A Resolution to Redefine SPI Pin Names

Black‌ ‌Lives‌ ‌Matter.‌ ‌We‌ ‌stand‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Black‌ ‌community‌ ‌and‌ ‌we‌ ‌choose‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌actively‌ ‌anti-racist,‌ ‌work‌ ‌towards‌ ‌racial‌ ‌equity,‌ ‌and‌ ‌against‌ ‌White‌ ‌supremacy.‌ ‌As‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌this,‌ ‌we‌ ‌are‌ ‌taking‌ ‌steps‌ ‌here‌ ‌in‌ ‌our‌ ‌community.‌ ‌ 

‌The‌ ‌words‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌use‌ ‌have‌ ‌an‌ ‌impact.‌ ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌time‌ ‌to‌ ‌remove‌ ‌the‌ ‌words‌ ‌which‌ ‌describe‌ ‌a‌ ‌morally‌ ‌repugnant‌ ‌relationship,‌ ‌“Master”‌ ‌and‌ ‌“Slave”,‌ ‌from‌ ‌our‌ ‌technical‌ ‌vocabulary.‌ ‌These‌ ‌terms‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌used‌ ‌for‌ ‌decades‌ ‌to‌ ‌describe‌ ‌the‌ ‌relationship‌ ‌between‌ ‌hardware‌ ‌components.‌ ‌Some‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌standards‌ ‌and‌ ‌interfaces‌ ‌that‌ ‌use‌ ‌this‌ ‌terminology‌ ‌include‌ ‌SPI,‌ ‌I2C,‌ ‌Wishbone,‌ ‌AXI,‌ ‌SD,‌ ‌RapidI/O,‌ ‌and‌ ‌MIPI‌ ‌DSI.‌ ‌ ‌

By‌ ‌way‌ ‌of‌ ‌example,‌ ‌the‌ ‌SPI‌ ‌(Serial‌ ‌Peripheral‌ ‌Interface)‌ ‌protocol‌ ‌specifies‌ ‌logic‌ ‌signals‌ ‌with‌ ‌names‌ ‌including‌ ‌MOSI‌ ‌(Master‌ ‌Output‌ ‌Slave‌ ‌Input),‌ ‌MISO‌ ‌(Master‌ ‌Input‌ ‌Slave‌ ‌Output),‌ ‌and‌ ‌SS‌ ‌(Slave‌ ‌Select).‌ ‌This‌ ‌is‌ ‌unacceptable.‌ ‌ 

‌These‌ ‌signals‌ ‌in‌ ‌SPI‌ ‌–‌ ‌along‌ ‌with‌ ‌those‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌protocols‌ ‌–‌ ‌should‌ ‌not‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌named‌ ‌this‌ ‌way.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌so,‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌well‌ ‌past‌ ‌time‌ ‌to‌ ‌change‌ ‌them.‌ ‌Any‌ ‌number‌ ‌of‌ ‌individuals‌ ‌and‌ ‌organizations‌ ‌have‌ ‌already‌ ‌adopted‌ ‌alternative‌ ‌nomenclature,‌ ‌but‌ ‌we‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌community‌ ‌have‌ ‌thus‌ ‌far‌ ‌failed‌ ‌to‌ ‌take‌ ‌the‌ ‌collective‌ ‌action‌ ‌necessary‌ ‌to‌ ‌establish‌ ‌a‌ ‌new‌ ‌convention‌ ‌and‌ ‌eliminate‌ ‌these‌ ‌legacy‌ ‌names‌ ‌from‌ ‌common‌ ‌use.‌ ‌ ‌

Effective‌ ‌immediately,‌ ‌we‌ ‌call‌ ‌upon‌ ‌hardware‌ ‌and‌ ‌software‌ ‌developers‌ ‌to‌ ‌fully‌ ‌and‌ ‌widely‌ ‌adopt‌ ‌the‌ ‌‌Resolution‌ ‌to‌ ‌Redefine‌ ‌SPI‌ ‌Pin‌ ‌Names‌.‌ ‌While‌ ‌acknowledging‌ ‌that‌ ‌change‌ ‌has‌ ‌its‌ ‌costs,‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌excuse‌ ‌for‌ ‌any‌ ‌member‌ ‌of‌ ‌our‌ ‌community‌ ‌or‌ ‌industries‌ ‌to‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌reference‌ ‌“Master”‌ ‌and‌ ‌“Slave”‌ ‌as‌ ‌technical‌ ‌terms‌ ‌going‌ ‌forward.‌ ‌We‌ ‌will‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌work‌ ‌on‌ ‌other‌ ‌standards.‌ ‌ ‌

‌The‌ ‌Open‌ ‌Source‌ ‌movement‌ ‌must‌ ‌be‌ ‌built‌ ‌on‌ ‌inclusion,‌ ‌not‌ ‌exclusion.‌ ‌Dismantling‌ ‌systems‌ ‌of‌ ‌oppression‌ ‌require‌ ‌conscious,‌ ‌coordinated,‌ ‌and‌ ‌sustained‌ ‌effort.‌ ‌Although‌ ‌removing‌ ‌racist‌ ‌terms‌ ‌from‌ ‌hardware‌ ‌standards‌ ‌is‌ ‌important,‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌obviously‌ ‌only‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌work‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌done.‌ ‌We‌ ‌call‌ ‌on‌ ‌our‌ ‌community‌ ‌to‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌light‌ ‌and‌ ‌help‌ ‌us‌ ‌address‌ ‌and‌ ‌remove‌ ‌other‌ ‌sources‌ ‌of‌ ‌systemic‌ ‌oppression‌ ‌within‌ ‌the‌ ‌open‌ ‌hardware‌ ‌and‌ ‌technology‌ ‌communities‌ ‌we’ve‌ ‌helped‌ ‌build‌ ‌and‌ ‌sustain.‌ ‌ ‌

Read the full Resolution

The‌ ‌Open‌ ‌Source‌ ‌Hardware‌ ‌Association‌ ‌

Comments are off for this post.

Black Lives Matter.

Image: Public Domain  Credit: Black Lives Matter Organization

Black Lives Matter. Ending systemic racism matters.

It’s no secret that the entire tech industry, open hardware included, has had a long standing shortfall in diversity. There are many people who have studied and shared stories about being Black in tech. With the recent events bringing systemic racism to the forefront in America, each industry should be doing some massive soul searching, figuring out ways in which their industry can better themselves and be more inclusive. 

Open source culture has been problematic for minorities as long as it has been around. The Open Hardware Movement was acutely aware of this issue when we became a formal organization and baked diversity into our mission at OSHWA. Here are the steps that OSHWA takes to embrace diversity at our annual Open Hardware Summit.  We urge other organizations to take similar actions:

  • All of our Summits since 2013 have had a Code of Conduct – with a reporting mechanism – to provide a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. 

  • Since 2013, OSHWA has provided travel grants to our Summit for minority participation through the Ada Lovelace Fellowship. These grants were initially created for women, but opened up to all minorities in our community a few years back. Each year, one third of our entire Summit budget goes to bringing minorities to the Open Hardware Summit. This allows about 10 participants to travel to and attend the Summit who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

  • We invite 25% of our speakers each year to ensure diversity on a number of levels. The other 75% of speakers go through a self-nomination and review process. We review this process every year, and began taking steps in March to further improve its ability to identify a diverse group of speakers for the 2021 Summit.

We recognize these are small steps. As a community, we can agree the bare minimum is listening to minority groups and believing them. We can do more. Take action. Act as an ally. Donate to organizations that support Black/BIPOC priorities. Amplify the voices of Black people in tech. Invite people from historically excluded groups to talk about their research and careers and compensate them fairly for their time and effort. Include and recognize the importance of historically excluded people and their perspectives at every level of the research and development process for technology projects. Stop the usage of racist and oppressive terminology. Educate yourself on how to talk about race. Ijeoma Oluo has a book entitled So You Want to Talk About Race and Jay Smooth has some excellent videos on talking about race.

We hope that the open hardware community joins us to take this opportunity to reflect on the current state of our community, and to continue acting to make open source hardware a welcoming space for everyone.  

Charla virtual de OSHWA: ‘Tecnología es nombre de mujer’ / Online talk: ‘Technology is a woman’s name’ – Elisabeth Lorenzi

Elisabeth Lorenzi / Batería de lana (wool battery)

Desde OSHWA continuamos con la serie de charlas virtuales sobre Open Hardware. El próximo encuentro será una presentación y discusión con Elisabeth Lorenzi, artista y tecnologista de Madrid. / In continuation of our series of virtual Open Hardware talks with OSHWA, we’d like to announce a presentation and discussion by Elisabeth Lorenzi, an artist and technologist from Madrid.

Viernes, 3 Julio @ 11:00am ET / Friday, July 3 @ 11:00am ET

Ahora puedes ver el video aquí: / You can now watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ1_NgEvpgM (english subtitles will be posted soon)

La charla se transmitirá en vivo por YouTube por el canal de OSHWA: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_V6IvwN25x7fyaOCfMrHfg  

Para unirse a la discusión, visita el canal #oshwtalks en el servidor Discord de OSHWA: https://discord.gg/dc6x8D

The talk will be streamed live on OSHWA’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_V6IvwN25x7fyaOCfMrHfg  

(video link, translation coming soon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ1_NgEvpgM)

English translation (in text) will be provided in the #oshwtalks channel of our Discord server as well. 

Células solares de gelatin / Gelatin solar cells

Bio

De perfil poliédrico y transdisciplinar, mi trabajo se caracteriza por la incorporación de una mirada sociocultural a la hora de abordar el análisis de los mecanismos los innovación social en el campo textil, un profundo conocimiento de las metodologías cualitativas de investigación social, combinados con una capacidad técnica para proyectar el análisis en el prototipado, la documentación y el diseño textil.

Antes llevaba una vida doble. Profesionalmente, me dedicaba a la investigación social y la intervención sociocomunitaria. En mi tiempo libre me encantaba la creación textil. Hoy en día, ambas partes de mi vida coexisten a través de la investigación sobre tecnología y sostenibilidad

English: Polyhedric and transdisciplinary, my work incorporates a sociocultural view while addressing the analysis of the mechanisms of social innovation in the field of textiles, a deep understanding of qualitative social research methods, and a technical capacity for projecting analysis into prototypes, documentation, and textile design. 

Before, I lived a double life. Professionally, I dedicated myself to social research and socio-community intervention. In my free time, I loved textile crafts. Today, both parts of my life co-exist by means of my research in technology and sustainability.

https://elisabethlorenzi.wordpress.com/biografia/ / @elisabeth.lorenzi


Resumen

Si me tengo que definir, investigar es mi foco de acción. Aplico perspectivas etnográficas en la materialización de dispositivos electrónicos. Busco evidenciar como ha influido la brecha de género a la hora de conformar el sentido, el aspecto y los materiales de lo que hoy en día entendemos por tecnología. La pregunta que vertebra mi trabajo es la siguiente ¿Que hubiera pasado si la electrónica y la robótica se hubiese conformado en los espacios que estaban destinados a las mujeres?

En la manipulación de materiales y creación de dispositivos desarrollo dos lineas de trabajo. Una es “Electrónica Biodegradable” que pretende crear componentes electrónicos a partir de los avances que se están desarrollando en la investigación de bioplásticos. La otra es Power Textil: creación de materiales y prototipos de electrónica textil desde la aplicación de técnicas tradicionales de trabajo de la fibra textil.

English: If I have to define myself, research is my focus of action. I apply ethnographic perspectives in the materialization of electronic devices. I search for evidence of the influences of the gender gap as well as how it has shaped the sense, aspect, and materials of what today we understand as technology. The backbone of my work is the following question: What might have happened if electronics and robotics had conformed to spaces intended for women? 

In the manipulation of materials and creation of devices, I  have developed two lines of work. One is “Biodegradable Electronics” which attempts to create electronic components using emerging advances in bioplastics research. The other is Power Textile: the creation of materials and prototypes of electronic textiles through traditional fiber textile techniques.

2020 Open Source Hardware Community Survey

About seven years after our last survey, it’s time for the 2020 Open Source Hardware Community Survey! These surveys help OSHWA understand who makes up the community, engagement with OSHW projects, and identify changes over time. The results will be aggregated and made publicly available once the survey is complete.

The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. To add your voice, take the survey here.

Curious about the results of the 2013 survey? See our results here.

Join us! Our first OSHW talk: Open Source Nostalgia

Join OSHWA this Wednesday, April 22nd, at 1:00 PM MDT (3:00 PM EDT /
12:00 PM PDT / 7:00 PM UTC) for a live virtual talk:
Open Source Nostalgia
Speaker: Libi Rose Striegl

Using open source projects to enable modern use of retro-tech is a
foundational part of my art practice. Open source practices are a
central part of my teaching. This forms a base for art and teaching
around technology that is empowering and joyful while still coming
from a place of critical learning.

OSHWA YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_V6IvwN25x7fyaOCfMrHfg
Date/Time converter:
https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?msg=Open+Source+Nostalgia+talk&iso=20200422T19

Join #oshwtalks on the OSHWA (@ohsummit) discord
https://discordapp.com/invite/38C57Uf

Open Source Hardware in the era of COVID-19

The human race has a moral responsibility to share knowledge during crises. While this statement is obvious to the open hardware community, the COVID-19 crisis is showing the world just how important collaboration is to finding efficient, effective, and available solutions. We are seeing in real time that open source hardware works.

This is not the first disaster to prove this point. During the Fukushima disaster an open source geiger counter helped collect and publish data useful for communities. We are seeing a similar open source trend in the shortage of various forms of medical equipment (aka hardware) with COVID-19. 

Medtronic has put a license on their ventilator design that institutes a share alike clause (albeit with limits on time and usage). While their efforts don’t fit squarely into the Open Source Hardware definition, (you have to sign up to access the files), it shows the world that in the face of disaster, normally closed companies do find the benefits of open sourcing helpful. Likewise, it is wonderful to see Ford leveraging an open source design to increase the manufacturing capacity of face shields. 

We are encouraged to see medical supply guidelines posted and online groups created to rally around open sourcing solutions. There is an Open COVID Pledge with regard to Intellectual Property. There are a tremendous number of researchers and makers creating open source projects to help keep us safe. It’s been amazing to see the life saving collaboration across the world, including the first two OSHWA Certified projects, the Creator Transfer Chamber and Reamima. Please keep it up! Movement toward openness and sharing will benefit humanity.

A Word of Caution

While the open source movement is receiving extra attention, it is important to remember that open source is not a replacement for quality control or regulatory approval. Open source is a powerful approach to creating, sharing, and improving hardware but it does not automatically create hardware that works in all situations or complies with relevant regulations. When you release open hardware make sure to include the quality control and other standards that apply to your hardware so that others can use it appropriately and responsibly.

Why Open Source 

The response to the COVID-19 crisis has vividly illustrated the power of open source hardware. The open source approach to hardware development has allowed people all over the world to come together and collaboratively design, test, and improve hardware. Hardware can then be manufactured where it is needed rather than built and shipped causing additional strains on the global supply chain. And perhaps most powerful of all, as we’ve seen with the Medtronic design, open hardware can be quickly modified to fit locally available parts and conditions. 

How to Open Source your Hardware

Open sourcing your hardware means you’ll post your design files openly on the internet with the intent that people will be able to copy, modify or build upon your design and sell it. Our checklist can help make sure that you are taking all of the steps necessary to truly open source your hardware. While putting files up on the internet is an important step in open sourcing your hardware, it is also important to make sure you have documented and licensed your hardware in a way that allows others to use, modify, and improve your hardware. The open source hardware definition flags potential pitfalls, and the open source hardware certification program provides many examples of open source hardware done to the Open Source Hardware Association’s standards. Questions on how to open source your hardware? Drop us a line: info@oshwa.org

New CERN Open Source Hardware Licenses Mark A Major Step Forward

Earlier this month CERN (yes, that CERN) announced version 2.0 of their open hardware licenses (announcement and additional context from them). Version 2.0 of the license comes in three flavors of permissiveness and marks a major step forward in open source hardware (OSHW) licensing. It is the result of seven (!) years of work by a team lead by Myriam Ayass, Andrew Katz, and Javier Serrano. Before getting to what these licenses are doing, this post will provide some background on why open source hardware licensing is so complicated in the first place.

While the world of open source software licensing is full of passionate disputes, everyone more or less agrees on one basic point: software is fully protected by copyright. Software is ‘born closed’ because the moment it is written it is automatically protected by copyright. If the creator of that software wants to share it with others, she needs to affirmatively give others permission to build on it. In doing so she can be confident that her license covers 100% of the software.

At least at an abstract level, that makes open source software licenses fairly binary: either there is no license or there is a license that covers everything.

Things are not as clean in open source hardware. Hardware includes software (sometimes). It also includes actual hardware, along with documentation that is distinct from both. Hardware’s software is protected by copyright. The hardware itself could be protected by an idiosyncratic mix of rights (more on that in a second) that include copyright, patent, and even trademark. The result of this is, at a minimum, an OSHW license needs to be aware of the fact that there may be many moving intellectual property pieces connected to a single piece of hardware – a fairly stark contrast to open source software’s ‘everything covered by copyright’ situation.

OSHW Licenses are Hard 2: Coverage is Hard to Generalize

The (at least superficially) straightforward relationship between software and copyright makes it easy to give generalized advice about licensing and to develop licenses that are useful in a broad range of situations. A lawyer can be fairly confident that the advice “you need a copyright license” is correct for any software package even without having to look at the software itself. That, in turn, means it is safe for non-lawyers to adopt “I need a copyright license for my software” as a rule of thumb, confident that it will be correct in the vast majority of cases. It also means that software developers can be confident that the obligations they impose on downstream users – like an obligation to share any contributions to the software – are legally enforceable.

As suggested above, hardware can be much more idiosyncratic. The physical elements of hardware might be protected by copyright – in whole or in part – or they might not. That means that the hardware might be born closed like software, or it might be born open, free of automatic copyright protection, and available for sharing without the need for a license. The flip side of this ambiguity is that a creator may be able to enforce obligations on future users (such as the classic copyleft sharing obligations) for some hardware, but not for other hardware. Expectations misalignment with regards to these kinds of obligations can create problems for creators and users alike.

All of this means that it can be hard to create a reliable software-style licensing rule of thumb for OSHW creators. Many OSHW creators end up following the practices of projects that went before them and hoping for the best. In fact, this ‘follow others’ model is the premise for the educational guidance that the OSHWA makes available.

OSHWA’s Approach

One of the many questions all of this sets up is a bundling vs breakout approach to licensing. Is it better to try and create an omni-license that covers the IP related to software, hardware, and documentation for OSHW, or to suggest users pick three licenses – one for software, one for hardware, and one for documentation? A creator could make very different choices about sharing the three elements, so the omni approach could get complicated fast. At the same time, having three distinct licenses is a lot more complicated than just having one.

OSHWA ultimately decided to go with the three license approach in our certification program. This was driven in part by the realization that there were already mature licenses for software (OSI-approved open source software licenses) and documentation (Creative Commons licenses). That allowed OSHWA to take a “don’t do anything new if you can avoid it” approach to licensing education. It also required us to recommend licenses for hardware.

Existing OSHW Licenses

While many open source hardware creators use software (such as the GPL) or documentation (Creative Commons) licenses for hardware, neither of those licenses were really written with hardware in mind. Fortunately, there were three existing hardware licenses. OSHWA provided a quick comparison between the three licenses: CERN 1.2, Solderpad, and TAPR. Although all of these licenses were good first steps, they were all developed fairly early in the history of open source hardware. Solderpad and TAPR in particular were essentially designed to add hardware wrappers to existing open source software licenses.

CERN 2.0

CERN’s 2.0 licenses have been informed by all of the developments and thinking around open source hardware and licensing in the seven years between the release of 1.2 and today. In recognition that creators may be interested in multiple types of openness and obligations on downstream users, they come in the flavors: the strongly reciprocal S variant, the weakly reciprocal W variant, and the permissive P variant. While this structure makes it hard to mix reciprocities (by, for example, requiring strong reciprocity on documentation and weak reciprocity on the hardware itself), they provide a clear way for hardware creators to license the hardware portion of their projects. This is a deeply reasonable approach.

CERN’s ‘Available Components’

One evergreen question for open source hardware is ‘open down to what?’ Your design may be open, but does that mean that all of your components have to be open as well? Did you have to use open source software to create the design? Running on an open source operating system? Running on open source silicon?

OSHWA’s certification program addressed this question with the concept of the ‘creator contribution.’ The idea is that the creator must make available and openly license everything within her power to make available and open. Generally those will be her designs, code, and documentation. It is fine to include components sourced from third parties (even non-open components) as long as they are generally available without requiring an NDA to access.

CERN’s ‘available component’ definition achieves much the same goal. As long as a component is generally and readily available, and described with enough information to understand their interfaces, they do not themselves have to be open. Of course, both the contours of the creator contribution and available component may vary from hardware to hardware. Hopefully time and experience will help give us all a better sense of how to draw the lines.

Let’s See How it Goes

This post has mostly focused on the CERN license’s role in helping making ‘born closed’ components more open through licensing. There is a flip side to all of this: what happens when a license is used on a ‘born open’ piece of hardware. That can give both users and creators a distorted sense of their obligations when using a piece of hardware. However, that is probably a problem for public education, not license design.

This is an exciting time for open source hardware. CERN’s new license is a big step forward in licensing. As it is adopted and used we will learn what works, what doesn’t, and what tweaks might be helpful. The best way to do that is to use it yourself and see how it fits.

How We Made the Open Hardware Summit All Virtual in Less Than a Week

Screenshot from a panel discussion

First, thank you again to everyone – speakers, participants, and sponsors – for a fantastic 10th anniversary Open Hardware Summit.  We knew the 10th anniversary Summit would be one for the ages, although we didn’t quite expect it to be because it became the first virtual Summit. 

Thanks to the timing of the Summit, the 10th anniversary Summit ended up being many people’s first virtual summit of the Covid-19 era (that includes the organizers).  Unfortunately it looks like it is unlikely to be the last. In the hopes of helping event organizers struggling with the same challenges, this blog post outlines the decisions we made and the steps we took to make it happen.

Quick Context

The Open Hardware Summit is an annual gathering of the open source hardware community held by the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA).  This year OSHWA partnered with the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU Law to host the event in New York City.  The event usually brings together hundreds of community members and speakers from around the world.  It was scheduled for March 13, 2020.

While the situation has been evolving for some time, as recently as March 5th (8 days before the Summit) we thought that holding a reduced in-person version of the event was the right decision.  By March 8 (5 days before the Summit) that was no longer tenable and we announced that the Summit was going all virtual.  That was the right decision, but what does going all virtual mean?

Priorities

We had two major priorities for the virtual Summit:

  1. Online streaming video of all of the speakers and panels.
  2. A community space for discussions and coming together.

Video

The live stream of the Summit had to be both accessible to our viewers and easy to join for our speakers and panelists.  After considering some options and consulting with experts in our community (huge thank you to Phil Torrone at Adafruit for the guidance), we concluded that a combination of YouTube and StreamYard would be the best option.

YouTube worked for our community because it is easily accessible on a wide range of platforms in most of the world.  That meant that just about everyone would be able to see the Summit from wherever they were.

StreamYard made it easy to manage the backend.  Speakers could join a virtual green room before their talk and our technical testing the day before the Summit made it clear that it was easy for them to share their slide presentations as well.  One of the members of the Summit team was able to easily add and remove people (and their screens) to the live feed, along with stills and slides for introductions, sponsors, and everything else.

Community Space

We also looked at a number of options for online discussions.  We decided that a discord server would be the best option for the open source hardware community. Discord allowed us to open the space to anyone who wanted to join, while at the same time giving us moderation control over the discussion (huge thank you for Lenore Edman from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories for jumping in as a moderator).  Many community members were already comfortable with discord, which was also a bonus.

We also decided to use discord for a version of Q&A for the speakers.  One option would have been to try and integrate video questions from the audience into the live stream. That would have been technically possible with StreamYard (probably…), but it seemed like an unnecessary logistical complication for the organizers.  As an alternative we decided to set up separate discord channels for each of the speakers. That allowed the speakers to end their talk and move to their discord channel for further discussions.

One unexpected and welcome development was that the discord server grew into a larger community hub, with channels devoted to solutions to Covid-19, community announcements, hacking the conference badge, and even virtual conference tips.  We may decide to maintain the server well beyond the Summit as a community space.

It Mostly Worked

We scheduled brief runthroughs with all of the speakers the day before the Summit. Everyone had a chance to get comfortable with the process and work out any last minute problems.  On the day of the Summit we embedded the livestream in the Summit site, along with a link to the discord server for discussion. There were a few audio glitches where speakers had to briefly drop out, but all things considered it went pretty smoothly.

Once the Summit was over the entire livestream of the Summit was posted automatically to OSHWA’s YouTube channel.  Within a day or two we had broken out all of the individual talks into a video playlist and pulled the audio from our panel discussion into a stand alone podcast episode.

To the extent that things worked, one of the big reasons was the nature of the OSHWA community.  Besides being generally great and supportive (no small thing), the open source hardware community already sees itself as a community and is already comfortable with connecting via online tools.  That made it easy for them to enthusiastically watch the live stream and jump into the online discussion. Not all types of events have this starting point, which may suggest that they are not great candidates for this type of virtual structure.

If you are reading this because you are working on your own virtual event, good luck!  We are happy to answer questions if you have them. Email us at info@oshwa.org. StreamYard also has a referral program, so if you drop us a line at info@oshwa.org we can give you a $10 credit if you want it.

The 2020 Open Hardware Summit is Going Virtual

In our last update we promised to continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and to update the community as things evolved. Today we are announcing that things have evolved, and explaining what that means for the community and the Summit.

  1. We are switching to an all-virtual summit for 2020.  We are coordinating with speakers to move all presentations to streaming online video.  You can expect a schedule similar to the one we have already announced, as well as a robust set of online chat options for the community to discuss the day’s events.
  2. We also still plan on holding the pre-party happy hour the evening of March 12 for community members who are in NYC.  The happy hour is free to anyone who is able to attend. If you are in the area we look forward to seeing you there.  However, we do not recommend traveling to NYC just for the happy hour.  
  3. We continue to offer full refunds on tickets to anyone who has purchased tickets to the Summit.  Contact info@oshwa.org for more details.
  4. We will be sending full swag bags to all ticket holders.
  5. Next year’s summit will be in NYC again on April 9, 2021. Mark your calendars!

While we are sorry to have to make this change, we are still excited about this year’s Summit.   We have a fantastic lineup of speakers and even more OSHWA announcements planned. While we know that many members of our community will be disappointed not to be able to see each other in person this year, we look forward to seeing all of you virtually on Friday and in person in 2021.

Thank you all again for being part of the open source hardware community!