I’ve been a little detached from the Free Software/Freedomware/Open Source world for a while. I no longer have that ongoing urge to tell the world about Free Software and convert the whole world. I’m not drooling over “200X is the year of the Linux Desktop” titles anymore. I’ve been focusing on developing a solid business strategy instead, no matter where it takes me and in accordance to my re-evaluated interests.
In that process, however, I realized something about the approach in promoting Freedomware. I was trying to come up with answers to the question “what do people want” with regards to various categories of interest and when I came to the “Freedomware / Linux” category it kinda hit me that there isn’t really among most desktop users real demand for GNU/Linux or Freedomware. People just don’t think in terms in which geeks and philosophical tellers of the Free Software movement tend to think. In fact, I’ve been in a similar mentality myself, more and more open to the idea of choice rather than this continued harping on people to make everything on their computers 100% free or to switch to GNU/Linux as soon as possible because it is the best thing since sliced bread.
I don’t feel it anymore. They don’t feel it either. You’re wasting your breath. You’re not delivering the message that they want to hear.
And I was trying to find the answers to the question “what do people want”. My conclusion is they don’t want Linux and they don’t want freedomware. It’s hardly even gonna be in their vocabulary let alone one of their distinct needs or desires. What they might want, however, is a computer that doesn’t crash all the time, getting rid of viruses and spyware, having a nicer interface, an easier to use tools, being productive and more efficient – those sorts of things. But I don’t presume I know all of their wants and needs though, so it should be an ongoing search for answers. We should listen before we give a yet another “software freedom” or “linux is sooo secure” speech.
This is where I come to the gist of my point. There have already been people who have talked about GNU/Linux being “free” actually being one of the reasons people avoid it, thinking it probably isn’t very valuable if you don’t have to pay anything for it. Others have pointed out that Windows is free so advertising Linux as a “free alternative” is advertising a non-advantage.
I am beginning to believe that we should completely stop advertising Freedomware and GNU/Linux as free of cost, and perhaps even do a total reversal – find a way to CHARGE for it without actually charging directly for software (albeit some opportunistic souls are doing it on ebay, and successfully so I might add, to the disgust of some in our “community”). Put a price tag on the Freedomware experience. Brand it in various interesting ways and market it in such a way for it to appear as a clear answer to the questions they actually ARE asking, the things that they actually ARE looking for. Then once they buy into it, sell them the freedom message. Once they are your satisfied customers, feeling like they got a great deal and something really valuable (and they did) then they might be more receptive to your “freedom message”.
Throw it in as a “bonus you can’t say no to”: “By the way, this software is yours now, you can share it, hire someone to make it better and use it without intrusion, which is thanks to this avantguarde philosophy spearheaded by the Free Software Foundation.”
Then just give them a link and don’t bother them again. You might find that many of these customers could also become “converts” to your precious GNU philosophy.
So the trick is in making yourself actually seem like you care less about the whole thing and more about the satisfaction of your client; less like you’re all too eager to convert him regardless of how far you need to go and more like you’re simply here to serve. Save your eagerness and passion for later, when you might get a chance to help them on a support forum or talk to them about the philosophy should they very positively respond to your “by the way, freedom” pitch.
Anyway, take of this what you will. I know I’ll certainly modify my approach should I decide to keep Freedomware marketing integral to my business activities.
Thank you for your time.