Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Product-ization

I often talk about what it takes to product-ize open source software. Most regular people consider open source to be "not ready" or "almost there". This interchange on the CiviCRM boards is a great reminder of the need for an ecology around open source products.

Basically, a small, no resource organization wants CiviCRM to work better with IE. The open source projects asks the no-resource organization to invest time and/or money into making CiviCRM work better with IE. The small organization gets frustrated and says:

Not working on the UI in the most common browser on the planet (especially for low-income people in need) is--to me--shooting yourselves in the foot WRT accomplishing your goals. But perhaps you are not building this "for the people," but really for geeks. If that's the case, then be clear about it. If your goal is to help non-profits, this is one place you fall very seriously short.
The simple fact is that the "people" don't have the resources to contribute, and the geeks and large budget nonprofits do.

Or is that really true?
Non-profit accidental techies with no time and little or no power in their orgs make up a huge portion of your user base (as I understand it, anyway). I am wondering if we should be discussing how to make this "community" model work better, because I don't feel like it's well-directed to do what you want it to do--supplement the good work you guys are doing.
And here is the crux... how do you make the community module work better? I think it is probably by providing clear, simple, low time commitment tasks to the community:
  1. Take 1 hr talk to the CiviCRM team about how to do testing and test CiviCRM in IE. Then log the bugs found.
  2. Take 1 hr, send an email to everyone you know asking for a volunteer programmer/geek to come in and fix those bugs.
Accept the fact that your hour may or may not make an immediate difference (this is the really hard thing to get folks to truly accept). But by becoming part of the community you move the community forward.

1 comment:

pearlbear said...

David,

There is, I think, a sea change in attitude about software that is going to be necessary. People are used to either getting a shrink-wrapped product for a price, or getting some things (like Google apps, or something like that) for free. Helping to create and improve community-driven software is not on their radar.

That said, it's also true that usability is still, IMHO not an important enough focus for many open source projects. And, honestly, I think both have to happen somewhat simultaneously - open source developers need to spend more resources (which, of course includes community of users and testers) on usability, and nonprofit users have to change their attitudes and feel more ownership of the software (and, thus, become a resource for the developers.)