Did you know there's an angyee.blogspot.com? I think it's in Portuguese and run by a female. It's all pink anyhow, but pink can be manly, so I don't know. It might help if I read Portuguese.
I just read an interesting flame war over on Hackaday about whether Sparkfun is overpriced and, well, dumb. Overpriced is for certain, but that's the name of the game. Everyone who sells you something they bought from someone else will be 'overpriced' in that you don't have the money or storage to buy 1000 of anything and wait for others to buy them from you. You're buying the convenience of getting one and only one of something.
In fact, I just bought some ATMega328 DIP chips from Sparkfun. After the flame war I was feeling guilty about it so I checked DigiKey for their price. It's the same. The exact same. The only difference is that Sparkfun offers less of a volume discount. Their stock counter says they have over a thousand of them, so they got the nice $3.04/unit price and are selling them at $4.30 - just like DigiKey. Yes, they're making money, but why not just buy from DigiKey?
That brings me to the second thing that you get from Sparkfun - an explanation. When you search for ATMega328 on DigiKey you get five different chips in varying packages and a comparison table that's about a half mile long. If you don't know that you want the DIP version you're screwed. Lucky me, I do know.
But this totally avoids a more important point: How do you know you want an ATMega328 at all? Sparkfun spells it out for you: it's the Arduino chip but with more program memory. More is better right? Even if you don't know how much program memory you need, why not have more? Plus they tell you that it will work in place of the chip already in your Arduino but wait, don't change that chip yet! You need the bootloader programmed on there for everything to work properly. DigiKey would not tell you that. Heck, DigiKey will barely make it easy for you to give them money.
That's another thing Sparkfun has going for it: their web design is not straight out of 1995. It has pictures and a shopping cart and colors! Oh, and navigation. DigiKey has an awful Flash version of their print catalog. Yes, they thought it would be good to simulate turning pages on the internet. That hasn't been a good idea since Geocities. Of course, DigiKey started with its paper catalog and must really feel attached to it. I can't fault them for sticking with success, but the idea of even using a 1000 page catalog is... so, so unappealing. And a waste of paper.
So the second point is whether Sparkfun is dumb. And by dumb I mean facile. Childish. Dorky but in a bad way. The issue at hand was creating projects like '5 foot Nintendo controllers'. I must admit that so much of the hobby electronics seems like a big dick waving contest. Who can create the coolest steampunk doo-dad? I don't care. Or this gem recently featured on Hacknmod: 'Twitter Controlled LED IKEA Table using Bluetooth'
Let me just pause a minute to let that sink in.
Okay. Bluetooth is neat. My Wiimotes are Bluetooth and I think it's great I can hook them up to my computer and read their data. It makes a lot of sense as a Personal Area Network protocol. I like headsets. So I don't dislike Bluetooth. I also think RGB leds are interesting - with Red, Green and Blue we can make all colors! It'd be great for use as a status indicator - red is bad, green is good, orange is warning, etc. I like... coffee tables? I guess. I don't dislike them anyhow.
But I just picture this geek sitting at this table with his friends, itching to show off his new toy that he made. So in the middle of the conversation the whips out his phone and says 'Watch, I'm going to Twitter to my table and change its color! I made this! Hold on. I have to type out the message... almost there... Oh I don't have 3G, this might take a bit... Ok sent! Now it should turn green.. uh. any second... uh.. Maybe I have to reboot the computer... hold on...'
Or you have worse projects like TV-B-Gone. The sole purpose of that invention is to make yourself feel good at others' expense. In a bar? Football game that everyone else is watching too loud? Can't hear you and your friends talk about how counter-culture you are? Whip out your TV-B-Gone and turn off everyone else's entertainment! That TV wasn't doing anything for you!
So a lot of this hobby electronics community consists of everyone trying to outdo this month's steampunk widget or Twitter-using Ardunio-controlled status symbol. You know where it goes from here: What started as an honest effort to educate people, have a good time and share things turns into a contest. I saw it happen with LAN parties. Instead of having fun and laughs people started the biggest hard drive contest, or the most porn contest or the biggest monitor/best system specs contest. My friends and I held LAN parties in high school. Some we charged for. Despite lugging their system across town and PAYING to get in some people just wouldn't play computer games! They'd hang around, look over people's shoulders and slow down peoples computers by transferring porn while they were trying to play Unreal Tournament. It just wasn't worth it after a while and I fear the same thing will happen with this 'community'.
In conclusion: Overpriced - probably for some things, not for others. Do your homework. Facile? Childish? Lacking in true content? A bit. There's still plenty of good stuff over at Sparkfun and their top-selling items are components - not kits. But I worry about everyone else. When blogs just echo each others' postings of Twitter-controlled steampunk widgets instead of producing something... substantive, well, I get concerned.