[Discuss] quick blog post on possible misconceptions re: Certification proposal

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 01:53:48 UTC 2015

So, in your mind, what are the core issues that certification is trying to

Here's my take on it:

The only way the goals make sense to me is to interpret them narrowly, even
though they're stated broadly. I don't think "the public" refers to
everyone in the world because the vast majority of the world still doesn't
know what OSS is, so they'll never care about OSHW. It can only refer to
the people who are close enough to it that they might someday know what
OSHW is supposed to be. I think "the open source hardware community" can
only refer to the subset that adheres to OSHWA-certified OSHW. Since there
are no barriers to entry to the broad "OSHW community" it has to mean the
smaller group that wants more explicit criteria.

Basically I think OSHWA is trying to say that they want to settle the
arguments over what is/is-not open source hardware and provide some way of
attempting to punish people who abuse whatever good will the term might
have. It's not clearly stated, but they're trying to do that by clearly
defining the dividing line between "truly open" and "everything else" and
unfortunately they're using the language of the general community to refer
to a subset of the community.

Of course, that can be interpreted as splitting the existing formless
community into two groups: one that is still formless and one that has an
explicit form.

For some, the formlessness was, and still is, part of the appeal. So those
formless OSHW types are reacting to the implication that if OSHWA's rules
catch on they will not be able to use the phrase "open source hardware"
because OSHWA will convince everyone it refers to only the people who like
their rules.

Personally, I think we should have clarity on what OSHW should be, but I'm
against fines. I'm also against co-opting terms that describe the broad
community to refer to what is, by definition, a subset of the community.
The general point of open source hardware is to just share your work with
others, so anyone who does that is part of the community. The more effort
they put into it, and the more they give away, the better. It's silly that
most of the "open source" software on Github doesn't actually have a
license, and is therefore not open source at all, but it doesn't mean the
people who intend for their work to be shared are not part of the open
source software community in spirit. Same for hardware.

I don't see any reason why we can't just call it "OSHW," "licensed OSHW"
and "certified OSHW" or something like that. Maybe just stick the OSHWA
logo on it if it complies with OSHWA's certification. That clarifies what
subset of generic OSHW something is.

On Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 5:47 PM, abram connelly <abram.connelly at gmail.com>

> This post is really great, thanks for making it.
> I think a lot of people get turned off when there's standards committees,
> organizations and other bureaucratic infrastructure mentioned, especially
> with a hacker friendly type of crowd.  Though there still is a lot of FUD
> w.r.t. free and open source, it used to be a lot worse.  I think the same
> type of thing is happening with open hardware (and certification) now and
> that it can get better in the future.
> I think explaining in terms of what it is, why it was created and what the
> implications are goes a long way towards this. At the risk of kicking the
> hornets nest, I think posts like Boldport's "The license is the license" (
> http://www.boldport.com/blog/2015/9/22/the-license-is-the-license) are
> really misguided and confused about what the certification is proposing to
> solve.  I also think it's important to reach out to the members of the open
> hardware community that don't typically get a lot of attention and make
> sure their voices are heard and concerns addressed.  Maybe a FAQ could be
> written up addressing some of these issues?  One that lists some of the
> common concerns that have been coming up, in Boldport's post, the HaD
> comments and elsewhere?  Maybe it could even be put up on a GitHub page so
> that anyone could suggest additions by making pull requests (there's always
> a Wiki as an alternative as well)?
> Hardware is a different beast than software. I think we need to make sure
> people understand why we have these mechanisms in place for open hardware
> and why it needs to be different from the software license model.  For me,
> addressing the core issues of what the certification is trying to solve and
> the motivation behind it is crucial for understanding.  I think your
> article is a great and hopefully it's a start of a larger trend of pushing
> back against a lot of misunderstanding!
> -Abram
> On Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 3:21 PM, Jeffrey Warren <jeff at publiclab.org>
> wrote:
>> Hi, all -- I dumped some of my thoughts on the certification into a post
>> on my blog:
>> http://unterbahn.com/2015/09/misconceptions-about-oshwas-open-source-hardware-certification-v1/
>> IMO, there's plenty to worry about (or to work hard to do properly)
>> without having to worry about some of these red herrings. Interested to
>> hear folks thoughts.
>> In particular I've been very interested in making it clear that not
>> certifying does not mean your project is not open source hardware. It
>> seemed very clear to me, but from comments "out there" I gather that that's
>> not 100% understood.
>> +1 clarity!
>> Jeff
>> _______________________________________________
>> discuss mailing list
>> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
>> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
> _______________________________________________
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> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
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