Open source projects: one-to-one marketing
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Open source projects are great for many reasons. I like them because you get almost instantaneous feedback on legitimate problems. And I also like them because they provide great one-to-one marketing opportunities.
I just finished writing a full chapter on Restlet (Restlet is one of the few RESTful Java frameworks available today). While implementing sample code for Chapter 6, I found the latest version, 2.0, lacking support for the HTTP Accept header (version 1.1 is the official released version; 2.0, is still under development). Because Restlet is open source, I downloaded the code and found what the problem was: version 2.0 doesn't have that functionality implemented yet.
I had 2 options: first, I could have chosen not to write about Restlet 2.0; or I could have chosen to contact the project's lead developer to find out what was going on with automated content negotiation. I opted for the latter option. (In theory, I had a third option, by modifying the code to fix the problem; however, I wasn't willing to do that.)
I sent the tech lead of the project a message and got a reply within a day. What's more, I now know when the feature will be released to the public, as I got a message yesterday saying that the code is already in the repository and it will become part of the next release. Once the update is available, I will be able to rewrite the portion of the chapter that needs rewriting (if at all).
I'm not a paying customer, but I'm a satisfied customer. This is a case of making a good product better and the spread of information about it more accurate.
I have found problems with commercial products and tried to get the issues resolved, though not in the same capacity I have here: individual to individual. In past cases, I was asking on behalf of a corporation, which was a paying customer. The incentive to fix the problems, and quickly, were greater--money tends to have that effect.
Open source project are like that, though. I mean that all the cards are on the table; there is no exchange of money; but there's always the potential to spread knowledge, and, of course, to make money by creating value out of free information.