I want to build a language learning tool with Baserow

My niche is building language learning apps. I have written Anki addons and google sheets extensions. I believe Baserow is the right environment for my next app. One of the use cases will be note-taking for online language lessons, with automatic translation / transliteration and audio text to speech. My goal is to make this open source and of course completely open in part thanks to Baserow’s strong API orientation.

Teachers and students will connect together on the same database and will collaboratively edit tables. There will be a way to add auto-generated translations into another language, or transliteration (for languages which don’t use latin alphabet, such as Chinese, such as transliteration into Pinyin), and text to speech functionality.

Technically, i’ll be adding new field types to support the “enrichments” (transliteration / translation / audio). Every table will automatically get a new webhook added to hook into the language processing logic.

Here are the things i’m not yet sure about:

  • i’m wondering whether the concept of “groups” and “databases” will make sense to my users. My users will in large part come from google sheets (a number of online language teachers use google sheets for note taking). They are used to the concept of sharing spreadsheets, but with baserow they’ll have to create a group for each new person they want to interact with.
  • do I need to pay any licensing fees to write and deploy this concept I have in mind ? I know baserow is open source, but i’m planning on creating a commercial, paid product.
  • I’m not yet completely clear on whether I’ll be able to use official baserow distribution and simply “overlay” my changes on top of that as a plugin, or whether i’ll have to fork the baserow respository for my project. I’d like to stay as close as possible to the original baserow, and i’ll be upfront to my users that the product is built on baserow.

I’m very excited to have found baserow, it’s going to give me an insane headstart with my project, when I would otherwise have to start thinking from scratch about the data model and how to implement collaborative editing. Now i’ll be able to implement my product pretty much as just a customization of baserow. I’ve been an airtable user for a long time but most people agree that airtable’s APIs are disappointing (do they even have webhooks now ?), and the licensing makes it impossible to launch my product which won’t earn much money per user.

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Hello @lucw! Whoa, you cannot imagine how happy we are to hear that you’re going to build your idea on top of Baserow. And it makes us feel even better knowing that it’s going to be an open-source project. Do you mind if we reach out to you personally to figure out more details of your use case?

Here are some comments on your concerns:

— In Baserow 1.13, we plan to introduce role-based access control, which will greatly facilitate the collaboration of multiple people on a single table/database. For now, your users would need to divide access by groups, yes.

— No, you don’t need to pay any fees. Baserow’s code is MIT licensed, and it’s the most permissive license out there, you can find a simple explanation here: MIT License (Expat) Explained in Plain English - TLDRLegal. Only if you’re going to use the premium features, you would need to pay a subscription price!

— It depends on what you’re going to build on top of Baserow whether creating a plugin or forking the repository makes sense. Baserow aims to be as modular as possible and it’s for example possible to introduce custom field types via a plugin. We have some documentation on creating plugins available here: Introduction // Baserow, but it is outdated because our focus is more on shipping features at the moment. Forking the repository makes sense if you want to change core concepts like groups, databases, etc entirely.

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Hi Olga, thank you for your answer ! Well I believe I can contribute to Baserow’s development, my own additions will be open source and i’m hoping they can be used as an example for further development. As it stands, Baserow even in the self-hosted version is already a programmer’s dream thanks to the extensive API support and webhook support. Among my user community there are some very technically proficient users who will certainly love to play around and suggest features.

To clarify your last paragraph, if all of my functionality can be achieved with just a plugin, is forking still necessary ?

If i understand your pricing correctly, exposing premium features to users on my self-hosted version will require a subscription of $5/user/month. That seems more than reasonable for B2B saas apps which will bring in a serious amount of revenue per user, however for my B2C consumer focused app, this might be a challenge because i’ll be targeting students and teachers with little disposable income, and i’m thinking of introducing a tier right around the $5/month mark. Will there any flexibility in the pricing, perhaps flat rate or something along these lines ?

Some of the users i’ll be targeting will be students in brazil, or language teachers in eastern europe or asia. For teachers particularly, the role-based access controls will be very interesting. For those users, every dollar counts. Users in america / western europe will have a bit more disposable income. I would love to start a discussion on whether exceptions could be made to make pricing work in those situations.

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Hey @lucw! Thanks for your kind words, and we would be happy if you invite your community members to play with Baserow. We’re super open to all kinds of feedback and feature ideas :slightly_smiling_face:

The problem with plugins is that we don’t have proper documentation to make it easy for users to create them. But if you’re tech-savvy it probably won’t be a problem for you to create one.

Regarding the pricing, I’m going to clarify a few points with Bram, and will get back to you shortly!

In the current form, even if you create a plugin you still need to figure out how to build your Baserow version with the plugin - the plugins can’t be loaded at runtime at the moment. So maybe it will be easier working with a fork that will include your plugin directly, although it would be possible to avoid modifying Baserow itself so that you can keep your fork up to date without conflicts.

There are plenty of hooks in the code where plugin code can be called so it is easy to e.g. create a new field type. However, not everything is extensible yet. Let us know if you come across a limitation that we could address!

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Hello @lucw, sorry for the delay in response! I’m finally here with some updates on your question regarding pricing.

We plan to offer some discounts for non-profit organizations and probably for students in the future. We haven’t created this program yet, as we’re still figuring out all of the details on how it will work, who can apply, and so on. As soon as we have all info confirmed we will share it in public, stay tuned!

Please check my recent comment on the pricing model here: What can Baserow's monthly payment cost in the future and quote my clients well? - #5 by olgatrykush

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Thank you. To reiterate my concern, I would love to contribute financially to baserow because I believe you guys made something amazing with impressive documentation, but my per user pricing will not allow me to pay $5/user per month. My product will be open source and meant to be used by students and educators, I hope I’ll qualify for reduced pricing.