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Foss Support Webinar0108


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How to get support for FOSS

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Foss Support Webinar0108

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