Hiddinghausen talks, part 1: An integrated collection of free design

Peer-Ökonomie-Wochenende in Hiddinghausen

As announced in the German part of this blog, a weekend workshop on peer production and the peer economy took place during the last weekend (29-31 August) in the nice little town of Hiddinghausen in the German Ruhr Area. A detailed three-part report on the workshop, which was a fully self-organized event with about 30 participants, is available in German. The first part of the workshop was dedicated to my proposal of how to generalize the principles and practices of commons-based peer production into a full-fledged peer economy; in the second part we discussed ways of growing the range and versatility of peer production that are possible here and now. For this English-language documentation of the event, I’ll focus on this second part.

As a first initiative for facilitating the peer production of physical goods and services, I proposed to set up a „Universal Production Set“ (UPset): an integrated collection of free or open design. The goal of the UPset would be to provide designs, blueprints, and other production know-how for all areas of life, but with a a special focus on things that are essential for people to live a good life.

I envision the UPset as an “integrated meta-project.” It shouldn’t merely be a repository listing free design projects (a freshmeat-for-design) nor a hosting platform which allows running many projects but doesn’t provide any integration point or general overview for them (a SourceForge-for-design). And it shouldn’t try to replace existing free design projects (such as Open Source Ecology, Appropedia, Instructables, and open source hardware projects such as Arduino and Openmoko), but rather integrate (through linking) relevant projects and solutions in order to provide a comprehensive overview that allows people finding and sharing free designs for all areas of life.

Technically, the UPset can be realized quite simply by setting up a wiki where people can collectively share and edit designs and instructions as well as links to relevant projects. In the long run, a more complex solution may become necessary, but using a wiki would be a simple way to start. I’ve already reserved the domain up-set.org where the project could reside.

The rest of this article contains a handout of the slides I showed in Hiddinghausen. Alternatively, you can see the slides as an S5 slideshow. Any feedback and comments on what you think of this idea and whether you’d like to participate in such an effort are welcome!

Universal Production Set (UPset)

Christian Siefkes
August 2008

The 8 Essentials

What is it that everybody needs?

  • Food
  • Clothing & shoes
  • Housing & furniture
  • Housing infrastructure:
    • Energy
    • Water
    • Sewage, garbage removal
  • Communication:
    • Internet / Phone
    • Postal services
  • Mobility: transportation & traffic
  • Care:
    • Body care / Health care
    • Child care / Elder care
    • Emergency care
  • Fun & knowledge:
    • Learning
    • Sports, games
    • Books, music, movies, shows
    • Art & entertainment / Parties & events

Essentials also including the equipment that’s necessary to use them, e.g. computers and (cell) phones to access the Internet/phone network.

Universal Production Set

Idea: In order to make it easier for everyone to produce what they like to have, build a comprehensive database of free design and production know-how.

→ The Universal Production Set (UPset) should cover designs, blueprints, and other production know-how for all areas of life, but with a special focus on the 8 Essentials.

The UPset should be a meta-project, integrating and connecting existing free design projects, whenever possible.


  • Freedom principle:
  • Don’t do harm principle:
    • Don’t collect designs for things that are mainly useful for harming other people, such as weapons.
    • Don’t collect designs for things that could accidentally do enormous harm, such as nuclear energy.


  • Modularity: favor modularity and standard components/processes that can be combined in versatile ways. There is no need to re-invent the same (free) wheels again and again.
  • Affordable design: try to keep the barriers of entry low. Production shouldn’t require expensive materials/components/tools or rare skills, whenever possible.
  • Responsible design: favor designs that are
    • Sustainable and eco-friendly
    • Accessible
    • Child-friendly
    • Easy and safe to use
    • Easy to repair or replace

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