Subject: Re: Journal / Trade Mag?
From: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller <robin@roblimo.com>
Date: Wed, 02 Mar 2005 08:06:52 -0500


>While I expect there's a lot of truth to the claim that the trade
>press is in the pocket of the advertisers, I have to wonder how many
>FLOSS projects send press releases to trade rags on every release
>(FreshMeat doesn't count), or hang out at trade shows buffing up the
>editors of the relevant trade rags to ask for a review of their
>product.  But I bet the commercial firms do those things religiously,
>and I bet it would help visibility of open source projects immensely
>if they treated the existing trade rags with the importance the trade
>rags assign to themselves.  ;-)
>

I'm a member of "the trade press" and I assure you that I'm not in any 
advertiser's pockets, nor are other people in "the trade press" I know 
and respect -- which doesn't say there aren't people I don't know and/or 
don't respect.

As far as PR for open source projects: I've written several "advice" 
columns on how to do effective open source PR, I've held a couple of IRC 
seminars on the topic, and at the Boston LWCE I hosted a "How to promote 
your open source project" panel consisting of journalists Steven 
Vaughn-Nichols and Brian Proffitt, plus PR pro Joe Eckert.

That panel discussion was not well-attended, although you'd think 
everyone manning or womanning a booth in the .org pavilion would have 
made time to catch it. (OTOH, my "teaching desktop Linux to new users" 
presentation was jammed.)

Simple fact: not everyone is interested in promotion, and coders are 
notoriously not interested in marketing-type activities. There are a few 
noticable exceptions, like that Behlendorf guy, and you'll note that 
people like him tend to run their own companies -- or move rapidly into 
management if they work for others.

Another thing to note is that most well-promoted open source projects 
are either headed by non-coders (Mitchell Baker, Mozilla) or have a 
non-coder onboard to handle "community relations" a la Louis 
Suarez-Potts at OOo. These projects have funding, of course, which 
helps, but there are people out there, including PR pros, who will do 
pro bono work for volunteer projects if they are asked.

But the biggest barrier to effective marketing for open source projects 
is the, "Our stuff is great, and great stuff doesn't need marketing. And 
marketing is nothing but lies anyway," attitude so many FOSS people seem 
to have.

Umm.... whatever.  Go on believing that in a world where inferior 
products commonly rise to the top of the marketplace while superior ones 
tank, and you may be happy but you will be WRONG.

The belief that lying is an effective marketing tactic is sooooo untrue 
that I'm suprised when I run into people who still believe this canard. 
The reality, especially for a small/newcomer company or product, is that 
underpromising and overdelivering is more likely to generate long-term 
success than doing things the other way around. Indeed, I believe the 
main reason Linspire (formerly Lindows) isn't the most popular Linux 
distro in the world  is that Michael Robertson made so many untrue 
claims early on that the company lost all credibility with journalists 
and trendsetters -- and still hasn't overcome its credibility gap.

 But I'm a nobody, so there is no reason to listen to me on these 
matters, even if everything I'm saying has been said in the past by 
David Ogilvy, Jerry Della Femina, and other recognized masters of 
advertising, promotion, and public relations.

- Robin