by software artist Scott Draves. You may also follow me on google+ or twitter, buy art, or join me on facebook.

March 18, 2009

Survey Results Part 2

Here is another update from Isabel about the survey results. –Spot

Hi All,

As Spot has explained, we are trying to make the Electric Sheep into a self-sustaining entity – a requirement for long-term artificial life. To that end, in our recent survey we asked you about ways that it made sense for us to generate revenue with the system.

Some people – a fraction of a percent – expressed displeasure with the idea of generating any revenue with the Electric Sheep at all. To these folks, we need to explain that the Electric Sheep costs money to run. The sum has come out of the pocket of the artist and donors, but continues to grow. It is not our intention to send Scott Draves to the poorhouse in return for having the creativity, patience and drive it has taken to create and run the Electric Sheep for the past ten years. The system clearly has staying power, and to help it to thrive and grow it needs funding. The open-source code and the creative-commons licensed imagery benefits everybody, and the beauty of the artwork inspires passion in people. We very much recognize that the Electric Sheep is a group effort, and are consistently impressed with the contributions and commitment of the community that makes it work.

With that in mind, we are committed to maintaining an amazing user experience for free. Nearly 90% of you said the free version should stay the same as it is now, so we’re listening closely to that request. Almost 40% of you said you would pay more for sheep at higher resolution, but we're just going to make that part of the free experience for everyone. When the new version is released, you’ll see a substantial increase in resolution and visual quality. (Right now you can see this in the beta Linux and Windows versions, although on Windows it crashes on some machines– we are trying to fix it and could use help).

We also have some ideas for extras that can be added to create a premium user experience, which we hope many of our users will choose to pay for. A quarter of you said you would pay for more bandwidth, which means more new sheep and more continuously flowing sheep. Bandwidth is our biggest expense after our time. So, we will start offering more bandwidth to people who want to pay a membership fee. Around 15% of you said you would pay for higher-resolution still images, and we'll offer that to paying members as well. There was also significant interest – among 27% of you – to be able to breed sheep and sending the offspring into the system. That will require some programming, but it’s on the list as an eventual benefit for paying members. Only 40% of respondents said they wouldn’t buy a premium account, so we think there is some potential to support the system with a paid membership base.

You also gave us a bunch of great ideas in the open-ended sections for how to bring in more revenue – thank you! We will keep thinking about good ways to support the Electric Sheep without detriment to the free user experience. As soon as we have had a chance to think it through a bit more and program the interface, we’re going to start a premium membership and use subscription fees to support improvements to the system that everyone can benefit from.

Best wishes, Isabel Posted by spot at March 18, 2009 09:19 PM

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