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Proposal: Personal Manufacturing

The original proposal had a number of problems, but mostly the slow progression to commitment and beta left the proposal with too few active supporters.

With the opportunity to reboot the site, we now have the chance to promote the site more widely, and in particular to the maker and hackerspace communities, and look into other ways of getting the proposal to succeed second time around.

I have already seeded the proposal with a few of my favourite questions from the previous definition phase, but if we want this proposal to have a different emphasis compared to the original, then we need people to propose questions which help shape that emphasis.

Apart from simply promoting the site more heavily, and trying to define the scope more thoroughly, what other ideas do people have for helping this proposal succeed?

Note, since it is a topic in it's own right, I have moved the question of What should we call this proposal? into a discussion of it's own.

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I think I've managed to put my finger on why some of the proposed questions don't quite feel right to me.

Several of them are good 'forum' discussions - e.g.

What is the best... How can I do ... What are the design considerations...

These are great for stimulating discussion, many people would have an opinion and chip in with their tuppence worth. However, I don't feel that they have easily definable or satisfactory answers.

Good stack exchange questions (to me, at least) should have one or two clear answers that experts can agree on.

For example, :

I have a gen3 sanguino Reprap main board. Will the Ultimaker opto-endstop boards work with it?

My laser cutter is producing a lot of smoke and wide burn marks when cutting MDF. Is this normal?

Perhaps I should post some suggestions...

  • Also, make it easier for 'experts' to answer a question. For example,how can I build a steam-powered time machine? will require someone who is an expert in building time machines, and also happens to be an expert in steam power, and also has several days to research links and write instructions on how to. – Renoir Jul 3 '12 at 19:29
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    An alternative question - I have a delorean time machine and am stuck in 1955 - how can I get home? only requires someone who has had the same problem and worked it out, and has the time to fill a one-line answer (send 1.21 GW into the flux capacator) – Renoir Jul 3 '12 at 19:36
  • Please do use up your 5 questions. I'm hoping that this time around we get a set of questions more representative of the people who sign up, so the more questions we can gather the better. – Mark Booth Jul 3 '12 at 23:37
  • I'm not sure focused Q&A is the correct route. One problem with the criteria for StackExchange sites is in a nascent field where a small cadre of people are disseminating information to many, it is hard to hit criteria like "150 users with 200+ rep." In terms of getting an audience, one problem might be the title of the board. I don't think people are searching for "Personal Manufacturing." Also, there are many more noobs at this point, so limiting the site to specific Q&A will cut the audience and questions, not enhance it, which won't help things get out of beta. – ebeland Jul 14 '12 at 13:37
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Apologies for the rambling nature of this post.

'personal manufacturing' - the title could do with a tweak -Initially I wasn't sure what it was referring to. I thought it was 3-d- printing based, rather than 'Making'. I'm still not entirely sure, most of the posts are CNC/3-d printing based.

Perhaps it just needs a clearer goal.

Sorry, on re-reading the label - is this supposed to include general makers and hackers? like indestructables? or is it CNC only?

Proposed Q&A site for people interested in making physical things using computer controlled equipment, including 3D printing & CNC milling or cutting machines and the maker & hackerspace communities.

Suggestions:

MakingThings - the QA site for anyone making stuff at home. Including woodwork, metalwork, robotics, 3-d printing, CNC, electronic hacking, circuit bending, ....

DesktopRobots - a stack overflow for : 3-D Printing - Plastic extruders, Resin, powder printers, ... CNC - Milling, drilling, cutting, lasers, ....

  • Thanks Renoir but if we restrict it to making stuff at home we have a problem of excluding industrial mechatronic experts, which would be a problem. How about making things using computer controlled equipment at your home or office? Also, what is circuit bending? – Mark Booth Jul 3 '12 at 23:34
  • Circuit bending - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_bending - playing with electronic circuits or devices to make nice noises and tunes (typically done with things that already make noises, like toys and keyboards, and bridging traces / changing wiring at random!) – Renoir Jul 4 '12 at 11:50
  • true, the location isn't important: the concept I'm trying to convey is the amateur/informal nature of the making, rather than the formal manufacturing of industrial assembly. From that perspective, the 'Personal' bit works, but only after you think about it. – Renoir Jul 4 '12 at 12:03
  • Desktop CNC ? very hard to accurately describe in just a few words.... – Renoir Jul 4 '12 at 12:05
  • Is this aimed at industrial mechatronic experts? There are far more enthusiastic amateurs to be put off by a title than industrial experts to be gained! Also I think you need to realise that this is a field where professional and enthusiast mostly don't overlap in the way they do with IT. If you try too hard to accomodate both you will end up pleasing no one. – JamesRyan Jul 13 '12 at 14:24
  • I agree. The difference between 'hobby' and 'pro' machines is vastly different than IT - Visual studio is free for educational use, whereas 'pro' machines can be well over 6 figures. – Renoir Jul 15 '12 at 12:02
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    @JamesRyan - For a stack exchange community to be successful it needs experts, be they amateur or professional. While there are many amateur experts, if we exclude all of the industrial experts and industrial questions then you will not reach the breadth and depth that this site could achieve. Covering both, we can build a community greater than either would be on their own and allowing each to help the other. I know senior engineers who prototype with Lego mindstorms and then go on to build million pound machines with the lessons learnt. – Mark Booth Aug 7 '12 at 10:06
  • @mark booth no one is excluding anyone, just not targeting an unrealistic minority. The whole reason amateurs in this field are reinventing the wheel is because the pros are not willing to share or open up. They have a disincentive to undermine their own revenue streams. – JamesRyan Aug 7 '12 at 11:18
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    @JamesRyan - That is your rather biassed opinion. As someone who has spent 6 years in the micro-machining industry, I think you are seriously underestimating the contribution professionals could make to the rebooted site. You just have to look at Electrical Engineering - Stack Exchange, it would have been much less likely to come out of beta if it weren't for all of the professional electronic engineers. If we want our nascent community to survive we need their question & their answers, otherwise we will fail to get this community off the ground again. – Mark Booth Aug 7 '12 at 16:01
  • I don't see how my opinion is any more biased than your own, I am providing evidence to back mine up but you arn't. Plus you seem to be missing the point, I agree that they have knowledge and are more than welcome, however there are a far larger number of both enthusiasts and enthusiast experts who are more important to attract and so target. A good example to look at is gis.stackexchange.com - industry professionals are busy working or enjoying their free time, they come in and out but they are not who drive the site, that is the enthusiastic amateur lot. – JamesRyan Aug 7 '12 at 16:58
  • @Renoir - If you are still interested in expanding the remit of this proposal, remember that you can help it by using up your remaining questions and encouraging people from the communities you would like to be supported to come here, follow this proposal, suggest questions and vote on other questions. This proposal is only going to succeed if we can bring like minded communities together. – Mark Booth Aug 16 '12 at 10:57
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    @JamesRyan - What is your evidence that pros are not willing to share? I know plenty of professional engineers who are willing to help and contribute to hackspaces, but I no of none who have refused to help when asked. – Mark Booth Aug 16 '12 at 11:07
  • Well an easy example is that a prusa is built from scratch and contains no knowledge from any commercial 3d printing company. Not to mention as this is a fledgling technology, the number of profession engineers with direct experience is a handful worldwide - significantly not enough to drive the site even if every single one was interested. – JamesRyan Aug 16 '12 at 15:21
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Personally, I think Desktop Manufacturing says it better... "Personal" seems wrong somehow - it puts in mind something private or only done while alone

I think there is a need for something like this but feel it's more suited to a Forum environment. I'm really struggling to think of any relevant questions which could have anything like black and white answers:

eg, I want to build my own 3D printer...where do I start ?

How can I make a Kinect scan 3D objects and then print them ?

Which is the best reprap firmware ?

...how many answers would be there be to those ?

  • I think this is the kind of thing that works better when you're actually doing it. Sitting there cold, trying to 'guess' questions is actually very hard. I used examples of where I'd got stuck for a day or two, and a few words of advice could have saved me a few hours (or days) – Renoir Jul 12 '12 at 11:53
  • @Renoir - That's why we need people to sit and think up good questions. I don't believe the old site failed because there were no appropriate questions, just that we didn't have enough people asking what questions they did have. – Mark Booth Jul 12 '12 at 12:35
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The new description seems to have narrowed the scope, from general making to just CNC and 3D printing? This seems to be far too narrow a field to make a successful stack exchange site when it is so experimental in nature. I thought the consensus of the feedback was to make it clearer that it was inclusive, not to firm up the misconception.

I'm also concerned that Mark Booth seems to be taking this off in his own direction by steering or shooting down anyone else's input rather than letting any community discussion or consensus form. This might just be through enthusiasm but a stackexchange site can't be successful by one person alone, it needs to be a community. (I want to stress this is not personal, I just feel it is not going to help the proposal if you don't ease off a bit)

  • The scope of any stack exchange site is defined by the questions asked and voted up in the definition phase. So, I hope that you have used all of your votes (remember, you can change them at any time). Also I see that you have proposed no new questions for the site, so please feel free to. If people like your questions & they help define the site closer to your hopes, all the better. I've tried to keep the description in line with the votes in What should we call this proposal? and the high voted questions and will continue to so so. – Mark Booth Aug 8 '12 at 11:14
  • People will only ask questions lead by the description - 'making physical things using computer controlled equipment' already excludes all the manual building, reuse or hackery – JamesRyan Aug 8 '12 at 12:24
  • The problem is trying to define a scope that doesn't overlap too much with the existing DIY site or other related sites (electronics or stack overflow etc.). As always, I'm open to suggestions. – Mark Booth Aug 8 '12 at 15:43
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It's definitely the narrow scope and focus on hobbyist methods. The stackexchange/area51 site faq makes it clear that new exchanges should be broad and targeted towards pros.

From the faq:

Ask real, expert questions

We want you to capture the moment that plumbers feel when they look at Plumber Overflow and say, "Whoa! That's my kinda site!" On a site about plumbing, there are 200 easy plumbing questions, and they've all been asked 100 times on other sites. Don't suggest questions like "How do I unclog a drain?" Instead ask, "If you run 2.5 GPM through 50 feet of 1/2" galv pipe, how many psi will be lost to friction loss?" Remember, pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!

Should my idea be part of an existing site, or its own site? In general, if a site makes sense as part of a bigger site, it's better to have one big site than a bunch of little niche sites. Site X should be subsumed by site Y if:

1.Almost all X questions are on-topic for site Y

2.If Y already exists, it already has a tag for X, and nobody is complaining

3.You're not creating such a big group that you don't have enough experts to answer all possible questions

4.There's a high probability that users of site Y would enjoy seeing the occasional question about X

  • Just received this in an email from stackexchange regarding another beta proposal I'm committed to: "The first questions set the tone for the site. If you ask high quality, expert-level questions, you'll build a site that attracts the experts and pros who will make it really successful. But if you ask beginner questions, survey questions, or social-conversation questions, experts and pros will not be interested." We need to shift focus to pros not hobbyists. – shoul25 Jan 29 '13 at 19:45
  • should clarify that it should NOT be to the EXCLUSION of hobbyists by any means, they should make up an important part of the site, just that it needs to be useful to the professional crowd in order to provide the most overall benefit. – shoul25 Feb 5 '13 at 6:00

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