Blokas Letter to MOD Community

To the MOD Community,

With this post, I want to voice Blokas position regarding recent developments and comments made by the MOD team regarding MODEP users, as they are being dragged into an unfounded “MOD-Killers” narrative and expressing unease regarding this situation.

To note, Blokas is a self-funded lean operation with only two founders working full-time and a handful of part-time employees. The privilege of crowdfunding is the only reason why Pisound and Midihub are around, and to extend our contribution, we run non-commercial community-focused projects like Patchstorage.com and Patchbox OS.

Our goal at Blokas is to maximize the value added for our users - the same as any other business does or should do. Like MOD utilizes Open-Source projects for additional value for their hardware platform (e.g. Guitarix), we do the same with mod-ui and mod-host for the Patchbox OS and Raspberry Pi ecosystem.

Everything we did regarding MODEP is on par with the best Open-Source practices and was done in good faith - we expressed our gratitude to the MOD team publicly with all the relevant links and information highly visible on our sites. We did not produce a hardware device that would be a direct competitor to the MOD pedals. We haven’t locked Patchbox OS with MODEP for Pisound users exclusively - anyone with Raspberry Pi can use it. We even lagged behind with new mod-ui features and updates. And as many here on the forum point out - MODEP did serve as a gateway to the MOD ecosystem. If not us, someone else would have created some MODEP alternative.

I want to make it clear - we haven’t been contacted by the MOD team by any means regarding MODEP as an issue. If MODEP was, in fact, such a big burden for the MOD Devices’ future, starting a conversation would have been the most fundamental thing to do. Combining this with projects like mod-app, mod-live-usb, mod-iso, it seems that it was a conscious decision made by the MOD team to allow and encourage users to use their software on different platforms without owning the MOD hardware.

The thing that concerns us the most - both Blokas and MOD Devices operate in the same small tech-focused sonic community. Maintaining its continuous support, trust, and curiosity, is vital to ensure that companies like ours can exist in the long run. At times like these, we should look for an outcome with the least amount of dismay and not to polarize the community.

Having said all that, we do strongly believe in the MOD project and would like to be seen as beneficial and valued members of the community. Hereby we would like to offer any kind of help in our area of expertise to ensure the MOD(EP) community’s continuity in case of no reboot - be it hosting this forum and wiki or repurposing Patchstorage for plugin and pedalboard sharing. Any ideas are highly welcome. You can reach me directly via pranciskus@blokas.io.

And to the MOD Team, all in all, you did a remarkable job bringing MOD to life. In both scenarios, you should be proud of your achievements. Midihub crowdfunding units were manufactured at the start of the pandemic, so we completely understand the difficulties navigating both the pandemic and the chip shortage as once-in-generation black-swan events. I hope you will find a way to continue working on your passions!

Best,
Pranciškus

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** Opinions expressed here are my own for the sake of discussion and not those of the company **

I won’t speak for Gian but I think his concern was that people may experience the MOD system on a lesser featured hardware and get the impression that it is less powerful than it actually is giving it a lower perceived value.

As you said here. The experience is not up to date, though it appears to be the same software on the surface.

Speaking for myself, I think what blokas do is great. I would actually push for a closer integration if it were up to me. Try to make the experience better on pi to improve the precieved value of the platform. I think sharing the MOD store and pedalboard sharing could be part of that

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English is not my native, so I might be parsing Gian’s statements incorrectly.

But that’s how I, regular user, understood him: “end users and their money is dragged away from MOD by derivative projects, as these people use MODep/Zynthian/whatever instead of buying MOD hardware”.

If I am wrong (would be happy to), some rephrase would not hurt to explain better his position.

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Hi
I must say that I’m not a big fan of @gianfranco 's concerns about “abuse” of the source base first.
I’m the founder and maintainer of the guitarix project, and have no financial interests/needs for my Open Source work at all. So I may be wrong with my conclusions. But, this could be a good time to invest into the MOD and make therewith the workflow between MODED and MOD robust. Checkout this:
Form for investment interest

regards
hermann

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I’m not a developer, and it’s really hard for me to understand using open licenses and then complaining about the legit but “not ethical” use of what was licensed. I think of “nobody’s fault but mine.”
If somebody was too open, he only can start to close further development.
Stallman says that in the beginning everything was open until there were efforts to close the code.
What the state-of-the-art would be nowadays only with proprietary soft and no GPL, etc.?

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Hi everyone

I’d like to chime in here as there seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding when I read @Pranciskus letter and the responses.

I would like to apologize beforehand for my tone. It has be a real s*** storm in the last weeks and my patience is quite short.

As I said in my original post, I am not making an attack. I am just stating the difficulties that we have as a hardware business releasing OSS, due to these impromptu “spin-offs” that emerged using our code.

My post was about a business called MOD releasing open source software and other businesses emerging and competing with MOD by using MOD´s own released code and even calling themselves MOD emulator.

The issue here is not related to the philosophy of OS, but to the cold hard fact that bootstrapping a hardware business is tuff and the existence of such projects makes it even more challenging.

No mater how awful I think that is, I am not judging whether it is right or wrong. I am just sharing what sort of role these projects have played in our path.

Nobody is blaming any user for nothing. Contrary to what @Pranciskus wrote, I am not referring to the MODEP users at all. The problem with end customers is rather minor. The real issue, as I explained in my post, is the confusion and fear it brings to business partners and investors.

Dealers and distributors fear carrying a product that their customers could get a cheap knock-off elsewhere for less money.

Investors are naturally afraid of Open Source. The existence of such knock-offs due to MOD being open source just brings more foundation to their fear.

As I also wrote on my post, the problem I see with such knock-off projects is the lack of added value. Sure, we use existing software. That is the foundation of the linux audio stack. But we added value to it by making a host and a remote interface, so that the existing audio stack can be used in a headless way, without monitor, mouse and keyboard. This is how MOD makes its product possible and that is what we bring to the common table of the open source codebase.

Alluding to the fact that MOD uses existing open source software is very misleading. What is the point of mentioning that we use Guitarix?

Did we fork Guitarix, slapped a MOD logo over the original Guitarix interface and republished it as a new desktop software for guitar?

No, we did not. That would be awful.

We created a system that allows plugins like Guitarix and many others to reach an audience that it would not normally reach.

We provide a bridge between developers and musicians that allow the later to use software like Guitarix in a real live gig scenario and not just at home using the PC. We do not remove users from Guitarix` users pool. We add new users to their pool.

Last, but surely not least, I want also to make clear that we were never contacted by Blokas by any means regarding MODEP. I learned about it through the press and from time to time when we receive requests from Blokas personnel in Github…

Zynthian coders at least contacted us and asked if it was ok to do what they intended. @Codeman even came by the office to get some help.

Maybe it was plain stupid, but MOD has not ran in stealth mode until its public launch. It is not as if we had worked for years hidden in a room, getting all the possible open software available and then launched a product as if it was all our accomplishment.

We announced MOD in the 2013 Linux Audio Conference, before we even had a product ready. We went to LAC again in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. We connected with the developers and explained the project. I personally asked to each of the plugin developers if it would be ok to use their plugins. I met many, if not all of them, in person.

As @kikodelmar rightfully wrote:

Indeed. MOD is clearly playing the fool here and everyone is paying for it. I apologize for that.

Looking at the argumentation here reminds me of an interesting rant by the great Fons Adriaensen in the LAD list, explaining why he was not openly releasing his software anymore, but just to some of his closer peers. Sometimes the lack of respect with someone’s work is just too big to go unnoticed.

PS: @kikodelmar is great to see you here. Your pedalboard Bata, with the sequencers making the bass, keys and drum lines, is still among my Top 10 :slight_smile:

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Oh, don’t make me cry :grin:
I’m glad you took what I said right, as I said it with love.

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Hi @Pranciskus

As today is the last day for our fundraising for the reboot, I am doing a follow-up with all persons who have requested our investment kit.

We made a dashboard so everyone can see how it is moving: MOD Reboot Fundraise - Live status and interest form

On August 22nd you filed our form request and received the Investor Kit for our reboot, but you have never followed up on the information you received.

I´d be curious to hear your opinion on our plans.

In your letter, you offer support in the case of no reboot, but it would be more interesting to hear what Blokas offers for the actual reboot.

Looking forward to reading your opinions and insights

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I think the numbers of potential customers lost to Guitarix, Zynthian, MODEP, piStomp, etc. is minimal. All of these “knock offs” appeal to the DIY crowd and I don’t know how many would have bought a Dwarf, if the open-source code was not available.

I’m in this group. I had not considered the Dwarf hardware until after I installed MODEP on an unused RPi4 I had, with an existing USB audio interface I had. The only expense was time.

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My journey was similar! Pi4 with USB audio interface + MODEP → PiSound → Mod DuoX

MODEP was the gateway drug :stuck_out_tongue:

The openness of Mod & the ability to give it a try was what made me choose it over Zoia or Beebo.

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