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?

Session at Open World Forum: Does Open Source Need Marketing?

Open World Forum 2010 In case you’ll attend the Open World Forum in Paris next week, make sure you join me and my team mate Rory MacDonald for our session Does Open Source Need Marketing?.

During this 1h session, we’ll testify some of the common misconceptions of marketing open-source software. We’ll also discuss major trends in marketing communications for open source vendors.

For example, one slide we prepared shares the mantra “It’s not about the code, it’s about conversations, stupid”. Furthermore, we’ll provide some recommendations regarding Marketing 1.0 vs. Marketing 2.0 and how your brand will work for customers and the community alike.

The session is part of a full-day Think Tank on open source marketing entitled “All Change Please”, which features one more workshop presented by Simon Phipps, Carlo Piana, Charles H. Schultz. Patrice Bertrand, CEO of SMILE, will also take part in the Think Tank.

‘Nough said: Learn more about the bleeding edge of open source marketing and join our session October 1st, 14:00-15:00.

BTW: I’ll attend the 2010 Paris Open Source Think Tank as well, which takes place prior to OWF.

Supporting Internal Open Source Evangelists

Free and Open Source software is often being introduced through the back door in SMBs as well as large corporations. In-house developers can any time download it at no cost and install it to see if it fits the requirements for internal projects. Due to this kind of go-to-market strategy, MySQL’s Marten Mickos once stated: “We don’t believe in converting.”

The question is: How about internal converting? How about the day, when in-house developers need to justify the use of FOSS to their managers when they seek to consolidate the corporate IT infrastructure? Will FOSS speak for itself?

That’s the day, when enthusiastic in-house developers should start to act and regard themselves as internal Open Source evangelists. They will attempt to build support for FOSS within their organization to establish it as part of the IT landscape. What can they do in favor of FOSS and what should FOSS vendors and projects do to support them?

As much as it is important in the public to achieve a critical mass of FOSS supporters, it is critical within organizations to convince the critical minds, i.e. the decision makers. Here are some points how internal evangelists should be supported:

  1. Internal Open Source evangelists might face the problem of being “the prophets in their own land”. They need to be supported in any possible way by external “objective” sources. For example, through publicly available marketing and sales material highlighting the business benefits of a certain FOSS product. Furthermore, FOSS vendors could have sales staff visit on site and talk to management directly. In general, it is highly important that there is enough easily accessible marketing material provided by FOSS vendors and projects that allow internal evangelists to pick or develop good arguments. A common mistake, especially by FOSS vendors is to hide valuable information, asuming that it will make potential clients call them, while it actually hurts the back door go-to-market strategy.
  2. The still growing momentum and usually positive media coverage helps internal evangelists to advocate FOSS within their organization by refering to success stories.
  3. The best argument in favor of FOSS is a working implementation. Given the easy availability and access to FOSS source code, in-house developers can quickly set up a proof-of-concept or even specific simple solutions for internal use.

In general, FOSS might benefit from general organizational changes going on in today’s companies that reward inidividual and bottom-up initiatives. Flat hierarchies are supposed to avoid the problem that the person actually purchasing software is not the person actually using it. Technical staff that enjoys building IT solutions with Free and Open Source software that actually works as advertised will not be frustrated by software purchased due to mesmerizing sales presentations.

FOSS as a movement can actually support companies in becoming more efficient and effective, not only in terms of TCO, but also in terms of reduced staff turnover and more innovation, because it supports a more open and egalitarian corporate culture. Once these two phenomena converge, proprietary vendors will have a hard time matching such a corporate culture and yes, then we won’t have to believe in converting any longer.

I am looking forward to discussing aspects of internal FOSS evangelism at the German OSMB workshop on FOSS as part of an IT strategy taking place Thursday, Jan 29, 11-13:00 together with moderator Heinrich Seeger (Heise) and the other panelists Matthew Langham (Indiginox), Dr. Uwe Schmid (McKinsey), Kristian Raue (Jedox).

Dates of Sales and Marketing Workshops Hosted by Open Source Business Foundation

The dates for the OSBF workshops on Open Source sales and marketing are now available online.

I’ll kick off the series of workshops together with Richard Seibt, former CEO SUSE, at February 18th in Nuremberg, Germany. From 10-13, I will introduce marketing Open Source software. Richard will talk about Open Source business models from 14-17.

The workshops will be in German and there will be enough time for discussions with participants.

OSBF members will not pay for attending the presentations, non-members will be charged EUR 150. Find more info on how to register for the workshops at the OSBF Web site.

Fights About Information Flows in Companies Switching to Open Source

I am a big fan of Clay Shirky. He presented “It’s not information overload. It’s filture failure.” at Web 2.0 Expo NY last year – a fabulous speech you should not miss:

http://blip.tv/play/Ac6tV4a8DQ

Shirky’s talk made Matt Asay think about how filture failure applies to Open Source which again made me realize just how true Shirky’s call for a “mental shift” in organizations applies to companies switching from a proprietary to an Open Source business model.

Such companies face a cultural change related to what Shirky calls “the fight about information flows and access to it”. The reason being that “the Internet allows large systems that are freerider-tolerant” in contrast to the offline-world where “small groups defend theirselves against freeriders”. Proprietary companies is what I’d call a “small group” regarding their mentality, no matter how many employees they actually have. Proprietary software vendors constantly strive to defend themselves against freeriders e.g. with patents and non-permissive licenses. Their partner companies benefit from being a partner because they have better access to information provided by the proprietary ISV.

Now think of a proprietary company leaning towards a FOSS business model, opening up their code and consequently also their communications. This means a lot of change, because communicating about Open Source products is essentially about communicating on the Web, where – as Shirky pointed out – large systems can evolve that are freerider-tolerant. And of course every Open Source vendor wants to have a large community. So, suddenly the gates are open and information is supposed to flow much more freely between the former proprietary software vendor and its community, which just as well includes partner companies.

In such a situation, communication tactics of employees and partner companies will have to change dramatically to sustain a successful Open Source business environment.