Design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc. threads

how do people feel about the “design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc.” threads?

i find them theoretically very fascinating and have thought about starting new ones for bastl, in the past, and today noise engineering. there’s a lot of potential for fruitful discussion i think, especially in the theory & philosophy realm of things. for example, i love bastl with their yolo attitude and wooden face plates, but at the same time their oddHP standard subtly encourages the consumer to purchase more than one of their modules in order to make it even… noise engineering i don’t really know about but they’re definitely trying to make certain statements that could be interesting to discuss. ALM is another interesting one! They and NE both have certain types of music they’re interested in making (although different from each other)… that seems interesting to pull apart, especially in modular where they can be used for other purposes…

ultimately I haven’t started these threads because i’m not sure I have the knowledge or experience with either brand to start a fruitful discussion. but also those threads end up very eurorack centric and become a space for either GASsing or hating… both the mutable and make noise threads have been contentious if i remember correctly, and definitely the majority of posts are people being (understandably) excited about new products. this is unavoidable (i just posted about being excited about the wing pinger, so pot and kettle) but maybe having more threads like this end up encouraging this sort of gear centric thinking that lines is ~generally~ better at keeping to a minimum compared to other places. There’s also the fact that modular is a small enough community that the makers very likely are looking here as well, which is neither a good or a bad thing but certainly a complicating factor.

i’m not advocating any action against the threads that exist – those brands are obviously very relevant to many users here and warranted the creation of those threads. Just curious peoples thoughts on this.

To me it matters a lot if the thread is about a company or brand as a whole, or if it’s about instruments. For example, Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc is about Make Noise modules. It’s about instrument design, and about how there may be underlying points of view that unify those designs, or how they may be intended to compliment one another.

It’s not really a general Make Noise discussion thread, IMO. It’s not a place to discuss their marketing efforts, unless those efforts directly impact their designs. It’s not a place to discuss Walker’s haircut or deadpan delivery.

I think the topic has a place because Make Noise modules have a consistency and come from an opinionated point of view that coheres them. There’s a there there. But I do think the threads need to be tended to in order to prevent them from become GAS-fests or moratoriums on the makers as a whole, or else descend into contentiousness, as you pointed out.

I’m mostly talking about the MN thread since it’s freshly in mind but I think these things would apply to any maker-oriented thread.


in that context the critique was framed as a critique of something being out of step with their apparent philosophy, although as @alanza pointed out the whole thing seemed very in line with their vibe.

i dunno if I really wanna comment too much on that particular interaction, although i think it does sort of point at what I’m wondering about. your stance of the thread being about the “modules” as stated seems completely valid and is, as you pointed out, backed up by the title. comments and thoughts about business philosophy maybe belong elsewhere… but then once a space is only for speaking about gear what’s to stop it from being fetishistic?

i’m trying to gauge where the appropriate and healthy line (hehe) is. what’s the added value of discussing things such as “such-and-such company has modules with a button to access it’s 5 modes” or “noise engineering’s use of the 5v rail” or bastl’s use of 5hp" (i went with a #5 theme) when all of those may end up in a valuable discussion, or may become contentions very quickly.

I have a feeling the answer is sort of what i hinted at before – we’ll know it when we see it, when a brand’s instruments are relevant to a significant number of users here there’s a tipping point where the value of engaging with that convo outweighs the downside. maybe I’m overthinking it. the balance of gear and non-gear talk here is very nice and I worry about personally engaging with and encouraging gear talk in a way that negatively affects the overall community.

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(just to quickly follow up with an example – I wanted to post about a new noise engineering module and hear peoples thoughts, and so was considering a “usability theory, philosophy” style thread. But then I paused and started this thread instead, and after typing the previous reply I remembered seeing a distortion thread a while back and posted about it in that thread instead. this is a great thing about lines. To me that thread is the right place to have posted about it. It makes the space less cluttered, and it’ll get to people interested in the outcome (distortion) rather than just the gear. but taking the time to think about where that post goes and doing the research takes some thought and often research/work. is there value in a noise engineering thread when there’s drum voice and distortion threads? is there value in a make noise thread when there’s a complex oscillator and reverb and delay and sampler threads? Of course these brands have broader philosophies and systems and standards that might be interesting to discuss, but that’s the question i’m trying to engage with, is does it go beyond “just gear”).

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People are always going to want to dominate others with their ‘superior’ opinion. There is a very definite and recognizable difference between the around-the-campfire type of conversations, where people equaly share their opinions and views, different as they may be and people who want to dominate others in a passive agressive way.

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I am fine with it. I think it’s especially reasonable when discussing quite focused sets of products: for instance, a single modular manufacturer’s output is inevitably going to have a degree of focus on interoperability that may vary from other manufacturers - from engineering choices through to ideological ones.

I’m wary of policing how people engage with music here. Yes, we’re not as gear-oriented as many other places; in part because of the people who participate, in part because of the threads they make, which each feed one another. But it’s not because we police gear-oriented threads.

If there was one encouragement I could make, it’s that Lines prefers threads that are more generally applicable than not. By which I mean: is your question/topic really specific to X? If not, why not make the topic broader? Sometimes, topics broaden out and get renamed; other times, no, this thread really is about one manufacturer, let’s talk about that!

And people change their opinions over time. In 2019, people often get into things for one reason - they like a manufacturer, or they saw some cool gear, or they want to join in with others. Will they keep doing it for those reasons, or will they discover new things they enjoy as their horizons broaden? A lot of those threads can be gateways to other things, and that’s why I think they have value.

I am wary of moderating other people’s opinions - and I’m also wary of groupthink. Lines is made of people. Whilst we have things in common that bring us here, and ways we’ve agreed to participate - encoded in the Code of Conduct, or the configuration of this Discourse instance - we don’t necessarily all have the same outlook on life (let alone music). One person’s “GAS” is another’s “researching a new purchase”.

I suppose the question I’d ask with any such thread - just like any other thread on Lines - is “what is this bringing?” I think both the MN and MI topics posited are interesting, and certainly substantial enough to warrant a thread.


There might be many places a particular idea or post could reside because things don’t exist in a vacuum. I think that your line of thinking @renegog in that you should put things where they will be the most creatively useful/inspiring to people…or maybe it should go in a certain place because that happens to be where the discussion is happening. It’s difficult to know sometimes what the best place to put a thought is, because some topics and thoughts on lines are more ephemeral or based on a specific time/event than others.

I think that you make a good point @infovore that certain topics can be stepping stones for people into others. I think I’ve been around the synth world long enough that the aura surrounding certain people/brands/particular modules/instruments is kind of boring and not fodder for a lot of creatively inspiring thoughts (and to reiterate, this is to me). At the same time, there are other things that are new to me that are very creatively interesting to me, so it is good to think about it in terms of perspective.

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:raising_hand_man: Is there a thread for that somewhere?


I definitely learn and get a lot out of this kind of discussion. For me, hearing people talk about ideas around certain instruments, process, how it fits in workflow or the strange reason they can’t live without something is great.

It helps me with GAS sometimes because I realize it isn’t for me at the moment. It hurts me with GAS if it sounds exactly like something I’ve been hoping for.

All in all, I think I end up better informed regardless of purchases. I can’t get a Double Knot right now but I’m really inspired by the discussion around Lorre Mill.

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about to retitle this thread:

Walker’s Haircut: Design, Usability, Theory, Philosophy, etc.


I would be most interested in feedback from someone who has recently designed and released a product for which the user interface is a critical success factor - specifically feedback on “how they did it” and “what they learned in the process”.

Theory and philosophy are all well and good, but they become real to me when put into practice, which as we all know takes shiny theories and philosophies and muddies them up considerably.

By means of an example, I would looooove to hear from @MengQiMusic about the decision processes he’s used in evolving the Wing Pinger’s design. Something important … changed … between version 1 and 2 of the prototype, so much so that when I watched the video of his hands (because I’m pretty sure they were his hands) playing prototype 2 they seemed to flow over the instrument in a way that they did not in version 1. That didn’t just happen.

UPDATE: Going back and reading the WP P2 page on his website, he seems to have answered my questions.

The problem I see with this thread is that the most interesting things to be learned from it belong in the threads dedicated to those products.

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Nature & Photography and Field recording obviously.

David Attenborough: “The elusive Walker, caught in his natural habitat of Fez Berlin, is ‘patching’ his synthesizer. This may be to attract potential partners for business transactions, or else, just for pure joy.”


A further thought on keeping threads on-topic - whilst this is sometimes important, especially if something needs answering, it is also a natural thing for conversations to meander a bit. for me threads like those in the title are pretty conversational by nature, and that is part of their charm.


I also think some allowance for natural conversational drift needs to be accommodated. You and I are already off-topic for this thread :slight_smile: but it does feel like part of the flow.

It also would be too much work for the mods, people disagree about whether something is in fact off topic, etc.

I’m not sure that a multiparagraph post criticising an unrelated entity in a different industry, as well as calling out anyone who uses it or defends it as having some utility, falls within the bounds of relevant to one of these brand-specific design usability threads, even if the brand in question was using that utility.

If the thread was “Make Noise: let’s discuss Make Noise”, then sure, business & marketing practices are fair game. I’d still want the discussion to be around Make Noise’s use of a platform.


Sort of reviving this thread: I’ve noticed that there are starting to be more Equipment threads for specific modules of late. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, and it does seem to be something some parts of the community want. But, I wonder if it encourages a kind of fragmentation of discussion.

Not objecting, but wondering what thoughts are. The Equipment category feels to me like it’s drifted a bit towards MW territory of late…many more ‘help me finish my rack’ questions and threads around specific equipment.

Meta meta: I am possibly being judgmental? Open to that.


my original argument against those brand threads is that they’re too eurorack centric/ gas building/ mw-esque. I definitely would rather see a xaoc thread than a batumi thread though, but even better to have a conversation about batumi within a wider conversation about LFOs and modulation, the way the various effect threads encompass pedals, euro, and other gear. that seems like the linesian appraoch, but whether or not it’s viable i’m not sure. a euro category would be simpler to implement/enforce for the mods no doubt.


You could mute by tags, if applicable tags existed (and were used consistently)… I don’t know how tag creation/application privileges are set up here.

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I’d like to be clear and open here that, I was prompted to pose this question by the Batumi thread that was started earlier today by @eblomquist, and also that it was not my attention to call out that thread or @eblomquist specifically. I own a Batumi, and may learn some things from that thread; and I also started a Three Sisters-specific thread myself.

My intention was to have conversation about gear-specific threads, not to point fingers or call anyone out. I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ answer to this, nor do I believe I have that sort of answer.



I think it’s ok and interesting to have focused discussions on specific things - whether eurorack modules, software (max, SC) or whatever. I’m not sure we could have a Teletype thread and Cold Mac thread, but not a Batumi thread. For me, the tendency on Lines is to override too much GAS with process discussion (that can be adapted to most forms of music making) works for me. If it was every other thread than perhaps it would clog things up though.


I think the specific module threads make more sense than the “design/usability/theory” threads, at least when I read them. I don’t own a Cold Mac but it’s a great thread to read to pick up techniques that can be translated to my own setup. Batumi is a module that’s existed for a long time now and it’s very versatile so it makes sense to me that a thread about it could be sustained beyond discussing whether someone should buy it or not.

These “design/usability/theory” seem to be the opposite whenever I look at them, interesting discussions sometimes occur but most of the time, it looks to me like people beating themselves into a frenzy over whatever new module that brand is about to release.
Personally I find that it’s kind of hard to have all that much to say about “design/usability/theory” when it comes to a specific brand, it’s much easier making general comments around that topic beyond specific manufacturers. Whenever I see this discussion sort of spring up, it always feels limiting because of that.
I also find it kind of hard to express strong design opinions when your thread is about one manufacturer along with this forum’s general preference towards positivity (which isn’t a bad thing, at least not in general). If I for example don’t like Make Noise’s design language, I don’t particularly feel like going into the Make Noise thread and argue that, it feels like raining on someone’s parade, especially when there’s always someone working for them in that thread. (I’m also aware this trepidation is my part and that someone else would like feel more confident in expressing these opinions gracefully.)

I definitely agree about the recent general “what should I get” questions. They often don’t make for interesting conversation and I don’t think they actually help the person asking the question most of the time. Pretty much everyone has a different opinion, to guess what’s right for some stranger you’ve barely talked to online requires psychic powers and the OP generally seems to walk away more confused than before in my experience.

I really think this community should try to provide the same utilities as MW. I won’t harp on about why is dislike that site but the less bound people are (or at least I am) to it the better. Doesn’t mean the conversation itself should follow the same formula.