I spend a lot of time reading the Max forums to keep up with what’s happening in the user community and to help out where I can. The other day, along came a forum thread that seemed to blow up instantly. It was a perfect example of the collaborative learning and problem solving that I’ve come to love about our users. The combination of a provocative title, an interesting problem, a fascinating idea, and genuinely helpful posts led to a long, collaborative thread filled with cool Max tricks and ideas. After watching it develop, I thought it would be nice to get some of the main contributors to answer a couple of questions I had, and get some reflections outside of the thread.
Andrew Benson: Do you remember your first post to the Max forums?
Rodrigo: I first joined the Max mailing list (which then became the current forum) around 2007. This was in the middle of my second serious attempt to learn Max. I mostly read the posts trying to understand how things worked, but occasionally posted some questions, and when possible tried to help people, on the rare occasion when someone knew less than me.
Peter McCulloch: I’m not sure. I was on the mailing list probably since the early 2000s; I’m guessing maybe 2003? I did a fair amount of lurking in my mailing list days. I do remember feeling that the community was fairly open, and there were lots of people who helped me along the way, and it didn’t tend to be gear-headish.
AB: How often do you read the forums at cycling74.com?
Rodrigo: I visit/read the forums daily. I do a ton of research on there when I’m stuck on something or just searching for inspiration, but in addition to research I enjoy reading what other people are working on (and struggling with).
Peter: I’m kind of intermittent with it. To be honest, I tend to do it when I’m procrastinating or bored, but I’ve definitely created things for the forum that I then later use especially with my teaching (I teach Max at NYU and Vassar College), since I already have an explanation for the patch. I use the forum in different ways. I generally look to help out, especially with tricky problems. I also use it to research parts of Max that I’m not familiar with, often in conjunction with one of my students’ projects, or when I’m experiencing behavior in Max that doesn’t match my expectations even after trouble-shooting.
AB: What sorts of patches or forum threads do you get most inspired by? Do you think there is a logic to what forum threads become super-active and collaborative?
Rodrigo: I tend to get inspired by mid to low level components rather than full ‘sharing’ patches as it’s much easier to see what’s happening and to learn from it. Most of the time when someone is sharing a finished patch, it can be quite difficult to wrap your head around what’s happening. In general I also tend to find live sampling and processing oriented patches interesting. I think the onus lies with the original poster to post follow up examples/questions. I wish more OPs posted their ‘solutions’ to the questions they asked once they got things working.
Peter: I’m generally interested in threads that involve hard problems, and I really enjoy signal-rate logic problems. I feel like almost all of the threads that I’ve found interesting at some point involve an experienced member of the community. The more experienced members have a better sense of the appropriate design patterns for certain kinds of problems and also know how to polish the results. As far as themes go, I’d say it seems to help when there are constraints. The more I found out about what Rodrigo was trying to build, the more I could consider specific structures, and that made it easier for me to participate. When someone wants to build a granular synth, for example, there’s a million different directions that can go. Not having to worry about certain requirements can free things up quite a bit.