Documenting and Collaborating on Open Hardware Web Platforms

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I am always looking for the optimal platform to develop open hardware projects, there are some good platforms out there, but which one is the best one for us to develop a complex project that combines hardware, electronics, coding, AI and possibly large datasets? And what about project management, our website and even social media outreach?

Open Hardware Documentation.jpg

I looked at some official list of Open Hardware projects:

And I read some articles

So below I am loosely exploring different platform and making some short comments about each platforms

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The interface is clear and simple which I like, but it’s not really scalable for the future (especially compared to GitHub for instance). They recently added the capacity to view 30 formats of 3D files, which is great. I also like that they are based in Shenzhen. This is a project of their own – really cool project of them
I joined as an individual: created the MakerBay page to host the Coral Reef Mapping Roboto: – but I think we should use Wikifactory, only for RELEASED VERSION AFTER posting on GitHub

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It’s like GitHub for ELECTRONICS (NOT CAD)…
Not so great for other open hardware project that have more than just electronics. But really awesome for electronics. Special mention for Fritzing here as well.

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Hackster has a really good community and good interface, but does not really support versioning, history, branches, project management as far as understand. Same as Wikifactory, I think it would be a great place to publish every time we have a version done on github.

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I read Hackaday and enjoy the blog content, but I do see a lot of troll attitude and “I’m a real hacker and you’re not” in the comment.
They do have project documentation:, it’s clean and meant for single version. Same as Wikifactory and Hackster, I think it would be a great place to publish every time we have a version done on github.

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DIYdrones is powered by Ning – a private social network. It’s really good for community communication, not optimal for versioning and mass collaboration.

For their project Pixhawk, they use Github
I will argue that Chris Anderson (Founder of WIRED Magazine) perceived that the most important part of building a hardware project is the human communication part, therefore picked a private social network to emulate a sense of belonging and more conversations.

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No wiki, no collaboration platform

Sometimes, best collaboration platform is no collaboration platform. For Open Desk, minimal project management and documentation is the way to go. The website could either be wordpress, it feels a lot like a squarespace – could be magento or another online sales…

Open Desk uses slack channels. Interesting.

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I am a long time member of and I adore the community BUT not great for collaboration and versioning I have to say.
I think it is still the best community for young people. The platform and the app are pretty good, but if we want to appeal to professionals, we are going to need a platform that is more robust. Same as Wikifactory, Hackster and Instructables, I think it would be a great place to publish every time we have a version done on github.

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Wikis are great, free and super powerful for mass collaboration and documentation, but they are islands and take a lot of work to maintain. Lots of energy can go into “discussion page” – discussions are great don’t get me wrong – but I prefer the brevity and possibility to have multiple branches you have on github

Open Source Ecology front page is a good wordpress and the R&D is documented in the Wiki

Raspberry Pi uses wiki

Public Lab is also based on a wiki architecture:


Originally for coders it’s become the most robust platform for mass collaboration

The best documentation I saw there

You don’t need to know coding

We built The Marine Litter Detective on Github, and we found it was the most powerful documentation platform out there. | |

It also supports Project Management, you can display .stl files.csv file.pdf.goeJSON, you can even have a full wiki, there are TONS of code for arduino and machine learning, image classifiers there to sort our coral images…

Another powerful feature is that you can sync your local files and remote files, so you are always working on the latest version.

Oh, and by the way, it’s free for open source projects!

My conclusion

I want to migrate most of my projects on github because

  • I believe the platform will be around for a good long time
  • It enables mass collaboration, forking, versioning
  • supports all the file formats we need
  • has project management
  • for my collaborators, it’s really tidy, very appreciated in the industry as part of a portfolio

Once the project is documented on Github, I want to use

  • my personal website to track the progress
  • instructables – because I think the community is super positive there
  • possibly Hackster, hackaday, upverter, wikifactory and the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to get more people to comment, fork, contribute etc.

Leave me a comment of what’s your favorite documentation platform for your Open Hardware Project 🙂

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Ms. Angie Zhou

Education Specialist

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Angie Zhou is an Education Specialist at MIT App Inventor. She was the founder and CEO of Dreams Come True in Shenzhen, where she developed online coding courses for kids. She also has previous curriculum development, teaching and staff training experience at First Code Academy in Hong Kong.