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Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
Foss Support Webinar0108
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Foss Support Webinar0108


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How to find support for Open Source Software

How to find support for Open Source Software

Published in: Economy & Finance, Technology
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  • 1. NOSI/NTEN Webinar The Key Is the Community: How to Get Support for Open Source Software Michelle Murrain, Coordinator Nonprofit Open Source Initiative
  • 2. What we'll cover
    • Models of support for software
    • Models in FOSS vs. Proprietary
    • Paid support for FOSS
    • The Key is Community
      • Types of community support
      • Strengths and weaknesses of community support
      • Examples of FOSS community support
      • How to find community support
    • What you need to know now
  • 3. Software support models
    • If you look at every type of software or online service, there are varied types of support, although not all are available for all software.
    • This can depend on the type of software, the cost of the software, and the company or developers
    • It is almost always possible to find some support for software – but the timeliness and appropriateness of that support may differ
  • 4. In-person support
    • This type of support is most common when an organization contracts with a hardware/network support consultant or company, for support of their servers and desktops. It generally includes both hardware and software support. Some large-scale software installations also offer in-person support. This is the most expensive kind of support available.
  • 5. Phone support
    • This is being able to call someone on the phone, speak to an actual human being, and get help for whatever the problem might be.
    • This might be support directly from a software vendor, or it might be support from a consultant or company
  • 6. Live Chat support
    • This can be an individual chat with a support person via a website or instant messenger
  • 7. Email or ticket system
    • Many companies, developers and consutants have ticket systems. An email to them, or a form on a website, will enter a ”ticket” system, which tracks support requests
    • Some work just by email, without a ticket system
  • 8. IRC
    • IRC = Internet Relay Chat
    • IRC is community chat – many people are in a channel, and can provide answers to questions
    • This can be run by developers/companies, or independent
  • 9. Email list
    • This can be official, or unofficial. It can be just a community of users, or it can include support from the developers/company
  • 10. Web Forum
    • This can also be official, or unofficial.
  • 11. FOSS vs. Proprietary
    • At this time, all of these methods of support are available for both types of software.
    • Historically, support for FOSS was based in the community of users and developers of FOSS projects.
    • Because of this, it is often easiest and most direct to get support from the community for FOSS
    • However, it is possible to pay for support for FOSS
  • 12. Paying for FOSS support
    • Linux vendors, such as RedHat, Novell (SUSE) and Canonical (Ubuntu) have plans where you can get phone support.
    • IBM, Sun and others provide paid support for their FOSS products
    • More and more companies are getting into the business of providing support for FOSS in the private sector
    • Increasing avenues for support in the nonprofit sector, including NTAPs
  • 13. How to find paid support
    • Buy a version of Linux from a commercial vendor which comes with support
    • Buy a version of a FOSS application (database, CMS, CRM, etc.) from a commercial vendor that comes with support
    • Find a vendor that supports FOSS (see
  • 14. However ... Although it is possible to pay for support for FOSS, getting support from the community is not only a viable, cost-effective source of support, but it has other positive side-effects
  • 15. The Key is Community
    • History
    • Types of community support
    • Strengths of community support
    • Weaknesses of community support
    • Becoming a part of a community
  • 16. History
    • circa 1995: Just about all open source software was used by enthusiasts and academics. If you needed help, you had to find others that had used the software – support communities were born.
    • circa 2000: Use of FOSS broadens beyond enthusiasts and academe. A few companies were beginning to offer support – like RedHat for Linux, MySQL AB for MySQL, and others. Community support matures.
    • circa 2008: Hundreds of companies provide support for FOSS. FOSS is used by large and small companies and organizations. Communities of support thrive.
  • 17. Types of community support
    • Support by application or Linux distribution
      • User groups (in person)
      • Email lists
      • Web forums
      • IRC channels
      • Developers/company staff are often present
  • 18. Types of community support
    • By interest area or other
      • Educational users
      • Nonprofit users (like NTEN-Discuss, NOSI-Discussion)
      • Other groups
      • Linux User Groups (LUGS)
    • These cut across different software applications. More applied to a particular kind of use, but less specific.
  • 19. Strengths of Community Support
    • Can get answers almost immediately
    • As you get to know a community, you get to know individuals who can help in particular situations
    • Communities of popular applications are large, and have users with a wide variety of technical savvy.
    • There are usually multiple avenues of support (IRC/Email lists/Web forums)
    • It is almost always possible to contact a developer
    • Support by issue area can be very friendly and useful
  • 20. Weaknesses of Community Support
    • Unpredictable whether or not your problem can be solved
    • Unpredictable how long it will take
    • A very few communities are unfriendly to ”newbies”, or reply to questions with ”RTFM” (Read the ****ing Manual)
  • 21. And remember ...
    • When you do a Google search on a problem you are having with FOSS software, most of the time what you get is a result of someone else using community support
  • 22.  
  • 23.  
  • 24. How to find community support
    • Use communities you are already in
  • 25. How to find community support
    • Go to the website of the application you are using
  • 26. Examples of community support
    • forums
    • ProjectPier forums
    • Ubuntu IRC
    • Joomla Forums
    • Joomla Wiki
    • Mailman mailing lists
      • Mailing lists
      • IRC
  • 27. Becoming Part of a Community
    • The key to community is contribution and collaboration – a good general rule is the more you give to a community, the more you will recieve.
    • User communities really need contributions by members of all levels – this provides support for the widest range of users.
    • You can influnce the direction of the software
  • 28. NPTECH examples
    • NTAPs and Consulting firms getting involved in FOSS communities (Drupal, Plone, OpenACS, Joomla)
      • Provide organizational support for the community
      • give back code and resources
      • get back support that helps clients
      • FOSS communities benefit
      • providers benefit
      • ulimately, clients benefit
  • 29. Rules to make it all work
    • These are people who are, generally, doing this out of generosity and their own interest. Don’t treat them like you are paying them.
    • For IRC, don’t ask to ask your question – just ask it.
    • When answering others questions, a great rule is: ”be polite, be helpful.”
    • Give back as much as you can.
  • 30. So what you need to know now...
    • You can find helpful support for most FOSS applications
      • paid support is becoming quite common
      • community support is very rich
    • Check out the support during your evaluation process
      • Read mailing list archives
      • lurk in IRC channels
      • Read forums
    • Join a list/forum immediately – it’s amazing how much you can learn by osmosis, even before you have a problem