An Open Letter to Rod Montgomery:
One of the more disappointing moments for a teacher1 has got to be reading over test papers only to discover that some of your students missed the whole point of what you thought was one of your very best lectures. As someone who practiced law for many years on both sides of the fence, we observed first hand that how folks say something is often just as important as what they say. And, of course, in the blogosphere, we don’t give tests. Thus, judging results is often difficult. We also appreciate that when you don’t know someone personally, it’s often difficult to measure whether something is being said seriously or merely reflects the writer’s unique sense of humor. We all have our quirks, don’t we? But, when the Product Manager of Digium®, The Asterisk® Company, posts a tweet like this, it gives us pause to reflect on how we can (again) improve our communication skills:
@roderickm: Give a man a fish & he’ll berate you on his blog for not cooking it & serving him a full 7-course meal. #hatersgonnahate
First and foremost, we don’t hate Digium! In fact, with the exception of deviled eggs, we don’t hate much of anything. As for Asterisk, we’ve spent the better part of the last decade writing and learning about it along with most of our readers. We like it a lot! It’s a platform that has provided an enormous opportunity in technology for the have-not’s of the world. Millions of people in third world countries wouldn’t have much in the way of communications if it weren’t for Asterisk. I recall a discussion with my friend, Joe Roper, about his early work in South America interconnecting villages with wireless meshed networks. These people had no communications until Asterisk came along. And we have written about the important role that Asterisk can play in helping countries quickly recover from terrible disasters such has earthquakes and hurricanes.2 And then, of course, there are the rest of us who have used Asterisk to reach plateaus that never were possible at any price with proprietary PBXs. So, no, we don’t hate Digium. Nor do we begrudge Digium’s success in any way. We got into Asterisk development to give something back to those that haven’t been as fortunate as some of the rest of us. It’s not missionary work, but it’s the least we could do in appreciation for all that we have. And we’re happy doing it!
To suggest that interest in Asterisk is growing would be an understatement. Take a look at the 2010 readership for Nerd Vittles which received over a Billion hits for the year. And we’re now seeing over two million visits a year from well over a half million unique visitors representing almost every country on Earth.
Readership of Nerd Vittles in 2011 is up by a whopping 40 per cent from 2010! Some have suggested that it’s one of the best advertising bargains on the web. My wife brags to our friends that our income has doubled and that I’m now working for 10¢ an hour instead of the 5¢ we got during the last five years. You may think I’m overpaid, and you may be right. Just don’t tell my wife.
Part of the reason we created Nerd Vittles was because we wanted to record what we had learned so we could find it when we needed to use it again. But writing a technical blog is a lot of work and needs a certain mix of technical information and entertainment value lest everyone be put to sleep. We also plead guilty to being drawn to hyperbole from time to time to make a point. So we want to apologize to the Digium folks that were offended by our references to leather chairs and the beautiful building. YOU DESERVE EVERY CHAIR AND A MUCH BIGGER BUILDING FOR WHAT YOU’VE PROVIDED FOR FREE TO THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY!
What’s particularly disappointing is our hyperbole got in the way of what we see as a very real issue for the Asterisk development community. To further address your tweet, we went back through nearly 500 articles on Asterisk that we’ve published on Nerd Vittles.3 On only 4 occasions have we been even arguably critical of Asterisk development. Every one has earned us a personal attack by the way. The first two involved what we believed were design mistakes in Asterisk 1.6: text-to-speech applications were all broken and dialplan syntax was changed from a vertical bar to a comma which broke almost every Asterisk 1.2 and 1.4 dialplan that already had been written. When Asterisk 1.8 rolled out, guess what? Text-to-speech apps were fixed within days by Darren Sessions (now with Digium). And there were no dialplan syntax changes. Bravo!
The last two articles weren’t so much a criticism of Asterisk development as a couple of constructive suggestions (we thought) for future development, i.e. recommendations that Digium test new Asterisk code internally before releasing it to the public: eating your own dog food and regression testing. The comments accompanying both of those articles are much more persuasive in making the case for implementation of a testing methodology than the Nerd Vittles articles themselves. And we would encourage everyone to read them for some interesting historical insight if for nothing else.
So, the short answer, Rod, is that we’ve never asked anyone to cook our fish for us. Indeed, we’ve invested the better part of 3 decades showing others how to “cook fish.” That includes dozens and dozens of Asterisk applications that were provided to the Asterisk community at no cost over the last ten years. They’ve been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of Asterisk users from almost every country in the world. So we, too, have done our fair share of serving up 7-course meals.4
As for eating one’s own dog food, that wasn’t intended as a slam at all. It is a well-recognized testing methodology that has been employed by almost all of the major technology companies for decades: Novell, Microsoft, Google, Sun, Apple, and on, and on. The real beauty of Asterisk is that companies don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water to take advantage of all the wonderful features that Asterisk brings to the table. We have commercial customers, for example, that use Asterisk side by side with their existing commercial PBXs. Digium could do much the same thing without any impact on their existing Switchvox® implementation at Digium’s headquarters. For example, by adding an Incredible PBX with Asterisk 1.8 to the existing network, anyone throughout Digium then could take advantage of the many Asterisk applications plus free Google Voice calling that don’t work with Switchvox. And the integration would be transparent with users simply dialing a call prefix to route calls out through the latest open source Asterisk build. Just to reiterate, almost none of the Incredible PBX feature set is available with Switchvox! Nor would it get in the way of Digium’s day-to-day operation. At the same time, it would provide helpful feedback to the Asterisk developers on whether something got inadvertently broken in a new release. Nerd Vittles would be happy to donate one of our little servers and assist with deployment if that would be helpful. As for regression testing, efforts already are underway thanks to the work of Paul Belanger at Digium. Others can join in as well. Just pay them a visit on IRC: #asterisk-testing at irc.freenode.net.
In conclusion, we’ve invested about as many hours in making Asterisk better as anyone else on the planet. If we offer suggestions, they are meant to be constructive. Ignore the hyperbole. We love all of the wonderful things that Asterisk and the Asterisk development community have made possible in the communications world, and we’re glad to be a part of it. Let’s put aside the personal attacks and discuss the merits of improving the testing methodology for the benefit of everyone in our Asterisk community. Happy Father’s Day to all.
Astricon 2011. Astricon 2011 will be in the Denver area beginning Tuesday, October 25, through Thursday, October 27. We hope to see many of you there. Be sure to mention you’d like a free PIAF thumb drive. We hope to have a bunch of them to pass out to our loyal supporters. Nerd Vittles readers also can save 15% on your registration by using this coupon code. Register by July 10 to save an additional $170.
Continue reading The Final Chapter…
Originally published: Sunday, June 19, 2011
Farewell to a Friend. We wanted to express our disappointment with the termination of the Michigan Telephone Blog which has been one of the better Asterisk and VoIP blogs for the last several years. While we aren’t privy to the circumstances that led to the closing, we wanted to express our gratitude to the author for his many thought-provoking articles. We’ll miss your expertise!
Great News: Nicolás Gudiño’s terrific Asternic CDR Reports now are included in every new Incredible PBX build. And they also are available at no cost for use in any FreePBX-based Asterisk system. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial to get you started.
Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.
whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.
Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors
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Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…
- FULL DISCLOSURE: I actually taught courses for the Institute for Court Management in the Colorado mountains for many years, mostly because I liked the Colorado mountains. At the end of every session, the students were asked to rate the teacher on a scale of 1 to 5. Invariably, I received fairy respectable ratings, but there always was one student (and occasionally two) that awarded me the “1” grade. I attributed this to a famous quote from one of my early commanders during my short-lived military career (I was drafted during the Vietnam War if you remember that long ago): “Ward. There’s just something about you that pisses some people off.” So, thank you, Colonel. I’ve come to accept that as my cross to bear in life. If you happen to be one of those poor souls who is offended by my commentary, you have my deepest apologies in advance. Of course, you also have the option of not continually subjecting yourself to these diatribes. But we’d miss you! Disagreements are part of what makes the world go ’round… in our humble opinion, of course. [↩]
- See this recent article for additional examples in Bukuuku, Uganda, in Haiti, and on the Island of Niue. [↩]
- You can review the last hundred articles published on Nerd Vittles at this link. [↩]
- To put it in historical perspective, many of Digium’s staff including its founder were barely out of diapers when we introduced our first shareware application, WAMPUM. And then there was Zephyr, and dLite, and Badge-O-Matic, and… [↩]