In Response to the Newsletter

mrdonovan
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Joined: Sat Aug 25, 2007 7:21 pm

In Response to the Newsletter

Post by mrdonovan »

As a paying member of Schedules Direct, I have the following comments about the recent newsletter: (FYI - SD stands for Schedules Direct, OSS for Open Source Software)

4. Financial Support for Open Source Applications

I disagree entirely. The money the members pay should be used to reduce the price even further instead of using it for other open source applications. The problems I have are:
a. Who decides which open source application and how much?
b. If the exec of SD insists on overcharging us and using the "extra" money for other OSS, then it should be for MythTV or derivatives like plugins. Or the money should be used to improve the SD service (see 6. below)
c. Supporting other OSS is not why I pay SD - I want listings faster, better, easier. I don't pay NVIDIA because I want better genealogy software.
d. The lower the price for SD, the larger and faster the adoption rate. Having to pay a yearly fee is a detraction for MythTV when we already pay for hardware, cable/satellite subscriptions, etc.

This brings up a related point - The financial information should be a lot more transparent, barring what is required to be kept confidential by the licensing agreement. Everything else including total income, assets, profit, etc. should be posted publicly on SD quarterly. You want our trust? Make it transparent. We can look at the source code, we should be able to look at the books. Think of SD as a coop, owned and run by it's members.

6. Self-hosting

This is a great idea because we can start to enrich the data. :ugeek: For example:
a. After each daily sync, our MythTV systems could voluntarily send back an anonymous list of what we have scheduled to record for the next two weeks. This could then be added as a "MythTV ranking" to each show as in "%75 of SD users are going to record this show". That would be great information for finding shows and we could setup recording schedules based on it, for example, any documentary that reaches a %35 viewer level, would be recorded automatically.
b. If a show doesn't have a description, we could enter one via the Mythweb interface, which would then be uploaded into SD's database and sent down to others. It could be filtered for bad words, or disabled at the receiving end, or veted somehow perhaps wiki style or misleading/foul/add based descriptions would get the user banned from SD.
c. Because SD knows which lineups we are using, it knows where we are and which provider we are using. That might be useful for creating user groups or perhaps getting the users of the same provider together to get a problem solved. Power in numbers!
d. Given SD gets pinged by our MythTV servers everyday, SD know our most recent external IP address. We could voluntarily add our IP to a list and the MythTV systems could start to talk to each other. If you missed a recording for whatever reason, perhaps you could have it transcoded and streamed to your box overnight, if you both have the same provider. That would be legal right? You both paid for the content. Or you could define "Mythfriends" and add their tuner as if it was one of yours and visa versa. That would allow Mythfriends with access to different line-ups, say one person has satellite, the other has cable and another has over-the-air to all use each other's tuner to catch shows. Or perhaps if SD goes down, you could use other known Mythfriends using your same provider to send you the schedule. Mythfriends could automatically be added as a VoIP route if you have Asterisk running on your box. Mythfriend systems could keep each other updated on the status of the other's sytem - are you watching TV, what is recording, diskspace left, temperature, etc. You could send messages via the mythvosd method. You could "sync" your video collections slowly over many days during slow times to another Mythfriend - add a video to a "sync" directory and it gets slowly copied over to the other's video collection and visa versa (or pictures too) - great for keeping a home and cabin system in sync and backups.
e. SD could start to buy content and send it to us, most likely using all the MythTV boxes in a bit torrent setup. Or send us free content, for example, trailers.

Cheers, TugBoat.

TVScheduler
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by TVScheduler »

mrdonovan wrote:As a paying member of Schedules Direct, I have the following comments about the recent newsletter:

4. Financial Support for Open Source Applications

I disagree entirely.
That's fine, some people enjoy being wrong.

I have envisioned a residential video library system that goes far beyond your imaginings. An organization like SD might be able to collect the human and financial resources necessary to realize someone's vision.

Bob

rmeden
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by rmeden »

Keep in mind SD is not MythTV. Yes, MythTV is a majority of the users, but there are 35+ other apps folks are using.

We're also not talking about significant funding... in another thread (not a bad idea to post here, as this has a better subject)), I gave the example of a price drop from $20 to $19 (hypothetical numbers). I don't think that $1 drop would effect the membership much, but it *can* make a significant difference in our applications (yes, Myth, but more than Myth).

IMHO One of the problems with F/OSS software is there is no advertising budget. Do you (mrdonovan) think SD paying for a booth and some (free) project CDs at a Home Theater Show is a good idea? Booths at those home theater shows are not cheap..... I can't see an individual paying for it out of his/her pocket. If SD covers the booth, folks would probably pay their way to staff it. Imagine the impact a F/OSS booth would have next to someone selling a 10k+ home theater solutions? I I think that's nice way to spend a small part of SD dollars.

The MythFriends gateway is not a bad idea. ReplayTV has something similar. Yes they were sued out of existence, but not for the "send a show to a friend" feature or poopili (the user developed match-up service that sprung-up). I'm not sure if the MythTV servers has the horsepower to do it, but if SD self-hosts we would be technically able to. (we would need to do a legal review of course... it could make us and Myth a pretty big target).

Robert

xris
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by xris »

Disclaimer: I'm a former board member of SD, and the current COO. I'm also a F/OSS software developer.

I acknowledge the opinion that SD should exist solely to provide cheap listings data to users of F/OSS software. However, if we do that, we'd never be able to get 501(c)(3) status, and there would be very little difference between the service offered by SD, and the services offered by commercial competitors. Why should we even bother to stay non-profit at that point? It would certainly be a lot easier to run a for-profit business, not to mention that we could pay our employees a real wage instead of the token stipend that we do now, not to mention being able to pay everyone who helps with SD, not just the three people who currently do the most energy-draining work.

From a business standpoint, it still makes sense to make financial and resource contributions back to the F/OSS communities because when those communities are stronger, we'll get more members. Even our primary for-profit competitor does this by donating a percentage of subscription fees back to the software programs. We could just keep lowering our membership fee (until TMS decides that we're charging too little and raises our rates on us), or we can find a balance between low rates and some marketing ventures to help grow our membership by making F/OSS applications more popular. We can also contribute resources (e.g. channel icon and supplementary program information), or offer bounties for features that are important to end users but ignored by developers because they're uninteresting/tedious to implement. I'd also personally like to start saving money to build toward an endowment so that someday, the interest could be used to supplement membership fees even further (although it would take about $4M and a really good investment portfolio before we could even start thinking about dropping membership fees altogether). There are a lot of different things that SD can do, and most of them make sense, both for helping to continue the growth in membership that we are still seeing on a daily basis and to improve the quality of the F/OSS software that our members use.

As a F/OSS developer, I can tell you from personal experience that though I'm happy to put in many hours developing software for free, and to share my source code so that other people can extend/modify my creations, I don't always like to work on the boring stuff. It's very easy to fall into the pattern of working only on the things that you enjoy, and letting the other users of the software struggle to use features that you don't use yourself, and thus don't actively maintain. Adding some financial incentive to those projects goes a long way to getting them worked on, even if it would work out to far less than minimum wage (e.g. $100 bounty to finish a feature that takes 40 hours to write). To most F/OSS devs I know, it's just icing on the cake to get paid to do this stuff, so a little incentive goes a long way to steer people toward working on things that improve the product as a whole, even if the individual developers don't intend to take advantage of the feature. There are also times when a new piece of hardware comes out, but no developer wants to spend his/her hard earned money to buy it and build support for it into his/her program. Not every company is as nice as Silicon Dust, whose linux developer works closely with the MythTV team to support their HD Homerun tuner, so it might make sense for SD to purchase a couple of these hypothetical devices to distribute to projects that could benefit from additional support.

As for how the funds would get distributed, we will try very hard to include as many of our approved applications as possible in "advertising" type ventures like free CDs and printed materials. But we also need to be aware of what our largest "markets" are, and so people shouldn't be surprised if (like many members already act), a larger number of resources go to projects like MythTV that have the largest number of members using them. We certainly intend to listen to what our members say, which is why we ask that you tell us which applications you use.

slim
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by slim »

The SD board of directors should be the ones and the only ones to decide this.

The complainers need to study how non-profits work. They are not told what to do by non board members. They could have done this and just not told anyone.

I'm still sick of people who will keep complaining until they have done one of two things.

1.) Get the listings for free.

2.) Complain to the point were the SD people say screw it. We are getting no respect.

The complainers will talk about how they are not wanting the two things to happen but I have seen it happen dozens of times.

rmeden
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by rmeden »

rmeden wrote:We're also not talking about significant funding... in another thread (not a bad idea to post here, as this has a better subject)), I gave the example of a price drop from $20 to $19 (hypothetical numbers). I don't think that $1 drop would effect the membership much, but it *can* make a significant difference in our applications (yes, Myth, but more than Myth).

IMHO One of the problems with F/OSS software is there is no advertising budget. Do you (mrdonovan) think SD paying for a booth and some (free) project CDs at a Home Theater Show is a good idea? Booths at those home theater shows are not cheap..... I can't see an individual paying for it out of his/her pocket. If SD covers the booth, folks would probably pay their way to staff it. Imagine the impact a F/OSS booth would have next to someone selling a 10k+ home theater solutions? I I think that's nice way to spend a small part of SD dollars.
mrdonovan, any comment? surely you don't stir the pot and then run away?

mrdonovan
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Joined: Sat Aug 25, 2007 7:21 pm

Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by mrdonovan »

There were two suggestions in my post and I should have posted them in different threads but I will address them separately here:

4. Financial Support for Open Source Applications
1.) Get the listings for free.
I am not against being charged just where the surplus goes. If SD has factored in all costs, like employees, travel, legal, etc. and there is still a surplus, why stop at $20?
2.) Complain to the point were the SD people say screw it.
Right, so there is no place for constructive criticism? I didn't just say "Frak You SD" like other threads, I made suggestions. If the SD exec want to pay employees and members get better service, that is entirely inline with my suggestion of "improve the SD service". What I am against is SD funding some two bit OS software program built by a buddy of an SD exec that has nothing to do with PVRs. The SD exec have a revenue stream that, if put in the right place, could really make MythTV and derivatives, a uniquely enjoyable experience, from install, to use, to maintenance.
I don't think that $1 drop would effect the membership much
Probably doubling it wouldn't have much effect because $40 a year is still small change for those, like me, who have considerable sunk costs in terms of money and time. What a fee does is dissuade those just getting started with a small trial system, (which, I swear, is where mine started :roll: )
Do you (mrdonovan) think SD paying for a booth and some (free) project CDs at a Home Theater Show is a good idea?
My first reaction is no because I have worked many an hour at trade shows and considered them colossal wastes of money/time. There are lots of other things that might have a larger bang for the buck, for example (in no particular order):
  • a. Hardware drivers (as suggested by xris above) i.e. firewire cards, remotes, etc. with the intent of building a list of stuff that works best with linux PVRs. If there exist device driver coders who say "If anybody would send me xxx, I will test it", they could be sent the parts. There are lots of hardware devices that OSS PVR users can't use because drivers don't exist, for example the card reader on the Asus Pundits. (I would rate this as having a low ROIbecause hardware changes so fast)
    b. Protection and advocacy of OSS PVRs in the legal arena.
    c. Run our own SD servers as previously suggested. (I would even donate)
    d. A contest to garner attention like Firefox's TV Ad contest - that would generate a few good articles pointing out the irony that MythTV can skip them.
    e. Bug bounties (as suggested by xris)
    f. Create a graduated fee system - free first seven days, $5 for xx months to get them hooked, then $xx/year there after. Or "friend" lineups where existing users could setup lineups for friends and get them a discount.
we can find a balance between low rates and some marketing ventures to help grow our membership by making F/OSS applications more popular.
Just not any F/OSS please but something related to SD that paying members of SD would get benefit from.

6. Self-hosting

Another idea that wouldn't require much for resources:
f. Most shows have commercials in the same place right? Once someone has manually fixed cut-points, those could be distributed via SD and used to help the commercial detection algorithms. The more popular the show the more accurate the commercial detection.
[sharing recordings] could make us and Myth a pretty big target.
Yes, probably best avoided.

slim
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by slim »

Your first post mrdonovan was way beyond constructive and into the realm of areas of non-profit that are only given to board members.

At least all the ones I know of.

I'm referring to comments like-

"If the exec of SD insists on overcharging us"

and

"The financial information should be a lot more transparent, barring what is required to be kept confidential by the licensing agreement. Everything else including total income, assets, profit, etc. should be posted publicly on SD quarterly. You want our trust? Make it transparent. We can look at the source code, we should be able to look at the books. Think of SD as a coop, owned and run by it's members."

If you think this is a proper way to react to a non-profit because you have a "right" to know these things then you are confused and have no idea what is common practice in non-profits.

This is up to the Board of Directors of SD and not the users. Our option is to use SD or not to use SD. You have chosen to this point to use SD.

Also most of the things you are asking for would break the licensing agreement.

Also SD is not a coop and not owned and run by it's members. It can't be and still be a non-profit which by law is run a certain way. Meaning it is run by a board of directors by law by definition.

I have been an Accountant for a non-profit so I have a very good idea what is and isn't done.

You are about as constructive as Simon C of American Idol mrdonovan.

MrMarkH
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by MrMarkH »

I guess I am perplexed why anyone would feel they have the right to look at SD's books? I buy cookies from the Girl Scouts every year, but that does not give me the right to poke around their finances to see if I agree with what they are charging or what they may be doing with any surplus cash. I buy stuff at Goodwill, they don't hand me their books either to approve of their policies. Both (and SD) are selling products. The only thing that really matters is do I feel the service they are providing me is worth the fee they are charging me; which I do. If they decide to plow the money back into the company in the form of equipment to do self hosting; or if they decide to hand it over to the most obscure OSS project out there; it really does not matter to me. I am getting what I want for a fee that is really less than what I would be willing to pay.

rshendershot
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Re: In Response to the Newsletter

Post by rshendershot »

MrMarkH- well said!

Regarding the choice of F/OSS projects that might be helped and Donovan's charge of nepotism- Fact is even in the very worst case, sitll, there results open source code. I don't think that *can* be a bad thing. ;)

Do recipients also need to qualify as charitable?

Regarding the fee acting as a deterrent, Donovan, that is clearly not the case. The alternative is DVR from your provider or TiVo and they all incur cost in addition to the hardware and other softwares you may have collected.

You mention, in your OP, several suggestions (after "Self Hosting"). I don't think those are appropriate for our fee-paid listings provider. MythTV or similar, maybe, but SD should not spend capital on managing friend lists, helping users communicate, ranking, etc. To do those things is a large development and infrastructure effort. And the privacy issues...

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