Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Community Arduino Projects

What is a community? Merriam-Webster gives 12 different (slightly) different definitions. But is the notion of community really that hard to pin down? Not really. But because it’s so commonly defined by its context, the dictionary gives us a few of the most used contexts. Taking a quick glance across the entries, it seems that a community has to do with individuals having something in common. They probably interact with each other too. What that “something” is…well, it depends. In our case, that “something” is electronics. Hardware. It’s what brings us together, and it’s what brought you to Antipasto.

I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to work, but I figure I’ll go out on a limb, and the rest of you can refine what I’ve got. Each individual in the community can share something or receive something, but preferably both. Within our world of open-source hardware, this is especially important.

So within our Arduino community, right now, when I get stuck, I can expect someone to help me out and when another fellow Arduino-er needs a hand, hopefully I can pitch in. But this seems like a one-off situation, where people interact far less than they could…and get far less from the experience. Right now, it seems the common link is simply the platform that serves as the foundation for all these individual projects. Wouldn’t it be far more useful if the project were the common link?

With the platform being the common link, individual users only see the common problems that others encounter, and then use solutions to those problems to work on their own tasks and projects. It’s probably likely that many people are working on the same projects as we speak, and they just don’t know about it. Maybe they’ve run into different problems along the way. And until the very end (which there usually isn’t), neither would know that there is someone else doing just what they’re doing. That’s an example of fine brainpower being used to work on something that’s already been done.

One of the benefits of open source is that time and resources are spent most efficiently because projects can leverage work that has already been done, or that someone is already working on. As a community, we need to be project-oriented, not problem-oriented. If you can make the projects the common link, each person will work on a component that still needs to be done, and a clear link is made between the project and each piece of the problem. While this is great for the overall structure of the community, it's time to think about what guides our interactions.

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