Fixing Misinformation with Information

There is some misinformation that I’d like to clear up.

Question 1: Is the MakerBot Replicator 2 Open Source?

We’re working that out and we are going to be as open as we possibly can while building a sustainable business. We are going to continue to respect licenses and continue to contribute to the open technology of 3D printing, some of which we initiated. We don’t want to abuse the goodwill and support of our community. We love what we do, we love sharing, and we love what our community creates. I believe strongly that businesses that share will be the winners of tomorrow and I don’t think that’s a secret. Even companies like Google and IBM are embracing open source and finding new ways to share these days.

I’m looking forward to having conversations with folks at the Open Hardware Summit to talk about how MakerBot can share as much as possible, support it’s 150 employees with jobs, make awesome hardware, and be sustainable. Will we have to experiment to make this happen? Yes, and it’s going to take a lot of collaboration, cooperation, and understanding.

I wish there were more examples of large, successful open hardware companies. From a business perspective, we’ve been absurdly open, more open than any other business I know. There are no models or companies that I know of that have more than 150 employees that are more open. (Would love to be wrong, but I don’t think I am.) We are experimenting so that we can be as open as possible and still have a business at the end of the day. Will we be successful? I hope so, but even if we are not, everyone will find out that either being as open as possible is a good thing for business or that nobody should do it, or something in between. I personally hope that we succeed, not just because I love what people make with MakerBots and I love the employees that make these machines but because I believe that MakerBot as a business can create a new model for businesses to learn from. I don’t plan on letting the vulnerabilities of being open hardware destroy what we’ve created.

The most successful open source hardware businesses that I know are businesses that create educational projects. Adafruit, Evil Mad Science, and Sparkfun are all doing awesome. Companies like Chumby and OpenMoko didn’t make it, despite having really smart folks involved. A lot of hardware projects on Kickstarter are open source, but I haven’t seen any scale up yet. Again, I would welcome any examples of large open source hardware companies here. There is something very powerful here to observe. Hardware companies that make projects are the most successful at being open source.

We are going to continue to contribute to projects that we’ve started and to other open source projects. I’ve been a fanboy of EFF and FSF for long enough to respect licenses. I was a teacher for many years and know that when you share with a respectful community, everyone in that community wins.

We are actively working on a developer program to create cutting edge emerging stuff. We look forward to finding ways of creating win/win situations with developers and companies. Thankfully, not everyone is out to get a free lunch, both Ultimaker and many RepRap projects have contributed to the technology and show that we can work together and stand on each other’s shoulders.

This isn’t the first change we’ve made to become more of a professional business, and it won’t be our last.

Question 2: Did Thingiverse terms of use change to “steal” people’s things.

Thingiverse does not steal. We created Thingiverse to be the greatest place to share things using open licenses. The terms, that we set up in February of this year, allow us to share your designs on our website and protect us from companies with lawyers. Could we make that more user friendly? Yes, but lawyers cost money and making it simple for people to understand will cost many hours of lawyer time. I’ve put it on our todo list for 2013 to make the terms easier to understand and avoid misunderstandings. If you’re concerned about this make sure to read the post that I wrote earlier this year about the terms of use on Thingiverse.