No, Do Advocate by Advocating

I was trying to think why Dougie’s blog post this morning unsettled me slightly. It’s about not advocating, although the post doesn’t actually make any arguments about advocation itself, only consideration of all user needs.

But a rule I live by when advocating is that it’s not my choice to tell someone they will use Ubuntu because it does everything they need and nor is it my choice to tell a user that they can not use Ubuntu because it can’t do something they probably need. It’s worth while to advocate, educate and present the full value exchange to the user so that at the end of the day they can decide if they want to trade in iphone compatibility for a faster system that is more at peace.

I know I would be upset if I was passed over from being taught about important choices because the advocate was so considerate as to literally take the decision away.

And to answer another blogger today: I advocate because this idea of software freedom we have is nothing short of an industrial revolution in the production and provisioning of software, the software industry is new but it’s being fundamentally changed by the legal, economic and social challenges that have come about by having a fixed original work designed to be copied for free infinitum.

Of course it’s also nice to give people computers that work, but what’s the point if they don’t understand how transformative the process was that made it possible and instil a political will that stops harmful legislation from crippling the free culture movement.

Your thoughts?

Microsoft At War!

I was catching up on some groklaw news picks and found myself reading this little gem. It’s a list of excerpts from James Plamondon in Exhibit plex_2456. What follows is a rant, you’ve been warned.

Reading this I felt sorry for James, not like one would feel sorry for a cute little pig about to be made into sausages but more like feeling sorry for Darth Vader as he realises his fate is at Darth Sidius’s side. The guy is evil and I don’t mean in any over dramatic way, the guy admits it.

What is disturbing is the way in which he objectifies people, turning social relationships into controllable terms of negotiation. It’s the kind of sickness that must inflict every red braces wearing socio-path in wall street to the cape wearing dictators in far flung tropical countries of fantasy.

What is it that turns a man’s life into nothing more than a string of social engagements where the act of being friendly is all an act to exert control and dominance in some game? What is it that leads a person into believing that using other people with underhanded socio-abuse is something to hold up as a badge of honour.

I get accused of hating Microsoft, well Martin so why do you hate? Actually I have nothing against the basic premise of outmoded and nostalgic software production methodologies they embody. I instead reserve my righteous contempt for the culture that the people at the top there cultivate, their abuses of political and social power which have absolutely nothing to do with economics.

Notice the language in use, it’s very telling of where James draws the line of morality, it’s *way* over there where most other people would have stopped already. The language shows that this is a war with allys and enemies, mercenaries to be bought and battles to win. Oh sure Free Software isn’t about morality, that’s just about economic efficiency, social cooperation and trading standards. On the other hand Microsoft…

…Perhaps bug one is more than just stopping an economic drain and industrial stupidity, perhaps it’s also for some about sticking two fingers up to the industrial socio-paths. Those who would gladdy use their friends as shields or weapons and who think of their actions as nothing but a big game where those who break the social rules get to win.

End of rant, next time join me in a celebration of cute bunnies and puppies.

Why you Should(‘nt) use Windows 7

According to Dell while I was digging on their websites about their Ubuntu support I noticed this really interesting PDF file. The text of the document is attempting to convince you to get a computer from Dell with Windows 7 instead of other versions of windows.

Note: It has long been understood that Microsoft’s biggest competitor is against Windows is Old Windows.

But the independent research they’ve put together to try and convince readers isn’t exactly very convincing, it shows most tests as favouring Windows XP over both Vista and 7 which is probably what most windows users would expect. I have to wonder if the document is a bit tongue in cheek from Dell.

Of course there is not any comparison with Ubuntu as that would mean Dell weren’t selling ubuntu machines to just geeks, so more the pity.

Your observations?

What is going on Dell?

I have to admit I’m kinda confused by Dell’s Ubuntu support, their USA website is currently selling four computers under the Ubuntu page. One Moblin Remix Mini 10v and three with 9.10, although I’ve only read a couple of reviews about the Moblin remix the consensus is that it’s not quite as good as the Netbook remix yet.

Now onto their EU sites which still have Ubuntu pages and pages which Ubuntu is still advertising, but for which they do not actually sell any Ubuntu computers at all, it just redirects you to buy windows. They’ve stopped selling and they’re sale staff are certain they’ll never sell them again. Should I be pleased that my American friends can enjoy a limited set of Ubuntu computers or annoyed that the UK is showing it’s self to be a technology basket case again?

Dell, I shan’t be referring anyone to buy from you until you pick up your game and start producing products which can match those of other suppliers and make them available in important locations. This also reflects badly on Canonical of course who gets licensing revenue from every Dell with Ubuntu sale, but not from any System76 sales, so why do people in the UK (where Canonical is based) need to buy from system76?

It’s also bad that their dell partner webpage is so out of date, don’t Dell tell Canonical when they stop selling machines in what countries? At least the Canadian ubuntu page on the dell side has been removed, we should at least make sure it’s removed on the ubuntu side too.

Ubuntu @ Intel LAN Party

This weekend I was asked (begged) to help out at a yearly event where some local Ubuntu advocates go and attempt to convince local hard core gamers to try and have a duel boot of Ubuntu and see what progress is being made on gaming in the platform.

Here are some of the photos from the event:

It was a very positive event with a great number of people exclaiming their pain at not being able to run their most cherished games on Ubuntu. Almost everyone knew about Ubuntu and a great number of them loved it… if it wasn’t for some of the pain you have to go through to make it work.

That’s where getting the word out about playonlinux and getdeb… programs and sites that can really make a difference to the average PC gamer trying out Ubuntu.

Ubuntu’s Golden Ring

I’m been catching up to TedTalks from last year (2009) and last week I got to Simon Sinek’s talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, in the talk he describes what he calls “The golden ring” which is his representation of how to communicate ideas in order to inspire and influence buying decisions.

So I figured I’d mix up the ideas on my blog and see if they can improve the communication and advertising of Ubuntu and Free and Open Source in general. The results are below but first I’ll quickly go over the ideas for those who skipped the above link and haven’t seen the video yet.

What Simon illustrates is the method in which traditional marketing messages work and he does so with a single circular diagram. Traditionally the messages move from the outside of the circle to the inside, from the What (the product), to the how (awesome features) and then finally sometimes to the Why (why should I care?). This outside in method is described as being logical and rationale by firstly showing what your selling and then explaining why people should buy into it.

The alternative method is illustrated with Apple’s marketing, where they predominantly communicate the opposite way round. First explaining the Why then the How then finally the product it’s self the What. This allows Apple to grab people by their emotive feelings which most of the time will override their logical deliberation and you’ll find people buying Apple products and making up rationale in order to justify their emotive decision making.

So I figured it might be possible to apply the same ideas to Ubuntu right, the problem is the complexity and confusion of the kind of message we want to promote. Apparently Ubuntu and FOSS means lots of different things to different people. So what I’ve done is pick out three different marketing messages and how we should communicate them effectively:

What are your thoughts?

Adoption Chasm

If like me you were paying close attention to Mark Shuttleworth’s key note introduction to UDS you may have noticed he used an adoption graph like this one:

The idea is that right now we’re stuck between 15% market share of early adopters and the magic 20% market share of the early majority… after which the adoption momentum will be a self sustaining. What I took away from this graph was that there are a spectrum of people in the world who progressively need great numbers of friends to already be familiar with the product/idea and the more happy people the more of the majority can be won over.

But hang on a second we need to know what we’re talking about first. If we’re talking about computer desktops then Ubuntu (and all other distros together) could barely be said to be 3% of the general population market share, far short of the 15% of the adoption chasm that Mark was targeting.

Of course we might be talking about a subset market, maybe netbooks where I think Ubuntu does better? Perhaps we’re at the chasm of early adopters, perhaps we have 15% of the market of Innovators and Early Adopters (2.25%) maybe going after the general majority shouldn’t be attempted until we’ve conquered even a significant proportion of the early adopters in this model.

That would mean that we need to stop serving the innovators (the programmers in this case) and start pushing early adopters, people who will put up with a bit of grief but will if they fail forever label the brand as a reject (and will be sure to tell the early majority it’s to be avoided).

Perhaps this is what I find when I go out into the street, the early adopters know Linux is failure, it didn’t work when they tried it 10 years ago and it’s certainly not going to work now. On the other hand Ubuntu is new, a fresh brand… it doesn’t help perhaps that there is a lot of marketing promoting the link between Linux and Ubuntu, dragging Ubuntu down.

Then again perhaps Ubuntu really is that crap that it should be rejected. There’s a whole pile of support questions in my email archive that are from frustrated early adopters who can’t get their printer working, their scanner, ipod, wacom tablet. Or perhaps it was that website, that game or something else. A computer is a very many to very many device and we’ve decided we’re audacious enough to attempt to service the greater proportion of those combinations without any very many to very many organisational procedures to test any of the combinations above casual testing.

I’ve heard that some have said Ubuntu won’t take off until we’ve stripped away some of the excessive expectations and slimmed down what is possible to do until we have a manageable subset. Perhaps netbooks and similar small devices are an aim to do just that. I believe that Canonical knows this well enough and is preparing a solid system for a very small set of functionalities which can be supported by an individual company.

Perhaps it’s up to the community to bring in the rest of the possibilities that we’ve vested ourselves to.

Your thoughts?

Open Source Cargo Cult

Have you ever wondered if the people who claim to want to use “open source” don’t really understand what it is?

I get this feeling a lot, mostly from the media, government politicians and organisational administrators. Very few people understand Free and Open Source Software enough to be able to understand the difference between that and proprietary software. So is it any wonder so few people are able to grasp the importance of it in their organisation?

At times I feel it’s as if they’ve heard about some mystic buzz word that can solve technical problems they never knew existed and all they have to do is observe some religious behaviours and the wonderful results of doing science properly (i.e. publishing results and peer review) will magically be yours without any requirement to understand what it is your actually doing.

I’m also cynically wondering if this same process of belief is how a lot of well to do people understand economics. Perform XYZ and get godly justified rewards! Magic until it all falls to bits as a giant pyramid scheme.

Perhaps I’m just frustrated at the lack of understanding, the promiscuity of misinformation and bad explanations that seem to grind the clear message down into an indecipherable mess.

Your thoughts?