Open Source Ecology Is A Rad Project
If you haven’t checked out Open Source Ecology you really should. It is an extremely ambitious project to create and publish the designs for numerous industrial machines necessary to build a functional industrial society using available resources. I am IMMENSELY behind the theory of the project, but as always I find serious problems in the human elements involved which keeps me from contributing. As usual the details of this element are obfuscated by the project coordinators in such a way that it is almost impossible to get at the truth of the matter. Nonetheless tidbits can be found here and there online. I honestly feel that this kind of obfuscation is the single largest contributor to stagnation in Open Source in general. Without a log of what does and doesn’t work socially we cannot build on the expensive and valuable experiences of those that have been through the OS meat mill.
Why Do I Care?
Well, I’m the type of guy to build an open source tractor and I’m sick to death of having to play ‘investigative journalist’ just to find out if I’m going to waste my time building a known flawed design or not. I also refuse to develop on platforms that funnel assets to an individual that is aloof from the contributers. Just building an Open Source Ecology prototype assists in the creation of social capital, resources, and promotion for this project. I also have a distaste for Open Source dictators and the human wreckage that they cause in pursuit of fame, and all signs point to Marcin being exactly that.
Censorship? In MY Open Source Project?
After reading this blog post and comments (via archive.org, the pages are gone now) it seems pretty obvious that a long line of people that contributed to the Open Source Ecology project have been chewed up and spit out over the years. Further digging around here and here also hinted at the depth of revisionism (note the missing entries) that the Open Source Ecology project undergoes to maintain it’s appearance. This is all par-the-course for a startup that is funneling social capital without concern about the details of what it cost to acquire.
Centralizing Authority By Obfuscating Credit
The first sign that a project like this is down a bad road is the lack of crediting of collaborators. This is EXTREMELY common in these kinds of projects and is a conscious attempt to make sure that project authority is maintained by the founder and not made available to others. The closest I’ve come is this list at the bottom of the About page in the wiki, which only provides names without context and is confirmed to not be complete. This allows for a constantly changing cast of characters to come and go without the public being aware of it, which helps the founding members continue their fundraising and speaking without having to deal with questions about the human element involved. I’d like to hear more from people that have been involved, but I get the impression that lots of content has been deleted by administrators. I’ve been there, and NOTHING is as upsetting as seeing your identity stripped away from a project you contributed to (though not your work!) because your experiences represent a shortcoming of the project.
The Prison Of Positivity
The easiest path to take is to blame those with complaints and almost all open source projects like this take advantage of that. Contributors feel they cannot be open about concerns and problems they have because they fear that it will mar their reputations as ‘not team players’. They fear opportunities in the future will not be available so they peddle the cycle. This has created an entire culture of people, often coders and artists, that jump from project to project with nothing to show for it but a few entries on a resume earned not from their work but their participation in positive promotion. If you find yourself a cyber-sweatshop worker or treated like nameless grunt labor you should feel empowered to inform the community about it, not forced to cope with it in fear that the only thing you are going to get out of it will be jeopardized.
This comes out in the engineering side of this project as well. Little to no documentation of the problems and failures of the designs used exist, which is arguably the most important thing to document. The Open Source Ecology project has wrangled with numerous issues of substandard parts from various sources that cause critical failures, especially (apparently) in the PowerCube module. This little tidbit about the poorly chosen engine in the PC came from a contributor that said they left the project in protest. She claims she left after building substandard CEB presses and selling them. It is almost impossible to find discussions about what fails and why, only that ‘a decision to change a part’ has been made. Way to defeat the purpose of open documentation, folks.
Props Vs Products
I participated in a ‘design sprint’ for Open Source Ecology a few weeks ago, which was supposed to be a design sprint for projects in the system. It was extremely obvious that most of the participants generally had no experience with 3d modeling or industrial design, but were all encouraged to create SOMETHING anyway. This sometimes devolved into “How to use SketchUp 101″ for creating for the wiki. This is absolutely not how you approach designing equipment to produce, this is how you fill out stub articles on a page and assisting the creation of graphs implying increased participation. It is very ‘corperate-culture’ to engineer the flooding of documents in order to give an illusion of productivity. It is extremely possible that these inadequate designs will be built anyway, they will make excellent props for photoshoots and tours.
This Is Part One Of A Series
I plan on trying to contact as many past contributors as possible from Open Source Ecology to get more information about the realities inside this project, and I will be posting more as time goes on. If you have information about this project, or any other project like this, feel free to get in touch with of us.