Subject: Re: Blender
From: John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>
Date: Tue, 02 Jun 1998 02:00:09 -0700

> For the past 9 years animation studio NeoGeo has been using exclusively
> in-house tools for 3D animation, modeling and image processing.

It sounds like NeoGeo already makes its living from the service of
building animations, models, etc.  Is this right?

If so, you're a pretty good candidate as a free software business.
Your revenue stream doesn't depend on charging for your software, only
on charging for your services.  If you released your software so that
others could explore and maintain it (source code and the right to
distribute and modify it -- not just binaries) you wouldn't lose any
revenue stream.  The upside potential is that you get a stream of
enhancements from the world.  E.g. someone might write a rudimentary
manual for it; others might add a particular transform that their
application needs.  Another might port it to a new OS or to
parallelize some critical function.  You can accrete these small
contributions gradually into a more complete and powerful program.

(Also the contributions that people will tend to make are the ones that
they, themselves feel the most need for.  This characteristic pulls
free software into useful and profitable niches that the original 
author may never have known about.)

If you release the program with significant press fanfare, you can
also get news coverage that focuses on your company's capabilities and
your services.  E.g. stress the animations which the public has seen,
which were produced with Blender, in describing what it's good for.
And stress that your company makes its living from building animations
with Blender, i.e. Blender supports production-quality work at a
commercial animation studio.  (This makes it more attractive for
people in similar situations to pick it up and learn it.)  When
potential clients read the news coverage of your software release,
they'll realize they can hire you to produce animations, rather than
try to learn a large, complex program and do it themselves.  (And, of
course, the readers who do put in the effort to learn Blender will
become contributors to the software, which benefits both you and
them.)

> Couldn't it be possible for this group to have some consensis, to
> come up with a good plan, financial propositions, publisher
> contacts, or whatever is needed to start this experiment? To define
> the experiment?

I don't see it as an experiment; more as a business decision.  You say
your business needs a kick-start to get it out of some doldrums.  A
novel act like releasing your software will produce some press
coverage and some interest in the animation community, which will help
you improve your sales.  You'll still have to close the sales, and do
the services well, though; it's no panacea.  Compare this strategy to
some other potential marketing strategies and pick one or more that
you're interested in trying.

> ... publisher contacts ...

Publishing the software you already know how to do, more or less.  It
looks like "cutting a release" of commercial software, except you
collect up the source tree and the building scripts and instructions
and package *them*, instead of or in addition to the resulting binary.

If what you meant is press relations, O'Reilly & Associates seems to
be interested in pushing the free software business model to the press;
they might help you draft a press release and send it to a good set
of interested journalists.  I think they're on the list -- or write to
tim@ora.com if they don't respond here.

	John Gilmore

PS: Looking at the worst alternative, if "the experiment" fails, and
your business continues to drop until it can't support you, at least
the software you've put so much effort into won't die with it.  You
and everyone else in the world will be free and encouraged to take it
to your next jobs or companies, use it, and improve it.