I accidentally stumbled across Padre, a Perl-native IDE, the other day, and although I wasn’t hugely impressed with its featureset, I was massively impressed with one small aspect. It’s still fairly new, and although it’s only a year or so old, it already has quite a few necessary features.
I wouldn’t compare it to Eclipse or any other relatively mature IDE, but I was massively impressed with one idea, that of user support.
The screenshots page almost casually refers to the “Live Support” option. Yes, they have Live Support. I’m sure it doesn’t come with a guarantee of instant access to the developers, but for an open source project, it’s pure genius. The developers and enthusiastic early-adopters probably hang out in the IRC channel anyway, even without any payment or expectation of payment. Tying this to the users, via a freely available web-based IRC client, is a remarkably clever use of existing technologies and the developer culture.
I’ve been to application-specific IRC channels before, and they tend to be polarised to either rather elitist “are you a developer? no? then buzz off” attitudes, or the opposite, policed by folk who like answering easy questions, and are therefore lording it over their own fiefdoms, kicking curious lurkers who want to pick up the accumulated wisdom by osmosis.
Padre is the first example I’ve seen where, rather than expecting the curious (or desperate) users to get onto IRC (IRC? what’s that?) themselves, the turn it into a clickable “Live Support” option, and bring the users to them with little or no difficulty.
I wish more applications did this.