Community funded bounties for Norns development

This is a temperature check for community-funded bounties for Norns / monome dev goals.

I don’t know if this community is very pro cryptocurrency yet, but I’ve seen remarkable things happen with open source code bounties at https://gitcoin.co/

It seems like a system that is pretty aligned with the lines community. If there were a commonly desired feature, people here could come together and pitch in 5 or 10 dollars to get a nice bounty going.

I’m pretty immersed in the space, so I’m not sure what the vibe here is on it, but I think the tools are available for this type of thing and would be happy to shepherd the project along a bit - or kick off the first one and create a nice guide for how to contribute.

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The implicit reduced value of unpaid work is a concern I can understand, but my intuition here is that it will not be a zero sum game.

Its a hard issue to argue against because it really cant be seen until it unfolds. At the foundation of the idea, for me, is the concept of effective value transfer - which is critical to every functional economy. We have a little micro economy here, Imo more avenues for value transfer will be a net gain.

General tips from a ‘tip jar’ could easily be applied as general stimulus focused on areas of highest community engagement, though this is considerably more effective when you have a decent sized fund to work with - see quadratic grants for details https://vitalik.ca/general/2019/12/07/quadratic.html

i’ll look into this later & share some more thoughts but –

generally, given my particular life/work angle, as with all the other creative work i do (music, visual art, design) i am working toward ways of taking in some slight income from my open source dev work despite a very definite discomfort in doing so. i think for certain projects bounties could work out with some decent consideration & good community energy, ill check out the link you shared

I probably should have linked to the issue explorer on gitcoin rather than their homepage:

This is a kind of nascent area that has only gotten traction so far in a niche area - for now its all about code bounties for open source cryptocurrency related finance protocols aka “defi”. In my view the space is in its growing pains phase, and hasn’t manifested any potential outside of its narrow focus (yet).

That said - It seems pretty approachable to set up bounties in the form of norns related apps or lower level improvements. Anything from “refine HID integration in x ways” to “funding for cheat codes 3”

The area that this kind of bumps up against is the app as art thing. I can see assigning value there as quickly problematic. My intuition for this kind of bounty system would be that it would serve a narrow area of the norns platform - hopefully just help lift off some obviously beneficial things that may be too difficult, tedious, or time consuming for someone to be willing to donate their time to. Or to capture some value for individuals who are contributing in an exceptional way.

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i suspect that for the lower level dev work in the main code repo we wouldn’t need a bounty system

i think we could definitely imagine heathy & productive funding systems for individual app developers who could benefit from such a thing

politely, I’d suggest steering the conversation toward thinking about what a such a model might look like specifically for this community rather that try to fit lines in another box/existing platform, because i truly do not think lines fits in any existing boxes : )

(& maybe there’s some tech in the gitcoin thing that could be helpful, but at a glance yea it does seem more geared toward the commercial side of open source rather than this spectrum)

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I imagine if the monome HQ had a clear scope on a few things but lacked the time or resources to focus on them at the moment it might be effective to crowdsource the funding.

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re: sponsorship i feel like hundred rabbits have been carrying that out really well in the open source art stuff community over the years & might offer some useful perspective

particularly i like the idea of setting up transparent goals & (small) ways of incentivizing folks who stare interests with the developer

patreon seems cool but i think it’s limited to monthly payments

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Sums up my feelings entirely. If Monome decided a Patreon could help foster development, or Norns app creators could accomplish more with a similar model I’d be much happier to contribute that way.

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It bothers me how much unpaid labor goes into the monome ecosystem unacknowledged. I’m not proposing any particular solution, but it does represent a problem for me. And it is a complex and nuanced problem without obvious solutions.

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I’m new so forgive my ignorance. What kind of ‘unpaid labor’ do you mean? All the app drops get lots of (deserved) praise and many Instagram/YouTube users tag app creators and the like.

Praise and likes are not financial forms of support for script developers.

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This is essentially correct. Re 4 / 5 working, if monome has people lined up for everything they want and are satisfied with current output then this model is pointless and should not be pursued. The only way it would help is if there was more dev work desired by monome or the community than could be done with the current model, and finding freelancers within (or outside) the community that maybe have the skills but not the time to donate is an attractive prospect.

It’s essentially a way of sourcing freelances that allows community contribution rather than monome paying for everything, and along with this more immediate community direction.

re coins - they’re just a proxy for USD in this case, usually, they’re using DAI - which is a collateralized token pegged to USD. I imagine monome would prefer to use USD to pay freelancers, the strength of using DAI, in this case, is to allow community members to contribute to the goal(s) in a more effective way than tipping people after the work is done.

Mostly my goal is to think of new ways of financially rewarding contributors to open source art-related protocols, my favorite being this community. In my opinion, the work is rather thankless, praise and credit don’t pay someone’s rent, and I think this prevents many people who might have contributed from doing so.

anyhow - I’m seeing that maybe my two worlds don’t exactly blend. Maybe better to wait until the crypto thing has become a little less spooky to people.

This is probably a good clarification. I think that collective funding for Norns system work is more in line with this process than funding scripts.

community-funded development of the system is a benefit for every user, whereas incentivizing specific scripts is not.

hopefully this is not just reiteration:

i think crowdfunding (patreon/etc) make a ton of sense for norns scripts— as we acknowledge that many scripts are in fact “art objects” that double as instruments, where many script authors might not actually release music using them (where we socially accept that people support music financially). provided we haven’t seen this sort of thing happen yet, i think it’s more a matter of somebody just starting the ball rolling by including a paypal/patreon/etc link to their script description.

as indicated earlier, i don’t think it makes any sense to have monome specifically involved in funding scripts— these are the art of the community. i can’t figure out how disbursement would work, and it quickly becomes a substantial management burden.

core norns development, however, is a totally different thing. we, the core developers, are basically a group of friends that share a similar goal. some occasionally take on contract work to do a feature or fix but generally most have their day job, and norns is fun group project— so (like most open source projects) energy goes into areas of personal interest (you will see this based on people’s individual commits, see the git history) and on their own time. for pressing issues that need fixes i either take on myself or arrange to pay a contributor, though very frequently if there’s an issue with a contributors’ code they will often notice and fix it before it becomes a big problem. as for generalized compensation i try to be generous— though often financial compensation isn’t what’s sought— and i can only gift so many machines i make.

if we were to hire-out some feature that people didn’t have time or desire to work on, it’d need to be a collective decision at this point. it’s inappropriate for me to act like a dictator over this project. and similarly, any new major contributor would need to fit into the existing team and ethos of the project, which ends up being a lot like hiring, but given it’s free software this is actually a lot more qualitative and relationship-based.

to reiterate: the group of people who have come together to build this project, and this community over the years has been astonishing and simply the best part of the experience.

what i think, perhaps, is more being voiced right now is the desire for some kind of community voting (ie with dollars?) towards feature requests. i see this from many angles:

  1. the desire for a script that doesn’t exist. in the past, artists hire programmers (this is how i supported myself for awhile). so perhaps what’s being asked is a crowd-funded approach to this, which is very very difficult given you immediately content with design-by-committee (we’ve seen failed versions of this here). but there’s likely a way forward.
  2. the desire for slight modifications to a script which the original author isn’t immediately personally interested in. this would be a case where the author should be hired for a personalized fork. however, many people aren’t interested in money, so this is a conversation that should be considered more as a meeting of two people’s interests. maybe there’s a friendship there.
  3. large infrastructural features that relate to core functionality. this should be discussed here on the forum. it will be assessed both by the core devs who might consider building it, new devs that might contribute, and other non-devs who may second their interest. truthfully there’s no amount of money that will just make a feature viable even if the code exists, if it doesn’t work with the vision of the platform. keep in mind that this platform succeeds by the merit of design and vision and passion, not just because code and money.

regarding the celebration/attribution to developers, i likewise attempt to direct accolade where it is deserved— to the degree of minimizing attributions to my personal effort in this whole project (i’m going to start correcting this as the project is clearly a group endeavor). however, there are places where more attribution should be given, and i will fix this. (for example, @scanner_darkly and @csboling have done wonders for the ansible codebase).

one final thought.

despite my reservations of redistribution/etc, i do feel like it would be legitimate to have some sort of donation system given we’ve open-sourced a bunch of hardware, allowing a huge number of people to use the software created by this community. DIY shields, fates, and teletypes have grown the user base, and not “for free” given our efforts. if we were to accept donations i’d rather steer that towards educational donations rather than crowd-funding features.

and, finally. while i’d have to discuss it with the team, if there are experienced developers out there that do need work and would like to help, absolutely e-mail me. historically whenever i need programming help, none of the smart people i know are available. remember: a whole lot of norns code is not fun stuff— it’s hard, sometimes monotonous, and particularly tricky to design… everything doesn’t come down to implementation. we are doing this sort of work so the scripting experience we’re trying to deliver is fun.

three years on, you all have made some incredible sounds and art code. thank you.

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It seems like there’s energy for Doing a Thing, but not clarity/alignment about what that might be or what would be helpful. If that’s right, it could be a good time for a discovery/research effort with a goal of identifying (1) what the various types of people involved here (script authors, script users, Monome makers, infra contributors, docs writers, etc.) would like to see happen, (2) what obstacles exist, and (3) what sorts of things seem possible for the future. Or something like that. It could help arrive at shared perspective and prioritization.

That effort could be an “official” thing or a community thing, depending on interest/capacity. There may be some researcher types in the community who could help, but it could also be something worth hiring out, similarly to feature/fix contract work.

fwiw i’ve been cringing since this thread popped up. as someone who gets paid to write software i get the irony of thinking there should be places where i can write software without getting paid for it, but honestly i love that there are places like this where i can make stuff i’m interested in without the threat of a product roadmap. i know we all contribute differently, though, and i know i depend heavily on the free work of others at best subsidized by the nominal price of a one time hardware purchase.

as it is, i haven’t found an edge to the api that limits my work. if i did, i’d kick in on a bounty. but the other edge of that blade is knowing myself enough to know that whatever limit i found would be niche at best and more likely an antipattern.

i love being a patron for hundred rabbits, in the sense of supporting a foundry for incredible work i didn’t know i cared about until it’s in front of me. in the same sense, i’d love to do the same for for groups like the northern information. beyond that i can’t picture a way to make more tantalizing the continued development of this platform that’s given us, if nothing else, a forum this inviting.

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i am constantly amazed by how many extremely talented, passionate, thoughtful, brilliant people contribute their energy to this community.

if it helps for context, i’ve grokked that the original goals of norns were closer to enabling artists to build their own tools, to modify code to meet their particular performance needs (eg. I want to use a USB keyboard to chop a softcut buffer), and to share if they felt inclined. the user-facing system that glued it all together wasn’t expected to have to meet the same use cases as a closed-source commercial product, as a lot of the bits that make up the bulk of system-wide feature requests are actually possible at the scripting level.

in essence: i think the blinding brilliance of the contributed ecosystem, where an artist might primarily pursue norns because they want to use a set of very-polished community scripts, was just unexpected. but is so so so so cool.

all to say, just because something wasn’t planned for doesn’t mean it’s not happening. the gifts given to norns are true magic and reflect the willingness of human beings to offer their artistry to one another (literal former strangers). i just want to sharpen the image a bit – to offer rest to any doubts that there’s anything but grateful surprise and humility from the business that produces these objects.

i also want to highlight this, because it’s not something we’ve yet been able to articulate in a public way. to me, access + education define the long-term health of norns as much as wildly deep scripts and robust core software. i’ve had a handful of conversations in the past few months with organizations that serve many different populations, searching for where monome can best direct resources in service of our education goals. the work is just beginning, but to me this is where the future of this platform shines brightest.

from my side, these initiatives will benefit from the investment of resources + contributions being discussed here. there’s also great potential to create paid work through partnerships with community-based organizations. i know this seems a little hand-wavy, as there are no tangible outcomes yet, but it seemed helpful to share a trajectory and set of values that might have been previously opaque or invisible.

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i’m going to risk presenting half baked thoughts but i want to write it down while it’s fresh in my mind…

it’s not a simple topic, definitely, and it’s made more difficult because to me we’re mixing different things here: incentivizing development and rewarding development.

the latter to me is very different. to continue using cheat codes as an example: if you like cheat codes and if you want to express your gratitude to dan - just go ahead and donate. if a developer whose work you want to reward didn’t specify any ways to donate, just send a message and ask. not every developer is comfortable just taking payments either, but perhaps they’ll ask for a donation to a cause of their choosing, or a way to contribute to the community here (like donating to hosting - a cost that tehn doesn’t talk much about either). as a side note (intended for myself as well) it seems people are much more comfortable paying for a release - we are totally okay with the idea of paying somebody for the art they create - well, as mentioned in this thread, many scripts are works of art that just happen to be scripts. i don’t know why we should feel differently about releasing music vs releasing code - imagine if scripts were released in the same manner, “name your price”, so if you feel like thanking the author you just do.

it’s important to note the difference between donating for work already done vs donating for future work. not all devs will be comfortable with the latter - as it creates expectation and makes it more like regular work. i don’t like it because then i would feel like i have an obligation to work on certain projects, and i value being able to choose at any given point where i want to spend my time (which gets more valuable to me the older i get). but if it became feasible to replace my day job with this kind of work, i wouldn’t hesitate, and it’s a totally valid approach for somebody like hundred rabbits.

there is also the notion that developers put in work that goes unpaid. it’s also not as simple as that. when the original monome trilogy modules were released - as open source - it allowed me to essentially make my own eurorack modules, something that at that point was almost impossible (there was nw2s::b module and a couple of arduino based modules - we’re much more spoiled for platforms now). how much value would i put on the ability to run my own code in a eurorack system? how much would i value the possibilities it allowed me? how do you value something that allowed you to express yourself through art? and i would argue that the whole trajectory of monome has been finding better ways to enable more people easily create their own tools. aleph was that. teletype was that. norns is that. and each iteration takes lessons on how to make it more approachable and make it easier for more people to participate.

a slightly different angle: would i do grid teletype integration if this was a project i was asked to do for pay? absolutely not. it was a year of every day development. i got burned out and didn’t do any code for a couple of months after. i’ve got a day job as a software dev. i don’t need and don’t want to do extra after my regular hours. i did it because it was a project driven by passion. how do you put a value on that? how do you put a value on seeing people use it and do amazing things with it? what value do you put on seeing somebody make music with something you created? i can’t.

there is another somewhat invisible benefit for volunteer devs. we get to choose what we want to work on. which brings me to the 2nd part: incentivizing development. there are things that need to be done, core components, oftentimes boring things. here i think it does make sense to have some mechanism to identify such work and offer incentives for devs to take on it, and my understanding is it does happen on a needed basis, it’s just that there is no “official” public process for it. and the question is: is it needed? would the overhead of maintaining it justify the benefits it provides? and outsourcing dev is something that comes with its own set of complications that also need to be taken into account.

it’s also something that would be more needed if there were some true core features missing - but just looking at the scripts that already exist it’s hard to imagine anything truly basic still missing. and in big part it’s the direct result of a group of developers many of whom worked on it out of passion, out of desire to create tools for themselves to make art and out of desire to share these tools with others.

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+++++++++1 to this - I had to move back in with my parents this summer (i’m 22) & had a very short, almost nonexistent run with accepting script commissions from a couple people here & i backed out because of exactly this - this is a safe space to pursue my own imagination & having that feeling of value creep in from my income work was more baggage than the incentive.

i’ve been mulling over breaking from tradition and putting some language for donations in my readme’s when one of many far too ambitious projects finally come out. in my case, it would more directly free up my time for more OS projects (also doing freelance work in the arts, basically part time, which i’m grateful for!). at the end of the day it’s probably going to be a minor thing regardless of funding strategies, but useful nonetheless (& i’ll consider some way to properly credit the many free codebases my work is sitting on top of, which is very important!)

thanks for everyone’s thoughts :sparkles: !

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