Subject: Re: access to free software
From: fyl@FYLZ.COM (Phil Hughes)
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 93 9:29:33 PST


Russell Nelson says:
> 
> On Fri, 19 Mar 93 09:33:50 PDT, "L. Peter Deutsch" <ghost@ALADDIN.COM> wrote:
> 
> > This is a good example of my observation that the free software world
> > is Unix- and Internet-centric.  Statistically speaking, almost no
> > computer users have access to the Internet for anything except mail,
> > and every hour of access costs real money.
> 
> Hmmm...  That observation inspired a thought.  Maybe free software
> and good communication between users goes hand in hand?  Maybe they
> feed on each other?

I think this is exactly the case.  I am involved with an effort to
create a magazine on free software (where we still are working on what
we are willing to consider free -- more on this later).  Here is a
comment from talking to the publisher of a magazine about what we need
to do to make our magazine fly.
     Talk to potential advertisers.  You don't have to "sell" them an
     ad, just tell them about the idea and see if they are interested
     in being on board.  Tell them how nothing (no industry, no
     movement, etc) has ever gotten big unless a journal existed
     to document it. 

I think he is right.  It doesn't matter what you are doing, you need
some sort of mouthpiece out there telling everyone what you are doing.
This is equally valid for political movements as it is for businesses.

While I have your attention, let me present the "what is free" problem
as seen from the view of a magazine publisher.  I would be very
interested in comments from FSBs.

We initially started with a goal of the magazine of something like
"documenting the free software industry" (I could look it up but that
is close enough).  After a few meetings we have realized that the
perceived purpose of a magazine is to inform its readers. (I say
perceived as, if the magazine is supported by advertisers, it is
really a marketing tool for advertisers -- you are in the marketing
business, not the information business.  Something I really don't like
the sound of but, in reality, it does seem to be the case.)

Anyway, that means the goal of the magazine is really supposed to be
more like "help software users get supportable software" or "help
users get the best software for the least money".  If, in fact, free
software can supply the user's needs best, it should succeed.

Let me offer some points made in our discussions.  
 * Microsoft spends 3 times as much money on marketing as it does
   on product
 * From a customer's point of view, getting something that does what
   they want and is maintainable is more important that any poltical
   reason for free software.  Thus, software with available source
   code but no free redistribution may be their best choice.
 * Some products offer reasonable solutions right now but people
   can't find out about them because the manufacturer doesn't have
   the marekting budget to convince people that it is better than
   big-money marketed alternatives.  (I offer the $25 Network and 
   Little Big LAN as such products that allow you to network MS-DOS
   systems for either $25 or $75 total software cost for the whole
   network.)

So, in summary, we are attempting to define the focus of this
potential magazine.  The decision needs to:
 * sound like something that we are interested in morally (we
   are not looking for just a "business" and agree that we will
   only do it if we feel good about it)
 * offer something that is needed to a potentially large enough
   reader base that the magazine is possible
 * have a large enough base of advertisers that it can survive
   financially

-- 
Phil Hughes - FYL - 8315 Lk City Wy NE - Suite 207 - Seattle, WA 98115 
Phone: 206-526-2919 x74      Fax: 526-0803
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