[FFmpeg-devel] Sponsoring and generating money in general (IRC meeting follow-up)

Andrey Utkin andrey.krieger.utkin at gmail.com
Sun Jan 12 20:49:12 CET 2014

2014/1/12 Robert Krüger <krueger at lesspain.de>:
> Does "the project" want to generate more money?
> It appears at least some people keep bringing up the topic and there
> seem to be at least some ideas on how to spend it for the benefit of
> the project.
> If the project generates more money, where will it go? (very
> legitimate question by j-b)
> Apart from the small things like some hardware, travel expenses or
> stickers the most obvious thing to me is to sponsor developers for
> work on ffmpeg so they don't have do all of it in their spare time. If
> this cannot be done, because of the legal setup, this whole thing hits
> a wall (currently it is unclear whether SPI can be used for that, as
> far as I understood Diego this is what ffmtech does today but due to
> the beef between the two projects this does not seem to be an option
> atm).

Due to uncertainity with spending foundation money to individuals,
let's better not to try to do that, and let's separate the targets of
funding ffmpeg and funding ffdevs.
Regarding spending ffmpeg foundation money. We can spend them for
advertising, to bring some shine to ffmpeg product name and to ensure
people that it is the most robust software in its category. This would
also result in other companies to proudly declare that they use
ffmpeg. Also earlier i have heard many times that "ffmpeg is eternal
alpha-version" (meaning low quality and stability); it is not true
anymore, but who knows, maybe some people think so until now.
Also spending them for "FFmpeg Summer of Code" is fine idea (forgot
who suggested it).
It is not a probem at all to spend money! Even printing a batch of
T-shirts or coffee cups for ffdevs would be fine and useful.

> What ways are there to generate money?
> 1) Offer development projects as crowd-funding projects

If somebody really wants something, they would come to ffmpeg-devel,
or some developer mentioned on site page, or to freelance portal, or
just order their hired developer to do it, NOW.
If they have realized what they want, they aren't going to wait for
completion of crowd-funding campaign and actual development time. It's
too long to wait.
I don't believe in funding one new ffmpeg feature by many backers. Too
low probablity that several companies realize they need the same
feature at same time.
There is generally low demand for commercial support or enhancement
for ffmpeg, at last in ffmpeg-devel, as far as i can remember by last
three years.
Developers who use ffmpeg in their job get most of their questions
answered for free in maillists (or StackOverflow etc.). Some people
request for paid support and get contacted personally by devs reading
maillist. Everybody is happy.

> - Choice of the feature that is implemented because one has to know or
> be confident there is really enough commercial or private interest in
> that. Since I believe many companies who work with ffmpeg (either
> command line or API) read the mailing lists, it would not hurt to post
> ideas there and see if there is informal feedback by people/companies
> who would give money for a given cause or help spread the word to
> lobby for it.
> - Have a well-defined goal. "Improving filter/codec/command line tool
> X" is certainly not enough. If someone inside a larger company needs
> to convince their boss to pledge 1000$ or more for such a project, the
> boss will most likely ask if the project would make feature X in their
> software work or not or what the concrete improvement will be

Bosses pay only if it gives gain or avoids pain. Both are actual in
limited time, crowdfunding campaigns take long to finish.

> With the current legal setup the individual developer(s) who implement
> the offered feature/improvement for a given price that has to be
> matched by the pledges of project backers, would be the contractor(s)
> with the crowd-funding platform and no money would go to ffmpeg itself
> (unless one would make it a condition that devs doing this would have
> to donate X% of money generated through this to ffmpeg via SPI if the
> project was advertised through official project channels like ML or
> website or something like that).

Too much hassle IMO.

> So, the next step would be to discuss ideas together with people who
> offer the actual work on the ML.

People who offer the work = people requesting for paid support, right?
There are so little of them. And most often their requests are not
quite big. I believe that when people come to ffmpeg-devel for
commercial support, most of them get contacted by somebody and get to
their result.
So i see no such people available for such discussions.

> Btw. I forgot to credit Diego for making me aware of the Bountysource
> platform which at first glance looks better suited than Kickstarter
> and the like.

I like also Gittip. It seems good for developers contributing a lot to
important projects. Top people make up to $500 per week now.

> 2) Offer a sponsoring program, something along the lines of companies
> pay a certain annual amount to reach a certain sponsor status and are
> listed on a page on the web site. I like the idea of treating small
> companies differently, i.e. to reach bronze, silver, gold status a
> company of 5 people has to pay a lot less than a company of 10000
> people (that was the linuxfoundation example Michael gave but hey, I
> am biased here as I run a small company).

Good to FFmpeg. If we find such sponsors.

> This is a no-brainer as the only thing needed AFAICS is defining the
> terms and see if there are interested companies out there. I would
> volunteer to make a first proposal how that could look and later do
> some lobbying with companies I am/have been in touch with. Yes,
> Kieran, there are probably many companies out there where bold
> assholes work that sell standard ffmpeg features as their super-secret
> invention and those you won't get. But there are countless others and
> the few I have talked to have expressed the wish to be seen out there
> as fair players and supporters.

As i have told above, let's make the fact of using FFmpeg marketable
(through ads), like how it's common to declare that product uses Linux
inside, because Linux is cool.

> 3) More ambitious approaches
> Stuff like offering a support program or similar things or generally
> really building a business on top of ffmpeg (like the JBoss example I
> mentioned in the meeting) is most likely possible but that requires so
> much work and dedication and is probably almost a full-time job for
> quite some time to set up and I don't see anyone doing that (I
> certainly cannot), so I will not make any suggestions regarding that
> for now.

Good idea. Somebody already running legal business could try to open
new department for this, i believe it would be no problem to hire a
couple of support engineers of different qualification for affordable
salaries. The one with not-so-high qualification can provide fast
reaction, and elevate issue if they cannot solve it by themself.
In IRC i have mentioned such companies around GStreamer project. I
don't know how profitable they are, but popularity of GStreamer for
consumer apps makes me believe they are indeed profitable.

Andrey Utkin

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