TV-B-Gone inventor Mitch Altman was quoted on the Make blog today with some interesting experience on open sourcing his product:
“Even though my project was not open source, I benefited from the open source community. People hacked TV-B-Gone remote controls in wonderfully creative ways. (Search online for “TV-B-Gone hacks” and you’ll get the idea.) These hacks increased the product’s popularity, resulting in more sales and more people around the world experiencing the satisfaction of turning off TVs.”
a TV-B-Gone – image from Maker Shed
Read more here at Make. Its interesting that when Mitch set out, he was going very much down the patenting route and it was only when he went to a hacker meet that he was first exposed to “people who are very critical of patents and other forms of intellectual property law”. Now the TV-B-Gone (a remote for switching off any TV you aim it at) is sold open source from Maker Shed and the source code, board layout, TV power codes, and all documentation, will be available online.
Chris Connors over at Make has posted a great piece that those of us without a formal design education may well appreciate, and even those with. Chris was writing in response to PBS’ Design Squad program, from which the image opposite comes, and references the Android G1 phone and iPod iterations as examples of contemporary designs that blur the traditional deadline of ‘product shipping’ into simply another phase of testing and development:
“When your product is sufficiently complete, and you have resolved the most pressing problems determined in the process, it is time to deliver. This does not mean that the project is done forever, instead, it means that it is ready for more testing in a real world environment. As you (and your team, as may be the case) see the product in the world, you will hopefully be looking at it for examples of where it can be changed and improved. As you find aspects of the project that need refinement, you make a plan for revision and implement it. Hopefully these flaws you find at this point are not tragic enough to seriously stall or ruin the project.”
Chris also recently posted a hugely inspiring 10 minute chat with Mitch Altman, recorded at the Austin Maker Faire. I’ve gushed about Altman before, and this clip does nothing but reinforce my view of him as an inspiration amongst open designers!
Boingboingtv has a good video up in which Phil Torrone, editor of Make magazine, shows us some of his favourite projects from Maker Faire 2008 last weekend. These include soft toy electronics, ‘fablabs’ and the “brain machine”. Phil comments a little on the links between the maker movement, the affordablilty of digital fabrication, and the future of product personalisation.
Its good to get a little insight into the goings on at Maker Faire when I’m stuck over on this side of the atlantic – there’s such a vibrant network of makers out there, hopefully one day I’ll be able to attend a Maker faire myself!
There’s also an interesting perspective from the businessmen at Forbes.com here. Some chat with Make magazine, Bleep Labs and Mitch Altman on the reasoning behind DIY product success stories. The emphasis on the need for building a product community and sharing (and thus flexible licensing I surmise) is interesting.