”. The entrance looks like this, and there is a “please drive safely” sign on right side at the turn, though it may be hidden in the trees.

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The road starts steep and then just gets steeper. After it flattens out and we turn left on 169th:

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and the road will kick up again. After a short section, we take the second left:

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to a small driveway/pathway which will kick us out onto SE 60th. We turn left, and then take the first right:

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to continue the climb to the summit. When this road flattens out and starts to descend, keep going and take the first driveway to the right:

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This will take you all the way up to water towers at the top of the hill:

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Turn around, and it looks like this. You can just barely make out Mt. Baker on the horizon.

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Descend back down to the main road, turn left, and start the descent. After a short straight section, the road turns right, and we continue straight (ie turn left) into Pinacles:

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Unfortunately you can’t see the sign when descending. This takes us up a steep climb that flattens. Turn left into the cul-de-sac to get the last little bit of elevation. On the way down, stop to take in the best view of the day:

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On the left, Newcastle Golf Course with Lake Washington beyond, to the right is “Summit” with Seattle peaking in the distance.

Once we hit the main road again, we turn left and again start looking for a left turn, this time on 166th Way.

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This will go straight for a while, then we will turn left to climb up through Belvedere:

This is the last climb of the complex. This takes us to pretty much the same height as Pinacles, just a bit to the south.

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To the left there’s a pocket view of Lake Washington with Newport Golf Course in the middle and the lake beyond, and then Seattle in the distance on the right. Plus, some hay bales and a very pretty truck.

Finally, we descend down, once again turn left, and descend until we hit Lakemont. Turn right and a short climb brings us to Lewis Creek Park, which has water and bathrooms.

That section was 10.4 miles and a healthy 2030’ of elevation gain.

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Montreux-Zooma

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Pinnacles

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Belvedere

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #3–Talus

(2) Squak     <=  (3) Talus    => (4) Montreux Zooma

Talus is a development on the east side of Cougar mountain, named after a bone in the ankle. Or maybe a rock deposit on the hill. At least it’s not “Summer Bluff”, or “Raccoon Forest” (thanks to the excellent Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator for those), or my development’s name, “Malibu Vista”.

Anyway, Talus is a climb that I’d never done until recently, because it was a one-road “up and back down” sort of climb. At least, that’s what I thought, but a bit more research and a test ride showed that I was mistaken, and there’s a nice hidden climb there.

After leaving the starting point, we turn left onto Renton-Issaquah road, and then turn right onto James Bush Rd. The sign says, “no Talus access”, but that’s just for cars, not for us. The road immediately kicks up, climbs a bit, and then kicks up some more as it narrows to a single lane climbing up through the trees. Make sure to start this climb slowly; if you hit it too hard it will be difficult to recover. Please pay attention so that you don’t slow down other cyclists on this section. After a bit, you’ll come to a cable gate that you will either need to ride around on a very thin path to the left or dismount and go over. If you dismount, clipping in will be interesting because of the thinness of the road, so be prepared.

Eventually, you’ll come to some posts, and the climb will spit you out into the development. Turn right and continue to climb, then bear right towards the park and take the 20% cut-through to keep climbing. This will spit you out again on the road, and you can continue to climb until you top out.

We then traverse to the south to grab a few more feet of climbing and make our way to the exit. The route that is shown is guaranteed; the city is doing some construction at the top right now, so the actual route may go a little farther up.The overall Talus total should be at least 550’.

The descent has a stoplight at the bottom, so watch your speed. We turn left and ride towards the park.

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The gradients here feel pretty close to me.

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #2–Squak

(1) Grand Ridge <=      (2) Squak    => (3) Talus

This one will be of little surprise to anyone. The mountain known as “Squak” is an obvious choice, and since we are coming from the east, there isn’t even any suspense about which side we will climb. This is conveniently the harder way up.

I first climbed this back in 2006, as the last climb the Seattle Randonneur’s “Mountain Populaire”, a 100 kilometer ride that started on Zoo hill and finished on the first half of this climb up Squak. At the time, that was hardest ride that I had ever done. Little did I know that a few years later I would be putting together a ride that was worse.

After going through Issaquah on Sunset, we continue straight as the road turns into Mountain Park Blvd. The first section is a series of rollers, but not in the usual “up and down” sense of rollers; these are of the “up and upper” variety. Just as the road flattens out, we turn left on Mountainside Drive to continue the climb. Don’t worry if it looks flat; it will kick up steeply after a short bit.  After a bit, we leave the houses behind and hit the upper section, a switchbacky road of crappy pavement. Eventually, we hit a stop sign at the entrance to the Forest Rim Development. Turn right or left, and you will top out a full 1000’ from the start.

It is your choice. Just as doing this stupid ride was your choice.

The descent of the top section is the same way we came up. But the crappy pavement and tight turns that were merely annoying on the way up are a bit treacherous on the way down, so it’s essential to control your speed well. When we reach the intersection, we turn left, descend 0.7 miles, and turn left again where the arterial turns on Mt. Olympus Drive. This is a fun curvy section that will take us down to the bottom, but note that there is a really steep section with a stoplight at the bottom, so, once again, watch your speed.

This takes us all the way down to the base, where we come out right next to our starting point. At the light, we turn left. Bathrooms and water are available at the starting point, and I recommend filling up; there are two hills before the next opportunity.

Here’s the map. Click to view online.

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And here’s the color-coded map for the climb. Gradients are estimated; your gradient experience will vary. See a doctor for climbs lasting longer than 4 hours.

Click to go to the BicycleClimbs.com source page.

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Sufferin’ Summits Hill #1–Grand Ridge

(1) Grand Ridge => (2) Squak

With Sufferin’ Summits only a few short months away, I thought it would be fun to do a climb-by-climb reveal of the route.

But first, a little philosophy about the route.

I’ve tried to make the route as hard as possible, which means lots of elevation gain and as much steepness as I can find, but I’ve also worked hard to keep it as short as possible. Those two are obviously in tension; I could easily add a very painful 2000’ more of climbing, but I’m happy with the overall distance as it is.

I have also tried to make the route flow. That means limiting the number of “up and down the same road” sections, and not climbing up the same section of road more than once.

And finally, I’ve tried to make it worthwhile. That means climbing to places where there’s a nice view.

If you are purely interesting in elevation, I recommend the Zoo Hill Century instead.

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I’ve done the Highlands climb up from Issaquah a number of times, first on the Eastside Tours Ride that Per Sunde used to lead (and now I lead), and then on my own. I never really liked the climb very much; the bike path is fine but not really very pretty, but it is a decent way to get up onto the plateau.

Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to climb up into Grand Ridge. My first ascent was up the main street – Park Drive – and was a bit of a slog, though if you go all the way to the top, it’s worth it.

Then I found a nice way to skip the busy part of the development, with a no-cars section off of Black Nugget road and the seriously steep College Drive, and now I like the trip much better. It does not have the pure challenge of some of the later climbs, but it has some cool houses near the top (watch for the castle on the right side near the top), a very nice view, and a couple of fast descents.

I give it a 4, it’s got a pretty good beat, and it’s easy to dance to.

Here’s a picture of the route, click on it to see it in RideWithGPS.com. Clocks in at 1061’ of up.

 

This is not, in fact, the hardest route up this particular hill; the bottom part climbs up Issaquah – Fall City road, when there is a steeper route up Black Nugget road nearby. Alas, Black Nugget road is a single lane without a good shoulder, so while it might be okay for a solo climb, it’s not good for a group. If you *really* want to make sure everything is as hard as possible, you can do Black Nugget from the bottom.

At the top of Grand Ridge there is a short bit of driveway that you can climb if you’d like an extra 30’ of elevation gain.

The descent through the development is nice, and then the descent down Highlands is a bit of a screamer and the pavement isn’t perfect, so I recommend paying some extra attention.

We end up back in Issaquah heading west on Sunset.

I will leave you in suspense, eagerly awaiting the next hill, assuming that you haven’t followed Sunset drive to the west and seen the exceedingly obvious climb #2.

Here’s the gradient view. Due to road grading, some slopes may not be accurate. Actual steepness may be lower.

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Maker Faire 2015 Bay Area Trip Report

This last Friday I got on a plane at Sea Tac to head down to Maker Faire 2015. I’ve been to a couple of mini Maker Faires in Seattle, and thought it would be a fun way to spend a weekend.

Just a bit of level-setting to start. I’ve been building and working on stuff since I was very young. Doing building stuff with my father, changing a clutch in my car, building a set of bunk beds for my college dorm, a couple of decks on my current house, all the finish work on a ski cabin with my wife, a custom cabinet for my AV gear. Most of this stuff is custom; I or we come up with a design and build it from scratch. Plus, I have a long history of building custom animated holiday light displays. So… my comments are from the perspective of somebody who has been a Maker since long before the term was invented.

Because I didn’t decide early, I couldn’t get into any of the Faire hotels, so I decided to stay north at the Hampton Inn about a mile from the Colma bart station. As long as you can fit what you need into a backpack, this works okay; Bart runs right to the airport and is easy to deal with.

On Saturday, I rode BART to the end of the line (Millebreu?), and took a school bus shuttle to the faire where we waited to open. The fair is divided into a bunch of different zones, indoors and outdoors, so it’s pretty easy to wander around. Hard to find stuff, however, and hard to track what you’ve seen, especially in the mostly dark LED building.

Cool stuff I saw

Some nice wood clocks (website seems to be a work in progress)

Ply 90, an aluminum corner that you use to build boxes and cabinets out of flat plywood panels. Great if you don’t want to do wood joints.

 

Some 3D printed rings

Contraptor, an open source hardware (in the “metal” sense).

 

Cubicity filament

CNC Router parts. These guys had two CNCs plus a plasma cutter running.

The palette, a multi-filament joiner to print in multiple colors with a single extruder.

Steamy Tech Cool geared thingys:

Electromagnetic ball drawing (not sure who the artist is):

Kristen Hoard’s LED-lit art. Plasma cut aluminum, some of it with enamel on it, lit by color-changing LEDs on the inside. Really nice.

The Unnecessarily High 5. A huge crowd favorite.

Full gallery with some videos here.

Thoughts

It was really nice to see so much Maker stuff packed into one space, and I thought Make – the business entity – did a decent job of putting their commercial stuff – Maker Shed – in one building, and a lot of people were happy to be able to buy stuff there. I liked wandering around and looking at the different stuff going on; the power wheels racing, the cycle-cyde (lots of bikes modified in ways that make them hard to ride), and the bike movable things that look like they were from Burning Man.

I also think they did a good job at trying to get people trying new things – learn to solder, learn to do a bunch of others stuff – and there were kids all over the place.

But – as an experienced maker – I didn’t get a ton out of it from an idea or technical perspective. A lack of ideas has never been one of my problems, and I am probably an outlier in this perspective.

Complaints/Suggestions

I’ll should preface this list by saying that, as a Windows Phone owner, I could run the IOS/Android app, and maybe that would help. But there are still a lot of people out there without smart phones.

  1. Trying to figure out what talks there were that I might want to see was an exercise in frustration. The website lists each of the stages separately, and the only thing you can do is read each of them and write the time and topics down and then try to get back to them. This is a solved problem; just do what the big tech conferences do.
  2. No guide where presenters were located, so that I could go try to find a specific company or figure out who was at a booth by location.
  3. Talks were very uneven. *Very* uneven. I am not trying to pick on specific people, but here are a few issues I saw:
    1. I went to the “Maker pro” talk, which was a very interesting topic for me – what do you need to do to quit your day job, and how do you decide to jump? We had two people who had done it, but didn’t really get the chance to tell their stories.
    2. Yobie Benjamin had a talk that looked really interesting to me, but was mostly targetted for people who want to do a kickstarter at the $1M level. Many people really want to do something much smaller, and a lot of his advice didn’t make sense for the rest of us.
    3. “Epic Fails” was billed as an interesting talk, but wasn’t about the real topic at all. The three presenters were fine, though their perspective was mostly about woodworking and youtube. Call the talk something different, and get more diversity in the group.
  4. It would be great to have “birds of a feather” sessions if space could be found.

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