Open Source Products – A Better Customer Experience

A great example of how working with Open Source Products leads to quicker problem solving, user success and support.

Needed help figuring out what channels I record the most.  Help in IRC pointed me to the exact line of code where a related product issued the exact query I was looking for.

I am a strong advocate of Open Source projects and those who choose to work on them.  Just this week I was involved in a great example of how this different approach to software products can enhance the user/customer’s experience.I have (and love) a home-built PVR.  I run the massively awesome MythTV software that puts to shame a number of commercially offered PVR software products.  MythTV is an open sourced project, allowing anyone with the inking to review the code that runs under it slickly-themed hood.  I wanted to find out what channels I’ve recorded the most over the last year – to help me understand the family’s habits and evaluate TV bundles.  I knew enough to look at the database tables but not enough to figure out how to create a sql query to extract the info.

I hopped onto the mythtv IRC channel and asked if anyone knew of an existing query.  Sure enough the web client had the query tucked away in its code somewhere.  The suggestion was to just grab it from the code.  A minute later a participant in the IRC chat provided me with a URL that took me to the exact line of code in my web browser.  Now that was just awesome.  A little sql tinkering later and I had what I needed.

Contrast that with what a closed source product might offer in terms of supporting my need.  Can you imagine me calling a support center and being given access to the code?  Or even access to the database schema?  At best I could hope for someone to offer me the chance to pay a one-time fee to have a custom script written to extract that info from my own database.

A perfect example of how an open source product can offer a better customer experience than a closed source one.  I’ll explore this contrast a little more in future thoughts.

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