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
We learned a lot asking our users what they know about the Electric Sheep. We had 836 respondents and a very high participation rate, and 98% of you said you would recommend the Electric Sheep Screensaver to your friends. Thank you! Nearly everybody knows the designs are called “sheep”, you can vote for sheep you like, and that your computer renders sheep in the background while it’s playing the screensaver. But only 1/5th of you knew you could buy the Spotworks DVD to get some cool sheep with music, and other funky visuals made by Spot. At least 38% of you knew that serious art collectors can buy high-resolution, museum-quality artwork made with the Electric Sheep.
We could do a better job of communicating some of the features and options on the Electric Sheep screensaver. Only about two-thirds of you knew that new sheep are created by mating the sheep which got “yes” votes, and a slightly smaller percentage knew that you can download software like Apophysis, Qosmic and Oxidizer – programs based on Scott Draves’ algorithms – to design your own sheep. 90% of you did not know that we limit user-submitted designs to one per day to make it fair so nobody dominates. Almost nobody knew that we limit people to 4 votes a day, to prevent any one person from having undue influence on sheep reproduction, including by accident.
Our marketing needs work! Over half of you did not know that you can go to electricsheep.org and browse archives. of every single sheep that’s ever been born. There you can see its family tree, who worked on rendering it, who created its genome, and more. The majority of you did not know about the Electric Sheep forums or our email lists where you can get updates about the sheep and chat with other users.
There are a bunch of options in the configuration panel that many people have never heard of. Only a third of you knew that you can change the speed at which your sheep play back (go to the frame-rate setting). To the people who asked, yes there is already a way to lock in the loop of your favorite sheep: use the scroll lock key. To rewind and see what you just missed, you can press the left arrow. But these commands only work in demo mode, which means you can move the mouse or click keys without exiting, choose it from the configuration panel. There are a bunch of other things you can change if you delve into the settings, most of which are documented online. Some of these features are only available to Windows 2.6 users at this time.
More soon! –Isabel
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