A Discussion on Expectations and Development: VIA

So recently two different thingermabobs caught my eye…

Github VIA Issue: https://github.com/the-via/keyboards/issues/491

&

Related /r/mk post: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/kuvpmg/the_future_of_via_github_pull_requests/

So this makes me wonder at times, what are the certain expectations people might be thrusting upon developers for what costs? I think some of you here are from the development side of things and may have some input of this kind of situation.

As a community, how much is too much to expect from a group of people essentially doing a free service? Especially a service that others are taking advantage of for commercial gain? (Keyboard Designers having VIA support for free).

VIA started out as a tool for Wilba.tech PCBs which is no different from how you have a razer tool for razer boards, corsair tool for corsair boards, etc etc etc. But they have decided to adopt their platform to support other PCBs.

One interesting quote that caught my eye was,

Wilba: We have absolutely no obligation to provide a free keyboard configuration tool to commercial entities that didn’t contribute anything towards it.

Development takes time & time is a finite resource after all.

I know a lot of people will probably have their opinions on open source and non open source. From my own research, I can see the pros and cons of each side of that argument

Looking at the current pull requests, it does look like a majority of them are pending QMK Merge.

Ultimately, are people whinging because VIA is closed source, whinging because their PRs are being pulled fast enough, or whinging because they’re haters? Maybe people are impatient because they expect devs to work through the holidays, I don’t know.

What kind of expectations do we have for many of the devs in our community who contribute their knowledge for free? Maybe we should reflect on them every now and then and be thankful for everyone who contributes on projects that end up helping everyone in this community.

I love the QMK & VIA teams.

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If VIA is closed source, then Wilba’s frustration will never stop. Ever. The roadmap for proprietary software is a well traveled one. He and team might want to consider having two versions of VIA; Community and Enterprise.

The “community” version would become open source and compatible with today’s list of keyboards. The “enterprise” version would be targeted toward large companies that benefit financially from the VIA team’s hard work. It’s a WIN/WIN. The community gets to roll their own VIA code so us freeloaders can help ourselves, while the VIA team gets rich creating turnkey solutions for corporate America.

They’re kind of half way there, they just need a good CDN and (Long Term Support) LTS versioning.

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People are so whiny lol. imo the problem here was opening it up to let anyone support whatever they want and send that in. I think @ajoflo has a good idea here that they could have a community version, even if it just had some janky way to load in your own keyboard and then have “official” support for whatever they want. TBH via doesn’t seem like particularly complicated software, I’m surprised no one has made an open source clone yet. It always seemed like they spent more time making pretty graphics than making it functional, which makes sense if it was originally just done for rama boards lol. (I’m looking at you alphabetical alpha keys organization)

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VIA is closed source, so ultimately @Wilba and @olivia can do whatever they want.

The brutal truth said, they look to work hard on nice new features to be able to customize VIA for better support of a wide range of keyboard witch is nice.
Development takes time, and more when you do that only after your day job.

Looks like people complain with the time it take to add new keyboards to VIA.
For them using a free closed source tool was not a problem because it was a gain of time for them.
… until adding new keyboards is suddenly not fast enough and they now want to do the work themselves, so asking to open source it :smiley:

To be honest, with the agressive way this has been requested, I’d probably be more caustic with my answer than @wilba did, haha!

Yes it would be better for VIA to be open source, but maybe the developpers think the software can’t be publicly shared at this state.

Also to solve the problem someone can still code an open source VIA equivalent, the QMK firmware part is open source after all, that is only one half of the work to do.
Easier said than done and no one took the plunge it seems.

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Agreed. Words matter, and the community is somewhat sensitive at times.

You might be right. Their code library could be proprietary composed of a collection of their own and third-party libraries that they’re not contractually allowed to redistribute in their VIA code. This is a typical issue.

I’d be more than happy to help the VIA team out. I’ve played this level before and someone already showed me where all the magic mushrooms are hidden. :nerd_face:

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Honestly I think people are vastly overreacting here because the expectation was set that any QMK board could theoretically be used with VIA. But the github issue, and especially the person who wrote the reddit post seem to be a little too entitled with thinking they can make decisions about VIA’s future. Idk, it seems some people are thinking a slight delay in getting PRs approved around the holiday season is so horrible we need to stage some kind of hostile takeover of the project and I am not at all about that.

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Vial is one project already trying to take that on: https://github.com/vial-kb

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Interesting discussion. Not sure labelling people as “whiners” really helps. Not sure I would even call it whining, seems like the initial post was a legit question.

Seems like a lot of this boils down to community support vs. KBDfans (and maybe others) getting shit for free.

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Interesting.
Is it working?

Different aproaches also, this one is in python and c while VIA is Électron and JavaScript bases.

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Excuse me for asking, but you say it as they couldn’t if it wasn’t closed?

Well, at least they have nobody to complain on their development practice, coding style, schedule(not totally true given the discussion here), etc :stuck_out_tongue:
That’s more freedom, than when a lot of people are contributing to the same source code base, with potential clashes between members.

The fact that the source is closed doesn’t mean there aren’t many contributors, schedules or pesky stakeholders — in fact, since many closed source projects are commercial, they tend to be even worse in that regard.

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You are totally right in what you say.
I was more meaning ‘publicly’ complaining, like on Reddit or Github were everyone has read access.

You don’t say … I know those. Reverse engineering things is fun. Very very interesting.

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To complement about VIA complaints from PCB designers, there is a way to provide early VIA support to customers, that is provide the .json file to make VIA software recognize your PCB.
This is what I do for my VIA enabled custom PCBs.

In VIA software the process is to go to “File” -> “Import Keymap” and select it.

Then, as long as VIA is opened, your custom PCB loaded with VIA enabled firmware will be recognised and you will be able to change your layout configuration at will.

Sure it is not perfect because as soon as you close VIA you will have to repeat this process again.
But at least it could be a temporary solution for PCB designers that are in a GB, at least until the PCB is properly integrated in the application itself.

Then they may also be a ‘hacking way’ of doing a better job :stuck_out_tongue:
In VIA there is a huge text file (json format, not sure if my memory is correct) that contain the configuration of all supported keyboards.
The format looks to be different from the .json file that you load manually but there are a lot of similarities.
So maybe provide a script to add support of your own keyboard in this database ?

A good thing that VIA should have is an option to install a .json configuration file in its database permanently !

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As someone who is in rama purgatory, waiting for a m60 olivia, I had always just assumed you could do this locally.

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Considering that the community financed all their businesses from the start, essentially creating them on a zero interest rate crowd funded loan without anyone ever having to run actual advertising to sustain or grow… I think it would be just fair to get specific features for free, especially when the core part it builds up on is also open source coming out of that very community that spawned those makers into existence, supported, and grew them. it also adds new and therefore less experienced people to join the community which use those tools and create a bigger market that can run even bigger zero interest rate crowd sourced projects which keeps risks low and profits ever growing… it would be in EVERYONES interest to always open source such projects.
In this case the creator thinks “but what if someone takes it and brands it with his logo?” - doesn’t matter I say, the possible customer base still grows and everyone including the creators of VIA will also make money through it. That kid that buys a cheap plastic board that uses a VIA knockoff would or will at some point buy a product with a Wilba PCB in it… even more so if they find out that the software they’re using is actually made by the same people that make “better” boards.

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You can’t hold people hostage and demand they work on things you want just because they have previously done something you liked. They don’t owe you anything just because you have bought something they made. They are perfectly free to work on anything they like, or not work at all.

Sure, you can hope they will continue doing things you like. And you can be disappointed if they don’t. But you can’t really demand anything.

There is this weird moral thing, where people who do something good in one particular area are suddenly held responsible for that area, and blamed for not doing enough, even if, logically, they already did more than anyone else. I think this is a fallacy to be avoided.

Now, you can argue about what would be a good business strategy for them or how they could approach growing the community of their customers. But that is ultimately only theoretical advice from you, and they are perfectly free to listen to it or not. It’s up to them to decide how they want to do this. You may think that it is a mistake, that’s fine — it is up to them to make that mistake, though.

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When/how was via funded by the community? I don’t remember that at all

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