Category Archives: marketing

Year of Open Source 2013 Calendar

Year of Open Source is a lifestyle and documentary project by Sam Muirhead. He is spending a year replacing as much as possible of what he does with open source alternatives.

As part of his fundraising effort he came up with the cleverest reward that I’ve seen in a long time: a swimsuit calendar featuring many of the world’s open source technology leaders. Of course, I had to have one, and now I do, hot off the presses from Berlin. If looking at mine isn’t enough for you then you can get your own, or just creep middle-aged cartoons in speedos, right here.

year of open source 2013 calendar

 

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Ford Officially Backing Open Source 3D Printers

In a press release Ford Motor Company bragged about using 3D printing in general, and the open source Makerbot Thing-O-Matic in particular, to develop some of the smaller plastic parts for its vehicles. Zack Nelson, the engineer in the video, lists the easy availability of design files and community support as benefits to using the open source machine.

The full text of the press release is after the jump.

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The Amp Hour #114

I think this episode of The Amp Hour is a nice segue from Makerbot’s open/closed source fiasco.

After an introduction about winter and new jobs they discuss the Replicator 2 and Pettis’ abysmal message control. Then they talk about how Kickstarter has recently changed their rules for hardware projects.

In the blog post Kickstarter Is Not a Store we find that Kickstarter is getting a little tired of the vaporware shenanigans that have been going on.

Today we’re introducing a number of changes to reinforce that Kickstarter isn’t a store — it’s a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things…Today we added a new section to the project page called “Risks and Challenges.” All project creators are now required to answer the following question when creating their project: “What are the risks and challenges this project faces, and what qualifies you to overcome them?”

Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development. Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.

Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.

There’s discussion about not allowing simulations over on Core77.

It’s possible that Kickstarter changed their rules in response to the LIFX LED lightbulb project. They asked for $100,000 and with 50 days to go they already have $1,311,863. However, they are claiming to be able to build and ship an LED lightbulb, which is something that established manufacturers have failed to do for a long time. It looks like Kickstarter is trying to protect themselves (and their users) from the implication that a project is much farther along then it actually is. Understandably they don’t want people dumping a million dollars into a project that simply can’t go anywhere because of the laws of physics. Reuters really took a magnifying glass to the LIFX project and their analysis wasn’t pretty.

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Bre Pettis Of Makerbot Tries Again (Emphasis On Try)

If anyone was suffering under the illusion that Makerbot had suddenly become an evil company that was plotting evil and evily being evil, then Pettis’ new post should put those fears to rest.

Pettis, on behalf of Makerbot, tried to rephrase his original message to the community.

For what it’s worth (I’ve never run a million dollar business), I agree with Makerbot’s business decision(s). The hacker community just isn’t big enough, by itself, to allow Makerbot to grow. Also for what it’s worth (I won’t pretend to speak for anyone else), I agree with Makerbot’s ethical decision(s). Open source means releasing your work for other people to do with as they will. There are no takesies-backsies. If you were a big enough person to use an open souce license (or no license) in the first place then don’t suddenly become a small person when somebody actually does something with the work you released.

What I have a problem with is the thing that illustrates that Makerbot actually IS fumbling their way through uncharted terrain: even with all of his experience as a teacher, and a geek-media personality, and the face of Makerbot, and with a couple days of feedback…Pettis still can’t figure out how to talk about the Replicator 2 being closed source.

  • He can’t decide if the Replicator 2 is “groundbreaking” because it’s brand new or if it’s exactly the same as the open source Replicator with a few minor alterations for mass production
  • He regularly conflates ethical decisions with financial ones
  • He implies that the customers who bought Cupcakes and whatnot when the Makerbot founders were eating Ramen don’t respect the machines because they’d rather “break” them than use them to make other things
  • He plays lip service to valuing the discussion, but only quotes people who agree with him
  • He has been intimately involved in open source hardware, and business, for as long as anyone relevant but he can’t come up with any specific “wonderful benefits” of corporate/community collaboration
  • Finally, he expresses a desire to be credited with “love and support for the sharers of the world” but also wants credit for making the Replicator 2 (and the implication is all subsequent printers) “more user friendly but less hacker friendly”

This shouldn’t be interpreted as a condemnation. I think these contradictions illustrate that Makerbot really is unsure of its position, both economically and philosophically. There are some real issues here. But, Pettis’ failure to deal with them clearly comes of as Machiavellian. I still put enough trust in Makerbot and Pettis to assume that they aren’t being Machiavellian, but apparently they jumped over that shark in the eyes of a significant percentage of the community.

I don’t think it was really the closed product that did it; I think it was the bush-league way Makerbot handled (and is still handling) the community’s concerns. There’s no way they would have done this much damage to their reputation on purpose; the only plausible explanation is that they are legitimately confused.

I think this quote sums it up, “If we are not entirely clear, it’s because we are searching ourselves!

However, Pettis should probably find someone else to write his Open Hardware Summit speech.

An interesting bit of history is this interview with Make Magazine right after that infamous $10M of VC funding. For what it’s worth, here is what Pettis had to say at the time:

  • Does funding change the commitment to open source hardware?
  • The funding doesn’t change our commitment to being open source. Why would we change a winning strategy?…In the future, people will remember businesses that refused to share with their customers and wonder how they could be so backwards…I think people worry on our behalf that as an open hardware company, we’ll get knocked off and undercut. First of all, that happens all the time to businesses that are not open hardware. In order to be truly competitive, we’ve got to keep rocking it!
  • What do the investors believe they are investing in? Since open source hardware “gives away” some of the IP usually associated with investments, do they understand that others could make MakerBots too?
  • The investors are investing in us as innovators and our ability to execute on a vision. Being open source means that our users are our best collaborators. Open source hardware is a viable business model!
  • The usual goal for VC firms is to have the company they invest in get acquired or go public. Where do they want to see MakerBot go? Where do you want MakerBot to go?
  • Our plan is to make the world a more innovative place filled with MakerBots.
  • Now that you’ve got “real money” at play, are you worried about people coming after you over patents? Is MakerBot mostly patent-free? Or are we going to see a good chunk of that 10 mil go towards lawyers? Before, you likely weren’t worth the trouble, but now?
  • It’s going to be hard to figure out how to be an open hardware company that lives in the open source future while protecting ourselves from the proprietary ways of the contemporary patent system.
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The Definitive Makerbot Open vs Closed Source Discussion

I did my best to document all the different points of view that are relevant to the open source hardware world but are spread all over the interwebs.

The original Makerbot founders.

This post got big, fast. Really big. After the jump you can find key quotes from Bre Pettis, Zachary Smith (Hoeken), Adrian Bowyer, Josef Prusa, etc.

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Bre Pettis Responds To Comments

It looks like damage control is the first thing on today’s to-do list. Bre Pettis responded to many of the comments on his original blog post.

His overall point seems to be that he’s not going to be, or can’t be, more specific because there just isn’t a clearly defined business model for what they’re doing.

Folks really want a black or white answer, but in my experience, it just doesn’t work that way when combining open source, hardware, and business. There is an open hardware definition, but it’s a far throw from a business model.

I’m not convinced that open source hardware is actually a business model.

I’d rather experiment and develop a business model that shares obsessively while still being sustainable and creating jobs…

I totally get that people wish we would fail or die trying. You are catching us at a moment where we are trying to figure out how to share as much as possible without failing

I used to think that open source automatically meant winning. I’m not convinced that is all it takes any more. I believe that tenacity, growth, collaboration, hard work and being able to compete with non-open competitors are all critical in being sustainable as a business.

There is an open hardware definition, but there isn’t a clear business model. Sorry for the orwellian feel, I’m trying to be clear about where we’re at and the challenges we have.

 

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Makerbot Replicator 2 Announced

The announcement.

They don’t seem to have released the design files yet, but they are moving up-market with phenomenal speed. This one is pro-sumer and their website is all grey-tones and flash and they’re releasing new software as well. I wonder how long they’ll continue to support their old hardware.

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