LinkedIn, Vendors, and Open Source

This week I had a great conversation on LinkedIn. Here’s the question that got asked:

What’s the best toolkit or set of tools for use by a team of content creators to automate the process of getting content from differing sources and file types (text docs, media, graphics) online?

My next post will address the question itself, but the experience of answering questions on LinkedIn has been interesting — and a lot of fun. This particular question generated a lot of conversation that was stimulating to everyone involved.

For now, I want to talk about what I’m finding on LinkedIn.

As you might expect, there were a lot of opinions and a lot of suggestions. But there are always two things that surprise me when people answer questions on LinkedIn:

  1. Almost no one asks the question asker questions to find out exactly what their situation is. Context is meaningful to vendors. It’s just as important to find out when you don’t fit as when you do.  On LinkedIn, you always get vendors saying, “Try mine!” with no qualification whatsoever. How can a question asker know if the product being suggested applies to them at all when a vendor doesn’t take the time to ask about their business, their goals, or their requirements?
  2. The impression that “open source” solutions are free. Open source is not as free as it sounds. You’re responsible for independently validating the products you’re stringing together when it’s time to upgrade (any one of them). You’ve got to build the tools to join systems together (if you do it the wrong way, it’ll be harder to upgrade than you think). You’re at the mercy of other people to implement that one feature that you really need (unless your company is sponsoring someone as a developer on that open source project — which nearly no one does).It often requires a software developer in house who can manage the open source products you’re using. Luckily, these guys can typically be found in your IT department and they’re really, really good at what they do. These guys are a shining light in the darkness, but all of these other costs need to be factored in before you just jump in.

Here’s the way professionals buy a tool.