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NeoOffice :: View topic - Time for an independent users group?
Time for an independent users group?
 
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pluby
The Architect
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Joined: Jun 16, 2003
Posts: 11853
Location: California, USA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 10:31 am    Post subject: Time for an independent users group? Reply with quote

Since the Aqua menu patch was released, we have seen a surge in the number of forum postings. With this surge have come a lot of new people and many new ideas.

All of these new users and new ideas are good for Neo/J. However, I am getting overwhelmed by all of the input. The problem is that people can generate ideas about 100 times faster than those ideas can be implemented.

Since this is a problem that occurs in nearly every software project, I have been thinking about ways for us to organize ourselves so that we aren't flooded with a hundreds of different opinions on dozens of different topics each day but, at the same time, we don't curtail user participation.

My thinking is that Neo/J needs a users group. What is different about a users group from what we have now? In my experience, a users group handles two critical functions:

1. Organizing the many user opinions and feature requests into one priority list

2. Fundraising to help get the priority list implemented

Some people may not like item #1 because it seems much more efficient to just tell the developers what they want. However, since in most open source projects users and testers outnumber developers by 10:1, 50:1, or even 100:1, feeding everyone's opinion directly to the developers is an excellent way for the developers to get overwhelmed and stop listening.

If you look closely, you will notice that I already selectively disregard topics that aren't related to existing bugs or features that I am currently working on. This is why a users group is so important. All of the lengthy discussions of which feature or change is most important can happen without flooding the developers.

Ideally, if there is a well-organized users group, Ed and I can redirect feature requests and design ideas to the users group.

This brings me to item #2. IMHO, item #2 is harder than item #1 but it is needed in order to get the users group's priority list implemented. Here's why: as I mentioned above, my experience is that people can generate ideas about 100 times faster than those ideas can be implemented. This means that the available engineers will limit how many new features can be implemented.

I suspect that many of you will think that if we just get more developers and we can implement more features. This is not likely to happen for 2 reasons:

1. Neo/J and its underlying OOo code is extremely large and complex. Because of this, any new developer requires several months of working with the code before they can even hope to do more than fix simple bugs. This is a huge time commitment for many volunteer developers and many find it very unrewarding to spend so much time before they are able to make a visible contribution to the product. Most developers want to work on the "sexy" stuff like Aqua buttons and dialogs. However, they quickly get bogged down in the crashes and other bugs that occur when they try to implement what they assumed would be a simple feature. This is not just my opinion, but the experience of just about every OOo developer that I know.

2. Volunteer developers are volunteers, not employees. This may seem like a strange statement but I have found many user mailing lists on various open source programs to operate with the assumption that the developers put user priorities first. Paid engineers put user priorities first (because that is what they are paid to do) but volunteer developers tend to work on what interests them first. Before you conclude that developers are selfish, realize that this is the case with any volunteer workforce: the volunteers volunteer because they are interested in the work and if the work does not fit their interests, they stop volunteering. Given the huge time commitment that is required of Neo/J and OOo, many developers quit after compiling the code the first time.

OK. So here's my point: a users group needs to do fundraising to ensure that its priority list is implemented. Why? Because developers like Ed and I have limited time and after implementing the features that interest us, we will devote our remaining time to earning a living. In essence, the users group's priority list is competing with paying employers for a limited resource.

Fundraising also serves a valuable purpose for the users group: it separates the more committed people from the less committed people. For example, some users groups charge a membership fee and only paid members are allowed to vote on the priority list. Another way to look at it is many people are adamant that their feature must be implemented but if that person is not willing to contribute time, resources, or money, it makes it much a easier for a users group to put it at the bottom of the list.

Just my thoughts,

Patrick
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schlesi
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Joined: Jun 07, 2003
Posts: 234
Location: near Cologne, Germany

PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Patrick,

I agree with you. The question is how to do #1. Do we use a mailing list (the Haiku/OpenBeos-folks use this, for example), a Forum with a new thread for each wished feature, a Wiki?

The #2 seems to be done more easier. If the discussion of a feature is closed (may be driven by time or by number of postings), it could be put on a voting list with wished features. Everybody, who wants, could give his vote to his most wanted feature (may be with login-accounts to avoid multiple votings). After a voting period, the most voted feature (or a few most voted features) could get a status "in realisation" and is be programmed by the developers.

Just my $0.02 Wink

Thomas
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

schlesi wrote:
Patrick,

I agree with you. The question is how to do #1. Do we use a mailing list (the Haiku/OpenBeos-folks use this, for example), a Forum with a new thread for each wished feature, a Wiki?

The #2 seems to be done more easier. If the discussion of a feature is closed (may be driven by time or by number of postings), it could be put on a voting list with wished features. Everybody, who wants, could give his vote to his most wanted feature (may be with login-accounts to avoid multiple votings). After a voting period, the most voted feature (or a few most voted features) could get a status "in realisation" and is be programmed by the developers.

Just my $0.02 Wink

Thomas


Sounds really good to me, especially a Wiki-based FAQ which could link to pages discussing desired features...

Who could host such a thing?
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jakeOSX
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

funny you should ask, we already have one

http://sixthcrusade.com/neowiki
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pluby
The Architect
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jakeOSX wrote:
funny you should ask, we already have one

http://sixthcrusade.com/neowiki


Actually, the fact that so a few Neo/J testers have setup mirrors, Wikis, etc. made me think that we might be able to get a users group going.

I think many of you have the infrastructure side nailed down which makes me think that the more difficult part (well, not difficult but maybe very tedious and boring) is to get #2 setup.

Realistically, to get #2 setup, I think the following needs to happen. This is not a perfect list but merely the steps that I could think of:

1. Get a small group of Neo/J testers and/or power users together and write down some simple rules for governing the users group. The advantage of being in this small group is that you get to set the rules. There are probably several users groups that you can copy rules from but I think the most important rules are:

- Who gets to make the rules (aka the governing board) and how do people get elected to this board?

- What types of membership are there, what rights do those types of members have, and what must a person do become a member of each type of group (e.g. annual membership fees, hours volunteered, etc.).

2. Once you have the basics of an organization, you can decide how to fundraise (i.e. membership fees, donation web pages, etc.).

3. In order to receive donations, most countries are going to require some formal organization to be created (this is why step #1 above is necessary). In the U.S., most users groups file the government paperwork to be a non-profit organization or a charity. The types of organizations are wildly different depending on the country but I assume that in the U.S., Canada, or European Union, the necessary forms can be prepared and filed for very little money (creating Planamesa, Inc. - which has world headquarters in my house - cost less than $200 to setup).

Hope the above helps,

Patrick
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sardisson
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm still not exactly sure where I stand on the UG idea (obviously I have no way of seeing the world from Patrick's shoes, but I recognize and respect the fact he always has a good reason for saying/doing what he does), but while making a posting up in Support about Neo-OOo relations, it did occur to me that the users group might also be a useful tool for further organizing the NeoJ community to keep track of, and support and influence where needed, the larger OOo community, especially on "Mac issues."

I didn't link to this thread in that post (I figured Patrick had a good reason for hiding this discussion down in Development Smile), but I do think the two might be related and wanted to indicate so down here.

Smokey
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MrGruff
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 5:24 am    Post subject: user group = more resources, spread the load Reply with quote

I am all in favour of a Neo/J user group.

As a non-programmer it is difficult to contribute to the development effort other than by using the latest versions and reporting any odd stuff. I know there are other things to be done (I have added a word or two to the Neowiki), but it's difficult to determine the priorities and I don't want to waste my limited time heading off down a blind alley. I would hope a user group would enable people in my position to be able to contribute something to the Neooffice community, by having priorities and plans for the stuff around the software development.

Free at point of use is great, but, as our health service knows only too well, the resources need to come from somewhere. A user group could help broaden the resource base - in time and money.

(side note: Polly's inappropriate help request - see first forum - has at least answered my unasked question of how much this server costs to run.)

To summarise: I think (hope?) a lot of us would like to help, but don't know how. A user group might assist us do that.

Mr Gruff
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Paraplegic_Racehorse
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Joined: Jun 23, 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think that a user group set-up for prioritizing FEATURE upgrades is necessary.

That being said, a user support group with separate forum(s) that link back to Neo/J Development and Bugzilla site(s) (Trinity) would be a fabulous idea. This is, largely, already in existence at OOoForum and OOoDocs. I suggest that _users_ be sent there for help, while "testers" remain active there as well as on the Trinity forums.

Personally, I think that if it's not in bugzilla, the developers should ignore it unless they perceive it as a "major" bug. At which point, they should add it to bugzilla themselves. That's what bugzillas exist for: bug tracking. The devs should not be required to keep these things in their head. I follow several other OSS projects closely and this is how they all started working after the mailing lists got jammed with bug reports / feature requests. For most of them, the bugs get patched and features get implemented more swiftly merely because there's a single place to look for these things. Scribus, for example, with only two primary developers has maintained a rate of 100+ patches / 30 days for a year or more where they used to be able to handle fewer than 50 due to confusion about where to go next. Yes, there will always be more bugs waiting to be patched or features waiting to be added. That's the nature of software development.

While it's okay for reporters to set severity (initially), a reporter should not be able to set priority. It's the devs' collective resposibility to determine priority of patches and features based on their abilities and/or devotabe time.

BTW, it would be ideal to get Neo and/or Neo/J added to the main OOo bug tracker where it would be even easier to check for duplication of effort with the main OOo branch. It also forces maintenance of close ties to the main OOo branch and developers and perhaps Sun will sit up and take notice of amount of activity and throw some real support behind the port.

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Ralf
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:02 pm    Post subject: Usergroup - language specific Reply with quote

Hello together,

as I moderate the PUG_Leipzig (Palmusergroup) I can say that the members there rather use German newsgroups on the Palm topic than American ones (mainly because of the foreign language;-().

So why not create country specific newsgroups for the NeoOffice topics(e.g. Yahoogroups or similar) and let the people express there wishes, ideas and hints in their mothertongue.

What do you think of that idea?

Regards

Ralf
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jjmckenzie51
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Joined: Apr 01, 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Usergroup - language specific Reply with quote

Ralf wrote:
Hello together,

as I moderate the PUG_Leipzig (Palmusergroup) I can say that the members there rather use German newsgroups on the Palm topic than American ones (mainly because of the foreign language;-().


I understand what you are saying, but if you look at the OpenOffice.org users mailing list, it is specifically done in English as that is the language of business. Now, that is not to say there is not a French, German or even Czech/Slovakian mail lists (as there are.) However, someone on those lists would have to be willing to work as a 'bridge' and bring over those topics that are much in discussion to the primary mailing list. This may sound a little arrogant, but this also happens on the developer's list and the Mac Porting lists (I would name the individuals responsible for these actions, but I don't want to upset Patrick today.)

I agree, that if the 'bridges' existed, there should be no problems in hosting a language specific mailing list. Notice that I did not state country specific as there are folks here in the U.S.A. that speak a primary language other than American English, and I really don't want to take them out of the process of making NeoOffice better.

Also, the Wiki pages are hosted in several languages at various locations around this big blue globe of ours. If you feel the need and desire to translate the Wiki pages in a different language at a different location, then speak up and volunteer to do so. The more languages, translated correctly and with the intent of keeping things clean, the better.

James
(BTW, I don't just speak American English, but you can assume that I do.)
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LemonAid
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Joined: Nov 21, 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that Users Group would be a good idea.

A lot of good ideas have been presented on this message. I've help start a few Mac users groups in the past as a way to gather like minded folks together and share information.

NeoWiki is an an excellent resource. I'm constantly amazed at the various information found within (THANKS Smokey Wink ) I must be a little slow but I wish there was something like a table-of-contents. There is so much information that I get lost finding new tidbits. Embarassed The table-of-contents on the new OOo 2.0 is awesome.

A UG could help 1) filter new user requests so Patrick/Ed/et al could avoid being overwhelmed by requests, 2) establish priority list items, 3) provide User support/buffer, 4) raise money to "fund" priority items, 4) spread the word about NeoOffice (funny how users groups can focus attention).
<edit>
2.1) Requests should go into something like Issuezilla? 5) Bugs need to go into Bugzilla (or they don't exist)
</edit>

I don't know how, but users need some way to contribute (time, effort, money?) to have a major vote in new priorities.
<rant> I wish there was some way to ... "strongly inform" new users that the NeoOffice developers are not trying to change OOo, invent new Menus, or change history! NeoOffice is a project to bring the power of OOo to the Mac with a Aqua interface/front end. "walks like a duck..."
</rant>

Philip (has read the "Mythical Man Month" Wink )


Last edited by LemonAid on Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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ALTheFierce
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also agree that a users group could be very helpful for Neo development. In looking at different open-source projects, those that have established users groups with appropriate governing guidelines seem to have more "legitimacy" (not really a good word, can't think of something better) amoung main-stream users. I guess with a UG, people feel that the project has a better focus or direction than a couple of guys sitting at home programming. Even though this is a completely inaccurate view of things (b/c Neo development has a strong directional vision without the UG), creating a UG definitely wouldn't hurt Neo's public interest.

Nothing else, a UG would provide much more visibility to the project and help get it out from OO.o's shadow. Higher visability translates to increased interest and funding, while at the same time the UG frees up Patrick/Ed/et al. to focus on development.

Travis F.

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Orgleser
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some thoughts:
I personally would not read two user groups or thelike even if one was in my mother language wich is german. I would stay where its nearer to the development.
OOo on the other hand has very active german (as well as french and other languages) groups - just a note to the question of language of business. I think one should not underestimate this (@James).
I would prefer to read more on how exactly things should be done. If money is in hands, in Germany at least an "Eingetragener Verein" would be needed - some construction that can handle money without leaving all the risk to single private persons. (e.g. if at some point there were third party fonts or thelike involved and some lawyer would like to earn money with processing about them.)
This is the one question I would have.
The other is: How would feature requests be handled? Wouldnt this be sth for an "Issuezilla" with the possibility of voting for issues like in OOo? But - this would not rise the necessity of an user group in my opinion. It could be done without a group.
As far as I understood in my opinion there is one thing in Patricks arguments that makes the point for an UG: If there was an organized group of people handling and supporting NEO, NEOs furter development would not depend on two (or five or twenty) single people ALONE. Correct?
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sardisson
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orgleser wrote:
Some thoughts:
I personally would not read two user groups or thelike even if one was in my mother language wich is german. I would stay where its nearer to the development.

This is something that came up a while ago, and that was the consensus of most of us (well, a lot, maybe even most, of the active members here are native English speakers, so...), that we would prefer to keep the questions and user support here, in one place--both for reasons of time and efficiency/because we felt people could get the best answers here.

There's a proposal around here somewere (in Random Whatnot, I think) by Max Barel, one of the "old timers", for an "International" subsection in Support where people who aren't comfortable in English could post questions in their native tounges. We do from time to time get support posts in French, anyway, and between Max and val1984 and those of us who speak a little French and Babelfish/Google Translate, we've done a pretty good job answerong the French questions. I think we're probably about at the point where we can handle German questions, too.

There is a French-only discussion list at Yahoo Groups; it doesn't seem particularly active and, to my knowledge, none of us actively follow it, so I don't know if there are questions that go un-answered or anything.

So I'll continue to advocate we keep support and other dicsussion [only] at trinity (I for one am not going to read another forum/list; I just don't have the time and have been cutting back at trinity and many of my other fora/lists, too). However, I also think we should post a sticky in Support something along the lines of:
Quote:
Non-English Support

More comfortable in a language other than English?

While English is the common language here at trinity, we know not all NeoOffice users are comfortable using English. Feel free to ask your question in your native language and we'll do our best to answer it.

Currently, the following languages are "well-supported" on trinity:
French (Français)
German (Deutsch)


I think the separate user group idea, as originally framed by Patrick, still has much merit, and it would be a good way to "join together" the average users of NeoOffice who aren't interested in the nity-gritty, daily workings, and handling support requests that those of us who frequent trinity are interested in/do. It could be a source of additional funds for Neo development, possibly put together some value-added tutorials or something, and so forth.

The big problem remains the organization--getting it organized would either take finding one of these "average users" who's interested in doing all the legwork, or diverting the effort of one of our "regular volunteers" away from trinity/bugzilla/the wiki and into organizing the user group. I'd prefer the latter didn't happen (although we have more people active these days, it seems like the overall activity of the volunteer support staff is lower than when I first showed up, as many of us just don't have the same time availabilty any more), so that until we get someone from the former group to jump in and get a UG going, the UG idea is perhaps one to continue to be on the back burner....

What I'd really like to do is convert a few more "average users" into "junior support staff".... Wink

Smokey

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Orgleser
sheepfun
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do see the merits of an UG too and am not sceptical against it. The point I wanted to make is only: the better goals and intentions are expressis verbis noted, the easier a thing can be built. That is why I asked. If the main goal is to give a broader "basis" to NEO, this will have influence on how such an UG should be constructed and how it should "work".
And the other thing: steps towards an UG could be done before actually bringing it to live. E.g. an Issuezilla could be built before rising a group and could become part of the group later.
Am I wrong?
T.
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