[Discuss] [DIYbio] Fwd: The institutionalization of OSHW

malcolm stanley a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com
Sat Sep 29 18:12:53 UTC 2012

Andrew started this thread thinking and expressing big thoughts,
and I would like to go back to those for a second...

At the risk of introducing some imprecise concepts into this discussion,
I think it is important to be clear on the outcomes we are seeking.

In my mind, and you may disagree, the uber objectives we are pursuing are:

   - to make 'devices' based on open source technology ubiquitous in
   peoples lives, and
   - make contribution to the improvement or extension of the concepts or
   designs of those 'devices' a wide spread and matter of course activity in
   those same people's lives.

In other words, I think we want everyone to have open source technology in
their lives, and everyone to be able to contribute to it.

(as an aside, I do think ubiquity will ultimately result in some very
successful businesses being formed. but this is a result or a side effect,
not a goal. Maybe we could make the Lorax our mascot, to remind us of the

During Summit, in the presentations and the discussions, what I heard about
Open Hardware is:

   - we're not sure exactly what you have to do to things to make them open
   - whatever that is, even today it takes a lot of effort and you have to
   know exactly what you're doing
   - it's not clear that effort is justified for a lot of the projects we

so we're a long way from ubiquity.

I find myself very focussed on the last point.

I had a discussion with Nathan where I noted that part of the appeal of
open hardware to newbies like me is simply that we can find things to start
with: sites like Adafruit and Sparkfun make it easy for me, as a newbie, to
download schematics and designs that I can try to puzzle through, alter,

What is very difficult, however, is contributing back.

I cannot take the design which I downloaded from Sparkfun | Adafruit and
then altered, and easily contribute it back: there is nowhere there to put
it. So now, to be open, to participate, I need to start a website? or learn
how to use Github? and how is anyone ever going to find that, once I have
done it?

In other words, we're not exactly inviting everyone to make a meaningful
contribution. Importantly, when we state we're not sure that the effort is
not evidently justified for many of our projects, it is the level of effort
required that is the issue, not the goal of making them open.

>From the point of view of growing the movement to the point where mass
market participation is possible (I assume here we do want to grow the
community to this extent, although that is a far from certain assumption),
such a state of affairs leads to discouragement. There is no mechanism for
positive feedback built in here, other than possibly making money (not
motivating for many and actually invalid for most), that will encourage a
mass market of people to participate and persevere in that participation.

I personally think one of the BIG reasons Makerbot has been successful is
that it built Thingiverse, a site which make it easy to discover things to
print, teaches you how to alter and extend, and makes it extremely easy to
contribute back.

At last years summit there was a whole segment on the value of the feedback
loops on instructables and thingiverse. The point was that making it easy
for even the most uneducated newbie (that would be me) to share, or more
technically, to propagate a feedback loop, amplified the value proposition
of the entire activity for the entire community.

Today as a community of open source technology practitioners we provide no
mechanism which makes feedback easy to accomplish. OSHW is something you
have to want to do and already know how to do, unlike on thingiverse, where
it is simply the way it is.

>From this discussion I hope you will take away that thinking in terms of
'everyone' is to me very important.  Like scaling things big, enabling
'everyone' is really hard, but I think it is or needs to be a core value,
and based on our current implementations I'm not sure we grok what it
really means.

I admire the technical minds on this list and in this association who
someday will formulate a standard which will allow us all to more easily
share the entire specification of the innovations we have created. As a
marketer, I wonder, however, if we need to solve that problem before we put
in place basic mechanisms of feedback or contribution that would allow us
to more easily share the efforts we are already making, using the
specifications and standards that we have available to us today?

If our goal is to make open technology ubiquitous in usage and
participation, we must address the barriers which currently exist which
limit participation to the technically very competent and dedicated, and
disenfranchise the non-technical and casual participants who must
ultimately embrace us for us to succeed.. Waiting till we've worked out all
the details of what open is, is to delay focus on things we could
immediately do to address the larger strategic goal, while we perfect
tactical implementation issues whose details will not matter to the vast
majority of people who will ultimately benefit from them.

just some thoughts, hope they are relevant
malcolm stanley

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Read my blog at http://soaringhorse.blogspot.com

On Sat, Sep 29, 2012 at 1:51 AM, Tim Schmidt <timschmidt at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 7:43 PM, Bryan Bishop <kanzure at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I never said packaging doesn't work for software. I did mention that
> > it's an incomplete solution, and repurposing rpm/deb is not the a
> > workable solution for completely deploying hardware.
> Who's repurposing RPM/Deb?  I'm talking about using RPM/Deb for what
> they're good for - distributing a bunch of files - and writing another
> utility to do smart, fun things with those files.
> --tim
> _______________________________________________
> discuss mailing list
> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
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