There was a long discussion in the comments about ardour and FOSS support models generally up until 2 days ago.
Then it suddenly disappeared - where did it go?
There was a long discussion in the comments about ardour and FOSS support models generally up until 2 days ago.
Then it suddenly disappeared - where did it go?
Thank you, Paul, for taking my thoughts and the thoughts of others into serious consideration on this topic. That kind of interaction is definitely something you don’t see from the makers of proprietary software, and it’s one of the many reasons that FOSS, and in particular, Ardour, is great.
Some of Gmaq’s comments strike me as a bit odd. First of all, his consistent use of the word ‘utopian’ when talking about FOSS. While it is true that many people have developed a view of FOSS that can be called utopian fantasy, the basic ideas behind FOSS have very little to do with utopian ideals such as, say, instituting large scale changes in the free market economy. There are quite a few practical business reasons that FOSS is a good idea (and plenty of references to find out what those reasons are, so I won’t elaborate here). It is a logical fallacy to assume that because some people and some projects hold unsustainable utopian ideals that the entire FOSS movement holds those ideals.
Another important thing to remember is that FOSS is still a young movement and everyone involved is still trying to figure out the best ways to make it work. Just because some of the ways that have been tried so far have either failed or not worked too well is no reason to conclude that FOSS itself does not work. That is, again, a logical fallacy (also, do not forget that some methods for funding have worked quite well).
From my own experience, I can say that (regrettably) had I known how much it would cost to make my software available for free I probably wouldn’t have done it, however now that I have, I feel committed to supporting and maintaining it and as such have had to start looking for methods of funding it. I am extremely grateful to those who have donated to my project, and I also contribute to others. There may perhaps be a perception among SOME of the people who use free software that those who write it simply sit in front of a computer they would have bought anyway and type stuff in. Then have the audacity to expect money to fund their efforts. The harsh reality is that (from personal experience) I have had to obtain some hardware I wouldn’t have needed otherwise, purely so that I can test and provide support for my software across a wide variety of different platforms and hardware combinations. There is an argument that if I made the applications open source this would not be necessary, but I suspect it would mean that I would then sign away any rights to any intelectual property as well, and therefore further reduce the only means I have left of obtaining some funding for the project (I know there will be those who disagree, this is just my opinion).
My original idea was to make my software available for free so that those who could not afford to pay for (what is i hope good quality software) were not denied the ability to use it, and that those who could afford to would contribute to cover some of the cost of providing it. Regrettably despite many hundreds of downloads each month there have been only a couple of donations (both of which I am very grateful for) but which alone will not adequately fund the project. I am not trying to use this forum to ask for donations, this is just an illustration of how difficult it can be to get support for free software.
I would be tempted to disagree Benjamin, Unfortunately it’s a point that needs to be constantly made publicly. This project is certainly very unique in the amount of support it gets likely because it is a “top-shelf” offering regardless of platform. In my own experience as an end-user who donates and a distributor who seeks donations this whole so-called F/OSS Utopian model is flawed beyond belief. I’ve also spoken to several other developers related to Ardour and Linux Audio and there is not sufficient support for most (myself included) to even web host their applications let alone get any pittance of support for the huge amount of development hours. Some are implementing license changes but truly the problem is far too many freeloaders who take total advantage of the “F” in F/OSS. No one is in F/OSS to trying get rich and no one would ever need to if the philosophy behind it was rooted in some kind of reciprocating reality, but it isn’t unfortunately and people need to be constantly reminded and “guilted” in to supporting at all.
I can say personally that the return for hours spent on my own project and for almost every project I know of (including Ardour when you factor in the amount of participating developers) is worse than a bad joke, and would give any accountant worth their wages nightmares for a month! Doing something for the love of it is a truly altruistic motivation and certainly commendable but not sustainable in the real world without support.
One thing it does bring into relief are how unique and appreciated that small percentage of folks who DO donate are.
@john: the reality for most FOSS developers is a bit different than your imagined scenario. There are a few cases of people using the GPL to deprive developers of income, but for the most part, the problem is a lot more straightforward and less adversarial than that: there simply isn’t much, if any, revenue flow at all, to anyone.
I’d be almost happy if there was someone else ripping me off and making good money doing so! It would at least show that some kind of market existed. As it stands, its still an open question whether or not software like Ardour (as opposed to software like the Linux kernel, or Perl, or Apache, or SoundJuicer) can be developed in a committed fashion.
Thanks Paul for providing the link to the existing thread. Interesting debate for sure.
@ linuxDSP, I hear you loud and clear, the developers are the ones going from a blank screen and bringing something into existence that wasn’t there previously so all the more unfair that they are exploited worst, and one can argue “well maybe their software wasn’t worth supporting” but after a few thousand downloads that is a moot point, this all starts with developers God Bless 'Em!
@JohnE , Well said!
You assert in the original thread that Paul shouldn’t come across as irritable when there is a funding shortfall, Nothing is as irritating as being overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated so what do you expect? Having to participate in the dog and pony show of regular “new releases” just to generate sustained interest alone substantiates some grumpiness IMO.
The point I was trying to convey about F/OSS “Utopia” is that applications are provided free, there is a general conception that the developer will make it available to everyone, regardless of income bracket. From there people will readily jump in and package, distribute, evangelize, write documentation etc, etc,. When it gets to the end user, they will be so enamoured of this whole synergistic approach that those with any means will pay whatever they deem deserving for it out appreciation for the various services incurred for bringing it to them wrapped in a pretty bow and ready to use. At the end the end-user gets great software and everyone else gets compensated reasonably for their involvement. It just doesn’t work that way…and while F/OSS may be a new movement, human greed is a relatively older and better established one!
It just doesn’t happen because by and large human nature won’t let it happen, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” “give an inch, take a mile” a couple of aphorisms (out of thousands) decribing exactly what the problem is. There are a lot of generous and concientious folks out there, unfortunately they are outnumbered greatly by those who are out to get away with whatever they can. I got interested in Linux and F/OSS a couple of years ago precisely because I thought it above all it would be an interesting study of turning established economic statutes on their ear and how exciting it seemed to see this community based grassroots “model” that would make the established corporate system look completely out of touch. It sure looked that way for a while but now what I see is a lot of truly gifted developers like Paul, linuxDSP and legions more of downstream related volunteer labour getting totally taken advantage of.
I’m sure I sound more pissed-off than I actually am, truly I’m just disappointed because I really thought Linux and F/OSS would offer more than the same old same old.
“At this point, all you get for subscribing is the knowledge that you’re supporting a good cause”
How about looking at it this way. At this point what you get for free is software that would cost many hundreds of pounds from commercial software vendors.
It’s really simple, people who can afford to should just donate something to projects so that those who can’t afford to can still have access to good quality software. This doesn’t seem to happen as much as it should.
“too many hands in too many pockets,
not enough hands on hearts”
The Housemartins, "Flag Day"
I think John E might be on to something here. It might be a good idea to have some kind of value added to subscribing. At this point, all you get for subscribing is the knowledge that you’re supporting a good cause, which is nice. But, it would be even better if there were some kind of bonus.
The two business models that come to mind when I think of this are member funded organizations, such as the previously mentioned public radio, and member owned organizations, such as cooperatives. In both cases, you can use the product all you want without being a member, but you get tangible bonuses for signing up (for public radio, usually a nice set of discounts for events and local businesses, and an initial sign-up gift of some kind. For cooperatives, you get an equal share and vote in the business, along with dividends, and usually things like coupons and discounts).
The starter kit would be cool. What about other types of shwag, like t-shirts? Or, what would be REALLY cool, along the lines of John’s sponsored links idea, is if we could get some audio companies to provide a one-time discount on their products for subscribing to Ardour, which I suppose kind of sounds like a coupon. But it could work!
Two other ideas I suggested:-
Someone in the forums suggested making a set of keyboard stickers for Ardour. Instead of giving them away, maybe they could be sold in some kind of starter pack - along with a short ‘Beginners Guide to Ardour’ or something like that.
I noticed that most of Ardour’s web pages contain links to other sites such as Abbey Road Studios, Wave Arts, Native Instruments etc. How about expanding that by approaching other music related companies and ask if they’d also like a sponsored link. Mackie and Frontier Design are two obvious candidates since Ardour can link up to their products.
PR and marketing is part of it. But another part is what has been discussed. And a final part is that Ardour in some respects is still playing catchup to the ‘big boys’ for lack of a better term that everyone does know. There are lots of aspects that would all need to be approached, and a business strategy developed to really turn this profitable. At this point in time though there just isn’t enough time in the day for one person to do all that and develop Ardour, and there aren’t enough donations to get more people involved, thus we get back to a chicken and egg problem.
Money certainly CAN be made from F/OSS, but it is certainly more difficult for the reasons Paul and John mentioned above, and requires a bit of a different strategy as a result.
Public relations is certainly part of it, if you reach a larger market with your product then the chances are you will get more revenue, but the fact is still that (in my experience) only a small percentage of those who download the software actually contribute.
My own experience so far has been that I get many hundreds of downloads per month, and a lot of positive feedback about my software but very little (proportionally) in terms of support. To put it into context, if every person who has downloaded (and hopefully used) my software donated less than 1 GBP (that’s 1 UK pound, once, no subscription, just once…) there would be no problems funding the project. I can only speak from my experience - I’m just trying to fund a small project, nothing like the scale of the Ardour project and the amount of work involved is massive. The reason I keep going on about this is not because I want to get rich doing this, but that I desperately don’t want to see these projects fail because I think linux is an excellent platform for audio (and other applications) but unless people appreciate that there is a basic cost in providing this stuff (and a huge amount of work put in by the developers) then ultimately I fear these projects will fail or the development will stall.
I’ll stop complaining now and go and write more software… You can find what I’ve already done here:
or as part of GMaq’s excellent A/V linux distro.
But I suspect many people on this forum will already know that
IMHO the key would be more public relations. I am in contact with many sound engineers, most of them professional. If I talk to them about Ardour, the response is like: “Hmm… I heard about that but never tried …”. To be honest, I wish to have more time beside my job and family - in that case I would organize some workshops together with the shop I am in contact with. Currently my knowledge is not good enough because I just use the features I need and I dont need many features since my recording are acoustic live recording, no multitrack, less plugins …
If the community would grow up, the revenue and marked would grow up, too.
The original post is still out there: http://ardour.org/node/2915
Its just no longer on the front page because it seems inappropriate unless I edit the title and contents of my initial post, and that is something I don’t wish to do.
Ardour was the very first FOSS software I ever became interested in. When I first showed an interest in it I was repeatedly assured that the ‘F’ in FOSS did not mean ‘free of charge’. It gave the recipient certain freedoms but the ‘F’ was intended to be free, “as in speech” - not free, “as in beer”. In fact, the FSF’s web site used that very phrase when I last looked. “Free” software did NOT mean that you couldn’t charge money for it.
Unfortunately, when I read and understood the GPL agreement I saw a very different reality… ‘F’ meant that the recipient was free to do whatever he liked with the received source code - including using it to deprive the originator of their income. This is totally and utterly wrong in my view. In effect it means that realistically, an originator (let’s say Paul in this case) only ever gets one opportunity to profit from his work; that being the very first time he releases a binary. No originator can guarantee any more income than whatever he receives from that first release. Everything thereafter is pretty much voluntary.
As Gmaq says, FOSS is a Utopian fallacy. The FSF (with GPL) is peddling a license that is fatally flawed. Under it, the copyright owner does have certain privileges not available to the other recipients but crucially, he does not have the right to protect his income. In fact, the license offers no protection against unscrupulous recipients in any practical way. The FSF will only act if the recipient attempts to withhold rights from further recipients. It’s the recipients who are protected - not the person(s) who wrote the code.
I’m amazed that FOSS developers haven’t lobbied the FSF for some basic protection - at the very least, the right to charge a fair price for their work without giving others the right to undercut them. Otherwise “free” will always mean (and will always be interpreted to mean) “as in beer”.
probably deleted because the goal got reached - it was just the reminder that there were too little donations in August. I think it’s good that it doesn’t stay in the news.
The discussion could be continued in the forum.
Yes, you’re right Paul but the underlying problem is the same, whichever way you look at it:- the GPL protects the recipients of the work. It does very little to protect the authors. That would be fine & dandy if the FSF would admit it - but it doesn’t. The FSF encourages authors to believe they can charge for their work when for the most part, that’s almost never going to be realistic. At best, they can only charge for ancillary services. The problem of course, is that not all projects have suitable ancillary services (i.e. ones that can generate a sustained and reliable income).
Don’t get me wrong though. I have nothing against the concept of FOSS. But along with all freedoms there should be responsibilities. In my home country I am free to carry a knife - but I’m not free to use that knife to cause injury to others. I must use my freedom responsibly. And so it should be with FOSS. It should be contractually incumbent upon recipients not to kill the geese who are laying the golden eggs. Unfortunately, the GPL includes no such commitment or obligation - and even though there are few people who’d ever go that far, the fact that the license entitles someone to go that far is essentially the root of the problem.