[Discuss] Free Hardware

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 12 16:45:31 UTC 2015

In the research I did on it I found a fundamental disconnect that will
always create problems for funding libre work. The primary motivation of
people who do free/open/libre work is pride in solving a hard problem and
the secondary motivation is pride in being known by the community as
someone who solves hard problems.

They/we don't do it for financial reward. The upside is that it's much more
likely to be shared openly. The downside is that boring stuff doesn't get

The primary misunderstanding is that money is not an actor; money is what
actors use to influence other actors. It doesn't make any sense to talk
about money. Instead, talk about the actors. It's easy enough to identify
the developers who need/want money, but the money doesn't just appear. The
money comes from other actors. So who are those other actors and why would
they want to influence the developers with money? Just as importantly, why
would the developers be influenced by the money? That also helps explain
why money is sometimes irrelevant, or even counterproductive, as in
free/libre/open work. It's not about the money, it's about the actors
influencing each other, and they can do that in ways that don't involve

For example, if the community made a point of praising the developers who
do boring work, like refining user interfaces, or updating documentation,
more developers would do those things. If the community got together and
demonstrated there's a need/market for some free/libre/open thing that
doesn't exist yet more developers would start projects for that thing.
Anybody who's good enough to be critical to a free/libre/open project is
good enough to have a day job. That's not the problem. It's the community's
lack of focus and short attention span that's the problem.

On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 9:13 AM, Javier Serrano <Javier.Serrano at cern.ch>

> On 03/12/2015 04:35 PM, Nancy Ouyang wrote:
> > Anyway, I'm pretty distressed by the millions of dollars being poured
> > into closed-source 123D, Circuitmaker, OnShape and the continued lack of
> > interoperability in circuit design land. (also in my opinion we should
> > explicitly search for UI/design contributors... I think prioritizing
> > usability could even give open-source tools a lead in EDA).
> I think that's only part of the problem. So far as the baker in my
> neighborhood insists on getting euros in exchange for his baguettes, I
> will need to find a way to be paid for at least some of my work :) The
> same is true for the developers of KiCad, FreeCAD and other free
> software tools for hardware design. These tools have gotten to an
> incredible state in terms of features and quality, given the almost
> complete absence of monetary rewards for the work people put in, but
> they still have a long way to go. You can only prioritize usability, as
> you suggest, if you have people ready to do the coding. There is a limit
> to what people will do for free-as-in-beer, not because they are greedy
> (an otherwise very human condition) but because they need to eat, pay
> rents, dress kids, etc. If we find a way to inject even a small fraction
> of the millions of dollars you mention into free tool development, I
> think the results could be game-changing. Maybe OSHWA could play a role
> here, as the FSF did with the development of gcc, emacs and other
> components necessary for the development of free software.
> Cheers,
> Javier
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