3D World

Oped: Ton Roosendaal

Ton Roosendaal, chair­man of the Blender Foun­da­tion, on how the soft­ware main­tains its in­de­pen­dent, de­cen­tral­ized com­mu­nity

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The chair­man of the Blender Foun­da­tion talks about Blender’s com­mu­nity fo­cus


Ev­ery open source pro­ject es­tab­lishes a re­la­tion­ship with its users and con­trib­u­tors – of­ten called ‘the com­mu­nity.’ Com­mu­nity build­ing is ap­proached dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on the na­ture of the pro­ject. For ex­am­ple, a com­mu­nity of mostly end-users (Mozilla) and a com­mu­nity of soft­ware de­vel­op­ers (Apache) re­quire sep­a­rate ap­proaches.

For Blender the def­i­ni­tion of ‘com­mu­nity’ is very wide. The most ba­sic ver­sion can be found at blender.org where you’ll see a com­mu­nity of con­trib­u­tors. Th­ese com­prise a mix of de­vel­op­ers, au­thors, artists, and donors (both in­di­vid­ual and cor­po­rate).

How­ever, Blender has a larger def­i­ni­tion of com­mu­nity too: any­one who uses Blender is con­sid­ered part of Blender. This is be­cause of Blender’s spe­cial na­ture as a mag­i­cal 3D tool­box. Ev­ery­thing re­volves around the ex­cite­ment of mak­ing what you love, whether that’s art, de­sign, films, an­i­ma­tion, games or ad­dons. It’s about mak­ing what­ever you want to talk about, and share. Thanks to Blender’s open na­ture, the shar­ing part is easy – in fact, it’s a built-in fea­ture. This is why the Blender com­mu­nity is so large and vis­i­ble on­line.

Since its es­tab­lish­ment in 2002, the Blender Foun­da­tion’s strat­egy has been to keep this com­mu­nity fully in­de­pen­dent and de­cen­tral­ized. As a re­sult, many web­sites have emerged around blender. org, each of­fer­ing ser­vices or sup­port to Blender users (this is why of­fi­cial Blender chan­nels re­main free from ad­ver­tise­ments). Blender Foun­da­tion has also fol­lowed a strat­egy of with­draw­ing from ar­eas where the com­mu­nity (or the mar­ket) steps in.

So Blender Foun­da­tion ceased book and man­ual pub­lish­ing, stopped sell­ing train­ing and ed­u­ca­tional prod­ucts, doesn’t have mar­ket­places for as­sets or Python ad­dons, and will not par­tic­i­pate in of­fer­ing ser­vices or sup­port for pro­fes­sion­als.

Blender is more than a prod­uct or a com­mu­nity, though. It’s also a real plat­form of­fer­ing an ecosys­tem. And to quote Tim Sweeney, the founder and CEO of Epic Games: “Some­thing is only a plat­form when the ma­jor­ity of the profit is made by creators rather than the com­pany that built the thing.”

And that’s what hap­pened. Nowa­days you’ll find in­de­pen­dent train­ing com­pa­nies, artists sell­ing work on as­set mar­kets, busi­nesses build­ing ad­vanced Blender ad­dons, and com­pa­nies of­fer­ing rig­ging ser­vices. There are even stu­dios mak­ing films with Blender and large cor­po­ra­tions adopt­ing parts of Blender by as­sign­ing their engi­neers to it.

In the fu­ture, the Blender or­gan­i­sa­tion in­tends to grow this ecosys­tem fur­ther by chal­leng­ing the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try too. The goal is to re­alise high-end open an­i­ma­tion film projects via the shar­ing/ sub­scrip­tion ser­vice Blender Cloud.

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