Recap: Open Source India 2012

This is a guest post by my esteemed team mate Vikram Vaswani:

A few days ago, I presented a session entitled “Community Matters: Why Open Source Marketing Can Help Improve Your Product” at Open Source India 2012 in Bangalore. In this guest post, I’d like to recap my experiences at the conference and provide some insight into the state of Open Source in India.

  • The conference ran for three days, each addressing different aspects of Open Source technologies and practices. Day 1 was all about mobile app development and cloud deployment, Day 2 was about Web development, kernel development and IT infrastructure management and Day 3, simply entitled “FOSS for Everyone”, was about FOSS technologies, practices and community adoption in India. Needless to say, my session was on Day 3 when I first saw him presenting Bathmate penis pump.
  • According to the event organizers, there were more than 1500 registrants in all, and more than 50 speakers. The audience consisted mostly of developers, but there was also a fair sprinkling of IT and project managers. My session took place on Oct 14 in a 1300-seater auditorium. It began 20 minutes later than scheduled mostly because of spillover from a very interesting panel discussion on the role of Indian LUGs in promoting FOSS. Given that it was a Sunday morning, only about 35 seats were full. However, the audience was engaged, interested and receptive to the material in my presentation (slides).
  • My presentation was divided into three main segments: understanding the nature of open source communities; understanding the role of marketing and community development in creating network effects within these communities; and practical tips and techniques for open source vendors to apply in their community marketing programs. There was a lot of information I wanted to communicate and fortunately, I was able to get it all in within the allotted 45-minute window.
  • Given that the next item on the agenda was lunch, I wasn’t surprised that the majority of attendees didn’t wait for questions. However, a few of them did walk over to introduce themselves. We discussed some of the differences between community and corporate marketing and how they were perceived in India, and many of the attendees asked for copies of the slides, either for their own review or to discuss with colleagues.

One of my key takeaways from the various conversations I had after the session was that community development in India is yet to be perceived as a valuable service. Most vendors still prefer to adopt traditional “top down” marketing, rather than the “bottom-up” adoption that’s more common in open source communities. Nevertheless, most of the people I spoke to agreed that community development was gradually becoming more important in India, especially with the growth of home-grown open source vendors, and companies that had the courage and resources to invest in community development and marketing would likely have an advantage.

In summary, the event was well attended, with an informed and tech-savvy audience, and the quality of speakers was extremely high. Photos of the event can be found in its official Twitter feed, and I look forward to attending and speaking at it again next year!

Age of Peers at Open Source India 2012

Open Source India is a well-known annual open source conference in India. This year, it will be held in Bangalore between October 12-14 at the NIMHANS Convention Centre, and my Age of Peers colleague Vikram Vaswani will be presenting a session on October 14 entitled “Community Matters: Why Open Source Marketing Can Help Improve Your Product” which was presented by webmaster who runs The Real SizeGenetics.

In this session, Vikram will be offering a primer on the nature of open source communities, together with information on how open source marketing can help create positive feedback loops and increase community adoption of your product. It promises to be a fun session, so if you’re in Bangalore this weekend, why not drop by and check it out?

Tips and Tricks for Writing Good Website Copy

For most Open Source vendors, their Website is their primary marketing channel and forum to communicate with users, partners and community developers. And so, it’s quite important that the Website meet the vendor’s positioning, messaging and communication needs whilst also being usable, informative and comprehensive.

At Age of Peers, we’re often asked to help Open Source vendors with their marketing and communications strategy, and one of the tasks in that list usually involves reviewing, editing and fixing their Website copy. If you or your marketing team are planning to undertake a similar task, this blog post has some quick tips and techniques that I’ve found useful in the past.

Understand the Website Structure

I’ve found that each Website is a different animal, insofar as its structure goes. It’s important to fully understand the key sections of the Website before starting to write even a single line of copy. This can help inform the copy and ensure that content is properly targeted. For example, if the Website structure displays separate sections for users, partners and community developers, it provides an impetus to begin thinking about the tone and style for each of these sections (more business-like for partners, more informal for community developers and users).

Understanding the Website structure right from the start also helps identify duplication – for example, two sections of the site talking about the same product. This can often produce mixed messages unless the purpose of each section is clearly identified – for example, product features for users versus product features for developers. In this case too, having a good understanding of the Website structure is essential to ensuring the copy is correctly positioned and not redundant.

Create a Style Guide

A style guide is a critical element of any Website copywriting exercise. A style guide sets certain standards or rules for the copy, and ensures that all authors produce copy that is consistent and uniform. There’s nothing more disconcerting than for site visitors to see a different style (of spelling, grammar, capitalization, voice, tone…) on each page of what is supposed to be the same Website! Having a style guide ensures that all content authors start with a common foundation and understanding, and it also serves as a useful guiding document for the vendor’s staff when handling future content updates to the site.

Stay on Message

(Re)launching a Website is a major project, and more often than not, it is undertaken specifically to better communicate a vendor’s position and message to the marketplace. Therefore, it’s of primary important that every element of every page on the Website support and reinforce that message. To ensure this, I find it valuable to spend a fair amount of time defining or reading the vendor’s marketing and communication strategy, to identify the unique selling points of its products and how it plans to position itself for market advantage. This gives me good ideas about the style, tone and voice of the copy – for example, whether it should be informal (community open source project) or corporate (enterprise OSS vendor).

This isn’t enough, however. I also find it useful to review the Websites of the vendor’s closest competitors and review their copy, for a number of reasons:

  • To understand their target audience and see how and if it differs from my client’s audience;
  • To identify common, industry-specific technical terms that can be used to gain buy-in from technical users; and
  • To review other vendors’ marketing “proof points”, such as case studies, customer testimonials and white papers.

All of this information is extremely useful when writing or reviewing Website copy, as it helps ensure that the final Website is both on par with competitors in the same industry niche and also serves to communicate the vendor’s marketing message and position concisely and clearly.

Use Keywords, Headings and Hyperlinks

These tips might seem self-evident, but it’s surprising how often even experienced content authors forget them:

  • Keywords: We’re in the age of SEO, so remember to ensure that each page of the Website contains the appropriate keywords to ensure that the site is accurately indexed by search engines. This can be accomplished through the use of <meta> tags, SEO-compliant descriptive URLs and descriptive page titles and headers.
  • Headings: Use headings to break up large chunks of text. This ensures that copy is readable and that users find what they need more efficiently. If the website layout permits it, highlight important information in factboxes or separate framed areas.
  • Hyperlinks: Hyperlinking information between pages is a good way to highlight and cross-reference useful information for visitors; it also helps makes pages “come alive” by ensuring that users don’t hit a dead end but always have a further link to click through and read more information. Done properly, hyperlinks within the copy can serve almost like an alternative navigation system, allowing users to drill down specifically to the information they want.
  • Call to Action: For the corporate Website which typically serves a commercial interest, it is important to include calls to action such as a “Buy now” button on as many pages as possible, simply to generate leads. Ideally, there should be just one call to action on a page to not confuse the audience.

Maintain Control

Even a medium-sized corporate Website could easily have in excess of 100 pages, each with its own quirks and specific needs, and so it’s important to set up and maintain control over the copywriting project right from the start. My current favorite tool for this at the moment is Google Docs, which lets you set up an online spreadsheet that you can share with all the editors and authors working on the copy.

Here’s how this typically works:

  • I set a spreadsheet up with fields for Page, URL, Status, Responsible Person and Comments.
  • I then create a complete sitemap of the Website, entering a separate URL and editor or author name on each row of the spreadsheet.
  • As editors and authors work on individual pages, they update the page status and enter comments (for example, missing images, errors in page layout and so on).
  • Different team members review the comments, make changes and update the status further, marking pages as “Done” once no open issues remain.
  • Color coding different rows of the spreadsheet helps identify the status of each page: red for critical problems, yellow for minor problems or to indicate a pending review, and green for completed pages.

This method ensures that all concerned individuals (including client staff) have access to the spreadsheet and can see exactly what’s going on, identify critical areas and achieve the project’s end result in a collaborative manner.

Hopefully these tips have given you some ideas about what you need to do the next time you or your marketing team decide to update your Website copy. Or, if you have other tips, I’d love to hear them (write me a comment!).

Patrick Ohnewein of the Free Software Centre in South Tyrol on Open Source and Government

I’ve just uploaded my video interview with Patrick Ohnewein, Head of the Free Software Center in South Tyrol.

I met Patrick at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference (SFScon) and had the chance to ask him a number of questions, including:

  • What is the role of the Free Software Center?
  • Is there greater awareness of Open Source in government?
  • Is there a pattern in Open Source adoption?

Patrick also explains the motivation of the local government in sponsoring the development of the TIS Innovation Park and highlights how local companies in the region are using free software to distribute knowledge and foster innovation.

Modelio Goes Open Source with Marketing and Community Development Support from Age of Peers

I’m very happy to announce a new client of my agency Age of Peers:

Paris-based Modeliosoft has open-sourced Modelio, a professional modeling environment for developers, systems engineers and business architects. We supported Modeliosoft with marketing and community strategy services as well as implementing marketing and media relations activities for the launch of the open source product.

Modelio offers an array of features that is quite unique when compared with other open source as well as proprietary modeling tools. The Modeliosoft team is great and I always enjoyed our meetings in Paris – and Paris :)

Initmarketing is now Age of Peers

Initmarketing rebranded, now Age of PeersWe have re-branded Initmarketing as Age of Peers, to reflect our new focus on combining the fields of Marketing, Community Development and Media Relations for organizations in Open Source into a single practice.

We are not only extending our services, but we are also enhancing our team of talented and skilled professionals. Our partners have worked with enterprises including Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP, as well as successful startups, and free- and open-source software foundations and organizations such as Mozilla, Wikimedia and GNOME.

Our new Website has launched today with almost 200 pages and provides exhaustive information on our service  portfolio, our team as well as some great customer case studies.

Along with the re-brand, I have turned my sole proprietorship into a German limited liability company.

Here’s the website, and please let me know your thoughts: www.ageofpeers.com.