I looked around the room and two things struck me immediately.
I was the starting pitcher in a league five levels above mine.
They were here because I had asked them to be.
Being overwhelmed with humility and panic isn't the best position in which to chair a meeting.
The people assembled in that room were there because I had posed a question. How does a person wishing to market a relatively unknown product defeat the market "branding" currently in place?
I was there to find out how best to not only market Linux, but how to defeat the consumer fear of change. I've been in this game for 4 years now and I've seen the impact Linux can have on the everyday computer user. I've also seen the power that Microsoft Windows holds over those who use it. This is a formidable task and I knew a while back that I was going to need help.
These are the people who came to our aid.
Dr. Daniel Robinson, Associate Professor of Learning, Cognition and Instruction at the University of Texas/Austin. His particular field of interest is how his science intertwines with computer use. He was the perfect person to head this query. Dr. Robinson is the person who orchestrated this meeting and did the "arm twisting" in order to get the other Doctors and Professors to attend. Actually, there was no arm twisting involved. They all have a huge interest in what we are doing AND an interest in seeing Linux proliferate on the desktop.
Of particular note was the presence of Dr. Paul Resta. Dr. Resta "serves as Director of the Learning Technology Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He teaches advanced graduate courses in instructional technology, including technology planning and management and computer-supported collaborative learning. His current work focuses on web-based learning environments, computer-supported collaborative learning, and planning and policy issues in the use of information and communication technologies in teacher education."
His presence especially humbled me. His knowledge and stature in his field will be invaluable to our efforts.
Others in attendance and only linked in order to facilitate the reader were Dr. Karen French, Dr. Joan Hughes and Ken Tothero.
So what came out of this magnificent braintrust? Some things I think we all know and some things that personally, I've never thought of. Of course...that's what I went after...the stuff we don't know. Here are the highlights from the meeting, paraphrased of course. You REALLY want my verbatim notes? That's funny...
*Let people know they have a superior and legal choice in how they operate their computers.
OK, that sounds over-simplistic and even a little silly on it's face, but let me tell you what happened to me a bit over a year ago. After an initial meeting with a School District Administrator, a PhD he was, I was told on my second visit...the one where I thought we would begin the Linux Migration...that they would not be using Linux. Why? His senior systems administrator told him it was illegal.
Yep...a senior systems administrator, a MCSE oh by the way, told his boss that it was illegal to take Windows off the computers and put Linux on the desktops. When I physically showed the good Doctor that he indeed WAS running Linux (debian thank you) as his server base, he was unimpressed and still not convinced. That is why people need to know this...that it is not only superior, it is perfectly legal. A system admin in fear of losing his job is indeed a powerful foe. *People are being on one level or another, cheated when they use Windows. Now this has to be delicately put of course but the fact remains constant. When you have to purchase/use one or two other products in order for the initial purchased product to work...and you wern't told so, then that is certainly a less than honest sale. We are of course talking about the need to purchase/use antivirus software in conjunction with MS Windows. What makes this even more incidious is the fact that Microsoft has turned Windows into a Bazzar of sorts for about every antivirus product known to mankind.
The popups that frighten people into purchasing the AV products as the 90 day trial expires is not only brutal salesmanship, it is dishonest. Even discounting the fact that dozens of hours a year must be devoted to the upkeep of this software, they are not telling the customer that a free product doing the same thing is available.
For that reason alone, I dispise Microsoft.
*The Linux user will never again have to worry about windows viruses.
I want to personally thank Dan of Sassifrassin.com for pointing this out so well.
The argument that Linux is only secure because it is fairly unknown is easily defeated but still a powerful argument to those who don't have a friggin' clue as to what they are talking about. Even a fairly well known blogger, a user of Linux has used this statement in the past. She should know better. If she doesn't, she really doesn't have any business writing a Linux blog.
Linux is secure via it's file system. Even if you are silly enough to execute a script sent to you that hoses your system, that is where it ends. It doesn't (and probably can't) seek out your emal address book and send itself to every one in there. I have over 2000 entries in my "A list" address book and to have them infected would be a disaster. Linux cannot and will not ever come close to being the security nightmare that is Windows. Here's the easy way. Just point them to this.
*There are no draconion restrictions on using Linux.
This probably is one of the worst-articulated points made concerning Linux. With all respect to my colleagues,... shouting "free as in freedom" from the rooftops means absolutely nothing to the everyday user of a computer. Most don't give a flip. Some do but not many. They don't want to "get down with our cause". They don't give a frigg about our philosophies or enter into the Linus vs Stallman arguments.
They want a computer that works without having to do a bunch of crap and maintenance.
Of course, as my associate and friend Derrick Devine states, that is the problem with computing today. Too any people approach using a computer the same way they approach using a microwave oven or an alarm clock...as an appliance. This is where a bit of education is in order. Computers DO require a bit of maintenance. They require some working knowledge of their hardware AND software systems...not much, but some. Is a blue screen of death the end? Can you say "Return to last known good configuration? Do you know how to get to the last known good configuration and how to make it the default working configuration?
I honestly know a person that has paid in excess of 400.00 to "fix" their computer...and all the tech had to do was f8 into that command structure then defrag the drives. Unlike Carla Schroder's server, the Linux Desktop requires, oh, I don't know...call me silly...maybe a click on the "update software" icon from time to time maybe? Ya think?
We have our work cut out for us on this level...but you know what? We're good at what we do, you and I. I think we can "get 'er done." The good Dr's in attendence liked my figures. Only one out of 6 computer users will be serious canidates for Linux, but man...that is a bunch of new Linux users.
This pleased me just shy of table-strutting, chest thumping celebration. All in attendance believed that something I've preached for years is necessary.
YouTube alone isn't doing us much good.
Putting a video on YouTube about Ubuntu's cool cube is great. There is no doubt that some of those better-done videos have caused people to give Linux a try...but it's pull marketing. People "pull" the data to them.
We need to "push" Linux.
People stuck in traffic need to hear Linux commercials. Stay-at-home moms who spnd 5 hours a day listening to talk radio need to learn about Linux...the teenager lurking by the radio waiting for the song she just requested needs to hear about Linux.
Folks, good marketing works. It is a Trillion dollar a year industry. You can't just shrug that off...
And some of you have tried to do just that.
I can't let that happen. We can't let that happen. Just because a few people are not motivated or deathly afraid they'll be asked to contribute to the effort on one level or another, doesn't mean the ones of us that believe in this should just go along to get along.
The laws of physics can get ugly...stationary obstacles in the path of high-velocity projects stand to lose the impact contest.
So...what do you think? What are your ideas? Did you know that we have an official "voice of Linux"?
Give Greg a listen. Chances are, you are going to be hearing him again.
Now...idea session is open. Let 'er rip.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 9:30 AM