As I have decided to become a bit more engaged in GNOME marketing by contributing ideas, working on the wiki and providing patches for the web pages I have rethought how marketing can be done by a free desktop like GNOME or KDE:
I found that there is often an important miscalculation made. Like in the GNOME live wiki there is a page TargetMarkets – but then the question “Who are we talking to?” The assumption seems to be that the target markets and the audience are the same. What is the problem with that? Well its like in some families decisions of buying a product like cars are made by women, while the buy is done by their husbands. I mean: If ISVs are one primary target group that does not mean at all that our marketing should target them! So I think often if not always one needs to talk to the end users if you want to convince other target groups.
Look at TV spots: Bridgestone runs tv ads to convince car owners to buy their tyres. But you can not buy a tyre at Bridgestone, really. The same is true for nearly all products. Sure there are the intermediaries who sell softare or install operating systems. But I think talking to all possible groups is too hard. We can even not think of all possibilities of how GNOME comes to desktops. So I now would say thinking about target markets is really a distraction. The only thing GNOME should do is to talk to everybody who is interested and try to provide them with what they need to know and want.
Actually I would also put the arguments upside down and would say that distributions are rather the ones who should go after different groups. They make the software collection that makes up their distros and they should better know their end users.
So where does this all end up?
I would recommend to drastically reduce the complexity of how marketing is thought about by focusing on the end users. In the end ever decisions to use GNOME is done by people who look at GNOME and decide that its worth using. So if GNOME is convincing to them it might be for their group as well.
OTOH I also think that thinking about target groups is something that should be more important for the development of GNOME than for marketing.Why? Because the development of GNOME should meet the needs of the actual target group. The marketing could say what they want – but it can not change GNOME to meet the needs.
So I suggest to GNOME and other free desktops like KDE that they simplify the marketing by getting in contact with the user. Both desktops absolutely fail to do so. They fail to really show how they can help the user to get productive, they fail in providing noticeable information on how to get the free desktop on their computer or to give answers to other user questions.
What are they doing? Essentially they focus 98% on developers and companies. on web sites and other marketing. But I would argue that this is development and not marketing. Also the whole approach into designing and updating websites is focusing on mere technical aspects.
I dont think what I discovered and write here is anything special or new. Its more that it dawned on me how all problems are interrelated. If you create a web site for a project it is often not the best idea to ask yourself what you have and how you can put all that on the front page. It is often better to rethink what you need to communicate on the root page – and do not forget that users are highly impatient and will simply leave the site if they do not find the information they are seeking in a short period of time.
So you can do the test and maybe pretend to be an interested GNOME user who likes to see or test GNOME. you got to www.gnome.org and then give yourself only maybe 10 seconds to find the information. You will fail here and you will fail at www.kde.org. But try it yourself. Then go to some bug commercial site and try the same and you will see that they often provide answers to the questions visitors may have in mind on their front pages. You do not need to provide actual releases – you can also point to where people can find out more or get what they want. This does not even need to be a link.
It could really be that simple. But from my perspective the problem is often rather that only few people do care about presenting this information and then the team of those who can work on the content is small – and then also the mechanism to provide changes is not straightforward. And technical discussions often are not there to help volunteers but rather to steer them away or distract from the essential idea.
I am not saying anything against development. Its one core of free software – its the product – but development should never get in the way of the message! Think from a users perspective – and if you do not want to rather stay away from marketing and web site development. This could benefit everybody.