Originally Published: Tuesday, 2 November 1999 Author: John Eastman
Published to: news_learn_support/Support News Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

'Name-Your-Price' Support for Open Source

QuestionExchange, Inc., today opened a public preview of its Web-based service.

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BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 2, 1999--

Experts provide rapid-turnaround support for installation, programming

& debugging problems on guaranteed basis

QuestionExchange, Inc., today opened a public preview of its Web-based service that allows system administrators, programmers and end-users to name their price for customized, high-end technical support on open source systems from certified experts on a 24/7 basis.

The QuestionExchange.com site serves as a "knowledge exchange" where customers and certified experts buy and sell technical information in real-time. In posting their problems to as many (or as few) experts as they wish, customers name their price and deadline for answers or solicit competitive bids. Either way they obtain prompt, personalized, satisfaction-guaranteed answers from technology authorities.

QuestionExchange.com has compiled a knowledgebase of over 4000 answers to open source questions from solutions provided by its more than 800 experts. Forums on the site cover installing, configuring and maintaining operating systems (including Linux-, Open BSD- and Free BSD); open source applications (such as Apache and X-Window); and programming services (for reviewing, evaluating and optimizing code written in Java, C/C++, Perl and Javascript).

"This kind of knowledge-swapping has been happening informally between 'gurus' and users for as long as there have been open source systems," said QuestionExchange.com founder and CEO Hector Gonzalez. "The only drawback has been the difficulty in always finding the right expert or guru at the right time. Our model eliminates the randomness."

Once customers create an account, they become active players in a marketplace where they -- rather than a particular software vendor -- set the price for services. Thereafter, they select an appropriate QuestionExchange.com forum and decide how widely to convey their question. A low-priority problem (that many users may have faced previously) might be posted to an entire forum. For a killer bug in a vital business application, however, a customer may decide to direct the question to a limited or specific group of experts. Such customers may be willing to pay higher prices to keep a problem private and to obtain express turnaround on the answer.

Customers can always post questions for free, and experts willing to help the community or establish new relationships can answer them. However, customers wanting faster and guaranteed responses set their price for a question.

As a preview, QuestionExchange.com will evaluate response time, effectiveness and costs of the system in solving customers' problems. The site will be fully operational, though due to its pre-launch status, questions posted in some forums may experience response times that differ from post-launch. The company will launch the service by year's end.

QuestionExchange.com's market-making in tech support creates a storehouse of in-depth expertise that is available for purchase over and over again (if not explicitly made private by the customer). Customers benefit from knowing that posted solutions are authoritative -- generated by certified experts and accepted by their customers.

"We've put as much control in the hands of the customer as possible," said Gonzalez. "Support budgets are always tight. So on our site, you set your own price. If turnaround time is crucial, you can determine the deadline, too. If not satisfied with the solution, you get a 100 percent refund."

Currently, the 800 registered QuestionExchange.com experts span 53 countries and 19 time zones. The international aspect of the expert pool means support is available literally around the clock. Experts stem from the more than 15 million users of open source systems around the world today, and must be certified before they can participate in commerce on QuestionExchange.com.

To be certified in a forum, applicants must answer five free questions posted by customers. With customers grading their answers on a 1-10 scale, experts must achieve an aggregate quality rating of 7 or better to be certified. Certification is not a one-time event, Experts must maintain their average score above 7 to be qualified to answer paid questions. If the score drops below 7, the expert must go back to answering free questions until the average returns to certification level.

In return for facilitating the transaction between expert and customer, QuestionExchange receives a 5 percent commission. Since fees are deducted directly from customers' accounts, experts experience no collection issues.

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