Why open source will triumph: one big community

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South_Beach_Boardwalk.jpgFor the past few days, I’ve complained a couple of times about the lack of testing on my new Cingular 8125. My troubles continue with the MMS integration. The device has a great digital camera, and it has great email support, but do the two work together? Not so much.

STEPS TO REPRODUCE:
1. Take a picture. (I took this particular one yesterday afternoon while walking Ernie down the boardwalk, and I’m only now getting the damn thing into my blog because this process is such a pain in the ass.)
2. Click Send at the bottom of the screen.
3. You get options for each of your email accounts – but not Goodlink, and I can almost understand that because it’s a third-party email client. However, Cingular touts its support, so Cingular should really support it. Bottom line, you can’t send camera phone attachments with Goodlink. But I digress – back to this particular bug. Choose MMS, a picture message.
4. The MMS window pops up, and the first thing is the “To” address.
5. Start typing a person’s name, an email address, or a phone number.

ACTUAL BEHAVIOR:
Nothing happens.

EXPECTED BEHAVIOR:
When I start typing an email address or a phone number, it should pick from my list of contacts and complete the address for me. Or at the very least, it should pop up a clumsy additional window and let me pick an address from my address book. No such luck. It’s as if my address book on the device didn’t even exist. Come on, man, this device fits in the palm of my hand – why are all of the parts so damned independent?

This brings me to testing. The bug reporting format I used above was copy/pasted from the Flock wiki entry on submitting Flock bugs. If I have a problem with the browser, I can simply submit a bug report like I did this morning. I caught a minor grammatical error and submitted a bug for it. I can then watch the Flock crew react to it, hopefully fix it, and publish the fixed code. I can download the fixed browser and see my contribution in action. The very fact that they’re open to my opinion gets me even more excited about using their product.

Now, contrast that with my Cingular 8125. I shudder to think at what would happen if I tried to report a bug to Cingular. I know they have to deal with a lot more users, and they have to insulate their developers better from their end users, but there should still be an open forum at some point where I can go to find problems other people are having with this device and its firmware. Oh, sure, there are forums alright, but they’re independent third-party phone forums that have sprung up out of desperation because they can’t get what they want from the big companies. But that doesn’t make me more excited about Cingular – it makes me more excited about the forums. Cingular has a chance to build their brand here, build a community of involved users, and they’re missing the boat.

Flock, on the other hand, Gets It. They understand that by building a community of involved users, they encourage their product to grow and spread wings.

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