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Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Free Software as a brand


From: Matthew Larsen
Subject: Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Free Software as a brand
Date: Sun, 7 Jun 2009 12:35:15 +0100

Indeed, I think Open-Source also is a successful brand idea, however the following issues raise in my mind

1) People 'in the know' (i.e CIO's, FOSS users/devs etc) are aware of open source, the pro's/con's  and how FOSS can fit in with their existing software systems. However, when the second level of 'depth' of FOSS is reached even (and I admit myself) can get confused with all the different types of FOSS ... for example to differentiate between GNU, BSD etc licenses, Shared-source, corporate-sponsored, microsoft-style open source etc. IMO this is where the definition of FOSS gets a bit odd. It seems to go from the straightforward umbrella of Free Software into highly granulated areas of licenses, models, types, management etc etc.

2) The idea of having some sort of FOSS badge or 'This product is open-source' sort of certification could be a good forward driver. There allready exists these systems (for example we could just say its open source, whack on the GNU symbol etc) but it doesn't really have the same appeal as say a Freeview sticker does. Some sort of badge and associated website / branding effort on this front could be quite instrumental in educating Joe Public and could provide another layer of viability to the movement. Speculativly it could also help with validating the movement and ideas in law and politics.

3) A strong definition of open-source software and identifiablity - kind of like point 2. If we pop into PC world and see a FOSS sticker slapped on something, or a piece of corporate software with it shoved on I feel it would provide a nice & easy way to identify the movement. This I feel would be excellent for groups like us trying to promote FOSS - if we turn up somewhere with a bunch of commonly branded software, description and website we can point people to, it would present a much more professional and coherent view of FOSS software. In personal experience it seems at the moment we turn up with a bunch of GNU stickers, Ubuntu banners and a big penguin - none of these to Joe Public really have any connection and looks a bit random. It doesn't really have the same impact as Microsoft setting up a stall and having their name and the windows logo slapped on everything.

4) Philosophically it may help shift the balance of power of FOSS from highly technical areas to more soft-based ones, like marketing, managing etc. For instance it may change the idea of Free / Open Source Software to Free / Open Source Systems. Mozilla I know have pioneered open-source management methods etc, we could say websites like Digg & Reddit are 'Open Source community-driven news' etc. It seems to me one of the primary proponents of FOSS is the community (developers and the users) which is also it's greatest strength; the whole idea is that software and systems are community moderated and validated as opposed to just trusting whatever Company X say about their system, and the freedom of the individual to choose what they run and use. Bringing these core axioms and presenting them as a brand could be a great idea (imagine picking an OS: Someone could go 'OK, this software (or management style or picture or whatever) was developed by MS and I have no idea what is going on, and this one has been created and validated by millions of people like me and gives me choice')

My 2C
------------
Matthew G Larsen
  > address@hidden
  > United Kingdom
  > www.twitter.com/matlarsen



2009/6/7 Robert Burrell Donkin <address@hidden>
On Sat, Jun 6, 2009 at 6:55 PM, Simon Ward<address@hidden> wrote:
> On Sat, Jun 06, 2009 at 05:23:56PM +0000, Tim Dobson wrote:
>> The president of the FSFE is urging a unified brand of "open source"...
>>
>> I guess I support the end point, but not having read his article through
>> completely, I'm a bit surprised to be honest...
>
> I suggest you do this.  Despite Matthew's wording, Greve does not urge a
> unified brand of "open source".  The whole article talks about managing
> the brands of free software and avoiding brand degradation.  Open source
> is included because it is free software; they're linked in both their
> definitions and in peoples' minds.  If the "open source" term is abused,
> it affects free software; if the "free software" term is abused, it
> affects free software.
>
>> I'm cautious...There have been many rebranding's of free software over
>> the years.... open source software, open software, organic software,
>> freedomware, software libre... I'm not sure any have been particularly
>> successful...
>
> "Open source" is actually referred to in the article as "a failed
> re‚Äźbranding effort over which its creators lost control".  There is
> suggestion that a single brand for free software may be better, but it
> is in my reading by no means the theme(?) of the article.

open source was an entirely successful rebranding effort whose triumph
was down to the creators losing control :-P

in terms of Free Software, this victory delivers freedom for
developers and a general acknowledgement that distributed open
independent communities can create innovative software

it's time for the Free Software community to stop thinking about that
battle and try to prepare a new battle ground for the next ten years

- robert


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