Steve Borsch, whose blog Connecting the Dots is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of collaboration and technology, writes about the problems he encountered recently when attempting to use an Open Source tool to conduct a survey. Steve is a very smart guy, far more adept than me at twisting the wires together (or connecting the dots for that matter) and yet he ended up going with a commercial, hosted solution after hitting a brick wall with the OSS tool. What really resonated with me is his assessment of the current state of affairs for those of us who have some skills but are definitely not technical (or patient) enough to invest excessive time in making OSS tools work when a viable and affordable commercial alternative exists:
Unfortunately, there seems to be an expectation in the open source community that only propellerheads are willing to install and use packages and climb the learning curves to figure them out and workaround the unfinished or buggy pieces. Sometimes guys like me -- with only small propellers on their beanies -- want to take advantage of what's available without getting under the hood and wrenching on the engine when you just want to drive over to the store for a gallon of milk.
Right now, there are about 15 packages I'm interested in using and recommending to colleagues and clients but find that there is little support available, a dearth of talent to implement them for clients and deploy them, and do-it-yourself installation and deployment is, well, challenging.
Well stated. This resonates with me and describes my experiences to a T. In the finaly analysis, it's often a better business decision to pay up front in dollars rather than later in the project in lost time and opportunity.