[UFO Chicago] what draws you here?

Neil R. Ormos ormos@enteract.com
Tue, 29 Jan 2002 18:13:30 -0600 (CST)

Larry Garfield wrote:

> [deletia]

> "I just want it to work" is the commonly cited mantra of
> the user.  While I agree that users have to expect a
> steeper learning curve for a general purpose device than
> for a toaster, it is not acceptable to expect them to
> devote any more time than is required to accomplish their
> selected tasks to "helping the system."  Why should they?
> It's a tool!  Are they expected to "help" their hardware
> tool box?  Do they feel compelled to contribute back to
> the screwdriver community?  Of course not, but we still
> take the time to show people how ot use screwdrivers.

That analogy is deficient.  Screwdrivers aren't generally
free (in the money sense).  You pay for them.  Which is how
the screwdriver saleswoman, distributor, manufacturer,
engineer, et al., make a living.  And if you want to learn
how to use a screwdriver, you pay for that, too.  Try going
to carpentry or mechanic's, or machinists' schools--they're
not free.

In order for your analogy to work, you have to find some
useful good or service which is produced by volunteer labor
and for which the marginal cost of production is zero and
the marginal cost of replication is negligible.  Then, the
question is whether personalized training in that good or
service is available for free without expecting some quid
pro quo.  Religion is the closest thing I can think of, and
even there, some would debate whether marginal cost of
production is zero and whether training is available for

> [ . . . ] groups I'm in put most FS/OS groups to shame in
> terms of being novice-friendly.)  Remember, though, what
> you don't have in the FS/OS community: Official Technical
> Support.  If Photoshop isn't working, there is a canonical
> source of information you can contact, called Adobe, Inc.
> If postfix isn't working, and the manual is lacking (as it
> almost always is), then the only canonical source of
> information you have is the author's email address, an
> author who generally has better things to do with his life
> than answer every novice question, like improving the
> program.  [ . . . ] Not everyone is a physician, able to
> heal themselves.

Yeah, but I'm not sure folks are necessarily better off in
the proprietary software world.  

I don't know about postfix, but Red Hat, VA Software, IBM,
and others are selling Linux support, but, of course, you
have to pay.  Whether it's "official" or not seems to me to
be irrelevent as long as they can provide a resolution of
your problem.  Many commercial software vendors also do not
provide technical support free of charge.