Blender Development Fund & fund-raisers

In the past few years a couple of developers have started fund-raisers for Blender development projects. There’s nothing against that of course; crowd-funding can be an efficient way for people to support activities. However, such activities can also raise a number of questions and be quite invisible even.

Blender Foundation’s strategy is to keep supporting Blender as a networked and community based development project. That means we have to work with a lot of individuals – ranging from hobbyists to scientists and other professionals. Each should have an equal and fair access to our projects, where contributions are valued purely on quality and practical involvement. It is quite a well known risk for open source projects that – once money and commercial activities get involved – the position and involvement of volunteers becomes more difficult to manage. I really hope we can prevent this, which is why I’m explaining the current strategy here.

For Blender developers who like to get a job or become active as paid freelancer, the best and most natural source of income is to seek for companies, universities and studios who need them. To help establishing a good business ecosystem for this we will set up the Blender Network in the near future.

Next to that, Blender Foundation’s e-store, donations and benefits of Open Movie projects provide paid work for developers as well. We are lucky to hire 4 people near full-time already (myself, Brecht, Campbell, Sergey). For them targets relate mostly to support, reviewing patches and bug fixes, and conduct more complex development with a general endorsed general benefit for everyone.

What I like to add to this is the “Blender Development Fund”. This is a special PayPal subscription system, allowing people to commit to a monthly contribution. This is expected to provide some sustainable income to pay for crucial development projects we generally agree on have to happen in more concentrated and focused manner. My proposal is to have the ‘bf-blender’ project admins to agree on who can get supported by this fund.

A last idea that pops up regularly is an online “pay per feature” donation system. There’s a lot of arguments to find for or against such a system… I’m still very hesitant to implement this though. Apart from that this is more generally (other OS projects experience) considered as dangerous, it’s also something that relies too much on ‘the community’ of users. I think we already have enough activities people can online donate for; our real future – for growth and quality improvement – is when we can successfully get professionals and studios involved actively with development as well.

https://www.blender.org/blenderorg/blender-foundation/donation-payment/

-Ton-

41 comments 4,905 Views
  1. Excellent news about the Blender Development Fund. I think this will greatly help the Blender Foundation with stability and goal achievement. The Blender Network also sounds like a great idea.

    I’m sure they’ll work fine, but I still wish you the best of luck with them! 🙂

  2. Hey Ton,

    thanks for clearing that up – I do not like Paypal for various reasons and prefer Flattr, which also allows for micro- and regular payments.

    Best Regards,
    Lars

  3. Good one Ton, I think this is a very good approach to take. I would do anything to keep Blender unassociated from the words like “commercialism” and “Business”. I think the Blender network is a great idea as well, endorse the thought of community in all aspects.

    I just subscribed for a monthly donation to the BF. Way to go

  4. In a long term you’re right, Ton, but what about current projects:
    Will patches for Particles Nodes and redesigned Compositor be accepted?.. Or donors are just losing their money for features, which will never be in the main development tree? :-/

  5. Good idea. What do you think of a plugin marketplace like magento? This way developers can create features for the users who require it and provide support services. This will free up the core blender developers to focus of the core features.

  6. +1

  7. Yes i’ve been waiting for this.

  8. I think it’s important that you remember two things that’s so good with fund raisers,

    * a progress bar
    * exactly what development it will be focusing at.

  9. Hi Martin,

    An automatic progress bar is not working for this paypal system, but I’ll definitely update status of this regularly.

    The first targets for funding should be announced shortly too.

  10. Ton, and crew.

    awesome, it doesnt have to be by the hour, look at JBakkers comp nodes, it’s easy to see. etc.
    intriguing I bet we’re a bunch anxious about the targets!

  11. Totally agree,
    although I would also feel more involved and concerned – and therefore more committed – when contributing to some specific features (like for example, the freestyle renderer).

  12. Good move.

  13. Going in the right direction Ton, as always 🙂 Just subscribed. Only one little detail, your first Paypal page is in Dutch, could be confusing even if it’s easy to imagine what it says. Good luck with this new Fund.

  14. Ton

    I think one big challenge here lies in the ‘freedom’ element. Some developers may like the idea of self-promoting a pet project they believe will generate interest and demand (like the comp rewrite) and make all of their own choices about how to raise funds and how/when to release. I assume the concern is that if self contained development campaigns become sufficiently viable, a fork could happen. This is probably not good for Blender, which has sustained a very unified march forward.

    I think this is actually a very sensitive issue. By acting as a go-between, the BF has choices to make in terms of what projects are sanctioned and what fund allocations are merited. The problem is that if the BF is making these choices, then you are now moving away from a truly open and democratic development environment.

    May I suggest that considerable thought be given to making this process as developer driven and democratic as possible. If an entrepreneurial developer wants to submit a project, they should have the right to do so and set their own funding targets, with the right to revise these goals at any time (if, say, their project is not garnering as much interest as they had expected).

    In this respect, the BF becomes a transparent and unbiased facilitator of projects that succeed or fail on their own merit.

    Obviously if a developer wants to proceed completely independently as prior projects have done, those contributions will continue to be welcomed into the codebase as patches are submitted at the discretion of the developer. This should not be discouraged. So there must be a tangible benefit to participation for developers.

    And there is. The acceptance of a project into this system implies the tentative endorsement of the idea by the BF and presents the proposed project front and center for evaluation, probably more effectively than the developer will self-promote.

    Of course all participants must agree that their developments are fair game for the BF trunk and will not become part of a forked development. An additional incentive in this direction would be how the BF handles such a project that either stalls in mid development or fails completely.

    Escrowed funds and half finished code put both the contributors and the community at risk in this respect. All of which leads me to these conclusions :

    1. Entry into this system needs to be VERY free, open, and democratic, and the BF should be very leery of showing any partiality in this regard.

    2. If you’re going to get one thing right, it need so to be how you handle the disbursement of funds and how you deal with unfinished work.

    I suggest looking at GSOC as a possible development model (which of course begs the question of mentoring and whether ambitious developers view that as necessary or desirable, and whether such oversight is financially feasible).

    The subscription model may be flawed if I understand it correctly, because it may place on the BF the burden of determining project merit…? Contributors need to be able to decide exactly what they are contributing to, and they need to understand that their contributions are effectively an INVESTMENT and those funds are therefore at risk.

    Otherwise a failed project becomes the BF’s problem, and that’s clearly unmanagable since this initiative potentially will attract ambitious developers of marginal skill.

    In this respect the BF could add additional value to developers by providing a framework for developers to ‘pitch’ their concept and demonstrate their credentials, proving merit for their desired funding.

    Meanwhile, community driven core projects (that may reflect the interests of the community and have less interest from commercial producers like myself. For example I have little interest in the game engine) can continue as always and the priorities of those who cannot afford to contribute are not left behind.

    If the BF can successfully navigate these waters of brokering the relationship between developers and Open Source in a truly value added and unbiased way, it could provide a tremendous model for the entire open source community and help accelerate development on other worthy projects as well.

    Thanks for considering these ideas and clarifying any points where I may be misunderstanding the concerns or goals of this project.

  15. What about including an option to donate for special features?
    So each users could support his most wanted feature.
    If many donate for one feature maybe the developer would be able to invest more time for the project and the feature gets included faster. Of course there should always be an option to donate for general blender development and let the admins decide who gets the money as well.

  16. Ton is this correct ?

    “The ING bank accepts international transfers. Costs for you are about $10.”

    I was always under the impression that transferring money within the European union was free ? As an Belgian/flemisch consumer I also tend to shop online at dutch stores. I never payed bank costs for transferring money from my belgian account to a dutch or even german account.

    It may be nitpicking but I can imagine that some people are put off because of the high bank costs while they in reality they don’t need to pay a fee.

  17. Ton, the pay per feature idea is very democratic. I think that’s why people are donating to these outside projects. People vote with their wallets, and feel they are directly paying for what they want. This will encourage people to donate more than for one big fund where the people donating have no control over what the funds are used for. You should re-consider.

  18. I think that is a good idea. But what happen if a developer is interested on implement a new feature, that a group of people want, but is not a top priority for Blender Foundation. In that scenario, the developer will have access to the Blender Developer Fund?

    And

    If a developer make a fund raise after the Blender Developer Fund is working, to implement a feature and complete that code. That new feature will be added to the main branch of Blender?

    Happy blending,

  19. Ton,
    +1 from me too.

    It would be great to see what features are proposed to be implemented under this system… can’t wait.

  20. Nice idea!

  21. News update:

    – Currently 40 subscribers in already (thanks!)
    – Admins agreed on first completing the running fund-raisers by Jeroen Bakker (compositing) and Lukas Toenne (Particle nodes).

    After Siggraph I’ll work on a blender.org page with status overview. For now I’ll tweet about it and post here.

    Laters,

    -Ton-

  22. What Martin said!

    Knowing how much was donated and what tasks are immediately in the pipeline seems a fair trade off for transparency….

  23. I would love to subscribe to blender to keep it going. But I only use several parts of blender that I would like to be developed further (like modeling tools, 3d painting, game engine and a cross-platform webplugin for blender game engine). I am used to fund features (for a free to use game engine) and see no harm in that. The features I funded now can be used by hundreds of people for free.

  24. Ton – My remarks came from very thoughtful consideration. Why in the world was it deleted? Are only mindless comments like “awesome” and “you rock” appreciated? Or are only comments from developers allowed here? I apologize if I contributed out of turn. Thanks for clarifying.

  25. Ton & Co. – perhaps the previous question should be deleted. I had returned to check comments yesterday and the longer post above was not here. Then after I posted this followup, it appears to be back! Weird. Anyway sorry if I am taking up space needlessly. I think I’ll just exit the conversation at this point. I hope it all comes together to everyone’s satisfaction. Best regards.

  26. What about setting bounties for features or plugins-aiming-for-integration? Would it distract existing devs from their current work or bring new ones to the fold?
    What I would like to see is that instead of paying thousands for some commercial handcuffs, artists would be able to spend the same money on improving Blender in the manner that they wish. I think that if artists knew that this option existed in some structured, official capacity and was dependable, Blender could improve much quicker.

  27. Don’t forget that the users only suggest such ideas of pay-per-feature if they feel that their needs are not being planned for in the future.

    A close involvement with your users including listening to them will result in trust, and donations for features towards a shared vision.

    A semi-commercial donation based system with single control is certainly the best way to get a consistant package. But please don’t forget workflow and interface issues for ‘New Users’.

  28. Development fund update after 12 days: 72 subscribers, EUR 735 monthly income. Thanks!

  29. (Sorry all, the code blog holds back first posts to prevent spam, I noticed nobody updated the pending requests past week)

  30. Glenn: you’re right, within the EU the costs are similar to local transfers, only outside EU costs are high.

    David Weese: it’s not “the BF” who assigns funds to developers, but the active developers on Blender do, confirmed by the ‘bf-blender’ project adminstrators (5 people). It’s democratic in the sense of involving the developers (which is an open system everyone can participate in). The purpose is not so much to please the users with cool features, but to support essential projects and developers who need devoted time to complete tasks. Most development remains preferably by volunteers (either paid by their companies or not).
    It is also incorrect to compare Blender development to “a democracy”, features don’t get voted in! It’s first (and always been) the result of people who want (and are capable) to work together on Blender.
    Further I’m not against individual development fund-raisers at all! It is just not very efficient always, nor does it give by-definition a satisfying result. The fact anyone – community or company – pays for development doesn’t make it acceptable for inclusion by default. That’s also a big weakness of any ‘pay per feature’ system, a reason why it hardly (never?) successfully took of in any OS project.

    To everyone who likes to organize a pay-per-feature or a more generic “open source kick-starter” initiative; please try to get it organized? I’ve asked the ‘foundations mailing list’ (where 100+ boards of OS foundations are member), and this idea unanimously gets rejected as not-feasible or unwanted everywhere…

    Using “the community” as arguments also degrades to demagogy easily. The developers + other volunteers + users + BF are in a complete catch-22 embracement together, which isn’t separable really. Blender would not be nearly anywhere without each of these parts cooperating very well! Only when we would switch to a majority of paid development this would get in danger, reason why I keep preferring to work with volunteering developers, even when paid by companies (studios) they work for.

  31. For me its OK when BF handles the collecting and decision of who/what to support. I too do have special interests but the overall quality and improvement of Blender is the reason for me to donate.

    For a more supporter driven decision this could be a possible workflow:
    * BF keeps collecting money
    * allow anybody to add and show, present, a promotable project
    * treat the complete monthly BF-income as 100%
    * allow all paying supporters to set their personal preference percentage on each project
    * put the money into a project specific account based on the overall percentage (donation amount does not matter for this calculation)
    * do this each month so the money is virtually gone
    * when any given project account reaches a “promotion succeeded” level, pay the project holder an let development start
    * (optional) once a project is finished contact supporters to make them choose something new (if they want)
    * (optional) maybe let the supporters (and admins) rate a finished project
    * (optional) let the active developers (admins) add a rating (with currently undefined properties) to each project to make it easier to decide
    * (optional) add a “Will be included in main Trunk after quality check” possibility rating moderated by BF
    * (optional) add a “Would like to support” featurelist to collect new Ideas that some dev could pick up. Let paying supporters choose percentage here too to show a possibly successfull promotion if someone should pick up the idea

    Also possible:
    * do it like Kiva

    If you need help in getting this (technically) done feel free to get in contact.

  32. I am happy with a montly subscription to BF Fund and giving specific donations for projects such as Compositor redesign by Jeroen Bakker and B Mesh by Joe Eagar. I think the core develloppers of Blender know well the priorities and I thank them and Ton for the hard work every time I start Blender
    Bernard

  33. Fund status now: 81 subscribers, EUR 845 monthly

  34. I think to pay/donate for what you need is better. I want to learn more about human body/walk cycle

  35. Agree with SPENDER.
    ein groĂźer Blender-Fan…

  36. Fund status now: 101 subscribers, EUR 1165 monthly.

    I will keep the status updated now on our donations page;
    http://www.blender.org/blenderorg/blender-foundation/donation-payment/

  37. Hi Christian,

    Sorry… your post was held back for some reason, I didn’t check here last week!

    For as now, I really prefer to stick to having the current developer team (100 people) to propose projects and verify decisions via the 5 project administrators. It’s about sustainability and quality first… and when the fund grows we can also pay people for support like bug triage and fixes, patch & branch reviewing. I would hate it if the cool new stuff in Blender won’t come from our development community itself anymore.

  38. @TON

    maybe consider funding alembic i/o for blender? when nodes, and opencl comp is done.

    http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?227988-alembic&p=1943312#post1943312

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