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Invent-ing a value of $99 for MPE tools, help

Hp3000tatto A cruise by the OpenMPE Invent3K server, as well as the openmpe.com website, shows that director Keith Wadsworth has resigned -- quietly and with the assent and good wishes of the remaining board. This leaves five directors volunteering for a group that negotiated the release of MPE source code during 2002-08.

As we suggested earlier this year, that Invent3K server's now become the focus of this group. Its chairman Jack Connor says that "We're in the process of regrouping and gathering our focus. Right now, making Invent3K a repository for the community is the primary focus." The group is thinking that "$99 a year to maintain access to all the 3000 tools is not too much a burden for the benefit."

That might be true. A $99 price target for MPE/iX development accounts, existing on the same 3000 server as CSL and Jazz programs, is a good goal. A yearly subscription of $99 is not simple to sell in 2011. That $99 sub wasn't easy for us in 1996, when the 3000 Newswire was growing up. We figured subscriptions would be the biggest revenue stream for our newsletter. But sponsors made this resource a reality, along with the readers who we still count upon today.

Our advice here -- to remaining board members Connor, Tracy Johnson, Birket Foster, Alan Tibbetts, and Tony Tibbenham -- is to do a complete inventory of the software they have to offer, and then put the list up on a webpage. It seems they'll need to do a listing of which CSL programs they've got, too. Maybe a complete tour of using the Invent3K development account services -- why not do a YouTube mini-tour?

Yes, it is heavy lifting to highlight all that Invent3K has to offer. Today, the Invent3K webpage says the server "is for the use of member accounts to compile and test their own programs. It is NOT for the downloading of HP SUBSYS material, that is why FTP, DSLINE, PCLINK2, and WS92LINK are locked down."

HP is not making it easier to find documentation on the HP 3000 hardware. So documentation is another area where access to Invent3K might offer value. There are limits there, like HP's restraint of documentation until 2015, or sooner. Client Systems and Speedware have signed on to distribute those docs for free, now that HP's cut down on manuals. But ManualShark.com and other places post HP docs that the vendor doesn't even serve up any longer. Plus, finding what you need in the new HP Support Center website is not simple, by now.

That last item, the CSLs, is the most unique value out there. People could pay $99 a year to see five of those listings show up in their email each month, complete with downloadable links -- along with a running guide about what else is on the Invent3K server.

And if that sounds like a part-time job, well it probably is. For a volunteer. So maybe the first step is to advertise for an archivist-historian kind of unpaid intern on Craigslist. They don't even really have to be a current 3000 customer. This weekend we're going to host a healthy swath of 3000 veterans who are retired. Some miss the contact with the server's community. That's why they're spending some of weekend at the HP3000 Reunion.

As for the OpenMPE board, it's just five directors now, and that's the right size for a volunteer board anyway. They get a quorum with three, and a proposal passes with that many votes. Keeping the OpenMPE of 2011 a managable size with small kai-zen goal and rewards looks like a good plan for the near term.

In the future, another HP operating environment is going to need advocacy and a rally point. You probably know which one we think is closest to this ecosystem change. Maybe the best thing that OpenMPE can offer is some kind of downscaled template on how this can be done without a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.