[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 10, Issue 13

Nathan Seidle nathan at sparkfun.com
Mon Mar 4 23:01:53 UTC 2013

Hi Matt - I think Tom is gently poking me to speak up. I sit on the OSHWA
board as the interim treasurer (been at it for just over a year) and run

I don't see the conflict. Why would it matter who thought of it and/or
> published it first? Openness depends on people publishing early and often.
> The point isn't to encourage people to keep secrets until they're
> positioned to extract maximum profit from exploiting the idea, the point is
> to encourage people to publish ideas that are good enough for now so that
> everyone else can build them into something better.

If the OSHWA board is tasked with lots of responsibility to review
projects, be an escrow holding agency, and a number of other things
proposed it will give the organization a lot of power. This is financially
unachievable (OSHWA has no money) and is, in my opinion, a bad idea. Once
OSHWA becomes an approvals organization we will have bottlenecks and
expectations from the community. I want OSHWA to be as decentralized as

> However, now that I phrase it that way, I can see how the professional
> open source world might think of "openness" differently than the amateurs
> (for lack of better terms). It would make sense for commercial entities to
> treat openness more like a way to outsource/crowdsource technical support
> rather than a way to grow their own competition.

Hmm. I can personally say that SparkFun has been criticized in the past for
abusing the community, effectively getting free engineering. It's a fine
line between collaboration and crowdsource that we regularly have to
address, educate and defend. Open Source is awesome because it greases the
collaborative wheels. My job at SparkFun is to work with folks in the
community to bring cool ideas to life. My job at OSHWA is to make sure a
device with the gear logo has editable files that are findable.

> Another question, why would a panel of industry experts have to leave
> their day job? Why not just make the panel big enough that individuals can
> be temporarily excused? You know, in your example, you could just go get
> some coffee for 10 minutes while the people who don't have a conflict of
> interest arrive at a decision. I assume any kind of decision making body
> like that would have to be pretty flexible. If it's successful (which is
> kind of the point) then it will have to churn through submissions quickly,
> especially if nobody's getting paid for their time. They would have to be
> able to get stuff done even if some people couldn't make it.

>From my experience on the OSHWA board:

* I can't or don't commit enough time to it. It's only a few hours per
week, but we have a lot of work and not enough board/community members to
help out. !Please! help. We need more do-ocracy, we need more people
creating pages, helping with paperwork, compiling email threads ;)
* OSHWA may want, from time to time, people to serve as board members that
have job that they are not able to leave. Beside, OSHWA has no money, nor
sustainable revenue source to pay them.
* Boards and organizations are slow. Getting five people together for a
monthly phone call is nearly impossible.

I will entertain the idea of a submission process but we cannot handle it
at the moment.

How about this as an exchange of value. Lets assume the people who have a
> vote on whether or not a project gets the OSHWA stamp of openness approval
> are not being monetarily compensated for their time. That seems like a safe
> assumption. But, they DO get to be the only people in the world who see all
> of the brand spanking new technical details of open projects before anyone
> else, and they get to meet all of the people pushing things forwards. In a
> community where it's nearly impossible to steal an idea (because it's being
> released open) getting to see things first would have a certain tangible
> value that would compensate them for their time. That value would encourage
> everyone to plan nice cuz if they don't they get kicked off the panel.

The board has spent 98% of its time dealing with legal (OSI) and tax issues
(getting 501c3 status filed). There will be many more challenges for the
board in the future. Asking a subcomittee or panel to review projects may
be workable. But I think enforcement is a parallel topic that I will start
in a separate thread.


Nathan Seidle
CEO, SparkFun Electronics Inc
Boulder, CO
Phone : 1-303-284-0979
Fax : 1-303-443-0048
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