Open letter to the 3D printing community: Let’s be better in 2023! What should we do?

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I’ve been in the 3D printing community for a couple of years. I watch both FMD and resin printing communities closely, and I try to actively participate. I like 3D printing – it is an exciting technology opening new possibilities, and it is a nice cross-over between mechanical-, electrical engineering, and computer science. There is still a lot to explore, improve and develop. But technology is improving every day, and most makers can contribute to the improvement. And what’s great is that nearly anyone can contribute towards the progress of the field, as 3D printing benefits a lot from open-source and open-hardware projects.

However, over the last few years, I started to note a few things that bother me a lot about the community, and I think they are holding the whole community and industry back. I believe that the beginning of a new year (2023) could be the right time to share my views and opinions, as it is the time when people make new-year resolutions.

I encourage you to read this, think about it, and reflect on your activity in the community. We, as a community, can do better! Also, if you disagree with me, I will be happy if you leave a comment below and explain your opinion. I would like to know how the community thinks and perceives itself. If you like and share my opinion, consider sharing this blog post on social media and with other members of the 3D-printing community so we can actually make a change!

We spread misinformation and support common myths in 3D printing!

I see very often that people believe stuff that isn’t true. I see very often that people give bad advice and people follow bad advice. People are also very passionate about giving this advice and are willing to argue.

I wish this stopped. It hurts us as a community and prevents us from significant advancements. It also makes our community hostile to newcomers as they are flooded with wrong, nonsensical, and pretty opinionated advice. They try it (as they believe in us), but nothing works; they get frustrated and give up. We might have just lost a valuable member and hurt our public image. It’s not just the newcomers who suffer from this behavior. The new and valuable information, techniques, and findings get lost in tons of garbage content out there.

To be honest, I perceive this more in the resin printing community. But I’ve seen this also in the FDM community, so it might be only possible that spend more time with resin printing, so I see this more often a, thus, perceive it more.

The list of concrete examples would be long, and I don’t want to make it and point fingers at people. If you don’t believe me, read Reddit, 3D printing FB groups, or comments under YouTube videos. See for yourself.

What steps can I take to make the community better?

We are a community, so I believe any change must come from the individuals. I’ve been thinking about what to do for a while, and I came up with the following credos I personally try to follow, and I encourage you to follow them too!

1: Clearly distinguish between what you know and what you think.

When we answer a question or present our findings, we often don’t indicate certainty of the information we provide. Therefore, everything they say seems like a fact, though it might be just an opinion or wild guess. Therefore, when we present information, we should always try to be as clear as possible about how certain we are about the information that we claim:

  • If I know what I say is a verifiable fact, I present it as is, and I try to add at least a short reference to the source of information or short reasoning about why it is so.
  • If I believe that what I present is true, but I cannot show it, I make sure I indicate so: e.g., “I believe that…”, “I think that… but I don’t have data to support it”, “I noticed that something happens, but I haven’t verified it by an experiment.”
  • If I present a theory that is just based on gut feeling or came out of thin air, I make sure I indicate so: “My wild guess is that…”, “I don’t know, it’s just a guess based on experience.”
  • If the information doesn’t fall into any of the categories above, I simply don’t respond to a question. Having no answer is much better than having a false answer presented as fact.

Having the indication of certainty in the text will allow us to quickly evaluate the text and understand what is a verifiable fact (and we can accept so) and what is a conjecture (what we have to be careful of). It should also help us to avoid a misunderstanding.

2: Don’t provide advice without explanation; if you are given advice without explanation, ask for it.

Whenever we present a fact, we should explain why it is true. I am not saying we should write long essays; instead, I think it is better to always link the original source. This will credit the original author, and we are sure we haven’t misinterpreted their explanation. And it’s less work for us.

The purpose of this credo is twofold:

  • It gives credibility to your information/answer. The reader can understand things instead of blindly following them, and they can quickly evaluate whether the information is valuable.
  • It is a safety check for us that we don’t make false statements. We shouldn’t post them if we cannot support or explain our claims. As they might be wrong.

This should apply to any content you make, whether answering a question, sharing your settings, writing a blog post, or making a YouTube video.

Similarly, if someone gives you advice without explanation, don’t be ashamed to ask for it. If they cannot explain it, then it is very probable that it is incorrect. If we see people giving bad advice, we should ask them for an explanation of why their advice is good.

3: If possible, don’t use Facebook Groups and Discord, as they are not indexed by search engines.

This might make me seem like an old and grumpy old-schooler, but I think that Facebook and Discord do more harm to us than they do good. Yes, those technologies are good for connecting people across the globe with the same interest, they are super interactive and quick, but they are not indexed by search engines like Google. That means that whatever you write there cannot be easily found. All the knowledge there gets lost and can only be found by someone who knows where to look. This is so wasteful!

I really like the culture of the original internet discussion, where it was familiar to search before asking. Searching for information yourself is often quicker than asking and waiting for a response, and the medium isn’t spammed by the same information repeatedly. There is much less human labor involved, all the fact-checking and linking to original sources is simpler. Therefore, we can only focus on new and interesting stuff. Also, there is a single place where the discussion for a given topic is organized so any notes from the commenter won’t get lost.

This is why I like when people doing research or building a project write a standard blog or wiki page instead of just having a Facebook page or Discord server. That way, you can find their work when looking for a solution to your problem. Also, all discussions and new ideas on the topic are in a single place, so you can read them all.

I perceive Reddit as a good compromise as it is indexed and has mechanisms to promote good answers. Similarly, Twitter is indexed but has limited space to express yourself. Though I don’t like YouTube videos that much for sharing new findings, they are well-indexed by Google. So they work quite well. Unfortunately, there are not many creators making videos with quality content.

4: Don’t be lazy to read and to think.

The last credo is evident, but I was shocked at how many people suffer from this. If someone presents you with information, please, take the time to read it whole or watch the entire video. Numerous people have just read a headline and argued that the information provided doesn’t solve their problem. We shouldn’t be lazy, and we should encourage people to not be lazy. I know it is harsh, but I think we shouldn’t pre-process the information for people that deliberately ignored most of the resources provided. I think we should encourage them to go back and read and watch.

Final remarks

I hope this letter didn’t sound too negative – it shouldn’t. I hope it was more encouragement to do things better and be a better community. There are already great members (though there are very few of them) that present their information backed by an explanation (let’s say “according to my credos”?), and they are my great inspiration. Therefore I would like to give them public kudos here. Note that I might not list somebody out there doing things right; these are just the people that I follow:

  • Stefan Hermann from CNC Kitchen. He runs a fantastic Youtube channel. He presents the information well, with great explanations and insight, and his videos are approachable. Also, he has a transcript of his videos in written form – you can quickly search through that! Also, he concludes good research.
  • Thomas Sanladerer also runs a Youtube channel. Similarly to Stefan, he presents many topics as approachable and also encourages people to think and understand. His reviews are nice and in-depth.
  • Adam “Vector3D” also runs a Youtube channel. I like that he, to some extent, aims for reproducible setups and backs up his research with a lot of data.
  • The last one is James Hoffman. Yes, that “coffee guy.” He has nothing to do with 3D printing. But I think he can serve as a great example and inspiration for us. On the one hand, he is very opinionated and expresses his ideas strongly, but on the other hand, he cares about explaining why he thinks so. He back his claims with data and is not afraid to admit that he was wrong.

As I said in the introduction, I hope we can make a better 3D printing community in 2023. If you agree with me, please share this letter. If you have any thoughts or if you disagree with me, please, let me know in the comments!

Recent news: My open letter to the 3D-printing community

I love the 3D-printing community, but I think there is room for improvement. Let's get better in 2023! Read the full letter.

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