u/Gondolindrim, open source PCB designer and maker, highlights bigotry in MK community on r/MK as they leave community

Text copy below. Source can be found here. Worth highlighting this issue is not limited to r/MK, but the MK community in general. If you see people harassing other people, even if they’re a prominent maker, please call it out. People who give freely to the open source community are incredibly important IMO and it’s a shame to see them go through this crap.

Hey guys. I’m Gondolindrim, a Brazilian mech enthusiast like you guys who just enjoys thocks and clacks.

No, the title is not a clickbait. I’m writing this post to make public a series of issues that have been happening to me and have happened over the last year, which I’ve been taking quietly but I can’t anymore.

As I’m not a prminent member of the community, I’ll start from the start. I’ve been an enthusiast for a good 3-4 years. Recently I’ve decided to take matters up to my own hand and contribute to this community in a way I find positive: making open-source keyboard PCBs that feature common qualities like USBC ports, brand new ARM controllers and such. I started with the SharkPCB, which is a 40% Ortho PCB layout featuring STM32 processor, RGB underglow and rotary encoder support.

Issues start right then and there. I had important members of this community state to me that Shark was a Planck copy and I’m “just a small town boy wanting some drama”. By this time I also had normal users PMing me on discord belittling me and Steve for what we were doing. Indeed we (me and Steve from WoodCables, who partakes in the distribution of the Shark) did have some very public discussion about the Shark/Planck debacle with OLKB. Man of Interests also did a video with Hineybush about the whole thing - thanks Huey!

Let me be very clear here. This post is not about MechMerlin, Jack Humbert or QMK staff. In reality, Jack Humbert is an asset to this community by being a very reasonable person even with someone with whom he holds some quarrels: to this day he treats me like nothing happened. Merlin is an amazing guy who helped me immensely during all the drama and supported me through all of it. I have only respect and civility for both of them at my very core.

As I grew fond of making keyboards, I was invited to participate in more projects and I felt really included in this community. I even started the Acheron Project, which is the compendium of PCBs I devised, every single one of them for free, under open-source guidelines and completely distributable and modifyiable. I believe this project has taken me thousands of hours to document, design and prototype, and money I struggled to spend and won’t get back. As of right now, the project has almost 12 finished PCBs, and having done every single one of them completely free of charge to promote and help small and new makers (not all of those PCBs are presently publicly released as some are in GB phase and their source files are held privately until the GB happens to prevent a parallel selling of the PCBs, but it is my condition that they are released publicly after GB). But all of that took its toll. I had big makers call me a “fraud” and an “a-hole” right to my face in Discord PMs. Some of them even threw in words like “morality”, and then again, that “open source hurts this community because chinese manufacturers can flood the market with cheap stuff”. Some of them even told me I’m undercutting them by doing free jobs, hurting their bottomline and livelihood, when this is jot my job, it’s a hobby I do to interact and have a good time - just like everyone else here, I believe. Some of these big makers have messaged me multiple times to the point I had to block them and several other accounts which I believe are fans who do the absurd task of giving me their idols messages.

This has really frustrated me to a significant degree. I chose not to publicize this because I’m not one to give publicity to small-minded people. Also I genuinely believe that the great majority of people here are kind human beings wanting a nice way to pass time. I have faith in this community as a warm and welcome group of people, and I genuinely feel good talking about keebs on geekhack and r/mk . So, contrary to the advice of close friends, I decided to just leave those messages and the whiny makers to themselves and keep doing stuff I enjoy and believe is good for the community.

Recently (more or less a month ago) I’m having trouble with a particular person (who in actuality I believe is a group of people because the emails have been multiple and daily) who sends me really nasty messages. I’m not talking your daily commonplace trash talk – I mean racist, bigoted crap. It doesn’t matter how many times I block this sunshine of a person, he/she makes a new email address and begins his word rampage again. Then again, I ate it all up because oh well - it’s just one more dumb dude who has nothing to do and wants to hurt someone.

So in mid-july I had a very dangerous life event: a Dengue fever, which is fatal and is wreaking havoc in Brazil in the last couple years (it even spread to other countries). To make a long story short, I had an intestinal hemorrhage, needed emergency surgery and went into a 3-day coma. While in the hospital I still tried to work on some projects I’m in - Austin and Shark - so that those would be delayed as little as possible, all the while writing my PhD thesis and passing my qualification exams right after I got off ICU. Mind you this was completely against doctor’s orders and I did it for sheer reverence to the community and to take responsibility for delivering products that people paid for and relied on me to deliver. They were unilevitably delayed, but they are near completion and I’m really proud of them. Mr Nice Guy, on the other hand, is not. See this link here (http://imgur.com/gallery/KbRhyHj

) for an example email I just received. By the way, by “Amazon burning” he mentions the recent events - literal burning of the Amazon forest - in Brazilian environment and politics.

As you guys may have guessed, this is a hobby I’m beggining to loathe and it’s not been fun for me. I honestly don’t feel good about this anymore and will take some time off.

This is not about me nor am I trying to point fingers. I won’t expose any of the makers, nor will I tell names or dates because I just want this to stop. I wager I’m going to receive a lot of hate for this, and more stupid messages and PMs will come. I don’t care. All I want here is to warn the community that some of its people – including big makers and proeminent sellers – are completely out of their minds with arrogance that they will take time to deliver that kind of thing to someone who does PCBs for free just for fun as a way to help the very same community they swear to represent.

Be very weary of who you support and how you do it. Make drama. Drama is good to break idiossincrasies and prejudices, placing public debate, and most of all, scrutinizing actions and decisions so that the community drives itself and decides where it wants to go.

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Bizarre. Are people really making serious enough money in MK to feel that open source is threatening their livelihood? AFAIK, it’s just minor side income, major time sink, and an emotional rollercoaster for most makers.

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I really hope we eventually find out who’s responsible for this. They need to be expelled and disavowed by the community.

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Imagine having so much free time in life that you willingly devote it to harassment

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I hate this shit. I’ve talked to Gondolindrim before and he is a really nice guy. I don’t understand why people would be so against this at all. Wouldn’t being against this be against the idea of open source? smh

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I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Most if not all businesses support open source because it is in their best interest to do so (i.e. profitability). Should being proprietary be more beneficial, that is the path chosen. There is no true altruism in business (or people for that matter). Harassment is entirely apart and should be punished.

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I saw a lot of comments on the original thread to expose the person(s) emailing this type of hate because OP had hidden their name.

I have to say, I agree. That type of courtesy should be reserved for when there is a respectful disagreement, or misunderstanding. Not for when someone is being an asshat. We do not owe them any courtesy whatsoever. And quite frankly, they should be called out.

To be clear, I’m not saying that we as a community should harass them in turn, but we should make everyone aware of who they are and what they’re saying, so that we as a community can choose whether or not we want to engage with them.

It is true that you’re always going to get a few bad apples as our community grows. But I have seen first hand that that isn’t what this community is about. Bottom line, we don’t have to put up with this. Name names.

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“Harass” is a bit of a loaded word, especially in this context. I personally feel that going out of your way to message a bigot to tell them they’re a bigot is a waste of time, but well-directed public anger whenever they try to show their faces is not.

And of course, if someone is attempting to reform and distance themselves from the past, a certain amount of leniency is allowed, with the one younger member of our community (not dropping names) retracting a great deal of past non-keyboard related sentiments of terrible repute being a good example to me.

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Bad juju for the whole community for sure! Big time shame as well, nothing that Gondolindrim was doing deserved any hate for any reason IMHO. In fact I think it should be just the opposite, we should be thanking him for making things more affordable & accessible by supporting open source design. I find it laughable that anyone would single out the Shark PCB as a Planck copy considering the Planck has been copied many times over already. With some of those copies probably putting money in people’s pockets… :thinking: I agree with Gondoolindrim’s decision to take the high road & not name names, but since the names are known as far as I can tell those people should definitely be ostracized from the community. Ostracized not harassed, sinking to their level makes us no better than them.

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Are they known? I didn’t see anyone called out in the thread. Please post here (with source) or PM me, I have a few kits/caps I want to buy in the next week, but I don’t want to support businesses lead by people who harass open source makers.

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No I do not personally know who is responsible & haven’t dug any further into it. That line was in response to

If I do find out who was behind the hate I will PM you, because I completely agree with not wanting to deal with someone who would act in such a ignorant, childish, & hurtful way towards others in the community.

Although this is seriously disturbing I understand people reacting… strongly… to threats of their livelyhoods or second incomes. In a niche market especially where there is so much passion involved people get attached to their ideas and products in which they (may or may not - we still don’t know exactly who we are talking about) have invested time, money, blood, sweat and tears. People are emotional. People make mistakes. Most likely they have already come to the realization that their behaviour was wrong. They may or may not regret it. Sometimes people just have to do things that they know to be wrong to clear their anger, because they don’t know amy other way to deal with it. Sometimes people take pleasure in it. We don’t know. Shaming will help novody and will just prolong the drama and draw attention away from what this community is about: keyboards.

Now to some of the arguments that were brought up:

Open Source bad b/c China
Not only is it total bs but it’s insulting to the chinese /s. Whatever the reason we haven’t seen ARM keyboards on aliexpress is, it certainly is not that they are unable to buy a planck, trace the lanes and source the components - the fw is open source already and they can probably come up with a pcb easily even without acquiring a planck. They have engineering schools and universities in china too, you know! If anything the cheap chinese boards have been a blessing in the sense that they enable newcomers (like me not too long ago) to test this hobby out for cheap… before completely going down the rabbit hole and paying a car’s worth of money on a rama or sth. :stuck_out_tongue: As was mentioned in Hineys talk with Huey: It is up to the (western) vendors to differentiate their product from the chinese offerings. And they do! Exclusive packaging, materials, layouts, functionalities, designs. They innovate constantly and make good money off of it and rightfully so!

Planck cloning / living off someone elses ideas/work:
The planck is already past it’s 6th revision. Why? Because it’s a good product and has been for quite some time. It’s old. There’s nothing new or special about ortholinear boards. Big, small, split, low profile - we’ve seen them all. To insist on acreditation and/or breaking compatibility is not only morally wrong but also hurting the whole planck accessory ecosystem. All the cases and switchplates should not be compatible? Why would you want that? Not only are they cutting into their own sales but also into the sales of everybody else involved in plack specific accessories. Not to mention the message it sends.

Open Source: Business vs. community:
To open source his designs will enable more people to create their own pcbs and yes, some of them will bring their creation to the market. Yes, that means more competition but also more and different products to buy. You, the consumer be the judge of what is better.

I personally am really looking forward to it. I have a small personal project in the pipeline which might include a keyboard and I welcome the opportunity to turn on Gondos docs and sourcefiles to more easily include the more powerful ARM IC over the old ATMega.

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Sorry but shaming is a time-tested self-protection mechanism for communities, intended to curb misbehaviors from polluting the community culture. Manner matters. Eccentricity and diversity enriches but there are limits beyond which they become divisive and destructive forces. Hounding a person is well beyond those limits IMO.

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Gondo’s situation is fucked up, but I very much disagree with this sentiment. There’s actually a flood of science that supports the inherent-altruism hypothesis. Unless you really damage a human being, they will be inclined to share, help, comfort, and defend others, even strangers, albeit with a preference for their kin and immediate community. For an easy starting point, see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature.

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I am very new to this particular community, but I completely agree.

The trouble with this idea is that it would only instigate an already heated issue, and it will only be of detriment to the community. (See how the knitting community has imploded for an example of what could happen here. Part 1, part 2, part 3.)

When emotions get heated, the best course of action is to diffuse them, and to let the best ideas win the day. In this case, the idea in question is open-source. If this is an important issue to you, take positive action about it. Only buy keyboard components that are open source. Commission or group-buy new open-source alternatives to closed-source items. Throw money at Gondo to make the PCB of your dreams. Use your resources to make the community (and the world) a better place.

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Shaming racists is, in fact, a very useful, helpful, and objectively good tactic. Fuck 'em.

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I’m gay, and I’ve got a hispanic husband. We travel a lot as authors, and we’ve gotten our fair share of bigotry and shame. So we make a point of never, ever using those tactics against others.

There are people out there who’ve had shitty lives, poor education, and very little experience with diversity in the world. Being cruel to them will not convince them that they were mistaken. Only being wise, courageous, kind, and strong can do that.

We didn’t win the right to marry by shaming, but by elevating. Jonathan Haidt has done a lot of research on this. He describes the phenomenon in terms of shared humanity politics and shared enemy politics. Shared humanity changes minds; shared enemy polarizes. It might suck we have to take the high road, but then everyone’s got a cross to bear.

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My argument is supported by all of human history. :wink:

yeah, no news there, doesn’t take much digging to find the people that were harassed out of the community… it’s a very, very toxic place. the whole concept that the community is loving and nice is a sweet idea but generally it just all is vendor and maker worshipping and dare you say something bad. you cant even make a joke anymore or streamers will try to cause drama and slander your business while protecting friends of friends of themselves that give them free stuff.

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I feel a solid code of conduct helps a lot. Every community should have one and folks trying their best to not make others feel uncomfortable or discriminated.

I’ve left some mk related discord servers for good because folks continually making sexists jokes and it literally destroys this hobby for me. It shouldn’t be that way.

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