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Open Source Expertise in Short Supply 346

whydoyouask writes "Information week has an article on the shortage of expertise for enterprise open source projects and it's ramifications for both enterprises and salaries for those possessed of these skill. While it is suspicious in it's timing and references to Ballmer's recent email it does point out some definite considerations that companies planning open source projects better account for. Those looking for marketable job skills might also take note."
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Open Source Expertise in Short Supply

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  • by wrinkledshirt ( 228541 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:06AM (#10784718) Homepage
    A dearth of OS specialists? I remember back when they were talking about a dearth of programmers in general.

    Went back to school and aced one of those year-long programming courses. Knowing that it would look like one of those garbage diplomas, I bolstered my resume with side-projects, including a search engine (powered by, coincidentally enough, on Open Source).

    When I graduated? No jobs available.

    It's okay. I like being an English teacher in Korea right now, but if that segue is amusing to read, it wasn't to live through.
    • Open source developers in short supply?

      How about open source developers in high demand?
    • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:15AM (#10785076)
      It's not what you know, it's who you know. I knew Jack Shiayte about Linux 2 years ago. Instead I studied Japanese, made friends in Japan, and got a job here working in an average paying IT company... who's lending me out to work in a research institute which has a supercomputer ranked 14th on the world listings. In a year or two, I should be able to get a job with a fairly sizable salary... mainly because of my ability to translate IT technical documents between languages. I only got that inital job because I knew somebody. It was only after that I began studying my butt off on Japanese, Cisco, Linux, and FreeBSD. If I were you, I'd study Korean, meet a few people in the Korean IT industry, and get yourself a job like I did.
    • by gcaseye6677 ( 694805 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:59AM (#10785247)
      Got to love how companies are always complaining about lack of experienced professionals, but then they try very hard to avoid actually giving someone experience. They've got to start somewhere, right?
      • Good point. Another problem seems to be that companies won't take people on who have something close to what they're looking for. A competent unix sysadmin should be able to work on linux, but an HR drone looking for keywords is going to file his CV in the big round folder.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "They've got to start somewhere, right?"

        Now you know why people don't like outsourcing. Everyone talks about we should be glad those "menial" jobs are gone, but those jobs were the "starting points", plus those aren't the only ones going bye, bye.
      • by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @07:31AM (#10786071)
        Not to mention that Linux really refers to the core of the OS, the rest is GNU software that is in common use on Unix systems.

        Many Unix solution providers won't have a hard time developing solutions for Linux. It has a lot more in common with Unix than Windows does.
      • While that is true to a certain extent, I have found that schools frequently do not provide the right kinds of training. When you go for a BS in CS, you generally come out with a broad range of skills, but not enough depth in any one area to be very useful in a real job. I'll never forget a fellow CS grad that asked me what an interrupt was. How the F did you graduate dude??? When I was going to school, C was only available as independant study (which I took) and you were told that "If you want a job in bu
        • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @09:24AM (#10786537)
          Back to business: you generally have a limited budget. While we have a couple interns, we still need skilled people NOW. We can't afford (from both a budget and time perspective) to train everyone in basic programming.

          Well, as the saying goes, if you think training is expensive, try ignorance. If you you can't afford to train people, you sure as hell can't afford to employ good people who already have those skills, which might explain this:

          System Administration is worse than programming. I just cant find anyone with decent "basic" skills, much less someone mid-level.

          I suspect the problem isn't games, Linux fans doing their own thing, or newbies playing with your system. It's far more likely to be that you simply aren't offering the market rate for someone good enough to do the job you want done. If you pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys. :-)

          See also my reply to the grandparent post [].

      • Ah, but They should have trained up all the staff first, so We can hire them. You know, Them, the ones who do all the low-paid monkey-work so we don't have to.

        The sad truth is that short-sighted corporate policy has frequently been:

        1. Grab new grads.
        2. Run them to breaking point for a couple of years, with
          1. long hours
          2. minimal back-up/support
          3. little or no training.
        3. Dump them when they get too expensive.
        4. Goto 1.

        With that sort of mindset, life is always going to come and kick you in the arse sooner or later

    • ...but the article is almost certainly referring to experienced developers, and a guy with a diploma or only a short course on I.T. wouldn't even get to interview for any positions at companies I worked for unless they had a shitload of experience. The minimum experience you need IMHO is at least 2 years of real world development on a similar project or related technology. Hell, even I have been on the pointy end of this business rule as I am presently trying to move my general finance sector experience int
  • Good Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:07AM (#10784719)
    But what we failed to realize is, when you do this type of process there's some added burden. You have to fall back on yourself as being the ultimate solution provider when things don't work.
    This is EXACTLY the reason the company I work for refuses to switch to Linux. It isn't so much that we don't have smart administrators that need technical support from the vendor, it is that admins NEED someone external to blame when the shit does hit the fan.
    • Blame? (Score:5, Informative)

      by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <chris.travers @ g m a i l . com> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:41AM (#10784912) Homepage Journal
      This is EXACTLY the reason the company I work for refuses to switch to Linux. It isn't so much that we don't have smart administrators that need technical support from the vendor, it is that admins NEED someone external to blame when the shit does hit the fan.

      Only if you go and install the latest stuff from Freshmeat. Most businesses use a supported commercial distribution (Mandrake, Red Hat, SuSE, etc.)

      My business uses completely open source software because we have the technical personnel to make it work. When something breaks I am usually the one who fixes it, and if I can't I escalate to the community. We run our entire infrastructure on open source software and have extremely high returns on investment in these areas. We have found it to be very viable.

      I used to work at Microsoft's Product Support Servicess. I can tell you that you are wrong if you feel the need to blame someone else. You can always blame someone else. I am not aware of any cases where Microsoft has been successfully sued for faults in their products, so maybe this is just a psychological need.....

      Really, the reason for calling MS isn't to blame them, it is to escalate to them in order to get some additional perspective you can use to solve your problem (if you are intelligent) or to have someone babysit you through a process you are not willing to otherwise do (if you are not). Blame usually doesn't come into it at all, IMO.

      Now, let me tell you about a time I needed technical support for an open source noncommercial product.

      I had just locked down my box and Qmail started locking up on incoming connections. After about 10 incoming pop3 connections, the next one would hang until the service was restarted. The logs didn't show anything.

      After doing my best to solve the problem (I was still somewhat new ot Qmail at the time), I sent an email to the list. Within about 15 minutes I got a reply asking me for more information. Within another 15 mintues, I got another email suggesting some diagnostics. It turned out the problem was that the log process would not handle an append-only logfile and so the log buffer would fill up and the process would lock. Unsetting the append-only attribute solved the problem. Total time to resolution after incident submitted: 30min. Total cost of support: $0. I could have paid for support, but I chose to have the community help me instead. Had it been more time critical (actually a system in production) I probably would have paid someone for their opinion.

      PostgreSQL, Asterisk, and Samba also have extremely helpful communities, IME. If course not all OSS is this helpful. But the most common projects are.

      My business (which supports much of this software) is at []

      • Re:Blame? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @04:04AM (#10785480)
        You're absolutely right!

        I am the UNIX systems administrator in my company - we have a wide range of UNIXes, midframes and mainframes that we develop on, and we of course have problems from time to time. My first source for support is always what is available on the internet, next level is a relevant community.

        Only in very special situations will I use the technical support that we pay for, for several reasons; the most important being that a consultant simply isn't in as good a position to solve the problem as I am, having worked with and thought about it for so much longer. In the recent 4 years I have had external support on site 3 or 4 times: once because one RS/6000 had been damaged in a thunderstorm, another time because we needed to upgrade the some firmware on an HP9000 - the latter isn't difficult, but I thought it would be better to let an external company handle it, the reason being that if I screwed up, my company would face the bill, but if an external consultant screws up, it not my company. Sometimes you have to be devious.
      • Re:Blame? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tezza ( 539307 )
        I agree with einhverfr for the big monolithic packages aimed at the datacentre.

        But there are reams and reams of intermediate projects that don't have the critical mass for this type of support.

        For instance, a widely used package, which I'm using right now is dom4j []. If you look at the News section [at date of this article] you can still see that there are a LOT of bugs being fixed here. This is in a project that is several years old, dealing with XML parsing. XML started being used seriously from 1999.


    • by anon mouse-cow-aard ( 443646 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:10AM (#10785056) Journal
      The payoff is going to be dramatic, but it isn't going to be quick. In any big shop today, there will be a small army of unix/linux guys, and a much larger army of windows people. There's more windows out there, and they take more people to run anyways, so you always end up with more windows admins.

      If you're a shop with administrators with 20 years experience on windows, those folks are going to be quite cranky about moving to linux. Downright fearful, in fact. We had a few admins who were concerned enough that they considered retiring a little early rather than having to face upgrading from windows NT 4.0 to XP. Their job is to know exactly what to do when a client comes to them, and their "knowledge" is hard-won by experience. It will take a few years for such people to retrain to the same level of expertise on linux. It's deeply different. For a large shop:

      • count on a migration period of about five years.
      • Train the admins, make them your friends.
      • Transition back-office stuff first, so that admins cut their teeth away from users prying eyes.
      • For the desktops, try an easy one first, like firefox. Let simmer for a year or two.
      • wean people slowly off of desktop apps, with more and more web applications, making sure they work with firefox.
      • Then try a bigger one: open office. This is the really big one. take it slow, careful, and thoroughly researched (like how to transition Joe's macro's etc...)
      • After that, users will barely notice when windows is swapped out and replaced. They'll already be used to firefox & openoffice. the linux thing won't be a big deal, especially if it's on KDE.

      That, as far as I can gather, is Munich's plan. It is an exceedingly rational one. The main point is that the first two or three years are going to be more expensive. You're going to be paying all the MS taxes and adding massive training costs for techs, and parallel deployments of linux boxes. It's got to be more expensive at first.

      You have to appreciate the complete mind warp we are asking windows people to do. After the admin's are onside (this is the really tough part.) They need to get comfortable (they've done some implementations, they don't look for D: anymore to install stuff from. They google for help, and don't think the only source of true knowledge is a vendor) And finally, they have to get attuned (When we need a new application, their first reaction is to check out & freshmeat, and spend some time evaluating open source before looking at commercial stuff.)

      This is seriously relearning how to think kind of stuff. It will take a few years to adjust to. Rolling out desktops has to be the last bit on the end, once all the techies are comfortable and attuned. Because when a client comes to them, they are the expert. The techies will feel really uncomfortable if they are not comfortable.

      So like the realistic plan is something like... training for a year, with some pilots, then another year doing some server stuff. That second year will drag into two. Third year you start handle the tougher apps (those without ready analogues), move the clients over to open office, and train the front-line user desk staff. (roll out desktops for the techies.) year four, you do the desktop rollout. I seriously believe that end users in large shops will not require much training at all. All the complications in linux arise from administration tasks: installing software, configuring services, network connections, driver support. All of this stuff is handled by techis in a big shop. So all that is left to users is navigating in the file browser, which, honestly, is not going the take much training.

      So in year five, most of your licensing costs drop to 0. Remote administration, for managing applications, configuration, and patches become much easier and simpler (cron + apt-get for debian stable users.), and viruses are something others worry about. So the ratio of admins to users will be able to increase, and you can re-task admins for other fun stuff.

    • by anon mouse-cow-aard ( 443646 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:31AM (#10785129) Journal
      it is that admins NEED someone external to blame when the shit does hit the fan.

      I see this idea all the time, and it is completely bogus. The admins are responsible for fixing the problem. Period. Are you going to empower them, or shackle them?

      When we call up MS with an Exchange problem, they want us to de-activate our virus scanner, because they don't support that. In real life, there is usually a whole mess of interoperating bunches of code: firewall exchange Anti-Virus OS app environment.
      No vendor will stand up and say, when you have an actual multi-vendor configuration, "this is my problem and I am going to fix it." The admin always has to prove absolutely that you are on a completely supported configuration (don't get me started on "compatibility matrices") and then run tests for each vendor, and figure out which one to sit on in any given situation.

      What you really need is in-house admins who understand how the software works, in order to pin down where the problem lies in order to know where to apply pressure.

      That whole analysis process is much more difficult on windows because it is much more obfuscated and complicated (layer after layer of compatibility, and unfathomable binaries) than linux (no binaries, can inspect everything, tend to have less depth and breadth in individual programs.)

      It is really hard to have good windows admins, not because their aren't a lot of smart people running windows, but because those smart people have nothing to work with to develop anything beyond the most rudimentary skills.

      If you run open source linux, (not canned binaries, and not applications built on ten layers of middleware) people who have the potential will grow skilled with time. but it is a long term thing. Skilled people are a long term investment.

      • Linux doesn't have binaries? AHHHHH***Kernel Panic trap 0x000

        Pretty much everyone who runs linux runs 'canned' binaries. Maybe you like to compile sed and fsck but I'll take the ones that come with the system. The availibility of the source code doesn't solve all problems. Sorry, you come off as not knowing what you're talking about.

        • Mandatory gentoo plug
        • Linux doesn't have binaries? AHHHHH***Kernel Panic trap 0x000

          Pretty much everyone who runs linux runs 'canned' binaries.

          Debian and all the RPM-based distros have source packages, so you can examine and read the exact code that you're running on your system. You can't do that (easily and/or inexpensively) with Windows, Irix, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, ...


        • It is not about doing it but about being able to make small fixes to the numerous relatively old (read: unsupported by vendor) programs in use in big companies. The main tools like Office and Windows are not the real problem but in every transition to a new OS (-Version) all the small tools used by a small percentage of people in the company with lots of data in unreadable propietary formats are the real difficult thing to transfer. When you use Open Source Tools for this you are able to adjust them to the
    • Re:Good Article (Score:3, Insightful)

      by metlin ( 258108 ) *
      And... how different is this from using, say, using a commercial vendor?

      Unless your product is something really niche for which there is no good Opensource equivalent, you really do have OSS alternatives. You're using Windows 2000 Enterprise Server and you run into a hitch - whom do you call? Microsoft. So, if you're worried about a similar situation, buy from a commercial vendor like RedHat. In case you run into a hitch, you can call them.

      Big deal. You get the same support for a cheaper price. Price is a
    • it is that admins NEED someone external to blame

      No, it's management that needs someone external to blame, especially if customers are impacted.

  • Load of Crap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:07AM (#10784720) Journal
    Any Organization that can't figure out there might be extra costs is retarded.
    And "developing technology" is not a phrase I would use to describe linux as far as servers go. I feel dumber.
    • I stopped reading when I ran into our old friend, SCO and M$ shill, Laura Didio [] quoted as an expert:

      Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio agrees. "There's a dearth of skilled Linux administrators, by comparison to the more-mature Windows, Unix, NetWare, and Macintosh environments," she says. And what happens when too much demand meets too little supply? "They can command a premium," DiDio says. "They get a 20% to 30% salary premium in the large metropolitan markets."

      Mature? Please. When you consider that o

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:10AM (#10784743) Homepage Journal
    In job postings, the employer's usually shotgunning keywords. They'll want Linux, Windows, 3 forms of UNIX, C programming, PHP, Apache, Perl, etc. I don't know what they're up to but I'm pretty sure it's usually no good. Either they're idiots and I don't want to work for them or they're up to some sort of Evil and I don't want to talk to them.

    If the real companies would actually advertize that they need open source people, they might be surprised at what they find.

    • Either they're idiots and I don't want to work for them or they're up to some sort of Evil and I don't want to talk to them.

      But wait! Don't order now, you're both right.

      And the biggest problem with evil idiots is that there's no way to plan for what they do, the havoc they cause even takes them by surprise, since it isn't at all the havoc they intended. About all you can do is watch the windshield getting closer, and closer, and closer. . .

      Worked there, done that, lost my T-shirt.

      Come my brothers in s
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:41AM (#10785167) Journal
      Here is how typical job ads look these days (curtesy group effort)

      1. Need a PhD, no MA, MBA, any Master's Degree, BS, BA, or any Bachelor's degree or AA or AS, or any Associate's Degree accepted.
      2. Must speak all languages human and computer.
      3. Must have a 4.0 GPA from grade school on.
      5. Applicant must have perfect attendance and never been late once in your life.
      6. Must be in excellent health.
      7. Must pass a background check, alcohol, and drug tests.
      8. Must pass the BAR exam, Perfect 1600 SAT score, Ace the GRE
      9. Must have an IQ of 160.
      10. Must possess perfect spelling and grammar. You can not do anything wrong.
      11. Professional attitude and dress is a must.
      12. Must graduate from a Top tier school(Ivy League).
      13. Must have 15 letters of excellent references.
      14. Write a 150 page pager on why do you want to work for us.
      15. Never quit a job, been terminated, or laid off before.
      16. Never a straight shooter attitude.
      17. Excellent interpersonal skills.
      18. Pass personality tests.
      19. Never use any curse words.
      20. Must have a perfect credit history(No late payments ever!!)
      21. Must be under 40, but have 41 years experience.

      You must attend 20 interviews, go to a panel interview, pay for parking, and buy everyone in the company lunch and snacks.
    • by CountBrass ( 590228 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @04:13AM (#10785508)

      That's because you don't understand job advert's.

      I've written job advert's (I'm a tecchie with 16+ years experience in assembler, c++, c and java; I also taught OO for a couple of years at Rational.) and generally I'm not looking for one person, and even if I am I'm probably not looking for one set of skills: often it's a case that I'd like someone with some combination of the listed skills plus at least some idea what the others are even if they aren't expert. Obviously there are some key skills: for example if I'm looking to recruit someone to work on a system written in Java running on Oracle then I'd probably advertise Java as a must-have, Oracle as pretty important: but I'd also consider someone with experience of another mainstream relational database: so they get listed as well. It's even possible I'd consider someone with no Java skills but a ton of Oracle: because I might be able to move other people around (for example I may currently have my top Java guy baby sitting the Oracle database: if I hire the Oracle expert my Java expert can go fulltime Java and I'm in the same position as if I'd hired another Java/Oracle hybrid). It's impossible to write an ad that defines all the combinations I'd consider: at least partly because until I see the CV I don't know whether I'd consider it. Newly minted CS graduates aside: most people applying for IT positions are unique in their combination of technical skills and personal attributes.

      Conversely: when I read a job listing I don't automatically skip over it if it asks for skills I don't have: for example I *know* what DSDM is but I am not expert in it: however I am an expert in RUP and I know that's similar enough to give me some credibility. What's the worse the advertiser can do? Not reply- frustrating but hardly life threatening. And at best they might consider me anyway because I have skills they didn't emphasise or didn't even occur to them as being important. (I know of jobs where they didn't even bother advertising for the skill they really wanted because: a- they didn't expect to find anyone with it and b- they didn't necessarily want to put people off if they weren't necessarily expert in that area).

    • I found it on Ad is for a "Systems Mgt Specialist" in Denver, CO - Just in case you want to apply. Please understand, these skills are the required minimums for one job.

      Skills Required:
      z VM(Expert)
      General PC(Expert)
      LAN/WAN TCP/IP(Expert)
      Tivoli Workload Scheduler(Expert)
      Tivoli System Automation(Expert)
      HMC for Mainframe(Expert)
      Tivoli Event Console(Expert)
      Linux(Go od)
      SUN Solaris(G
  • Isn't by definition, OSS happens to be more of a 'stratch an itch' concept rather than a 'how much money can we make from this' thing?
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:12AM (#10784756) Journal
    Face it, Open Source is not as well-staffed as we'd like. Sure, Linux experts abound (many of them right here on Slashdot) as do many Apache administrators. But beyond that, most users are on their own when it comes to looking for good help with Open Source products.

    There, again, did you see that word? Product. Open Source is mainly concerned with Projects, not Products. So while the person who initially opened the project on Sourceforge and the people who joined up early are all experts, those outside the main circle are not usually so well versed in the projects. Put a company behind the project, turn it into a product, and then you'll have a serious chance of getting "expertise".

    When a project is just a project, no one benefits from having many users sitting around bitching on the mailing list. But when someone is trying to sell that product, the company trying to make a buck benefits by having people out there who are experts in the product and can provide support to a whole range of customers.

    So yes, on the micro level some Open Source projects are well staffed with experts and companies can feel secure in their decision to go with that project because of the large pool of experts. But on the macro level, most Open Source projects are ill-funded, undocumented, and flat out bad.
    • I kept reading the article to figure out why they were concerned with open source expertise rather than Linux. (They found that UNIX people worked well. Umm, well, duh!) I think Open Source is their new buzzword, and they don't quite understand it yet (= clueless). I can't wait for the job listings that ask for "5 years or more Open Source experience". (Yup, all my Timex-Sinclair code is open source, sure thing!)
    • True, but only at a superficial level.

      There are commercial enterprises who're willing to take up most lucrative Opensource "projects" and package them into a complete "product".

      Except that PHBs can more easily accept that Windows is a product from Microsoft, rather than Linux is a product from RedHat.
    • If two students, who are writting an irc client in order to improve their programming skills, deside to use sourceforge as a repository (so they both can work on it) and put it under an free software license "just in case", they are part of "most" free software projects.

      But they are also utterly irrelevant to any business case. The only software projects that are relevant to business is that which has achieved a code base that is mature enough to be used. That includes basis software like Linux and FreeB
  • by jkitchel ( 615599 ) <> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:13AM (#10784763)

    Use your knowledge of open source and *nix to help your company PLAN for the switch over to open source. Help them realize what it takes. This is your chance to shine. Otherwise, they may freak out at the extra effort needed to get it off of the ground when they realize that it takes SKILLED admins instead of the run of the mill Microsoft admins.
    • OR you can play the cards alittle different. Make it seem like if your company don't deploy linux, they are missing out.

      I want to say the big linux advantage is to let people deploy at will. But let's face it, M$ is only pretending to care about piracy. So it's not really an advantage anymore.

    • One problem I notice is that a great many skilled OSS (well not OSS really, Linux would be better to say) admins have very poor people skills. They feel that it is their job to hole up in the server room and fiddle, not to help users. Sorry, but if you REALLY want your pet OS to take over your orginaziton, you have to support the users. Yes, that inculdes the really stupid support.

      We all hate it, no argument there. I can think of many things that I'd rather be doing and that would be better uses of my time
      • Most larger companies have helpdesks for helping users to keep the admins working on what they were hired for.
      • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @08:11AM (#10786207)
        There's some truth in what you're saying but I don't accept that it's just OSS admins that have poor people skills - I think it's a trait of many people in support roles, full stop.

        My own personal experience now amounts to some 20 years in tech support roles and I simply have no interest in entering management because I enjoy "playing" with the latest hardware and software. However, I don't consider that I'm doing my job correctly unless I am trying to make myself redundant by training others in what I know and passing on the knowledge I have freely. My attitude is that if everyone beneath me knows what I know, that frees me up to go learn about new things and always stay on top of the latest technologies.

        Unfortunately, a lot of people I've worked with in the past (and to a degree today) have a "jobsworth" attitude of hoarding information and never passing on what they know purely to protect their own jobs - it doesn't matter whether they support Linux, Windows or anything else...

        On top of all this, there has always been a huge chasm that separates tech support people from their managers and the rest of the organisation anyway, particularly sales people. I always take the attitude that I'm supporting our products not our customers because I'm trained in fault-finding hardware and software issues that are not usually specific to a specific customer. Therefore, when a salesman phones me and says "You need to work faster on your Acme Corp. fault because they are about to spend $2 million with us", I usually get very angry with that person because of his/her assumption that the speed and efficiency of my work is based upon what the customer spends with us.

        The fact is that being in tech support is never easy - you're always associated with being involved only when things go wrong, you do sometimes deal with dorks who only want to pass a problem on to you without staying involved and learning from your experience and you frequently deal with people who do not understand that sometimes you have to experiment and gather information (all of which is time consuming) when you get a problem nobody's seen before.

        Yes, I fantasize a lot about just turning somebody's system off or sticking a screwdriver into the micro-circuitry of their product but the reality of the situation is that I like my job and the fact it pays the mortgage.

  • Matchmaker? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:18AM (#10784791)
    There are a jillion online dating sites.

    There are a jillion online employment sites.

    Are there any sites that match FOSS projects with potential volunteers?

    For example, I'm a lawyer and I'm not doing anything this evening. I'm sure some FOSS project could use one....But I don't know which or where.

    • Re:Matchmaker? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:17AM (#10785083)
      I'm a lawyer and I'm not doing anything this evening. I'm sure some FOSS project could use one....But I don't know which or where.
      Try emailing and asking the EFF [mailto], check the FSF's "Take Action" page [] and see if any of the listed organizations need your help, and perhaps see if you could help out Groklaw [] -- maybe PJ could endorse you on her site so that people needing your help would notice.

      Or you could always start a "Free Software Lawyer Matching" site yourself -- just submit a Slashdot article about it and I'm sure you'll get lots of help.
    • Are there any sites that match FOSS projects with potential volunteers?


      I'm a lawyer

      SourceForge [] (SF) has been doing this for years. And SF lets its open source projects advertise for volunteers who want to work on non-technical matters (such as software documentation), too. So a project could advertise its need for a lawyer as well as, say, a PHP coder or DBA.

  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:18AM (#10784793) Journal
    as evidenced by slashdot comments
  • Hopelessly vague (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:19AM (#10784794)
    "open source experts" is rather vague.

    For one, they're conflating administration and software development - I should think the difficulties of finding and/or training the two kinds of people are of different orders of magnitude of difficulty. (And it's not like learning Linux administration requires an expensive outlay on proprietary software, which is a big hurdle for commercial products.)

    For another thing, as regards availability of open-source software developers, that's uselessly vague.

    Do the need people who are highly experienced with the internals of a specific open-source project?

    Or do they need people who are experienced with using a specific open-source system, for the development of their own projects?

    Somehow, I don't think they're hard up for people who know how to compile with gcc and edit text files with emacs.
    • Re:Hopelessly vague (Score:3, Interesting)

      by photon317 ( 208409 )
      Related, I don't think the line between administrator and developer should be considered as it usually is today. They should blur a good deal, especially in the open-sourcy world. The "right" stuff is kinda the same in both fields, it's really more a question of specialization. But I expect a good admin to be able to write decent software (and keep those skills somewhat honed during day to day administration by making sources fixes, writing little tools, etc...), and I expect a decent developer to be abl
    • I think you can even extend the number of posible categories further:

      • ...or do they perhaps mean people who are experts in Open Source project administration? Many companies look to Open Source their code from time-to-time, but managing the project to ensure its success in an internet-enabled distributed environment is different from administration in the corporate environment. If a company is looking to Open Source a product, they need a special kind of Open Source expert;
      • ...or do they perhaps mean p
  • .

    The article leads to a central value proposition of open source.

    With OSS the expertise required to accomplish X is always within reach by non-career-specialists because a competent software engineer can come up to speed quickly by studying the source code.

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErikZ ( 55491 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:25AM (#10784822)

    I've never seen such a blatant "hit-piece".

    Vague "Unexpected costs", admins are 30% more expensive, Linux training is 15% expensive than Windows training, undefined problems causing a company to go from tomcat to IBM websphere, hiring open source programmers is a gamble, you may get sued for using Open Source, open source is harder to support than you realize...

  • Open Source? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gtrubetskoy ( 734033 ) *
    Doesn't "Open Source Expertiese" prettuy much amount to thorough knowledge of Unix, C, TCP/IP, shell, and a scripting language of choice?
  • Translation (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:26AM (#10784828)

    shortage of people having experience in working for free

  • by Anonymous Coward
    asked for 'independent' polls to reach his conclusions. l es/mi_m0CGN/is _1999_Jan_18/ai_53594866

    "At the antitrust trial in Washington Thursday, Microsoft Corp's key economist witness, professor Richard Schmalensee was shown to have used survey information that had been paid for by Microsoft that reached conclusions requested by Bill Gates."

    This article smells exactly like that. Balmer makes some while claims using dubius 'independent' sources to back his statements up.
  • by madstork2000 ( 143169 ) * on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:29AM (#10784841) Homepage
    I am going to guess that there is a shortage of "enterprise" open-source people, that being people that big companies feel compelled to hire that have extra letters after their name and a slew of certifications, and the like.

    On of the advantages of open source is the community, is its "equal opportunity" nature. Plenty of academics but also plenty of self taught geeks. Anybody can sit down and do the work.
    The big shortage is proably in the middle management where those folks don't understand the benifits and the culture, and thus are reluctant to hire the kind of people that probably could
    Enterprise is reluctant to even consider hiring people without the right pedigree, but its the sefl taught hackers that make major contributions to the software, and the community.

    Businesses should stop being so set on worthless paper degrees, and look for people passionate about technology.

    Before deciding to work for myself, I worked at a company where if there was an IT opening the prefered method of filling the position was sending a lazy secretary (who usually sat around playing freecell) to CNE class or MSCE, etc.

    That company ended up with one sorry IT staff, I was a business analyst at the time, and ended up doing a lot of my departments IT because the most of the real IT group was so pathetic, and the guys there that were good techies, were so burdened cleaning up for and assisting the shitty people that they burnt ou quickly, thus re-enforcing the bad loop.

    Anyway, the moral of this story is I am sure there is a lot more to the shortage than the article implies. Able bodies most definately can be found, but the companies are not looking for the most talented people, but rather the people that fit their outdated requirements. In short actions and experience should speak much louder than words on a resume.

    • As it was in the begining so it is now. To date, I have seen one company who actually tried to have a clueful tech staff actually on the head hunter team. That lasted maybe 5 months. Then they all found their dream IT jobs by raiding the files.

      The problem has been there are good jobs but the bozos at the agency don't understand more then a few words of Jargon and even then they don't know the good from the bad. The last one that contacted me had mispellings in the req. I admit I am hopeful about this one.
  • by Foktip ( 736679 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:35AM (#10784872)
    there is an even greater shortage of expertise in closed source software!
  • Ever since that spam came out from Stevie boy my email has been getting a bunch of headhunter droids. What a pain in the arse. Well chock another one up to M$'s sins file.
  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:50AM (#10784952)

    First, there is a lack of skilled computer people in any category -- unix sysadmins, Microsoft sysadmins, DBAs, coders, website design, etc.

    In some categories (Microsoft sysadmins, website design) the lack of a clue is not immediately apparent to managers. In other fields (unix sysadmins) the lack of a clue tends to have immediate rammifications to management. [ Please note, I'm not trying to imply that MS admining is easier than unix admining -- IMNSHO, its harder, but that is another post. ]

    The other main problem is that I see many people who are knowledgeable about admining OSS, but don't have the papers to get past many HR departments. They don't have college degrees or certifications, yet are probably more knowledgeable than the average MCSE (we can thank transcender for that!) and the average technical college graduate.

    Finally, those who are knowledgable, and can survive the corporate HR hiring process tend to be expensive, CSS or OSS. You can find cheap MS sysadmins, but they tend not to be good sysadmins. However, due to the fact that MS tends to be nicer to those who set up flawed systems, it might not be obvious to management or the IT department that their workers are not as skilled as they should be.

    Combine this all, and businesses get the impression that skilled MS IT people are a dime a dozen, and OSS IT people are rare and expensive, even though the reality is that any skilled IT person tends to be rare and expensive.

    Just my $.02

    Feel free to follow up with horror stories about your coworkers who are management's darling, but couldn't tell a sparc from an alpha.

  • My wife recently co-sponsored a visit by North African businesswomen to Atlanta.

    To support her, I volunteered to give a talk about what could be accomplshed with Java, MySQL, OpenOffice, Apache, JBoss, Eclipse, etc. Initially the response was positive. In the end I was disinvited.

    Talking to my wife afterwards, she just commented that there was a lot of fear and confusion over oopen source software.

    What can I say? There's a lot of disinformation out there, I guess.
    • A business conference, and you rambled on about nerd stuff?
      You should know most people (women especially) don't want to hear all that crap because they find it boring since they don't understand it and probably just don't care.

      I go to Georia Tech, and my girlfriend is a managment major here. If I go beyond the term "webpage" she just rolls her eyes and calls me a nerd. sigh. ;)
  • by stevens ( 84346 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:57AM (#10785006) Homepage

    "Expertise in Short Supply"

    I've been trying to hire recently, and I can say that it's hard to find good people. Not good in a particular topic, just good thinkers.

    It's logical analysis and that's mostly missing. 99% of the applicants (to our java/perl shop) got into the business in 1999 after a quick nine-month certificate, and never learned how to program a computer. They don't love the art; they want a buck without having to think too much about it. They're not solving problems, they're "applying a skill," i.e., trying to slide through with old knowledge from courses.

    For every good programmer, there are four hundred useless ones with "5 years experience" because anyone could be a programmer in 1999. And from what I've heard from the win32 side of the fence at my company, it's even worse there.

    • "For every good programmer, there are four hundred useless ones"....

      The number isn't quite that high. In my 8 years experience it's somewhere around 10% that is able to master software development and engineering.

      One of the major issues I noted was that we expect new people to come in and "just do it." Perfectly. Very often, they don't have a clue on real engineering.

      The experience either comes from loads of years of study, or from mentors. If you're not mentoring the new guys then you're looking for t
    • by Piquan ( 49943 )
      Do not fall into the error of the artisan who boasts of twenty years experience in his craft while in fact he has had only one year of experience-- twenty times.
      -- Otake, Shibumi, p105. Trevanian
  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @01:57AM (#10785008)
    In my experience, it's really tough to find people who can work on any enterprise-level apps well.

    It's one thing to write a few VB apps when you can keep referring back to books or online manuals to show you the fine details of e.g. which fonts to use, but taking that level of VB knowledge and applying it to huge VB-based apps (yes, they exist!) is a leap that most people simply can't do. There's a point where you can't just focus on the minute details of your chunk of code; trying to adhere to project- or enterprise-wide coding and design standards is a really tough thing for many people.

    As an example, think of all the "professional coders" you know. Now think of how many of them would know about design patterns, and would either refer to the Gang of Four book when needed or have it memorised to the point where they don't need to. I'm betting less than 10% of "professional coders" (yes, I'm using this term loosely) actually know of the existence of design patterns, yet they're absolutely fundamental once you start working on projects over a certain size.

    Finally, I've found that really good coders are really good in just about any language (and project). A top C++ programmer will become a top Perl, VB, Eiffel, Ada, Python, COBOL(!!) programmer, given a bit of training on language features and documentation standards, as the same design patterns will work relatively independent of language syntax. I don't believe there's a shortage of enterprise FOSS people that's any greater than the shortage of enterprise closed source people; they're both in big demand.
    • A top C++ programmer will become a top Perl, VB, Eiffel, Ada, Python, COBOL(!!) programmer, given a bit of training on language features and documentation standards, as the same design patterns will work relatively independent of language syntax.

      CoBOL? Did you say CoBOL?

      I beg your pardon. Design patterns don't work with CoBOL.

      Well, maybe some of the new object CoBOLs, I haven't looked at them. Is anyone actually using those? I mean, it seems like moving from the old CoBOL to the object oriented Co

    • There is no patent on design patterns - people have come up with good designs even before that book, and will continue to do so.

      Maybe the article really means a shortage of people who can bullshit management with big words like "Gang of Four" and "Xtreme Programming", who can justify this way that the project took two months longer than required, thus tricking the PHB into doing sane software development.

      I also wouldn't be surprised if it worked as increasing job-security because you can re-do the project
  • Are you sure this is not a political ploy by cheap-foreign-labor lobbyists to declare a "labor shortage"?

    I have been peddling around for PHP projects with very little response. If there was truely a shortage, then companies would not be demanding 7 years of expertise in the language and a jillion certs just to be interviewed. And I bid low.

    There are just plain too damned many developers floating around that nobody wants. Somebody is too quick to declare "shortages", period!
    • Same thing happens in the UK. There's articles every other week saying "Big shortage in these skills! People with these skills in great demand!"

      The last few weeks, these skills in "shortage" have been "Linux/OSS skills".

      I would dearly like to meet some of these people who are surveyed and say there's a shortage, because I was laid off from supporting and administering a boatload of Linux servers in September and I've had all of 2 interviews.
  • I see very little demand for people who have a good understanding of the "open source revolution" (OSR) or who are smart. Look at the second paragraph of my resume:


    Recognize promising tools and methods long before most others. For example, have used Linux since 1997, Slashdot since 1998, Apache and MySQL since 2000, Tomcat since 2001, Debian since 2002, and OpenCMS since Jan. 2003. Highly proficient in finding and integrating open source tools and have excellent understanding of

    • I reckon anyone who fills a position based on choosing the candidate with the lowest slashdot id gets exactly what they deserve.

      Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is left as an exercise for the reader.
    • Some may think this is some kind of flamebait, but it's not. It's just good, practical advice from a hiring manager.

      Yes, I'm somewhat impressed on the geek level by your low /. userid. I'm a long time Linux user and have had a /. userid for about 5 years.

      However, a good reality check is needed, because I wouldn't hire you either. Why not? Read on.

      I'm a hiring manager in charge of an international (two offices, in in Canada and one in California) team. Our company runs its entire infrastructure on Lin
      • Thank you for taking the time to write such a lengthy and insightful reply. Your position as a hiring manager makes your perspective all the more valuable.

        When I modified my resume this summer (early July, IIRC) to insert the offending paragraph, I was well aware that it might have the effect (on readers) that you describe, but thought that I had almost nothing to lose given the lousy response that my resume was generating at that time. I also thought that it might be a good idea to experiment with resume

  • Looks like there's a lot of PVR type jobs on hotlinuxjobs. Commercially speaking, Linux is a new product; you simply can't find people with 3 years experience writing embedded software for Linux, and if you can, they WILL cost every bit they're worth, reguardless of nationality. Face it, you'll have to resort to training new grads. And probably a technical hiring staff to sift through the reams of paper it will take to find the qualified guys (I do like to think I'm a qualified guy).

    If you're looking for a
  • of open source. It's not that you don't need a vendor / supplier / consultants / body-shop to help you get your stuff transtitioned over and set up correctly. You still need that, because internal IT people are just too close to / busy with mundane user needs to be kick-ass developers fixing obscure bugs in applications. Wietse Venema is probably not going to be worth keeping on staff at PayPal, and let's not even talk about the, uh, *indirect costs* of trying to hire djb :).

    The value proposition comes fro
  • nt (Score:2, Funny)

    by rawb ( 529039 )
    this newest article on the front page
    says OS development isn't quite all the rage...
    i mean people love it, but experts are in short supply
    for the free OS programs you don't need to buy
    now this lack of experts
    should start ringing bells
    in the ears of those corps
    who might lose business to dells

    I say OS is great and OS is grand,
    but in order to become the way of the land
    you must fight, you must train,
    craft experts all your own
    fuck this college nonsense,
    throw a student a bone
    train the
  • 1. Write an article, noting that you don't have enough of 'em scruffy free software hippies, post article to /.
    2. Get flooded with zillions of job application letters, choose cheapest turd, fire bunch of old Unix admins
    3. Profit!

    Wait a sec...
  • FUD vs. Reality (Score:5, Informative)

    by smoon ( 16873 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @06:01AM (#10785822) Homepage
    FUD: "Open source isn't supported well, or costs more to support"

    Reality: "Open source tends to be supported extremely well, but the costs are incurred differently than with commercial software. More expensive is harder to evaluate since commercial stuff tends to be aquisition based + annual maintenance while open source tends to be a combination if in-house expertise, low aquisition cost, possibly higher annual maintenance. It could be a wash or either one could be higher. The difference is that _you_ are in control and can switch (or cancel) support contracts at will. Try that with some commercial product."

    FUD: "Linux admins are hard to find"

    Reality: "The Linux admins you do find tend to be 10x-100x better technically than the paper-MCSE idiots you'll get for windows admins. This translates to fewer admins needed overall, plus much less ''support'' required since the admins are more self-sufficient. You need to be able to hire people with 2-3 years of ''real'' experience vs. the 5-10 years demanded by most HR departments."

    FUD: "Open source may force you to self-support with web searches & mailing lists"

    Reality: "Most (99%+) windows problems I've encountered tend to be solved by google or microsoft knowledge base searches. The other 1% we either live with or assign a low-level tech to call and sit on hold waiting for a high-school dropout to read us a script about rebooting. The fact is, most commercial support sucks. Hard. Be glad there are mailing list archives, google searches, etc. to help solve problems. As a bonus, once you've solved the problem you're never forced to upgrade to a new unstable version by the vendor -- you support your own stuff with your own experience coupled with the experience of the community at large."

    FUD: "Open source expertise is hard to find"

    Reality: "There are a lot of open source projects in a lot of different fields. This is really like saying ''Computer experience is hard to find'' back in the 80s or 90s. The problem is finding experience for the specific product you need. Try finding a ''sagent'' admin to hire (an expensive proprietary ETL tool) -- it's hard because there aren't many people using it. Likewise finding someone with 10 years of Oracle or DB2 is going to be easier than 10 years of MySQL or Postgres, the point of which is that 1: the commercial product may have been around longer and 2: the commercial product from 10 years ago was likely a very different beast than the current product, so the value of 10 years of experience in a specific product is suspect at best. In this case you should be looking for 10 years of RDMBS/SQL experience without regard to the specific products used."

    A lot of this seems to be a fundamental phase-shift in IT expertise required hitting the shoals of inadequate HR hiring practices.
  • by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <oliverthered&hotmail,com> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @06:26AM (#10785873) Journal
    Hi, I'm an open source expert and currently looking for work. I finished my last contract a few months ago and have been using my savings to allow me to further improve open-source software.

    I am currently:
    Implementing bounty into bugzilla.
    The ability to pay for bug fixes that are important to you, to incentives developers to fix them.

    Converting a number of linux/gnu configuration files (all if possible) into xml with defining XSD's, using xmlstarlet to replace the various grep and Perl scripts currently used to read configuration.

    Developing a system to read information from windows registry files and use that information to configure a linux/gnu system. The system will use registry to xml then xsl to transform that into an xml file compatible with the for mentioned linux/gnu configuration files.

    A number of radical modifications to the way that the KDE user interface works.

    Dynamically loading of content in view, instead of loading the entire content, improving latency and reducing memory and processor overhead, the user interface will update in constant time instead of linear time with constant memory and CPU usage, instead of linear memory and CPU usage.

    Changing the way that menu are displayed.
    The ability for applications to request a menu based on context. A menu will the be generated based upon this context, allowing for machine learning (moving items up and down the context hierarchy), and the ability for any function to be accessed from any menu.
    Machine learning will allow the GUI to generate a menu tailored to the task in hand, statistics can be shared so that an organisation can look at how an application is being used, adjust there work processes and feed back the adjustments into the menuing system.

    I am also working on other reviews of OSS software, identifying points that need looking at and suggesting possible solutions.

    Apart from that I have helped write a ADSL modem driver [], put forward a number of patches for the kernel,(usb and pcmcia network card), and reverse enginered the Microsoft access database fileformat.

    So, if you've got an OSS problem and you think I can help provide the solution drop me an email at

  • I am the main developer of the LiVES Video Editor/VJ tool, a project I have been developing for two years, and which is in the top 450 projects on Freshmeat. (see I've been looking for work involving my open source skills for over 18 months without any success so far.

    If anybody wants to give me a job using/developing open source software, please contact me at the contact address on the site.

  • The reality of the situation is that many IT managers have now picked up on the "Open Source" buzzwords and do now recognise that certain OSS solutions *might* provide viable alternatives to what they use currently.

    However, in my experience, they still have IT people that just know how to maintain Microsoft-based systems and, whilst I've no doubt many of those people know MS products well, they have no interest in trying OSS because it's human nature to stay in the "safe zone" in a safe job rather than ri

  • On first thought, I think that a lot of the people developing OSS don't know how to market themselves, as opposed to software.

    If you have a piece of software out there, that's a good thing, it looks good on a resume, but you will rarely be able to sell it. What you want to look into is offering support and development expertise for similar classes of apps.

    I am in the middle of a fairly large project for a big corporation, to deploy around 3-5000 security boxes. One of the candidates is a BSD-licensed (
  • too late! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikeySquid ( 309780 )
    I'm done with high tech employment! They can take their need and shove it. I've been burned too many times. If they needed open source people they should have called me one of those three and a half years I had my resume on the internet and got nothing. I'm now a lowly prepress technologist. My pay? over 3/4 of a programme analyst. The skill needed? 1/5 of a programmer analyst.
    And I have much more free time now.
    If someone called with a job now I would turn it down.
  • by Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @08:04AM (#10786184)
    Since I have gone freelance last month, jobs are being lined back-to-back : integrating OpenLDAP, building a Samba domain controller, tweaking SpamAssassin, auditing security for a web server, etc.

    Open-Source now have a lot of momentum, a kind of honey moon of sort if you want. Gone are the day of 1999 where IT director where laughing at the concept. It's now part of the landscape. Lot of people are not using on a large scale right now, but are trying deployement or pilot.

    Since most of the IT workforce have been happy to drink the MS Kool-aid exclusively for the past decade, they are basically helpless when it come to deploying and maintaining Linux. Unfortunately for them, they can't click their way to competence, Linux not being as forgiving as the various flavor of Windows in this regard. Actually, it's pretty damn hostile to newbie sysadmin. Thus these people need help with Linux and Open-Source, and their bosses are willing to pay.

    At this point in time, a lack of Linux expert in the workforce and the service industry may slow the adoption of Open-Source. If you have been earning a living doing the proprietary stuff in the past years and considering going freelance eventually to offer Linux and Open-Source services, NOW IS THE TIME !

    The walk in the desert is coming to an end for us Linux geeks. For most of us, it's been mostly a work of love, faithful that we where doing the right choice when using and advocating Linux. Now, it's payback time.
  • Go over to, or whatever, and take a look. There are *far* fewer ads for OSS pros. Usually, the OSS stuff is thrown in as an extra (along with 30 other skills needed for an $18/hr job), not the primary job. OSS jobs tend to pay much less than proprietary counterparts. Compare Linux admins to Solaris, or Postgre to Oracle.

    This articles reminds me of those idiotic "shortage of BSCS" articals. Again, look at the job ads, very few jobs require a BSCS. Employers want experience, and lots of it, in a var

A university faculty is 500 egotists with a common parking problem.