Muse on Ubuntu TV and renewed interest in Ubuntu

The very visual metaphor that is embodied by the chasm is meant to explain the gap between the customers you do have and getting your product used by everyone. You can see some good explanations here of what it is.

Over the years in the Ubuntu community I’ve grown to dislike this particular metaphor. Not just because we cant seem to learn anything useful from it to enable our community to succeed, but also because its a very weird way to look at the problem. The problem is not number of users or products sold per year, but how your ideas are spread through the population by other people.

For example if we were to think of the chasm as just about getting the majority of people to use your product, then we can consider Apple to have failed to cross the chasm in their desktop computer market. But if you change the concept of success to “people think and talk about” my product then apple is wildly successful. Even the legions of windows users aspire to and understand ownership of an Apple computer. Many of these people will have never used a Apple computer in their lives but will actually change
their way of thinking about desktop computers in order to incorporate Macs into that world view.

So what is the role of advertising? Well that depends on how good the advertising is by how much of an effect advertising has on the population. So if you produce a perfect advert, it can only have a certain effect on the people who see it and then you have to run it a lot or hope those that saw the advert will pass on the ideas your trying to communicate. Since adverts are known for being fairly weak forms of idea transmission you would have to run a lot of adverts for a long period of time to basically force the population to adopt a new set of ideas. This is also known as “throwing money at the problem” since you don’t have to do much leg work with your message in order to get it out there.

What is a strong form of idea transmission is word of mouth. This is easy you might think, anyone who uses your product would be naturally inclined to tell their friends about it! Ah, just because a set of ideas find a home doesn’t mean they’ll find a good way of spreading. You will get a set of customers who enjoy using your product, but no one outside of that group will really know about it. This forms them chasm in the metaphor mentioned above. Its created by a reluctance of your users to communicate your ideas
to the people they know.

As an example i present to you RedHat. Way back before Ubuntu, it was very uncool to run a server with linux, only really technical people did so and usually not with the knowledge of their bosses. Then a company comes along and spreads the idea that Linux can be brilliant on the server, they’ve done something to it or cast a spell of invincibility or something. But even if Linux was exactly the same technically, it was now completely different and new in the eyes of many more people.

The technical users started telling their bosses, other professionals, the word got out not because the technology changed, but because the message was sent with a renewed vitality and conviction that it was new, improved, important and could save you a bag of money to boot.

And that particular war drum has been beating ever since.

Then comes Ubuntu many years later. The same thing happens in fact, Ubuntu creates hope and a renewed vitality for spreading the message. “hey did you know you could run Ubuntu on your desktop computer?” it became cool to tell your friends you used Ubuntu, that maybe they should give it a try or let you
give them a try with a helping hand. Ubuntu wasn’t massively better that Mandrake, Mandriva or SuSE, it was just getting out a clearer and more easily spread message.

Spreading the meme over the chasm

What we’ve done is incredible. Many more people run a Free Desktop now than in 2004. But the message got old over the years, the faith and the vitality has waned and public relations issues have made the message of spreading Ubuntu to everyone you know less appealing and seem more risky.

Nothings really changed. Ubuntu is really getting better and better as a technology, but its message, its “meme spreading” capabilities aren’t what they used to be. New products like Ubuntu TV and Ubuntu phones are interesting and renew some of the flagging faith and in a bring back the old religion in seeing a Free and Open Source platform flourish somewhere.

We secularists tend to think of religion and faith as nasty, dirty emotionally charged system and we should focus instead on proving with data that we are the best and only supporting Ubuntu if it really is the best. But that’s not how humans work, we’re far more emotional and biased and working with that is what produces this chasm effect in the market; if you’re before the chasm then the bias is working against you, if you’re over the chasm then the bias is working for you.

We want to take on the world, and it can be done. Ubuntu can be installed on every computer within a mile of
where you live, that there is nothing it cant do without a bit of persistence and faith that Ubuntu can work. Each and every member of the community is a mass of human interaction; chance after chance to spread our ideas and get the message out there that “you may not use Ubuntu, but think of Ubuntu when you think of computer desktops”.

Concept Advert: Organic Software

Playing with concepts, words and tag lines with the keen Charlene from the Vancouver LoCo team. We’ve come up with this advert targeted specifically for Farmer’s Markets.

The brief asked to use some of the tag lines and terms which have been successful in the past as well as attempting to invoke questions in the reader so they are prompted to ask and become more interested in exactly what all this free and open source stuff is.

We reused some graphics as well to give it a nice family feel. I wanted to match the similar styles found in earthy crunchy markets.

If this is successful as a target, then I could try using these at other earthy crunchy shops. You know the kind, with herbs, buckets of flour and great cheese.

Update: Updated evil computer to be more friendly, rounded and smiling and link to svg added. Licensed as Creative Commons, Attribution, Share Alike.

Thoughts or ideas? Comment below.

A Compliment for the Linux Adoption Curve!

My readers have been telling me that they’ve missed my blog entries where I look into some of the ideas around why Free and Open Source systems fail to gain traction. Today I’ll be conjuring that almost trope, the ‘Chasm’ adoption curve.

Basically the curve describes how any new technology must cross a barren dessert called the chasm from 10% to 20% of market share in order to gain enough share for the adoption to have enough momentum to go on and conquer the whole market.1 Often in the FreeDesktop ecosystem we see our adoption curve being really, painfully unable to push adoption past 10% of any slice of the market.

The problem we have, I think, is that we fail to create enough compatibility with our “compliments”; also known as all those requirements for tasks we want to do with our computers. I wish to use this to illustrate on one hand a rationale for why pushes into the mainstream fail and why I think peripheral hardware compliments should be a priority for all FreeDesktop programmers.

Every advocate knows that it’s easier to get people who are determined to adopt a Linux based FreeDesktop system than it is to get a windows expert to adopt one. For simple reasons, a self determined user will either make the sacrifices or make the investments to get his compliments compatible. This determination can take the form of either programming upstream new drivers, creating new applications or even just using toxic workarounds to fix an issue that causes things to not work on a fresh install.

Advocates will also often tell you about how successful they’ve been in getting their grandmothers using their FreeDesktop distribution. In fact many of us suspect that Ubuntu and similar distributions are very ready for typical technological Laggards, more than we are ready for early adopters. I think this has much to do with Laggard’s low investment in compliments and subsequent low exceptions about what computers can do for them.

This illustration (right) attempts to show the people to whom our software can be used as an acceptable replacement. In order to improve this, we’d need to either a) improve the attractiveness of the platform to encourage sacrifice of compliments or b) systematically increase compatibility of compliments.

The job of Unity in the new Ubuntu system is to improve attractiveness. An important attribute for sure. But many cycles has gone with a failure to improve compatibility with hardware compliments and this has shown that the gamble for Canonical is that they can improve the attractiveness to such a degree that the sustained investment into compatibility will come from the hardware vendors themselves.

I believe this is a mis-calculation. The hardware vendors will only invest in our ecosystem, when we are attractive compliments to their products. But they aren’t going to invest in their old discontinued products, but only into their new products. This leaves the old products without support and it just so happens that a great number of our main-stream users have made investments into hardware and are not willing to simply buy new hardware just yet. in conclusion, I think we can count on hardware makers providing us with drivers eventually; but for as long as they are not, we should be investing in all their old product lines and making sure they work with our desktop distributions.

This is why I believe it is important that Red Hat and Canonical stop playing around and put money directly into hardware peripheral device support. Printers, scanners, drawing tablets and even phone syncing. Everything that would improve our ability to attract new users over the chasm, by removing the things they would have to sacrifice in order to join us.

What do you think?

1 For a given sense of market, markets can be sliced and diced into different metrics and general purpose computers can be diced quite a fair few ways. For instance the programmers market is fairly healthy.

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?

Anime Boston Posters

I’ve made some relatively quick (I spent all day on them) posters, most are using existing drawings, some stuff is new drawings.

There are five posters to be hung on the walls of the booth we have at Anime Boston and one sign inviting people to take a CD. Although I’m not sure if we’ll need the sign since there at 17,000 attendees and only 400 CDs. We will see how these CDs go and if they all disappear pretty quickly, then next time we’ll have to get our own printed instead of going to Canonical’s ship-it service. But we do have 3,000 manga and the 1,000 flyers we have available and 100 special aluminium case badges.

I think it’s going to be a really great event.

I can still change these tag lines, so your thoughts and ideas are welcome in comments below.

New Ubuntu Branding

There was an announcement today about the Ubuntu theme and branding change. I’m letting the theme digest for a day or two before I blog about it in any detail. Instead this post is going to talk about the logo branding:

I really like this new logo and apart from the logo inconsistency inherent in some of the draft uses of the new logo; the logo is sharp, professional and well designed in my opinion.

There was a concern amongst some Ubuntu community members that dropping the brown and orange, earthy crunchy, brand indicates a departure from a Home Desktop, human focused distribution and a re-badge to make the Ubuntu brand more acceptable to various new partners. I think that the orangey colours were very nice and I liked that we could tell an Ubuntu machine from across the room.

Although “precision, reliability, collaboration and freedom”, guys, that’s not a meaningful mantra. It’s not as catchy as “Free as in Speech” or “Of course! don’t you know anything about SCIENCE!”

What are your thoughts on the new brand?

Ubuntu in one Minute

In Wednesday’s Jono Bacon speaks, a really interesting idea came up. That we should try and describe what Ubuntu is, but only in one minute.

This is my entry into the competition:

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I hope you like it, it’s quick and dirty and it’s only 40 seconds instead of a full minute. But I think it gets my point across about ownership.

Ubuntu Marketing Focus

There is a discussion going on in the Ubuntu Marketing team’s mailing list about creating Ubuntu videos in order to advertise Ubuntu to normal users. We got onto talking about existing adverts from Microsoft and Apple and I thought I’d share with the wider community my thoughts.

Interestingly when you look at the adverts for both companies you find an interesting pattern.

Often a leading brand / product doesn’t need to reference it’s competition, it just goes along with “We’re awesome, and everyone knows it”, The second fiddle is often comparing it’s self to the market leader.

What we have is Apple constantly comparing themselves to PC (even though an Apple is a PC and what they really mean is windows). Then Apple’s adverts were so successful that they put Microsoft on the defensive and they produced a bunch of laptop hunter adverts that mention Apple’s expensive laptops, unusual strategy for a market leader. But then the dynamic is kinda odd since Microsoft is a software company and Apple is a hardware company. so it’s not like they’re competing… not really.

But you’ll notice that every advert reinforces a set of ideas:

1) That there is such a thing as a Mac and it’s not a PC.
2) That a PC is Windows and nothing else.
3) That there are only two choices.
4) That you have to pay one way or another.
5) No one need worry about control when they get fancy features.

It’s interesting that we don’t play on our strengths of pointing this out, getting people to go “Oh hey there is something else, oh it can be installed on any PC, even Apple PCs, oh it’s free and I get to OWN it, control it, give it to my friends and even get involved with real people who make it, not just marketing departments.

There is a whole bunch of stuff we could focus on in very clever ways. But what I see a lot of here is tail chasing… lets copy them because they’ve spent money on those adverts. Perhaps people really have bought into the ideas in those adverts and that just sounds like the adverts were successful in telling their story and we want our story to be Microsoft’s or Apple’s because we were taken in.

But why do we want to tell the same story when we’ve a completely different narrative that’s run our communities for years.

Your thoughts?

Anime Boston: First Goal Reached

I want to thank everyone who’s donated to our Anime Boston event. This first milestone means that the Massachusetts LoCo team are guaranteed now to attend the event in force, have our own table and be able to promote Ubuntu and Free and Open Source Software to everyone that comes. Thank you everyone!

The next goal is to keep on raising money to be able to buy print outs of all the information we want to communicate with attendees. So if you’ve not yet, please do consider sending $10 to our marketing campaign, after all it’s not often that we get to do marketing events of this size in the usa and we’d love to have print outs of the Ubunchu Manga to give out.

If you’ve also got good ideas for the kinds of material we should be giving out, let us know. Comments and emails are very welcome. We want to make this awesome event really go down with the very best marketing materials we have.

Donate Here