Leadership optimize

Putting your best foot forward with open source projects

It's not all about the tech, if you're working on open source projects. Learn how to generate some good buzz about what you're working on with a few tips about dealing with the IT press and blogosphere.

Earlier this week, Jack Wallen posted his opinion on generating good buzz for Linux by suggesting a compelling commercial campaign. Apparently, better PR (public relations as well as press relations) is one area that Linux and open source projects, in general, need to improve.

The odds are that serious open source developers and project managers aren't spending a lot of their time thinking about the press or strategizing about their "image." But if you want your project to get in front of your target users, it wouldn't hurt to give some thought to publicizing it a little. It could result in additional development help or even donations of funds to keep the project moving ahead. And if you don't actively court the press, at least don't make it difficult for people to figure out what you're doing.

ZDNet blogger Jason Perlow tweeted a pointer to a very helpful article by Esther Schindler on just this topic, "Four Things Open Source Projects Should Know About Dealing with the Press." Schindler has some practical advice for anyone who needs a little help with this whole PR thing, including making yourself "discoverable."

Creating a /press page isn't a bad idea even if attracting media attention is low on your priority list. Having the "who we are, what we're doing, and why you should care" info in one place also might help users and developers find out if your project is worth their download time.

To see what other advice Schindler offers, see the original post; it's not terribly long and well worth a read if you've been frustrated that so few people realize how brilliant you are!

If you have other ideas for how to succeed in open source, share them below.

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

4 comments
csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I know with kinda goes against alot of people's grain, but: Linux, and Open Source in general, doesn't need PR. Those of use who use FLOSS and Linux and such already know the benifits. Those that will switch over will learn in time. Those that won't, will never. An "education" and PR campaign will just alienate people and still not have anyone switch. What we need to do is just keep on keeping on. We don't need a huge influx of users. We need the developers developing quality software and we as users should be supporting these developers, whether it be with time (documentation, translation, programming) or money donations. FLOSS isn't a business. It's a community.

Justin James
Justin James

The fact of the matter is, if you hope to gain market share, then you need PR. Not every project cares about market share, of course. But if your project (for whatever reason) aims to gain market share, then you need to PR. Many, if not most buisnesses and consumers get their information that they make decisions on not from one of the millions of blogger.com or blogspot.com or Twitter people, but from one or two of the small handful of really credible news/information sources out there. Without feeding those sources, it becomes very hard for a project to get press time, which in turn makes it hard for that project to get noticed. "FLOSS isn't a business. It's a community." I would *love* to agree with you here. The idealist in me wants to agree, really badly. And in some cases, this is true. In fact, in a *lot* of cases. But for a great many projects, this is absolutely false. Many FLOSS projects *are* a business, or part of a business strategy. Red Hat doesn't care about "community". In fact, their business model requires a crippled community, otherwise, no one would buy their support services. IBM pumps millions into Linux development as a wedge against Microsoft. MySQL... look at the list of developers on that, nearly all of them are employed by companies who are paying them to work on MySQL. Do you honestly think they are doing that for "community"? Or for profit? In fact, why *did* Sun buy MySQL? Making blanket statements about FLOSS is simply not correct, because FLOSS is an *adjective* not a *noun*. Just because a piece of software has been released with a FLOSS-friendly licenses does not mean that it will ever have a true "community" around it, nor does it mean that it is free of commercial desires. J.Ja

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

If it needs to be done, it will be done. Noone needs some stuck up marketing type trying to spin X OSS project to the masses. We don't need that and a whole lot of us don't want it. Lack of a PR department means we have more freedom to do our own thing. If Linux was born in a commercial setting, it would have faltered like Be along time ago. "Community" does not mean "not commercial". I said FLOSS isn't a business. It is not. It's very nature fights against all that business in the modern world is. We give programs away FOR FREE. And that is libre and gratis. A business with a hand in FLOSS doesn't make the FLOSS commercial, it means the business has a vested interest in the well being for the project. you are right, just because it is FLOSS, it will not have a community. It has a community because people want said project to succeed, be it for ideological reasons (advancement of OSS over CSS) or for business (needing this project to help push as fledgling to dieing commercial project (in Sun's case, fledgling.)) FLOSS is NOT a business. But business can use FLOSS. (and I think, grammatically, that FLOSS can be both. It can describe a piece of software or be a piece of software.)

jlwallen
jlwallen

start off as either individual projects or small projects. because of that there is no room for marketing or PR. unless a project has financial backing right away there will be zero press release. i think this is one of those topics that schools need to address when they are educating their programming students. learn to market you and your tools. when a programmer comes up with a grand idea one of the first things they should do is generate a buzz by marketing their idea. especially if it's open source! that's how Linus did it and now look at Linux.