Dear OSS developers,
I wanted to write to say thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for the hours you put into your projects. Thank you for developing them and updating them. Thank you for keeping them free! And thank you for thinking up and creating the tools that make my job easier.
As a freelance writer, I cannot earn a living without having excellent tools: a working computer, pens and paper, internet access, image-editing abilities, and a word processor. The health of my business depends on how well these tools work for me as I complete my projects.
At the same time, I’m appalled by the cost associated with some of the options out there. Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Office Suite are both quite expensive, and I have a hard time justifying diverting my money to pay for those when my income is already squeezed as tightly as it is.
Instead, I have found that products created as openly as possible and provided for free have done wonders for my business. I’m speaking, most specifically of course, about OpenOffice.org, which, as you well know, has a writer program that more than allows me to accomplish all of my basic writing tasks.
I think one of the beautiful things about open source applications, like OpenOffice’s word processor, is that they integrate with other applications almost seamlessly. In the case of word processors, I can save a document that I’m working on in such a way as to allow someone with Microsoft Word to read and edit it just as easily. When I coordinate with my clients, I don’t have to jump through a lot of hoops in order to make the file a certain kind in order to help them read it or edit it. As someone who doesn’t quite know how computer programming works, I treat such compatibility like a miracle on earth!
Another open sourced application that I’ve found incredibly helpful for my freelancing business is GTD-free, an open sourced productivity application that basically helps me implement the ‘getting things done’ method of personal productivity management. When I freelance, I often juggle multiple projects, many of which have different deadlines and requirements. I need to have a great method of keeping all of it tracked in one place. I used to use a Moleskine notebook, but I found that the exercise of constantly writing down things was getting to be a task in and of itself. The switch to this application made my life so much easier.
Finally, I know I owe open source developers a lot, but if you have better suggestions regarding productivity apps, feel free to share your comments! I’ve been really happy so far with the tools I’m using, but I’m always looking for ways to improve.
Anyhow, these are some of the real world benefits for which the work you do is indirectly responsible! Thank you again.
Editor’s note: Donna’s letter is an excellent example of someone acting in the evangelising role. The evangelist is an important role within an open source community and is discussed, along with all the other community roles, in the OSS Watch briefing note ‘Roles in open source projects‘.