Matt, Sebastian, Jan, Danny, myself, and a growing cast of characters from Berea College are working on (the) Craft of Electronics, a curriculum for "college-level electronics in a craft-first (and theory-sometime-later) format, through learning from, participating in, and contributing to the open hardware movement." We decided that "we're going to do it in the open from Day 0. Everything's going to be open hardware, open source, open content, and done the open source way."

This morning, Matt wrote an email (largely for Danny, a Berea student who is new to open source -- but really for us all as reminders) explaining what "the open source way" meant in this context. It is one of the best "how to get started in this project practicing the open source way" explanations geared towards students I've ever seen, so I am simply quoting it below (but you should go read it in full).

The below is from Matt Jadud's email to the Craft of Electronics mailing list.


As we discuss and begin development of material, do not be afraid to contribute. Do not continually ask for permission to suggest things, edit things, or throw things out. We will typically work with systems that automatically preserve the complete history of what we are doing, so that we can all be bold in making changes to our own and others' work. Anything that doesn't work well can always be reverted -- and, hence, no change has even the remotest chance of being "damaging."

Likewise, you are a full peer in this dialog (as are we all)... My point being: don't hesitate to join in. It does not matter what you do or do not know; it does matter if you are silent, and that isn't what we're looking for. We're currently just brainstorming and exploring as a lead-up to the summer work, and you should chime in anywhere and everywhere you think is relevant.


Actually, I've just encapsulated most of The Open Source Way:

  1. We believe in an open exchange.
  2. We believe in the power of participation.
  3. We believe in rapid prototyping.
  4. We believe in meritocracy.
  5. We believe in community.

See the link, and that sums things up. I'll stop blathering. Ah. One other.


We're going to be working in the open on this project. That means we'll be discussing ideas before they're "fully baked," and the intent is that we will generate a better final product by sharing our thinking and work at every stage of development (as opposed to waiting until it is "finished.") In fact, the explicit acknowledgement of this model is that nothing is every done, it is just due. We won't be "done" with this course by September, nor will we be "done" with it in December. It will simply be due by September, and we have to deliver it and evaluate it over the coming term. Then, revision happens.

So, we release our work early (even if it is partial), and we release it often (or, continuously, if it is open). Hence, while we may debate things with vigor, and triage ideas like they're going out of style, we know that whatever we come up with is just another step.

To summarize

These principles are typically different than any coursework you've done in the past. Dive in, contribute, and help us make this excellent. Likewise, the openness in this process means that anyone can join in the discussion and contribute. If you have classmates that you think would like to be part of the conversation, they should feel free to join, to whatever level they feel is appropriate.

I think that's enough for now. When I have infinite time, I'll turn this into a page on the website. In the meantime, it's fine here, and we can point to it in the discussion archive for any other people who join us.

The mailing list is already home to some vigorous discussion about materials, learning objectives, and the like. If you're interested in electronics education and how to transfer thinking about craft and learning techniques from the hacker movement into the formal academic space at the undergraduate level, please come join us - we would love company.