I would very much like to discuss some things around W/, but I quickly want to say that, I really don’t want you to feel shouted down by the community around this. I realize the way some of us responded to you might have come across as dismissive of your post or your thoughts, and I want to apologize for my own part in that.
I like to think that Lines prides itself on relatively open discussion, and as a member of the community I wouldn’t want any person like you who was engaging in discussion in good faith to feel shut down, or for myself to be part of shutting someone down.
Long opinion / civilized 'rant' / thoughts about W/
So, W/ is a doozy I am only speaking for myself here (that’s all anyone can do, for the most part), but I think there’s a lot to think about and discuss around W/ as a product. I just want to make sure to put big “these are my thoughts” brackets around anything I say here, more than usual.
I bought a W/ from the first batch, preordered immediately when it showed up on the Control site (literally - I was walking my dog and paid Control money while still out on the walk). I built and sold Slashes boards for a bit, and I currently have 2 W/ modules. I’ve been engaged with W/ for a while, at least as a user and customer.
W/ has had, to put it mildly, a bit of a rough existence (again, big “this is my opinion” disclaimer around all this; I’ll stop belaboring that now). I think the original thread about W/ here is a testament to that. Just randomly scrolling through that thread and stopping anywhere, you are likely to see the words “issues” and “problems” a lot, and also “stick with it” and “I’m hopeful” and “frustrated” … you get the point, maybe.
I don’t know the history of the pre-release and post-release development of W/, so I can only speculate. Did it not receive a wide-enough beta test? Many many issues were surfaced almost immediately when it reached people upon release. Some of these were technical, and some of these appeared to be essentially UI issues. One person’s elegant UI can be another person’s confusing, impenetrable UI, but judging from forum discussions here and at The Other Place, many people had difficulty navigating the module’s functionality, in addition to the “legitimate” software problems.
Also (ok, one more “this is my opinion” disclaimer) (also please please read my whole post before coming at me with pitchforks) (meta: apparently I’m a little scared of the community too!), Whimsical Raps/Mannequins have not always been very communicative or forthcoming about the status of W/. Sometimes Trent and others have been very engaged with both the community and with individuals’ problems with the module. Other times, there have been long periods where no news has come out, and it has felt like W/ was either stalled or abandoned.
I have gathered that there were Reasons for that - primarily, that Whimsical Raps was very heavily involved in the development of Crow, and resources that might have otherwise been available to address issues with W/ have needed to be allocated to Crow development. I have also gathered that Crow v3’s development might have had some impact on the time that the W/ 2.x is currently requiring to come to full release (in beta for over a year now, and 4 months since the last beta release). There are probably other reasons also which are legitimate and which are not any of my business.
Nevertheless, it is frustrating. It is frustrating that the WR site still discusses the 1.2 version of the software when it is very clear that is not going to be its future. It is frustrating (to me at least) how long it is taking for things to settle and become stable - though, I am happily using and enjoying the 2.x beta and have been for some time.
I deleted a post of mine above because I deemed it too negative, but I’ll state the rough contents of that post now - as an owner of W/ modules, I sometimes feel like I am participating in a crowd-funded art/technology project. I’ve paid in some money, and I might receive a fully working module eventually, with functional software, but the form that software will take is not firm, though it does take community feedback into consideration, and it will take place on the artist’s timeline and at their discretion. (Please, please keep reading before coming at me with torches.)
It doesn’t help, in discussing these things here, that @Galapagoose is a well-loved leader and member of the community here, and rightly so. Their contributions and the effort put in to both the Monome and Mannequins ecosystems are enormous, and even saying that that feels like an understatement - the amount of work and creativity and vision is huge. We largely love their instruments. This community arguably centers around Mannequins almost as much as Monome. Many of us here owe much to Mannequins and to Trent.
Also, Trent is a human being who posts here. I don’t know Trent the human being personally, but many many people here do. Trent the Mannequins developer has always been Trent the quality human being when I’ve interacted with them.
But so, combining that with the love for Mannequins here, and I think there can be a bit of a defensiveness around any criticism or critical discussion of Mannequins on Lines. I think possibly there was some of that in the response to @georgie’s post, and also maybe some impatience that that ground has been well covered and discussed, and the ship has sailed.
This is not calling @georgie out for possibly not having read the 2000+ posts in the W/ and W/ beta threads - I haven’t read every single post - but “I would like the module as originally conceived” and variations have been talked about, and there are options if one wants to use it that way, and there are options if one wants to use it in other ways.
All this has given me opportunity to think about this technological ecosystem, and Eurorack and other ‘niche’ technologies, and if it’s not too pretentious, about capitalism and companies as entities. (Finally getting to my larger point here.)
We tend to view a product as a contract. If I have given you money in exchange for a physical good and/or software, it should operate as described, without bugs or defects, and it should continue to operate as described originally, and it should be supported in a reasonably timely fashion. There are good reasons why we tend to operate under these assumptions, mostly to do with consumer protection.
I’m not sure it is actually reasonable to view all “companies” this way, at least in binary black & white terms. Sometimes a “company” has limited resources and can only allocate them in certain ways. The idea of the Mythical
Man Person Month always applies - you can’t just apply double the people to a problem and expect it to get done in half the time. This is especially true when the “labor” is a particular individual with very specific skills and a specific vision. You can’t just hire another Trent or 3.
This makes me view “companies” like Whimsical Raps or Monome, or Mutable Instruments or really almost any Eurorack or small synth manufacturer, as being somewhere between open source and a company like Korg or Berhinger, or Honda or Apple or Nabisco for that matter. And it makes me think I should have different expectations from a one or three person company than I do from a large company, and adjust my expectations accordingly.
This is especially true when what you are getting with something like a Mannequins module (or other similarly sized makers) is exactly that uniqueness of vision. You wouldn’t necessarily want Whimsical Raps to have to behave like a ‘normal’ company, because they wouldn’t make Mannequins modules if those were the boundaries. You want them to be able to take risks, and to take the time they need. It is, in some ways, something between a product and art, and that’s specifically the value of it.
I need to take a moment to acknowledge that Whimsical Raps support is generally very good, both in my own experience and what I’ve heard from others. WR sent me a modified Run jack for my Silver Clouds Just Friends which I bought third or fourth or fifth-hand. By all accounts, if you have a scratchy pot on your Mannequins module and you can’t replace it yourself, WR is likely to try to help you out, even if the module is well past warranty. I am neither saying that we should not expect good support from a company like WR, nor that they don’t generally give good support.
The conclusion I’ve come to with W/ specifically, though, is that it is going to become what it’s going to become, and what it’s going to become is not entirely in line with its original conception. And some of the reasons for that are ones I know about, and some I don’t, and I’m not going to be able to know those. I either need to be ok with that and accept that, or I can sell the modules and move on, which is always OK too.
Anyway, I hope I didn’t offend anyone with all this, least of all folks at WR. I very much enjoy Mannequins instruments and look forward to continuing to use them, including W/, for now.