Open Marketing and the Ethics of Sharing

Zend recently decided to not call themselves the creators of PHP anymore. This change in Zend’s marketing has been long overdue. It caused friction with some PHP core developers over the past years that spread into the PHP community.

Others also make mistakes

It is not that Zend is the only company in the Open Source market that made some marketing mistakes in the past. MySQL for example had their CTO Monty Widenius talk fancier then usual in an internally conducted interview and the answers did not sound like he really said them. It made known members of the MySQL community wonder who kidnapped Monty.

Sex sells?

To some marketing experts, the Open Source community might seem like a mine-field with many traps, because there are just too many critical thinkers in the community. It is so because they don’t fully understand the ethics of sharing.

Marketing and ethics – how does that go together? Isn’t marketing based on emotions and instincts? Catching you with the “sex sells” trick? Open Marketing is different – yet still emotional.

Have a lot of fun

Open Marketing addresses the intellect, because in Open Source it’s all about transparency: transparent software (code), transparent collaboration (mailinglists), transparent deficiency (bugs), …

Open Marketing also addresses emotions, because it’s fun. After your Linux installation, you read “Have a lot of fun”. Open Source developers identify with what they do, because they believe in their skills, the good work of the team, the value of sharing. They care about their work and the results – isn’t that emotional?

Hubs and innovation

Intellect and emotions come together in the ethics of sharing. It’s supporters believe that they can still gain although sharing, or better: they gain because they share. The more you share, the more you become the center of communication flows in the Open Source community. Speaking in terms of communication theory, you become a hub in a communication network.

What does that have to do with Open Marketing? It means that the correct marketing is vital to an Open Source company because it needs to be one of the main hubs in the communication flow of the Open Source community it targets at. Otherwise, the company will slowly loose it’s innovative power and market share respectively.

Proprietary vs. Open Marketing

The ethic of sharing is not so much about naive persons longing to be good, instead it is at the heart of the Open Source business, it is egoistic as well as altruistic at once, intellectual and emotional, and the basis for making money.

To summarize: Open Marketing is just as “copyleft” to the traditional marketing, as the GPL is to proprietary software licensing. It is not about illusions, it is about realities. In that sense, Zend just fixed a bug in their marketing and move from a sometimes proprietary style marketingto a better open marketing. Welcome back to reality!

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