[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 10, Issue 35

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 7 16:50:47 UTC 2013


While I agree that there is value in defining which parts/processes of
something are open to a high degree of resolution, I'm not sure that anyone
other than developers are ever going to use that resolution.

The users won't care how much of a thing is open as long as it works, and
they'll never even try to look for the source files. Users won't realize
any value from a mark that defines how open a thing is at one of several
points along a continuum from 0% to 100%. Maybe if "open" acquires some
cultural weight like "green," but that isn't even on the horizon.

Developers, on the other hand, won't have any trouble finding the source
files as long as they are actually publically available.

The source files can easily define the exact openess of the project to any
relevant degree of resolution. I mean, that's what they're supposed to do
anyway. So the developers won't realize any value from the mark itself
defining precisely how open the project is either.

An open mark would be valuable to distinguish the project from the vast
majority that are not open, but adding enough detail to precisely define
just how open the thing is won't add enough value. The users won't capture
any value because they don't care precisely how open the thing is and the
developers won't get anything out of it because they're going to go
straight to the source files anyway.

And that's not even touching on the fact that open projects are notorious
for changing constantly. A single open mark can always apply to a project
even if it becomes more or less open over time. An array of open marks
specifying different percentages would have to change along with the

I'm not sure if this makes sense, but off the top of my head what if a
project includes an FPGA running proprietary IP. Then six months later the
project releases their own custom open source IP to replace the proprietary
stuff. Now the physical mark on the project isn't giving it credit for
being as open as it actually is because the primary software was opened up
after the hardware was shipped. It would be possible to have a mark that
can be defaced later (like scratching off a dot) but that only captures
change in one directly (more open to less open or vice versa).

It's entirely possible that I'm missing something, but at the moment I
don't see what benefit there is to anything more specific than a mark that
just says "something in this project is open source." A possible exception
is a special mark that gives the project credit for being entirely open
source, to distinguish it from all the projects that are merely partially


> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2013 11:26:33 -0500
> From: Catarina Mota <catarina at openmaterials.org>
> To: The Open Source Hardware Association Discussion List
>         <discuss at lists.oshwa.org>
> Subject: Re: [Discuss] OSHW Best Practices / Layers of Openness
> Message-ID:
>         <CAH-asVZtQaQsqswJjXXoPWBHtnFpxn422+WmgJvAj22fky-W=
> Q at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> This is why I was so attracted to Tom's idea of a label that, no matter
> where it's placed on the product, tells you right away what parts are open.
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