KDE Support - a challenging way to contribute
Speaker: Kevin Krammer
Support, especially end user support, is considered to be a boring task, however helping to solve problems for users of a free software project is actually a challenging, gratifying and teaching experience, a nice way to contribute back.
Free and Open source projects have a reputation for excellent community based support. This reputation is earned through the participation of core contributors such as developers, translators and documentation writers in support activities.
However, this reputation is facing a couple of challenges which are looking for people not afraid of solving them. Our current support channels are reaching their limit as we reach into new markets. On one hand the number of users asking for assistance is increasing, on the other hand core contributors are retreating into more quiet channels, thus depriving the support community of much needed knowledge.
The communication technology involved isn't state-of-the-art either. While email is certainly a widely used communication form, mailinglist are something an increasing number of users have problem understanding. The gap between the traditional Unix/Linux geeks who prefer plain text communication for its simplicity and the web-generation users who prefer markup and presence hints is widening.
The improving integration of free desktop software with the underlying platforms shows its backside by making it more difficult, sometimes impossible, for a user to distinguish at which project to relay a question. An additional weakness triggered by this is our lack of capabilities to delegate a problem to a different project transparently to the user. Ever involved project requires subscribing to yet another mailinglist, yet another forum, etc.
Since support is like any other area of a free software project, anyone is welcome to contribute, but unlike other areas, everyone has the capabilities to do it: help your favorite project by helping others to use it!
Kevin Krammer is a KDE developer since 2001, who uses his insight into KDE internals to provide user support and developer mentoring on mailing lists and web forums.
He also monitors cross-desktop projects for situations where the input from KDE core contributors might be necessary and he is one of the developers working on the KDE side of the Portland initiative's toolset.