Wednesday, March 18, 2009

5 ways to get involved with the Open Source Hardware bank

It’s been a couple weeks since Matt put up the Open Source Hardware Bank website, and there’s also been a lot of emails (thanks!), so I figured summarize those too in one spot on the blog. In addition to lots of schematics zip files, lots of guys were trying to figure out how to get involved. Unfortunately, I’m not Linus Torvalds, so I’m not a total expert at managing big distributed efforts, so I’m definitely going to be learning along the way.

There seems to be different personality modes I get into… sometimes I’m in “list-mode”, and other times I’m in “bucket-mode”. I’m in bucket mode tonight, so here’s a set of 5 buckets into which most of the emails could be summarized:

A. I'm working on this OSHW project, but I just want to get a couple to use whenever it's ready.
B. Here’s a link to someone else’s project – could the bank make some of these? I could help get it to production faster, or code it, or whatever.
C. I have a little extra pocket cash from the bailout (just kidding), and I could support open source hardware development too.
D. I’m learning and want to learn more about open source hardware.
E. I’m a nobel prize winning economist and I think sustainable community funding for open source projects is an interesting idea, and I want to help. Can you send me your bibliography and a list of citations?

I then looked through the reply emails I’d sent out, and realized that mostly what I was doing was sending out small personal essays about why I thought it was important, and asking for help, and sending links to other stuff. So naturally, here were the links:

A – The general idea is to pre-fund and pre-order hardware. The community would pay upfront and once enough money has been pooled from the community (50 units in the build queue) , the bank fills the remaining 50 units in the queue, and the project goes to production.

B - A few folks suggested that they could probably pitch in a little more to get additional units built, but they didn't really need those extra units. So I built it in as the "Buy 1, Build 1/2/3" option so each person can help fund up to 3 additional units for each one purchased. Here's the play-by-play for how it worked with the Illuminato. (But if you're more a fan of chemical reactions, this might be another way to look at it).

I did this because I wanted to make sure that whatever gets built is at least in some way tied to demand, so there's no runaway speculation (not a good thing!) Matt mentions this as the "anti-bubble" effect that keeps everything well controlled and sustainable :)

C - I'd been talking to Barry, Andrew, Omar and Rob a little about the idea, and they each mentioned being interested in helping out ("This also seemed like a ‘fun’ investment and it can’t do any worse than the market!") Since the role of the bank is to help double the number of units produced to reduce unit cost (the bank funds an additional 50 units once the community has funded 50), the bank needs larger reserves, which come in the form $1000 I-bills. In the "anti-bubble" spirit, opportunities to fund the bank are also limited by demand: I-bills are only for sale when projects are coming close to requiring bank funding and moving to production. I-bill investors are offered 5-15% after 6 months based on how bank-funded units sell. As it's pretty probable that there will be more projects requiring funding than there will be "bank reserves" at any given time, the Open Source Economic Council, composed of I-bill and community investors, will meet monthly to discuss and vote on which projects will be funded.

D - The idea started when Mike and Matt wanted to build a few units of the illuminato, just because they thought it was a neat little thing. When it first went up, quite a few folks were asking about it, and this time around, it's up on Liquidware and OSHWBank, so anyone interested could help buy/build one, and get it one step closer to production.

Like Mike and Matt, Keith, Andrew, and Tim all had some ideas on projects they wanted to build, and figured someone else might like it too. So they submitted a couple ideas over here: (scroll down to "Ideas"). Once these ideas are more fully developed, they will enter the queue for funding and production. And of course, projects that are in fact fully developed, like the EqualizerShield and ButtonShield, could enter the queue immediately.

E – Or "none of the above" :) Jim and Christophe were intrigued by the idea and wanted to help out with some of the complex backend programming, since they happened to be seasoned comp sci experts.


1 comment:

Justin said...

thanks joannah! if you have any other thoughts, i'm all ears :-) feel free to get in touch @ jhuynh at gmail