Wednesday 16 May 2007

What was I worried about?

Over the last year or so I been asking myself questions about FLOSS, some of them documented in these notes. While the undocumented questions cover a broader range, so far those in these notes have largely revolved around the readiness (or not) of Linux as a desktop. I have looked on as a number of FLOSS projects are driven by their respective communities - communities by and large comprising and led by developers and/or enthusiasts. My question (for good reasons) is: Can FLOSS, with such communities and leaders, make the leap to expand into the wider non-enthusiast communities? As I've said before, enthusiasts and tech-savvy individuals are exactly the wrong people to judge what priorities the regular Joe Public has. Therein lies the mistake I made. Just because I hadn't seen it in the FLOSS projects I'd had exposure to doesn't mean there is no 'proper' marketing function taking place.

As one would expect from Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu has a significant community-based marketing operation. While it seems to a passing eye still a little experimental in process, it is clearly an extensive element of the Ubuntu community, and has been for some time. Perhaps more interestingly, in a project one would not consider to be as commercially focussed, John Williams - who clearly knows about marketing - has posted part one of an article and part two and, indeed, the gnome site itself has much marketing focus.

John Williams' pair of articles describes expertly what marketing is and how it relates to open source projects - in his case, GNOME. But there is one big difference between FLOSS and traditional commercial software. Ubuntu gives us an example:

I use the two applications delivered with Ubuntu for managing my mp3/OGG library. I use RhythmBox to manage and play my library, and SoundJuicer to rip to the library. Let's look at a fairly simple idea - when I rip a CD, I'd like it to appear in my library. Surprisingly, that's why I ripped it in the first place. Currently, I need to manually import each folder (as long as I've used a folder structure for SoundJuicer - if I haven't it creates more problems). To do this transparently means the two applications communicating somehow (probably a mod to SoundJuicer to insert entries into the Rhythmbox database). So somebody like Canonical, who aims to meet those kind of requirements must either:

  • Persuade the SounderJuicer team to implement the change.
  • Have a Canonical staff member with commit rights to the SJ repository.
Hmmmm. Not sure how that is going to work with all of the apps on the supported list, and all downstream dependencies.

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