Glowforge Volunteer Corps
If you read our last email, you probably noticed the part where we mentioned that our first beta units will ship in December. It’s time to figure out who gets them! The Volunteer Corps are the people who are chosen to get a loaner of a beta Glowforge for a limited time. This is a very small program for people who want to help make Glowforge better.
Why You Should Not Sign Up
We are delighted at how excited people are about Glowforge. We can’t wait to ship our final product, and we will do it as soon as we can. The Volunteer Corps isn’t about getting your Glowforge - it’s about helping us make Glowforge better. If you’re chosen as a volunteer, you will get to see an early release of Glowforge first. But it won’t be a great experience yet!
You’re going to be an unpaid tester with a loaner unit that may malfunction or be called back at any time. You probably should not do it! In fact, we’re going to try really hard to talk you out of volunteering, because we have a small number of beta machines and can only take the most committed volunteers. Here’s why:
It is time consuming. You should plan to spend (very roughly) 10 hours per week designing, experimenting with your Glowforge, and writing up the results so we can learn about what’s working and what’s not. If it’s malfunctioning, you may need to spend time troubleshooting. If it needs repairs, you may need to send it back.
You’ll spend a good amount of that 10 hours documenting what you did, how it worked, what you tried, and sharing anything that went wrong. Every print will be an experiment, and everyone will be able to learn from the results.
You’ll need lots of materials. This can be pretty inexpensive if you’re using 1/8" materials purchased in large sheets online or experimenting with recycled cardboard, but it’s something to keep in mind.
You will have to figure things out yourself. There won’t be email or phone support; we’ll have a private volunteers-only forum for help and troubleshooting. If you get stuck, it may be a while before we can help or fix it. If we can’t fix it, we may have to take the machine back permanently. You will need to determine which regulations apply to the use of your machine and use your unit safely.
It will let you down. We may disable features so we can upgrade them, or send you a beta machine with some features permanently missing or broken. We will take our servers offline for maintenance, sometimes without warning. Hardware will break, and it may take time to fix it. It may ruin your print and the material you put in it.
You don’t know when you will be chosen. When beta units becomes available (as they will on a rolling basis), we will contact people on the list to receive them. That may happen at any time up until we ship. If you don’t answer promptly, we’ll send the unit to someone else.
We will see how you use it. When you sign up for the volunteer program, you will give us permission to look at any print at any time. If we see that you’re not using your beta machine, we’ll have to take it back. (We will not see your prints on a production Glowforge unless you give us permission.)
You may not get a Pro. If you purchased a Pro, you may get a Basic beta unit (although Basic purchasers will not get Pro beta units).
**You will have to sign additional paperwork. **Our lawyers are working on this, but at a minimum there will be some information that you cannot disclose - for example, you’re not allowed to reverse engineer the units and publish the results.Of course, once you receive the final paperwork, you can decide you don’t want to sign and opt out of the Volunteer Program before you get your Glowforge.
This** is not a production machine.**. Eventually we will recall your beta unit and ship you your final, production unit with a new warranty. You will need to keep any packaging materials.
We don’t mean to be unnecessarily negative, but we’re worried people might think this program is a way to get a Glowforge quickly. It’s not! It’s a volunteer program where a few kind and generous souls will put up with all sorts of inconvenience to help make Glowforge better.
We wish we could just ship all Glowforges to everyone, right now, today - but we can’t, and that’s why we need some selfless laser lovers to volunteer their time to help get us in ship-shape.
How We Decide
There isn’t a set criteria for this program. We’re going to look at all the applications and pick people for different reasons. Some people will be chosen because they’re experts; some will be chosen because they can give the perspective of a beginner. Some we’ll pick because we know them and know they can provide good feedback; some because we don’t know them and they can provide a fresh perspective.
It will also evolve over time. In the near future we’re going to choose mostly volunteers in Seattle, with technical expertise, who can monitor the beta units closely. As we learn, we’ll expand and adapt.
Our guiding principle will be, “Who can we send this next beta unit to that will fill the biggest gap in our knowledge, and help us improve the product the most?”
The Secret to Being Chosen
Don’t send us private messages or email about the beta program. Put your questions about the program here, in this thread. Read first to make sure it hasn’t been answered already.
This is important because we want to spend time building Glowforges instead of answering a thousand “Have I been picked?” direct messages. : )
Also: participating in the forums is a great way to give us a sense of how you write and how helpful you can be, which are big parts of our process - since this is all about writing up stuff that helps us!
We know that there are far more qualified, enthusiastic, wonderful Glowforge owners who are willing to volunteer than we have beta units to distribute and we’re already humbled by the generosity of those willing to spend their time helping us improve.
We can’t wait to ship you your final Glowforge. If we haven’t talked you out of it yet, and you still want a beta unit… well, you can apply here.
Glowforge Volunteer Program FAQ
Will this be fair?
No. Our one and only concern will be doing what’s best for the development process of the product. We will not consider if you ordered first or last. We will not let everyone have an equal chance (for example, we probably won’t ship any international beta units until near the end, if at all).
We wish we could ship everyone final units right now! We’re just not there yet.
Why will I be disqualified from getting a beta unit if I email you about it?
We have to focus our efforts on making an amazing product for you and getting it to you on time. Unfortunately any time answering “why wasn’t I chosen yet” (or similar questions) comes at the expense of building a great product.
Also, we need to send beta units to people who follow directions well!
How will you choose?
Every time new units become available, we’ll consider the circumstances, see who’s applied, and see who would help us most by getting the unit.
How can I be chosen?
Answer the survey honestly and follow all directions. After that, be helpful in the forums! That lets us get to know you and definitely can affect our decision.
When will beta units ship?
We will roll out beta units as they become available until final units are ready. The first ones will ship in as little as two weeks.
When will I find out if I was chosen?
When new units become available, we’ll contact the people we’ve chosen to receive them. There isn’t a line; we’ll decide each time we have units available what kind of testers we need at that time
Does it matter when I preordered?
We’re going to base our decisions based entirely on what’s going to give us the most useful feedback, so no, order date does not matter.
Do beta units have a warranty?
They’re ours, on loan to you. If they break, we’ll decide if we’re going to repair, replace, or bring them back. When you get a production unit, it will have a new, full warranty.
Who pays for shipping?
We do, both ways.
Do I get a final unit?
Yes. We will ship you your final production unit when the beta program is over.
Can I talk publicly about my beta unit?
We’re working on legal paperwork, and the answer may not be the same for everyone. For example, we might ask someone who’s active on the board here to document their tests in public, while we might ask someone who’s got a great engineering background to sign a more detailed nondisclosure agreement so they can test things we haven’t talked about publicly yet.
How will volunteers communicate?
We’ll have a private, volunteers-only board here for people to discuss questions, problems, and logistics with Glowforge staff and with each other.
What if I need an air filter?
In your beta application, we ask if you need an air filter or not. If you do, we might send you a prototype air filter, or we might send you an air filter from a third party company. If not, we’ll send you a 4" dryer vent hose that you can use to vent with.
How will they be shipped?
We haven’t finished packaging yet, so the first units will be delivered by truck (and will likely be close to Seattle). As we get better at shipping, we’ll move to standard FedEx etc. If you need to return a unit for some reason, we’ll arrange based on the unit you have and where we’re at with packaging.
What should I do if I have more questions?
Ask them in a reply below! But be sure to use the search function in the top-right corner (the magnifying glass) first to see if someone’s already asked the question.