Subject: Re: Journal / Trade Mag?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 16:59:30 +0900

>>>>> "kms" == Karsten M Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com> writes:

    kms> The point is that marketing's part of the picture, but
    kms> viability is very much a part as well.

So what else is new?  Hackers already know that.  The point is that
marketing is _not_ part of the picture for many wannabe FSBers, and it
needs to be, while hackers use technical viability/quality as an
excuse to ignore marketing and bash those who are good at it.

    kms> Still, tools like Freshmeat and Sourceforge, highlighting
    kms> popular projects, etc., are at least promoting what's
    kms> currently popular to the already-clued technical market.

Mileage varies; I look at those "top ten" lists and think Letterman's
are a lot funnier.  Do they really have much meaning beyond bragging
rights _within_ the relevant communities?  (Honest question, I don't
_know_ anything but my own reaction.)  I note that immediately below
today's "Most Active" list (dominated by Bittorrent clients, hmm) at
SourceForge is a pair of cute little understated blurbs from Microsoft
in "Sponsored Content".  Do MSFT grok marketing?  I think MSFT do....

On the other hand, the link FreshMeat's "Reviews" page is tucked away
in a tiny sidebar and the page has 7 total posted in 14 months.  (OK,
I needed two hands to count, but that's still shameful.)  Maybe there
are more, but it wasn't obvious.  SourceForge doesn't seem to have a
"Reviews" page at all!

YMMV, I think it's a stretch to call that "promotion".  (Not knocking
SF or FMt, they have their own missions.)

    >> 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.

    kms> I was just commenting today to someone who's been coming
    kms> on-board in a big way, that this is one of GNU/Linux's (and
    kms> Linus's) strengths.  Both consistently under-promised and
    kms> over-delivered.  And while "this doesn't suck as much as I
    kms> thought it would" doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement,
    kms> when it starts hitting with monotonous consistency, and the
    kms> alternatives _don't_, it starts to be persuasive.
    kms> Unfortunately for the impatient, it's something of a
    kms> long-acting approach.

It's also the only straightforward one unless you have marketing
talent.  The problem of marketing is not overpromising in general; the
problem is overpromising _to the paying customers_.  (This is why
"business models" matter; they're about identifying the paying
customers.)

Take mySQL as an example.  Knocked for years for lack of ACID
properties, and IIRC for fudging about that lack, etc, did web admins
pay any attention?  No; they didn't need ACID, whether mySQL was
reneging on explicit promises of ACID or something implicit by calling
themselves an RDMBS was not of interest to them.  mySQL was fast and
reliable (enough) in their applications, it delivered on the promises
it made _that they cared about_, whatever the database gurus thought
about the matter.

Note that payment, so far, has very often been "in kind."  I think
that one reason that the projects you cite (Linux and Apache) have
prospered so much is that the coin of the realm is C tokens, not
Euros.  FireFox is an interesting potential counterexample, I don't
know enough about it but I gather you're saying that it's getting
significant penetration into the non-technical user market?  Is there
money or some form of compensation-in-kind (not limited to code, eg,
artwork/skins, recommendations in blogs, etc) involved, or is FireFox
just yet another example of the way FLOSS hackers provide large
benefits to the non-techies without getting much in return?  (I don't
object to such free-riding, but it doesn't directly provide resources
to help grow the projects, which is what FSB has to be about.)


-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.