Growing logstash's value

I spent a while today thinking about nerdy stuff - logstash, etc. I want to grow logstash in terms of performance, use case, deployment instances, happy users, and community.

While musing about on my mental roadmap of logstash, I found most things boil down to costs and returns on investment, even with open source software. Money, time, energy, and patience are all costs. Just because something doesn’t cost any money doesn’t mean it won’t consume any time or energy.

I see two distinct groups of users, with respect to cost. New users and current users. In terms of inputs and outputs, the phrase ‘return on investment’ comes to mind. New users are likely in the evaluation and investigation phase, mainly estimating ROI or judging “is this solution useful to me?” Existing users are likely in the maintenance and integration phases, mainly trying to improve or maintain ROI or pushing towards improving value provided by a tool.

These two user groups are, in my observation and from a seller’s perspective, quite distinct in terms of strategy. How you acquire happy new users is not necessarily how you maintain and energize existing users.

Targeting New Users

New users easily stumble on bad documentation, complex architectures, and excessive steps.

I have a few goals regarding minimization for new users: reducing mean time to demo and mean time to deploy are critical. Reducing ’time to demo’ requires that I focus on minimizing steps required to answer ‘is logstash useful?’. Additionally, ensuring each required step in ’time to demo’ is as simple as possible. Reducing time to deploy means publishing high quality init scripts (upstart, systemd, sysv init) as well as high quality puppet, chef, and cfengine modules.

The time someone spends as what I consider a ’new user’ is actually quite short. My goal with users in this stage are to help them quickly and accurately answer, “will this tool benefit me?”

Targeting Existing Users

As an existing user of a tool, I’m often looking for how to reduce operational, maintenance, and integration costs. Operational costs appear as physical resource usage (servers, or fuel-like resources). Maintenance costs appear as bugs and related investigations, monitoring, etc. Integration costs appear as time and energy spent making the tool work well with your infrastructure.

These kind of users are usually a bit more invested in use of the tool, but I want to avoid abusing that fact. Time and energy investments in a free tool can cause as much vendor trappings as monetary investments. Don’t treat your existing users like dirt, right?

My goal for the next few months is to become one of these existing users of logstash (to date, as I’ve confessed, I’ve never run logstash in production). I’ll be able to do that at DreamHost (starting tomorrow!).

Additionally, I will be focusing strongly on improving logstash new user experience. Happier new users should reflect nicely on community growth and activity. That’s my goal, anyway!