Political troubles at Processing Foundation

Saturday 7th October, 2023 - Bruce Sterling

*Open source is a means of production, but it’s by no means a panacea.

*Especially when a one-time crypto windfall of ten million dollars shows up.


Ben Fry:

I have made the extremely difficult decision to resign from the Processing Foundation. I am absolutely heartbroken, and have not slept well for months.

Casey and I started the Foundation with Dan as a way to make the Processing project more sustainable. For years it had been just Casey and me, supporting thousands and thousands of users.

Back in 2017, I was diagnosed with cancer just weeks after my second child was born. I took a break from participating directly with the Board.

Last fall, with urging from Casey, who was planning to leave, I tried to return to an active role with the Board.

It was a strange experience; I was soon shocked to learn that the Foundation spent nearly $800,000 last year. $0 of that went to Processing 4.

This year, the proposed Foundation budget is around $1.2 million. But for Processing, there is budget for just two people: one developer, one community lead.

You know what that sounds like? The reason we started a Foundation in the first place. Two people is not enough for all of the Processing software projects that live at the processing.org domains, not just the original software, but also releases for Android, Python, Raspberry Pi, etc.

There have been two million downloads of even just the 4.0 releases, and there remains consistently about 100,000 unique users a month.

Two people is not enough to sustain the current community, but more importantly, not enough to move the project in new directions—more languages, platforms, devices; broadening the audience further.

We’re very much back in the same place as when we started in 2001: coding is still too obtuse and oblique, and the only way to fix that is to reduce barriers that will make coding accessible to more people.

I have continued to work on the Processing software since resigning from the Foundation—since walking away only punishes our users—but it’s really difficult. There’s no future in this current structure.

From the outset, the project was always a 50-50 split between internal (software development) and external (the community, the documentation, examples, etc). The Foundation has lost all sense of balance.

It’s a depressing outcome following the $10 million windfall of donations. It’s just co-opting the work that I’ve done for 22 years: building the software and supporting the community; both in years past when it was an unknown project, or in more recent years when keeping things working wasn’t always *fun*, but was still *important* for the community that relied on it.

The situation is especially difficult for me because it has been created by the people who most benefited from all that work I did, and from people I trusted as friends.

The Processing software and its community deserve better, and need a better home than the “Processing” Foundation.