Open source marketing is like manning an info desk

At the Openismus party in Berlin a few weeks ago, I had some interesting conversations about what marketing for an open source project like GNOME should be. What’s our core message and who are we targeting? (I think the best ideas come from discussions with others who care about the subject. Luckily with open source, everyone is passionate about the projects they work on so I get to have lots of really interesting discussions and hear lots of good ideas. I realized later I always talk shop at open source events. So if you don’t like talking shop, you should probably avoid me at the next open source related party, although you can sidetrack me by talking about kids. 🙂

There was one comment that we all thought was funny and right on. Jos van den Oever observed that marketing for an open source project is like working at an info desk. In a sense that’s true for all companies. Marketing departments give the rest of the world information about the company. But it’s even more true for open source because the marketing project doesn’t set the direction or strategy or even know all the answers. You direct people to the people that have the answers. Or at least that’s what I feel like I’m doing. Getting questions, finding answers, relaying back … like an info desk.

An infodesk model also implies that you are applying less of a slant to your messaging …

5 Replies to “Open source marketing is like manning an info desk”

  1. Depends a bit on the structure of a company. Within some companies MKT works exactly like an ‘info desk’ — some staff function with no real power. In such cases it is up to the MKT dep to convince other deps to act a certain way.
    Instead of seeing it as an info desk, think more of a two way MKT dep. So you determine the nice goals and MKT them internally as well as externally. If done properly, you’ll notice that even though you might not have ‘real power’, you will be able to set the direction.
    Note that I’m talking about MKT and not sales. A salesperson might say/sell something that is unrealistic (just to get a customer). Within MKT it should be more about overall goals, branding, etc. Unfortunately MKT often has a bad name, more due to the use of sales ‘tactics’.
    A lot of things within GNOME work the same way. Depending on how convincing you are you can get a lot of things done, without actually doing it yourself or being able to do such things.

  2. Thanks, I added the book to my wishlist.
    I had a friend who used to get really made that everyone’s first question was “what do you do?” It made her mad because she did so much more than just her paid job.
    I think people would rather hear the answer to “what are you passionate about?” than “what do you do?” Hopefully for most of us, the answer to both questions is the same!

  3. What’s our core message and who are we targeting?
    If GNOME was honest, the core message is “Everyone should use Microsoft, we’re the willing conduit of their proprietary technologies polluting the world of Open Source” and the target audience is “Anyone not currently paying Microsoft.”

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