Nerd warfare.

It’s like Mexican wrestling for people who enjoy, um, patching together interactive tools for music and visuals! And on one fateful Toronto day, the open source challenger took the prize.

As promised, a group of music tech geeks challenged DIY multimedia software environments Pure Data (Pd) and Max/MSP to a mano-a-mano contest of wits. These competing patching environments share interface concepts, code, and even a surprising amount of compatibility, but open source Pd and commercial, more polished-looking Max each have their own loyal converts. I’m pleased to offer the results – though I’m already hearing calls for a rematch in this heated rivalry. And there was DIY pong. And some kind of dancing … koalas?

Co-organizer Dafydd Hughes:

The event was a success – lots of fun, good-natured competition, beer and general nonsense.

Pd won 9-6, but several people pointed out that since there was only one person on the MAX team and two on Pd, maybe the score should have been 6-4.5 in MAX’s favour. Before the final Pong match the score was 4-2 for Pd. We then won Pong 5-4 and added the scores together.

We had a really good time and we’re already thinking of ways we could do it better next time and of variations on the theme.

Pictures here:
Video here:
A great blog post, pictures and video here:

Two patching tools enter, two creatures do some kind of dance, one patching tool leaves.
  • Tim Thompson

    If I can be permitted a gross generalization, I suspect anyone who has the time, energy, and motivation to deal with PD is probably more hardcore anyway…

  • @Tim I think its mostly the same scruffy faced, low income, subversive crowd that use stuff like KeyKit.

  • Next contest: who is more scruffy? Fight! 🙂

    I've certainly never found any lack of hardcore Max users. And Tim, I will say, I think the efforts of folks like Hans on Pd-extended, better documentation, etc., shouldn't be overlooked. Many in the Pd community would be first to agree that in the past Pd has required expending energy in places you shouldn't have to — like trying to install the software, or learn how it works. That experience is substantially better today than it was, and I hope it continues to improve.

    But I do know some Max users who think they could take both these teams. I think a rematch would be fun. 🙂 (Pd vs. Pd battles could also be interesting…)

  • Tim Thompson

    @Paul–Sorry, I'm not THAT Tim Thompson! There are too many of use out there! I'll have to change my name!

    I was going for tongue-in-cheek with my comment. I've not found PD particularly difficult, and I'm glad to hear the community is still strong. Probably the biggest reason I don't use PD on a regular basis is that I DO dish out the cash for the Cycling74 stuff! But I'm still pretty scruffy faced and low income, although my subversive streaks tend to die out more quickly as I age.

  • @Tim2: oh dear. I thought my comment was going to end up as an inside joke, so I'm glad you know your namesake(s)! I'm probably scruffier than you – we should figure out a way to get our subversive selves back. I just wanted to laugh gently at the idea of KeyKit's author telling PD users they were hardcore 🙂

  • Ill do battle, only if I can trash talk like its 1996 and Im playing street fighter in a shitty arcade downtown.

    Ill kick some PD users asses….


  • PD has obviously a great advantage in relation to max/msp – it's free…

    But max msp has many things that can make it much more appelative for a person with my programming skills.. it has integrated documentation, the gui (puredata seems like a home made application)is much better, It has clues with a system very close to the ableton live's one , and you don't have to compile it everytime that you want to modify (adding externals, etc.), once it has menus for doing that so easily..

    and there are obiously stuff like priority of objects interpretation/reading in a patcher, by the machine and so on that may be discussed at an higher level

    also, you cannot judge two similar environments just by putting some people that don't represent the whole community of users (there may be and are of course people who know even more than them as well as less of course).. so I think that if you want to make those sort of things, you have to pick up a closed environment lilke a school where both are teached and where there are people at the same level, and asking to them to make similar patches and test them in both applications

  • ian

    max/msp vs pd?! that's like a shark vs a bear! or another metaphor, max/msp is like a classically trained boxer who fights with Queensbury rules, whereas Pd is a rough and tumble street scrapper who fights dirty (ie you can program any extern for it you want).

    no surprise to me Pd won though. after training myself in Pd i took a stab at max and it was alright, if anything at least on windows max is a WHOLE lot more reliable… but pd on linux is the way to go.