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How Open Source Hardware Is Kick-Starting Kickstarter

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the somebody-out-there-needs-an-inboard-outboard-toaster dept.

Businesses 44

ptorrone writes "Imagine waking up and seeing your design for a circuit being used in a product by someone who never contacted you to ask if it was okay. You will not get any payment for their usage of your design, they've raised over $31,000, and they're selling something you worked really hard on. You have no control over what someone does with something you made. Is this a nightmare? Perhaps for some, but this is actually a dream come true for others who do open-source hardware. MAKE magazine profiles a maker using open-source hardware for his now-funded project and looks at others using open hardware for their works."

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Hasn't the adult toy industry used this (1)

BMOC (2478408) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794028)

for lengthy periods of time?

Greed (4, Interesting)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794124)

If I didn't have the resources and someone else did, good for them. This is not hypothetical: I publicly posted an idea a while back to build a device for myself, and a couple of years later, it was a successful consumer electronic product someone else made. Someone else did the production and marketing, and then a big company eventually bought the company out. Yeah, I had the idea and did the initial design, but I wouldn't have marketed it. So I'm glad someone else was able to get what they wanted.

People who want to hoard knowledge are bad for society. If you actually will act upon it, great, you need some protections like patents or whatever. But if it's just something you enjoy doing, be happy with doing what you enjoy. Life's not all about money...

Re:Greed (2)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794292)

Life is not all about money, but if you've got hungry kids, it's hard to keep that thought in the foreground of your mind.

Re:Greed (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794374)

Life is not all about money, but if you've got hungry kids, it's hard to keep that thought in the foreground of your mind.

True.

My kids are not hungry.

So, true, but uninteresting.

Re:Greed (1)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794408)

You don't even have kids.

Re:Greed (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794624)

You don't even have kids.

That's why they're not hungry.

Re:Greed (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794658)

But he is uninteresting...

Re:Greed (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794732)

The most uninteresting man in the world?

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37795014)

No, the most uninteresting subthread of the world.

Re:Greed (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797816)

Hey, how did you guess.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37795100)

http://xkcd.com/621/

Re:Greed (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794586)

Who said you can't make money from open hardware? Of course you can, just like with open source you need to focus on the scarcities. The article itself talks about Kickstarter -- which is money in the bank before you even have a proper product to sell! Think about that, financially it doesn't get any better than that for inventors (unless they are working for a company, in which case they still won't own the invention at the end).

And inventors can keep on making money off their open work. Perhaps they aren't selling the design, but they can still sell people the convenience of buying the appropriate parts to build the device. For example: http://buildyourcnc.com/default.aspx [buildyourcnc.com]

Re:Greed (2)

cduffy (652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37795284)

If you're good enough that what you do that your ideas are getting made into products, I'd be surprised if your kids are going hungry.

Not having their college funds paid for? Sure, but that's a different story.

Re:Greed (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37798602)

Lot's of people have ideas, but don't have the time or inclination to make them products.

And some people are simply too lazy to do so...

Re:Greed (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37798754)

Lot's of people have ideas, but don't have the time or inclination to make them products.

And some people are simply too lazy to do so...

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone everyday comes up with plenty.

The hard part is turning an idea into reality, and it's even harder to turn that prototype into something manufacturable and saleable. Even then there's no guarantee it'll make it.

The real work in anything is the implementation.

Re:Greed (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37803266)

You know that whole controversial "hierarchy of social needs" pyramid? I think we need something similar, but finanacially.

i.e. at the top would be making rent, then making sure all the bills are paid, then making sure everyone is fed, then making sure you have disposable income to buy clothes and the other necessities, then saving for retirement, etc.

Re:Greed (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794470)

And you didn't get a dime from your work. How selfish are you. We support giving away your ideas and your work for free and in the same breath you complain how hard it is to get a job, or how the middle class is getting paid less. However you give away tools for the big corporations to use for free. Meaning they won't need to spend money on hiring people to do a lot of good middle class jobs such as making software for them. Or buying it from a company who has a team of middle class paid developers working for them.

Technology is getting to a point that they can take a lot of good jobs away from people because they are cheaper and better. Now you want to give away for free to these fat cats resources that computers cannot replace.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37794656)

Meaning they won't need to spend money on hiring people to do a lot of good middle class jobs such as making software for them.

In a global economy, there's no reason that software development should be a middle-class job. In the construction industry, you have to pay workers a decent wage because they must reside where you are and have enough money to survive with the local prices of your market. But software can be outsourced to any number of markets cheaper than your own. This entire expectation that certain, easily relocatable professions have to receive a certain wage is holding American economic development back. If you want a middle class, come up with an industry that gets the middle class wages you expect no matter where it is done.

Re:Greed (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794934)

As someone with experience in this. Outsourcing doesn't save a company a lot of money, and it is usually better to hire local people to do the work.

1. Cultural problems. In the US we have Software Developers in India they have Programmers. The difference is US Software Developers think on their feet better, and put their artistic flare and pride in their work. In India you give them a spec you get your code. It meets the spec but without any fore-site or creativity in the process. So when the requirements do change they have to go back and re-code. Also US Developers are more willing to say they need help, when they see there wheels spinning. India programmers will just keep on going and going. You then ask them a week later why it isn't done they will go well I am stuck on step 1. To solve these problems you need an engaged management who cost more then the developer does, being that they need to do micromanaging they can probably only do 2 or 3 programmers while one manager can Manage 6-8 US Developers.

2. Time zones. The further you outsource the bigger the problem with time zones are. Not allowing the people to attend meetings or have them explain to you what they have been doing means more work disjointed to what needs to be done.

3. Lack on interpersonal communication. You don't know what each person strengths and weaknesses are. Giving them jobs that they cannot perform well.

4. Language problems. A joke or an attempt to be friendly can sometimes cause a problem.

There are a lot more too... Many companies are actually resourcing a lot of their work back, because they found that there is actually value to it.

Re:Greed (2)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796270)

+100 Insightful. I've known a lot of people who believe they can wave a magic wand and have quick turnarounds and awesome software by simply hiring it out to some overseas company. Yes, sometimes it works, but when it doesn't, the reasons outlined by jellomizer are often the cause. A lot of it depends on how unique your requirements are, and how much effort you can put into managing a group located somewhere else.

Re:Greed (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797728)

There isn't really any substitute for creative intelligence, is there, or for engagement in the process? Even the dollar costs are often deceiving -- one can at least partially fund local development efforts for lots of things with e.g. stock options, and give the programmer a stake in the outcome while conserving scarce capital. Paying coders in India may save you up-front dollars but won't get you the effort you would get out of a participant.

Then there is the issue of support -- writing the original code is only the first part of any software project.

When managers hold endless meetings, the programmers write games. When accountants talk of quarterly profits, the development budget is about to be cut. When senior scientists talk blue sky, the clouds are about to roll in.

Truly, this is not the Tao of Programming.

When managers make commitments, game programs are ignored. When accountants make long-range plans, harmony and order are about to be restored. When senior scientists address the problems at hand, the problems will soon be solved.

Truly, this is the Tao of Programming.

It's difficult to conform to the Tao if your coders are in India or Ireland or China. "Making commitments" seems likely to involve direct acceptance of the risks and local investment in the project(s).

rgb

Re:Greed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37798102)

Don't outsource to India unless you really know the bunch you outsource to can do the job.

From my experience and others, most Indian programmers will say "yes", "OK" to everything even if they can't do it, or they don't even know what the heck you're talking about.

Someone I know had that problem with Indian coders and eventually outsourced the work to some Eastern European programmer who basically said "No" to some stuff and "leave the details to me, I'll do it" and delivered.

Sure there's crap everywhere, but when practically everyone says the same things about Indian programmers, there's got to be some truth to it. I've even heard ethnic Indians (not from India) say the same thing too. Some say it's a cultural thing.

Most of the good Indian programmers are probably already in the USA or anywhere but India, or not doing outsource work.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37800562)

It's more important to me that society benefit than that I stick it to the man by keeping my ideas to myself. If you can't get a job with your skills, lean new skills or quitcherbitcin..

Re:Greed (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794754)

If it follows the GPL for Open Source, you shouldn't able to sell the idea or product! That's the whole point of Open Source, free for all! You might profit from support or other stuff but that's it!

Re:Greed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37798034)

Have you ever READ the GPL?

Re:Greed (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37798384)

You should have patented the design, then you could now sue *big company* for big bucks... the system works!

-- troll comment meant in sarcasm.

Re:Greed (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37800588)

That's cool. But, did the company patent the idea and keep anyone else from using it?

Re:Greed (1)

DrStoooopid (1116519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37805338)

I dunno....I think if a device is "open" it shouldn't be open to exploit for corporate greed. In a way it's a messed up version of when a corporation would steal another's ideas only in this case, the creator is giving said idea away willfully and still not getting anything out of it. "Oh I'm just happy my idea is being used"....if that's not the result of the worst case of pinko hippie indoctrination (i.e. crap) I've ever heard....I don't know what is.

Irresponsible (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37794204)

If you've got true talent in designing hardware, you should work for a real company. Giving it away for free isn't going to feed you spouse and children. What are you going to tell them, "It brought happiness to some dudes on the internet that I don't know?" In the current economy, you need to look out for number one, not these commune pipe dreams.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794392)

If you've got true talent in designing hardware, you should work for a real company. Giving it away for free isn't going to feed you spouse and children. What are you going to tell them, "It brought happiness to some dudes on the internet that I don't know?" In the current economy, you need to look out for number one, not these commune pipe dreams.

Who the fuck do you think you are telling other people what to do.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37794500)

He is Anonymous Coward, the most famous user in Slashdot. ;-)

Re:Irresponsible (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797776)

So if he is Anonymous Coward who are you?

Re:Irresponsible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796220)

Who the fuck do you think you are telling him what to do by asking him who he thinks he is asking him what to do

Re:Irresponsible (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37798244)

How the fuck do you not understand the difference between asking and telling?

Thjis is why you patent (1, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794240)

If your idea is unique enough to get a patent, patent it. Not everybody who can invent wants to run a company.

Re:Thjis is why you patent (5, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794466)

If your idea is unique enough to get a patent, patent it. Not everybody who can invent wants to run a company.

Not everyone who can invent is a selfish git. [wikipedia.org]

that as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously

Re:Thjis is why you patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797814)

and those that can't make stupid statements like this. I don't OWE you my genius, I deserve my fair compensation for it.

Re:Thjis is why you patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37799036)

Go read some more Ayn Rand.

I just did this yesterday... (3, Interesting)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794388)

I donated to an open source hardware group called "Global Village Construction Set".

I hate the whole "Global Village" concept. I love the idea of sitting down and designing hardware to be cheap to make, and giving away the designs.

And just like open source, you can improve on the original designs, fix any flaws, etc.

Re:I just did this yesterday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796244)

"Open Source Ecology" is developing and testing the Global Village Construction Set, a set of tools to build replicable, open source, modern, off-grid resilient communities. http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Open_Source_Ecology

Siilly Premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37794404)

In the hardware realm, design theft is SOP. Most of the hardware theft that causes problems are firmware IP theft and industrial design.
As a hardware designer, almost all of my designs utilize bits and pieces of previous designs, mine and others. There is very little that is actually new or patentable. Most of the circuits with patents have had the patents run out. Those portions of my designs that were unique could have received an industrial dsign patented but my employer chose not to.
Imagine my surprise when one of my designs was "knocked off" by a competitor. That is buisness. That is how technology advances. Take a good idea and make it better.
Simply put, as a former CEO of Motorola once said, "Steal shamelessly"

KickStarter and the iDevice (3, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#37794618)

I'm pretty sure KickStarter really kickstarted with indie movies, music, etc. In fact, they are still the main projects on KickStarter (and similar sites, like indiegogo).

What's really 'kickstarting' KickStarter a second time, at least when it comes to tech, is the iDevice.

There's two areas for technology, the Tech section:
www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/technology/popular

And the Design section, which is vastly more tech than design:
www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/design/popular

1 in 5 of the projects in either section section are iDevice-oriented - this includes, for example, the 'Sacred Grounds' smartphone app, by which they really mean iOS app and "they hope" to make an Android version as well.

For the Design section this of course makes sense.. the iPhone and iPad give a narrow target with lots of users so you're far more likely to gain success with e.g. a stand or enclosure there than you could when designing for any single random Android, BB, WP7 or whatever device.

But also keep in mind it includes such gems as this:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mcnab-lazar/cablegone-cable-managing-solution?ref=category [kickstarter.com]

Now I'm all for cable management solutions, even if there's dozens available in the world that doesn't mean we can't have one more. But the additional quality of this cable management is that it can double as a stand for an iPad, the project summary (as seen in widgets etc.) notes:

Cable.Gone hides the usual clutter and instantly turns your desk into a stylish working space. It can be also used as an iPad stand.

Yes.. then again, it could be used as any tablet stand. It could be used as a laptop stand. Similarly, a two-by-four could also be used as an iPad stand.

So why point out the iPad? Marketing, of course. And not just to end-users, but to KickStarter as well. I've more than once joked to people who are doing innovative tech that if they want to get listed on KickStarter, they should mention an iDevice in some way to increase their odds.
With 1 in 5 projects being iDevice-exclusive or iDevice-targeting in those two sections, I'm not sure I should be treating it as just a joke anymore.

A bit more on-topic.. 'open hardware' is indeed a large portion of the other 4 in 5 projects in those sections - sometimes from the get-go, sometimes after deliberations and popular demand (such as with the HexBright Flex flashlight). 'open software' however lags behind quite a bit with most projects going nowhere fast. In part that's because those projects tend to be vague, and in part it's because there's often no visible ROI. With an indie movie, you get some exclusive images, a downloadable copy, perhaps even the DVD. With hardware you might get a kit to build it yourself, or a pre-assembled thing, or maybe you just get to see that a website that ends up selling the completed products was indeed launched and you get a sticker (hey, whatever you pledge for - it's not a bazaar after all, it's more like an investment round.. rewards are just for enticement). But with software, especially open source software.. what people, or the market, get is often unclear.
E.g. TweetFree: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1100820943/tweetfree-secure-distributed-social-networking-pla?ref=category [kickstarter.com]

Your generous donation will be used to fund continued development of TweetFree, to purchase support contracts for open source software we use and need support on, and to purchase hardware (computers) to run new relay and network servers from.

So in essence, any funding goes into a black box never to be seen, or accounted for, again, if the blurbs are the only thing to go by. And this for a service that vaguely describes itself as something that sounds an awful lot like a VPN network but with limited scope (tweets).

'open software' (note that this doesn't even say 'open source software') has a long way to go on KickStarter.. both from KS's side in doing some QA and in the submitters' side in conveying what it is they're trying to do.

You Fa1l It? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796536)

NIIGER AASOCIATION 'doing something'

If you think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796700)

If you think your idea is worth something, try to sell it. Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is worth gold.

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