Community ManagerAlex Rowell
Hey folks! My name is Alex Rowell, and for those of you who haven’t met me yet, I’m the Community Manager at SignalWire. You might be wondering why the SignalWire Community Manager is writing this blog post. Well, my role actually encompasses both the SignalWire and FreeSWITCH communities! I’m a relatively new team member at SignalWire, and this survey was my first big opportunity to get to know the community around FreeSWITCH. Based on the results of the survey and the follow up interviews, a big thing that folks want to see more of is open communication and transparency. I wanted to put that into practice as soon as possible and addressing feedback we saw in the survey seemed like the perfect place to start.
So let’s get into it, starting with an overview of the results!
We had 44 submissions to the survey, and from there were able to conduct 7 follow up interviews. Most survey respondents have been using FreeSWITCH for 2+ years (14% 2-5 years, 75% 5+ years). The most popular ways that folks contribute back to the community are issue reporting (66%) followed by documentation creation and updates (25%). The most popular community space by far was the community Slack (59%), with YouTube taking second (16%) and Twitter third (14%), though the mailing list was not one of the options and saw multiple write-ins. I’ll make sure that it’s included in the options next time we ask this question.
From the follow-up interviews, we dove deeper on the sentiment and long term relationship with FreeSWITCH. We learned about several very cool projects using FreeSWITCH that we’re really excited about!
There were a handful of common concerns expressed in the survey and we wanted to address them publicly.
First and foremost, FreeSWITCH is not going anywhere.
We heard different variations of concern around this, but it boiled down to a few main thoughts - folks having the sense that an outside group owns SignalWire and ‘took over’ FreeSWITCH, concern that SignalWire is a replacement for FreeSWITCH, feeling like FreeSWITCH isn’t updated as often or as majorly, and feeling like specific OS/versions are not prioritized.
Tony, Brian, and Mike, the founders and top contributors to FreeSWITCH, are all here at SignalWire, and they are all committed to continuing to maintain, update, and expand the capabilities of FreeSWITCH.
SignalWire is partly built on top of FreeSWITCH, but was never intended to replace it – SignalWire is a complex set of solutions spread across many broader uses, and because of that SignalWire does not provide 1:1 functionality to what FreeSWITCH does. What SignalWire does is allow us to get more people involved in FreeSWITCH, while keeping it free and open source. More money is going toward supporting FreeSWITCH now than at any point in its history, and an estimated 700 hours per month of engineering work is going toward FreeSWITCH.
At the same time, FreeSWITCH is an open source project at its core. Continued development and added features require community participation. There is also a higher standard for updates and additions than there used to be, as there’s a much larger impact when something untested or buggy goes out. This has slowed down the development of new features, and made taking community contributions a lot more difficult. I’m acknowledging that here, and will mention it again later in this post, but making contributing easier and more accessible is something else that came up in the survey and is on our radar.
Lastly, the prioritization of operating systems supported depends heavily on the popularity of the requests and if the community is willing to chip in. The same is true for documentation, features and in some cases even bug fixes. Community participation is a game changer, and helps us take FreeSWITCH even farther. Look out for future blogs from me about contributing specifically.
SignalWire Personal Access Token
I wanted to give the Personal Access Token (PAT) its own section, as this is a specific point of contention in the community and showed up a few different ways in the survey.
When the token was put into place as a requirement to access the binaries, there was a lot of uncertainty over what that would mean for FreeSWITCH long term. I’d like to restate here, this is not the first step in closing off FreeSWITCH or anything like that.
We’ve addressed the what and why of the PAT in a few different places (including the mailing list and Reddit), and now we’re able to follow up with results after a few months.
The biggest benefit of the PAT, from our perspective, is that the near DDoS level constant requests have stopped. After adding the PAT requirement, hits on the hosted binaries have dropped over 90%, and we’re no longer seeing the pattern of constant requests. This allows us to continue providing these binaries free of charge and working as intended.
There were several comments about having difficulty finding engineers to maintain specific instances of FreeSWITCH, and about looking for other support options for existing FreeSWITCH installs. I don’t have a firm answer for this just yet, but it’s something I’ll look to dig into further with community members and internally.
Also, there were several individual feature requests and challenge areas shared in the survey that aren’t covered here. Those specific questions and requests went to the team directly.
So what’s next?
There were a few topics that came up in the survey that I think deserve their own posts, and these require more discussion within the team before I can write about them. Specifically, we heard from several of you that the current PR/Issue backlog for FreeSWITCH is frustrating, that the guidelines for contributions are not clear, and that our documentation has major gaps both for core code/setup and for modules.
For now, I’m acknowledging that we’ve heard this feedback and it’s a big discussion point internally. I’ll share more with all of you as I can!
More immediately though, we’ve started hosting Office Hours on the first Tuesday of every month at 9am Pacific/Noon Eastern to give you an opportunity to join up and talk with the development team about whatever’s on your mind. If you have a question that isn’t covered in documentation, an open issue you want to check on or a PR you’d like feedback about, or even if you just want to hear what we’re working on for FreeSWITCH, we hope you’ll drop in during office hours! Note: I know this time won’t work for everyone - expect some ad hoc sessions at different times to accommodate folks in other time zones, and we’ll communicate those well in advance.
If you have questions or additional feedback around the survey, or if you have anything you’d like to see in the community going forward, you can find me on Slack, Twitter, Reddit, or email email@example.com
Thank you for your ongoing participation in the FreeSWITCH Community!
- Alex & the FreeSWITCH team