[PD] Thoughts in conclusion of the 4th Pure Data Convention

Peter Brinkmann peter.brinkmann at googlemail.com
Fri Feb 10 02:56:06 CET 2012

Some random thoughts on various topics that have come up so far:

* Being afraid of Pd: Usability experts like to talk about things like
discoverability and constraints, and most users have been taught to
expect user interfaces that tell them what to do.  Pd doesn't do any
of that.  It greets you with a blank canvas and no indication what to
do next.  Now, I happen to believe that that's the right foundation
for creative work, but a lot of people are freaked out by the lack of

* Pd vs Max/MSP: My impression is that many serious users of Max/MSP
feel that the slightly smoother user interface is worth the cost of
the license.  An overhaul of the UI would help Pd a lot, I think.

* Pd vs Processing/openFrameworks: No conflict here.  In fact, they
complement one another and might be taught together, now that libpd
can be integrated into both Processing and openFrameworks.

I believe that libpd will make a big difference, in several ways.
More than any other package I know of, it brings audio synthesis into
the mobile realm.  Moreover, real-time audio synthesis can now be
packaged and deployed almost like static media files, and that opens
up possibilities that weren't available before.  Also, we're already
seeing the emergence of alternative GUIs for Pd (in the form of Chris
McCormick's PdDroidParty and Dan Wilcox's PdParty) that are based on

It's already looking promising.  If we manage to solve a few problems
that we've been talking about on Pd-Dev (better support for building
VST plugins and such with Pd, building a new GUI), then I'm confident
that Pd will attract plenty of new users going forward.

On Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 2:43 PM, Jonathan Wilkes <jancsika at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I'd like to hear more details about what terrifies them with Pd.
> As far as Linux-- I'm really liking Gnome 3 a lot.  You just shove the mouse up in the top left
> corner of the screen (or hit the "Windows" key) and start typing the name of the program you
> want to run, or even a keyword somewhat related to what you want.  So in Wheezy "word" brings up
> abiword (and probably libreoffice writer if you have it installed), dictionary, and some others;
> "install" brings up gdebi, synaptic, updater, add/remove software; "settings" brings up system
> settings, email settings, network, and so on.  Takes only moments to learn and is powerful once
> you learn it-- to bring up a terminal I click "<Windows-key>-t-e" (which puts "te" in the search
> window and brings up the icon for gnome terminal in the results) then enter to run it.  Basically
> it's the GUI equivalent of tab completion.
> With a distro like Linux Mint you get a Gnome 3 desktop tweaked to look like the common windows
> taskbar and up to date drivers for just about everything.
> -Jonathan
> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Pagano, Patrick" <pat at digitalworlds.ufl.edu>
>> To: Jonathan Wilkes <jancsika at yahoo.com>; Max <abonnements at revolwear.com>; PD list <pd-list at iem.at>
>> Cc:
>> Sent: Thursday, February 9, 2012 1:30 PM
>> Subject: RE: [PD] Thoughts in conclusion of the 4th Pure Data Convention
>> My students are terrified of Pure data. They fear linux too. Out of ten grads
>> per year it used to be 1 or two would endeavor to learn GEM.
>> Now a few more are interested because of libpd for senior programming projects.
>> Currently in projection design I teach them pd, then Jitter then Isadora. They
>> have to pay their dues with PD first and other software with nice intuitive
>> PRICE TAGS come afterwards.
>> pp
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: pd-list-bounces at iem.at [mailto:pd-list-bounces at iem.at] On Behalf Of
>> Jonathan Wilkes
>> Sent: Thursday, February 09, 2012 1:23 PM
>> To: Max; PD list
>> Subject: Re: [PD] Thoughts in conclusion of the 4th Pure Data Convention
>> There are still a lot of sticking points with Pd for new users-- someone
>> recently wrote the list asking where all the objects are that are listed in the
>> FLOSS manual.  At least
>> some of those objects have to be downloaded/installed separately-- [pvoc~] is
>> listed
>> under Pd extended but it's not included in it, nor is the relevant library
>> listed.
>> But even if pvoc~ doesn't create, how does the user know for _sure_ that
>> there isn't
>> a pvoc~ binary living somewhere on their machine?  Pd is like those magnetic
>> words
>> you put on a fridge to make poetry, but over time roommates come in and remove
>> some of the words, and now you need your own blank magnet and pen and write the
>> word and put it back on the fridge.  Or, you can put the word "import"
>> with some words
>> that describe last place where you found the word-- many of those places have
>> helpful
>> names that are the initials of the person who wrote them that you've never
>> met.  None
>> of this is clearly documented btw, unless you ask on this listed and get a reply
>> in the
>> time it would have taken to finish a patch if there had been clear documentation
>> in the
>> first place.
>> Well let's remove the object chain with pvoc~ in it and try a different
>> approach.  Oops, I
>> can only "undo" pvoc~ itself because I've reached my
>> "undo" limit.  Is this program from
>> the 1980s or what?  Maybe it is-- I can't even move this array that holds a
>> 1-sec waveform
>> I loaded into it without Pd being sluggish.
>> Well at least there aren't any presets to impede my creativity...
>> I'm finishing up a search plugin that will somewhat alleviate the pvoc~
>> example, and pd-l2ork
>> has helped by having infinite undo and snappier graphical displacement of
>> objects.  But
>> these kinds of problems definitely hinder new users, and if you're seeing
>> students are seeking
>> out Pd on Facebook because they have a hard time configuring a mailinglist
>> digest, you can
>> bet they are Googling for better tools when they run into these or myriad other
>> usability/documentation problems.
>> -Jonathan
>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>  From: Max <abonnements at revolwear.com>
>>>  To: PD list <pd-list at iem.at>
>>>  Cc:
>>>  Sent: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 10:50 PM
>>>  Subject: [PD] Thoughts in conclusion of the 4th Pure Data Convention
>>>  Dear list and Pure Data community,
>>>  I'd wanted to write this down since a few months now and finally had
>>>  the chance to do so.
>>>  To welcome you in Weimar and Berlin in August has been a great pleasure for
>> us.
>>>  The Pure Data community has proven to be a diverse, inspiring and very
>>>  thankful audience. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and
>>>  professionalism and sometimes patience of performers and guests as well.
>>>  It was the first time for most of the team to be involved in any kind
>>>  of event of this scale. We have gained a tremendous amount of
>>>  experience through hosting it. Those who have been to Weimar/Berlin
>>>  for the convention will agree when I conclude that it was a great success.
>>>  http://www.uni-weimar.de/medien/wiki/PDCON:Testimonials
>>>  Never the less I'd like to take some time to critically assess the
>>>  convention giving future hosts the opportunity to build up on our
>> experience.
>>>  CONFERENCE: Using the openconf system proved to be a choice that
>>>  helped tremendously to structure and guide through the submission and
>>>  paper review process. In fact I would try to use the same system for
>>>  concerts and the exhibition as well.
>>>  The peer review process is augmenting the quality of the papers and is
>>>  giving the conference and publication a higher academic relevance. It
>>>  seemed unfair to ask for finished papers to be reviewed (and possibly
>>>  rejected) that's why we asked for extended abstracts for the review.
>>>  It turned out to be hard for the reviewers to fully assess the
>>>  relevance and quality of the paper from just reading the extended
>>>  abstract. I now think that it would have been better to let the
>>>  reviewer read the full papers. After all most of the papers – once
>>>  written – may also be submitted to other conferences such as ICMC or
>>>  Linux Audio. A bar-camp day could have complemented the more official
>>>  conference part to give latest developments and impromptu idea-sharing
>>>  its space. All though it was part of the plan we failed to provide a
>>>  live-stream of the conference, partly because of our lack of know-how,
>>>  limited resources in time and the inability of the institution to
>>>  provide the necessary installations. At the forums and Q&A sessions an
>> IRC chat or twitter hashtag projected could have improved audience
>> participation.
>>>  WORKSHOPS: In my opinion it has been a wise decision to organize most
>>>  workshops on an open, registration-free basis. This saved us from
>>>  managing registrations and I know from experience that it is
>>>  frustrating having to exclude possible participants because of a full
>>>  class when in the end some of the registered ones decide not to show
>>>  up. That happens especially when participation is free of charge. The
>>>  cooperation with the Bauhaus Summer School wasn't trivial in its
>> execution but made sense organisational and financial.
>>>  CONCERTS: It would have been impossible to endeavor in such a venture
>>>  like the Pd-Convention without the support by the Studio for
>> Electroacoustic Music.
>>>  Consequently the concerts were very well organized and a real
>>>  highlight of every day. It would have been much easier to organize
>>>  though if the exact demands of the musicians would have been clear
>>>  from the submission stage. Using a web-form or the openconf could have
>>>  made that more straightforward. Making clear that the musician is
>>>  responsible for everything until the specified mixer input for themselves
>> would have made things clearer from the beginning.
>>>  EXHIBITION: The exhibition was certainly the least prepared part
>>>  simply because the venue was unclear just until two weeks prior to the
>>>  event. Unfortunate was that the venue wasn't open at all times which
>>>  happened due to misunderstandings and possibly not enough controlling.
>>>  FUNDING: Getting the necessary funding was certainly the issue I
>>>  personally spent the most time on. We had an overall budget of around
>>>  17.000 EUR. This doesn't take the value of things and services into
>>>  account the university gave us for free, that is all the equipment and
>>>  the lecture halls/concert venues and neither my own regular salary as
>>>  employee of the university. Roughly 10k of the Budget came from
>>>  different funds at the university and the ministry for economics and
>>>  were bound to specific aspects of the convention. The rest was covered
>>>  by the sponsors. That budget is less than a third of what the convention in
>> Montréal had available.
>>>  EXPENSES:  We spent most of the budget supporting our participants.
>>>  The biggest expense there was covering for the accomodation, followed
>>>  by a contribution (around 100,- €) towards the travel expenses for the
>>>  participating artists (those either performing or exhibiting). The
>>>  accomodation costs turned out to be about 2500 Eur more expensive than
>>>  necessary since we had to pay for those participants who reserved the
>>>  hostel through the online sign-up and then decided neither to cancel
>>>  nor to check in. The workshops were handled separately through the
>>>  Bauhaus-Summer School. Further expenses were catering, printing, renting a
>> car for transport and so forth.
>>>  Frankly I've been a bit surprised that the average age wasn't a bit
>>>  lower. This certainly has implications on how to accommodate the
>>>  guests in the future (youth hostel, again?), but more importantly is
>>>  to think about the future user-base if, and when yes: why Pd is deterring
>> for newcomers.
>>>  And here I'm hoping to get into a discussion (which we should have had
>>>  at the convention)
>>>  There are great programs out there who might make more sense to learn
>>>  instead of Pd for certain kind of projects: Processing, Supercollider,
>>>  OpenFrameworks. I was taught in university Programs like Freehand,
>>>  QuarkXpress and Director, all more or less dead softwares today. In my
>>>  role as a university educator I ask myself what makes the most sense
>>>  to teach; what persists and where do the students learn concepts that
>>>  will help them master other environments yet to come. The BSD License
>>>  and Pd's open source community is making sure that it won't die
>> because of a companies merger (like Freehand from the list above).
>>>  Thinks like that IOhannes is practically the only overall dev for Gem
>>>  aren't making it more comfortable.
>>>  Yet I see that Pd meets for many of the young artists exactly that
>>>  level of abstraction to be easily picked up while having the maximum
>>>  amount of freedom in the creativity without the presets that could hinder
>> your expression.
>>>  Combine that with the real-time experience tweaking and tinkering
>>>  until it works is ace. I personally find beauty in the dataflow
>>>  paradigm which can be nicely put in context with cybernetic flowcharts
>>>  of systems interconnected through input and output.
>>>  When I find artist like Lukas Buschfeld presenting his prints printed
>>>  by a custom large scale dot matrix printer which is programmed in and
>>>  run by Pd entirely (plus a little Arduino) I'm stunned. Look at the
>> prints:
>>>  http://lucasbuschfeld.com/index.php?cat=graphic
>>>  In an attempt to improve the first impression you get when checking
>>>  out Pd I've been experimenting with vimeo gathering Pd based works in a
>> group:
>>>  http://vimeo.com/groups/puredata/
>>>  When you look at a few other OSS Audio related softwares i find their
>>>  websites to be very clear and well structured http://musescore.org/
>>>  http://www.iannix.org/ http://ardour.org/
>>>  Now compare. It's a great ressource but plone can certainly look nerdy
>>>  and
>>>  cluttered:
>>>  http://puredata.info/
>>>  In my classes I am shocked to see that the majority of the young
>>>  students have trouble setting up their mail client in a way that they
>>>  efficiently can use the mailinglist - if they know what a mail client
>>>  is at all. Facebook seems to replace this more and more, but I'm
>> strongly opposed to accepting that.
>>>  The Pure Data group on Facebook is not what the Mailinglist is:
>>>  http://www.facebook.com/groups/4729684494/
>>>  I think that a new kind of digital divide is happening silently
>>>  between the now adolescent nerdy natives and the young
>>>  instant-web-app-social-connectedness
>>>  generation who think that there is no internet beyond the web. The
>>>  forum for now is a kind of a bridge between those worlds, it certainly
>>>  would be interesting to know the demographics of the users in all four
>>>  channels: mailinglist, forum, facebook and IRC.
>>>  I'll leave it at this hoping to spark a little discussion on the list
>>>  now for example about how Pd can become more attractive in our very
>>>  own interest not to loose a future user base not only for the next
>>>  convention. Also I'd be interested to hear where the next convention
>>>  will take place ;)
>>>  MN
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