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[libreplanet-discuss] Word of Mouth

From: Algot Runeman
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] Word of Mouth
Date: Sun, 02 Sep 2012 14:21:25 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:15.0) Gecko/20120827 Thunderbird/15.0

Referring to the way to explain free software, Danny Piccirillo posted this as part of a comment at the FSF Community Team list.
I wrote this for that reason:

I really like what is there. Thanks, Danny.

It seemed more appropriate to discuss the wiki entry here on this list.

I'm also a little concerned about the user reference, "puts that power in the hands of the users."

It is true that software freedom does that. However, the majority of computer users are not ever going to examine the source code. This giant user majority, if they use a free software program, is going to rely on the layer of users who do successfully make the effort to examine the code, though. It is the strength of that community connection which differentiates users of free software from users of proprietary, closed source, code. There can develop a sense that a particular program is "my" software because of the strong community.

Still, there will be a majority of users who simply get free software (perhaps installed for them by a friend) and just use it. They don't join the community in any way. As long as the software works, that's great. It won't matter that the software is "free as in freedom." The program user will be glad that they didn't have to pay for it more than they will be concerned about their freedom from dictatorial, proprietary, closed source coding practices.

Unfortunately, it is that group of users who are the most difficult to reach. They are using the software, whether or not it cost money. That's it. They really don't care about its source. It's a shame. They "ought" to care and join the community, but they don't.

That makes it a tougher marketing job. The uninvolved, non-community user wants the product to work, be easy to understand, to be free of malware and virus. Being free of cost is nice, maybe more significant than being free/open. I think successful marketing of software freedom is a word-of-mouth process. If a close friend recommends a free software install, an average person is more apt to try it. A chain of small successes expands the use of free software, one user to the next. How often, though, does the second user evangelize to a third? How often does the chain continue?

The key is getting a branching tree of promotion. One recommendation leading to two recommendations, then to four, etc. I wonder, though. Is it a little like both politics and religion? Is software freedom more touchy to bring up among friends, just like politics and religion. What opener makes talking software freedom "safe" like talking the weather and local team sports?

What do you say to a friend?

"Hey, I'm using _______ as my browser. It's great. Would you like to try it? No it won't cost you anything. It won't install a virus. It won't ...." (Negative doesn't sell well.)

Maybe a shared interest like photography is the opener. "Love that picture, Bob. What do you do to crop your work and straighten the rushed shot you otherwise like? I've found a great program..."

What do you say to someone, that works?


Algot Runeman
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