What should be done about the warning in NeoOffice's FAQ?
Nothing. The warning is necessary
[ 3 ]
Remove it. The warning is no longer necessary
[ 4 ]
Edit it. The warning is too extreme
[ 10 ]
Total Votes : 17
Joined: May 29, 2007 Posts: 14
Posted: Tue May 29, 2007 5:33 pm Post subject: NeoOffice in NZ schools
This is a letter I recently wrote in reply to an issue in NZ involving NeoOffice:
Dear Mr Julien Le Sueur,
CC Mr Steve Maharey, Ministry of Education, Martha McKenzie-Minifie @ NZ Herald, NeoOffice community
I recently read the NZ Herald article about the Ministry of Education's decision to stop providing software lisences for Microsoft Office for NZ school's Apple Macintosh computers ( http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10442388 ). I am very glad to hear this news. However I was dismayed to read your response to Mr Maharey's suggestion to use NeoOffice; "Mr Le Sueur said NeoOffice was littered with problems, and its website warned that users could expect lots of bugs."
I am very glad to hear the news of the MOE's decision. I hope it will provide opportunities to educate NZ students about alternatives to Microsoft software. Due to Microsoft's anti-competitive business practices, people are uneducated about the existence of such alternatives. In many cases, software from other vendors and the FOSS (free and open source software) community is of better quality and is often better suited to certain applications.
Education is a good example of this. Microsoft Office is well suited for critical business missions that require detail and extensive features to analyse data and produce complex and detailed documents. However it is not well suited for a school student's typical needs, which are much simpler. There are many simpler applications available that better suit a student's needs. Personally I prefer Google Docs & Spreadsheets (http://docs.google.com) for simple tasks such as those typically expected of a school student.
Another advantage often found in FOSS and software is the cost. For example, Linux and most FOSS have no lisencing costs. Another example, OpenOffice.org is a project that aims to provide an open source alternative to Microsoft Office. I have used OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice (A version of OpenOffice.org for Mac OS X) extensively and have found it to be very comparable to Microsoft Office, and advantageous in many aspects.
I use Mac OS X for both my personal computing and my employment. Microsoft Office for Mac was provided for me by my employer, however I recently uninstalled it from my Mac. I found I never used it, and it unnecessarily used up a lot of system resources. Additionally NeoOffice meets all my document and spreadsheet needs, and more.
I understand from the NZ Herald article that you are under the impression that NeoOffice is "littered with problems". As a regular NeoOffice user, I find this to be a brash exaggeration. Yes, there are issues with NeoOffice, and occasionally, as with any software, it may crash. I urge you to consider the stability of any software package. Has Microsoft Office ever crashed? Windows? Software from other vendors? The reality is that all software has an element of instability. Thankfully, NeoOffice is honest about this -- unlike some commercial software vendors. In my humble opinion as a NeoOffice user, I find NeoOffice to be very stable, usable and bug free.
Admittedly versions prior to the recent 2.0 release were not so stable, and perhaps this is the reason for the warning on NeoOffice' website. In my humble opinion, that warning is now outdated.
I urge you to reconsider NeoOffice as a viable alternative to Microsoft Office on your school's Apple Macintosh computers.
I urge you and your school, and I urge all schools, educational institutions, the MOE and the NZ government to seriously consider free and open source software as a realistic and economic alternative to commercial and monopolistic software. If it's not for the budget, then at least for the children. They have a right to know that there are options.
May I suggest the following websites and pages for further reading and education on such alternatives:
Posted: Tue May 29, 2007 6:20 pm Post subject: Followup to Minister of Eduction
This is a follow up email to Mr Steve Maharey, Minister of Education, NZ
Dear Mr Steve Maharey,
CC Mr Julien Le Sueur, Martha McKenzie-Minifie @ NZ Herald, NeoOffice community (http://trinity.neooffice.org/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=4444)
As I hope you are aware, some schools and principals are annoyed and frustrated about the Ministry of Education's decision not stop providing licensing for Microsoft Office for Apple Macintosh computers in NZ. I think this is a great decision for NZ students' technology education, as I wrote in my previous email (below).
I ask you to consider the implications this may have on the aforementioned schools and principals. Many schools will purchase licenses from Microsoft directly. This is likely to earn more profits for Microsoft than the national license through the MOE would have earned Microsoft. Please don't let schools and the MOE be bullied by corporations like Microsoft.
As you may be aware, some principals and schools are not impressed with your suggestion to use NeoOffice -- they believe that NeoOffice is problematic. I know, and I suspect that you agree, that NeoOffice is a viable solution. And that FOSS (Free and Open Source Softare) is in fact a viable economical solution for schools, and with out a doubt is the only realistic solution for NZ schools' IT needs.
I understand that the licensing agreement in question is understood to be worth about $100 million over 10 years. I beg you to consider the possibility of investing a small fraction of this money in FOSS. This money could be used to improve FOSS to be an even better solution for NZ schools. It would install confidence in schools and principals that FOSS is a better solution to schools IT needs than popular proprietary software.
For example, a small fraction of that money spent on testing and bugfixes for NeoOffice would make it more stable than Microsoft Office has ever been. This would help to clear the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) in the opinions of principals like Mr Julien Le Sueur.
Thank you for publicly acknowledging FOSS as a solution for schools. Please don't stop with the Microsoft Office for Mac. I beg you to consider Edubuntu (Linux for the classroom), OpenOffice.org, and all other FOSS.
Joined: Jun 16, 2003 Posts: 11902 Location: California, USA
Posted: Tue May 29, 2007 6:39 pm Post subject:
While I am flattered that you think the warning is outdated, the reality is that NeoOffice's testing staff is its users. This means that with every new release, a whole batch of new bugs will be eventually found by the users and we, in turn, will fix them as fast as time and money allow.
This may seem to be a picky distinction, but the reality is that not everyone can handle the "all in the open" development model of open source and, frankly, we don't have the resources to handle the flood of people who, in the past, show up ranting and screaming because NeoOffice isn't perfect.
Put another way, because we aren't trying to sell NeoOffice, we can afford to lay out the truth about software and how it is developed. Sure, many people want to be shielded from that and believe that software is perfect. I believe that is why there are commercial products that charge money to pay for the army of professional testers and technical support: to create the illusion that you can create software that works perfectly on millions of different machines with a multitude of different configurations and customizations.
We think that NeoOffice is a good alternative for many people, but like any piece of software, we aren't trying to satisfy every possible need out there. In fact, I really have no problem with people paying for MS Office if they feel that it makes them more productive. We only provide an alternative choice that makes it easier for people to decide for themselves if MS Office is worth the cost or not.
Posted: Tue May 29, 2007 7:14 pm Post subject: Optimistic warning, or negative impact on reputation
Thanks for your reply and insight. I understand your perspective and reasoning for the warning -- and I sincerely respect that. I voted for 'get rid of it' although perhaps editing it is a better solution.
Please read the NZ herald article, where you'll find the reference to Mr Julien Le Sueur's comment about NeoOffice being "littered with problems, and its website warned that users could expect lots of bugs" in it's context. Please also read the follow up comments to the post on slashdot.org: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=236497&cid=19307433
It's difficult to argue that this isn't having a negative impact on NeoOffice's reputation as an alternative to MS Office for Mac. And, arguably, FLOSS' reputation as an alternative to proprietary software.
Perhaps wording the FAQ more like a disclaimer and/or changing the question, or placing it elsewhere will take that negative edge off it. Perhaps something more like:
Who should NeoOffice?
Anyone needing office software for the Mac OS X operating system, to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and databases.
The creators of NeoOffice are human -- humans are not perfect. As with any software, errors and bugs sometimes make it through to official releases accidentally. Sometimes these bugs can cause NeoOffice to operate unexpectedly (i.e. crash).
To have the same effect as the existing FAQ, you could add this on the end, although I'm not sure that it's necessary:
If you find NeoOffice to be too unstable for your requirements, you may wish to explore other office software.
Joined: May 25, 2003 Posts: 4752 Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: Tue May 29, 2007 7:18 pm Post subject:
MS Office is a good product and has done some really nice innovations on the Mac side (e.g. the editable page preview in Excel, the semi-opaque formatting palettes in office 2004, to name two I loved when I saw them). At its price point it's a steal for how much software you get.
That said I think the warning needs to stay there. It's honesty, plain and simple. Companies aren't honest enough to admit their software has bugs and potentially serious ones at that. Real companies hide this in the EULA and bury the AS IS in all of the legalese. I much prefer to make that point up front and honest.
I used one of the first releases of Office v.X where Word would happily unexpectedly quit nearly once a day and lost a lot of work writing specs. Seeing the stack traces I could see it was a NULL dereference and probably would be happy with an if(!) guard. But it was closed source, so I couldn't go in and fix it.
Heck, drivers still kernel panic Macs, Safari and XCode still quit unexpectedly, interactive DVDs still only work with Internet Explorer, software gets end of lifed, and every now and then the Finder hangs.
The software we pay for is no different than the software we write; no software is free of bugs. Commercial software has many bugs, and some of them very serious. Perhaps if more companies were honest instead of burying things in their EULAs people really would begin to open their eyes the fact software "engineering" really stands on shaky ground.
Joined: Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 1285 Location: Witless Protection Program
Posted: Wed May 30, 2007 2:30 pm Post subject:
I STRONGLY agree that the disclaimer should stay.
AND I understand that it needs to be VERY clear to users that NeoOffice is not funded by some huge corporation and dozens of programmers and such.
If they are not comfortable with the development process of Neo - PLEASE go use some other software.
As one of those who help answer the new users questions I wish that they would do some research before they complain about something. I have been working VERY hard with the Mystic Wiki Elves to have easy to find answers in the NeoWiki.
If a user is not willing to review a few articles and/or RTFM - I would rather thay use something else. REALLY!
What I would suggest (and I'm working on suggested wording [Yes Patrick, it needs to be in 11 languages, AND SHORT]) that says exactly what you have said. AND what is on the first page of NeoOffice.org:
Released as free, open source software under the GNU General Public License (GPL), NeoOffice is fully functional and stable enough for everyday use. The software is actively developed, so improvements and small updates are made available on a regular basis.
Neo has Released versions, and "in testing" versions.
We understand that the FINAL decision is yours and Patrick, but would you allow some of the community members to work on some wording that meets both of your approvals, does not hide that fact that ALL software has errors, and is a little less ... Marketing hostile?
Let the Neo Community explore this, and help contribute to the advancement of NeoOffice. Pretty Please?
Philip ( poking his nose in more places - than it belongs?!? again?)
I tend to agree that the disclaimer should stay. NeoOffice is not in a popularity contest- it doesn't have any adoption benchmarks to achieve or the stockholders will get mad. It is simply what it is, something that will benefit humankind in general (or not) on its own merits. If it is a good product (which it most certainly is) it will earn a reputation among its users and will (and has) grow a significant user base by its own terms. I agree with ed, for whatever it's worth, that there is no real need to mitigate the disclaimer to soften or blunt the truth of the matter that NeoOffice isn't perfect. What SHOULD (but won't) happen is that commercial software be as honest as NeoOffice.
It's kinda like when a politician speaks the truth-- even the ugly truth-- it's unexpected, shocking, and may not be in the politician's best political interests. But it's the kind of thing that distinguishes them from the pack.
I think everyone agrees that NeoOffice is a great piece of software. I think everyone agrees (or accepts) that it's not perfect. My point is that the warning gives the wrong message to some people. People who don't understand open source or software development understand that warning to mean "NeoOffice is awful. You should use Microsoft Office instead".
I agree that it's great to admit that NeoOffice isn't perfect, but it's even greater to have a bit of pride in the great piece of software that it is.
To do that, we need to use language and concepts that non-programmers and school teachers understand, like "NeoOffice is great for .... However occasionally it may not operate as expected". This lets the reader decide if NeoOffice is what they need. And doesn't tell every non-programmer that NeoOffice is crap and MS Office is better -- which is what they currently understand from the warning.
"However occasionally it may not operate as expected."
The problem with such terminology is in the reader's perception of what constitutes "as expected". These fora are littered with examples of users who interpret beahviour as "NeoOffice does not do exactly the same as M$ Office in exactly the same way with exactly the same menus and commands. Therefore it does not operate as expected."
I would therefore not support the introduction of such a phrase into the general descriptions or caveats. _________________ Ray Saunders
World Scout Bureau
Joined: Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 1285 Location: Witless Protection Program
Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:27 am Post subject:
Her is what I currently have.
I think it covers all the points discussed and does NOT try to hide anything.
Who should use NeoOffice?
NeoOffice may not satisfy the needs of every user, that's up to each user to decide. NeoOffice is a good alternative for many people, providing a fully-featured set of office suite applications.
Let's be Honest Notice: NeoOffice is not perfect and like any piece of software, there many be undiscovered bugs or flaws. As our users find and report these problems, improvements and small updates are made available on a regular basis.
If you feel that you need software that has been more formally tested, we recommend that you purchase a commercially-supported product like Microsoft Office.
I don't think the wording is exactly right - yet, but close. Extra line breaks added for easier reading.
I tried a lot of "warnings" before I came up with "Let's be Honest Notice".
I hope that is as "Honest" as any application development can be!
For the discussion: While I don't think that NeoOffice has to hide, or be dis-honest, about it's development and support, I do think that this particular text can be better worded.
Not just for Marketing, but so that new users can understand that they have choices.
Whether NeoOffice is the right choice for them only they can decide.
I understand that a flood on new Neo users would not enhance the development, or the community.
Comments / Suggestions?
Philip ( As said on "Hills Street Blues" TV show - "Let's be careful out there!" )
I think you should point out how many thousands are using Neo on a daily basis and that they include companies etc. who feed their user experience back into the project. That provides people with confidence in the product.
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