The Problem with Open Source is that you can't blame it on Microsoft

If something is broken in Windows or in a Windows based proprietary application it's clear that you can blame it on Microsoft or the other vendor: How little they care about their users and how bad the quality of their software is. You do that even if in other times you praise them.

On the other hand if you encounter an issue with an Open Source application or with a open source library then you can't complain. Well, technically you can but socially it is not acceptable.

In the proprietary world if you encounter some issue and contact the vendor. A polite tier-1 support person will tell you the issue is logged and will be dealt with. Your part is done. You can keep blaming them of not having a solution yet.

In the open source world they will tell you to upgrade. They can easily do that as in most cases it does not cost you any money to get the latest version and install it. So your work is not over yet. This is frustrating. Then you start complaining as you might not yet know how to upgrade or your boss does not let you upgrade and you reach the conclusion that Open Source is bad. Instead of noticing that in the Open Source case you can do thing while in the proprietary case your hands are tied.

If you are already using the latest version, the open source developers will tell you to file a bug report. If the software or library does not have an active development team then people will tell you to fix the problem yourself. The issue is that technically and legally you can. You are just so not used to it - or so shall I say so lazy - that you prefer to go back to the old mode and blame the "vendor". Instead of stepping up, investing your time and fixing the issue.

This creates a lot of tension between Open Source developers and the users or developers who are not used to the open source world. IMHO this can be solved in two ways. Either the open source projects hire tier-1 support people - this is done by vendors such as RedHat and Cannonical - or the users are further educated on how to interact with the developers of Open Source projects.

If you are self motivated, curious and self confident then this is the point where you get also lucky. You start learning about the software and how it is developed and you start contributing back to the open source project. Not only will that feel good. Its also a lot of fun. And besides that it will also help you fix the issue.

Perl

For Perl and Perl based projects there are not many companies offering such support. So maybe that should be part of what the Perl Ecosystem Group does. Providing front-line support for Perl projects and modules.

In addition we will need to invest a lot in educating the users of Perl and CPAN on how to get involved. How to file bug reports, how to add documentation and how to send patches.

After all these are both gaps between the Open Source Perl community and the companies using Perl.

Published on 2010-12-02 by Gabor Szabo
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