Marketing FOSS [part 1]

In my opinion, our biggest problem right now is marketing. There are three categories of people we really need to reach out to:

  1. Those who last tried a Linux distro more than 5 or 10 years ago
  2. Those who’ve been told “only hackers can use it”
  3. Those who’ve never heard of it

The first group tend to go on about how absolutely impossible it’d be for normal people to use. They sort of cause the second group. To the first, I say: Slackware is not the be-all and end-all of Linux anymore. Try one of the distros aimed at being usable for non-geeks, and you will be surprised. To the second I say: that’s just an old rumour. The current versions are easy to use, and the software will be familiar. Come on, my little brother uses Ubuntu on his laptop at school, happy that he doesn’t have to worry about viruses. My mom uses it at home, glad to have something easier to use than that confusing Windows thing that was always so slow. My friend Cathy’s two year old daughter installed Ubuntu with a little help (she can’t read yet). And I’m not saying “yay Ubuntu, boo $other_distro” because, well, Fedora’s easy to use too. OpenSUSE’s KDE4 is very well done.

But let’s look at the third group. How do they find out about it? I was talking to Bethlynn on the phone last night and mentioned that I really think it’d be nice if a bunch of people got together and each pitched in, say, $5 to take out a full-page color ad in something like PC Magazine, advertising Free Software. She said it reminded her of the National Dairy Council and their ads. But then, well, don’t most people who read computer magazines fall into either group 1 or group 2? Called my friend Joe later, and we talked about non-tech magazines. You know, I bet GRAMPS was never featured in a genealogy magazine, even though the beautiful charts it outputs are the reason a professional genealogist I know decided to take another look at Linux. How about Inkscape? Ever see it mentioned as a great alternative to Adobe Illustrator for those on a tight budget in any graphics magazines? There’s a lot of Free Software out there that’s very good, and writing a software review for a major magazine is likely to put a bit of money in your pocket–as opposed to ads, where you have to pay.

That got me thinking. Do you write articles for your blog, someone else’s blog, an online zine, or a Linux-related magazine? Ever write ones that are “how to do $foo with free software” where $foo is part of some niche interest like genealogy or cross stitch? Wouldn’t the wider community around that interest be interested in software to help them out that they don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for? I think they would. So let’s try submitting articles to magazines focused around those topics instead of restricting ourselves to Linux and Free Software magazines. OK, so those are some good ideas about getting Free Software projects onto people’s radars. But what about when you spread out and want to promote not just usin Inkscape on Windows, but using Fedora, OpenSUSE, or Kubuntu? Then you get a little bit stuck. Writing an article about an OS for anything other than a computer magazine isn’t going to go over so well.

Come back for Part 2.

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About Mackenzie

Someday I'll be a Kubuntu developer. In the meantime, I'm a student, test OpenAFS at work, and submit patches to various parts of the FOSS ecosystem including Ubuntu, Kubuntu, KDE, GNOME, and the kernel.
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2 Responses to Marketing FOSS [part 1]

  1. bethlynn says:

    Toastmasters Magazine is a monthly publication for members of Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization for people to learn speaking, leadership, and teamwork skills. I am a member and I happened to read the following article about podcasting with Audacity. The author gets props for saying that it was free and open source software and commenting on its quality. Some people would just stop with “it’s free” leaving the reader thinking it was your par freeware hero-driven closed source support-less package.
    http://www.toastmasters.org/ToastmastersMagazine/ToastmasterArchive/2008/June/Podcasting.aspx

  2. Pingback: Marketing FOSS [part 2] | What Will We Use?

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