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Re: AYT? Support network, anyone up to?


Apologies in advance for any issues which may be tiresome, but I do want
to discuss some of this . . .

> The trouble-ticket thing that Bruce announced he was going to organize,
> and now the co-op idea I'm pursuing, are attempts to link a bunch of
> individual consultants into something more cohesive and global (which
> would really help in dividing the work more along skill lines).  That's
> something completely different.

Agreed, but I must reintroduce the idea from a few postings ago that
we need a scale (and I guess, a test or certification process) to help
define those skill lines.  Unfortunately, most of my work with Linux
is in getting it to talk (nicely) with 4 or 5 other OS's already
in-house (Apollo Domain, for example).  This necessarily requires
an inherent knowledge of not only the Linux side, but of the OS you're
communicating with.  A brilliant Debian package maintainer who has
never dealt with MVS or VMS is not what I'm usually looking for.  But,
as we've pointed out, those w/ both are costlier, regardless of their
affinity to pony-tails and Birkenstocks or Dom Perignon and Faberge
cufflinks . . .

In my experience, the rate received and charged is tied directly to
the quality of the work received.  If the customer is overjoyed at
actually coming out of a project at or under budget and with all
the action items fulfilled, they don't mind the money it costs them.
I am estimating that a lot of work on the Linux side in the next
year or two will be Year 2000 work.  (Old nameservers running 0.99.x
and 1.2.13 on Slackware that haven't been rebooted since 1995 are 
suddenly being discovered by network management utilties and are
being noticed by IS managers across the world, for example.)  Unfortunately,
managing a Y2K project is not for the faint-of-heart, nor is it
easy to allay all the fears we mentioned before.  I think this ability
to run, understand, and execute these types of jobs are going to
prove critical, and it allows some of the larger, more Geek Inc.
firms to offer some advice to the independent consultants who may
not have as much experience with this sort of thing . . .  
We'll need to make allowances and recognitions for these sorts of issues.

> Silicon Valley is expensive, yes - but I think you'll find that rates
> for high-end technical work don't really vary that much all over the
> world.  A top tier Oracle consultant will make roughly the same amount
> working for a big company in Moscow as they would in Silicon Valley.
> Things just seem distorted because there are a lot more high-end
> Oracle consultants in Silicon Valley (including many who came from
> Moscow).

Around here they fluctuate somewhat.  But I take George's comment
on Savannah to heart . . .  The farther from technological centers
one is working, the more reluctant to adopt "competitive" rates the
client becomes.  One thing I would hope we would all strive to avoid
is losing business to less-qualified but cheaper firms and 
independents.  A good 15% of our business is rectifying problems
caused by these sorts of consultants.  It makes us all look bad.

> > become a sort of Getter Business Bureau?  Do we rate the consultants?

I think we should . . .  Sun, IBM, Digital, Siemens, Sequent, etc. all
have their certifications.  It would be well worth it for us to have
ours as well (and eventually, the co-op could even make some money for
itself off the certification process and by teaching classes geared
to debian support).  Yes, we offer training . . .  Can you tell? ;-)

> For starters, I think we should start out with a small group of people
> that we can get to know.  That's fairly important.
> I already have a feel for some of the people, since they are Debian
> maintainers.  We'll collect alot of information such as resumes and
> references - to assist in marketing, and also to distribute to the
> other consultants.
> Each consultant in the co-op is basically independent - we're mostly
> sharing marketing.  Whom you choose to subcontract work to is entirely
> up to you.  Hopefully there will be enough work that you can try
> working with several of the other consultants, and you will be able to
> develop trust relationships.
> I guess the main reason I'm interested in this is so I can develop new
> working relationships with new people.  That way, I can take part in
> doing bigger, better jobs.  Otherwise there is no reason to do it.  As
> an independent in a small town, I'm somewhat isolated.

I like this plan, but I am not sure how this is supposed to work.
While maintaining a relationship with Professional Services organizations
is important, I am not sure, in the beginning, exactly how this
marketing setup is going to work.  And one thing I just realized,
concerns hiring.  We all know how competitive the market is right now
(there are 32,000 open technical positions in my area for example), and
I know how ProfServices agencies trade employees like trading cards.  I
think that there should be some protections for employees of organizations
which choose to participate.  It may sound selfish, but I think it's 
important that business partners (which is what this co-op sounds like
to me) are cordial.  I am not ready to compete with anyone for Debian
yet.  It's bad for Debian, bad for all the consultants, and ultimately,
bad for Linux.  I don't think any of us wants that.

> If somebody is really a bad apple - we can kick them out.  The co-op
> definitely won't be "open membership" (vs. the debian-consultants
> list)


> > Maybe we need some sort of feedback/rating system.  If the end customer
> > rates the consultant and the consultant rates the customer, we should be
> > able to spot a pattern of shoddy work and still allow for the
> > personality/culture conflict that is bound to happen once or twice.
> For the co-op idea, there will be a private mailing list and a private
> IRC network.  That should provide enough feedback amongst the consultants.

I still like the "official certification" idea.

> Personally, I can do a lot of high-end stuff - but there isn't a lot
> of that work flooding in my door since I moved to Penticton
> (Pop. 30,000) from Vancouver (Pop. 2,000,000).  Also, the high-end
> stuff tends to involve big commitments, which can be a drag.  I'd like
> to do a mix of high-end and low-end stuff, and find a natural balance.

I LOVE big commitments!!!  Send 'em this way!

> With the co-op, we will provide something of a solution - as a company
> will be able to hire 10-20 independents from the co-op (probably via
> one coordinator), but not have to build that working relationship.

Could we elaborate on coordinator?

> Eventually, some of these working relationships may become strong
> enough that some of the independent consultants may feel the urge to
> merge - and there will finally be a big firm with alot of Debian
> experience on hand.


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