I’m writing this post because of a recent encounter with a friend, a designer. I came to know that in design the norm is to not discuss ideas and to work in secret until you are ready to release a project. I think that this way of doing things would constrain the design process and weed out good design talent because not everyone can work well in isolation. I understand the motivations of an individual designer to not share her techniques and ideas for fear of being copied, but this has to be detrimental to the field itself.
If you haven’t guessed already, when it comes to open source philosophy; I’m your typical hippie. I think all work should be open and free to modify. Anything less is unacceptable. Security by obscurity is a joke. And making money should not be the prime motivation of any project.
Practicing this philosophy has been quite easy so far. I share almost everything I do -hardware or software- under a commercial creative commons share-alike license (which is often not a lot, since I’ve only recently learnt the value of good documentation). I’ve been more or less completely disinterested in making money and do projects for the fun of it. I’ve turned down projects because they would include a non-disclosure clause. I share ideas freely and without fear of being copied. And, so far this has worked out very well for me. Some of my best ideas have emerged when I have been explaining the workings of a project to someone. I’ve not had anyone rip off my ideas and try to pass them off as their own -at least none that I know of. And I’ve cultivated many good friendships based on love of electronics. Friendships that would certainly not have been able to cultivate if I was afraid of sharing ideas.
I can personally reverse engineer a fairly complicated two sided PCB in less than a day. And I know people who can do the same in a couple hours. In a world where automated tools can sniff code from a microconroller and de-obfuscation software is easily available, is it even worth protecting designs? I look up to companies like Sparkfun and Adafruit, which embody open source philosophy fully and are a commercial success never the less. I really hope more companies follow their lead. I know when my turn comes, I will.