I've just had another very poor licensing experience with independent software. It's encouraged me to share some general guidelines on how to license open source software.
Winning megaprojects with low initial bids and then turning a $20 million project into a billion dollar con of the client appears to be an artform at IBM. Governments all over the world have suffered, tax payers have paid for senior IBM bonuses. Ordinary citizens have gone six months or more without their paycheques.
This behaviour appears to be IBM policy and not an accident. This very grave situation cries out for a deep investigative long form feature. Together the governments of Canada and Australia and Pennsylvania (just the ones I've found so far) likely have a case of deliberately malicious business practices.
Apparently IBM has made USD $780 million building a payroll system for the Canadian Government which does not work.
Potential Savings on Payroll
The idea was to save money by eliminating jobs. Canada has about 260,000 public servants. Over 1200 people were working on payroll (accountants, bookkeepers and managers mainly with some IT guys thrown in to make it work). This is about half of one percent on payroll. Payroll is about one third the cost of accounting in our company. I'm unable to bring our accounting costs much below 3% of turnover on a sub-million dollar turnover despite strong efforts and automated software like Freshbooks.
Many of you may know that Foliovision began as a client service agency and not a software company. Our first big service was migration from Typepad to WordPress. We were literally doing dozens of migrations a month at one point. Project management in bulk was essential to the premium client experience we wishes to offer.
We started with Basecamp but eventually outgrew it (there's a long post about our Basecamp to Teamwork migration) and moved to Teamwork (back then TeamworkPM). Teamwork Projects at the time had a much worse design than Basecamp (latest version looks pretty good and even allows CSS customisation) but lots more tools (recurring tasks was a big one for us) at the time. As happy as the upgrade in features made us at the time, there was still one key feature missing. Later we called this feature Observer Status.
Our main project management tool is Teamwork as you may know. Teamwork is a great tool with all kinds of advanced functionality. Alas often the basics don't work. In this case Message subscription management.
I've written to TeamworkPM about five or six times about their incompetent management of message subscriptions. In the bad old days (pre-thrashing by Foliovision), TeamworkPM tried to make everyone subscribe to every message. It was hell. Clients emailed our entire team (up to 35 people at a time) for the smallest issue. We couldn't get any work done.
This review is very positive about Freshdesk. But if you are planning to use Freshdesk in conjunction with a forum (bbPress in our case, fully integrated with WordPress),
you should be very aware of a huge limitation in Freshdesk: it doesn't respect the Reply-To address. Helpscout is no better.
Update 1 December 2013: Freshdesk has fixed the Reply-To Address and we've been able to fix our incoming forms to use reply-to, making our work a lot easier.
Update 25 April 2014: I've recently reviewed Freshdesk's new Freshfone feature, including extensively testing Freshfone call quality.
As many of you know, we've moved from selling just services to also selling product (FV Flowplayer, the most feature rich and intuitive HTML 5 video player for WordPress). For services, every clients gets his or her own TeamworkPM project with messages, task lists, milestones. But that kind of overkill doesn't make sense for purchased product where many people won't need support and many people will just need one or two requests answered.
Part of preparing support was improving our very active forums. But in addition to the forums for free support, with a paid product we needed an efficient help desk solution. We didn't want our customers to feel that they were in a help desk: the personal feel is very important to us. Support should be as easy as email.
When WPMU mailed us their glowing review of Help Scout we thought this is just what we needed.
When we first got our hands on Help Scout we thought it was great. Multiple shared mailboxes with internal notes.
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Lots of our big clients woke up to a nasty surprise on Friday 21 September: Zero subscribers in Feedburner.
I've never been that great a fan of Feedburner. It's a largely unnecessary external service. But it's free and clients often come to us with Feedburner already implemented. Who are Foliovision to argue with them about a free service which usually works.
Why don't I like external services and especially free services?
- there's usually no customer support (Feedburner check)
- there are no service guarantees (Feedburner check)
- there are no promises for future service (Feedburner check)
- there is no one to appeal to: managers hide (Feedburner check)
- usually you are on a URL you don't control (Feedburner check)
I learned the hard way with four services: