Ecosystems in Software: The Pencil Project and Winamp

Lately at work I’ve been writing specifications for our client projects, so when I saw the Pencil Project I was quite excited. What could be better for doing what I’m already doing than a Visio-like program built on Firefox. After installing it, I realised that this project had a heap of potential but was limited by it’s default stencil set. I’m certainly not the only person with the same problem. This problem seems to have been sorted out with the intention that users develop their own stencils. Great.

But not actually so great, the problem is that it is nigh on impossible to find any downloadable stencils. Now I’m not suggesting that they don’t exist just that any search on Google for pencil project stencil gives me a whole heap of people talking about how cool it is, and not actually providing me with any stencils. (Yes I know this is a conceited example but nevertheless searching for anything related doesn’t provide me with any third party stencils) I’ve got a simple solution, take a leaf out of Winamp’s book.

Winamp had amazing forums (probably still does) while they were developing Winamp 3 (which didn’t last long, it was quickly replaced with Winamp 5). These forums had a thriving community of theme and plug-in authors all working on the project, even before it was ever released. Obviously the Pioneers of the Inevitable (some of whom started Winamp) have got a good handle on this community building cause there’s a good . It is what Dave Winer would call a corral reef – a place for ecosystems to grow.

Anyway, after all that rambling all I want is a forum on the Pencil Project website, a place where I can find new stencils without people trying to sell me actual pencils and actual stencils.

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