6 reasons why we think it’s important to keep RAWGraphs open and free

As you may know, we have launched a crowdfunding campaign for RAWGraphs 2.0, an improved version of the tool we initially developed in 2013. With “improved version” we mean a totally new software, rebuilt and redesigned starting from the feedback we received during all these years.

A lot of people are asking us: “Why are you asking for donations? If the tool is used by many users why don’t you charge them? What about a freemium version?”

It’s a recurrent discussion among us and here is a list of reasons why RAWGraphs will always be free (and open) and why we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign:

  1. As designers and/or developers dealing with data visualization, we have to acknowledge the fact that our work would certainly be much different if many free and open source solutions didn't exist. We think about many existing projects like Gephi, Open Refine, D3js or Scriptographer (R.I.P), which we were able to use for free and that shaped our processes and our skills. We wanted to pay back our contribution making people able to play with visualization and develop their data-literacy for free, or at least without the need to pay on a regular basis.
  2. The RAWGraphs team members work full time as researchers, professors, designers and developers. Some are involved in academic work, while others are successfully managing independent design and development studios. RAWGraphs has always been a side project and we are happy to keep as it is. We use it in our projects and during teaching activities and we are not interested in transform RAWGraphs our core project. Still, we need the resources to seriously dedicate time to it and to improve what we have. We think donations are the best way to achieve this goal.
  3. Transforming RAWGraphs in a paid software would mean scaling up the project and dedicate a lot of time (and money) on other activities, such as managing users/clients, payments, client support, business development, etc. Since we would like to keep it as minimal and lightweighted as possible, we prefer to use all the resources working on core features, rather than defining strategies to make money out of it. We are probably better designers than entrepreneurs.
  4. RAWGraphs is mainly meant for producing raw visualisations, that still needs some graphical attuning. There are already many software allowing you to create well designed viz, ready for publication. These softwares (such as Datawrapper, Flourish, the all-in-one Tableau and many others) are doing great. We love and use them, and we are not interested in making a clone of them.
  5. Our users like RAWGraphs ALSO because is free. Being free and open, makes it easier for students, teachers and researchers to use them in courses, MOOC and workshops. We thought that an occasional payment would suit better this kind of usage rather than licenses or subscriptions.
  6. RAWGraphs was born inside a public university (Politecnico di Milano) and we like the idea that something born in a public institution stays free for everyone.