Questions about self-organisation: Processing
Ben Fry, Casey Reas
> What are the aims of the project you are involved in?
We are trying to make it easier for artists and designers to work with and understand software. The intended audience is designers, artists, architects, and people in many other fields that create images, animation, and interactions through writing code. Alternatively, we also built it to be used by engineers and researchers for the same reasons. Processing is comfortable for visual people because it's specifically for making images and it's comfortable for people who already know how to code because the programming language is familiar. For some people, it's a way to develop a deeper understanding of how software works. For others, it's a convenient way write software. We see ourselves as part of a larger community of people fostering a software culture unique to the arts.
> How is the project organised?
Very loosely. We both actively discuss every component of the project from the development of the language, the programming environment, the support infrastructure, and the website. We are responsible for releasing the software and creating the documentation, but a network of contributors write libraries, help with support through the forum, and lead affiliated projects. In the early stages of the software, there were more people working as a team and we had a group of advisors. Ben and I live across the country so most of the work happens at a distance and through quick bursts of energy while we're in the same place. We both have two other jobs most of the time so our development is part-time and work from the community is strictly volunteer. Processing is an open-souce project and is built on top of many other projects. It wouldn't exist without the other layers of code provided by others.
> How do you support the work financially and what impact does this have on your project?
We've made a conscious effort to keep money out of the project. We don't take donations, sell anything, or put ads on the site. We don't make money directly for working on it and we hope that sets the example for others to contribute. We both have other jobs to pay for our food and rent. We were fortunate to receive a grant early in the project that was used to pay for a few developers to write key components of the software. Last year, Ben received a personal grant that provided some concentrated time to focus on the project. Our web hosting is thankfully donated.
> What do you feel you have achieved, and what are the problems you face?
I think we've helped to promote open-source culture within the visual arts and have provided a platform for getting programming into art schools. We're excited about the shared lineage with the development of Wiring and Arduino. Unlike many open-source projects, we cater largely to beginners and therefore don't have a large population of users who are qualified to help develop the software. We sometimes wonder if an influx of money would help or hurt the project. We certainly need to develop faster; our resolved ideas for the project lag far behind its reality.
> Are there any past projects/models which have inspired you?
Processing grew directly out of John Maeda's Design By Numbers and a few ongoing projects within the Aesthetics + Computation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. The code is built directly on top of Java and OpenGL. We were very influenced by Logo and MATLAB. And, clearly, the open-source model has been a huge influence on the core values of the project.
> What are your hopes for the future?
We hope to improve our software in a number of ways and we hope that the audience will grow for us and the many wonderful related projects. Our future is in expanding the development even more into the hands of the community. In fact, the recent developments have mostly originated with them. There are over sixty contributed libraries that extend Processing to do things far beyond what we originally imagined. For example, libraries have been built to run many screens at the same time (Most Pixels Ever by Dan Shiffman and Chris Kairalla), to help build graphic interfaces (controlP5 by Andreas Schlegel), and to execute advanced computer vision (BlobDetection by v3ga) and we're excited to see many more. We hope Processing has helped to demonstrated that we don't need to rely only on what software companies market to us and what engineers think we need. As a creative community, we can create our own tools for our specific needs and desires.