Forum

Pro VVVV Economics

This post can be easily be mistaken for a rant, but do not be too quick to judge. This is too important to stay silent though!

In a lot of ways vvvv is a niche. I guess there are only a few hundred people on the planet who are making a living off this graphical programming language. Some of them are freelancing, some are running their own studios, some use it as an academic research framework. And less than half a dozen are trying to make a living off devvvveloping it. But there is no arguing, many corporate and public entities are benefitting from it.

Most people who dive deeper into vvvv will share a common notion: it is simply weird that a powerful tool like that can stay under the radar like vvvv for such a long time. And mostly everyone will share another notion: the community is much unlike most IT communities. It is not alpha male rah rah and not harsh at all, but helpful and distinctly open for people that are not cutting edge computer science, too.
In large parts this is due to the bright paragon of the devvvvs, that want this software to be a great software for everyone as well as a social experiment.

I consider myself a power user of it, and I have been willingly taking part of the social experimentation during the last few years. However, the longer I watch (and push) vvvv, the more I feel that there is a growing discrepancy of developing reality and anticipated future. It’s got to do with the economic part of vvvv.
To understand that, you need to understand the niche vvvv is in right now: a quite small one that is. Sure, it is cutting edge in UX and clustered, multihead output, it is unique in exotic input device support and surprisingly manyfold in media output. Its paradigm is way future. And yes, it is amazingly helpful from a community perspective. However, it is still a niche. There are tools like python, unreal and unity, that are much bigger and more tempting from a developers perspective (because more people/businesses are using it).

And there is the crux: how can we as a community compete with these bigger platforms? Yes, right now there are some things that keep us on par or even ahead of them (e.g. dx11, integrated c#, opencv integration, open experimentation of oop within dataflowing vvvv, always-runtime, etc), but most of that is coming from a very idealistic (and naive) standpoint, that will not be sustainable, once the people sharing their work for free/almostnothing realize that it is not doing them any good. And here the rant starts: flattr does not work as intended, a small core of vvvv users (that embrace the social experimentation part of it) hands around a few flattr-bucks, but a lot of people that are benefitting from that are not partaking. Maybe some are just used to get the best of it for free, maybe some feel like its payment enough to compile and understand these weird nodes. But money just does not flow as easily as it is in every fking appstore.

Freelancers are usually more open with their code, which is quite natural because it shows their skills to the companies that are likely to hire them. Only few studios are sharing their work (intolight being one of them), but most don’t. Even though the devvvvs are being the role models they are, when it comes to “commercial secrets” (which is usually just a few days of competent work, that can be reproduced without any patents) companies are surprisingly reluctant to share.
Intolight decided quite early, that this makes no sense, because we felt that other vvvv studios are much less of a competition, than the big companies that embrace other tools like ventuz, touchdesigner, of, etc. If vvvv stays ahead of the curve, we stay ahead. If evvvveryone shares, evvvvveryone stays ahead. If that means, that other vvvv studios stay ahead as well, so be it. The competition was never about the customers (the niche is growing too fast for that), it was only ever about the time needed to deliver a certain project.
To be completely truthful, there was a competion about the freelancers around certain times of the year (usually correlating with car trade fairs), which got to do with the niche aspect of vvvv. But hardly ever about code, that was usually only a matter of time.

So the rant is this: companies should be much more open with their code base. We are all too small and the niche is still too tiny to develop simple stuff twice, just because we choose not to share (and don’t lie to yourself, most of it IS simple). If we waste resources like that, we will not be able to compete with other tools that have a stronger user base or a better economical standing.

I don’t have a solution to foster better sharing right now. Maybe we should have some kind of bazar to show and trade our stuff, that is better than the aweful IRC sharing that is custom right now, where noone knows who actually made the patch after a few trades. Maybe we should have a forum subsection of professional vvvv users to trade patches. Maybe we should have a full-fledged micro market place for patches, like an app store. Maybe we should just tell, how much time and effort went into a given contribution to have a better understanding of a justified flattr. Maybe we should be more outgoing on who we are: just peers like you and me with no big-ass corporate background that try to make a living out of the most awesome cyber toolkit on the planet.

What I am sure of, however, that there is a debate needed, on how to fill the gap between the many talented people that want to contribute and the bucks that are potentially being earned by their work without them getting a penny (and that is already assuming licenses are paid to not let the devvvvs starve). Without this debate I am sure it will be impossible to ensure a proper maintainance for most of your favourite packs and contributions. There is a reason why elliot is reluctant to update Image and there is definitely a certain wonder, that vux is updating DX11.

I challenge you to flattr-bucket him and donate to everyone else that contributed to your success, even though you hardly ever make your voice heard on the forums. And in the name of the social experiment, I ask you sincerly to voice your opinion about this issue.

Thanks velcrome for the post
You’ve opened a very important discussion.I share also some aspects you have written about our community.

Hey velocrome,

thank you for this.
I think there are two different ways VVVV can go here.

  1. App store -> people get payd for their work
  2. better deleopment sharing/distribution -> people save time because there is nothing beeig developed twice, the final results will be a lot better, faster development

My proposal for a way to a solution:

  1. A Panel/Workshop/sth. at the Node festival dealing with the Questions that arise from your post.

  2. The few People/Companies that work with VVVV for money Present what they do. Sth. like: Hey im Company XY and thats what i do, this is my VVVV workflow. Also People who just start using VVVV commercialy (like i do) would not make the Mistakes everyone did at the beginning again and again.

I am Willing to start with both right now, but i think also these steps should be organized in a collective way.

I think we have all thought about these questions!
@xxxlalala I have indeed though previously about a panel like this at node, maybe that should happen this time.

I think we have a lot to learn from open source projects such as open frameworks, I realised this at the last node, having spent some time working with Eliot, and talking to Kyle there.

We all worry about out secret sauce, I think if we were honest the sauce is not so secret, we all borrow and reuse code and concepts from the wider world, ultimately we mostly get work through our reputations (and who you know of course!)

If we stand back and look at this from a wider perspective, the more we share, the easier it is for people to start using vvvv, the more cool projects get made, which makes it more acceptable for clients to commission works made with vvvv, the bigger the projects, the more people they need help, the more people get hired to help. I think in many ways our collective reticence to share, makes us more niche.

So I would encourage more people to share, Patchers of the world unite, you have nothing to loose but your anonymity! The Node is coming!

Good point velcrome,
It is a very important topic.
Although I agree with some points, I also have some different opinions.
For example the flatr thing - I never came to the point of transferring money to flatr because I didnt like the concept of flatr getting basically the bigger part of the total profit if you see it in the context of all the users. So that button is pretty rudimentary and I am not very ashame of it. I spent so much time in this community and with people from it personally, that I can excuse myself by not giving flatr rewards to others as I also dont expect any (and also no one ever tried).
I also didnt see any reason why a couple of extra bucks are mattering at all.
This comes from the conviction that as a vvvv freelancer / small startup studio I make significant income from commercial projects in which licensing is involved. I am also totally fine that I have only real work load like 1/3rd of the year and the rest of the time I am working on technical or artistic stuff to advance method and proposals for new projects.
So yeah I love to share patches and shaders that I made in commercial projects as much as those of non commercial projects. I feel like I have a huge folder of things that I still want to share and only time, and not motivation from money, is the problem why it is lurking on the disk (You know, those last 1% of a program takes ages always). Other users might benefit from it directly by using it for a commercial project which is good for them and good for the name of vvvv which is good for me again on the longer run thinking about sustainability of this profession. The situation in which direct concurrence is contra beneficial and someone else uses your stuff for a project that you have pitching for is really bad but very short time and no real damage in most of the cases, and it is also happening very rarely unless someone is really unlucky (hope no one feels like that).

Yeah but I like the idea of a forum sub section that works like a trade froum,
I love trade forums it is addicting somehow. But what do you want to trade it against?
o SSAO shader
And then a handful of users posts what they want to trade it for, particles, granular synthesis, real money, vvvv coins (not yet invented)
Okey serious that would be a horrible idea. Then better just lets stick to contributions.
And maybe introduce a Request Contribution section
And people feel payed well with social appreciation only.

For a better quantity of user group classical internet Advertising from the VVVV Marketing section would be maybe efficient. A lot of Frameworks make advertising like Xamarin or Unreal Engine. But I guess it would be something that actually requires a marketing section and this stuff is out of my horizon. I am just a naive numbers person.

hey @velcrome, cool post.

As a vvvv starter, who actually used any other computational tool on the planet before (lol), i have to admit that i never thought of vvvv trying to grow…

Why? Because it intentionally does what vvvv users love - not necessarily trying to attract the market. And i like it. Hence i always felt like this niche is completly intended (may it be conscious or subconscious) by you and the core devvvvs.

Please correct me if im wrong.

Just my humble opinion.

mio

i like sharing and i do share bits of commercial projects. i don’t like sharing half finished bits which sort of work for a certain project. same problem like tekcor. no time, own requirement of quality.

it’s not just the development time but the following support. one could ignore requests and refer to the open source code, but this is only useful for few people. and kinda rude like " hey, its buggy like hell but feel free to dive into the code"

hence, just sharing random code is not a solution for me.


i’m still not sure about the app store idea, there are things like the player, html node and dx11, which definetely deserve a license payment to financially support the development. it could be a motivation for further support (time) and strengthen the developer commitment.

on the other hand, i’m not sure what this does with the community and how to enable students etc.

yeah same here…creativity often demands speed not good code…most stuff i do runs here when u dont click the wrong Bang lol … it is embarassing to me when contributions simply dont run…

@princemio, no niche is completely intended, every niche wants to attract more people. :D

About sharing projects, I am sure most projects are soo specific (with used media and hardware) that it is simply pointless to share that. It is a problem, but dont see a way of that.

One thing that I find really weird, is that we do not have a cool vvvv demo reel to show potential new users how freaking powerfull this tool can be. A v4 commercial if you like.

At Westbam: I tried to motivate people to do this in the past and it always worked in a cool way but never got finished.
Now I realize it is more a video collecting and cutting project rather then a non commercial developement project which was the initial attempt.
So yeah my projects are free to use for a showreel for vvvv i would be more then happy to help here. It would be great for the frontpage.

At princemio: Also a good point. I also dont have the feeling that it is a very small niche. I see a lot of people who are aware of vvvv being more powerfull then what they use now and wanting to work with it. Most of the time they just need a small push to start with.

velcrome. thanks! The subject is on the lists for node15. suggestions for the format are welcome. btw: node is also a contribution from quite a lot of people to the community. node also can be seen as a contribution towards a way out of the niche, or maybe to promote the niche’s professional sides. node gives the community a face that the outside can see! personally i believe that living in a niche is a good breeding ground.

from my perspective as a longterm professional vvvv user (more than a developer) there are two souls living in the vvvv niche…

  1. one soul pushes prototyping, experimenting, hacking, super fast developments, astonishing results, attraction of students of the design & artistic worlds, creating this lovely community of people. Behind this soul are the idealistic (and naive) principles which velcrome mentioned in the initial post. Where i would say, they are not naive at all since those vvvv principles are forming the difference to other software projects. However, most of these principles foster a different involvement of the software development within the design process of projects more then beeing useful for the second soul.

  2. the second soul of the niche is the need for professional and easy to use applications of those principles in real world projects with real clients. @princemio vvvv already attracts markets heavily. but in these projects the patcher has to guarantee a certain quality of the software/hardware. and this quality is hard to guarantee if the project it is based on code that is not prooved to be bugfree and tested in many other projects before.

better sharing indeed can keep us on track for the second soul. maybe it just needs a better framework which has to be designed first. maybe a plugin and contribution manager (app store) within vvvv (firefox style)? this would also help to keep the first soul alive. It would free us from thinking about many things like “do i really have the latest version of that plugin from elliot, or is it the one that he gave catweasel once”. Or it would free beginners to think about very specialized nodesets that they do not need for their education of the first soul. :-)

for me this is all a question of what is a native (always working) node and what is a contribution, i dont have a problem to buy a license for professional projects but I would assume that a certain service level is included in case of bugs or problems. or at least i would like to see how how and where the plugin/contribution has been used before.

It is good from all of you to respond, it shows that this topic is important not only to me. also it gives a better understanding, of what the community sees and wants vvvv to be.
I don’t want to dive deeper into the other comments, because I hope more people will voice their opinion freely, even if it is opposing mine.

I want to make one expection to the comment of @david: your clear distinction between #1 and #2 is very good and I think that might not have been as clear in my initial post.

So I want to clarify, that I am very happy with #1. Individuals are happy to share and a great deal of learning can be gained by others from that contributing culture. There is real treasure in it. For one, it allows people to advance from hobby to pro.

What I am not happy with is the professional side of this sharing. “Professional contributions” require a continued maintainence and support. They need an extra effort to be usable and deployable. Flattr and bounties have failed so far, and at least to me it is clear why: they could have been a means, but the problem is a sub-par sharing culture on a pro level.

The argument “it is almost done, but I am missing the time to clean up” seems valid close up, but if you broaden your perspective, all businesses in vvvv will continue to loose time because too few studios take the time. Too few paid developers are granted the time to clean up for a bigger user base outside their company.
Besides, I suspect most [businesses](studios) won’t share for other reasons then simply time. The devvvvs are propably counting on altruistics, but I think these issues might only change if contributing in a professional manner could be made profitable as well.

Also a better way to distribute contributions would help, the endless stream of unorganized stuff is not nice at all. You usually have to know about the existence of a contrib to find it. Any improvement to that would help not only #2 but #1 as well.

For my business we’ve always been happy to share but finding the time to separate off bits of our projects that might be useful is very difficult. We’ve even meant to have done this internally as we often would find ourselves cracking open old projects to find little snippets, but again we’ve never found the time. We’d either be onto the next project (99% of the time) or relived to have a moment to breath - the last thing we’d want to do is more vvvv (we also like to sleep).

Making formal contributions always comes with a time overhead and if you can’t find the time then you can’t contribute. Yes it would be great to factor this into a job’s budget but we’ve always found it hard to get decent budgets let alone create extra resources and of course we need to try and make some money somewhere. Most of our projects probably contained multiple ‘contributions’ so dumping a ZIP of a project into contributions, I don’t think, wouldn’t have been useful for most people. Do we want a place to dump ZIPs of old projects? If people want to give this a go then I’ll dump some quite large and cool projects in it with a brief description of it’s features and I’d probably find sometime to answer a few questions about them. Maybe someone with more time could split some bits out of it.

Velcrome - I think your post is great and your starting an interesting conversation it’s a very complex situation. One point I can make about your comments, ‘most of it IS simple’ and ‘just a few days of competent work’. Yes each component of a project often is simple but its the number of components and piecing them together in the right way with project management and delivery is far far from simple. I have often found it incredibly challenging - vvvv is (not always) the easy bit. Just because building a fire pit in my garden is easy for me doesn’t mean I have one (I really want one). I’d love to throw a few days of competent work at a project that I’m working on right now but we can’t afford it.

I’d love to have some more time to to contribute more to this conversation right now but I really dont have the time :)

maybe we could add a page linking to github projects, with comments on what it does and what the status of the “half finished” or even finished but not cleaned up / ugly code… whatever solution is? devide up the contributions a bit like: fully tested and working bug free / not tested / needs more time / half finished. Also share more on the road / progress. or maybe even as nitro says, a project graveyard :O

thinking about it, i’m pro “app store” (paid contributions)

why?

  • developer receive money to pay for life and could even reject projects
    (just like vvvv devs receive money for vvvv)

  • motivate developer to deliver professional stuff hence increase contribution quality

  • increase support since badly supported software does not sell

  • still possible to distribute free versions of whatever for students etc.

question is, do we really have a free software community since vvvv itself is not free and addons like protektor cost real money ?

this should be discussed at node, i guess

my 0.02€,

first, i did not yet write such a sophisticated post like some others kindly did, because i can’t completely figure out for myself how to ideally deal with those mentioned problems on the one hand and the community we all want to live in on the other hand.
And i think, what is being discussed here (and surely will be at node15) will always influence how this little crowd here behaves and develops.

For my part, i really like the way how topics are discussed here - and am a bit afraid that this could change if we commercialize¹ parts of that software.
'If i pay for sth., i expect it to work’ vs. 'If someone kindly invites me to use sth. i am willing to contribute

Basically i like the way how vvvvs licencing model works. I believe as a student/beginner/prospect i’m not willing to pay for some handsfull of pieces just to try something out in my freetime.

But those points are mostly assumptions…

Does someone have insights into other communities like the unity one and can report how they live with their Asset Store and commercialized environment?

I could also imagine a way like this:
If the vvvv group had more money (through selling more licences) they could perhaps pay/initiate/maintain contributions and thereby keep the licencing model alive?
I generally like the idea to have a possible ‘app store’ not purely capitalistic, but some kind of controlled by an instance we all trust. Maybe a more modular and oop future can make future extensions a lot easier to maintain?

After all, i do not have an idea of a real solution and so am curious to read further posts.


¹ the term commercialize is used in an exaggerated way here, since vvvv IS a commercial product…

about the not shared tech - some messy thoughts

not sure, how much is deliberately kept non-public by companyrules… in case a freelancer is not hired for developing a special plugin but for realizing an application - which is the common case i know - the sourcecode does not necessarily belong to the company but only the usage rights of that complete app.

when it comes to contributing that i see it similarly to u7. i don’t want to share hacks as a contribution. whenever i share something as contribution or in the addonpack i have tested it to the guts and i’m willing to give some kind of support like porting to new v4 versions if necessary or pretty instant bugfixes.
the things created for these commercial projects are mostly tied to a very special scenario and/or hardware and would not work out of the box for any other case. to convert them to a general usable contribution is definitely this missing 5% which takes a lot of time (testing on different hardware setups, help & demo patches, proper failsafe spreading, proper exception handling, etc…) that part is rarely covered for freelance work. so just sharing that state of work would probably result in a lot of complains via forum, skype or mail…
also i know that the contribution section is crawled by beginners (e.g. my students), and it would be pretty frustrating if a lot of those would not work out of the box.

on the other hand i know that situation when someone tells you he had already implemented that thing which you just spend two days for… until now the community seems small enough that one still seems to have a rough overview of what has been developed already or not - even if not shared here. but i agree it’s a weird practice to get to know these things via skype, irc, on the phone,…

maybe we just need a central and clearly labeled place for hacks and snippets? where you don’t just download expect it to work out of the box. use at own risk and no support guaranteed… maybe not even something to download but just stating i’ve got these things partly implemented, if interested for sharing or further (paid) developement contact me…

about the appstore, mixed feelings. maybe it would encourage devs for contribution quality & support, sure. on the other hand it would then feel weird if dx11 or other big packs would stay for free. but generally having to pay for those would probably affect the community (grow) negatively…

Thanks sebl and woei, your views are much appreciated, because you are both strong contributors.
Yet I hope more people join the discussion, no matter how shakey they feel about their stand point. Make your voice heard on this topic, even if you hardly ever talk in the forum!

From a user perspective, it is indeed the quality that is deciding if a contribution is useful or not, no matter the sheer quantity of the developing effort. User adoption of a contribution is correlating directly to the comprehensibility and “effortless” usability.

From a developers perspective it is the spent time and acknowledgement (both ideal and monetary) that is deciding if a contribution will be maintained or not. Curiously user adoption of a contribution is correlating directly to the necessary support and need to maintain.

Please note I don’t want to distinguish between users and devs too clearly, because in the world of vvvv we all are both, no matter where we are on the learning curve. Some of us just lack the time, the confidence or the initiative to increase user adoption of a certain part of our code to more than 1.

So there are many reasons why someone might feel reluctant to share code, and like I said before, I feel strongly about changing attitude at least on a certain professional level. Otherwise our valued sharing culture will not survive a further growth of the vvvv user base; nor will vvvv stay competetive with other tools around.

However, it seems clear from the comments so far, that there is this specific thing of educative and social sharing as well that feels “underground” and idealistic, that most people lovvvve. Our beloved toolkit presents itself as some kind of free lego playground at first (and only later reveals itself as a mighty software that can be the base of your freelance career or your upstart studio).

So maybe it would help some if we agree to tag our contributions accordingly, and also put a price tag for professional use on it.

I see a few distinct qualities in contributions

  • Pack- something that is a fundamental extension of vvvv, like DX11, Image, Audio or Message. Something you’d expect to be part of vvvv in time, but was developed by independent members of the community (who propably saw a lack of an integral part of vvvv when they were coding it)
  • Toolkit - an extension that is a bigger collection of modules and plugins serving a specific purpose (like the Kinect Toolkit or BadMapper) which has specific applications in mind and is asking for broader community development
  • Application - like Iris
  • Plugin - a single c# development effort for a specific task. Can be generic in nature and is most likely to end up in the SDK above all other contributions.
  • Patch - something that was a pain to get working, like a patch for some exotic hardware, an interactive way to do a specialized task, etc.
  • Legacy Project - some left overs, look and use at your own risk
  • Toy - something that is fun, no further consequences.

From the first to the last the very time needed to test, document, support and maintain decreases. To have a decent quality pack takes months of dev effort, to clean up a patch might take only a few hours.
There might be more qualities.

Also there might be different things to ask for a contribution (including a fixed rate, percentage of a professional project, barter for help patches and beer, etc).
Additionally it might help to have some kind of (automated? voluntary?) usage feedback. It can be really frustrating if the only feedback a contribution author get is faults ;)

Personally I think it would be a great start if the vvvv website could harness at least some functionality to not only appreciate a contribution with likes, but also provide some functionality to “sell” a contribution for commercial purposes. If devvvvs get their share of these transactions, so be it. It is probably still better than if flattr gets it.

Also, there could be a better way to browse contributions, maybe even from within vvvv.

In this context I am an end user. One of the strengths of vvvv that I like is that it is not complicated when it comes to pricing. one fee and then everything is there. I can use everything that works with vvvv in my project (almost, there are some parts that require a seperate license eg. bass asio).

In my eyes it would be a loss if it became more complicated.

so an idea:

An approach like humble bundles could be taken, where when you pay, you can choose where your money goes, https://www.humblebundle.com/
It could for instance be made so that vvvv has fixed minimum price (currently 500€) and of that a part goes to the people making larger contributions. the new minimum price could be 550€ where 500€ goes to the vvvv group and you can then decide where the rest goes as well as add further money if you feel like it, if you don’t make a choice, the distribution of that extra funds could be split after a key that takes into account things like age of contribution, popularity and complexity etc.

This way you can still just use everything like today and the developers will get money, even though no one are specifically by their pack/contribution. and you can of course still pay someone to make elements you need.

EDIT: it could also be extended to give funds to people making tutorials and node festival and the likes.

i think that’s a great idea, sunep!
i’m sure someone can brew an algorithm (downloads/age * ?) that spreads the money between contributions if the user doesn’t want to decide.