> If there is one single thing you could do to make the product more useful to
> such folks it's probably to spin off a commercial version of the product and
> package it in friendlier ways with some hand-holding consulting services for
> installation, configuration and integration, such as what I bought. Or,
> provide some training and materials to help third parties get up to speed
> with that sort of thing.
I think I can speak for all the developers when I say that we are all
ready to quit our jobs and work on SquirrelMail exclusively if the
money is right. :-)
This is somewhat OT for what we are talking about, but since you
brought it up, I will address it. Unfortunately, most FOSS suffer
from a lack of extensive documentation for one simple reason: the
majority of it is written by programmers and (most) programmers don't
like to spend time writing documentation, especially in the early
stages of a project. There aren't many tech writers volunteering for
FOSS projects. At the same time, SquirrelMail has been changed
*extensively* since it was originally released. So the old,
undocumented code (which in many cases was written *very* strangely in
the first place) is now having to jive with the newer, better
documented code. But again, this is nothing that most FOSS projects
don't suffer from.
I also don't know that I agree with the "all things to all people"
approach you seem to be presenting. SquirrelMail is still a free
software package written by volunteers in (mostly) there spare time.
It would be great if we could have consulting services, installation
services, etc, etc, etc, but the fact of the matter is that we don't
have the resources to be that. Now add to that the fact that most
people are not willing to pay very much for support on free software.
They see "free" and think it comes with decent support, SLAs, etc,
etc. Most of the developers have encountered this attitude from end
users from time to time, and those who are willing to pay don't want
to pay very much. The same attitude has recently been exposed among
artists on Craig's List (see
Now to get back on point here the question still remains of what to do
with the help available on our site. Are there a wide range of users
of SquirrelMail? Of course there are. SquirrelMail is somewhat
unique among FOSS projects in that regard. We make a product that
almost everyone connected to the Internet users every day: an email
client. Most users don't use SSH or (don't realize they are using)
Apache every day. Can we provide adequate help to all of them? Yes.
What we are trying to accomplish with this reorginization is to get
users pointed in the right direction faster, regardless of skill
level. Right now, the squirrelmail.org site is so scattered that even
a user who comes in looking for specific help channels may not find
it, and give up and email developers directly. That does not solve
the users problem, and it aggrevates developers because we know that 5
lines below where they found our email address, they would have found
the correct help channel. This is one of the reasons I believe there
needs to be a separate "support" link and it needs to be really damn
near the top of the page so that it cannot be missed. The faster a
user can get pointed in the right direction for answers, the faster
they will get an answer and move on with their life.