Friday Hack Chat: How Do You Collaborate With Hardware?

The world of Open Source software is built on collaboration. In one corner of the world, someone can fix a bug in a piece of software, and push it up to the gits. In another part of the world, someone else can put that fix into the next release, and soon everyone has newer, better software. The Internet, or the ability to rapidly transmit text and binary files, has made this all possible.

Hardware is another story. There’s a financial barrier to entry. Not only do you need a meter and a good iron, you’re probably going to need oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and a bunch of other expensive tools. You’ll need to buy your BOM. If you’re using a PIC, it might be a good idea to buy the good compiler. Hardware is hard and expensive, and all those software devs who complain don’t know what they’re talking about. Collaborating on hardware is much more difficult than pushing some code up to the cloud.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about collaborating on hardware projects. This is a deep dive on how to make collaboration with physical objects work, and this week we’re going to be learning from some of the best.

Our guests for this week’s Hack Chat are Pete Dokter and Toni Klopfenstein of SparkFun Electronics. Pete is formerly the Director of Engineering at SparkFun and now the Brand Ambassador for SparkFun Electronics. He hosts the According to Pete video series expounding on various engineering principles and seriously needs a silverburst Les Paul and a Sunn Model T. Toni is currently the product development manager at SparkFun. She’s served on the Open Source Hardware Association Board and participates in the Open Hardware Summit yearly. In her free time, she spends fifty weeks out of the year finding dust in her art and electronics projects.

During this chat, we’re going to be discussing what makes a collaborative hardware project, how to make distributed development work for your team, and the limits of what you can do with several hardware engineers separated by thousands of miles. This is a hard problem, much harder than a distributed team of software engineers, and a fantastic discussion for all.


Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, February 9th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.