Earning Your Support Instead of Buying it

Ian Turton / @ijturton

Sept 2015

See the video

Who is this talk for?

  • Users
  • Managers
  • Developers who use open source libraries
  • not really for project developers

Who am I?

  • Ian Turton

  • I've been developing GeoTools for 20+ years
  • I contribute to GeoServer and QGis communities
  • I'm a community moderator on GIS.Stackexchange.com
  • I spent 19 years trying to teach students how to program and web map.

Open Source is great...

  • We can save a fortune on licensing costs.
  • and maintenance
  • and support
  • and ...

Open Source is no good...

  • There is no support.
  • What if something goes wrong?
  • Who can I sue?

From the Opening Keynote

FOSS v Proprietary
FOSS v Proprietary

You can buy your support

If you were happy to pay ESRI or Oracle for "maintenance" then you could continue to buy support from Open Source developers and get actual bug fixes.

OSGeo Service Providers

You get to determine the direction of development.

Plus many of us write better/more code when not hungry.

If not then you earn your support

So you must save money by going it alone.

That's Fine!

But now you need to earn your support.

You can't demand it!
You can't demand it!
Really you can't!
Really you can't!

How to earn support

Be polite - you are asking for a favour.

Developers are people too.
Developers are people too.

Where to talk to devs

Choose the right forum, don't send the same message to all of them

Mailing lists

  • use the right list
    • -discuss NOT -dev[el]
    • NEVER personal email
  • check out the netiquette of the list
  • keep it on the list


Looks easy but cuts out xml and HTML

Implies you can't be bothered to read the list

Will you see the reply?

Stack Exchange

If it is a geography question then ask on gis.stackexchange.com.

If it is a programming question then ask on stackoverflow.com.

Stack Exchange

Q&A Format
Q&A Format
If you ask a poor question
If you ask a poor question


If you find a solution, tell the world!


How to ask a Good question

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way Eric Steven Raymond

How to talk to devs

  • Be polite
  • Be respectful
  • Be patient

Be Polite

Your software sucks it can't even do foo

I was trying to do foo and instead bar happened

Be Respectful

I don't really care about geography so can you do the following for me ...

Where can I learn how to do this ...

Be Patient

Any updates on this? Is anyone watching this jira board? Doesn't anyone read this list?

I can add this...

Do some research

I am stuck because I am new to this library. Are there any tutorials out there that can help me?

I plan to use geotools and I saw that there is an oracle plugin available, but the documentation is not very detailed. Are there any examples or documentations available to access the functionality of the plugin?


Google is your friend
Google is your friend




It's Hard
It's Hard

The source is on the web

Look on GitHub
Look on GitHub

Better ways to earn respect

You could get to know the developers before you have a problem

How can I help out?

I worked through the quickstart and noticed the following... How can I fix it?

is always a good way to start a conversation.

How to talk to users

  • Be gentle
  • Reply to first offenders off line
  • If you don't know for sure, say so!
  • If you can't help don't hinder
  • Ask probing questions for more details
  • Help your community learn from the question


Never assume you are entitled to an answer.

You are not;

you aren't, after all, paying for the service. You will earn an answer, if you earn it, by asking a substantial, interesting, and thought-provoking question — one that implicitly contributes to the experience of the community rather than merely passively demanding knowledge from others.

Ian Turton

  • [email protected]
  • @ijturton
  • +IanTurton
  • github.com/ijturton
  • gitlab.com/ijturton
  • www.ianturton.com
  • blog.ianturton.com