Open Systems Engineering

A young discipline

Systems engineering is “the Art and Science of creating optimal solution systems to complex issues and problems” [Derek Hitchins]. It is always transdisciplinary and always covers the whole life of a system, including goal identification, design, solution selection, implementation, verification, operation / maintenance, upgrading and decommissioning or handover to a next generation system.

Open systems engineering is about engineering systems that are open – open as in open source, open design, open content, open data. Advantages of open systems include avoiding vendor lock-in, easier reuse of existing components, full documentation for in-house maintenance and modifications, cost reduction and better quality assurance. Yet including a substantial amount of open components, or making the system itself open for modification, reuse and reproduction, affects how the systems engineering has to be carried out. Challenges arise in multiple disciplines, including sociology, software engineering, work organization, psychology, business administration and judicial systems (specific issues are named in the “Services” section).


I’m gonna talk about me in third person from here on … I presume it sounds more objective and less boasting 😉 Soo …

Currently, Matt provides consulting services for all kinds of open systems, for these areas of concern:

  • software analysis for free software
  • software design for free software
  • development methods for open projects, with a focus on agile, network enabled methods
  • team processes and social dynamics in open projects, including proper process and system design to nurture the team and to also handle conflicts, motivation and compensation issues, forking and project dormancy
  • business models for companies with free & open products and / or processes
  • funding for free and open products, for example designing a successful crowdfunding campaign
  • public visibility of free and open projects, needed for sustainable development, but a big issue given the sheer amount of projects and the short attention spans on the web
  • innovation management for open innovation, including crowdsourcing of innovation and customer collaboration
  • authoring processes that create open content with open processes, dealing with questions of participation, inclusiveness, flat hierarchy organization and the like
  • mechanical engineering processes for open design products, including tool selection for collaborative CAD and evaluation of existing designs
  • physical spaces of open projects, dealing with self-management, access etc. issues that can arise in coworking spaces, startup incubators, hackerspaces and the like
  • failure management in open systems
  • sustainability engineering, both in terms of ecological viability and of product design longevity and continuous co-evolution
  • licencing, dealing with open licence selection and compatibility, and with patent issues


Matthias Ansorg was educated as certified computer scientist in 2001-2006 and received his CS diploma in 2006-08 from the University of Applied Sciences TH Mittelhessen, Germany. After some intermediate jobs, he became self-employed in 2008-01 and worked as a freelance IT consultant and developer since. Currently, the little company gets a second emphasis by entering the area of open systems engineering. This comes from Matt’s 14 years of experience with all sorts of technological system, and his genuine, long-lasting enthusiasm for all things free & open (… which has led him to develop the EarthOS system).


Now systems engineering is not your regular bread and butter discipline: a good consultant has to develop a deep understanding for the needs and problems of complex projects, and will also have to dive into more wicked detail problems than he or she can know before. That’s why Matt has an unusual workstyle that allows him to work in this area. His personal description names these elements:

  • fast-paced interest into all things tech and system, from mechanical clocks to economic systems; for illustration, Matt watches no TV at all and can use up a complete evening clicking “Random Article” on Wikipedia
  • fast learner type, diving quickly into detail problems until they’re cracked, then diving up again
  • natural understanding of people and the way they act, and an interest into understanding social dynamics and society
  • sophisticated task and knowledge management, guided by scientific rigor and idiosyncratic mindmapping techniques
  • being perfectionist about systems and understanding systems, but relaxed and tolerant when dealing with people (that’s important to be sociable, but also because total perfectionism is outright madness of the mind)
  • trained mental capability to evaluate beauty in system designs, because this and the harmony of modules are great indicators about how a system will perform in action
  • problem-solving creativity that is trained daily by thinking about product inventions, and valuated by noting down every idea (3000 or so to be found in the invention list and the EarthOS document).

Allow Matt to work with a good amount of freedom on your system, allowing the workflow to develop by itself – and you’ll be rewarded with awesomeness 🙂

Specific skills

Apart from his generic engineering workstyle that can solve all kinds of complex problems, Matt has a list of specific skills that help him to do the problem solving even faster:

  • Fluent command of English. Matt is a native German speaker, but performs all his writing in English since 2005
  • Some Spanish. Matt is currently learning Spanish with free and open source tools. Learning a language is a good idea for intelligence training anyway.
  • Authoring and technical writing. Writing is a native gift of Matt, derived from his desire to understand language as deeply as everything else (thus detecting all the little connotations and variations). Technical writing, on the other hand, is a kind of systems engineering. Yes, a well-structured text is a system, performing the task of explaining.
  • Remote communication and collaboration. Coming from long years of practicing telecommuting.
  • Team organization. From experience with a larger group of people collaborating via Internet in “crowd style” towards an open project.
  • Software engineering and development. Judging from his professional experience, this is a core skill of Matt; see the separate list.
  • Mechanical engineering. While not educated as a mechanical engineer, Matt can create intermediately complex designs of machines and document them in 3D CAD. He has working knowledge of mechanical elements, construction principles etc. from his expedition truck project.
  • Product development and testing. From a relentless desire to improve the stuff he has, Matt came up with hundreds of ideas for products and product modifications – aggregating into a skill by now.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.