In this blogpost, we get to explain what the MOD Labs are, an initiative that will gather all community activities and make it easier and more enjoyable to make use of MOD's open platform in order to experiment and develop new hardware and software features.
2018 has been a turning point for MOD.
We've been laying the groundwork for evolutionary steps and growth in every aspect of our ecosystem, with the launch of the commercial Plugin Shop, our first Control Chain device and the new MOD Duo X audio processor. But there's still one major aspect of what makes MOD unique that we wanted to improve: our community-related activities.
Ever since we first decided to embed Linux as a hardware plugin host in 2010, we started to become a part and cultivate our role in the Open Source and Linux Audio community. These collective and collaborative roots stemmed from our Linux kernel to the LV2 audio plugin format we chose and spread to our open Control Chain protocol and the Arduino shield that allows anyone to create their own controllers.
That's how we ended up hosting over 600 audio plugins in our official and beta Plugin Shop and that's also why we have such a lively group of users who, sometimes in a couple of days, unite to create solutions to requests that are made on the forum.
What's MOD Labs?
We are able to accomplish much more as an up and coming music tech company because there's power in numbers and the collective wisdom of our community can take us farther than we ever could by ourselves.
We are doubling down on this aspiration and we want to provide a consolidated environment for collaborative software and hardware development, which will henceforth be called MOD Labs.
The MOD Labs will host current community activities such as LV2 plugin development, hardware projects using the MOD Arduino Shield and Control Chain, as well as our new beta testers program. All of these activities have already taken place in some form but the MOD Labs will boost them and make it easier for them to scale up as the company grows.
The launch of MOD Labs represents a very important step because it embraces the community of users at an institutional level. Right now, we will start with a webpage, an email address (email@example.com), a forum category and a blog category, but much more is coming. Also, we’ll gradually incorporate everything that is community related into MOD Labs.
Community at the center
The concept for the MOD Labs was premiered at the last Linux Audio Conference, at c-base in Berlin, in which MOD Devices’ CPO and founder Gianfranco Ceccolini delivered the keynote presentation. Gianfranco also introduced his vision of what the Labs will be in a forum thread addressed to the community of users.
Our main assumption is that the ‘closed company’ model is outdated. Not only MOD's own company trajectory but also recent world history show the great importance of open and collaborative efforts. Every industry is now looking for ways to create and engage a community around itself, and MOD Labs is the area of the company that will respond and interact with the community as an interface layer to spark innovation.
The first and most obvious display of the power that comes from having a bunch of people working together on an open platform such as ours came from the many hackathons we sponsored and participated in.
There's been a vast number of features and ideas that we've implemented (and some that will eventually be implemented) which first started as freak ideas during sleepless nights of hacking MOD's API, such as the FaceMOD project that won the last SFMusicTech Hackathon.
Hackathons will continue to play an important role in fostering some cool new features and use cases of MOD technology and are the best way to meet MOD enthusiasts in real life.
Community events such as hackathons will continue to play a major part in MOD Labs
We've also realized that the dynamics of the MOD community as it engages with our platform and the possibilities that it grants in terms of developing new stuff (plugins or hardware) are much nimbler than our capacity to follow. There are some amazing individuals in our midst that have been supporting and collaborating with us in various projects and we end up becoming the bottlenecks to their efforts because we can't respond fast enough to their requests.
It's a dilemma between ensuring that the whole MOD ecosystem is running smoothly and granting our users the autonomy of managing their projects themselves to make them available to others under the open-source mindset.
Within the space of the MOD Labs, we want to abolish this bottleneck issue and let users take over, with the community's moderation.
A Lab for new sounds
Plugin development is an essential part of the appeal of MOD.
With our Gen~ integration, our commercial Plugin Shop and the great open source developers that provide new LV2 plugins on a constant basis, we decided that there had to be a place for users to upload their creations without us acting as supervisors.
By transfering this to the MOD Labs, the publication and promotion process of new plugins will significantly speed up.
Making music and technology in an open environment
A Lab for new devices
Hardware development with Arduino and Control Chain
There have already been some great open hardware projects with our Arduino Shield (such as this one and this one) and we feel there can be even more given the great potential of the Control Chain open protocol.
Eventually, MOD Labs will host all the different initiatives in hardware development so that users can share them and bring them to their full potential.
Experimentation, prototyping and creativity are the main aspects of the MOD Labs
A new beta testers program
We've had a beta test group for firmware updates practically since day one (by the way, send me a message on the forum if you'd like to become a tester). We also did a first batch of 100 units of the MOD Footswitch to send to our Kickstarter backers as beta tests prior to the official launch.
We want to broaden our beta testers program. Whereas all MOD Labs areas will be open and anonymous, this program will require a higher level of secrecy than other activities within the Labs. We will soon provide more information and an open call for testers.
We want to have more integrations with existing systems and co-develop products with the community for instance. There's so much that can be done and now we will have the proper place for it!
The MOD Labs will gather software and hardware development and become the interface for the community to build deeper relations within itself and with the company
The Labs page is already online and if you are interested in taking part in the MOD Labs, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a comment below to let us know what you'd like to see happening in terms of community feature and device development.