I’ve been thinking, which is usually dangerous, but since I don’t yet have a Glowforge to occupy my time this sometimes happens.
I was thinking this morning about the development of the Glowforge so far, how impressed I am with the PRU guys and gals and what they’ve been accomplishing with their lasers, wondering about the features that haven’t made it into the light of day yet, hoping that all is still well in the bypass/cut and flip arena. Then I started thinking about user experience and usability and there is a small worry that has been nagging at me from the back of my brain for a while. It’s obvious that @dan and the Glowforge team are looking to try to make a “universal” laser, good for everyone, not just the Maker community. I respect that, to be honest, it’s part of what caught my attention in the first place, the ease of use. But I worry that there is a dark side too. Often, the easier something is to use the less versitile it becomes. To protect ease of use features tend to be cut, settings tend to be locked and hidden. More complicated/difficult uses are often locked out or never developed so that the untrained/uninformed segment of the owners don’t do something stupid with their machine.
To be clear, I’m not accusing Glowforge of any of this to this point. They are still dialing things in. There have been several comments by @dan and others over the past year and a half that have caused me to wonder, though.
I understand where @dan is coming from on this. He’s imagining a completely ignorant user that has put absolutely no time and thought into what they are doing, they just want to push a button and make it happen. My worry is how far do you go with this and is it, in the end, the best approach? Something I’ve noticed with all of the PRU users, there’s a wide range of ability and knowledge, but what has surfaced is a super helpful community that help to educate and instruct each other in best approches and techniques. I’m wondering if Glowforge wouldn’t be better served in the long run by worrying just a little less about “foolproof,” since that doesn’t exist, and looking for more ways to promote and integrate the community they’ve managed to create more. In the long I can’t help but think that the success of the Glowforge will ultimately lie not just in it’s ease of use, but in the versitility of what people are able to do with it. Sure, there will be some of those that have enough money and little interest in learning that they only cut proofgrade and only cut designs they buy from Glowforge, but economics will keep that section small and the lack of creativity in that group won’t inspire others to dive in, at least not to any great degree.
Just random thought on a rainy day. Feel free to ignore