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Nathan Seidle (CEO of SparkFun Electronics), shown in the above video at the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop, has posted a written re-cap of that talk, which tackles the “Pit of Despair” for open hardware projects: what can our community do to help makers when they “are thrust unceremoniously from tens of units to thousands of units”?:

The number of businesses selling very cool electronic bits (and every handmade item for that matter) has exploded over the past few years. It’s been really exciting to see all the new products hit the market, but what surprised me was the reoccurring challenges those companies face. We’ve seen these new products fall into three “buckets”: the happy bucket, the work bucket, and the pit of despair.

A surprising amount of products fall into the third bucket. I call this bucket the pit of despair. These products get far more attention than the creator(s) expected. The product was well-designed but may have been designed for kitchen production, where they planned to build tens of units. When demand grows beyond thousands, the creators are often forced to make tough decisions: the income may not be enough to release them from their day job, and the amount of time required to build the product begins to gobble up evenings and entire weekends. If you’ve ever had to count out 150 bags of resistors and LEDs, you know what I’m talking about. It’s really painful.

Brian Jepson

I’m a tinkerer and finally reached the point where I fix more things than I break. When I’m not tinkering, I’m probably editing a book for Maker Media.

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