Earning Your Support Instead of Buying it: A How-to Guide to Open Source Assistance

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Video in TIB AV-Portal: Earning Your Support Instead of Buying it: A How-to Guide to Open Source Assistance

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Earning Your Support Instead of Buying it: A How-to Guide to Open Source Assistance
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More organisations are moving to use FOSS4G software to cover shrinking budgets. It is very appealing to an organization’s leaders to ditch their current proprietary software solution with the attendant saving on per user licences and ongoing maintenance costs. Obviously, if you switched to FOSS4G to get better features and scalability you should consider buying a support contract from one of the many vendors that offer them, these companies support many of the core developers directly. This way you get all the advantages of open source, prompt support and often the chance to ask for new features. However, if you (or your boss) are looking to save money then you are moving from a cash economy to a gift economy. In a gift culture you need to build up your “capital” before attempting to take too much out. For example, you’ve downloaded the software and installed it, and all looks good. Then disaster hits, you have a demo for the CIO and nothing's working; Time to hit the user list, the developer list, stack exchange. Why can’t you get an answer? Remember just because your issue is urgent to you the developers might be in the middle of a new release or adding a new feature and have more important (or fun) things to do with their time. They will notice they have never seen your name before on the list, or on Stack Exchange that you have a reputation in the single digits – thus you are a newbie. There’s no harm in that but wouldn’t it be better to have got that out of the way before your emergency. You could have built up your reputation by asking some questions earlier especially questions like “what can I do to help?” or “I found an unclear paragraph in the install instructions, how do I fix it for you?” on a mailing list. On StackExchange you can build reputation by asking good questions and by answering other people’s questions. Once you’ve banked some capital there are still good and bad ways of asking a question. Developers are busy people (the GeoTools users list has 20-30 messages a day for example) no one has time to read all of them closely. If you use a poor subject (e.g. "Help!!!!") or don’t provide a clear description of the problem (e.g. “it crashes”) then the odds of being ignored are huge. It can be tempting once you have found a helpful developer to keep emailing them directly, but this is likely to lead a polite(ish) reminder to keep to the list so that everyone can benefit or silence. This talk will show how to be a better open source citizen and get a better answer than RTFM when your project is stuck and the demo is the next day. The author will share his experience with helping users and developers on the GeoTools and GeoServer mailing lists and as a moderator on gis.stackexchange.com.
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Web page Mapping Open source Multiplication sign Real number Direction (geometry) Forcing (mathematics) Electronic mailing list Design by contract Software maintenance Subject indexing Arithmetic mean Computer animation Software Statement (computer science) Office suite Resultant Reading (process)
Web page Satellite Point (geometry) Computer program Multiplication sign Execution unit Shape (magazine) Drop (liquid) Mereology Product (business) Component-based software engineering Cross-correlation Plane (geometry) Natural number Forest Integer Logic gate Information security Traffic reporting Address space Physical system Area Authentication Addition Electric generator Projective plane Moment (mathematics) Electronic mailing list Database Bit Variable (mathematics) Subject indexing Message passing Process (computing) Computer animation Software Universe (mathematics) Website Right angle Game theory Family
Medical imaging Uniform resource locator Computer animation Multiplication sign Network topology Resultant
Web page Computer program Multiplication sign Execution unit Continuum hypothesis 1 (number) Numbering scheme Water vapor Mereology Food energy Number Medical imaging Goodness of fit Different (Kate Ryan album) Analogy Data conversion Social class Information Block (periodic table) Cellular automaton Type theory Process (computing) Computer animation Universe (mathematics) Speech synthesis Resultant
Axiom of choice Computer program Multiplication sign View (database) Plotter 1 (number) Set (mathematics) Disk read-and-write head Food energy Theory Number Revision control Hypermedia Utility software Data structure Form (programming) Physical system Theory of relativity Information Chemical equation Projective plane Moment (mathematics) Bit Word Voting Numeral (linguistics) Computer animation Network topology Right angle Quicksort
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