07 – Standards
Open Source is in its core about collaboration. And standards are about collaboration, too: A standard is a shared norm, method, process or practice that allows us to work with each other effectively and build on each others work. And most of the successful standards are open.
Screws, nuts and bolts for example are an open standard. It is no secret how to manufacture them (for those who want to know). And everybody knows how to use them. So, if you buy a chair made with simple bolts, you can repair it, you can adapt and even modify (hack) the chair, if you like.
If you do this, this is the first step to decentralized collaboration with the original designers. The second would be to publish your modification publicly, so that other people and also the original designer can learn from it and use it in his original project. The whole process is made easy through the accessibility of the open standard of nuts and bolts.
So, it’s no wonder, that the open-source-hardware-definition asks you to use commonly available standard processes wherever possible. Because they make it easier for others to understand and reproduce your work. Standards simplify the communication and collaboration around open source projects.
How nuts and bolts are made:
Could open source help to create standards?
There is no simple answer for that. The forces that come together when standards are created are manifold. Open accessibility is just one of them.
But I believe it is a strong one. The open source operating system Android for mobile phones for example as well as the open-source-strategy of Tesla Motors in the area of electro-mobility are both attempts to create standards and allow interoperability and collaboration across companies and synergies in their fields. And I like to think of the open source microcontroler Arduino as a de facto standard for teaching electronics or prototype in non-industrial areas. All of this works or is supposed to work because of its openness.
The open source strategy is an interesting path to explore and create the thousands of standards we need for the transition towards a real sustainable world and economy, where things can truly be reused, repaired and recycled. Is there an open and easy-to-use recipe for biodegradable plastics on the web, yet?