Non-Commercial Guidelines

I’ve got to say, I’ve typed this up nearly 5 times and each time it ends up way too long and philosophical like I’m Spinoza or something and I am I not trying to overwrite and potentially limit the scope and framing of this conversation, as I don’t think my nuance is the only nuance. So I am just going to jump straight to the stuff I see from my perspective and try to keep it short(er) and less opus-y.

  • I think there is an unfortunate double standard set for hardware projects and I think there is a way to change that.
  • I also think that there is a romantic misconception of open source that is promoting the devaluation of people’s time.
  • I am not advocating for any transactions to be made through lines or using lines to subsidize a customer support infrastructure.
Where I'm coming from aphoristically...
  • Art and tools are intermingled and themselves one and the other. an audio recording is a tool inside of a sampler. a sampler can produce novel media by design.

  • A link is only aesthetically different from a search term.

  • Viral marketing (spam/banned) is possibly meant as a technical term, but in spirit it is “consumer generated content that builds trust in brands or products.”

  • Depending on the breadth of definition of “viral marketing” there is a lot of this on the forum and would be difficult, unwanted or impossible to moderate away. (This is a whole separate community issue, I feel.)

  • The above creates a gate keeping mechanism where mass produced products are “above the law” by virtue of their saturation (no talking about your own “products”) as well as potentially inaugurating an “influencer” style apparatus to bypass not talking about your own “products.”

  • Almost everything is a product for better or worse. Even if you DIY your grid you bought some neotrellis. If you ultra DIYd it, you bought some silicone. Can we not pretend DIY is non-commercial.

  • “DIY only” projects exclude people from art-tools if they don’t have the all the necessary resources.

  • DIY MOQs create waste or surplus parts needing to be resold. DIY is cheaper, more responsible, and less wasteful in small batches.

  • If an open source project is viewed by someone with capital to have potential, they could, with said capital, produce many for cheaper and disconnect the designer from the project and confuse support systems.

  • A streaming platform like bandcamp allows listening to art-tools for free, but often has buy link, even if it’s “pay what you can.”

  • There is no overhead for duplicating digital art-tools. So, it is understandable they are often shared for free. Physical art-tools have an overhead by virtue of being material. This can be addressed and acknowledged transparently, or not…

  • Valuing and devaluing your art-tools is up to a person and their boundaries. It shouldn’t be stigmatized or mandated. Often people that are told they are worth it more frequently by the world value their stuff more and I think everyone should be supported in this. I don’t think a platform (or at least this one?) should impose or imply the valuation or devaluation of art-tools.

  • I’m ignorant in some regards about the culture arc/crow/norns/grid scripts, but is is possible that some one bought an open ended, closed source interface to use an open source script made by someone else in which the interface company made money and the software writer didn’t?

What I’d like to see

  • I would like to see all art-tool creators supported in valuing their work if they want. “Hey, if you like my script here’s my digital tip jar” or shoot, “my script is $X.” If you don’t allow for this I think the monome idea starts to become a bit disingenuous, where some are allowed to attribute value to their work and that value is increased by the devalued labor of others.

  • I think people making their own art-tools should be able to talk about them. If really necessary I think you could draw a line between “making their own art-tools” and “mass producing art-tools commercially.”

  • I don’t think DIY or open source should have any special status, or that there should be any coercion to make a project vulnerable to exploitation The world just doesn’t work the way we want all the time, and I think without totally open sourcing hardware you can create a system of responsible, accessible art-tool creation that minimizes waste and keeps things accessible and promotes design accountability on the small scale.

That’s where I’m at for now. There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance around this stuff for me. It would be cool if there were less without turning lines into a Microsoft Edge homepage obviously…

I wanted to kind of course correct here at the top. I fully agree with what @tehn says below about the invisible labor that makes lines what it is. I am seeing some of this labor first hand in a conversation with @ioflow who is preemptively, patiently and exhaustively filling me in on relevant context.

Something that got lost in my drafts is maybe that it is not my intention to weaken or remove restrictions or increase the amount of invisible labor performed by mods. If anything, I’m hoping that more, robust, harder to bend and break, easier to moderate guidelines can be forged taking into account the variety of good and bad examples in lines history (of which the mods really are the scholars).


Thank you for a thoughtful, provocative first post on an important topic!

I did want to poke a little at this: the idea that becomes a bit disingenuous in this case is the lines idea, not monome’s :slight_smile:


I read it as, “the community’s idea that the creator of the platform (e.g. monome norns) can advertise and extract value from their labor, but the enplatformed script writers cannot.” This is not often put to the test, but I do sense a pressure here (and elsewhere) which urges these sort of “enplatformed creators” to work for free. Whether that is a lines vs. monome idea is moot—at least until our story is further advanced—because monome remains as the founding figure here even after they’ve pulled away their official business.

Anyhow, I really like the points made above because I’m forced to consider the ways which others might want to use this space. If the rules would disallow the person who works part time writing norns scripts to pay the bills, but would permit the already-wealthy tech worker looking for a creative outlet, maybe the rules are tilted in favor of the people who are already priviledged.

As always, the trouble is in implementation: how to write the rules with kindness without permitting abuse?

Edit: I think it might helpful to use real examples? Here’s one: a user (~1 yr tenure at the time) posted about an upcoming drum module they helped with and they wanted to talk about I2C implementation. The thread was deleted as advertisement and the mod action was all via PM instead of visible, in-thread guidance. The module is now released from a small maker and it doesn’t have any I2C functions and hasn’t been mentioned here again. To staysh’s point, I’m sure someone (nominally) unaffiliated with the project could make a thread about how excited they are about this particular module and not get instantly deleted. But who gains by driving the makers away from this space?


i agree that the existing language found in the faq needs another look.

it’s a set of rules that feel to me to be loosely enforced and the litmus test for whether something is free advertising or not largely seems to depend on how interested the community is in being advertised to.

neither of these things are bad inherently. immutable laws regarding this stuff might be more trouble than they’re worth and i largely trust the moderators to do their best within this grey area, but i do think that if community relevance or interest are indeed playing a role in these decisions then maybe projects need to be given a little more breathing room by default.

@staysh there’s a lot of different ideas to chase down in this post and some of them feel fairly distinct from each other, but the one i find a little confusing is all the references to diy. is there actually official policy preferencing diy somewhere?

i have some examples that i would honestly love people’s opinion on, as i’ve been pondering how best to approach them even before the latest set of changes.

(1) i am intending to produce a small run of these. when they are finished, i would like to share that fact here (indeed, sharing it any other place on the internet would make little sense), but this is undoubtedly (quite modest) commercial activity.

(2) i am working on a much larger musical instrument project, something that isn’t a side hobby or tailor-made for the community. it is, at this point, a multi-year effort that i am absolutely hoping will turn into something that is capable of sustaining me. when it’s ready to share, i’d love to share it here, because i’ve come to understand that this is a community where i share stuff that is important to me (rather than any real expectation of viral marketing success), and i hope other people would think it’s neat and have questions about it.

i don’t know how to deal with either of these in any kind of way that would cohere to hard & fast rules around non-commercial behavior.


Not explicitly, but I feel like the answer is yes. In order to talk about or make known that an artifact of your creation exists, it is my understanding that said artifact must be open source to stay within community guidelines. “DIY” kind of being the implicit step in the process of turning open source information into something tangible.

edit: oh and @desolationjones I think you read me correctly by translating “the monome idea” more generically as “interface platform” but also yes @alanza great point and a regrettable phrasing in that this is not monome’s idea at all, but a lines one.


I would say it is more that DIY is simply the end product of at least attempting to follow a non-commercial mindset, specifically in terms of electronics. Unless the things being produced are simply being given away, DIY is the closest you can get to that.
My issue with DIY is that it’s a fairly exclusive world which has particular requirements that not all can meet, be it physically, mentally, financially, technically etc. That’s where my worry on here that projects that are entirely non-commercial could easily fall prey to moderation on gauzy distinctions on what is and isn’t commercial activity. Offering things for sale? Certainly commercial. Sounding out interest in prebuilt things? I honestly don’t know where that line is drawn.


Are we in danger of overthinking this?

In my mind couldn’t a “Projects” category host DIY ideas, scripts or hardware, that are underway but not complete and perhaps the creator(s) would appreciate feedback from.

Prior to release we have the “megathread” whereby makers could post links to off lines location for purchase/donations just as is happening now with more established manufacturers.

After release wouldn’t there naturally be a thread in the “Equipment” category for discussion, tutorials and performances etc of these new scripts/items?

Maybe I, not a creator, am underthinking things :man_shrugging:t2:


the landscape around commercial activity is much broader than is being currently discussed.

firstly let’s remember, like the Trade decision, that a lot of invisible labor goes into moderation which keeps this forum free from a horrific amount of targeted advertising. i bring this up because i truly believe if this labor wasn’t there, lines wouldn’t be what it is, and most of you wouldn’t even bother being here to have this conversation. so please let’s all start off from the position of gratitude that this hasn’t crumbled and improve upon it from there.

some starting points for thinking about guidelines follow.

some types of commercial activity:

  1. product advertising or announcements directly from the marketing department of large corporations. these are typically very traditional in their appeal: sell stuff, overt hype.
  2. announcements by small instrument makers, frequently people we may know personally.
  3. announcements by yet unknown makers.

each of these has many subcategories.

  • a. direct OP from the originator of the thing
  • b. forum member post about (sometimes reposts announcement from elsewhere) thing
  • c. originator joins conversation after other forum member starts thread about their thing

i suggest analyzing the permutations of all of these and seeing how each one feels.

to address the existing open-source guideline. this was a partial solution, which i believe no longer applies given the rise of rapid manufacturing.

what it did fulfill was aligning with the core stated mission of the forum which is sharing knowledge.

we have never at any point discouraged people from collecting donations for software projects, and it’s happened several times.

i don’t have time to write up my full personal analysis at this moment, but i also don’t want to fully control this conversation. i do want to bring up a couple points that the randomization of DIY often obscures: you may notice that kickstater goes to incredible lengths to make all sorts of disclaimers and protections against failed projects. by opening the flood gates to prospective commercial DIY projects and groups buys and whatever else, lines could very well become the marketplace of wasteful junk and broken promises. as insidious as a Korg hype ad or member-posted influencer video might be— those products at least likely have a track record of being functional and well supported and a warranty.

i’m focusing on the negative because i think we’re all aware of the projects we do want to see here, and encourage and participate in their potential development.

edit for a one-word ps: clones


mod edit renamed thread, replaced “Nuance” with “Guidelines”


As a commercial plugin developer that also releases a lot of open source stuff, I got burned by this a few weeks ago when I shared that we ported a bunch of our plugins to iOS in the dedicated iOS thread. Not only was my announcement deleted, but some posts from happy users (along with one question that I was in the middle of answering) got nuked.

I felt like I posted in the correct thread and wasn’t astroturfing the place or anything. I’ve been around here for years and have shared a lot of free tools and knowledge. I don’t really release much music, so my heart and soul go into the software that I make. I ended up deciding not to respond to any posts about our iOS software in that thread since I was threatened with a ban for commercial activity.


happy late morning y’all! ( at least from eastern time :slight_smile: )
there are so many worthwhile topics packed into this dialogue!

i’m particularly compelled to reflect on the things that have come up around norns scripting. in particular, i’d like to hear more of y’all’s thoughts around:

  • the threshold at which generosity tilts into burden + sacrifice
  • the complexities of our ecosystem in action (vs. in theory)
  • how to sustain the things we like most about how + why people share what they make

stuff i have running in the background:

dan-specific thoughts

it was wild to be reminded that even two years ago, it was clear that norns was morphing into something surprising and wholly unexpected by the project’s originators — an openly re-definable platform whose most universally exciting quality had become the definitions forged by a group of artists who, through immense generosity, were not only sharing their explorations but were supporting requests made to meet the use-cases of others.

speaking very personally, i’ve often seen this as a form of collaboration — i have performed + recorded with scripts that haven’t been released simply because i wasn’t yet ready to hear how those ideas would sound in someone else’s hands. sharing an instrument publicly is often a massive psychic shift, as an intimate offer for collaboration — one hopes that people enjoy the ideas and their execution, sure, but deeper than that one hopes that their script gives breath to the same species of creative creature lying dormant in another. scripts are shared to invite expression + exploration within the specific frame they offer. they’re shared to enable others to make the music an author wants to hear more of.

for additional context — though i’m very lucky to work for monome, no part of cheat codes (for example) was written on the clock. its core ideas predate my ever laying hands on a grid, and its expression in Lua was built in the early morning hours before my shifts and as a salve during sleepless nights, because seeing the ideas take form outside of my imagination set me on fire. by sharing it, i’ve been able to experience the humility that comes with hearing so many unique expressions of those ideas from other artists. and though it represents thousands of unpaid hours, its lifecycles also represent a type of fulfillment that has always been on my terms. i chose to release it to others, i choose to support its growth to accommodate the wild + incredible ideas of others, and i see it as my art practice.

but this is not an attempt to paint a suggested orientation with broad strokes — i’m only speaking for myself and for my projects, in case it’s useful.

as far as projects from others go, i honestly get deeply (though quietly) frustrated every time i see a new contribution to this ecosystem met with requests for additions and changes before its current form is even explored. every script shared to the larger community is a gift and there is a person (or many!) on the other side, whose time and energy made the giving possible. beyond financial renumeration (which has been openly encouraged since it became clear that the scope of sharing was charting this unplanned territory), i do wish more feature requests led with snapshots of the landscape of a script’s provided possibilities. i’m so thankful to have experienced this joyful balance with my own scripts, and i truly hope others feel it with theirs.

and while i’d like to believe that this type of mutual sharing is enough to sustain this facet of the community, i do not hold romantic/altruistic ideas about anyone releasing and supporting scripts as some sort of act of service. as has been mentioned, there’s something about the culture here that seems to make authors feel unsure or conflicted about tying tip jars / requests for funds to their scripts — the easiest way to challenge that, imo, is to try offering directly! if someone’s unique expression of a method or tool really bolsters your own explorations, try hitting ‘em up and ask if you can help in whatever way you’re able. we’re all just folks moving through digital space with the best intentions — though it’s easy to fill in the blanks of our model of someone else’s circumstances or needs, it’s way more efficient (and caring) to just kindly inquire.

dang, this is sorta the most i’ve written at lines in a long time. i have a bunch more feelings, but this particular lane felt most possible to reflect openly (and hopefully usefully) on.


^ this but art

edit to add: telex wouldn’t have happened under the current rules


please, everyone, make some propositions about where boundaries are drawn. this is not simply a grievance thread. the point is to arrive at new guidelines.


As mentioned further up, we already have a thread on pre-release hype, which seems reasonable for announcing things not yet available as an informational service (which on some levels “advertising” can be).

It perhaps doesn’t matter if the thing being announced is “commercial” or "open-source, hardware or soft, if the thread is clearly for initial announcements and not for any transacting, selling, supporting, or otherwise servicing the “customer”.

If the thing announced takes wing and becomes something that members want to share use tips or impressions about it, it could appropriately go to a thread specific to that maker or that thing. We have lots of examples here, such as Ciat Lombarde, Make Noise, Mutable, etc. In the instance of Make Noise, I would go to their site for technical support, or purchasing questions, etc. But to pick up cool [EDIT: replace “things” with “ideas”] to try with their modules, I’m happy to be here most of the time (plus Walker is here pretty often, which is a win-win if you ask me)…

More to come when I’m not otherwise occupied…

EDIT to add: There is already a lines-adjacent Discord for trade, which seems to be a decent alternative to having it here… the linear night market


Word I will get on the suggestions. Here’s what I think:

  • Group buys for DIY materials: allowed, encouraged even.
  • Individuals posting about instruments they are building: Encouraged, on “releases” thread rules — you have to be talking about your process and opening discussion, not just hype. Once it’s ready for prime time, I think a link to how to buy it is allowed, if it’s not offered through the general marketplace of retailers. If it is offered through the general marketplace of retailers, then don’t link to like Perfect Circuit or whatever, people can find that on their own. Possibly members-only. Thinking of things like TxI/TxO here.
  • Library posts should be allowed to have tip jars, but not be advertisements for commercial products.
  • Marketing departments posting about instruments their companies are building: Disallowed.
  • 3+ person companies posting about instruments they’re coming out with: Disallowed. Someone will post about it on the Hype Megathread don’t worry. A “collective” like Olivia Artz’s project might not count as a “3+ person company”.
  • Selling and trading your synth stuff: disallowed, to save the mods.

I feel like this fits with our general practice, except for how we treat the Make Noise thread and marketing activity there, and that it’d explicitly allow a little individual smallish economic activity.


I propose that lines users with “Regular” status can communicate about their projects regardless of commercialization SO LONG AS the commerce is entirely offsite (accepting no payment via lines communications or making no references to payment, MSRP, etc, in lines threads). This would be to relieve the current chilling effect experienced by our community’s creators due to zero-tolerance moderation action against perceived advertisement. The requirement of “Regular” status prevents new accounts being abused for the purpose, and is our best proxy for “knows how appropriate discourse is enacted on lines”. These posts can be in the “Hype” thread if they are lower effort/engagement, or in dedicated threads if the thread is enriching or invites participation.

EDIT: Quoting for agreement - categorizing helps those who do not wish to see this content

EDIT #2: I think the word “project” in my post is doing some heavy lifting. I expect the nature of forum posting–where unpopular content sinks faster down the page–could be an effective enough sorting method. I think we should also maintain our “don’t be surprised if your post is merged into a megathread” status quo. This is one of the most visible and IMHO appreciated bits of housekeeping performed around here.


I also love the idea of something along these lines. In my own practice I don’t see much difference between creating an album, a notated piece, a gallery installation, a sculpture, or an instrument. I find it strange that music is often considered separately from other sound-based art forms (in general, not here specifically). Also, as someone just starting to build instruments I would really enjoy seeing more discussion about the instrument building and design process so would welcome anything that encourages those discussions.



This is the most “brick wall” for me. There is no reason for this to be here. Lines moderators should not be put in a position of needing to referee disputes or complaints.

I do think that trade amongst linesfolk will continue offsite, because after all, so many friendships are made here, it’s natural to want to trade with friends! Is it perfect? Not always, but it’s a heck of a lot better than dealing with total strangers.


I quite like this summary. There’s definitely more clauses to add by people but I think this would be a good starting point.

I personally would only have doubts about the group buys, it sounds like an invitation for all of the same problems that the mods had to deal with for the Trade section. Grievances between members and ect.


co-signed on this front.

i don’t think any mention of group buys needs to be heavily moderated, but making lines the place where group buys are organized and followed-through on (or not) seems to carry all the same downsides as keeping the trade category.