This page is a collection of ideas around the expansion of “Sonoj” as an offline and online brand.

All entries here should be taken as dreamy wishful thinking. Nothing here is filtered for feasibility or realism. Moreover, it is not even clear whether there is a need for the ideas developed here. But in case something turns out to be needed and useful, it is better to write things down than to forget them. The order and comprehensiveness of entries are also not indicators of priority.

Creating the compost heap of ideas: “It takes 100 bad ideas to rot to grow one good one”, here is everything imaginable.

This Wiki

Long time, reliable knowledge storage.

Use this wiki for truly useful guides for music making and production with Free and Open Source software. “truly useful” most likely means opiniated and biased. “This is the best EQ. Use it like this”.

Needs a few guards and automatics to avoid typical wiki-rot. Like a timeout function (measured in years) that will auomatically mark or deactivate articles until reviewed again.

TODO: While uberspace, our hoster, does backups, and DokuWiki offers revisions and versions for pages, it would be nice to automatically create an offsite-backup in our codeberg git on top of that. Watch out that no secret information is added to the wiki.

Don't use the “amateur” and “professional” distinction. Rather go for “Beginner / Intermediate / Expert”. Balance between “Musician Skills”, “Audio engineer skills” and “Knowledge and expertise with specific audio software”.

  1. Beginner: Happy that everything is running and you get sound, wants to browse sounds and synths, playfully try out different software and workflows, quick results, “repeat after me”-tutorials, a programm's skill ceiling doesn't matter, the beginner will always stay below it.
  2. Intermediate: Wants to have a reliable workflow that is able to finish a piece of music. Skills as musician and engineers are below what the programs can offer, but has an understanding that there are limits.
  3. Expert: Wants to optimize existing workflow for speed and automation. Wants to switch parts of the toolchain (e.g. plugins or programs) if skills as musician/engineer demand more than the program can offer. Must work with certain specifications and standards such as loudness, dB, spectral content, file formats etc.

Nils' personal vision of user guides and music guides is “Normativity”. Don't describe as it it, but as it should be. Also all wiki articles should be matched in tone and content: if one article says “Software X is the best one” another article shouldn't say “Software Y is equal to X”, but in reality it hasn't been updated in 10 years or it lacks behind by a lot. Don't aim for a complete picture. Pick and present a working, consistent choice of programs and workflows.

The wiki should aim to bring people to a technological and musical high quality. Don't cater to beginners, we are not the “press” that sells dreams and hopes to newbies so they buy the cheapest and newest gear.

Also don't shy away from presenting solutions that people don't want to hear, especially beginners. For example:

Your room is as important as your hardware. Money solves problems. If you don't have enough RAM for samples buy more RAM instead of using smaller, low quality samples. If your audio interface has not enough inputs and outputs buy a bigger one, don't mess with “how to combine multiple audio interfaces on a software level”. USB microphones and USB-headphones are bad. Mics are XLR, instruments are Line; buy a proper preamp. Buy multiple screens or a big one. Don't use bluetooth or wireless, cables are superior. Analog technology is not dead, sometimes a simple audio cable from A to B easily solves a complex digital software problem. Good monitor speakers are a must, you have to invest a few hundred to a few thousand euros. Headphones are not a replacement for speakers. You need both expensive speakers and expensive headphones. Money solves problems.

Local Sonoj Communities

Help creating and establishing regular local Sonoj meetings worldwide. Like the “Open Source Audio Meeting Cologne” https://osamc.de . The meetings could even use the Sonoj name, like “Sonoj Paris”, and use a tested and proven format and scheme to organize, to increase chances of success. All organizers of such meetings could meet in a dedicated communication channel to exchange ideas and to help and motivate each other.

Sonoj Conventions around the World

Help and guide creating Sonoj Conventions around the world.

Install Parties and Special Hardware.

Bring-your-own-device. Focus on low-risk projects, like Raspberry Pi and Single Board Computers, bootable SD Cards or USB Media. Don't demand that people change their main platform, the daily driver, just to try something out.

News and Calendar

Curated written or video news about our topics. Sounds like a blog or youtube channel. There already is a news ticker on the Sonoj Chat Server.

Collaborate on Music Production

Offline or Online circles of musicians and producers helping and boosting each others. Maybe even producing music together. Sonoj can offer the communication channels and additional resources.

Live Webinars

Like a talk, but everybody stays home.

Moderated Audio / Video Meetings

It would be really fantastic if Matrix would support audio and video chat as solid and convenient as Discord. But we won't cross that ideological line.

Regular and previously announced. Open for all, but moderated.

Specialized Search Engine

Our own instance of https://yacy.net/ or similar to offer a specialized search engine that was only instructed to crawl through the resources near to our topics. It may be hit-or-miss, but it might add something over generalized and SEO-infested general purpose search engines.

Regular and Automated Music Challenges

We have the offline “One Hour Challenge” at the Sonoj Convention. We can build on that concept and extend the software to offer regular online challenges. These could even be prepared in advanced and automated, so they start and stop automatically.

Challenge themes and ideas:

  • Sample Challenge - Receive an audio file, use it to make music
  • Image Soundtrack Challenge - Present an image, or a series of images, that has potential to provoke a musical reaction.
  • Video Soundtrack Challenge - Receive a video and create music for it. Maybe receive an empty Ardour project, a midi timeline, metronome tracks or some other structure as a guide. See also: https://github.com/lucidbeaming/vid2midi
  • Software Challenge - A specific piece of FOSS software must be used (exclusively?).
  • Theme Challenge: Musical Style or Non-Musical Topic like a specific holiday, season, emotion etc.
  • “Clean Room Reverse Engineering” is a method of music composition in which one individual analyzes a musical piece and develops a “blueprint” comprising a set of instructions derived from it. This blueprint captures the general style of the original piece but does not replicate it exactly. Another person then receives this blueprint and uses these instructions to compose a new music piece, without any knowledge of the original work. This process can be conducted in pairs, in a circular sequence, or in other collaborative arrangements.

Ideas about a potential software solution, that we would need to write ourselves. But it is not strictly needed, a chatroom and “just upload somewhere” should be enough. Software ideas:

  • Web Based. Going to a website is enough.
  • Of course the software itself is open source
  • Nice web audio player with good visualizations. Not only for personal feedback but for presentations.
  • Special Moderator or Admin presenter mode, for example to reveal the top places in a dramatic fashion for a live audience or a video live feed, before all voting results are public.
  • Restrict to opus, ogg, mp3. Small files.
  • Give a lot of feedback and confirmation to the users, especially online. Make them feel safe and that they did everything correctly. Progress bars, TODO-Lists with checkmarks etc.
  • Usable for online and offline challenges
  • Unattended Mode: Go through different stages automatically
    • Plan challenges in advance to create “the monthly challenge”
  • Matrix Bot: Posts to a channel to tell people how much time is left, “5 minutes left. Upload now!” etc, reveals the Top 3 places in a dramatic fashion etc.
  • ATOM/RSS Feed
  • Anonymous access, but maybe use existing federated matrix account to make it persistent.
  • Normalized vote results (e.g. percentage) to make challenges comparable (this is just a frontend display option)
  • Semantic voting scale. Explain what -2 to +2 mean with words, color coding etc.
  • Relational Database (e.g. Sqlite) sounds useful to create statistics and different views and summaries. “most unanimous first place” or “most people participated” or “playlist with all first places”
  • Pretty names for each challenge
  • Support for different voting models. For example: public popular vote (“mobilize all your fans!”) , jury of experts, only participants can vote.
    • How to handle anonymous votes? Protection from spam and manipulation. Proof of work?
  • Phases like uploading, voting could be just a set of booleans what is currently allowed: voting, viewing, download and access provided files and info, upload etc. This makes it more future proof.
  • Offer to host other existing challenges that so far didn't have access to such a comfortable and versatile system
  • Anonymous access where you just have to choose a name for this challenge. You'll get a random password that is easy to remember and write down, like two words together with a scheme color+animal “pinkelephant” “brownwhale”. Replaces the current UUID token.
  • Discussion: Participants select on a scale how much FOSS software and hardware they used. green 100 FOSS%, yellow maybe a proprietary hardware synth, orange mixed, red almost or no FOSS music software. Voters can use this information.
  • In general a free text field to explain what software, hardware and process participants used. Only show after the voting is done? (this is orthogonal to the bullet point above where FOSS-Percentage can be used to influence votes)
  • Metadata like URLs for social media or band profiles.
  • Prizes. See https://ifcomp.org/ . They have been doing that for ~30 years and have prizes. Maybe overall a good role model.
  • Integrated guides and help for FOSS music production. At least point to software for certain tasks. Or even host a FOSS online-daw etc. ourselves.
  • Dynamic Sample Packs: For the Sample Challenge, the software could dynamically generate a unique set of audio samples for each participant or team, ensuring that every entry is based on a different sonic starting point.
  • Integrated Audio Editing Tools: Provide basic in-browser audio editing tools to allow participants to manipulate theirs without needing any external software: Normalisation, trim silence, apply destructive Multiband compression etc.
  • Real-time Collaboration Features: Support Team-Work. Enable teams to work on challenges simultaneously through the platform, with changes and updates reflected in real-time for all members.
  • Participant Profiles and Portfolios: Allow users to create profiles where they can showcase their submissions, highlight their skills, and connect with other musicians.
  • Tutorial and Resource Hub: Offer tutorials, tips, and creative ideas related to each challenge theme to help inspire and educate participants, especially those who are new to music production.
  • Automated Feedback Generation: Use algorithms (or AI!! :) ) to provide basic constructive feedback on submissions, analyzing aspects like composition, mixing, and mastering.
  • Social Media Integration: Directly link challenge submissions to social media platforms to encourage sharing and engagement, potentially drawing in a wider audience.
  • Remix Contests: After the main challenge, create a secondary challenge where participants can remix the winning entries, fostering a sense of community and ongoing engagement.
  • Participant Journeys: Track a participant's progress over multiple challenges, showing their growth and encouraging them to continue developing their skills.
  • Voting Transparency and Insights: Post-voting, provide analytics on how the voting went, perhaps showing maps of where votes came from or how different demographics voted.
  • Accessibility Features: Ensure the platform is accessible to users with disabilities, including screen reader support and alternative text for images.
  • Integration with Music Education Platforms: Partner with online music schools or tutorial websites to offer participants ways to improve their skills relevant to the challenges.
  • Live Streaming Workshops: Host live sessions where experienced producers create music live, following the same rules as the challenge, providing insights and learning opportunities.
  • Gamification Elements: Introduce points, badges, and leaderboards to gamify the challenge experience and incentivize participation and improvement.
  • Historical Data Analysis: Provide analytics tools for users to analyze trends in challenges over time, such as popular genres, software used, or winning compositions.
  • Sponsorship and Partnerships: Collaborate with music tech companies for sponsorships or prizes, which can provide winners with new software, hardware, or other music-related rewards.
  • Customizable Challenge Framework: Allow users to create and host their own challenges with customizable rules and structures, expanding the platform’s reach and usability.

Forum or Mailing List

A web forum. Traditionally a forum is used for semi-permanent storage. Quality is higher than a chat, but it is still less formal than a permanent site. Not as quick as chat, not as permanent as a wiki entry or even a dedicated website or video. This needs careful consideration. There are already other forums. Why would a Sonoj forum be more attractive to it's users? Possible answers, neutrality: Not tied to a specific operating system like LinuxMusicians, not tied to a specific program like Ardour, not tied to a specific person like famous_youtuber_xy.

A mailing list fills the same niche, eventhough the user experience is different. Mailing lists are really out of fashion though…

If you have both a chat and a forum traffic will likely be divided and both places will appear to be emptier.

The Matrix protocol and the clients currently do not have anything comparable to a threaded permanent mode with a forum-like appearance and behaviour.

In any case the accounts between the existing chat and a hypothetical forum should be shared.

Music Sharing Service - Video Sharing Service

Spotify, Soundcloud, Youtube. They all exists and work. Maybe our own platform could offer something? Given the Sonoj brand it would be either for “free and open music” like CC licensed (but produced with proprietary software?!) or music produced with FOSS (but the music itself is just normal copyrighted music). Technically it could be a Funkwhale instance or our own Web-Radio-Steam (just a playlist or even live shows). It won't have the reach of the above though. Word of caution: bandwith is not free.

Remote Jam Server

Ninjam , JackTrip, Sonobus etc.

Merge Online Communities

Maybe there are struggling communities out there, with just a handfull of users. Invite them to us, at the cost of deleting their old, abandoned platform. Like Facebook groups or Old Forums.

Shared Youtube Channel

Multiple people creating videos for the same channel to get higher content density.

Developer Resources

Traditionally FOSS Audio was populated by software developers talking to each other. The Linux Audio Conference and the Linxu Audio Mailinglists LAD and LAU are artifacts of that tradition. Maybe Sonoj can be a home for developers as well. Not only with guidance but also community based events like “Synth Preset Creation Days” where musicians come together and create instrument presets for a specific synth, with close collaboration with the author and quick integration into the actual program.

Or “barn raising days” where everyone comes together to help one project for a day or two, finding, reporting and fixing bugs, usability improvements and documentation.

A “Thank your developer day”, like Valentines Day :)

Bring the “Quarterly Release Event” back home, since it was originally Nils idea and plan anyway.

Game developers do regular “Game Jams” for fun prototypes and free ideas. While we aim to have similar things for musicians and producers why not for developers as well? “Create a novel audio plugin in X day”. Like thje “Ludum Dare” game jam event. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_jam

Sonojs whole Theme is to focus on music, not on technology. Even developer resources should be influenced by that: Gather resources and help developers with anything that isn't the software itself. That is: Documentation, screenshots, man-pages, checking for good integration with standard desktop behaviours (like don't save configs in the homedir). In Essence: Make Sonoj the place where FOSS audio software devs can come to and get help and motivation to bring their software to the next “polished” level.

  1. How to give version numbers: Semantic Versioning https://semver.org/
  2. Provide release notes and a CHANGELOG https://keepachangelog.com/en/1.0.0/ (“Don’t let your friends dump git logs into changelogs.”)
  3. Provide a real release as tarball and/or Github Gitlab release (resulting in a tarball). Distributions want a stable set of files for packaging. A git tag alone is not stable.
  4. Check your software and information (like README, .desktop file, your own website etc.) if it is up to date. Take inspiration from one of the many release guides, such as https://radek.io/2015/11/23/release-checklist/
  5. The Documentation Compendium: “Why must you document your project? - Various templates & tips on writing high-quality documentation that people want to read.” https://github.com/kylelobo/The-Documentation-Compendium#why_document
  6. Does your software still create (dot-)files directly in the homedir? Start supporting the XDG Base Directory Specification https://specifications.freedesktop.org/basedir-spec/basedir-spec-latest.html

Casual Events, online and offline

Typically groups of people normally coming together for a cause (a choir, church etc.) will do purely casual and entertainment based events and activities as well. Meet-and-Eat, movie or game nights, sports or sightseeing activities etc.

This can be done as well, even online: scheduled small, casual reasons to meet in the chat for half an hour to an hour. Something with very low effort, that requires little to no organisation. Trying out a software together, play an online game together, AI-Based-Roleplay chatbot :)

Community Rules and Guidelines

Even without a formal “Code of Conduct” there should be a lived-by-example and enforced-by-moderation atmosphere. Sonoj online and offline is welcoming, feel-good atmosphere. Provocation and cynisms are not welcome. You can't exclude politics and ideology because that is what open source is all about, but “no true scotsman” is not allowed. We can exclude day-to-day policitcs as well. Brexit, Trump, Wars and Cultural stereotypes and clashes have no place here.

Quarterly Release Pact

The release pact is an informal agreement to aim for shared, scheduled release dates. We agree to release at least four times a year: January, April, July and October the 15th. To participate you just need to do a release. There is no need to register in advance or ask for permission to participate.

A release is an important step in the development and life of software. Users look forward to updates and improvements, but they mean additional work for developers. It is often very hard to decide if and when to release, so developers tend to wait and postpone. There do not seem to be any objective, measurable reasons that could lead to a decision. Therefore we have decided to use time as a basis.

Why should you schedule (at least) four releases per year?

Developer side:

  • Incentive to release something. Releases are better than git progress. They get packaged, they indicate a (relatively) good state of the program.
  • Momentum/Peer Pressure: Other people are going to release, so will I.
  • Healthy, Active Community: Being in a developer group that you see working (by their releases) is a good motivation to do something yourself.

User side:

  • Announcements: Keep the software in the public eye
  • Trust. People see that the software is in development and is cared for.
  • The “last updated” date should never be more than 4 months away and always the current year.
  • Swarm Marketing: A small release does not have much impact and won't get featured often by news sites. A whole group of software releases demands more attention. At the moment we simply release on the same date, but in the future this could grow closer together. As in: joined press statements etc.

Minimum Viable Release:

  • “Fixed typo in documentation” should be enough. Especially for software that has huge release intervals, like a year or longer, there is public uncertainty if a project is just “working as intended” or dead. A minor release with minimal changes is still a signal to the public that the software is not forgotten.
  • There is always something to do: Non-Code accomplishments like writing documentation and user manuals are also a (very good) reason to release

List of Ideas for LecDems, Talks, Webinars, Videos etc.

  • Pro Audio with non-linux operating systems, especially the obscure and strange ones like HAIKU, KolibriOS etc. ( https://www.haiku-os.org/get-haiku/installation-guide/ )
  • Ways to Autotune.
  • Open Source A.I. for Music and Audio purposes.
  • Creating, archiving and producing notation, leadsheets etc.
  • Music Releases and Marketing for “Free Culture”. Where can you show and release your music and what problems may occur. Web-Radios, music libraries etc.. keep it realistic.
  • Licensing for Musicians, Producers, Software Devs etc. (get a lawyer on board)
  • DIY Audio Electronics for beginners. Useful little helpers for home and studio. And repairs.
  • Low Effort Music-Video production. Techniques and programs to mostly auto-generate and combine elements into a decent music video. Minimal need for actual Video Editing or Non-Linear-Editors.
  • Open Source Apps for musicians (etc.) on mobile phones and tablets: Metronomes, tuner, notation viewers, midi player, actual audio production software. Offline-first, native apps have priority. Otherwise it will just be a bunch of generic websites.
  • Singing and voices without a singer or voice actor: singing and speech synthesizers for musical use.
  • One-Shot and vocal samples - Cutting, processing, using it in music. From simple to complex. Think vocal samples in EDM.
  • Guitars! From Tabs and Notations to a fully virtual amp/effect rack. Showcase typical usage in or or two styles (Metal, Funk, PopRock etc. Depends on the presenter, what they can offer)
  • Recording samples from your own instruments in a practical and convenient way - not meant as “the next big commercial orchestra lib” or even for sharing, but specifically as workflow for your very own music alone. Why and how?
  • A live quiz for the whole audience ( classquiz.de ). About 5 minutes. Can be prepared according to contents of the presentation, Sonoj folklore, Cologne and venue knowledge etc. Make it fun, a bit absurd. Not too many serious questions. Adding questions should be technically easy, so it can be done shortly before the quiz to react to the actual convention.
  • Let the audience vote for their favourite presentation at a live Sonoj Convention? Needs discussion. This might feel to competitive and stressful. Or it might motivate the speakers.
  • ACE Plugins - Learn the plugins themselves, typical usecases and finally effect design from basic building blocks, stacking and layering basic plugins for “big effects”.

Concert

We had small a Sonoj Convention concert on Saturday evening in 2017 with some of the speakers. That was a nice addition, but had a very “prototype” feeling. That wasn't bad, but it's good to have clear expectation. A concert requires musicians of course. The more technical talks we have the fewer opportunities to have musicians already present, ready to play live. Maybe that can be done again if the right composition of speakers and visitors will be there. On the other hand having Saturday Evening for talking and socialising is extremely nice as well. I don't want to take that away.

Or an online concert with multiple remote musicians. I have never visited one like that and have no idea how to do that with a high quality video/audio stream and handle the switching between multiple source streams to a unified stream presented to the audience. Feels like distributed TV broadcasting already. However, that would be easier to get musicians for than for the Sonoj Convention.

Promotional Photographs

For marketing and invitations. Can be staged or real

  • A group photo of attendees networking and socializing with each other, showcasing the community aspect of the event.
  • A shot of a speaker giving a lecdem on open source music and audio production, with a slide projected in the background displaying the topic of their talk.
  • A close-up of a workshop participant's hands-on a MIDI controller or other open source music and audio production tool, with the instructor guiding them through the process.
  • A shot of a performer on stage, with colorful lighting and a diverse audience in the background.
  • A photo of the convention venue, showing exhibition pieces of open source music and audio production software, hardware, and other related products.
  • A picture of volunteers helping to set up the convention, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the preparation that goes into making the event happen.
  • A shot of attendees enjoying the provided food, showcasing the hospitality of the event.

Unsorted Notes

  • Write down somewhere, that the Sonoj Convention itself, being an event on a fixed date, is a good motivational opportunity: “let's get this done before the sonoj convention!”. It could be to finish a music recording, do software release, finish and upload that tutorial text or video, finally write that manual or update a website. Because the convention event is a good chance to show this to other people.
  • The overall goal of the Sonoj Community and Convention is to make producing music and audio with free and open source software and the “free-culture-spirit” normal. We want to contribute to make this idea into a trustworthy and robust concept and workflow.