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Why I’ll never create modules for VCV Rack anymore–and what I’ll make instead (aria.dog)
186 points by yummypaint 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments

As far as I know VCV is less of a community per se than a commercial venture. Sometimes I think that the many different interpretations of "open source" leads to clash and conflict. There is the side where open source is merely a way to share code, a side where it is primarily community oriented,a side where FOSS is a mechanism of freedom and liberation, and so on.

I think this incident makes me feel that in any commercially-focused open source project I create I should be clear or that intention. Otherwise my focus on releasing code, and building a business and the corresponding lack of focus on community niceties may come back to bite me.

Open source is not necessarily about the community and not necessarily about you. I think it would be good to fork the project to make a community focused variant. I don't think the VCV rack guy, though, Is necessarily falling short of any duties, because from my external perception it was never a community focused project. For example, the core afaik (unless I'm thinking of something different) is not "open contribution" at all.

It's perfectly ok not to be a community project, but you should be upfront about it.

What I find strange is the hostility towards forking. I mean, why use the GPL then? If you want to create a commercial app, but still share (some) code, you can do it this way: https://github.com/aseprite/aseprite#license

Because GPLv3 allows the license exemption that allows him to license VCV Rack to anyone trying to make and sell a commercial plugin. https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/blob/v1/LICENSE.md

It's actually a fairly interesting business model.

But why use the GPL if you don't want people to fork? Just publish the source code under a custom EULA that does exactly what you want.

The UI isn't under GPL and has a no-derivatives license. It's not so easy. Plus letting people use/make/distribute plugins for free probably keeps most people friendly to the project. Hence the one fork stopping work.

That is horrible and I did not fully realize this was going on. I've been waiting for VCVRack 2 forever to get the VST support and invested a lot of money in the current VCVRack. Aria I wish you the best with you future / current endeavors and in something people will actually respect you. I really hope a good and fully open source alternative will come up soon.

If anyone is interested in FOSS CV software, check out the CV side of LV2 and JACK;


Which can be used for stuff like https://kx.studio/screenshots/news/carla-2.2_usage.png

Re previous VCV hrm; https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/pull/1406 and https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/issues/1396 which was deleted after paying customers started to complain on it.

I'm not really sure why the author is taking the behavior of this VCV guy so personally, is there some new community expectation that a single maintainer trying to survive running an open source software modular synth project is also supposed to e.g. gracefully answer misc technical questions on community support channels? All of the sections in this post describing some aspect of the toxic culture fail to deliver, and mostly just sound like entitlement to this specific maintainer's time, which sounds fairly limited.

Also, unrelated but cool modules. I envy the artistic ability that goes into the theming the author did.

That feels like quite a misrepresentation of the authors post. Especially criticizing (IMHO questionable) policies is not entitlement to this specific maintainer's time.

Even the specific example, do you really think "is also supposed to e.g. gracefully answer misc technical questions on community support channels" is a good takeaway from

> Contributors treated rudely. Contributors made to understand that their time is basically worthless. Nobody was treated like a contributor anyway, I felt treated as if I should be thankful to even be allowed to provide value to this company. You’d see people–people much more technically experienced than me–asking reasonable technical questions in the development channel of the project’s Discord, and Andrew Belt would tell them how much he charges per hour for consulting. What’s even the point of having such a channel then?

Since when do we elevate a difference of opinion to rudeness?

Not every maintainer has the same objectives for their project being open source. Not every project maintainer gives their time or attention to (potential) contributors.

> do you really think ... is a good takeaway from ...

Sure, I've seen that sort of response many times from technical communities with newbies who demand too much of someone's time. It's the only specific example in that entire section, and the author continues throughout the post to point out how valuable they believe contributors' time is. It seems to me like one of the core issues motivating this post is a mismatch in expectations about how valuable that time is, thus my conclusion

The rest of the post isn't really substantial otherwise. The code of conduct section has no tangible or even hinted examples of selective enforcement, just the author stating they know any reports are going to Andrew, and that they don't trust Andrew to actually be fair. The section about inclusion of women is actually about a single provocative thread getting locked (new member doesn't see the "swells of women" they expected to see in the forum roster, assumes all the members are guys who are "bro-ing it up", then tells them to police themselves), with the author somehow concluding that as a sign women aren't welcome in the community. I'm not sure how the name re-registration policy is evidence of a toxic culture, but even if it was on-topic the author doesn't really seem too understanding of the problem it's intended to solve, and that the ethics policy they link indicates that the intent is for legitimate cases of theft to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The hostility to forking section seemed fishy, but by the time I got to that section honestly I felt like it was another case of the author crying wolf and didn't bother looking for the details the author should have included.

I know nothing of VCV community beyond what I read in this article, so - grain of salt.

But I will agree with the author in one point, banning/squelching on dissenting views isn't a good way to deal with problems.

> "Public challenges to moderator decisions may result in a ban/suspension." [0]

When communities start controlling narratives through deletes, shadow banning, banning - clamping down on public dissent, it's the signs of toxic culture. Largely hiding behind the guise of safe space, it allows festering of same speak.

Again, not saying it is happening 100% in VCV (not connected), but if it is happening like the author says, it pushes away contributors who are closely related to the space.

[0] https://vcvrack.com/rules

"All of the sections in this post describing some aspect of the toxic culture fail to deliver, and mostly just sound like entitlement to this specific maintainer's time"

How about this part?

"Taking Over People's Real Names

"The last straw concerned the policy about taking over inactive modules. About making it possible by default for someone to take over my very name, Aria Salvatrice, and releasing their own fork of my software under my name.

"That's right: if I'm inactive for just one short little month, someone else can just go ahead and release software under my name, my name as a person, with no process in place for me to reclaim it later, even if their releases have low quality standards, even if they add ill-conceived features that work against my long-term plans.

"I made it clear-as politely as I could, which was hard-that the policy was absolutely unreasonable. Absolutely no app store I ever heard of allows taking over names, much less taking over humans' first and last names.

"And in the domain of synthesizers, it is common to name a machine after the lead engineer. Bob Moog, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Roger Linn, Ray Kurzweil, to name a just few well known pioneers. Many modules in the VCV library are named after their author, I am far from being an exception, I'm following a time-honored tradition.

"Open-source is no excuse. The code is open-souce, with a perfect understanding of what it entails. But my name isn't. That's why my logo is not directly drawn on the faceplate, but composited at runtime from a separate file: I'm trying to make it as easy as possible to modify my code.

"And while VCV is happy to claim ownership over the names of amateur humans like me, its "Ethics Guidelines" are absolutely deferential towards the moral rights to the name and trade dress of commercial brands: after all, there aren't many eurorack hardware makers, so they would never allow ports of their modules to be offered in VCV's store if they had to compete against counterfeit knock-offs impersonating them. But humans, now that's fair game?"

or this part:

[VCV's code of conduct now] says "public challenges to moderator decisions may result in a ban/suspension"


"There's MiRack, a fork of VCV for Mac OS and iPhone. Any mention of it within the VCV community is immediately deleted, and its author is banned..."

To me none of this sounds like it has anything to do with "entitletment to this specific maintainer's time".

Fair, but even these aren't really substantive either.

> That's right: if I'm inactive for just one short little month, someone else can just go ahead and release software under my name, my name as a person, with no process in place for me to reclaim it later

Later they link an Ethics Guidelines document which indicates that stealing names won't go unpunished, not sure why the author doesn't think that'd extend to the collection of modules they made.

> public challenges to moderator decisions may result in a ban/suspension

That's pretty common on forums. I think it's still fair to critique, but like the first point it's based in a lack of faith in the maintainer which can't really be addressed by anybody.

> ...Any mention of it within the VCV community is immediately deleted, and its author is banned

What conclusion am I supposed to draw from this fact outside of the fact that some weird disagreement happened at some point between two people? Am I supposed to conclude the maintainer is the bad guy here?

No smoking gun, no clear victims, no crime in my eyes.

> stealing names won't go unpunished, not sure why the author doesn't think that'd extend to the collection of modules they made.

Why is it even possible in the first place? Why even have this absurd thirty day system?

Good question, I think it's dumb too. I guess people might create a package, abandon it, then fall off the face of the earth? The modular synth community is still pretty indie, and there's a lot of homegrown modules out there. I figure this is probably intended to free up cool-sounding names that are abandoned. The maintainer just never considered that people might take month-long breaks, or might have thought the ethics policy would be enough to deal with the probably practically rare threat of bad-faith actors.

It's like if github said that someone could just take over your account and all its repos if you took a sabbatical. That's an absolutely wild policy

Why does an online forum about music software need to go out of its way to create a welcoming environment for women?

Obviously if there was abuse, and misogyny going on it should be addressed but I don't see anything on that forum that is gendered at all really.

To quote someone from the VCV forum "I dont get it… is somebody doing something not appropriate against a woman here?"

EDIT: Why am I being downvoted? What makes that forum not welcoming for women? What needs to be changed?

I think the point was that 'the community' noticed the imbalance, and then spoke about it (refer the link in TFA [0]) and then ... nothing (useful) happened.

It's slightly tangential to the seemingly quite hostile environment over there, but certainly not unrelated given the context, and the author's gender.

[0] https://archive.is/vh3Ye

That's what I'm asking. What (useful) thing should have happened?

The only hostility I'm seeing is people reacting strongly to the implication that their forum isn't friendly to women.

> That's what I'm asking. What (useful) thing should have happened?

It is beyond my competence to answer that question, for a variety of reasons, mostly because I'm not especially active in the VCV community.

Also I don't think equality of outcomes is always a laudable goal, but inequality of outcomes can certainly be an indicator of something being off upstream.

Very long and convoluted post, but quite some interesting stuff there. The modules look beautiful, btw!

Just want correct the paragraph about VST3: it's supported by every decent DAW now. And since most people use a framework, like JUCE or iPlug2, for developing VST plugins, the differences between VST2 and VST3 (mostly) disappear.

Why has HN become the forum via which people aire/settle their personal disagreements in the tech community?

Why do we allow and highlight blog posts doing things that we wouldn't allow between users in the comments?

I swear like twice a week there's an "X was mean to Y" thread naming names and companies. We've developed an appetite for personal drama and it isn't healthy. This is like our version of a gossip column.

Edit: How do we not have better standards than 4chan, where the immediate response would be "Not Your Personal Army" and move on?

This analysis seems to be based on a shallow reading of the content.

Much of the post is a background into the author's experience learning programming to create uniquely featured plugins, intermixed with complaints about the tech ecosystem they're walled-gardened in, followed by a product announcement for Séanceur.

This seems exactly like the posts HN is all about

90% of the post is a long, emotion-fueled rant with a product announcement at the very end.

Framing matters. We all learned this by high school.

If you're trying to pitch new thing, the form of the article should be inverted. That's the difference between well-intentioned content with a reader in mind and something that's self-serving instead.

Some bloggers need editors.

Worse still, the last section about Séanceur kind of indicates that the author doesn't have a very good understanding of what it is they're building and makes me call into question the entire account.

Personally I don't think HN should discourage or censor blog posts for being verbose, airing relevant recent personal drama, or taking a roundabout path to their point

Personal drama aired out in comments is very much not allowed. Why should we allow it in posts?

This sounds wildly incorrect to me, I've seen many comments here that share personal anecdotes and stories of drama with companies and executives.

I'm not sure what you're referencing in the guidelines that would ban such posts? https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I could have swore there used to be a rule there about no personal attacks.

> Making this collection as it stands today, and its accompanying documentation, took me at the very least 400 hours.

> I know that number sounds higher than you’d expect, since I only made 22 modules. Maybe some of you might think “I could do that in 30% of that time”.

Even having already learned real-time and audio programming from prior experience, I don't think I'd be able to put out 22 modules in 133 hours, or even 400 hours, let alone with appealing theming.

Maybe I overthink everything, finding flaws in my own code, others' code, trying to build optimal designs, and every piece of conflicting information, every new idea, tears down ideas I've had, implemented, and had thought were good.

EDIT: Finished reading, things i agree, things i don't agree, most of it is interesting... Some takeaways and my thoughts:

- learning that free software clones of Mutable Instruments hardware exist

- my perfectionism vs. the author's "just get it out"

- "Inclusion of women" (probably controversial)

- software licensing, community management (deflemask and snes tracker also screwed up their licensing/community, leading to Discord servers discussing and telling each other how the program authors are doing bad things)

- wonder what the author would think of the Rust Audio community (and it's a community, not a company, and it seems quite approachable from what I've seen in it, lots of ideas, though half-finished UI/code frameworks)

- synthesizers with timing vs. standalone sequencers

- c++ vs. jit/gc/interpreted languages

learning that free software clones of Mutable Instruments hardware exist

One of the lovely things about Mutable is that Émilie makes all of the hardware designs open-source (either GPL or MIT). Both software and hardware clones are widely available.


Ooof. I thought VCVRack was an unusual but interesting balance between open and closed with lots of potential, but such shenanigans are terrible.

I'm a relatively new synth/modular enthusiast so I can't comment on the author's take on VCV (I use Wren, a quite interesting software modular in its own right), but I have to say their ideas for Séanceur sound rad!

I am SO excited by that.

As a halfhearted collector of niche or obscure input devices, I'm totally fascinated by these ideas for new ways inputs could be used to influence the music, and new ways for music to accept influence from inputs. If VCV's poor treatment of contributors ends up spawning a whole new idea in modulars, everyone wins.

So where's the fork? I mean someone forked GIMP to get away from the dumb name....

HN has a pretty wide reach, but TFA was awfully long, I hope enough folks will read this to perhaps coalesce a critical mass around a real fork, with legs, and a proper community.

The article has a whole section on VCV's efforts to suppress forking

> VCV has been trying to prevent forks both through legal and social means, so there’s no viable fork yet.

> There’s MiRack, a fork of VCV for Mac OS and iPhone. Any mention of it within the VCV community is immediately deleted, and its author is banned, so it exists completely disconnected from the VCV community

> There used to be VeeSeeVST, another fork of VCV for the VST plugin architecture, but it’s dead: the VCV project asked the author to discontinue the fork in June 2019, to avoid competing with VCV’s commercial offering

> The last fork I know of is the Sonaremin, but it is better understood as a customized distribution of a VCV Rack build for the Raspberry Pi than as a fork

Yep. It sounds like a fork at this point would probably be a good thing, but it's hard to get momentum behind a fork effort if mentioning the fork means being censored or banished from the existing VCVRack community.

This also makes me wonder if maybe any open source software community should ideally be based on some platform moderated by a neutral party. Or at least that there's some mechanism to escalate censorship issues to someone unaffiliated with the project. One of the problems with reddit seems to be that the moderators of any given subreddit are basically monarchs

I don't think that's how open source works, in practice. A project like this tends to gravitate around a single leader of some sort: I can think of several examples. That leader might very well be impolite or opinionated but they deliver a single communicable vision and other contributors tend to be neither able to, nor welcome to supplant that.

I read all the way through, looking for the answer to the posted question, since VCV Rack interests me. Latest I heard about Andrew and VCV Rack, he'd got mad at Apple's M1 processors (presumably because he makes heavy use of Intel assembly code?) and shows no interest in developing for 'em.

If Rack stumbles, I think it'll more likely be due to some personal animus of that nature, rather than the fact of Andrew being a big meanie. The role of a leader in a project of this type is to be, if not a big meanie, then at least a big definer of what the project is and isn't.

This will always alienate some people. Does that matter? Depends on what they're being alienated about. I don't think VCV Rack is the right place for Aria, and I think she's wise to step away. Can't say as I agree with all of her points but then I'm not her so I don't have to.

I'd call it `FreeCV`.

Of course this pops up on my feed as I'm about to code a VCV Rack module...

Better now than in a few weeks?

I love this. More power to you Aria.

It took me way too long to realize that the player in the intro is an actual media player and not a GIF:)

You can download the Winamp skin from https://archive.org/details/winampskins_Utena_-_Pink_Utena Still no details there about who to credit though.

What a wall of text. I stopped reading half way through. Advice to author: Condense your points, avoid whining (or coming across as such), tighten up your writing.

Expressing yourself clearly and to the point makes a big difference in reader engagement and (ultimately) understanding and support for your POV.

Your suggestions of how to tighten it up seem good, were their only goal to communicate to the largest audience.

But I'm guessing that's not their only goal, especially since the topic is of course a major personal investment for the writer.

What if the exercise of expressing themself is a primary goal, and this is how they wanted to do it?

What if they want to communicate more, to a smaller audience, maybe within that community, where some people will invest more time in reading than the median HNer?

Sure, when your "I Quit" rant needs a table of contents you might want to dial it back a little. They make a lot of valid points but you can also just stop working on stuff (and there's a paragraph saying that several other plugin makers have just quietly quit). They're making this post for multiple reasons.

You might want to read it and think about some of it, what would you do in the same situation, etc?

Having been in the same kind of mood at times, I can totally understand the motivation to write this all down and walk out the door with two middle fingers in the air saying "I QUIT".

It's an outpouring of the author's thoughts, feelings, and background of the whole space. Through it, you get a sense for how invested she is in a niche space. I can't speak for the author, but it felt like catharsis in blogpost form, rather than a plea for understanding or a call to arms -- such a post does not need to get to the point or cater to your wishes.

It's unfortunate that your takeaway was "TL;DR plz, also stop whining". HN's rules specifically call out this behavior:

> Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something.

Your comment comes off as a very shallow attempt at critical feedback, and I have a hard time believing it's intended to do anything other than tear the author down.

I found it very effective, because I'm curious about VCV Rack and modular synths in general, so the journey through the technical background was technically interesting. (Also the sweet-ass soundtrack provided by the in-page Winamp was exquisite.) It also gave me a solid sense that the author was not just a drive-by whiner, but a solid contributor to the ecosystem with a passel of really fascinating ideas either already executed, or on deck.

With the groundwork thus established, the eventual crumbling of the community was all the more engaging.

It affected me because I'm the target audience -- someone who cares deeply about both modular synths, and about communities being good to their contributors. If someone's merely one of those things or the other, the post will probably strike them as rambling in one way or another, and that's arguably fine because they're not the target audience.

That being said, tearing down a post because it didn't speak to you is, exactly, a shallow dismissal.

Why is HN a venue for Dear Diary entries?

Try doing the same as a man and see how far you get without getting flagged lol

wow, such good writing advice here that you've been greyed out...!

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