Open Sourcing Hardware with GitHub

Christopher Clark (SparkFun Electronics Inc.)
Open Hardware
Location: D135 Level: Intermediate
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 4 ratings)
Slides:   external link

Open hardware projects can benefit from the same collaborative advantages afforded to open software projects, as long as the project organizer is willing to take the journey.

This session dives into the risks, challenges, and rewards of open sourcing open hardware projects using a highly collaborative platform like GitHub.

The primary case study is SparkFun Electronics, an open hardware company that until recently was only on the giving-end of open hardware. Providing downloadable code worked well for years but the feedback and community development mechanisms were ad hoc and inefficient. Turning to GitHub we’re now developing a sustainable open hardware feedback loop across a wide swath of our product line.

Topics covered:

  • Stepping from passive open source (providing downloads) into active open source (version control)
  • A brief overview of the GitHub environment (including Git vs. GitHub, public vs. private content, etc.)
  • Getting electrical engineers to wrap their heads around Git
  • Merits of collaboration mechanisms like branching and pull requests
  • Quirks of open hardware projects that don’t translate so well to GitHub’s environment (including workarounds)
  • The finer points of engaging with the community (including helping the newbies get started, rewarding the power contributors, and defending against the trolls)
Photo of Christopher Clark

Christopher Clark

SparkFun Electronics Inc.

Presently: Director of Information Technology for SparkFun Electronics – having developed infrastructure, staff, and internal ERP system from the most humble of beginnings.

Formerly: Image Processor for the Cassini spacecraft imaging team, phlebotomist, camp counselor.

Perpetually: Math, science, and technology enthusiast.


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