Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam

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"The power of open source hardware lies in the ability to build upon others’ work and good documentation is the key to making this happen. We believe that documentation best practices can increase contributions to open source hardware projects significantly. For this reason, we are hosting a collaborative event to arrive at an open source hardware documentation platform based on a set of shared standards.

The open source hardware movement has come a long way in the last few years, but a number of outstanding issues is still slowing down its expansion and ability to become a new economic engine of efficiency, sustainability and collaboration. Documentation is a key factor. As the number of open source projects continues to grow, it’s important to generate clearly-findable, modular, remixable documentation that can not only improve the quality of projects – but also enhance cross-project collaboration. Quality documentation is essential to boosting the true spirit of open innovation.

We are confident that the growth of the open source hardware movement can be accelerated by a global knowledge sharing platform made of generic tools, specialized software, documentation templates and other blueprints and best practices. We believe that such a learning and exchange framework will eventually enable the birth of a globally-collaborative R&D community, cooperating by means of shared standards and platforms.

We foresee the birth of a global repository of hardware designs based on a shared information architecture and a shared approach to design. We advocate for a more interconnected global community built upon awareness, understanding of, and access to open design.

Only a shared approach to open source hardware design and documentation, will facilitate this transition and will encourage others to contribute to a common pool of human knowledge.

HOW (the process)

Being conscious of the wide scope of the challenges, we propose to host a 3-day event, that will be based on a mashup of well known co-design formats for group cooperation: Service Design Jams and Hackathons.

The event will be focused on:

identifying and sharing outstanding problems concerning the diffusion of open source hardware documentation practicesgenerating creative solutions and prototyping them collaborativelyimproving awareness, cooperation, and coordination betweeen open source hardware stakeholdersdrawing new talent to open source hardware by identifying a range of problems and challenges in development tasks Without wishing to constrain the discussion too much, we performed a preliminary analysis and identified some problem domains that will be used as a basis for the discussion.

The event will be held on a weekend. A preliminary meetup on Friday afternoon will be used to identify challenges and form the groups on an interest-based choice. The groups will be then left to work, within an agenda that will encourage periodical coordination throughout the event for cross fertilization. The group will be asked to prototype all the work, in the form of documentation and soft deliverables, pieces of software, service or business ideas, animations, handbooks, guidelines, stencils and graphics sets, and so on so forth.

We will select participants to ensure balance between designers, hackers, developers, storytellers, facilitators, entrepreneurs, and others." (



"On April 26-28, more than forty people gathered in New York City for the first-ever Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam, an event inspired by a February meeting among co-organizers Marcin Jakubowski of Open Source Ecology, blogger and strategist Simone Cicero, and Catarina Mota of Open Materials and OSHWA. What emerged from that conversation was the idea of an inclusive, creative conversation – the Doc Jam, sited in New York but widely promoted among the open source hardware community and beyond.

The diverse group that gathered for three days in April included software developers, hackers, storytellers/bloggers, designers, facilitators, and representatives from open source hardware companies. Their goal was to rethink how documentation can work best in an open source world. In a recent radio interview, Doc Jam co-organizer Simone Cicero described the thrust of the work: “The idea is to build some sort of interoperability standard so that we may achieve more logical consistency between different platforms … so that you can be sure that what you document is something that is actionable for a person to replicate your project.”

Over the course of the Jam, participants came to envision a standard that, when widely adopted, will enable designers and makers to easily track down open source hardware projects of interest according to key descriptors and to share their own work with others. They began to hash out what excellent documentation looks like and how it could be created efficiently.


The picture, then, comes clear: To revolutionize how documentation can be created (and how readily) is to revolutionize the kind of documentation that can be and the kind of work it can accomplish in the world as people put it to use.

At the Doc Jam, one discussion especially pertinent to OSE focused on using Dozuki to design documentation for modularity, the approach OSE is taking to the design of the machines in the Global Village Construction Set. Participants looked at how the Dozuki platform might be used to implement a modular approach to design and assembly (using sub assemblies, sub procedures, etc.). Each procedure and each module, for instance, has a bill of materials (BOM) and its own required set of sub-procedures. Given a collection of procedures and modules, the challenge is to integrate bills of materials and instructionals for various modules. Users would identify which modules they have and which they need to create, and the app would use that information to aggregate an overall bill of materials from the discreet bills of materials for each procedure and to assemble the instructionals involved.

The first Doc Jam delved into other aspects of open source hardware documentation as well, based on the group’s views about needs. The process of refining and promoting best practices for open source hardware documentation has only just begun. Simone Cicero sums up the work ahead for the open source hardware community: “Actually at the end of the day, all these discussions at the Jam and all these discussions [to follow] will be about, ‘Are we ok with having shared innovation, or do we prefer to compete one with each other, reinventing the wheel each time and building ten different platforms for documenting projects that don’t talk with each other?’” Simone sees the task ahead as two-fold: “Now we need to scale this to involve people from all over the world, and we need to follow up [with further work].”" (

Another review at

More Information

  • YouTube videos [1] tagged with #OSHWDocJam [2]