Archives for June 2009

Making Money from Open-Source Hardware

27 June 2009
View more documents from David Mellis.

A designer makes things. Sometimes he makes the final product; more often, he makes a representation – a plan, program or image – of an artifact to be constructed by others. He works in particular situations, uses particular materials, and employs a distinctive medium and language. Typically, his making process is complex. There are more variables – kinds of possible moves, norms, and interrelationships of these – than can be represented in a finite model. Because of this complexity, the designer's moves tend, happily or unhappily, to produce consequences other than those intended. When this happens, the designer may take account of the unintended changes he was made in the situation by forming new appreciations and understandings and by making new moves. He shapes the situation, in accordance with his initial appreciation of it, the situation "talks back," and he responds to the situation's back-talk. — Donald Schön, The Reflective Practitioner

Value and the Arduino Ecosystem

06 June 2009

There are a lot of people creating value around Arduino: e.g. this experimentation kit from oomlout, tons of videos from Make Magazine, various books, etc. When I see all this activity, two questions come to mind, one selfish and one altruistic. The selfish question is: how can I capture more of this value? The altruistic question is: how can I make these things more accessible and useful to the Arduino community?

To rephrase the first question, should I (or others on the Arduino team) be doing these things ourselves, to earn more of the money flowing into the Arduino ecosystem? I think the answer is "no", I should be doing what I enjoy, what I'm best at, and leave the rest to others to profit from. As Tim O'Reilly says: "create more value than you capture." Still, it can be difficult to be at the center of a movement in which others seem to be reaping most of the rewards. I need to remember that the goal (and the importance) of Arduino is about empowering others to do things for themselves - not selling lots of circuit boards (or kits or books or magazines).

The second question doesn't have a simple answer. Can we do more to publicize other resources on the Arduino homepage? Probably. Should we make it easier for others to build on our software and hardware? Yes. Can we use our position to convince others to open up their work? I hope so. But what's most important? What should we do first? Good question!

Any suggestions?