Premium Services


#1

Mycroft Core will be released soon. As part of Mycroft Core we are providing users with access to external APIs, STT solutions and centralized data management.

After the fiasco at Revolv this past month, we are hyper aware that we are going to need some form of monthly revenue to make sure Mycroft continues to be available to users. Cloud services aren’t free and we are going to be processing a lot of data.

We are also hyper aware of the open source ethos. Developers and users are contributing to the Mycroft platform and we have an obligation to provide them with unencumbered use of the software – that means no monthly fees.
After conversations with our advisers in the open source community we’ve decided to provide premium services to paying supporters exchange for a small monthly subscription fee. We realize that a vast majority of Mycroft users don’t want to pay a fee and we respect that. Users who want to use the service for free can do so, but users who want to support the project will get some perks.

We have been brainstorming as to which premium services to offer, but we would like feedback from the community.

With your input, we can be sure to include premium services that the community will find relevant in a way that is palatable to our community.

Here are a few of the ideas we’ve come up with:

Premium Voices – several additional high quality voices.
Early Access to New Hardware & Expansion Modules – get the opportunity to buy new hardware before we make it available in our store.
Advertising Free Audio Feeds – Some of the audio sources (the NPR news feed for example) have a short advertisement before or after the content. We’d eliminate these ads by negotiating access with the audio provider and sharing a small portion of the revenue with them.
Perfect Privacy – We respect your privacy. We already plan to anonymize and strip personally identifiable information from incoming data before using it to train the AI. “Perfect Privacy” will add one more layer of privacy to this process by immediately deleting all queries. No data will be stored even anonymously. No data will be used to further train the AI.
Before we implement this premium model, we want to get your feedback. How do we support the project’s ongoing financial needs while still respecting our community? What do you think of our ideas? Do you have any ideas of your own?

We really want to earn the respect of our community. That is why we are bringing these questions to you. We’d love to get your feedback.


#2

Would it be possible to use distributed nodes, peoples own computers/servers to become part of a cluster, and have the processing done this way. That way people could offer their own bandwidth to help the project, instead of a monthly subscription.

Or have the ability to host our own local server for the heavy lifting/processing, and updates and configs provided from upstream servers (such as better heuristics etc)

Im not a big fan of the cloud, but early on there was talk of a host your own server model, which i was interested in and would be moving to asap.


#3

Agreed. I would definitely prefer to self-host. Especially if I can do so on my home network, so everything still works, even if/when my internet goes down.


#4

Remember that open source does not mean that everyone gets a free beer, they just get the recipes/instructions for free.

If you are looking to monetize why not create a “store” or “repository” for modules like apps on a phone. Core features come stock but add-ons are at the price of the developer and you take a cut as a donation to support the open source efforts. Or try to make your own services that people can subscribe to like a netflix / pandora / skype clone. These are services that people already pay for that could potentially ride on your system anyway so why not have your own.

As for the options suggested:

  • Premium voices is limited because defaults are king and most people won’t care/bother to change it
  • Early access is cool but thats niche to your most dedicated community members
  • No ads sounds super attractive but can you stop ads on the more high profile options like pandora or spotify?
  • Perfect Privacy is again attractive but niche, the world has proven that sadly most people are willing to sell themselves for convenience, it also brings up an interesting argument. If you could pay [add corporate entity here] to not collect your search query would you? or should you have to? maybe they should be paying you to collect that information?

Neon_Samurai brings up a good option, like folding@home or maybe like storj.io, where you earn alt coins for contributing or you spend alt coins for services. Or find a way to sell a mycroft enterprise productivity suite, where someone can self host and do the classic pay for support model or they license special services like central management.
I think mycroft has a bigger market than the home, the only hard limit is the modules added to it and the form factor. Instead of an alarm clock maybe its a wifi router (OnHub), a smart tv in a dorm/hotel room, an office/conference room phone, a projector in a classroom.

I see a lot of potential for steady income, it’s just a matter of which market is easiest to enter and what resources you are willing to put into it.


#5

What services are tied to mycroft as a company that a user would not be able to contract for on their own? If the mycroft company goes away, where would that leave the mycroft device? Google has API keys available for various services. Would one of those services be an STT component available for use by individuals? Would the community be able to provide a similar services?


#6

Mycroft is unique because of its open approach, because it gives me control, allows me to study and change how it works, because it doesn’t lock me in to some proprietary device, software, or business model. Getting the infrastructure started for this is an investment, it costs money. I’m willing to pay for this, for example as supporter of the Kickstarter campaign.

Running services costs money as well. This is not an investment, it’s running expenses, it’s consuming resources somebody has to provide. I’m willing to pay for that as well. I don’t expect other people to pay for what I use. This is not the open source ethos. It’s about free as in freedom, not free as in beer. If I’m free to choose the service I’m using, if I’m free to run the service myself, because it’s free software, then I have the freedom I’m looking for. That’s why I’m using Mycroft, not because it provides a gratis service.

I would be willing to pay for any service that respects my freedom and privacy. Providing some service for free might still be a good decision, not because of freedom, but because of business, because it makes it accessible to more people and allows to scale. Paid premium services should then better not discriminate on features, but on actual service. Paying for something like bandwidth, private storage, hosting of special services, access to curated content, these kind of things make sense to me. Paying for “perfect privacy” doesn’t. This should be a feature available to everybody, especially as it touches the core spirit of the project, the open source ethos.

I also would be willing to pay for premium hardware. Special designs, higher quality audio components, smaller devices, the buy-ten-for-all-rooms-in-your-house pack, more energy-efficient hardware, these kind of things. For hardware it’s obvious that it costs money, and people don’t expect it to be free, so it might be easier to sell it at a premium than premium services. It is a different kind of business, though.

I think the key is sticking to the core idea of being open, and align anything premium with that. Try not to restrict a service, so you can sell the unrestricted version as premium service, but let people pay for services which transparently come with a cost to run and provide them.


#7

I hope that in future I’ll have the possibility to use my own Mycroft with the external API/STT/data management of my choice, and pay what I am willing to pay to whom I choose.

I understand that for you to have a good looking product and respect the schedule you are focusing on a specific set of services.

I would definitely be happy with the introduction of premium services AS LONG AS:

  • You state exactly what kind of expenses they will exist for.
  • You report the incomes of these services and their usage (what service and which company they pay for)

#8

Hello,

While most of it is fine, in my opinion privacy should never be a premium. It should be a basic thing.

Cheers,
Axel


#9

I can sound harsh, but I’ve seen myself involved on other open source projects which creators had to lower the blind, and their product became a paperweight. As a community, we should think what is better for Mycroft, and think how it can survive the own company/team who developed it…

To the Mycroft team, I would advise to focus into the IA rather than Mycroft itself. Mycroft can be the tool to improve your IA and create future commercial products. As someone said before, there are plenty of market niches where an AI can be used. The Mycroft community would improve the AI for free so after some time, you can design another product and make profit from it.

For the community, as I said, we must think how to survive all the possible misfortunes that can happen to the Mycroft team, so we should be creatives and think how to lower costs for everything. The perfect solution would be find the way to reduce the costs of all the project to zero: this site’s cost by finding a sponsor, decentralizing the cloud the most we can, etc

I also prefer to run my own services rather than pay for cloud services. There is no better privacy than run your own services yourself. And I suggested to run the STT engines locally. Said that, it would be great, to syncronize somehow the improvements of our Mycroft or the Mycroft team improvements with the others so, under my point of view, there are two approaches, P2P or a centralized server.

A centralized server can seems better, but it is very expensive so P2P would reduce dramatically the costs, we all would contribute with bandwidth and the Mycroft team should only take care of the “central brain” which would provide the new features and would be propagated through a P2P network.

Centralizing the services would also centralize the risks if something happens to Mycroft team. So I would recommend to avoid that model.

For the premium services. I think “core” Mycroft should have all the features. The 752 backers on kickstarter helped mycroft to see the light, but cannot maintain the project forever.

I would rather pay for selected apps. The Mycroft team could create a mycroft store where developers could sell their apps (if they would want), and Mycroft team take a percentage of the sale. If Mycroft team developes more AI products, that store could be “compatible” with their future products. In this way, community can help Mycroft team by enriching the product (and possible future products).

I say with all this, that community should be part of the mycroft product, we are pioneers and we should be somehow “special” for the mycroft team. We helped economically on the kickstarter campaing and will help by contributing in the future, and perhaps a few coins a year in interesting apps or hardware improvements, but surely we will not spend money as a basis.

The Mycroft team is the leader of the community, they are the valiants and the heroes, and I’m sure they will have some great ideas to take profit of the community improvements and develop more IA products in the future.


#10

@krisadair I also like the idea of a store. If you can find a way to bundle each of the services as individual snap packages, then you could sell them in a branded snappy store. I guess that this would include subscriptions to certain services. This approach would be of far greater interest to me, as I live in the UK and I can’t see myself wanting to listen to the NPR news feed.


#11

I wanted a Amazon Echo but I resisted buying one because I’d like to try MyCroft instead - which I’m super excited about. The Echo doesn’t have a monthly subscription fee so I feel MyCroft can’t either, otherwise it’ll put off the mainstream folks who don’t value open-source as much as the initial adopters.

What about seeing how much the infrastructure costs you (hosting, bandwidth, etc), then publish the amount transparently, then tell everyone, “we need to raise X to keep us going Y months”. Then the community can pony up to keep MyCroft going until the next donation period. I think this is how Wikipedia goes about it.


#12
  • easy to integrate “self-hosted” trainer on person’s smart device would be ginormous for us at www.cavalcade.in and would gladly share revenues and anonymous patterns back to the community.

#13

Open Source doesn’t mean not paying. I’m happy for anything that needs to to have fees, so long as all of the code and data is under a libre license and is made available at least to paying customers.

In your case, however, you might consider something more Patreon-style and get the community that loves your services to help cover your costs, etc.


#14

I see 3 ways to finance an open-source project (they can coexist) :

  • With a shop (or store, it’s the same) - where you can sell some items like : t-shirts, mugs, mod for Mycroft unit, hardware and “Skills” (developed by Mycroft team and the community).

  • With donation - as @tomfotherby said, publish the infrastructure costs to reach each month could be a good idea.

  • With a premium account - for adding easily into Mycroft core some new “Skills” for “free” or have some early access.

The premium account will be used by 2 types of user : basic user who doesn’t want to learn how to develop “Skills” and want to add all “Skills” he desires developed by the community and community user who want to support the Mycroft team and have an early access.

All community members who took part in the development of the code and/or the “Skills” should have access to others “Skills” for free.

Like that, we respect users, community members and Mycroft team :wink:


#15

Open source doesn’t always mean open accounting, but this seems like an opportunity to document your costs and to ask the community to pay up.

Seriously, a once-a-month or once-a-year reminder to people who do not have support subscriptions might be for mycroft to play a very short “go to mycroft home page to see our financials and contribute to keeping the servers on the air.”


#16

I’d definitely pay for premium voices, or a service/software to convert my own voice into a premium voice.


#17

Getting access to premium famous voices coming from films/TV shows would be awesome !

I obviously have Star Wars in mind :smile: And you ? Which famous voice would you speak with ? :slight_smile:


#18

Handsfree voip should be a source of income, as explained on this topic:


#19

So many fantastic ideas! That is why we asked. Feel free to continue to weigh in. We want to be able to continue supporting full-time developers to work on the project. We feel that in a world where there are so many resources going into similar technologies that’s sole purpose is to mine your data and sell you stuff, that it is imperative that a project like this exists.


#20

I would prefer the option of self hosting of any server requirements (on my network) to allow for use when an external network is not available or network speed is limited or high latency links are involved.

If this would require additional funding then I would probably back such an a project provided that the resulting software was available under a suitable open-source license.

Additional premium voices would be an option that I would be prepared to pay for on a one off license fee…

After recent experiences with a Pebble watch app which ceased working when the creator withdrew the web service on which it relied. This makes me wary of any application which depends on network connections and external servers to function.

If ‘Perfect Privacy’ is a premium service then how private is the existing information that is sent by Mycroft to the cloud (Log Files etc) ?