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Asterisk: The Future of Telephony by Leif Madsen, Jared Smith, Jim Van Meggelen

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The Asterisk Community

One of the compelling strengths of Asterisk is the passionate community that developed and supports it. This community, led by Mark Spencer of Digium, is keenly aware of the cultural significance of Asterisk, and they are giddy about the future.

One of the more powerful side effects caused by the energy of the Asterisk community is the cooperation it has spawned among the telecommunications professionals, networking professionals, and information technology professionals who share a love for this phenomenon. While these professions have traditionally been at odds with each other, in the Asterisk community they delight in each other’s skills. The significance of this cooperation cannot be underestimated.

Still, if the dream of Asterisk is to be realized, the community must grow—yet one of the key challenges the community currently faces is a rapid influx of new users. The members of the existing community, having birthed this thing called Asterisk, are generally welcoming of new users, but they’ve grown impatient with being asked the kinds of questions whose answers can often be obtained independently, if one is willing to put forth the time needed to research and experiment.

Obviously, new users do not fit any particular kind of mold. While some will happily spend hours experimenting and reading various blogs describing the trials and tribulations of others, many people who have become enthusiastic about this technology are completely uninterested in such pursuits. They want a simple, straightforward, step-by-step guide that’ll get them up and running, followed by some sensible examples describing the best methods of implementing common functionality (such as voicemail, auto attendants, and the like).

To the members of the expert community, who (correctly) perceive that Asterisk is like a programming language, this approach doesn’t make any sense. To them, it’s clear that you have to immerse yourself in Asterisk to appreciate its subtleties. Would one ask for a step-by-step guide to programming and expect to learn from it all that a language has to offer?

Clearly, there’s no one approach that’s right for everyone. Asterisk is a different animal altogether, and it requires a totally different mindset. As you explore the community, though, be aware that there are people with many different skill sets and attitudes here. Some of these folks do not display much patience with new users, but that’s often due to their passion for the subject, not because they don’t welcome your participation.

The Asterisk Mailing Lists

As with any community, there are places where members of the Asterisk community meet to discuss matters of mutual interest. Of the mailing lists you will find at http://lists.digium.com, these three are currently the most important:

Asterisk-Biz

Anything commercial with respect to Asterisk belongs in this list. If you’re selling something Asterisk-related, sell it here. If you want to buy an Asterisk service or product, post here.

Asterisk-Dev

The Asterisk developers hang out here. The purpose of this list is the discussion of the development of the software that is Asterisk, and its participants vigorously defend that purpose. Expect a lot of heat if you post anything to this list not relating to programming or development.

Asterisk-Users

This is where most Asterisk users hang out. This list generates several hundred messages per day and has over ten thousand subscribers. While you can go here for help, you are expected to have done some reading on your own before you post a query.

The Asterisk Wiki

The Asterisk Wiki is a source of much enlightenment and confusion. A community-maintained repository of VoIP knowledge, http://www.voip-info.org contains a truly inspiring mess of fascinating, informative, and frequently contradictory information about many subjects, just one of which is Asterisk.

Since Asterisk documentation forms by far the bulk of the information on this web site, and it probably contains more Asterisk knowledge than all other sources put together (with the exception of the mailing-list archives), it is commonly referred to as the place to go for Asterisk knowledge.

The IRC Channels

The Asterisk community maintains Internet Relay Chat channels on http://irc.freenode.net. The two most active are #Asterisk and #Asterisk-Dev. To cut down on spam-bot intrusions, both of these channels now require registration to join.

The Asterisk Documentation Project

The Asterisk Documentation Project was started by Leif Madsen and Jared Smith. Many people in the community have contributed.

The goal of the documentation project is to provide a structured repository of written work on Asterisk. In contrast with the flexible and ad hoc nature of the Wiki, the Docs project is passionate about building a more focused approach to various Asterisk-related subjects.

As part of the efforts of the Asterisk Docs project to make documentation available online, this book is available at the http://www.asteriskdocs.org web site, under a Creative Commons license.

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