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.