No user serviceable parts inside.

Here’s a good little article from Make magazine, (and an earlier text version).They call it a “Maker’s Bill of Rights”, but I really don’t like that label because I think it cheapens, you know, actual civil rights. I’d probably call it something like “a humble request from your finicky consumers who are more than willing to drop their cash on a better product from a more consumer friendly company”. Here’s an except:

– Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included.
– Cases shall be easy to open.
– Batteries should be replaceable.
– Special tools are allowed only for darn good reasons.

warning lable that says,

All good sensible stuff. As the cost to publish schematics and parts lists on the web is already so close to zero, and the data must already be put in a usable format for internal company use, there’s little to be made by withholding it from the general public.

One could argue that by providing the information for free, one is losing a valuable revenue stream, to which I would counter that inexpensive or easily available product information tends to generate the type of good will that is valuable, yet is not easily shown on the next quarterly profit statement.

Another argument would be that product firmware is proprietary and the like needs to be kept from competitors, and while I can see this to be sometimes true, you need to balance that against the fact that your competitors may very well have the resources to (legally) reverse-engineer your product anyway and therefore you only end up keeping things souper seekret from your pissed off consumers.

The one thing I would add to the manifesto would be something like “The after-market that springs forth from the success of your product is your friend, not your enemy. Embrace it.”

An example of a product that embraces these concepts might be Ladyada’s x0xb0x (pronounced “zocks box”). It’s a “better than the original copy” of an obscure music widget that has found a second life, after the original manufacture dropped it from it’s product line, as something somehow suitable for composing Techno music (excuse the fuzziness for a description, I generally hate Techno music). Although it’s a nitch product, it’s been so successful that there’s actually a waiting list to buy one, and the product comes in a kit form that must be assembled by the end user. A mature product, I see it’s already up to assembly run number five.. Of course the entire product is well documented; doing so has allowed a community to form, and enhancements created by enthusiastic users are shared back with the community. The firmware is, of course, open source, and here again users have submitted bug fixes and improvements which make the product even more valuable to it’s users.

Another, more mainstream company, is MEC (Mayville Engineering Company) who make shotshell reloaders. [1] Seven years ago I acquired a reloading press at a flea market and I was easily able to get a manual and a missing part for the press by mail. The replacement part was inexpensive, and as I was trying the figure out how to pay for the part, the gentleman that was staffing the phones that Sunday said that he’d just ship it out free and told me I could mail them a check when it arrived. They also gave me a line on a few third party resellers that had the accessories that I was interested in purchasing. The helpline tech was quite knowledgeable and was able to tell me exactly how to set up the press for the type of reloading I was interested in doing. It wasn’t some guy with a fake English name, a foreign accent that was hard to understand, or a habit for apologized profusely.

I’ve just checked a moment ago, and found that now that I have teh inter-tubes, all the manuals I could ever want are freely available to download. Awesome. A+++ Would do have done business with again.

Related: Sony breaks almost all these rules. Read Why Sony sux.

[1] Background information on Wikipedia about handloading. Reloading my own ammunition is recycling.

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