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Marketing in Open Source

Over memorial day weekend, I noticed that the Apache Software Foundation is having a little fun with marketing over Twitter.

I’m a fan of their “Did you know…” series of posts as of late. I mean, I had no idea Apache Shindig is the foundation for the LinkedIn InApps platform… and I’m sure the folks at LinkedIn wouldn’t have told me in a straightforward fashion either. I mean no offense to the folks at LinkedIn and other companies that use open source software, but they generally don’t do the best job advertising the open source technology they use. Sure, some companies are better than others but my point is that the burden of marketing seems to fall on the open source projects themselves. The problem with that is that open source developers are generally terrible at marketing (well, mostly apathetic). And I can guarantee you that if no one talks about your project or can find it, no one will be really using it even though it may be a great piece of work.

At Eclipse.org, I know this has been a bit of problem given just the diversity of projects and from people who have spoken to me. The Eclipse Foundation has done a good job when it comes to case studies on people building upon the Eclipse platform, but what else can it do for projects? From my own experience in supporting people who use Eclipse technology in the field… it’s quite amazing where you see Eclipse technology turn up… from ski lifts to banks to rail way systems. I don’t think many people understand the breadth of places that Eclipse technology shows up. Just a couple days ago I learned that Xtext was helping the automotive folks at AUTOSAR.

If the burden of marketing falls to open source projects themselves, what can you do to convince people to “sell” their project a bit? Should we suggest webinars as something people do as part of the release review process at Eclipse? Should a book be required as part of a graduation review at Eclipse (ok, maybe that’s a bit much but I’m still waiting on my Xtext book)?

Just some food for thought.

  • Kim Moir

    I've also been following the Apache foundation on twitter and thought the “Did you know” tweets were quite brilliant. I just looked and it seems that the Eclipse foundation itself doesn't have a generic twitter account for this type of outreach.

    http://twitter.com/eclipsefoundation is available 🙂

  • Doing marketing is indeed very important for an OS project. And a book is also very good but first we will do a webinar 🙂

  • Scott Lewis

    Hi Chris. I don't think the answer to the problem of marketing individual projects at the EF is to 'convince' the projects to do the marketing of their projects themselves. In most cases, I would say you don't really have any convincing to do.

    Rather, the problem is that the EF projects are generally starved for resources, and when it comes to a choice between development, releng, documentation, and marketing (in the form of time spent by project leads and other committers)…well, the choice is pretty obvious.

    Further, IMHO the EF's own marketing resources are heavily biased in favor of the corporate-run projects, and away from individually-run projects. As an example of this, take the comments/response/lack of actual action to this bug https://bugs.eclipse.org/bugs/show_bug.cgi?id=3…. Also, as you describe, you can easily contrast the Apache Foundation with the Eclipse Foundation wrt supporting/promoting/marketing the projects.

    In sum…telling/forcing the projects to do everything themselves (what the Foundation/BOD generally does at EF) doesn't work…except to drive innovation elsewhere.

  • At Eclipse, projects have a lot of freedom to do what they want as long as the Eclipse Development Process is followed. As part of that freedom, you get to do a lot of things yourself which can be good and bad.

    In terms of individual project donations, I don't see anything wrong with this in practice in allowing people to donate to a project or a committer. I think in general, once money is involved (especially when it needs to be distributed) things become a bit complicated so I would probably stick with individual committer donations.

    Another option for individual run projects is to advertise consulting services more. If there are people out that there use ECF or some other project, it would be nice to know that there may be some commercial support available outside the normal open source support channels. I know the Xtext folks have had a bit success with this approach on their page (although they are backed by itemis mostly, but it's not that big of a company).

    In the end, I don't see a silver bullet yet but I'm definitely thinking about this more and more.

  • Scott Lewis

    >In the end, I don't see a silver bullet yet but I'm definitely thinking about this more >and more.

    Good…because I think that the following trends will continue:

    1) More of Eclipse/Eclipse projects will be led by independents (More than half of committers are now independents, I believe)
    2) Marketing (or lack of it) will have more to do with a project's success and/or survival (because mktg->usage->community viability)

    I would encourage you, as a committer rep, to try to influence the BOD toward more sustainable project development…and improving the role that mktg plays in that sustainability.

  • Scott Lewis

    >In the end, I don't see a silver bullet yet but I'm definitely thinking about this more >and more.

    Good…because I think that the following trends will continue:

    1) More of Eclipse/Eclipse projects will be led by independents (More than half of committers are now independents, I believe)
    2) Marketing (or lack of it) will have more to do with a project's success and/or survival (because mktg->usage->community viability)

    I would encourage you, as a committer rep, to try to influence the BOD toward more sustainable project development…and improving the role that mktg plays in that sustainability.

  • Kim Moir

    I've also been following the Apache foundation on twitter and thought the “Did you know” tweets were quite brilliant. I just looked and it seems that the Eclipse foundation itself doesn't have a generic twitter account for this type of outreach.

    http://twitter.com/eclipsefoundation is available 🙂

  • Doing marketing is indeed very important for an OS project. And a book is also very good but first we will do a webinar 🙂

  • Scott Lewis

    Hi Chris. I don't think the answer to the problem of marketing individual projects at the EF is to 'convince' the projects to do the marketing of their projects themselves. In most cases, I would say you don't really have any convincing to do.

    Rather, the problem is that the EF projects are generally starved for resources, and when it comes to a choice between development, releng, documentation, and marketing (in the form of time spent by project leads and other committers)…well, the choice is pretty obvious.

    Further, IMHO the EF's own marketing resources are heavily biased in favor of the corporate-run projects, and away from individually-run projects. As an example of this, take the comments/response/lack of actual action to this bug https://bugs.eclipse.org/bugs/show_bug.cgi?id=3…. Also, as you describe, you can easily contrast the Apache Foundation with the Eclipse Foundation wrt supporting/promoting/marketing the projects.

    In sum…telling/forcing the projects to do everything themselves (what the Foundation/BOD generally does at EF) doesn't work…except to drive innovation elsewhere.

  • At Eclipse, projects have a lot of freedom to do what they want as long as the Eclipse Development Process is followed. As part of that freedom, you get to do a lot of things yourself which can be good and bad.

    In terms of individual project donations, I don't see anything wrong with this in practice in allowing people to donate to a project or a committer. I think in general, once money is involved (especially when it needs to be distributed) things become a bit complicated so I would probably stick with individual committer donations.

    Another option for individual run projects is to advertise consulting services more. If there are people out that there use ECF or some other project, it would be nice to know that there may be some commercial support available outside the normal open source support channels. I know the Xtext folks have had a bit success with this approach on their page (although they are backed by itemis mostly, but it's not that big of a company).

    In the end, I don't see a silver bullet yet but I'm definitely thinking about this more and more.

  • Scott Lewis

    >In the end, I don't see a silver bullet yet but I'm definitely thinking about this more >and more.

    Good…because I think that the following trends will continue:

    1) More of Eclipse/Eclipse projects will be led by independents (More than half of committers are now independents, I believe)
    2) Marketing (or lack of it) will have more to do with a project's success and/or survival (because mktg->usage->community viability)

    I would encourage you, as a committer rep, to try to influence the BOD toward more sustainable project development…and improving the role that mktg plays in that sustainability.