Conference Session

The Warm Fuzzy Feeling: Supporting your Customers

By: Christoffer Torris Olsen

About Christoffer Torris Olsen

I'm Jarn's Service Manager, and have been responsible for implementing a support system for Jarn since November 2007. Besides that, I'm a polymath, musician and politician, and thus I have extensive experience performing, discussing and debating. I can speak on many topics with ease, and have been praised for my ability to break down concepts from one point of view and explaining it to another. Mostly from a technical standpoint to a "normal person" standpoint, but business to engineers should work as well :)

About the session

Almost noone sells support in the Plone community. And if we do, we usually do it in an unstructured way. Jarn has now sold support since December 2007, and will present our experiences in achieving the main goal: Keeping customers happy. The talk is divided in three main areas:

  1. Why do we need it? Understanding customers

    A quick introduction. Why is support important, and why does it keep customers coming back for more? Why does no one want to touch it?

    Also, how do you talk to a person who has no idea, and doesn't care, what XmlHttpRequest is? A few quick tips on getting the answers from your customer as quick as possible, smoothing the process and limiting time spent on writing emails.

  2. Helping your Customers – and why you shouldn't do it without having a system

    Why having a clear framework makes work more efficient and removes misunderstandings. Also, training your customers without them knowing.

  3. Implementing a system – the pitfalls we have discovered and how to avoid them

This is a Talk (45 min)

So You Want To Be a Plone Consultant?

By: Nate Aune

About Nate Aune

Nate Aune is president of Jazkarta, a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in Plone-based web solutions. Nate is founder of the Plone4Artists project through which he has facilitated the improvement of the multimedia and calendaring features of Plone. He is serving his second term on the Plone Foundation Board and is a frequent speaker and organizer at Plone conferences and sprints.

About the session

What does it take to be an open source consultant? It's usually not enough to be a good developer. You need to know about the business side of software development, including sales and marketing and legal and accounting. Fret not - just like programming, these are skills that can be learned! How do you find work and how do you determine how much to charge? We will discuss the merits of time and materials billing, optional scope contracts vs. fixed bid contracts. Blogging, speaking at local tech events and search engine optimization are some inventive ways to attract new customers. How do you compete against commercial proprietary software vendors and dispel the myths around open source. What are the unique selling points that can help catapult your company to the shortlist? Positioning your services and finding a niche are essential to differentiate yourself from other competing vendors. How do you structure contracts to allow for the software you create to be GPL licensed? The legal issues cannot be overlooked if you want to ensure your software remains open source. Education of your customers is important to get them to think of software not as an asset, but a liability. How do you recruit and retain talented developers? The transparency of open source software provides you with developer footprints that reveal far more about a developer's technical skills than any resume. I have recruited some of my best developers solely by reading their code and their blog posts to get a sense for how they communicate. Open source software is often developed by distributed teams, in which the leaders and developers are geographically dispersed. Can this team dynamic work for consulting projects? We've learned through many failed attempts what works and what doesn't, navigating timezones, multi-currency payments, remote pair programming, and global conference calls. How can you be a profitable company and still be a good citizen of the open source community? Where do you draw the line between paid customer work and unpaid community work? If structured properly, the community work can complement the billable work and vice versa. This talk is geared towards the Plone developer who is considering starting his/her own business, and the entrepreneur who wants to grow the business by leveraging Plone and other open source software products. In this talk/panel, we will explore some of the challenges that a business owner will face, and the unique issues that a company building open source software must embrace.

This is a Panel Session (90 min)