Open Source Strategies

A blog about open source software and business models, enterprise software, and the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Suite.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Another Real Life Tale of Why We Need Open Software

You'll probably get bored of all my stories of why we need open software, but here's another great one:

We were working on shipping integration for the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM system with a Global Freight Carrier. We needed to submit a ship request to them and print a shipping label. We set up an account with them, got a username, a password, an XML access key--everything is ready to go. We send the perfectly formatted XML according to their documentation requirements and kept getting an "Invalid/Missing Shipper Number" error.

We contact tech support on their website. We wait. We call our sales rep. He says there's nothing he can do. We tell him we'll ship with another equally global freight carrier. He gets his tech supervisor, who says that the only support is by email.

We wait. And wait.

And get really paranoid. We start wondering if it's because our XML is encoded in UTF-8. We start thinking about playing minesweeper with our XML, rearranging it at random until it worked.

Finally we got through! Guess what it was?


Our package dimensions were passed in in decimal format (ie, 3.0) instead of integers ie (3). Their system, though, kept telling us "Invalid Shipper Number" instead of "Invalid Package Dimensions."

Now, how long do you think it would have taken us to fix that if we had access to freight carrier's source code and could track the source of the problem down?

Mr. Global Freight Carrier: I'm not asking you to ship packages for us for free. Please think about how much owning proprietary shipment scheduling code is worth to you, though. And then please think about how much all of us--including you--could benefit if that code were openly available? This is just such an obvious case where everybody could benefit with open software.

Oh well, at least now I can ship with Global Freight Carrier again.

That and the fact that because the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM is openly available to our users, and we're not inflicting this kind of pain on anybody else, make me happy.

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