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@mediaateam - professional support

Discussion in 'Community' started by bea, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. bea

    bea Active Member

    Level: Community
    Hi mediaateam,

    please let me know, how I can get professional support, when Hugh is not available. Even my 'recruit an expert' request is not answered. I am here since a while and I can understand, that you don't want to support 'all you can eat' subs anymore. But for professional ticket support, I am expecting an answer and also a clear price structure.
    You have now some experience with 'recruit an expert' since last year. When I am reading posts, where people ask for professional help and nobody responded, then something is going wrong.
    Also the professional forum support in the past was good to solve problems of other users. Now problems and solutions are 'private'.

    We all love FABRIK, but for those users, who have clients, professional support should be available directly and clearly. Sorry, but the current support situation doesn't make sense for me and it's also a risk to work with Fabrik for clients.

    Cheers,
    Bianka

    PS: Many thanks to Hugh and troester for all their hours, they have spent time on the forums to support us!
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
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  2. wqwi853

    wqwi853 Member

    Level: Community
    I feel the same. Not sure what's happening with Fabrik anymore.
     
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  3. lcollong

    lcollong FabriKant d'applications web

    Level: Community
    I couldn't have said things a better way than Bea. I do agree in all.
    Fabrik is a "magnifique outil" to build app. I use it to fulfill customers requirements and earn money.
    Rob (some years ago), Hugh, Troester and many others on this forum help me a lot to reach my current level of knowledge.
    I couldn't have achieve what I did these last years without their help. It sounds to me "obvious" to pay for this time, this shared skills, this service.
    A great thanks to them for continuing to support and help me at the "community level" but I hope a solution will rise soon to maintain a good level of support for those folks using Fabrik at a "professional level" and to make F4 (or whatever will be) a rich and quickly coming exciting moment !
     
  4. bea

    bea Active Member

    Level: Community
    Hi mediaateam,
    I would really appreciate any answer on this issue. Thanks
     
  5. mediaateam

    mediaateam Super Moderator Staff Member

    Level: Community
    @bea ,

    First, thank you for acknowledging that Fabrik is a great tool and that people like @cheesegrits , @troester , Rob, and many others have done a fantastic job over the years of building and supporting it. And, I sincerely appreciate you being polite and civil in your post, though I do understand you have frustrations. Let me first give a little background, then address the current situation.

    My company started using Fabrik 6 or 7 years ago to deliver robust and rapidly-built applications for our clients. We were Professional subscribers to Fabrik, but realized that all of our questions were custom, or 95% were, so we knew that our $60 EURO a month didn’t begin to cover the time it would take to help us. So, we simply hired the guys to do the work hourly on top of our subscription payment. I loved Fabrik so much that I spoke about it at conferences spreading the word about this great tool, becoming known in the Joomla and PHP community as “The Fabrik Girl.”

    And while we were doing well with Fabrik projects, “The Fabrik Guys” were struggling to make ends meet, because the subscription model wasn’t profitable at all. Unlike supporting a calendar extension that has a single focus, Fabrik is quite the opposite. It is a multi-tool that you can use to do a multitude of very different projects, but with that wide capability it means that the support questions are all over the map and much more time-consuming and complex. So, it was not surprising when we heard that Rob was looking for employment elsewhere, and Fabrik was in jeopardy of being abandoned, as Hugh wasn’t going to try and do it on his own. It was at this point they approached us and wanted to know if we would like to buy the copyright to Fabrik and take over the continuing development. Of course we agreed, but only if Hugh would be working with us because his dedication to and knowledge of Fabrik is irreplaceable.

    So, that is when we stepped in and started really looking at the numbers on the subscriptions. Let me just say, I don’t know how Rob and Hugh did it as long as they did for the community, because the subscriptions didn’t bring in enough money to pay ¼ of one person’s salary. In spite of that, we kept the subscriptions going for over a year after we took over, even though it was a money losing situation, and had planned to close them down when we launched the new site in the new year. However, our old site was hacked and taken down, forcing us into the new site a couple of months sooner than anticipated, hence having to end the subscriptions earlier than start of the new year with little warning. We left the forums open until all monthly subscriptions had expired. And then we literally only had 3 people that were annual subscribers, and they were given hours of support to make up for the remainder of their subscription.

    During this same time and since, we have been doing many large-scale client Fabrik projects that have funded many new enhancements and plugins for Fabrik that have gone into the open source code base for all to use. Also because of this work, we were able to bring on a part-time developer in November who is solely focused on Joomla 4 / Fabrik 4, and I’m happy to report that we have Fabrik 4 ready to the latest Alpha of Joomla 4. So, when J4 hits, we will be ready with Fabrik 4 for everyone.

    We have started testing both monthly subscriptions and buckets of hours with a couple of professional clients, such as agencies using Fabrik for their clients, to see if that would be a good move forward for a professional level support. These subscriptions have a minimum of 5 hours per month, and the buckets have a minimum of 5 hours. Depending on the needs of the clients, one or the other of these two options seem to cover it all. We have had pretty good feedback so far, so that is something that we will be announcing in more detail and making them available on the site in the next few months.

    Also, we want to acknowledge and thank our forum experts that have continued to help community members, especially when we were swamped with work and unable to contribute in timely manners on the forums. They not only give their time and knowledge away to the community, but they alert us to issues and help us test when new releases are launching. These core experts are also part of our advanced Slack user group and contribute there as well with insights and advice.

    As far as smaller support options, we are honestly still trying to figure out the best way to offer this and be able to maintain it effectively. Again, the problem with forum support for Fabrik is that it’s not a single use kind of extension; and therefore, 90% of questions are not about Fabrik functionality, but more about Fabrik in a particular usage. So, most inquiries require digging into the client site to see what is going on in that environment or understanding the functionality that the person is trying to achieve with Fabrik, which just takes time. One option that we are thinking about offering is a 2-hour paid assessment of a site issue for $200 USD. If the issue can be fixed in that window of time then we would assess and fix with approval, otherwise we would provide an estimate of how many hours over the initial 2 hours it will take to resolve the issue. So, I ask you, and others in the community, would this 2-hour assessment be something you would use for support?

    We are open to any other ideas on how we can offer support that would be a win/win situation, so if you have any, please PM us.

    We apologize if your Ask an Expert went unanswered, we had a glitch in the notifications, and by the time we realized it, many were old. We also have been short-handed, but I will personally go and find yours and make sure it’s answered.

    And, lastly, as I just mentioned, we are short-handed, so if you or someone you know have development skills, we are looking for a Joomla/PHP/Fabrik developer to bring on the team if they are the right fit.

    I hope this post has answered your questions, but please feel free to ping me if not.

    Sincerely,
    Robbie & Your Fabrik Team
     
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  6. bea

    bea Active Member

    Level: Community
    Hi Robbie,
    Many thanks for your detailed answer.

    I agree with you, that the old subscription model was worse for the programmer Hugh and Rob to earn their living. Finally Rob decided to go a different way and to leave Fabrik. Hugh is now the one and only programmer of Fabrik and Fabrik is nothing without him, you know ;) Its good to know, that Hugh has now a regular income to enjoy his life. That's all, what we want.

    On the other hand Fabrik was grown with its community. I am here since 10 years and like other users we have spend money to develop further Fabrik and to support Hugh & Rob. Also Fabrik as an open source component needs a huge community for testing and development. I am glad, that Fabrik will have a future and that it will be ready with Joomla 4 for everyone.

    My main criticism refers to the inadequate communication with the Fabrik users. You may have been overburdened, but within a year, out of respect for the community, it would be desirable to communicate fundamental changes. I can understand that forum communities are not a nice place to discuss upcoming changes and face criticism.

    You are writing about testing a monthly subscriptions and buckets of hours with a couple of professional clients. I don't know, who was testing this subscriptions and I didn't know about it.
    Can you please describe, why you set up a slack channel and why this information is only mentioned in a subordinate clause. It seems like an inner circle to me.
    I don’t understand, why this should take some months. I am also working with other programmer and both systems, monthly subscriptions and buckets of hours, are common. I personally prefer the buckets of hours with a ticket system.

    I think the main problem for us as a professional Fabrik user is, that your customers are first served. Of course, Hugh as the only programmer has a limited resource of time, so its good that you've hired a part-time developer who is solely focused on Joomla 4 / Fabrik 4.
    I think that part of the user would use this option. Optional you can give the user a free 15 minutes check the site and to make an offer.
    The Fabrik functionality always refers to a particular usage and a lot of users have just a basic knowledge. Therefore, any problem with the application is also a matter of functionality. If forum support is limited to hints of Wiki, the knowledge for the specific use of Fabrik is reserved for a small group. Many thanks again to Hugh and troester, for sharing their knowledge and for their support. The support ratings at joomla.org have worsened in recent months. This should also be a reason not to push the forum support in the back corner.

    As I've written in my post, the professional forum support in the past was good to solve problems of other users. It's the philosophy of open source, to share knowledge. That is why Fabrik has grown in the past and has this active community.

    Now your company has the copyright of Fabrik and you can do what you want. That was the reason, why I have written this post. There was no clear statement, nor any alternative subscription since months. I really don't understand, why you did not write a post like this last year to communicate with the Fabrik community.

    Finally, I do not want to be ungrateful that you have saved the project Fabrik and Hugh finally earns money. I would wish that the community will be involved in the future if there are fundamental changes to be made.

    Kind regards,
    Bianka
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  7. startpoint

    startpoint Active Member

    Level: Community
    About the difficult maintenance of the forum:
    In my opinion, the insufficient description of the problem and the reference to mandatory data in the questions asked makes it impossible or difficult to provide assistance, whether it is paid or free of charge.
    Mandatory data:
    • joomla version;
    • fabrik version;
    • php version
    • github update is there?
    • the name and version of the template used,
    • where the problem occurs: in a form, in a list or in a detailed view, in the administration or in the client part, via a plug-in plugin, a form module, a list module;
    • used plugin;
    • php or js error occurred;
    • eventual video to the problem situation;
    • and many other useful data.
    I believe that when creating a post, if these data are mandatory for input, it will be of great benefit to the co-operating people. And the questioner in most cases, while answering these questions, may well be able to solve the problem himself. It's a good thing everyone before asking a question to first play the problem situation in ideal conditions - a clean joomla and factory installation, protostar template, and with no github update.
    The better the question is written, the more people can get involved in the answers.
    If you do not have the physical opportunity of technical support by answering the forum, you might consider engaging members of the forum as your subcontractors, trustworthy, to resolve trivial decisions. This would be a good substitute for standard support. I personally would have joined, but unfortunately the insufficient understanding of the problem and my weak English are somewhat obstructing. With real access to the site and visualization of the problem, I will benefit situations that I know how to handle.
    I have the great desire to popularize Fabrik in Bulgaria, but here Joomla is very little used. Unfortunately, for this reason, I can not support Fabrik in my language. I do not know anyone to use it.
    Because $ 200 for different countries are of varying severity, I would suggest that the payment be 30 minutes, and the minimum is also the price equivalent of $200 for 30 minutes.
     
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  8. nbradshaw

    nbradshaw Member

    Level: Community
    Thanks Media Team for the response. I am a long time Fabrik user and I am REALLY hopeful that this project stays alive. However, there hasn't seemed to be much communication as far as Roadmap, updates on 4.x, updates on subscription models and just general updates. I appreciate you taking time to write in this forum. Is there a way that you guys could utilize the Blog to provide monthly updates similar to what you provided here - along with the other items? I know me and my company have really gotten a little concerned over the viability of the project - and routine updates from the team via the Blog would certain help ease some of those concerns from the user base....just my thoughts.
     
  9. mediaateam

    mediaateam Super Moderator Staff Member

    Level: Community
    Yes, @nbradshaw - we are planning on doing more regular communications going forward, hopefully even more regular than monthly. We want the community to feel secure that Fabrik isn't going anywhere and will be ready for Joomla 4! I will be updating again next week with some information. Also, thanks to all that have put suggestions on this chain or contacted us direct with suggestions!
    More to come,
    Robbie and the Fabrik Team
     
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  10. sunnyjey

    sunnyjey Active Member

    Level: Community
    Thank you Robbie, Hugh and other Fabrik Team for your sincere effort to provide awesome Fabrik Component. As most of the points are already discussed and covered in this thread, I just have a polite request about Professional Forum Subscription.

    If possible please re-start the Monthly subscription but with strict rules. If your developer feels to address the issue raised by subscriber in the forum would consume more than 5-10mins, he/she should be directed for the hourly payment Module. Also you can set a Limit of number of issues can be raised during one Month subscription.
     
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  11. rodeokid

    rodeokid Member

    Level: Community
    I have to agree with sunnyjey on this one... the monthly subscription is a good thing, but it can have limits... included should be an overview of the problem, if it's easy, then it could be done, but if it is something time consuming, it could be forwarded to hourly rates in recruit an expert program.

    I have learn a lot in Fabrik only by reading the different forum sections available for all. The forum is an incredible source of knowledge for Fabrik, so seeing a lot of things resolved by the Recruit an expert program will lead to an explosion of questions and request for help, mainly because this will be outside the forum, so unavailable to all.

    I understand that this is normal for a company to bill help given to those who ask... but i think it will be a vicious circle, cause if you have more request in the Recruit an expert program, less time Hugh will be available for the future of Fabrik. Keep in mind that a lot of questions in the forums were answered by volunteers and other members.

    Again, i understand that you have to bring Fabrik to a level of viability, everyone agree with that. But if i have to pay 200$ US dollar to have someone look at my site and only telling me that i forgot a simple setting somewhere, something that took 5 minutes to find... i think it would be a turn off for anybody in the future.

    So the best solution i guess is a filter system... a way to have a paid subscriptions that covers all the simple questions and little help... but if the problem is bigger or needs custom coding, then the person is asked to Recruit an expert. Best of both world.

    Another way to save times on intervention would be to put an Ask for help form that the person would have to fill before posting in the forum, like startpoint says before, some mandatory data that you would have to give before asking for help. Regularly Hugh would take some time and post reply just to ask again and again the same questions: what version ? what template ? what framework ? what php version ? again and again,,,

    I am from Québec, Canada here, 200$ US dollar with the exchange rate means almost 270$ Canadian dollars... if i have to pay this much to ask for help everytime i need it, i will just stop recommend this tool to my customers.
     
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  12. bea

    bea Active Member

    Level: Community
    As I wrote in my other post, i would prefer "buckets of hours" with a ticket system next to the forums. I think, this will be fair to everyone.
    • community forum for all users, to report bugs and issues
    • professional forum with monthly subscription (including a free 15 minutes site check to make an offer), limited support time
    • recruit an expert with ticket system (hourly rate - 10 hours package - 50 hours package)
      • code review
      • migrations
      • development
      • etc.
    I think, that the main problem of the owner change is, that customers of mediaateam a served first. I know, that Hugh will do his very best, to support everyone.
    If you are swamped with work in the future and you do not have time for forum and 'recruit an expert', because everything depends on Hugh, then the system can not work. Also on one hand, you depend on the unpaid experts and members to do forum support, on the other hand you are thinking about offering a 2-hour paid assessment of a site issue for $200 USD.

    I know, its not easy to find the perfect solution, but everything should be transparent and fair.
     
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  13. achartier

    achartier Active Member

    Level: Community
    Something to consider. I, like others that I know of, have very limited funds available for support due to the nature of our business. I say business but what I really mean is that the work I do using Fabrik is volunteer, I do not get paid for it. My 'client' is a non-profit with very little funds and my services are provided as my donation to the cause. Any time I have purchased a subscription for Fabrik support the cost has come out of my pocket.

    The one thing I do have available is time & expertise. I am not as experienced as Troester for example but I have provided some support to others and did a fair amount of work for Hugh getting fullcalendar going. I have provided a few other code enhancements and a long real life example.

    So, having said all that I wonder if there is an opportunity for MediaTeam to 'profit' from my expertise and the expertise of others in providing support in community in exchange for some credits for professional support at some future date.

    I think if you cull through the postings you will find a number of us who have been around a long time and have some obvious expertise. We could be the filter that does preliminary 5-10 minute evaluation of the issue and if in our opinion is something requiring much more in depth investigation we can kick it upstairs so to speak.

    If there were some way to 'assign' new community posts to one of these first-liners and a way to give them credit for their work, I myself would invest much more time on the forum trying to help than I do now.

    Something to consider.
     
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  14. startpoint

    startpoint Active Member

    Level: Community
    I also agree with the proposal of @achartier .
     
  15. mediaateam

    mediaateam Super Moderator Staff Member

    Level: Community
    Thanks for all the input, we are sorting through all the ideas to come up with the best mixture of these ideas. We really do like the idea of community work for support credits @achartier - just thinking on how we can track and validate the help, but we definitely like that concept.

    Just trying to keep everyone informed as we move forward!

    Thanks,
    Robbie and The Fabrik Team
     
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  16. cheesegrits

    cheesegrits Support Gopher Staff Member

    Level: Community
    I've always applied an informal 'community credits' system. People who help out get more help from me.

    I suppose it's time I weighed in on this. I suspect this will be a long post, so strap in.

    A good place to start is probably to explain why subscription support doesn't work, and will never be available again. I'm not sure what people think subs were bringing in for Fabrik, but for the last 3 or 4 years prior to ending them, subs averaged around $1200 a month, with a good month being about $1500, and a bad month being in 3 figures. And that had to be split two ways. So before tax, I maybe made $750 a month from subs, on a good month. And I spent about 30 hours a week on forum work. Which works out at less than minimum wage - and I don't know about you but I think my time is worth more than $6.25 an hour.

    The problem is simply the nature of subscription support, which is twofold. Firstly, the "all you can eat" nature of them, with no easily definable limits. At the prices we were charging, a Standard sub realistically paid for about 15 minutes of my time (if I assign the going rate for the kind of work I'm doing), and a Pro sub around 45 minutes, across the whole month. When I first started doing Fabrik support (around version 1.0.3) this model worked. Joomla ruled the CMS world, we had more than enough subscribers to bring in about $4k a month, and the nature of the support work was much simpler - Fabrik itself was much simpler, the things people did with it were much simpler. Most people didn't need more than an hour of support a month. We also had a lot of people who permanently maintained subs, even though they didn't ask many questions.

    But over the years, Fabrik became considerably more complex, the number of plugins grew massively, Joomla became more complex, the things people did with Fabrik became more complex, requiring more and more support time (a typical Pro support issue would take hours rather than minutes to resolve). And at the same time, Joomla hemorrhaged users, losing the CMS war to WordPress, and of course that meant we lost a huge number of subscribers. And almost nobody maintained permanent subs any more. Someone would sign up for a month, bombard us with questions while they built an app, soaking up 10 or 20 hours of support time for their $60, then let the sub lapse for a year or two, till it was time to update Joomla / Fabrik, then they'd get another month, and bombard us again. Having not contributed at all to the intervening development and maintenance.

    To cut a long story short, with the number of subscribers we averaged for the last few years, in order to pay for the resources it takes to provide that support, and keep developing and maintaining Fabrik (the background, non "support" time that subs still had to cover), the subs would have needed to be annual, not monthly, and cost a minimum of about $3k year. Hands up who would pay $3k/year for Fabrik support? I'll wait.

    If you are wondering how I survived on $6.50 an hour from support subs, the answer is I didn't. The only thing that kept me afloat the last few years was Robbie, paying me a realistic hourly rate to do project work for her. A few other people paid me for project work (you know who you are, thank you), but they were few and far between, and only Robbie had the regular, reliable work I needed to survive.

    So, bottom line, subscription support simply doesn't work for Fabrik, and hasn't for about 5 or 6 years. The only thing that kept Fabrik going was Rob and myself putting in ridiculous amounts of basically unpaid work, and (more recently) Robbie paying for it. Robbie now pays me, out of her own pocket (but essentially funded by the work we do with Fabrik for our clients) about four times what I was earning from subs. For the first time I can remember, I am not permanently stressed about money and having to work 70+ hours a week to survive. I have a relatively normal workload, and can pay my bills.

    So anyone harboring thoughts that somehow Robbie has "ruined" Fabrik ... quite the opposite. Fabrik would have ceased to exist about 2 years ago without Robbie.

    I think part of the problem here is the perspective. You guys look at us / Fabrik as a "product", that somehow we make money "selling" Fabrik, that we pay our bills simply through Fabrik existing and people using it. But we don't. We support ourselves exactly like you do - using Fabrik to build applications for clients. Except that we have the added overhead of having to maintain and develop Fabrik. We originally defrayed some of that cost by charging subscriptions for support, but (as explained at length), that long ago simply became another massive expense, not revenue.

    OK, so having established that subs don't work ... where does that leave us? The only model that does work, is an hourly rate. If people need work done, they pay an hourly rate. The exact implementation details can vary, but that's what it boils down to. If it uses our time, it has to be paid for. There is no other model that works.

    I'll probably follow up soon with some of my ideas / suggestions, but I have to get back to work.

    -- hugh
     
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  17. winchester

    winchester Member

    Level: Community
    Hi Everyone,

    First of all, great extension. It seems that what is not being discussed here is now Fabrik users. Given what Hugh explained, the reason for this low amount is directly due to low user rates.

    When looking through JED for extensions, there are 5 main factors that must be met before I commit to using the extension.
    • It must have a good score on JED
    • It must be able to do what I need it to do
    • It must have a vibrant forum with experienced persons there to help
    • It must have good documentations
    • It the extension development must be active
    I would come across Fabrik over the years and while the description sounds great, it never never manage to get the scores needed for me to not bother to look at another extension. I would give an extension with no score than one with a low score. Along with the score, also, the number of persons rating/reviewing the extension is a consideration.

    Why I decided to use Fabrik this time? Because there is literally no other free extension that can do have I needed for the project. yes I said free, because I've already used up the funds set aside for the subscription for this project. In fact, before coming to Fabrik, I decided on another extension, believing that it would work and it did for the most part, but I had to re-code the entire view templates to make it work. Not only that after pre-sale discussions, with one of the extension team, I thought I would get the help is needed. They did, but the response times took up to 3 weeks after paying for the subscription. It was just not satisfying and so, I decided to re-do it all over again and give Fabrik a try.

    Everyone's right about Hugh and Troester, they have been great help and I didn't have to wait weeks for it. There were others that helps also, which says to me that the community is working as it should. Like I said, I'm new to Fabrik. but even I have tried to help as well.

    What I do find an issue is the documentation, the wiki. It may be useful for coders, but not so much for designers, like myself and many who comes here. It find it to be too vague. Usually for me, I go to the documentation first to find what I need and if I can't find it or don't understand it, then I go to the forums.

    When these things are not properly setup, it will be reflected in the JED scores despite the performance of the extension itself, which will, like it did me for over a decade, stop them from ever looking at the extension. And having no demo makes it even harder to convince persons to give it a try. I believe though that if we can remedy these things, we could pull more users to the extension and as it is explained that 95% of the users needing support are for complex applications, this would mean that a subscription based support as suggest by the OP could work.

    As for documentation. What would be welcome are tutorials for complete step by step instructions for complete applications - for custom Joomla registration, for custom contact form with map, for custom article filtering, etc. I would like to help with the documentations, but I can only start with what I know so far. After this project, I plan on doing a step by step tutorial for customizing the view templates for the community to use.

    ~ Winchester
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019 at 6:29 PM
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  18. bea

    bea Active Member

    Level: Community
    Hi Hugh,
    I believe that none of the active users expect gratuitous work from you. Of course, there are always people who exploit others. But the Fabrik subscription system has also made it easy for these people.

    My intention for this thread was the unclear situation of how to proceed with Fabrik and how professional support without subscription works. I am very grateful that Robbie and you have now explained to us the current situation and Fabrik has a future.

    After Rob left the Fabrik boat last year and there was no possibility of a subscription, most of us were of course worried.

    This community consists of very different people with very different projects. Some of us have clients who pay, others use Fabrik for nonprofit projects. I would like to suggest a donation button to support non-profit projects as well. I do not know if this works, but even users who only implement small projects without support could contribute.

    Cheers,
    Bianka
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019 at 12:38 PM
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  19. winchester

    winchester Member

    Level: Community
    In fact, I'm thinking this could be implemented right away. I am sure there are many here would like to show appreciation for the help they get with a donation.
     
  20. dimoss

    dimoss Well-Known Member

    Level: Community
    Personally speaking I consider Fabrik as the most versatile Joomla component and that's why I love it!
    I am using it for more than 10 years and I have learned a lot with the help of Hugh, Troester and others but also reading other posts.
    I read the posts above and I can say that the proposals from @bea and @achartier can work quite well (donations, support points for helping others).
    I also understand and support Hugh and Robbie points because we have to be realistic as the amount of work needed to support/extend this kind of component is huge.
    One thing I know for sure is: Fabrik needs to stay alive!
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019 at 11:03 AM
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