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BYOB

Idea ID:
12
Author:
SecondMan
Posted:
Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:11 pm
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SecondMan
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BYOB

#1

Post by SecondMan »

Build Your Own (knowledge) Base... clever, right? :)

Over the years I've been playing with different ways to build some sort of knowledge base on WSL. Something that could follow in the footsteps of ye olde VFXPedia - call it WSLPedia...

The thought is nice of course, and some ideas are still brewing, but it is a huge undertaking. It's basically a full time job for a good long while. So instead I've been doing things like optimising this site (and playing cat and mouse with bots) so that the VFXPedia archive could be indexed by Google without the site going down. Which, by the way, has already proven to be crazy useful to me personally already (goodness knows why VFXPedia was ever taken offline).

And then there was Eric's idea for easier access to bookmarks and at the same time me trying to get into scripting (a bit) again and realising that WSL itself has become quite the serious resource over the past 5 years.

But because it's an open forum, rather than a carefully curated store of information, it can be really hard to search for information effectively. Yes, a lot of it is there, but there are also many topics that are perhaps not that useful, yet they will all show up in search results and make it increasingly difficult to find specific things as the forum grows larger (slightly ironically).

In come bookmarks. Useful little things, bookmarks. Mark a topic as interesting for you and you can store that all in your own personalised list. You choose the information that is useful to you, and you can now access it more easily than ever. Great, right?

But over the years that list keeps growing, too... and once again things become harder to find as you collect hundreds of bookmarked topics (as I have)...

So this is the idea, and I'm pretty excited about it:

Imagine that there would be an additional forum, or page, on WSL, which contains just your bookmarks from every forum you have access to. But it's not just a list that you already have, you would be able to search it. You can build your own actual knowledge base that way, and that way it would be much more future proof. And because it would be better integrated with the forum, it would also be a much more accessible resource of "I'll read this one later" topics.

I have spoken with an excellent developer about this - this would be a bespoke development - and it sounds very possible. It won't be free, or cheap, however, so that will mean one thing for sure - it would be a Patrons-only feature. WSL is not without Patrons - thankfully - but not quite the numbers we need to pay for something like this. Now I don't mind that in principle, but I would like to know how much interest there is for this before I sink my beer budget into it...

What say you, ye who sucketh less?

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Re: BYOB

#2

Post by SirEdric »

Me who sucketh leth sayeth: Greath!!!

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Re: BYOB

#3

Post by howiem »

I may well not be typical of those that suck less... new here an' all that... but may as well chuck my thoughts in.

Because man, the Fusion docs have driven me up the wall, so I've been giving the whole documentation thing quite a bit of thought.

I really, really, don't want to have to assemble my own collection of bookmarks. I have enough work to do already. I just want to know I can google for a topic and get the answers I need. I mean - the Fusion manual's nicely type-set and all, but it's a PDF, which is insanely annoying to use.

There's no nice googlable reference for Fusion, nor some of the typical workflow things you will probably need to know.

Wanna find out what some of those other weird modes on the Merge node are? Google "Fusion Studio Merge Node" and you get a link to the first page of the Fusion Manual PDF, which is decidedly not helpful, or various forums' posts, none of which just give you a plain and simple rundown of the parameters.

Networked cache to disk: I lost a day going mad before getting it to work and discovering all the things the manual doesn't say.
(like: if you have a ROI set, it'll only render *that*. Unlike normal Network Rendering, the .comp file will get copied over to a different folder - the cache folder - which breaks various dependencies. etc etc)

Network rendering: Couldn't have got this working without combining information from the manual, various posts on this forum; I've got it all working but I've still got questions, and no way to find out the answers without experimenting on my own.

I don't want a way to bookmark all these things; I wanna collect the information in a single, sensible place, so I and anyone else can just google to find it. Andrew's wonderful guide to setting up headless render nodes is great: a ton of information. Others have added essential nuggets of information too, but it starts becoming a conversational thread rather than reference. It'll end up being a 10-page long thing where you have to read it all just in order to find the guy on page 3 discovered you may have to run "export FUSION_LICENSE_SERVER=your_dongle_machine_IP" before the node'll work.

The answer to all this?

I'm not sure. Maybe a wiki?

Half thought of suggesting a subforum here, a topic per workflow / feature: "Fusion Studio Manual: The Missing Chapters". Someone documents a feature, or workflow, then as people add comments / tips / corrections, the OP can add the information to the original post; the conversation can carry on, but the key reference info you need is right there at the top.

I'd like to start documenting some of the stuff I've worked through; it's only worth it if it's gonna help someone else though. I keep most of this crap in my head quite happily but I'm still sore from the experience of digging through the internet with my fingernails trying to find it all out in the first place.

(oooo... that turned into a rant. Sorry.)

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Re: BYOB

#4

Post by SecondMan »

howiem wrote: Wed Feb 19, 2020 1:29 pmI'm not sure. Maybe a wiki?
You know what? The format isn't all that important. Sure, some choices are more sensible than others. But the real question here is "who is going to do it?"

I have very little time (admittedly a part of this problem) but as I've said in the OP, I've explored different options before, with a couple of functional wikis running here in the early days of the forum as tests. In fact to this day there is a simple Knowledge Base system present in the forum (it's inactive right now) which could function as an online manual.

But who is going to fill all that up, if not BMD? The Fusion manual is a whopping 1216 pages already and far from complete. VFXPedia was a fantastic resource - especially in combination with a forum, as former Pigsfly users will attest, and I've finally managed to make it searchable so it's properly useful again. Sadly, the archive is an HTML crawl rather than the full database and engine, so it's ultimately a dead end rather than a starting point for a dynamic and ever growing resource.

There are many people requiring information and also people willing to share some, as long as either doesn't take up more time than is reasonable to them. That's why the forum format works, as the forum itself becomes the search engine. Not ideal if you're relying on search only, as you yourself have experienced, but once you're an active user and you start interacting, it's often more personalised and effective (if somewhat slower) than anything Google Search will be able to offer.

As you go along, individually bookmarking topics really helps as a first stage filter. It also caters to different people finding different information useful. But the results aren't searchable, so at some point it falls short again. Hence this idea. Is it ideal? I don't claim it is, but it could help. If there's no interest, also no big deal, it simply won't happen unless or until I really need it so badly myself it becomes worth the development cost...

Just so this is clear to everyone - when I mention bookmarks in this context, those are not browser bookmarks, but bookmarks in and of the forum itself. These ones:


Image



But you're right, as the forum grows, so does the fluff surrounding the useful information. And repetitions of the same questions with responses of varying quality, etc. I'm also sure the forum is a little bit more overwhelming to newcomers than a couple of years ago when it was a heck of a lot smaller. I've tried to be the librarian or curator of all the information here and I do my best to moderate, shuffle and cross-link as much as I can, but I'm not a walking encyclopaedia either and honestly I can't afford to donate the required time to collect and redact everything.

That said, everyone here is welcome to start a topic to cross-link to useful information, or start their own documentation project. I'll support every sincere effort out there to the best of my abilities. Over the years I've even given away the raw VFXPedia backup to multiple people claiming they were going to extract the info and start a new wiki with it. So far I have yet to see something come from that, too (but no disrespect towards anyone who tried or is trying!)

And lastly - before you might ask - here's my own reason why I haven't spent my time creating such a wiki instead of building this forum. It would actually be less work to do so. But it would only ever be a one-way street. At least with the forum I get a lively and friendly community of smart and generous people in return. And that really does suck less. :)

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Re: BYOB

#5

Post by howiem »

SecondMan wrote: Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:58 pmI'm not a walking encyclopaedia either
I strongly and respectfully disagree :)
SecondMan wrote: Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:58 pm... and honestly I can't afford to donate the required time to collect and redact everything
... and this is the crux, innit. It'd be a time-consuming and often thankless job for one (or few) people to do. So whatever approach is taken needs to be community-powered, and quick/easy/low-friction for people to do, and it's got to degrade gracefully if people become unavailable.

Here's a thought then: I'm setting up another headless linux server, and I want to document it; not least because I've just done 2 this last week, solved all the problems (with help from here, obviously!), and I want to write it down while it's fresh. The first server took several hours to do: the second took about 10 minutes. Rather than sticking it on my blog, this is the place to do it.

So I'll make a post in the usual way. Hopefully people will comment if they can see ways the procedure could be improved, or if they stumble across an error that I didn't. Conversation can happen—cos yep, you're right, that is what makes this place so much more interesting than a dry wiki—but any time I see something that's worth updating "the procedure" with, I'll update the original post. That way people hopefully won't need to wade through pages of stuff to find essential details, as it's all in the first post. The discussion's still right there below if you really need it, but the top post is the sum of knowledge on that thread.

I'm gonna own my little "Setting up a cheap Linux render farm for Mac users" workflow thread, keep it updated. Hopefully others will start adding workflows too; and eventually there could be a "Workflows" subforum, one workflow-per-thread, that'd actually start looking like "The Missing Chapters".

* * *

In an ideal world, any time someone posted a question in a new thread on any forum, when they got the answer—especially if it took a while to sort out the problem—they'd update the first post with the answer. I'm going to try and do that from now on.

(I suppose I should have done a bit of research first: we can edit our original posts, can't we? There isn't a "nope, this thread's old so you can't update it" mechanism on here is there?)

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Re: BYOB

#6

Post by Midgardsormr »

howiem wrote: Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:39 amIn an ideal world, any time someone posted a question in a new thread on any forum, when they got the answer—especially if it took a while to sort out the problem—they'd update the first post with the answer. I'm going to try and do that from now on.
That is an excellent practice. Bear in mind that there's also a feature on this forum to designate a post that answers the question, and that post will appear, highlighted, right below the first post in the thread.

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Re: BYOB

#7

Post by viewimagesnandfiles »

Long time lurker first time post forgive me my formatting trespasses.
I'm hobbyist who has found this forum, and vfxpedia backup, invaluable due to the network of luminaries participating here which makes it possible to find their websites, but also because of:
howiem wrote: Wed Feb 19, 2020 1:29 pm the Fusion docs have driven me up the wall
Not an uncommon problem for "professional" software manuals, that then rely on tribal knowledge to bandaid the source problem.

The fusion manual/reference(s) are hair pullingly, maddeningly, written in a technical manner as if the reader is already experienced at all the things it's describing.
While also not bothering to disclose the many quirks that fail silently, or nodes that do nothing without specific conditions, like some things don't work unless you check the setting after a connection is made and if you did it before nothing happens or informs you, you just have to know ;) .

With aspects of the problem being that most who know what you need to know are:
  • too busy applying that knowledge
  • aren't allowed to publicly self document
  • can't afford too (money,time or stress)
  • charging for valuable knowledge , but non-pros can't afford|justify it
Besides transclusion most of this isn't because of some unsolved technology problem it's a personal time|money and social investment problem also needing the right mix of individual features, see stackexchange.

There's an anecdote for VFX about a Smoke?Flame vet telling the devs how hard it is to find any beginners who know anything about the software [since they couldn't get their hands on it and the docs] (IDK exactly where I heard it a vfx podcast?).
Fusions great and I was shocked when I found out there's a free version once you know where the hoops are on the bmd site, but obscurity seems really bad for something so amazing. Then even once you know it exists the manual is the next hurdle when it should be a ramp.
Right now I still feel fusions ecosystem is just now picking up momentum to come out of the late 2000's ,whereas ae kept moving, whispers of this cool thing that wizards wield that lets them land airplanes on cars ( ) .

Added in 31 minutes 12 seconds:
SecondMan wrote: Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:58 pmstart their own documentation project. I'll support every sincere effort out there to the best of my abilities
I've been interested in that for awhile but wasn't sure what the use rules were for the vfxpedia content?
So have just assumed a chinese-wall technique and slow boating my own information gathering for docs which will be done in about 20 years as atm VFX is just an occasional hobby letting me see behind the curtains.
Technically still need a flexible tag system and explore using git|github for storage|versioning because importantly ,as history has shown, the docs need to be open sourced and archivable in a way that's more than just raw text.

However because this is more artist land than it is devland the presentation|entrypoint would probably need to be setup more like how the Microsoft let's documentation have edits proposed and versioned as "simple" markdown files.
And since fusion brilliantly decided to make comp files be text based lua objects those can get versioned too.

Of course I think about that pie in the sky all the time and also exploring doing a video series on all 500+ tools where a noob flounders his way through them but then I wake up sweating.

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Re: BYOB

#8

Post by howiem »

viewimagesnandfiles wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 2:46 pmWith aspects of the problem being that most who know what you need to know are:
  • too busy applying that knowledge
Killer, innit. All my boyish enthusiasm for documenting my adventures in persuading Fusion to work across my wee network... the enthusiasm's still there, but it's been subsumed by the need to catch up on the work I should have done, when instead I was having to experiment to find answers that should have been in the docs.

Without this forum I'd be back working with After Effects, pulling my hair out for a completely different set of reasons.

This struck a chord:
viewimagesnandfiles wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 2:46 pmRight now I still feel fusions ecosystem is just now picking up momentum to come out of the late 2000's
I'd say the same about the app itself. Fusion's got a strangely vintage feel to it, a lot of quirks that make it feel like an indie project that grew into something big, without ever shedding some of the strange choices made early on. Lots of strange workflows and peculiarities that feel out of place in something modern. And yep, the ecosystem's definitely picked up over the years, but there are lots of things you need to know that you can't find out without losing hours experimenting or forum-trawling. I still shake my head in disbelief that the official documentation is a damn typeset PDF. It's not like they give you a printed manual when you buy a license... so why are they spending time typesetting it?

For what it's worth, I'd prefer searchable and readable information over video tutorials - at least for the basic functionality. Videos are great for demoing how to put complex flows together, but it's the reference docs that are missing at the moment. "What do I do when I get this error message?", "How do I troubleshoot a "can't load comp" error?" etc.

Still, onward and upward: this forum itself is the best "live" (and non-PDF) resource there is on Fusion, so for now I guess we keep asking the questions, and making sure the answers are flagged. God bless those that suck less.

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Re: BYOB

#9

Post by Midgardsormr »

howiem wrote: Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:42 am so why are they spending time typesetting it?
Fairly sure it's automated. That's why we have typesetter's quotes in the code samples.

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Re: BYOB

#10

Post by viewimagesnandfiles »

howiem wrote: Wed Mar 04, 2020 2:42 amever shedding some of the strange choices made early on
But there are some very wicked smart choices like being able to use lua or python, whereas adobe insists on extendscript or having to use c/c++
And good lord fusion comps being copy&pastable text files pretty much changed how I viewed how social creative software could be.
Midgardsormr wrote: Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:49 amtypesetter's quotes
omg what? no surely it must've been a mistake I was making with my python install
other references https://www.steakunderwater.com/wesuckl ... ode+quotes , https://www.steakunderwater.com/wesuckl ... tes#p21044
Py2>print “Hello World.” # This only works with Python 2.x
Fusion 8 Console wrote:File "<nofile>", line 1
print “Hello World.”
^
SyntaxError: invalid syntax
Py2> print "Hello World."
Fusion 8 Console wrote:Hello World.

OH MY GOD, you just unlocked the scripting manual!
Well that explains alot of oddities that what was killing my exploration, thanks Brian

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Re: BYOB

#11

Post by howiem »

Midgardsormr wrote: Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:49 am typesetter's quotes
OH MY GOD That's why I couldn't get their examples to work either. That's just insane. My first baby steps with Lua expressions a few months back... and I gave up because even their examples would silently fail.

How have they not fixed this? Just disabling smart quotes throughout? I mean it's not like the smart quotes are correct either:

Screenshot 2020-03-06 at 12.08.28.png

(Yeah, I get why it failed - it was looking for a space before the quote to decide whether it needed a 66 or a 99 - but still... )

This sort of thing actually makes me angry. I expect to be frustrated learning a new package; poor docs are just one of those things you sometimes have to live with, but incorrect docs push things into the world of unfairness. I've paid not just for an app, but for a documented app, and I spent a good hour trying to get their "stamp comp details into the frame" to work. Grrr. I'm now going to go and yell at the cat.

EDIT TO ADD: Why is this not fixed yet? Just a search-and-replace, or failing that, a text pullout at the front of the Simple Expression chapter saying "be sure to correct quotation marks"?
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Re: BYOB

#12

Post by bryanfordney »

I would say there's generally two very different styles of posts:

Wiki/documentation style:

https://www.steakunderwater.com/wesuckl ... f=6&t=1411

Stack overflow style:

https://www.steakunderwater.com/wesuckl ... f=6&t=3851

Perhaps an effort to address this would have to be using two different methods. I think it would be worth the effort to covert the "wiki" style posts into an actual wiki. I find that I often want to reference Andrew's guides but I have a hard time finding some little bit of information that I KNOW I saw at some point. I would be willing to help out converting those types of posts into a more formal document, using something like Mediawiki or a system that uses Markdown formatting. Would have to investigate the (many) open source options out there.

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Re: BYOB

#13

Post by Shem Namo »

@bryanfordney, You mean like VFXpedia?

It would would be amazing to be able to actually edit VFXpedia,
but @Midgardsormr told me that it was:
Rescued from static caches
and because of this it can't be edited.

Honestly, I don't know what any of that means, but is there a way around it?

Thanks,
David.

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Re: BYOB

#14

Post by bryanfordney »

I would suggest just making a brand new wiki, using an open source tool like MediaWiki (though MediaWiki is a bit of a PITA, maybe there are better ones now).

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Re: BYOB

#15

Post by viewimagesnandfiles »

bryanfordney wrote: Fri Mar 06, 2020 5:05 amStack overflow style:

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3851
Remember to accept an answer ;)
bryanfordney wrote: Fri Mar 06, 2020 6:32 amI would suggest just making a brand new wiki
Wiki's become a big , if not bigger, pain to manage for maintainers as forums are.

For development documentation Markdown is the current linguafranca mostly used to statically generate docs to lower maintenance and server costs.
But I wonder if there's are other doc formats more widely used in the VFX industry that would be a better fit.