Marcin Jakubowski: an appeal for global collaboration on open product development.

From an appeal by Marcin Jakubowski, distributed by email:


I would like to raise the issue of wide collaboration for open source product development.

Sam Rose and I have been in a heated discussion regarding collaboration, and how to align a wide range of people to collaborate more deeply. We’d like to break the bounds to widespread collaboration to open source the entire economy.

We all know that with the success of ubiquitous open source production, the price of goods goes down drastically, everyone benefits, (and non-producers have to get a new job). Indeed, the promise of life beyond scarcity and transcendence to a culture of meaning emerges. I’m speaking to the choir here.

Here is what I think is possible for starting a venerable and world-class R&D process for open product development. Allow me to trace the logic for this possibility, and define the problem statement more clearly.

There is a number of open source projects out there already. The movement is relatively young. Much talent is available. Great toys are being made, much development leads nowhere, and some really important products are created as well. In general, the open source technique for developing products is far from being an effective method for developing economically significant products – ie, those products of wide use that meet real needs.

So I ask us all: “How do we raise the discussion and mobilize resources to propel the world to a much higher quality of life and freedom?” This is the case for open source product development and open enterprise that: (1), meets real needs, (2), is replicable, and as such, (3) begins to form a real, new engine of economics as we know them.

Given the feeble and infantile present status of open product development, let’s take it as a great opportunity, and start with the logic of why the OSPD (open source product development) movement has not taken us any farther, yet. The two main observations that I have are: (1) huge talents exist, and operate without pay, but are being dissipated on self-gratification, namely projects that are of high quality but do not lead society as a whole anywhere – Instructables is full of examples. (2) A large number of physical projects is not focused on interoperable design – or building blocks – pattern languages – for building a wide array of other devices.

The simle solution is to:

1. Align the talent

2. Build building blocks for new economies

Not difficult in theory, but how do we align leaders who are already doing their own non-interoperable endeavors? I’m convinced that there’s a way to align them to turn the entire economy upside down into the open source.

Here is the logic and assumptions. First, we assume that we will be working with a growing number of people who endorse the open source method of development fully. Let’s assume that the leaders want to achieve the highest possible impact with what they are doing. We assume that this impact is measurable. So we look at what each one is doing, and assuming that we can calculate their impact on society in some way, we measure their impact.

So the leaders talk to each other, evaluate what each one is doing, and potentially decide to join each others’ projects if they determine that some project has more potential. This would be an ideal situation.

I think most people do not have the selflessness to appreciate another person’s project if it appears to have higher impact, as people are entrenched in their work for reasons of ego and many other reasons.

So we can’t really rely on people switching over to focus on greater, more integrated, pattern-language-creating work. Many people don’t have the patience, vision, or selflessness. So they continue to compete for audiences, and the greater good is not addressed.

To start addressing the issue of gathering support for acting on the maximum good for the greatest number – i propose the following 3 steps.

1. Clarify to people what it means to have open source, physical products
2. Begin working on open source products. Start with a prioritized list.
3. Fund the project development and make turnkey products available

I explain a little more about this set of steps:

1. Focus on why openness is good, and explain what it really means to be open source. Open source works when someone is able to use a product at the end of the day. To help people understand what it means to have an open source physical product, we have coined OSE Specifications. It is a measure for how accessible and replicable a given physical product is. We have defined OSE Spec to define the highest level of access possible for open source products. See:

2. Since we cannot start by working on all products at once, we must start with key products. These are ones that have the widest range of use, importance, ubiquity. To help identify these products, we have defined a Product Selection Metric, found in Section III of

3. Fund the projects by all means available. We should raise attention to align a large number of projects to begin and deliver those obvious choices around us – cars, renewable energy systems, etc. Write proposals, do microfunding, etc. Deploy a massive parallel effort so that many technologies may be developed at once.

I think we can rally around the OSE Spec. I can openly invite this standard to be change to anything that constitutes a set of criteria for maximum access to open products. I don’t care about the wording – I want people to understand what is required and what promotes the most replicable products. Since I know of no other applied, communicated criteria for open products, I went ahead to define them. I invite us to rate all known projects for their OSE Spec rating. Project leaders can respond and comment on our ratings. The rating will help people understand the status of a project more easily – for example, is documentation available, are the component proprietary or open source, is there someone who can produce the item for you, etc. This is important for me, for example- if a project is developed up to an open enterprise, and it’s a valuable product, then I’d be interested immediately in bringing that production to my local area. The OSE Spec tells you readily at what stage of development or access a given product is. It goes up to a 5 star rating.

The Product Selection Metric helps us define what is important to work on. It tells you, basically, if a certain product has a large market, and if it can be adapted readily to open source, flexible fabrication methods. The Product Selection Metric, a score from 0-60, can be measured. An OS car is a high priority item because cars enjoy a wide market, and also lend themselves to flexible fabrication (if we develop OS components). The selection metric will tell you that a true OS car rates at 60 or close to it. The metric goes so far as to consider how the particular product is made, such that a proprietary car made by GM scores only about 30.

So fellows, I propose that to start aligning deeper and more organized interest in world-class OS product R&D, we start with rating the projects out there. I am hoping that in the process of the work we do, we’ll generate significant interest, and resources will start flooding in, such that more people can benefit directly from the implementation of the open production models that we’re working on.

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