the answer to "What can be done to get some attention on this?"

Ben Bucksch ben.bucksch at beonex.com
Wed Dec 23 00:41:39 UTC 2015


Hey Kent,

I agree with you that the Thunderbird project needs paid developers. The 
bugs you highlight are just further evidence. We also have big changes 
ahead of us, so there needs to be some focused development that's just 
too much for a few people on the side.

  * Donations might generate some money for the project, if done right.
    I don't think it would be sufficient. I do think it's a good
    complementary income source, and might work to some degree.
  * People pledging for bug fixes id a great idea in theory (see
    kickstarter), doesn't work in practice for us. Users think that $30
    is a lot of money for a bug fix or feature, but that doesn't pay
    several days of investigation of an experienced developer. Then,
    when no result or not satisfactory result comes, the users get
    grumpy, , and the dev invested a lot of time and no money to pay
    rent, and everybody leaves feeling being cheated. I've been there,
    right in the middle, and it's not fun.
  * Don't hope for selling support to enterprises. They normally simply
    don't have the budget planned in, they consider open-source to be
    free (but MS-based shops happily accept Microsoft license fees as
    "cost of doing business"). It's not fair at all, it's not right,
    it's often not even reasonable, but it's reality. Many have tried to
    sell enterprise support (including myself and close colleages), all
    have failed, so I'd suggest to not hope for that. We could offer it,
    but don't assume that it will work.
  * Sorry for being negative, I just want to share my experience, to
    avoid you making the same bad and painful experiences as I and
    others did again.
  * Before somebody says "sell T-shirts": Yeah, why not. And stuffed
    Thunderbird animals! Not going to make millions, though. :) hm, the
    stuffed animal on the office desk might be a good channel for
    mouth-to-mouth marketing....


IMHO, the best way is to try many many different ways to raise money, 
and see which one works best. So: Please share your ideas. Everything 
goes, all across the board.

Any ideas should well reflect the open-source ideals. Preferably no 
pestering, no ads etc. The best ideas are those that generate an 
immediate (meaning: within weeks) value for the person giving money. And 
ways where there's no pooling, but where their money alone pays for the 
effort involved for us, and well so. If anybody has ideas, please share 
them!

BTW, while we're at being creative: if you have ideas how to find / 
convince more users or spread the word about TB more, please share 
those, too!

Thanks, Kent, for opening this. It's important to think about this. TB 
needs a lot more developers than it has right now.

Ben

On 22.12.2015 03:59, R Kent James wrote:
> In https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1077418#c9 the 
> commenter writes:
>
> "This is a critical dataloss bug that I've just hit _again_ - entire 
> emails just vanishing into the ether! That's pretty much the worst 
> sort of data loss in a mail client (OK, perhaps silently deleting 
> incoming email is worse).  What can be done to get some attention on 
> this?"
>
> That is an important question that really needs a long-term answer, 
> and I think that answer to that question says a lot about where I 
> think that Thunderbird needs to go. Although the particular quote is 
> from a particular person, this message is not directed specifically at 
> him or that bug. It is a common issue that needs some direction.
>
> It seems to me the current answer to "what can be done" is to hope 
> that we can attract more volunteer developers, or try to get more or 
> better work out of those who are currently active. (I had a more 
> colorful, snarky answer to this that I decided not to include.)
>
> I don't think that answer is realistic, but it is no fun to ignore 
> users with problems, either. Maybe I'm someone who just doesn't really 
> grok open source, but I think we need a better answer. The Thunderbird 
> code base is too large for a handful of volunteers to feel responsible 
> for the many critical issues that are only affecting a small minority 
> of users. Maybe for code that is a fraction of the size of 
> Thunderbird, there is some hope that volunteers can address these 
> issues. But our code base is just way too big for that. I do not want 
> to be made responsible for everyone's critical issues, merely because 
> I decided to volunteer some time to the project. For many open source 
> projects, the users are primarily developers, and at least in theory 
> those developers have the ability to fix bugs that annoy them. But as 
> a project directed to end users, we do not have that advantage.
>
> Yet those problems are important to those users. Here's what I think 
> that the answer should be.
>
> Really everyone needs to have some path where they can advocate for a 
> particular bug to be fixed, using a path that ultimately leads to 
> someone who is a paid developer. Here are the paths to that:
>
> 1)    Certified support organizations with level 3 support capability 
> (this is borrowed from TDF and LibreOffice). We should be able to 
> point people or organizations with issues to service organizations 
> that have the capability to actually fix bugs, and let the user 
> advocate with that organization why their bug is important. I'm not 
> saying that such an organization would be able to fix each specific 
> bug from a single user, but the organization should accept input from 
> customers, and be prepared to fund fixes that are important to some 
> significant number of their customers. Practically, what this means is 
> that the support organization needs to have on-call, and be prepared 
> to pay,  one of the core developers.
>
> 2)    The Thunderbird users group, the "Thundernest", would have paid 
> membership, with a mechanism within that organization to decide which 
> bugs will be fixed. Members can advocate for their bugs within 
> Thundernest that has some paid capability to respond.
>
> If you are an organization that uses Thunderbird, or a corporate 
> customer with a mission-critical use, the advice would be to retain 
> one of the certified support organizations. If you are an individual, 
> the advice would be to join Thundernest, and advocate there for your 
> bug. People who contribute to Thunderbird in some meaningful 
> non-financial way would also be offered membership.
>
> If you are unwilling to do either, than I would say "Sorry we cannot 
> help you". That is, your expectation to have a free-as-in-beer email 
> client, that you are unwilling to fund or contribute to in any 
> meaningful way, does not create an obligation in me as a core 
> developer to fix your problem.
>
> This is a rather severe position, and I expect many of you will take 
> exception to this. Maybe many of you would like to offer Thunderbird 
> as your gift to the world, without charge. Fine, but what is your 
> answer to "What can be done to get some attention on this?" for that 
> bug and many others?
>
> :rkent
>
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