[Discuss] OSHW Best Practices / Layers of Openness

Marco Perry mperry at pensanyc.com
Wed Feb 27 15:03:08 UTC 2013

Some considerations for trusted certification brands for me would be:
It has to come from an authoritative organization made of subject mater experts. In other words, if the brand of authority is strong, so is the certification like AIA and LEED. 

If the press goes to the organization as the subject matter expert, that certainly helps. 

The group should be non-prof that doesn't appear to be motivated by financial gain for the certification. For example, there are a ton of companies trying to give awards for best product, but they are for profit (award programs are big money makers), and when people get wind of the financial motivation, no one applies and they die. 

Leaders in the field need to adopt the certification. If they trust it, and we assume they did their due diligence, then others trust it. If it is adopted by most in the field, then it becomes the de facto certification. 

If retailers or peripheral stakeholders value the certification and even highlight it, then that would add value to an open source product. 

For a certification to be trusted, it has to keep to its ideals. If it becomes diluted, then no one trusts it to mean anything. 

The certification has to be relevant and meaningful to people beyond the community, otherwise you are just preaching to the choir. 

Starting new licenses and certification is tough. When I was on the board on the IDSA  (industrial design trade group) there were attempts to license product designers (like licensed architects) and certify products as "green" and ultimately it never happened. The story is too long for here but in general, getting people and companies to adopt a new certification is a lot like trying to get companies to buy products that change their process.  It's a high barrier for entry but it also is a hard for other certifications to compete (and there will be competition). 

The good news is I think OSHWA has many if not all these attributes. 

- Marco 

Sent from my newly outdated iPhone 4S

On Feb 27, 2013, at 7:31 AM, Tom Igoe <tom.igoe at gmail.com> wrote:

> Good points all, Marco, thanks.  The point about building brand for a certification is particularly salient. What makes you trust a certification brand?
> t.
> On Feb 26, 2013, at 10:47 PM, Marco Perry wrote:
>> Hi all, 
>> Long time listener, first time commenter. 
>> A few semi-organized thoughts and opinions.
>> A license has legal implications that are not enforceable, which is no good, but a social contract alone seems weak. What you want is a Certification from a governing body that is not the US government - i.e. OSHW, akin to an UL or LEED certification. 
>> OSHW Certification can be either an approved application from experts or self-certified. I believe you're better off with self-certified, while OSHWA retains the right to revoke the certification at any time for any reason (to protect the certification brand value). If it is self-certified, then it's cheaper for OSHWA, faster, and easier to adopt. Plus, in keeping with the spirit of openess, the community can speak out if someone is improperly using the label, and I have no fear the community will smell BS a mile away. If enough people complain, OSHWA can pull the certification. Not to mention, a community police is more flexible vs a certification committee will be burdened by lengthy nuanced definition of what is or is not "open." 
>> OSHWA can decide whether to charge for the OSHW label for use on products, packaging, advertising, etc., either by each use (per product/sku, or one-time charge), or by scaled fees by company size (eg. over $1MM annual sales, over 50 people, etc), or no charge at all with a strong suggested donation to keep the torch alive. The more free, the more adoption you will have.
>> For products, an OSHW Certification label must have a brand value that adds a positive halo to a manufacturer's own branded product - think American Dental Assoc. on toothpaste, FSC on wood, LEED on buildings. If OSHW Certification is meaningless ("all natural" on food labels), tarnished (think MSC for fish) or too small to be recognized, then it will become irrelevant. This means, you have to treat it like it is its own brand, that needs protection, promotion, adoption by leaders, strong advocates with conviction that speak to its cause, and so on. You already have a lot of these attributes among the existing community, and it will be stronger if the average joe also knows what OSHW stands for. Imagine if a large retailer demands products must be OSHW certified, much like Home Depot insisting their wood is FSC certified, then OSHWA will have an influence. 
>> While layering "openness" can be too complex, and one-size-fits-all certification seems too broad and unfair. You might consider simply an "open" and "limited open" self certification (like LGPL). The latter simply states that while a majority of my thing is open, parts of it that I created, I am keeping closed. If people improperly state things are all open, then the community will surely speak out. It is, in the end, a social contract with the community.
>> One way to consider "limited open." If a thing that I make is open, but it also contains parts that I sourced from others that are not open (e.g. chips, sub-assemblies, mechanical components, software), then my creation should still be considered open. Anyone can make the exact same thing by sourcing the same parts. If, on the other hand, parts of my thing are my (or my company's) patentable invention and we are keeping those parts closed, then it's "limited open." For example - I make a cnc machine, and I sourced motors and chips that are closed, but anyone is free to buy those same components or swap them out, then I would consider that open. If I produce chips, and patent them, and put them on a board design that is open, that's limited. That's no different than if I made a closed, patented mechanical sub-assembly that I include in a robot arm, whose design is otherwise open.
>> The other elements to a certification that are worth considering as optional features are the same ones seen on the Creative Commons. It would be important to me to have a OSHW Certifications, with options for attribution (BY), no derivatvies (ND), Share Alike (SA), Non-Commercial (NC). These address the motivations of why I would consider or not consider open sourcing. There may be other options, but those seem to cover most situations.
>> Lastly - the easier it is to adopt, the more the certification will be adopted. When I first open sourced code, I was super happy to find the easy to read CC website, and the plain english explanation, drop-down menu options, and logo artwork in different formats. And, it also included example wording, legalese version etc. It was so easy to fit in my workflow, that I used it versus other options (including not opening it all to save on the fuss). For first timers - its relatively intimidating to be open, especially for hardware. A nice website, with testimonials and endorsements by others, a community you can ask questions, and so on, would be critical.
>> Hope this adds to the conversation meaningfully,
>> Marco
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>> On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 12:51 PM, alicia <amgibb at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Via a conversation started offlist, we're discussing best practices to clarify the oshw definition. The conversation was started by Catarina Mota and Tom Igoe, first about a layering graphic similar to creative commons and Phil Torrone's Layers of licensing post. Please view Tom's post below asking for how you currently use the logo and whether your usage has changed in the past 2 years?
>>> I also raised some questions that we get through OSHWA:
>>> - I plan to release the files in 3/6/12 months, can still use the open source hw logo? 
>>> - Can I use the oshw logo if my project is only partially open source?
>>> - How do I or will OSHWA approach a company who has the open source hw logo on their boards but no files?
>>> - Must supplier details be given to use the oshw logo?
>>> - Can I use the oshw logo on my product if I am using a proprietary enclosure from another company, but the insides are mine?
>>> - This movement feels like you're leaving out mechanical designs / architecture / nanotech, how can I interpret your definition to include my projects? (This comes to us a lot, which perhaps prompted Catarina to start exploring a space that would better include them.)
>>> - Can I release some of the software for a license, like a pro version, or does that go against Free Redistribution, or is it okay because of clause 12 in the definition?
>>> - What are the best practices for releasing a piece of open source hardware and its documentation under the definition?
>>> - Can I directly copy open source hardware (sans trademark), the oshw definition says 'yes', but articles on oshw have a resounding 'no'.
>>> - Is a different economic model (selling hw for cheaper or more expensive) enough to call copied hardware a derivative?
>>> Alicia
>>> On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 6:32 AM, Tom Igoe <ti8 at nyu.edu> wrote:
>>>> To me, the original topic, layering the definition in order to describe OSHW products in detail was about best practices for applying the definition.  So I'm not sure you're hijacking the topic at all. If the general consensus is that layering is a bad way to put the definition into practice, then I think it makes sense to switch gears and talk about ways  that it's currently being put into practice.
>>>> We've talked about the definition as a social norm rather than a legal document, and that seems to be the general consensus.  So let's talk about how the definition is currently put into practice.  From there, maybe we can get to what best practices are.  Perhaps best to throw it out to everyone:  
>>>> The definition's been in place since February 2011. What are the best examples of how it's been put in practice since then, and how has it changed what you do?
>>>> Once we have a few of those on the table, we'll have a better sense of what everyone's practice is, and can discuss the best of that.
>>>> t.
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