Forum OpenACS Q&A: Marketing and Advocacy

Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
In today's OCT meeting we discussed the need for better marketing and advocacy for OpenACS. The key result was the realization that the OCT is not the body to drive this forward.

Therefore I'd like to invite all people with marketing interest in OpenACS and .LRN to exchange their ideas (and materials) as well as coordinate efforts in this regard.

Areas where I see potential for collaboration:

- Attendance at conferences. This has two benefits. On the one hand you have the possibility to demonstrate OpenACS and how cool it is to outsiders. Furthermore the exchange with other developers will help greatly in bringing in new ideas and prevent our community from thinking in the box.

- General marketing materials. There have been some initiatives, but none really successful in the past. I'm not sure what marketing materials other companies are using for OpenACS, but we have ours online at Sadly they are in German. Maybe the least we could do is provide a repository for marketing materials?

- Defining a message about OpenACS that is appealing to clients and developers.

- Submit Feedback from clients along with the areas where we must improve. Make a priority listing by the number of times an item has popped up and how important it was to the respective clients.

Looking forward to read what others think in this regard.

2: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Jade Rubick on
Really what I'd like to see is a group parallel to the OCT that is willing to take on marketing.

The OCT is willing to support this too, judging by our discussion today.

Any volunteers? Or should this be elected?

3: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Stan Kaufman on
Advocacy and marketing strategies certainly are vital for the future of the toolkit and the community. I'm interested in hearing what people mean by these notions, though, as I've always been confused about what is being marketed and to whom, with OpenACS specifically and I guess with open source projects generally. Perhaps the answer is "all of the following", but even if so, they seem to require different approaches:

  • Marketing the platform to organizations not now using it for use by their developers/IT staff who aren't now part of the community. This seems to be the group for which the Apache support critical thread pertains. Since OpenACS is GPL'd, the only return to the community occurs if those new developers contribute new code back to the platform or if those organizations hire current OpenACS developers for gigs or for full-time. Well, there's the pride of creating a dominant platform, but that is intangible at best. But other than the "gig-getting" objective, what is being marketed here is really just convincing other people to use the same free software tools we use. This doesn't seem like a compelling marketing strategy to me (nothing really is being sold, and no one really is buying), but perhaps I'm missing something fundamental here.

  • Marketing custom consulting/hosting solutions to organizations that don't currently have a web infrastructure or else need one with the far greater capabilities that OpenACS makes possible over other toolkits. I presume that most people in the community who make money with OpenACS are in this category, and so a "guild presence" at end-user conferences (eg NGO meetings where non-techie purchasers who know their tech needs and are shopping for solutions) would make sense. This could even be formalized somehow so that when one developer team is too busy to take a gig, they refer to others. Maybe this sort of thing is already going on. The marketing story here would most compelling focus on success stories from existing clients -- what they needed, how quickly and beautifully OpenACS developers delivered, etc.

  • Marketing vertical solutions to specific industry segments that either currently don't have comparable solutions or else have inferior ones. This differs somewhat from the above approach in that instead of making custom one-off systems for client organizations, the objective here is to assemble teams with both domain expertise and OpenACS chops to create more or less turnkey solutions. I think .LRN is more like this than anything else. The marketing story here again is most compellingly the success stories from existing customers, but it suffers the risk of developing a product that -- without a specific client -- might miss the mark and also has to be funded some other way. However, the advantage of this approach is that all the technical details (AOLServer vs Apache, etc etc) can be blackboxed. Install the whole system on a Mac Mini or a OSX server rack depending on the scale of the client and let them turn it on. Or simply sell them monthly services.

    Personally, I find this latter strategy most interesting. What new product categories can be devised with OpenACS or else created better with it? For instance, there are a number of clinical trials infrastructure companies out there whose products/systems demand very high rates but which all have significant limitations. This is a significant opportunity that an OpenACS-based solution could target. An OpenACS-based electronic medical record is another idea; daunting in scope and problematic in business model (healthcare is broken in the US), but certainly an opportunity. And I'm certain that there are many other domains where vertical applications around which could be built a new company or a new marketing opportunity within an existing company.

  • Marketing to current OpenACS or ACS developers who are already working in organizations and whose work is underwritten by their current jobs -- but who aren't part of the current OpenACS community and aren't using current OpenACS code because their code base forked so long ago. These folks could contribute huge amounts back to the platform as well as benefit from the huge advances made since they "left" -- if compelling benefits could be articulated and practical technical approaches identified. I think that there are probably quite a few groups like this: UCLA (Buddy's work?), GetActive, others? Actually, what I do sort of fits here, as I've evolved the 3.2.5 toolkit so far sideways that I haven't yet made the effort to migrate to the 5.x bleeding edge.

Anyway, I'd like to hear what others are thinking here when they talk about marketing and when they project their own work with the platform over the next several years. The answers will help define a strategy, IMHO.

4: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Torben Brosten on
Marketing *has* been discussed in the forums here over the years. Here is a summary of the end-user (and marketing) suggestions to July 2003:

It seems there is a lack of technical information to support marketing statements. For example, where are the references to documentation that supports the statements made here:

Maybe we need to identify information that would be useful for marketing, then get the experts (via OCT?) to provide the information, so the rest of us can summarize it for less technical audiences.

5: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Volodja Vorobey on
There is a need for a sub-community for non-tech people in this community. As discussed at the Heidelberg meeting of .LRN in spring 2004, end users should be able to find answers on their questions and there should be non-tech volunteers to contribute to this non-tech community. Currently forums are not very useful to find anwers on questions like “which layout of portlets on the page I should better use for my system?” or “How to ease navigation on the system for user?”. Having such forum would be by itself a marketing strategy.

Otherwise there is a need for budget. Development of marketing materials, promotional tag-lines, positioning gudelines etc. requires time.

This discussion should be also brought to higher level – what is the legal body that could apply for funding on behalf of the community? Or are there any mechanisms for people to know which community needs to include into their applications for funding? It is not strictly marketing but it is where marketing efforts bring you to – submitting an application / proposal.

To Stan – in my opinion many of the options for marketing efforts listed in the posting should be left to the competition between different companies and/or individual OACS specialists in this community. Market should be left to market. However, I liked the idea of Stan to promote community to the developers. But it is a separate discussion alltogether.

Some other suggested next steps:
- Identify people behind installations of OpenACS (do not look for successful ones, as there are none, the better platform – more requirements are users putting on it – code is not available that fast - owners are never happy as a result), approach them and invite to the sub-community.
- Consider possibility of sharing bug reports across different installations [to the point of getting priorities of users]. I believe it is more a technical problem than anything else.
- Create calendar and list of events where OACS should be / could be promoted, at least for reference.

Hope this contribution from non-technical person would be useful.

6: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Dave Bauer on
Isn't the OpenACS Q&A forum the non-technical forum? It seems that a marketing discussion can build in this forum with no objections. I would be curious to hear from people who were afraid to post to a general question forum with a general question. "How to ease navigation on the system for user?" is a question that is quite appropriate for the OpenACS Q&A forum.

I don't think a budget is needed to market and advocate for OpenACS. It would be nice, of course, but OpenACS is an open source project, and there are volunteers who contribute to the code, so I see no reason that volunteers can not contribute to a marketing effort. It makes sense that those who need the marketing could offer some time and resources. Malte has already offered some materials his company uses for selling OpenACS.

I do think inviting users, developers and any other people from major installations of OpenACS is a great idea. I really don't think anyone would find they were not welcome if they want to contribute to discussions about OpenACS. It's clear from the results so far, that we need more feedback from real users requirements to improve OpenACS.

8: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Ben Koot on
Here's how I try to market my OACS service.

Maybe marketing the system is not the correct term. I have just started an OACS weblog in which I share information with my potentential clients. It gives tips for end users, and allows for peoeple to try out things. My main market is the travel industry, and I hope that by motivating endusers to open a timedesk account,and provide a clear message as what the featurs & benefits are (this are often minute details, that can add great value)over competing services. I notice that the development crowd tends to believe that each feature needs a new developmet effort. In reality much is a simple matter of fine tuning based on user experience.

I prefer not refer end users to the OACS forum, and the weblog makes it much more effective to keep the audience stay tuned.

From a markting point of view you could even argue that the discussions going on there not allways add to motivating companies to choose OACS. I understand I am in muddie waters now, but hanging out all laundry and trying to created a pretty marketing picture seems to be a contradiction.

The weblog keeps track of all questions I recieve on how to do specific tasks using the toolkit. On top of that each customer is provided with a personal How to (ETP) section, which contains a custom helpdesk. Instead of offering all "raw" discussions, I try to reduce the amount of text to the absolute minimum.

Idealy it would prefer to have the weblog on an end duser subsite "Industry applications", sub category Travel. If we would do this with more markets, the toolkit will "sell" itself. It also offers a more flexible showcase of OASC service companies than the current list.

The only costs involved seem to be hosting for the subsite, and keepeeing the content lively. Well if endusers can ask their questions per blog entry, that shouldn't be to complicated. I thing listing the the subsite blog on daypop and the other blog reference services will get ball roling. Especially if we come up with a showstopper similar to

What if we could use the enduser subsite as an environment where technical discussions like the apache issue is made irellevant, by simply providing a fully fuctional virtually hosted environment at a set rate. Once people have had the opertunity to play around, what now seems to be the bottleneck, apache/aol is than reduced to filling in the blanks, because I = enduser/ ceo/ system admin. WANT this technology.

Just my 2 cents


9: Re: Marketing and Advocacy (response to 1)
Posted by Jade Rubick on
Marketing is about enlarging the size of the OpenACS community, bringing more developers and users into the community, and growing the viability and strength of OpenACS.

We all benefit when this happens.

So in my opinion the marketing group needs to be a group, not an ad hoc discussion on the forums. They need to meet regularly, like the OCT does, perhaps once a week via IRC.

They need to be thinking about what we need to do short-term and long-term to improve OpenACS. They need to be looking at OpenACS as a product, and as a community, and seeing where our weaknesses are, and organizing us around improving those weaknesses. And they need to be making sure we highlight what we're good at.

That's my vision for the OpenACS Marketing Team.

It doesn't have to happen. The community will move along just fine without it. But if we want OpenACS to be the big thing, it will take someone really paying attention to it. I think.

Posted by Don Baccus on
It is extremely important that this happen, I believe. And while the OCT is a parallel committee, that doesn't mean that some people on the OCT won't be interested in serving on the marketing committee. I suspect that Caroline Meeks, Malte, and Jade are three who will (hint, hint).
Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
I'm willing to participate in a marketing group and would love to be joined by anyone who has an interest in seeing the OpenACS toolkit get higher adoption and is willing to spend some time to think about how to target our audiences.

If the group is to work effectively I propose that we create a new forum for this, so non developers can subscribe just to this forum without the need to read through OpenACS Q&A. I personally feel very strongly about splitting discussions into multiple forums, depending on target audiences as it has already happened successfully at other OS Projects. So this is why a marketing forum is the least to start with (there is no need for high traffic on any forum and if the group dies, so does the forum. That's evolution.).

Posted by Torben Brosten on
There is an extensive history in this forum on these topics. Much of it quite useful and on target. Why create another forum?

How would a marketing group address this situation differently?

It seems to me that if we are to start a marketing group, we should go all the way. Lets start an arsdigita2 --with articles to be agreed upon, including majority ownership by the workers. The company could be a holding company for advertising resources and provide additional services to other OpenACS developers --depending on the level of service each company subscribes to. aD2 could operate as a temp agency to simplify overhead for indiviual contractors etc.

Otherwise, why not just identify any additional actions that need to be taken, and then we collectively take action on the prioritized list in the manner that each of us is able to, as we do now?

Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Torben, the reason for a different forum is justified by the fact that not all people interested in Marketing OpenACS are interested in reading and digging through the OpenACS Q&A Forum.

As for going the whole way, I'm totally with you, except for the company bit as it should not be called arsdigita2, but OpenACS Foundation and have no commercial interest whatsoever.

Concerning the idea of a TEMP agency, I think Caroline and myself have already setup our companies in a way that will allows us (and the developers) to provide this functionality.

All I can say that the marketing process so far has not worked at all, everyone has done their bit independently and judging from past experience, the total impact from a marketing group is larger than the sum of it's participants impact.

Let me ask a few questions, to give you an example where we are lacking *coordinated* efforts. How many people showed up to Linux World Expo in the US or Europe? Do we have some information paper that allow a user to quickly see the functionality OpenACS has to offer? Is there an introduction into .LRN with the focus on how a university can make use of an LMS? Do we have a description how well OpenACS works as an enabler for Communities of Practise? Are there documents why OpenACS is the best solution a NGO can go for?

Yes, some of this information is contained in the forums. But are you going to dig through the forums if you are looking for a new tool to help you achieve XYZ? I for myself look for information that helps me *quickly* decide if it is worth reading more or not. And OpenACS does not provide this at the moment.

I could go on about the deficiencies of our marketing efforts here, but I guess we should only start this if there is enought interest from the community at large to tackle this problem. If there is not, I'll continue to do this on my own and go the informal path of contacting e.g Caroline and Jeff privately.

Posted by Torben Brosten on

Regarding aD2: A US defined nonprofit would really be too constricted to serve a diverse commercial community well; And the name aD2 was a means to succinctly describe attributes as an example of a company that was envisioned to operate as an umbrella company for independently operated project-oriented companies --similar to our independent operations.

"How many people showed up to Linux World Expo in the US or Europe?"

Certainly few, if any, based on the activity on this site about it. Maybe we should ask why that was so?

"Do we have some information paper that allow a user to quickly see the functionality OpenACS has to offer?"

Aha! Maybe that is why there are few participants?

"Is there an introduction into .LRN with the focus on how a university can make use of an LMS? Do we have a description how well OpenACS works as an enabler for Communities of Practise? Are there documents why OpenACS is the best solution a NGO can go for?"

Great questions!

"OpenACS does not provide [info that helps me *quickly* decide if it is worth reading more or not] at the moment."

So what is it going to take to make these?

  1. collect user (and marketing) needs.
  2. identify sources of information needed to fill the above requirements.
  3. organize the information in a way that it can be easily kept current
  4. publish the information according to readers' requirements.

Step 1 is 90% done. See . Read where it starts with "From a marketing perspective" a little further down the page. Do not let the antiquated url page-name misrepresent the contents. There are many hours of work there --from qualified users commenting, to collecting, sorting and combining the thoughtful comments that people took time to post. Certainly enough comments are there that we can proceed to step 2. Step 3 and step 4 are also already addressed by the same url.

At this point, we would be well underway if we focus on #2, identifying sources of information needed to fill the requirements. A significant amount of work is already done!

Posted by Torben Brosten on
Perhaps it's time to extract those documentation requirements into their own page(s), and then use to share works in progress?
Posted by xx xx on
Marketing efforts didn’t work in the past. What is different today? Why would it work today? This is an open question.

And what is there to market? Not a well coordinated community, bug free software or easy to install, user friendly software, a killer application..... Well you get the picture I guess. My aim is not to criticise.

“Scratching the itch” has been important in development, but there should be more to market. I have never seen an openACS roadmap, there are no real responsibilities in the community, no follow-up on tasks and nothing we can depend on except for the obvious devotion of some very gifted developers (until they get deployed elsewhere).

IMVHO, marketing should be a result of a well coordinated process that incorporates the input from subgroups. The UAB knows how well that works currently.

I’m definitely not claiming to know how to do this. I just wish someone (OCT?) would restructure the community process (apply for a micro grant?)... to make clear how the tasks get done and which way the software is moving in the short and long run. Let us market to our own community first.

Sorry in advance for any misjudgement.

Posted by Dave Bauer on
What are we marketing here and who are we marketing to?

There are at least 2 different groups to market to.

1) Developers who will use OpenACS to build applications for their clients and hopefully contribute to the community.

2) Selling OpenACS to decision makers at potential clients.

#1 is about growing the community and improving OpenACS. #2 is about using OpenACS as a toolkit or product for commercial purposes.

I think the needs of these two goals are quite different.

Posted by Dave Bauer on

I am not sure how the community process relates to marketing. Again, this is an open source community. If you wish to volunteer for a task, and take it on, please do. The only time the OCT will get in your way is if you commit code that breaks the toolkit, or needs to go through the TIP process. Other than that the OCT should get out of the way.

Talli recently tasked the OCT with defining a roadmap. I submitted a first draft and asked for comments. Unfortunately we did not receive too many comments from the community. I had little time for working on the roadmap in the last couple of weeks, but we will continue to work on it. If someone would like to volunteer to incorporate the comments from the Roadmap thread into the document that would be very helpful.

Posted by Jeff Davis on
Aldert, "Not a well coordinated community". Having looked at a lot of open source communities I would have to dispute this assertion pretty strongly. We have never forked and things that get developed tend to be done with some consideration of what the community would like to see. I think you are confusing being resource constrained with not being coordinated. If OpenACS were a commercial product it would

The notion that you can "restructure the community" by fiat betrays a pretty profound misunderstanding of what community means.

I just don't know how you can build a roadmap for non-funded volunteer work or make paid client work conform to a community consensus roadmap. I do think we could write a "where do we want to go" type of roadmap but I don't think we could attach a timeline to that.

That said, I just don't think what matters most for marketing is whatever wishes and empty promises we put on some "roadmap", what matters are the things you mentioned: easy installation and making what we already have look and work better.

One aspect I would hope would come out of a marketing discussion would be what sorts of live demo sites would best showcase what people care about from openacs. I would also like to see the companies who have built real sites to put together a page with links to the "best examples" of what people are doing with openacs. There are good sites out there that are a testimony to what openacs can do but it's not easy to seperate the wheat from the chafe.

20: Killer app? (response to 1)
Posted by Shambhunath Borah on
I'm curious about the "killer app" part of these comments:

"And what is there to market? Not a well coordinated community, bug free software or easy to install, user friendly software, a killer application..... Well you get the picture I guess. My aim is not to criticise."

Are any of you OACS developers thinking of applications that if not specifically trying to become the next killer app, at least growing to be a national or int'l resource for users?

Everyday I seem to get "invites" to something social software thing or another. Plaxo, Ringo, hi5, gmail etc. I usually decline but that's not the point. I'm not in the non-profit/ngo world so I don't know what the equivalents there are. When some group, usually young college (or just out of college)kids I presume, get an idea for a hotornot or facebook, I assume they use the most common technologies since that's what they know.

I also notice some people are professors with students. What do these bright students like to do in terms of creating software and using OACS? (By the way, I'm grateful for those Windows installer that were created.)

Another interesting website, from a marketing point of view, might be the website of the next person who sails around the world to try to break that speed record.
What will they use? In this case the website doesn't need to triumph over the competition (it's not really competing against anything) but the personal triumph (we hope) of the sailor would help the marketing. It would perhaps also raise some technical challenges but that would be good, right? One could ask to do the website for this kind of expedition:

Also, I think it might be fun to try for that kind of job sometimes in addition to that next self-service billing solution.

Maybe these stories exist, but I don't find much mention of them. I think one more way of marketing OACS to ambitious developers might be to organize the list of sites into ways that show interesting things you can do with it. If not that many exist maybe create some?

Not as serious as the other posts. Just trying to lighten the mood (and perhaps inspire).

Posted by Stan Kaufman on
OpenACS's key selling point, IMHO, is its potential for robust, secure, industrial-grade web applications based around user/group access controls and complex, integrated processes -- "intranet" applications if you will (does anyone use that term anymore?). It is overkill for people who simply want to stick up a blog or photo album in the web space they get from their ISP.

Consequently, the story that "sells" (to developers, decision makers, developers-who-are-decision-makers, etc) should include the following:

  • The OpenACS core is stable, bug-free and robust.
  • Packages are well-defined units and package management is robust and error-free (things install and uninstall cleanly).
  • Inter-package processing is well-documented via service contracts so that it is easy to "connect" existing packages to do new things, and it's easy and clear how to design new packages and make them interact with existing ones.
  • The entire toolkit has been designed from the ground up with performance, reliability, and security in mind through tools like developer-support, automated-testing, and aggressive and documented bug detection/eradication. If you need to build a new financial, healthcare, auditing, commerce, or educational system, OpenACS will let you deliver a provable system that meets regulatory expectations of whatever bodies run your world view.
  • The toolkit includes crucial pieces -- CR and Workflow -- that make it easy to build systems that verifiably handle data versioning and state transitions, tailored to user roles and access. And it is easy and clear how to use these subsystems in the toolkit.

That is the story that motivates me to engage the difficult task of moving my stuff from 3.2.5 to 5.x anyway. But as I do so, I'm finding out that a number of these attributes aren't yet fully realized.

  • Packages don't uninstall cleanly (still) and it is amazingly hard to figure out why.
  • It's hard to know how to use Workflow correctly, and whether problems you run into with client packages are due to errors in the client or in Workflow.
  • The toolkit documentation is vastly better than before, but it helps mostly with how to do easy things, while hard things are still obscure. Sure, anyone smart enough to do complex things with the toolkit can eventually figure it out by reading source, but we're discussing the "elevator pitch" here where we're trying to impress people quickly that this system is a magnitude leap over the alternatives.
  • There are lots of old still-open bugs in bug-tracker.
  • Best-of-breed example packages and systems aren't clearly identified in a way that can inspire and educate.

So the "marketing" steps that need to be taken IMHO include both a better articulation of OpenACS's capabilities as well as making sure that those capabilities are really there -- tasks that need the joint attention of OCT as well as whatever new marketing committee is created. My $0.02 anyway.

Posted by Don Baccus on
Well, the OCT already talks about the stuff you mention, all the time, so I don't think you have to worry about that.

And the OCT indirectly recognizes the importance of marketing by continuing to support efforts to build auto-installers, etc, to make the "first look" install painless. Knoppix demos, windows graphical installer, etc.

I just say this to make the point that the OCT is with you in spirit, at least.

The main problem we face when moving from talk to walk is resources. It is far easier to identify things that need working on than it is to identify people with the time - or clients with the funds - to get those things done.

If a marketing group does form, it will have the same problem :)

Despite our limited resources, though, we do continue to make progress. Yes, our documentation has limitations, yet, as you point out, it's vastly improved. We make progress, but we have far more progress to make ...

Posted by Dave Bauer on
Well, I posted some new calls to action to remind us that we have some work to do in improving OpenACS. Specifically in the areas of package uninstall and maintaining the bugtracker. Thanks to Don, the bugtracker is now fast enough to use for an extended time with fixing bugs.
Posted by Stan Kaufman on
Don, Dave -- the progress of the toolkit/documentation/community over the past couple of years is truly impressive, and I meant only to help identify/define next steps -- not to criticize in any fashion. And I'm certainly motivated to help accomplish this work -- fixing bugs, developing new packages, and writing documentation/promotional copy. With the complexity and relative opacity of the platform these days, doing so is just a lot harder. But clearly the goal is to make it easier -- to convert the "learning cliff" back to a "learning curve" that not merely isn't an obstacle to adoption, but that invites and excites developers and decision-makers.
Posted by Don Baccus on
Stan, I didn't take your post as criticism, and in fact I agree with most of it. Just pointing out that yeah, the OCT (and others) have recognized these weaknesses for a long time, and to make sure everyone understands that it is a resource issue, not a problem with the community's opinion as to what's important ...
Posted by xx xx on

Yes, "Not a well coordinated community" means that too many tasks are not taken care of (due to lack of resources, obviously). I wish that would change and I can't imagine you being happy with it either.

Resolving this needs more than a forum post. That is why I used the word "restructure"; "structure" may have been better. I'm pretty sure this isn't a misconception or misunderstanding. I don't compare this to other open source communities, btw. I just see few people do the work while there are more than 8000 community members.

Let's see in two weeks if Dave's "empty the bugtracker" post attracts people. Anybody that can set up a new server (HEAD) can help verify the bugs.

The roadmap is necessary. There is a "roadmap" for releases and CVS management where you volunteered to do a lot of work. A roadmap tells the community what to expect and where to add to the limited resources, IMO.

Posted by Don Baccus on
The most organized community in the world, if too small for the task at hand, will still fall short.

I think we're very well organized, actually, there just aren't many of us who are active and we have a huge code base (quarter-million lines of code or so), are supporting mulitiple operating systems and RDBMS backends, etc.

The fact that many people in the community will be too busy with their day jobs to help clean out bug reports is, again, a reflection of lack of resources, not organization. If we had the money (a resource), we could just hire twenty of them from their day jobs and put them to work without modifying our organization at all ...

Posted by xx xx on
I really think it is a good sign that the community is considered very well organized. It is important for marketing that the code is safe.
Posted by xx xx on
Still, marketeers will want to know what's ahead, concerning technical issues and resources.
I wonder what unused resources are available in the community.
Posted by Don Baccus on
You? :) :)
Posted by xx xx on
Right, that's my point, in general.
Posted by Jade Rubick on
When I talk about marketing, mostly I mean making it attractive for new developers to get involved.

So we can grow our community.

So we can have more resources available to do all of the above.

But I don't see a lot of people volunteering for this, probably because (like me) people are busy with other projects. I would have taken this on six months ago, but not now..

Posted by Alfred Essa on
Jade & Others,

If resources were available, what are the types of things that need to be done to encourage more developers to join the community?

Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Taken resources are available, things that attract developers would be:

- A newbies developer guide that takes you through the toolkit with lots of "and you can do this much in just two lines of codes".
- Easy installation (yeah, we covered that already)
- Regular bootcamps at reasonable prizes

But foremost I'd say it is important to even get the developers attention that OpenACS is out there.

- Get articles into developer magazines (or the Linux ones), describing how cool OpenACS is for xyz.
- Being Slashdotted might help as well.
- We might think about hosting a mirror of our activities on sourceforge to get a high activity ranking there.

As for Jade's comment, at least for me the comment about urgent client work is true for the moment. But this does not mean we should loose focus on this.

What would be good is to get e.g. an intern for the foundation (or the .LRN consortium), who would focus on marketing for an OpenACS/.LRN. I'd be willing to help find one and invest some effort(time and money) in that person. But I think it would be best to have that person located in Boston.

How about inviting an MBA student from SLOAN to write a paper (master thesis :)) on how to do marketing for .LRN and OpenACS. Wouldn't this topic be of interest to some professors (you could relable it as "Marketing an OpenSource Platform")?

Posted by Walter McGinnis on
Looks like Malte beat me to the punch. I was going to recommend quarterly bootcamps that are free or extremely reasonably priced with quality supporting materials that are easily found.

Bootcamps and Philip's talks were the best marketing tools that aD had. Interestingly they were under the banner of education. Oh yeah, the book makes that a marketing triad. All of the above generated press. The free aspect being one of the keys to gaining outside interest.

I must admit that my reaction to the periodic "we need marketing" discussions is a kind of nausea. OpenACS is simply a tool. When it stops being an effective solution for solving web based problems for me, I'll stop using it. It seems to me that the best "marketing" we can have is a community that is focused on improving the toolkit. A big part of that is reaching consensus on what problems we are trying to solve and what problems we have already solved well. Maybe an inventory of what we have is in order. This would be a nice complement to a roadmap.

Semi-related random thoughts:

I have a lot of respect for projects like Postgresql and AOLserver because they never forced themselves on me. They continued to stay focused on solving the problems at hand and thus continued to stay relevent, trusting developers that they were smart enough to choose the right tool for the job. A large community does not necessarily equal a better community. Here's an old chestnut, "small is beatiful".

Posted by Torben Brosten on

Walter, I just want to highlight a summary of these great points you made:

the best "marketing" we can have is.. improving the toolkit. A big part of that is reaching consensus on what problems we are trying to solve..

Yes, the focus should be on improving the toolkit, not how some of us organize ourselves to do that.

A large community does not necessarily equal a better community.

Furthermore, the performance specifications of the toolkit do not match the needs of the majority of websites. It does not make sense to expect the toolkit to be popularly used.

Posted by Nima Mazloumi on
Dear all,

just one thought that came to my mind. We are using a very simple technique to record lectures and talks. All you need is enough space on disk, the software and a microphone connected to your computer. Once the talk starts the software records the talk and the voice of the speaker by simply recording what ever is displayed on the speaker's computer.

For windows we use Camtasia but there are definetly free tools around for any platform. I found this link, but maybe there is a more updated link:

So the idea is this. When ever a talk on OpenACS or dotLRN is taking place you simply record that stuff and make it available on OpenACS. Maybe we can use lars-blogger for that. If disk space is a problem we can host the files here at the university of mannheim.

This would allow us to create a large repository of talks. I use virtual dub to decrease the size of a recorded session to a tenth since these type of recordings contain tons of redundant info.

For 90 min I always end up with around 15 MB.


Posted by Nima Mazloumi on
Oh. I forgot. Once the software is installed and you have created a batch job for virtual dub the whole stuff takes 5 clicks :)
- one to start recording
- one to stop
- one to convert with virtual dub
- one to upload to the server
- one to submit your blog
Posted by Joel Aufrecht on
  • We are all here because we like using OpenACS instead of alternatives
  • OpenACS continues to realize only a small fraction of its realistic (not blue-sky, ideal world, but real, tangible, one-step-away) potential.
  • We have adequate organization and processes and code; what we're lacking is resources.
  • We would benefit as users of OpenACS if the project had more resources.
  • We would benefit as Free Software developers if more people used OpenACS, and if we knew about it.
Thus marketing, both to get more users and to get more resources, is currently the limiting factor in our success. From here, i see Stan's original post in this thread as a good starting point for more discussion. The first problem in marketing, as I see it, is that we don't have information to tell us where to focus our very limited resources (those being the donated time and energy of people in the forum, and maybe some cash from the .LRN consortium or other donors we can find). I see the problem as a funnel:
  1. There are X people in the world whose problems could be practically solved by OpenACS. We could increase X by improving the quality, usability, or functionality of OpenACS.
  2. Of those X people, only Y have heard of OpenACS. We could increase Y by advertising, going to conferences, etc.
  3. Of those Y people, only Z are interested. We could increase Z by changing parts of OpenACS that are unattractive, by making better arguments or brochures, more screenshots, etc.
  4. Of the Z people who are interested in OpenACS, only W actually succeed in trying it. We could increase W with binary installers, better installation, stable demo sites, installfests, boot camps, etc.
  5. Of the W people who try OpenACS, only V actually adopt in for their use.
My question is thus, where is the leverage? Is it feasible to get some hard numbers for X->Y->Z->W->V? It would then be much easier to tell which of very many different things we could be doing would be most worth doing.

I therefore find Stan's post interesting because it is a start in this direction, albeit unencumbered by numbers. I can only respond in similarly anecdotal form:

"Marketing the platform to organizations not now using it for use by their developers/IT staff who aren't now part of the community. ... This doesn't seem like a compelling marketing strategy to me (nothing really is being sold, and no one really is buying), but perhaps I'm missing something fundamental here." Well, isn't this how almost the entire community to date grew? We were attracted by the book, by a boot camp, or by a Phil lecture. How many people have become active members of the community through other means? I don't know if this is the best leverage going forward, but it's what has worked the best in the past.

"Marketing custom consulting/hosting solutions to organizations that don't currently have a web infrastructure or else need one". I don't think the community grows when this happens. I've built OpenACS solutions for a few paying customers, but they aren't part of OpenACS now; they just rely on me. Maybe it works better for bigger companies/institutions that actually have staff that could contribute back.

"Marketing vertical solutions to specific industry segments that either currently don't have comparable solutions or else have inferior ones." How will this grow OpenACS? Will consulting firms add it to their quiver? Will we get new developers who decide "I'll learn OpenACS so I can sell it in my niche?" I think this approach (as .LRN, in the higher-ed market) is the only thing other than recruiting developers that has worked well for OpenACS. How would we move forward (extend a pseudopod?) as a community?

"Marketing to current OpenACS or ACS developers who are already working in organizations" I like this because it fits the adage, "your existing customers are your best market." How would we do it? Appoint a lost-sheep liason?

Posted by Stan Kaufman on
Joel, several of the marketing scenarios I was trying to describe would (maybe) grow the community not directly, but indirectly -- in the sense of "get involved with OpenACS because it's the best toolkit upon which to build your consulting firm" or "get involved because it's the best toolkit with which to build your company's new killer app" or "get involved because OpenACS allows you to come up with a whole new business concept upon which to found a new company".

All I was trying to do was chart out the various notions of "marketing" that seem to have occurred to others (and to me) and explore how they fit with involvement with the technologies and the community. It seems to me that all of these avenues can be compelling for some people/organizations, and thus all represent potential growth areas. Show people how they can be successful with OpenACS, and it's a no-brainer for them to invest their time and effort in the community. I think that is what Robert Taylor is saying here.

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