[OSGeo-Discuss] Open Technology Group, Inc. announces PostGIS & UMN MapServer Training

Arnulf Christl arnulf.christl at wheregroup.com
Fri Jan 18 07:58:28 EST 2008

Howard Butler wrote:
> On Jan 17, 2008, at 1:34 PM, Cameron Shorter wrote:
>> If you were to lead the development of this material and put it into 
>> the Open Source (with your name attached) this would give you extra 
>> credibility and marketing reach.
> Why?  Why must OTG put their hard earned training materials in the 
> public domain and give them away for free for "extra credibility"?  What 
> would then be the incentive for someone to pay $$$ to go to an intensive 
> training session?  

we have thoroughly analyzed this aspect over the past years and come to the conclusion that publishing course material openly is not detrimental to earning money. Quite the contrary it even helps us making more business. The added value is generated at several levels including both hard cash and marketing (find out details below). As active FOSSGIS software contributors we are happy to foster and promote the projects that we are involved with. In some cases (for example MapServer and PostGIS) this is the only way that we can give back our 2Ct contribution. 

To better understand the involved factors we have studied uses cases in detail. First we have grouped our clients into three distinct categories who *use* our course material, these are: 
* Experts
* Students
* Professionals

Then we have identified three distinct groups who *profit* from having course material released under an open and free license. These are: 
* Clients (~users, as categorized  above) 
* Creators (for example the WhereGroup or Chandler OTG who produce "Intellectual Property") 
* the FOSSGIS project and communities that are in the focus of the training material (here MapServer and PostGIS).

A multidimensional matrix would probably make this transparent but unfortunately I am too dumb to create it and will need to use words to explain the dependencies. 

1. Real Experts (hackers, nerds, freaks). They would never pay for our courses because they are too damn smart. They wont offer courses themselves (which would be detrimental to our business) because it would bore them to death. But they still profit from having access to material because it will speed up understanding the corresponding FOSSGIS project. This will make them choose this project one over another one because good developers are also lazy. This is good for the FOSSGIS project and community because those people listen to what those real experts have to say, recommend, etc. Hard to measure - but unquestionably there. 

2. Students. They will not be able to pay our rates anyway, so we do not loose anything if we give them the material for free. Quite the contrary, when those students leave school and come into a position where they have to decide where to go - who you'r gonna ask - Ghostbusters. This is a long term strategy that only market leaders can follow. Corporations 
Besides that students can potentially also enhance the course material, keep it up to date, etc. But only if it is available under a FOSS license, etc. This currently does not happen because universities and educational personnel are still in the late sixties wrt their knowledge about Open Source but so what. We have to be patient. Eventually the old farts who don't get it will be replaced by those that we have helped educate with our freely available course material and Bingo! 
If you lock your training material away and treat it as "Intellectual Property" you will be the only idiot who invests keeping it up to date. Why not exploit those who are prepared to give (FOSS4G 08, Keynote by Damian Conway)?

3. Professionals: Those are the ones that pay us money. They have a problem on their hand, a budget to solve it and limited time. These are the ones we love, we live off them. They would never bother to try and learn by themselves with freely available material because they have the resources to do it professionally and get somebody to explain it to them. They don't have the time to learn it by themselves. If they don't have the budget, they are not interesting to us anyway. 

All folks from these three groups will see who created the course material and will memorize them as the experts on the topic. The GNU FDL license has a clause where invariant sections can be defined, typically this could be the front page and back cover, there you can find the authors, company logo and web site links or the creators' individual address, contacts. Link to the repository where the document is maintained, mailing list or whatever you want to advertise as important for this publication. 

Therefore our competitors who offer the same training courses with our material (Outrageous! My "Property") always advertise us as the real real experts. Who're you gonna ask if you really wanna know? 

Lastly - and so important that I cannot stress this enough - obviously the Software Project is going to profit. Because the largest open gash in FOSS' outward image is missing, rotten and wrong documentation and training materials. If you miss that people don't want you and go elsewhere. This is why EduCom is so important to OSGeo (intellectual cross post).

My usual rate for this kind of consultancy is €145,- per hour plus taxes. Writing this mail took me one hour (finding out the detail took a little while longer though). From an OSGeo perspective all this amounts to just a little more than 1€Ct because the greenback unfortunately is so bad these days... This is frustrating and makes one wonder why to produce anything for free. 

I probably missed some things and got others wrong because I am just a professional and not an expert. If you are an expert and know which parts I got wrong, please let me know - then I can also profit from this discussion. If it gets us anywhere we could also add this to the Wiki.

> IMO, what OTG is doing is a very classical business 
> model of Open Source development.  Publishers like O'Reilly, Apress, 
> Springer or our own FOSS4G event workshops (did you know FOSS4G cleared 
> 100k this year? ;) ) follow this exact model.
> The fact that OTG sees an opportunity to do this and has put forth 
> effort in developing materials is a signal there's a market there and it 
> is an indirect measurement of those projects' success -- not a failure 
> of the projects' documentation efforts.  Not everyone has the time to go 
> learn all of this stuff on their own or the ability to travel to FOSS4G 
> and hope one of the workshops covers what they need.  I applaud OTG for 
> developing a curriculum and providing training services to serve this 
> market, and I think the osgeo-discuss is a perfect place for an 
> announcement like this.
> Howard

Does this mean that all businesses providing this kind of service should now spam this list with their latest announcements? Maybe we can add an announcement feature to the SPD which appears in the news section for a few days? I just added a link to the EPR project OpenBravo (little content but looks professional) as a new reference site of how the SPD can be integrated into OSGeo's portal pages:

Best regards, 

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