[ubuntu-uk] getting help - UK List

London School of Puppetry lspinfo at gmail.com
Tue Jan 30 10:52:26 GMT 2007

On 30/01/07, Nicholas Butler <nik at reducedhackers.com> wrote:
> Adding my tuppence plus vat to this conversation.
> Should there be a list ?
> I think a list somewhere on the wiki and related to the already
> established LUG list ( https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UKTeam/UKLugMembers )
> which details people who are willing to be contacted to provide help and
> assistance on a financial basis is an accetable and readily implemented
> idea. The marketplace ( http://www.ubuntu.com/support/marketplace )
> whilst in a similar vein is most likely perused on a Business seeking
> another business requirement ( b2b anybody ? ). However there have been
> much discussion on various topics and I hope you can bear with me whilst
> I throw in my own thoughts and advice on this topic.
> Charging
> Its not unusual to expect to recompence a person for their contribution
> to your predicament. If you dont currently run and operate a lmited
> company or sole trader company your probably unfamiliar with issues
> relating to income tax and VAT. Keeping this very simple assuming you
> dont go out and form a company to tradethen your can expect any income
> your recieve to be counted towards your own personal taxable income.
> Theres quite a bit of income you can earn before your tax code will be
> changed to a higher bracket and its safe to say that if your earning 25k
> a year then earning a income upto 10k is not going to push you over
> those tax limits. You will however have to pay tax on the income you
> make but its not hard to sort out and many accountants and bookkeepers
> out there charge very little for working this stuff out for you. Dont be
> put off though and dont worry about being paid. Placing a value on the
> work you do ensures that the recipient will recognise the value of the
> work received and will take you more seriously. Now if you start heading
> into payment in kind or bartering you should be aware that this is
> potentially a capital gain and you may be expected to pay the tax
> appropriate to the benefit you received. So if you get a bottle of wine
> once a year its no problem but if you get 12 bottles of wine a week then
> you should declare it.
> Expectations
> Having begun to provide answers and advice to members of the public or
> private businesses its important to recognise that you are responsible
> for controlling how your clients expect to interact and receive support.
> There are at this point many attitudes that insist the customer will
> always be right and that service is king. If your worried that people
> will expect to be able to get an answer from you at the drop of a hat
> and come running at a phone call then your not managing their
> expectations and you are being lead by demand and not in control of your
> business or your delivery of service. Its more important to be able to
> say No and say no in order to ensure that people understand what you can
> provide and how you deliver it. Its also important to understand that
> you just wont be able to make every customer deleriously  happy. Good
> customers  and good clients are based on good working relationships and
> understanding and if you dont feel this is something you can cultivate
> and you expect to make everyone happy all the time then your going to be
> making a job for yourself and not providing a better service. The
> reasonable answer here is to provide clear communication about what you
> can do, what your willing to do and what you feel needs to be done. If
> you end up with a shouter/screamer or legally sword waving customer then
> you need to realise that this will happen but make sure youve
> communicated as clearly as possible and if you feel threatened or
> harrassed explain that you wont be dealing with that person on that
> basis. You are a human being with rights and privileges of your own.
> Liability
> Do anything for anyone and even if you dont accept payment for it there
> is a chance you will be liable for something that screws up. This is
> risk and a part of adult life and if you dont feel that this is
> something you are willing to deal with then avoid becoming  invovled.
> Public Liablility insurance is actually very cheap however the instances
> that it can pay out are very limited. The key to avoiding this is to
> ensure that you follow a clear procedure and show due dilligence in the
> work you do. Hardware and software can fail so always being clear as to
> what you expect and what may occur are again pointers to clear
> communication and conflict resolution. Ive broken printers, hardrives
> and monitors in the past, it happens, these things can just fail and die
> when they are in your care. Where I can show that its a failure of the
> part then the client/customer/friend accepts a replacement will have to
> be paid for. Where  ( in the case of a printer assembly ) I have broken
> a part accidentally I have immediately arranged a replacement and a
> repair without quibble. Again its down to good communication and clear
> expectations.
> Support
> The guys who are already out there supporting windows users are at a
> disadvantage to us Open Source people. They have no access or
> involvement with the core operating system and application community ,
> developers or direction ( okay one or two might but as a whole the large
> majority just dont ) . We on the other hand are closer to the source and
> sharing the involvement with that community at a early stage is the key
> to involving new users. If your providing support then give the new user
> some pointers  to the community that surrounds them both physically and
> locally. Further for your own benefit make use of other local business
> networks and clubs such as the Federation of Small Business, Business
> Network International and local chambers of commerce. You dont need to
> be a high flying businessman to be involved just someone who cares about
> providing a service or an idea to those that want and need it. Further
> and this is my personal goal you want to make sure that the other IT
> support companies are aware locally that Linux and Open Source ,
> specifically Ubuntu , are being promoted and sought after.
> Advertising
> If your  going to drop leaflets through the doors of strangers then make
> sure that you do this excercise often and regulalry. Dominos have a very
> succesful marketing strategy which just consists of constantly telling
> you that they are there. You'll not want to stand out too much though
> since you want people looking for IT support to not discount talking to
> you on the basis that you are not windows. Mac people seek out mac
> people and |Windows people seek out windows so if you want to change a
> mind and an operating system you may need to first integrate yourself
> into their trust and understanding and then talk about a change. People
> who are looking for help and support will be reading  local press, local
> trade flyers and occasionally the Business card noteboard in the fish
> and chip shop and they are just looking for support  so list what our
> willing to offer and what sort of support is avialable.
> Value
> I charge £60.00 plus VAT for the work I do, theres a no fix no fee
> policy and I make all clients pay for hardware and software purchases
> upfront. I generally provide a written sales quotation for any work and
> hardware requested and I invoice the work as I go. I use Turbocash to
> run the books and I have a local accountant and tax adviser to manage
> the business and Ive been selfemployed for near on 8 years.I tend to
> find that if I dont charge for my work the clients take more advantage
> and have less respect for the opionions and the work I do. So bear in
> mind that people expect to pay and in reality people expect to pay good
> value for a good service. However I do offer once a week 1 hour of my
> time for free to anyone whom I have handed a Ubuntu CD to. I use this
> time to make sure they can get online and locate all the relevant
> support infrastructure of the community. Some have commented that I have
> an ulterior motive for doing this and my response is yes I do , I want
> more people using open source because it makes my pitch and my value
> easier to define to the next potential client. There is nothing wrong
> with being motivated to earn a living and gain respect for doing so ,
> but thats my motivation.
> Recognition
> Now heres the hard part. For some in the community my earning a living
> off of open source whilst not coding for doing documentation is wrong.
> For others though theres a little admiration for making changes to small
> and medium sized businesses in the understanding of what open source can
> do for a company. It is hard work and it is a risk and sometimes your
> just going to be shouted at and other times your going to be praised.  I
> do it because I believe that we must have choice and freedom to choose
> how and where our computers work. We as consumers should be able to move
> as easily between computers and platforms as we do from cars, phones,
> houses and banks and its hard to explain to joe user how this is
> important. I was awarded an Ubuntu membership on the basis of long term
> advocacy of open source and im proud to say that, that, was the honest
> and direct reason for my own involvement. I would encourage and support
> anyone else who was trying to do the same thing through whatever vehicle
> they can use to succefully and positively and respectfully endorse and
> promote open source software.
> Conclusion
> We should have a basic list of who and where can offer support and how
> as part of what we do in the UK and also as a way of helping to define
> generic support from direct application bugfix support. There is a need
> to increase availability of training in open source applications and we
> need to get more information back upstream to the developers about how
> the applications are being utilised and we need to keep getting things
> done long after the talking has subsided.
> Thanks for reading
> Nik

Dear Nik, I think  your long email covered all practical issues and also
covered the more sensitive philosophical areas such as charging. The
creative work being done on the design and making of OSS is fantastic. But
there is no doubt that with the spread and use of it amongst the general
public that support has to be available, and this support has to be paid
for. It does not prevent anyone in the 'expert' community deciding to give a
proportion of their charitably. I was interested to read that
one of the forum has installed Linux on 8 friends and family computers and
is also giving them support. I actually think that it is the 'community'
aspect of Linux I finf most appealing! But local villagers find it all very
suspicious as if a group of Travellers was about to invade.


> ubuntu-uk at lists.ubuntu.com
> https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-uk
> https://wiki.kubuntu.org/UKTeam/


London School of Puppetry
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