March 12, 2007

If you’ve watched old TV shows from the 50’s and 60’s, you’ve no doubt seen TV marketing and advertising  in all its naive infant glory.  Hosts simply took part of the show, held a product up, and talked about how great it was and why you should buy it.  Famous athletes and actors still endorse products on commercials today.  Why?  Because it still works.

However, a more potent form of reference exists, and that’s word-of-mouth marketing.  Especially true in the movie industry, the MPAA realizes that no matter how many syndicated movie reviewers fawn and dote over Gremlins 7: This Time It’s Personal, potential ticket buyers still place more importance on trusted sources: freinds, family, co-workers, and Wade.

I’m twisting these concepts a bit to get to my point, but bear with me.  In the most recent KDE Commit Digest, the digest begins with no less that two great “success stories.”  One person writes,

 “I decided to do the port because I like the game, and didn’t want to see it go away. I was looking for something to really sink my teeth into with KDE 4, something that would be fun to work on, but was also small enough that I could fit around my school schedule. I’ve always enjoyed the game (even though I always lose), and when I noticed that it needed to be ported to SVG and didn’t have a maintainer, I decided to try my hand at doing the port.”

and another:

“Personally, I started monitoring KDE mailing lists five years ago, hoping to start contributing. But I always hid beneath the protective laziness of Java, which I perceived as a more convenient language. A year ago, I decided to learn C++, so I enrolled in a university course and worked a lot with Qt 4 during my Google Summer of Code project. The past winter I worked part-time as a C++ laboratory supervisor at my university and a few weeks ago I got re-involved in KDE.”

Now, you can listen to software vendors extol the virtues or their frameworks, and you can listen to seasoned/well-known developers advise on how to get involved.  But there’s something uniquely rewarding about people new to a project that share their success stories: “I took something small, concrete and digestable…and went from there.”

I hope no matter what OSS project, that people out in the internet cloud read and identify with these stories. “Hey, I’m a student too, and I’ve been hovering around the mailing lists and svn repositories….why couldn’t I do the same?”

My analogy suffers because no one is trying to imbed subliminal messages in our commit digest as “advertising,” but new developers sharing their experiences: invaluable.


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