Open Source Marketing

Charlie asks: Where are all the open source marketers? Good question. My own marketing efforts for JSPWiki have more been in the line of "if it's good, the users will find it" -line, and it seems to work. I don't have the time and effort to start promoting JSPWiki as such, partly because I just don't have any inclination towards marketing, and partly because the more popular it is, the more I need to work on it. JSPWiki is not big enough so that I could quit my day job and work on it full-time (and still pay the bills), but it's no longer small enough to be managed a couple hours a week.

Maybe the reason for the lack of OSS marketing is that many OSS projects don't have the capacity to handle the additional workload? The big ones get their own marketing by simply being part of a bigger collective, e.g. the Jakarta Project. The smaller, independent ones use only word-of-mouth.

Then what could an OSS community do with marketing? Of course, the traditional channels are available: Firefox users bought a full-page ad in NYT. Buying an ad campaign in Google Adwords might be expensive, but someone could contribute by buying a search keyword for a few days. User groups and other peer support work usually well in a OSS environment.

In an OSS environment, your users are really your marketers: A happy user will install the software everywhere, a disgruntled user will search a new alternative. In a vast majority of OSS projects, nobody gets paid to be an evangelist. Therefore the enthusiastic promotion you get comes directly from people involved at some level - not from someone who is just renting his mouth to pay the bills. While OSS marketing may be less professional, it's certainly more honest than with commercial software.

(There may be something interesting brewing with respect to JSPWiki marketing. Stay tuned.)




Comments

Open Source Marketing is kind of a non-idea. What exactly would that mean? I saw the article this refers to, not sure if I read it or not but I must say that I'm skeptical right off the bat.

Marketing is not at all like a piece of software. It is a statistical process and is really the direct opposite of software engineering. Creating software is a process of specifying the outcome and creating code that meets the outcome.

It is not okay for software to work 90% of the time but if a marketing firm showed its ads to work that well there would be but one marketing firm in the world!

Thanks for the cool blog!

--69.112.168.45, 01-Sep-2005


I look at Open Source Marketing as being a good thing. Let's try an example, say I think I'd like to have a way to have all my employees to be able to interact with each other, but since they are in four different locations, face to face won't work. I've looked at Lotus Notes (IBM product) and the Notes database may do what I want. I read all the magazines looking for ads for software I can use, not much out there.

One day, while reading a trade journal I come across an ad for JSPWiki. It says it supports employee information sharing, has weblog capability and advanced security features. Cool, this may be the product for me, so I go to www.jspwiki.org to find out more.

By marketing JSPWiki, one more "customer" found a product.

Now, granted I could be clued in and know that I want a Wiki:

Google returns 53 million hits on the word wiki; since we are a java shop I try wiki java, 3 million hits; wiki java implementation gets me to 536 thousand.
Freshmeat and Sourceforge give me a few hundred hits, but nothing really fits.

So I have a choice, buy Notes (non open source) or dig through 100's of links trying to find the right thing for me.


Somewhere along the history time line, marketing became a bad thing. In a good way, marketing tells a story and gives you the opportunity to say "I could use that".

By marketing Open Source you get the message out:

There are products (software) you can use
There are products that will help you and / or your business
You don't need to get everything from the big 10 vendors (Microsoft, IBM, CA, etc.)
You have choices

Big Open Source success stories are all software that has been marketed (Linux, Open Office, Firefox, etc.) We need to get better at saying "Hey Skippy, look over here, this is a software package that is going to improve your life and save you money". It does not mean that we pin them to the floor with a boot on their throat saying "Sign this license agreement and give me all your money". (That's called Sales and can be talked about in another post :-)

--Foster, 02-Sep-2005


Love the blog name. Perhaps the real problem is as you stated ... not enough to quit your day job. There is an economic reality with free software. If you were making money off of it I'm sure you'd be more willing to spend more time. Great wiki by the way, thank you for your effort.

--David, 10-Sep-2005


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