Page 1 of 2

I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 24 Mar 2015, 15:09
by daniel_reetz
I made a subsite to be the definitive reference and knowledge dump on the hardware side of DIY Book Scanning. It's mostly complete as of 4/31/2015. Check it out here:

Hey all, I'm retiring from the project.

As you know, I've been working on DIY Book Scanning continuously since 2009. Although I've been quiet for the last two years here on the forum, I've actually been more involved and more invested than ever. For the last year and a half straight, I've committed every last night and weekend to developing and manufacturing the Archivist. I assembled a 1700SF workshop in downtown Los Angeles dedicated to developing book scanners. This shop was also my home - I literally lived among my tools, the tools for producing these machines, and slept in the sawdust-y bed in the corner. As you all know, I'm a man of outsized ambition and zealous motivation, and that manifested IRL in the time, effort, and machinery I put toward making the Archivist. There were months when I would go 20,000USD into the red, and then pay it all back the following month. On two occasions, I barely made rent. I spent 8-12 hour days at my day job in R&D making optical systems, and then I would come home to work on the Archivist for 3-5 hours a night, and all weekend. I've learned more than I've ever learned, and perfected more than I've ever perfected. It might seem strange that I was not on the forum this whole time - but now I can finally explain myself. When you work in an R&D lab whose sole purpose is "generating IP", you simply cannot participate in a public, Open Source way without "contaminating" the public ideas. In short, I was protecting the ongoing work here from corporate ownership/influence, while carefully and privately developing our next-gen technology, completely outside and unattached from corporate influences and resources. I'm so committed and fastidious about keeping these two worlds separate that I actually engineered in a gap in my job at Disney Research so I could release the Hackerspace scanner without issues. I've since left Disney Research and moved on to other gigs - in fact, several moves in the last six months.

My intention for the last three years has been to build the Archivist and the book scanner work into a sustainable business - ideally one that could live without me. While my public and private identity have become so completely intertwined with this project that I publicly call myself the "DIY Book Scanner Guy", the worst thing that I could do to a crowdsourced project is make myself central to everything - a lynchpin that could be pulled out and cause things to disappear. As a result, I've worked hard to bring on (and to, where possible, pay for) help, in the form of Scann, Noah, Matti, and others (and I've been able to send free equipment to core developers who helped wherever possible). Their help, and the help of other leaders like Duerig and Jbaiter, was way more than I deserved, and more than enough, but just too late for me to not burn out. It was my fault for not seeking help sooner. I mean, I still remember the first week after Scann took over communication for me, my phone didn't beep 30+ times a day with email... tears come to my eyes thinking about the peace and silence she afforded me. But still, I wasn't able to find a balance and build a self-sustaining system.

If you want a perfect example, it's this... after all these years I still haven't scanned even a third of my books. It's because I've repeatedly given away scanners (leaving me without), or I've spent those nights and weekends making more scanners for other people instead of solving my own problem.

The beginnings of this project catapulted me out of Fargo, ND to brief internet fame and then to Los Angeles, CA. It was kind of amazing. Imagine sleeping in a garage at night, and giving talks at Harvard the next day. When I was out giving talks about the project, and the cameras would turn off at the end, I would ask the room "Does anybody know where a weird person like me might get a job?? I have no vision" (and I didn't, I was poor and desperate) Most people would just wish me luck. But Harry Lewis, having seen me speak at D is for Digitize (J.G invited me there, thank you James!!) offered me something else. He told me I didn't seem like a grad student and said I should meet "a guy from Disney". The rest is history - I spent the next four years prototyping optical systems and crazy inventions for them in a superb lab in LA.

I mention these names and these big things, but there are hundreds of other humbling gifts from people along the way. I remember ThatTallGuy taking me on tours of Boston, I remember meeting crews of makers in NYC, I remember Rob driving there to hang; the countless kindnesses people offered, the advice, the thoughts, the beers, the sense that together, we could figure this out. That I would find a way to make it all work. I remember, very completely, every one of you that I met IRL. Spamsickle, Rob, ThatTallGuy, MellowYello, and many, many others. I was always so proud of every story that emerged from this place and this project, and I was so proud to talk about all these amazing stories. I led every talk with them.

And I can't forget the other gifts I've been given, or the ways we've all been recognized - the Maker Faire awards, the NYT articles, the Wired pieces, the fact that we're written up in books as a perfect example of crowdsourcing (we have always led by example), the fact that I'm a character in a book about books; that I met my best friend and the love of my life through this project, and that I learned more about "intellectual property" than I would ever care to know... this project changed my life.

But that also brings up the spectre of the future. The project began out of a strangeness in the world. I was injured by a human driving a car, which led a software algorithm to show me a camera, which taught me that cameras had become cheaper than textbooks - a strange world indeed. And from that unlikely place came all this. Now, we have a new component beyond "just" a cheap camera - we now have cheap computers. And when Johannes came along and showed us the incredible vision of what a new, integrated system could look like, in the form of Spreads on the Raspi, I felt my motivation completely renewwed. I knew that together, we could build something amazing, and we did. But Johannes and I are both the kind of person who, once we see the better way to build something, don't want to maintain old way, we want to build it the new, smarter way. And so when I met Jonathon Duerig, and saw him do the diligent and difficult work of making a stable version of Spreads during the Beta, I knew that he was the next person with the stamina and the depth to maintain the project into the future. And crucially, he is not just a good human, he is a programmer to the core.

The scanner has always been 50% software - at least. And in the process of doing all this manufacturing, I've neglected that half of myself. And to be honest with you, I have learned that I simply cannot "lead" software development like I can hardware -- in fact, I cannot take you into the future at all. Because the future is ephemeral; the future is not a hulking scanner but a machine made of light and software. I can't get you there at all because I'm not a skilled programmer, and that deficiency has left me with very mixed feelings about myself and the way I went about things. I could have learned to write software in six years, and it would have required no machines, no lab, no financial insanity. But Golan Levin once asked me, when I said I wanted to becomme a world-class programmer "Have you learned nothing from your own project??" And what he meant was that it was you, the reader, who should be helping out with software- that we should be doing it together and that I shouldn't think it's my responsibility. And I agree with him, but the deficiency is too severe and impacting to be left unaddressed for the sake of making a few thousand bucks filling more cardboard boxes with more plywood. I have learned that even though we can make a cheap and excellent scanner stand from common materials, the future is getting away from the physical. Truly, it mirrors what we're doing with books.

Another major frustration with the project has been Open Hardware. Although I used to be a very strong advocate of that approach, I no longer believe that the actual Open Hardware license is useful or has meaning. It is a copyright-based license which is trying to protect hardware, and that's wrongheaded and leads people the wrong way. In a first-to-file world, it means others can claim your work. The truth about Open Hardware is that it is a legal fiction, nothing more than a social contract. In addition, just making design files available doesn't teach people about your design rationale, which, in devices like this is more important than the gross shape of an object. So I have spent the last month converting the design into Public Domain, and documenting, in full, the design rationale in a way that seeks to educate an audience new to the technology. I want to lead by example. There is no hardware more open than Public Domain. So I created . Go there and you can see the amount of effort and thought that went into this new system, and you can also see what *I* think it means to be truly open. It's more than a logo and a social contract.

In closing, I want to thank everyone here for everything. I'll check in once in a while, but I'm handing over the future of production to Duerig. I trust him 100% with everything. I hope I can convince Scann to keep an eye on the forums. And I will miss our constant chat very, very much. But it's time for me to go do some work and learn some things to bring myself to the next level, and there's only one way to do that. Focus.

I'll check in for about a week more for comments on this post. Please check and let me know your thoughts.

Scan the planet.

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 24 Mar 2015, 17:18
by dpc
Good luck Dan. Thanks for everything you have done for the DIY book scanning community. You'll be sorely missed and I hope you can pop in from time to time. I'd like to think you'll still be reading the forum messages (the volume is much lower these days), but I totally understand if that's no longer possible. It can get a bit distracting especially at times if you're trying to focus on something new.

Cheers! I'll raise a glass (and a platen) to you, sir! Stay well.

Scan on,

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 24 Mar 2015, 19:06
by vitorio
Thank you for all you've done, Daniel. I really appreciate it.

Regarding public domain dedication, it could be made clearer if you mean for only the plans to be public domain, or if the content of the entire site, including the assembly instructions and your prose, are public domain also.

Because a public domain dedication is legally kind of awkward, I use the Creative Commons Zero public domain dedication, which includes legalese for countries which don't have the concept of a public domain. You can see an example here, where I've used it to deed an author's books, but you'd specify the plans and/or the whole site. It looks like maybe you derived your public domain logo in the PDFs from this, but using the real one seems like a good idea.

Regarding the new site, on some of the pages (like the home page) if you scroll to the bottom of the right-hand column, you can't scroll the left-hand column any more.

Regarding being able to focus, I see you're running Wordpress for this. If you're not intending to actively maintain a Wordpress and server installation, perhaps consider using one of the exporting plugins to turn the Archivist portion (at least) into static HTML, so it can't be compromised or spammed. I'd also suggest turning off the wiki and news sections. Let the home page be three links: one to the archivist section, one to that youtube video, one to the forum. Let others develop new resources.

Take care of yourself.


Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 25 Mar 2015, 06:02
by ossi5110at
Thank you for your work, thoughts and concepts you've shared with us. without you and your project I wouldn have a scanner at all and no idea how to build one or how to work with one that is not to time and money consuming so that i couldn't afford it.

the best wishes for you to the future. I'm pretty sure to find you on another new project in some yrs.

kind regards

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 25 Mar 2015, 11:13
by dtic
Thank you Daniel for all your great work. I don't remember exactly how I first found my way to this place but I'm sure of one thing: your enthusiastic, dedicated and productive presence in the forums on software, hardware - everything basically - made this into a great and friendly forum. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had that first and lasting impression when coming here. The maker spirit here, that vibe that there is stuff to tinker with and do and that everyone can and is welcome to join in, got me stoked enough to rummage through whatever stuff I had to make that old auto prototype out of wood scraps, string, rubber eraser and what not. While my auto attempts are now on probably perpetual pause I've enjoyed seeing all these other projects here and how they remix and merge with each other again and again and I've tried to chip in here and there. Whatever you may do next you should, in addition to the Archivist and its older relatives, be proud of the community you've grown! Best wishes and take care.

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 25 Mar 2015, 21:34
by davidlandin
Hi Daniel

I want to thank you very much for the encouragment you have been to me through the forums, and the kind words you have said. You are a real enocurager!

I've also appreciated your open and thoughful style of leadership. And the way you have tried to make the book scanning project open and available to all who want to "have a go".

I'm interested to know what your future will be following the intriguing hints you gave in your retirement letter.

Anyway God bless you in your future creativity. We needs lots more people like you! :D

David Landin

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 26 Mar 2015, 16:40
by peterZ
The forum needs to stay open.
Maybe some senior trusted members could manage it ?
Would need some one to get rid of any? spam...
Much excellent information here and likely to be much more in the future.

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 26 Mar 2015, 16:44
by peterZ
Is the mention of sharing and licensing from,
They only seem to reluctantly to mention Daniel R as the source of their design
They make no mention of the release of their design.

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 26 Mar 2015, 17:00
by duerig
peterZ, the forum isn't going anywhere. Scann will continue to manage it.

Re: I'm retiring - and a request for comments.

Posted: 27 Mar 2015, 17:27
by daniel_reetz
Thanks, everyone for your words of support. DPC, your long presence here (and clever ideas) have always meant a lot to me. And so did the presence and ideas and participation of so many others, so no one should feel left out, I really would just list 97% of the forum here with a personal thank-you if I could. I'll check in as I am able.

The forums are going to stay open indefinitely and I'm hoping Scann will take the helm of managing them and approving new accounts (which she already does, in part).

Vitorio, you're right - I need to make the "licensing" much more clear, only the design is public domain, I own the copyright to the text and images for the moment, I'll probably get them into some kind of CC licensing scheme really soon. I may want someone with some experience to help me convert the site into HTML. That was the plan, but my tests did not go well.

Davidlandin, you really did a fantastic thing with your machine and I'm endlessly grateful to you and your patient and complete handling of people who came to build it.

Peterz, the way the TableTopScribe was handled wasn't great (there's a long, long behind-the-scenes story that goes with that), but I was able to convince them to post that credit at the bottom of the page after some back-and-forth with Robert Miller. When the Archive uses and changes our technology, It shows that our ideas are viable and that our approach has merit and value. Ultimately, the intention of making things Open Source was to get people to copy it, and so if I step back far enough, I feel a real sense of pride and accomplishment when I see things like this. (even when the purple tinge shows they are still using the cheap COB LEDs... sigh). Truth be told, at least when I was there, the Archive people were my people and I still care about them and their mission.

Unfortunately it was the Archive (through my work with them, when I worked there, and later, when they rebuilt the design in China) that unintentionally taught me that Open Hardware is a toothless thing. They did, in the end, "release" their "source files" - an .easm which requires Solidworks and doesn't give you the ability to change things*, but does give you a functional assembly to take measurements from. For the Archivist, I chose to share DXFs, STLs, and dimensioned drawings, which have a different set of problems, but at least have wide interoperability. All in all, it's an imperfect world, but a good one. Ultimately, I care far, far more about scanning books than I do about the specifics of their operations, so I've come to peace with all of it and feel good that they've taken it as far as they have. Scan on.

*The purpose of Solidworks eDrawings is to allow other people to look at your assembly or part file, but not to allow them to change it. Releasing DXFs and STLs and part drawings with measurements is more portable, because they open in every CAD package and allow you to make measurements of the lengths and angles of every part. The downside is that DXFs and STLs require the would-be builder to remake the assembly and the relationships in it if they want to use it in a CAD package like Solidworks.