[FFmpeg-user] ffmpeg issue

Stefano Sabatini stefasab at gmail.com
Wed Dec 14 17:40:08 CET 2011

On date Monday 2011-12-12 17:32:51 -0000, Phil Rhodes encoded:
> >Secondly, you keep complaining about *nix; why?
> Phil: Hello. This piece of opensource software is causing $PROBLEM
> under Windows 7, any suggestions?
> Nerd: Use linux and compile latest svn.
> Phil: Well, linux isn't for everyone. Now, abut $PROBLEM...
> Nerd: Linux does everything and is really easy to use and helps cute
> animals.
> Phil: Everything? Wow. Is there an equivalent to $SOFTWARE?
> Nerd: Er... linux isn't for everyone... and ur teh suck.
> That's why. I make no apology if my response is robust.
> >I like freedom myself in some circumstances and in others I am willing
> >to pay the money to just have it work.
> Pretty much describes my attitude, too.
> >Again, because they are so many different environments that ffmpeg
> >couldbe installed too, especially when it comes to *nix, that I'm
> >not sure atthis point what needs to be done exactly to improve it,
> >yet.
> Couldn't agree more. The only way to fix these configure-and-build
> issues is to make all linux distros so similar that there would be
> very little point in having all these different ones. The core
> problem is one of a complete lack of consistency and
> standardisation, and I view this as more or less unsolvable in the
> realm of linux and free software.
> >I would however, expect the folks that write
> >ffmpeg to be able to sort that one out and improve the documentation.
> And on that day, the devil will be ice-skating to work.
> >Lastly, as far as this list and how they seem to expect people to be
> >somewhat near their level of understanding about all things ffmpeg, I've
> >complained about this as well.
> I think it's more utter, undisguised contempt for anyone who isn't
> an expert software engineer. A lot of disciplines suffer this sort
> of snobbery, but I think the open source community has made
> arrogance into an absolute science and it is really terrifying to
> behold the degree of brass-necked snobbery of which these people are
> capable. The fact that it is neither possible or desirable for every
> person on the face of the planet to be a linux expert apparently
> doesn't occur.

For what matters... put it on a different light, consider this
situation from the point of view of economics. Using ffmpeg rather
than another tool is just a type of deal, you're going to buy
something and you have to pay a price. The price is not purely
monetary, ffmpeg costs no money (and still it requires some specific
equipment and infrastructures which do). Then there is the time that
you need to spend investing on it, and other factors which are hardly
quantificable (having fun, learning something, whose value is really
dependent on too many factors which change from person to person and
from time to time).

If you have previous expertise in the field (multimedia technology,
programming, compilation, building, administration), the price you
need to spend in order to make use of this tool is cheap, since you
already paid on that (education, work experience, etc.), and you can
directly benefit on the control that this tool allows, and on the
possibility of extending it to make it suit your needs (which is
possible since it is free software), which is added value for you.

On the other hand, depending on your formation, your time and your
needs, you may just prefer something which costs money but which
doesn't require so much knowledge and/or investing so much time on
formation/research tasks, and you may not need any of the additional
benefits which come with free software (learnability, hackability,
etc.) which would have no value for you (if not on an ethical ground,
or not in the short term).

Now consider the thing from the developer point of view. Free software
contributions usually are moved by different kind of motivations: pure
interest or want to improve in the programming field or specific
application domain, pragmatical interests in developing some specific
feature and / or fixing some particular bug due to accidental needs
(this is particularly true for occasional contributors), psichological
need for recognition in the FLOSS community and / or to contribute to
some project to the public benefit, will to earn an income or
reputation in the field, etc. etc. and you can classify and enumerate
more and more specific reasons for which a developer or even an
hobbist with no professional experience / background may want to
contribute to such a project.

The fact that so many different actors with many different interests
and objectives can still give raise to a *consistent* project is quite
astonishing, and depends on many critical factors (one of those is
finding a core group of developers which is committed to giving
continuity to that effort, otherwise most projects tend to just die).

Now back to the usability / documentation problem, this is a typical
problem with free software projects since it is something for which the
typical contributor has no gain, since she has no use of documenting a
feature which she developed, or to document a feature which doesn't
use, add to this that writing *good* documentation is *hard* and it
costs *time* and requires many skills (English language knowledge and
good communication/expression skill) which the average programmer may
lack. Working on such problems is simply pointless for her, and she
may have no interest at all for doing it "just for all the good users
out there", unless she is moved by a compassionate heart and she has
*plenty of time at her disposal*.

So the problem is - what you can do about that? Complaining that free
software or this particular tool sucks is just like complaining about
the weather, you can't do nothing about that since you can't change
the economic and social model on which free software is based.

Well you can actually do something if you want something fixed, you
can for example try to appeal to the developers ego/sense of duty (you
are so great and good, oh mighty developer please do this for me!!),
another possibly better way is to pay good money for that, some of the
developers may have a physical body which needs to be feeded from time
to time, another way is just complaining and pissing off developers so
they will fix the problem you claimed (it sometimes works!), but most
of the time it is not a very good approach since you defeat the
motivation a developer may have of helping you (so it is anti-economic
for you - you may still have fun at doing that or just feel less

Resuming, nobody here is claiming that ffmpeg is the answer to the
question of life, universe and everything and is the right tool for
you (although it may be!), so it is up to you to evaluate how good is
for you to keep up with it (hint - your evaluation may be wrong in the
long and/or short term since you don't have a perfect information
about the different available choices). It may turn out that it is
just the least worse choice or even the only one depending on your

In this case if you want to help fixing its problems and help yourself
in the long run, keeping a positive and constructive attitude (filing
bugs / feature requests, praising developers or paying them for their
service) is usually most effective (and so more convenient for you)
rather than just complaining.

Just my 0.02, and now back to work, I should have better spent my time
by fixing bugs rather than writing this!
ffmpeg-user random tip #5
FFmpeg documentation:

More information about the ffmpeg-user mailing list