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Why Being a Blender User is So Awesome!

blender_logo_socketEvery day I work with users of all kinds, and the Blender open-source business model isn’t fully understood. Have you ever wondered, how is something “Free” is so awesome, and able to do so many different things? How is this software able to do more than your average competitor software, and then some? So with those questions in your mind, I wanted to talk about how Blender makes itself so awesome, and how anyone can make Blender better!

Blender is Freakin’ Awesome!

Come In We're Open-Source

Image provided by techaltair.com

What makes Blender so dang awesome, besides the software itself? If you understand open-source, you may already know; if you don’t, you’re about to find out. Since Blender’s code is open-source, any user can create their own changes to Blender, and present them to developers to become a new feature of Blender. There are even some users that hire developers to create these features just so Blender can have it, and make their modeling workflow better, or faster. While that may not make much sense to you, think of the amount of money a studio would pay for a year of commercial software for a team of 20 (or even 20 perpetual licenses). To spare the math, it would be substantially cheaper, and a new supported feature for every user. It’s the open-source business model that has worked in Blender’s favor so many times before, especially back in 2002 when the father of Blender, Ton Roosendaal, asked Blender users for donations so to purchase the rights from his previous employer (NaN) to then make it open-source back in 2002.

Since the day Blender became open-source, the software became property of the users. It’s the users that make it awesome; helping with development, making addons, testing for bugs, helping write documentation, giving ideas to make Blender even more awesome, and of course donating for development. You might be wondering, “How can I be a part of it?”, and if you’re not, are you sure you use Blender? Joking aside, the reason Blender has made it this far, and become so large is purely based on user participation in the community. Each and every user that wanted to see the software thrive, and did something to help Blender, is a part of the large conglomeration that made Blender make bigger and better strides with each release.

How Can I Help? 

Blender Community

Not only the image for Blender 2.76, but a great display of a metaphor on how people learn about Blender

Ok, you are a Blender user, that’s a great start! Keep using it, and keep experimenting as much as you can! Finding bugs, testing builds and release candidates is always something in demand. The developers cannot test everything before release, and having users testing the pre-release builds helps find bugs before the actual release. Finding such bugs pre-release removes the need for having a “patch releases” which adds an ugly letter after the release number, because of having to fix the bugs that were not found during pre-release. If you are still new to Blender, make sure to check the bug tracker making sure it is not an existing bug, and ask on a Blender forum to make sure what you found is in fact a bug, and not how Blender works. Besides bugs, if you are well versed in programming languages like C, C++, or Python, you can also donate your time helping with development, or help create add-ons for Blender, which tend to offer that one feature keeping a user from switching to Blender.

What if I’m Not Technically Inclined? 

If the previous suggestions are not anything you feel comfortable with, no worries! There are ways for all users to help! The first option is to help write pages for the Blender Reference Manual. If you feel you are very familiar with features of Blender, or are bilingual, and you find that the page is lacking information, you can always help make the documentation by offering your changes. You can also help with Blender’s exposure creating your own tutorials, articles, or anything else to help explain to potential users why they should consider Blender. Also finding ways to incorporate Blender into your local school’s curriculum can help with exposure, as well as help your own community’s education by saving money on software. You can even start a Blender group for a specific 3D art you like creating. Then you can attract and introduce more people to Blender, as well as inform them about how Blender works, and encourage them to help with Blender using these same methods.

What Else Do You Have? 

blender marketMaybe none of the options are fitting the bill just yet. So, what else is there? Of course there is the life-blood of development, donations! Donations help pay the current developers, as well as new developers to create and maintain Blender’s code. The first, and easiest method to help with this is Donating to the Blender Foundation. While that’s the easiest method, you may be someone that wants to see a return from their investments (besides seeing your name in various Blender projects). There are lots of ways to make that happen, and the first one is to subscribe to the Blender Cloud, where you can receive training videos, assets, and lots of other Blender goodies for subscribing, and the money goes to the Blender Foundation! You can also buy lots of goodies from the Blender Store, and again proceeds go to the Blender Foundation.
There are still more options though! You can also find other places to buy awesome Blender goodness, where money is donated. For instance, when you purchase anything from CGCookie’s Blender Market, a percentage of each purchase goes towards Blender development. You’ll find this with other Blender merchandise as well. Most creators will let you know that a certain percentage will go towards Blender Development, so you can feel at ease as your money not only gets you something awesome, but also helps make Blender even better! Lastly, you can go to the Blender Conference, where you can see some awesome presentations about how Blender is being used all over the world, as well as see what developers are up to. Not only that, you can sit in on developer “round tables” where you can talk to developers about features, and even give your input! Remember, Blender is for the user, not the “company” like other software.

Blender NPR Development FundFor those of you that absolutely love the Blender Internal render engine (NPR 4 eva!), do not forget about the BEER Development Fund. These are the developers that specifically work on the Blender Render engine. Keep in mind, there are times where they wait on functionality from the Blender Foundation branch before making serious changes to the Blender Render engine. These changes of course are later added to the Release, making NPR rendering even better than before. There are a couple ways to help with this fund as well. You can Donate, or you can purchase any of their awesome NPR-based tutorials from the Blender NPR Store.

Why Should I Do This?

It’s obvious that not everyone is jumping up and down to help, but being a part of it all can in turn make Blender better for you. How? Right now the Blender Foundation gets enough to pay a handful of developers to maintain Blender, and add some new features now and then. What if development had so much support they could hire more developers, and main developers could spend all of their time making new features, and making features better? Think about that for a second. That means that feature requests could be implemented quickly, new frameworks made in record time (like 2.8), new features added more often, and having all of the bleeding edge features added shortly after they make it into the industry. If every user helped even the slightly bit, Blender would have the money to be the best 3D (and 2D) studio on the market. This isn’t the Blender Foundation’s software this is our software, and we should treat it as such.

  • Brandon Hix

    Very informative breakdown for how we all fit into the Blender community. Here’s hoping we can all do a better job moving forward of finding our place and giving something back so Blender can stay around for a long time and just keep getting better and better along the way.