Subscriptions (was Re: Statistics: November 2012)

Werner Almesberger werner at
Mon Dec 10 18:29:55 EST 2012

Paul Boddie wrote:
> rather than your "cover-mounted" toy which is more of a token 
> of gratitude - potentially a nice one, though - for supporting the work being 
> done.

Ah, I meant "toy" for grown-ups :) So it wouldn't be just a mere
token anymore. The idea is that these "toy" motivate to make one's
own experiments. Toys for tinkerers :)

> And you wouldn't have to ship the toys, either. ;-)

I think shipping wouldn't be such a nightmare if using air mail
for bulk shipments (e.g., the quarterly "toy"), at least as far
as shipping cost is concerned.

Whether customs and the payment process for customs fees then
become a headache is another question, of course. Depends a lot
on where you are. Regional distributors would of course be
useful for streamlining things.

> so subscribers might see what's coming up in future "issues", but 
> will have given up the right to demand that the next thing is exactly what 
> they would like.

Yes, that's the idea. In fact, they could and should get involved
even in the development process. Since the financing is already
secured through the subscription model, there's little reason to
keep things secret.

Of course, giving potential competitors a headstart may weaken
follow-on sales to non-subscribers, but I guess you can't have the
cake, and eat it, plus make an omelette with the eggs.

And there's of course no reason why community members couldn't
pitch their own project ideas.

The role of the "core team" would be to ensure that there is
someone who can take of each of the key tasks involved when
making a product, with sufficient experience, equipment, and
the ability to commit to a task.

> I wouldn't want to tell anyone what to do with the stock, here.

Oh sure, I didn't mean to volunteer Wolfgang's stock :-)

But in case we set up something like this in the Qi-Hardware
universe, then I think it would make sense to try to make best
use of existing assets to hit the ground running. I.e., have
the first item come quickly after subscription, and not make
subscribers wait for a while R&D cycle.

Also, working from existing stock would allow for a more
gradual build-up of subscriptions since the investment into
production has already been made.

> Giving devices 
> to people to further a platform works on paper,

I don't mean to sell things at a loss. All the expenditures
would be covered by the subscriptions. Keeping the cost
and effort for the median project below the average would
allow the accumulation of reserves for the occasional (e.g.,
annual) flagship project.

> My only concern with this is that there are quite a few low-cost FPGA boards 
> emerging,

Yes, that one may be "yet another FPGA board". In that sense
it would also be an option to source some OEM board if there's
one with the kind of configuration we want.

> These are the ambitious things, certainly! My greatest concern would be 
> whether one could promise to deliver them, but at the same time such projects 
> could continue in the background provided that the foreground projects don't 
> start to disrupt that ongoing work.

Yes, backgrounding, maybe having two groups working in parallel,
community involvement in the development of projects, accepting
semi-finished or even production-ready projects from the
community, etc. All those things would help to spread out the

> I suppose that the UBB "issue" would provide or refer to details of suitable 
> projects that people could try out.

Maybe a LED line, Tuxbrain's Arduino interface, UBB-VGA ?
There's a gazillion things you can do with UBB, but these are
of fairly universal interest. Plus, it would be a reuse of
things we've already done.

> I guess it depends on how much people are willing to spend and whether,
> beyond the feeling that the money is doing some good somehow, the
> "product" is considered good value for money.

Yup. Does anyone have a comment on these aspects ?

Does the whole concept sound exciting ? Boring ?
Incomprehensible ? :)

> [ FSF membership fees ] Those figures at least 
> provide some evidence of what people are willing to spend purely on 
> supporting a cause, but then these are well-established organisations.

Okay, these are already quite decent amounts. Thanks for
digging that out !

- Werner

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