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Promoting FOSS to People Who Don't Care 432

Posted by Soulskill
from the old-dogs-new-tricks dept.
MarcoF brings us his take on how to cultivate interest in open-source software to casual users who aren't interested in or necessarily aware of its existence. Many people simply have trouble leaving their comfort zone of older proprietary software; what's the best way to get them to look at an open-source alternative? "Since most people would rather die than write or study software source code, it is actually counterproductive to promote software 'because you can modify it yourself and be part of its community'. Look for really practical advantages which can be enjoyed every day by the person you want to convince. Start from the actual deep passions, beliefs, interests and practical needs of the people in front of you and go backwards from there, delaying the apparition of terms like 'source code', 'the four software freedoms', GPL, Gnu, Linux, etc."
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Promoting FOSS to People Who Don't Care

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  • by ookabooka (731013) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:11AM (#22024988)
    The selling point to get my father to switch to open office was that he could easily put it on new/other computers. He hated calling me up, asking me where that Office XP CD was only to have me tell him I have no idea. The idea of having 0 hassle when it comes to licenses and activation keys was the biggest selling point I can think of. Most people just want their computer to work and don't want to jump through a million hoops and keep track of that one cd-case whenever they want to install software on their new laptop.

    "You mean I don't need a cd key for this? What happens if I lose the disc?"
    "Uh, just download it again, it'll probably take 10 minutes or less on a good internet connection"

    "Can I put this on your mother's computer?"
    "You can put it on as many computers as you like, for free, have fun."
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:18AM (#22025050)
      "But surely it can't be any good if they're just giving it away. After all, you don't get something for nothing."
      • by B3ryllium (571199) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:23AM (#22025094) Homepage
        "What, did you skip the 60s or something, pops? If people like doing it, they'll totally give it away for free."
        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          "Yeah, I remember some of the commercial stuff was OK, but the 'free' shit that those Goddamn stoners kept churning out on their bongos and sitars at festivals was beyond excrable."
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gEvil (beta) (945888)
          "Oh, I remember the 60s. Best years of my life. I spent some time in the jungle hunting down the Cong. Y'know, this 'open source' stuff sounds kinda like commie propaganda to me."

          Maybe there are some people you shouldn't try to switch to FOSS. : p
      • by Bert64 (520050)
        Software is intangible, a lot of people don't like paying for something they can't physically hold in their hands.
        Once people learn that copying software costs nothing, then obtaining software for nothing seems to be the natural cost, and anything higher is a blatant rip off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kihaji (612640)
          Copying software is not free, it does have a cost. A more correct statement would be, "For the consumer, after paying for the things you need to copy the first piece of software, each additional piece is at or close to 0" And something similar for the producer of said software.
        • by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @12:03PM (#22025394) Homepage
          People pay all the time for things they can't hold in their hand. You can't hold a long distance phone call in your hand, why should you pay for that. You've already bought the phone. You can't hold a haircut in your hand. Sure you can look at and appreciate the haircut, but you can use the software too. People are just cheap. But they just know they can get software for free. Commercial software thrives off this. Let the software be free for everyone, and some percentage of people and businesses will pay for it, allowing you to make money. Make it impossible to copy, and it won't get popular enough to make any money. Very few software packages could survive without being free to those who weren't willing to pay.
      • by AusIV (950840) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:33AM (#22025158)
        I've found that people often have that cynical view of Open Source, and I typically have a hard time explaining why quality software is free. But since FOSS doesn't cost anything and I assure them there are no viruses, people tend to be pretty willing to try it out if they think they can save $20/$60/$100 on a proprietary program, and once they've tried it, they tend to change their tune.


        Also, I keep portable versions of several programs on my flash drive, so if there's a computer handy I can show the program in question without even having to install it on their computer.

        • by BrentH (1154987) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @03:31PM (#22027242)
          My dad is an excellent example of the problem posed in the article: he's more than willing to sink huge amounts of money in software (he's bought photoshop CS and then CS3 when it came out, dozens of raw converters and plugins, more than a thousand euro altogether). He just does not 'buy' it, when I tell him there's pieces of software that are free can be as good. He's never even tried the GIMP or Rawtherapee, and forget about Ubuntu, but you'd think that investing some time in these applications would save money. Not enough. When people /buy/ software, I think they assume it comes with some magic factor X that makes it better than anything free, because it cannot have factor X, because it's free. And you gotta have that factor X, because, well, you just gotta... I had to camouflage Firefox as IE to get him to use that, because I was sick of all these spyware that came streaming in. Also, the 'IT department' on my mothers school (she's a teacher) is another example. They're a poor school that couldn't even afford to repair a leaking roof for over a year (the water came an inch high once in the classroom), yet they made money available for a fat win2003 server and xp-systems everywhere, with remote desktop. This is kindergarten ffs, but the 'IT-people' havn't got a clue, being trained MS-monkeys. People are undescribibly lazy and stupid when it comes to technical stuff. They don't care to spend dollars/euros, they want to be done with, _zero_ _effort_ must be involved.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by turing_m (1030530)
            "When people /buy/ software, I think they assume it comes with some magic factor X that makes it better than anything free, because it cannot have factor X, because it's free. And you gotta have that factor X, because, well, you just gotta..."

            There are a lot of people who are addicted to buying things that are cheap to produce and yet have 90% of their costs in advertising. These people buy bottled water, Macs, expensive cosmetics, spa treatments, celebrity diets, Bose sound systems etc. and would never, ev
        • by kent_eh (543303) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:28AM (#22031124)
          I've found that people often have that cynical view of Open Source, and I typically have a hard time explaining why quality software is free.

          I usually describe OSS programmers as volunteers.
          Most people get the concept of volunteering.

          At least it gets them away from the image of "giving it away 'cause it isn't good enough to sell"

        • by tknd (979052) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:46AM (#22031200)

          I was in the same group of software mavens, the FOSS crowd, and ran into the same issues everywhere from home users to big businesses. That is I did not understand why it was hard to convince people otherwise with my beliefs on open source. Then I started taking business classes and I got into a few meetings between the managers about large software purchases and I finally began to understand the whole picture. The problem is, we geeks do not understand people adn their internal perception of risk. As I scroll through the comments here I see some stuff that I can already see not working and some stuff working (but the author does not understand why it works).

          The reason why people are so ready to throw money at a problem (and a lot of money in some cases) is by throwing money at the problem you are at least assured that you have entered into some sort of contract where whatever solution you get will come with some sort of support service. They don't care that you have the solution. For all they know, you could just be trying to con them out of their money or trying to waste their time. Instead, they want assurance that your solution will work as advertised after the transaction has been made. In otherwwords, they want assurance that the perceived risk they have in there minds can be mitigated by the money they give. And they will never state that either because they are acting based on experience and emotion. People don't hand over money knowing full well that it is really just there to eliminate the risk. They will say that they agree that they are handing over the money because it makes them sleep better a night or they feel like it (what they get in return) will probably turn out as expected.

          So when you, a FOSS geek, comes along and says, "hey, this free stuff works better than what you paid for" they are not going to believe you and will turn down the offer. That is not because they don't trust you, that is because they are not offered any assurance should you happen to be wrong this one time. And if you happen to be wrong, now they just lost an hour or so of their life (time is just as important as money).

          How can you convince them otherwise? Easy, mitigate the perceived risk in their minds. They want assurance, the safety in knowing that even the 5 or 10 minutes you're taking from their life is going to be worth it.

          So one particularly easy way to do that is to make them a deal: if they try the FOSS software for a day, and they find it does everything they need then they will buy you a drink, but if at the end of the day they think it does not work as you claimed then you'll buy them a drink. Besides getting you an easy free drink, this offers them the assurance that their time is not wasted: if the software works (there was no risk), then they save money (minus the drink), but if the software does not work, they get a drink for the invested time/effort. Without the drink it is a win-lose situation (if they win they win free software, if they lose they lose time and effort) and suddenly their perceived risks in losing take over. By introducing the drink you take their mind off of focusing on the risk involved and offer them some assurance that the risk they think is there is actually not there.

          Others here have claimed selling the software by advertising features and "bling" that they have not seen before. While this works, the problem is now you have people spinning cubes and not exploring other things that the software is capable of. Instead you've sold them a "shiny object" and they'll use it just like a "shiny object." That's not what you want, you want them to use it as a replacement and you want them to gain confidence to eliminate the perceived risk they associated with FOSS.

          Finally I want to be clear that offering a drink will not always work because people are different. Some people are more conservative than others and some people will take quite a bit more social effort to get moving along. But I assure you, the problem always revolves around ri

      • by IBBoard (1128019)
        "But look at all the big companies like Microsoft. They charge you tens or hundreds of dollars and is that good software or should _it_ be given away for free?"

        Sorry, it had to be said (probably "again"), or:

        "Do you do better work when you're sat in the office being told to do it or when you you're doing a hobby you enjoy? It's made by people who enjoy it, so they don't feel they need to charge for it."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
        That's why I suggest -- and not as a joke -- selling FOSS in boxed packages in retail stores. "A web browser that enhances computer security? For only $35? WOW!" "Hm, Microsoft Office for $130, or this 'Open Office' for $50? Heh, looks like I can save if I get this other one."

        Then maybe throw in a tiny professional support contract so they don't feel ripped off when/if they find out it's free.

        Or, another cover story: tell him it "costs" $50, but there's a "special site I know about" (i.e. main download
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The problem with that is that there are decades of history of low-quality shovelware software stuck in shrinkwrapped boxes beside the expensive Microsoft wares. A lot of it has been horrendous in quality. It's sort of a tainted category, unfortunately.
    • by Bert64 (520050)
      Yes, the lack of hassle and cost appeals to a lot of people..
      Some people may argue that because it's free it's not worth anything, but a lot of people also don't like the idea of paying for intangible goods. If you can't hold it in your hand, then it has no physical value. Once you point out that all software is like that people tend to be a lot happier with it.
      And they can purchase a physical cd or physical manual if they want, but then as you pointed out above it's just one more thing to lose.
    • by russ1337 (938915)
      The questions/issues I face are similar:

      Download it? How do I know if it a legitimate one?

      You get it from a reputable place, say the Ubuntu website.
      A couple of friends have then gone and purchased Ubuntu from Amazon...... ARRRHHHH!

      What about adding applications? how do I get new software and updates?

      Updates are automatic. Then trying to explain a package manager, and how just about everything is checked out before it's put in there... their eyes start glaze over. I just say there is a thing like what's

      • >In the end, If I had an easy way to explain repo's, I'd probably 'convert' more people. It is quite a mental shift for most that have only ever experienced Windows, and the free-for-all adding applications by the seat of your pants from the intertubes.

        Repos are easier for YOU, not the average person. Give the average person a CD in hand, that is popped into the computer and installed with a few clicks. That's easy for them because they can follow the sequence of steps using physical pieces.

        Repos on the
        • Its nothing to do with having a physical medium. Thats simply just how they have been taught.

          Software repositories are completely different from what Windows has.
          Its a side effect of everything being free.

          Most people dont understand it just because its different.
          Once they have used it then it dawns on them how logical it is.
        • by russ1337 (938915) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @12:47PM (#22025748)
          Thanks, but you didn't help me explain how simple it is for a Linux user to add applications. I recognize how easily this is done through repo's, but HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS TO SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT A REPO IS... (which was my original question.)

          My best effort is say "To add applications there is a little 'add applications' menu, which has a list of all the applications available with a summary of what they do. You just select which ones you want and click install, and it gets it from a trusted place on the internet and installs it for you."

          As for your statement about 'the average user doesn't want to learn about repo's', I agree. But, they DO want to learn where they get applications, manage updates, and where these come from. If there is a way to explain this without describing repositories then tell me about it.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:55AM (#22025318) Homepage
      One way to help is refuse to install unlicensed software on people's computers. Somebody says, I want a copy of photoshop. Say, go buy Photoshop Elements for $100, or here's a copy of GIMP for free. It doesn't have all the same features, and is kind of different. Most people will choose the free software over paying for something. I actually got my wife to use GIMP in this way. Actually we downloaded a trial of photoshop, and she found that she actually liked GIMP more. Give open source software a fair trial, and then compare it to the commercial alternative. Most people would rather have the free one than pay for MS Office, Photoshop, or most of the other stuff that people usually only have because they pirate it.
    • The 'duh, it's free' or 'you don't need to have a serial' card might seem perfectly obvious, but is in fact largely redundant. In most of the world, FOSS is not competing with free. People don't understand the difference between free beer and free speech and it doesn't matter anyway. Pretty much all software is considered free in all possible ways.

      Granted, this may not be completely true for transitional countries like the United States, where the ecosystem still supports packs of hungry lawyers prowling th
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HalAtWork (926717)
      Not to mention software that expires. I don't know if this still applies because I haven't used Windows for a few years, but I've downloaded a bunch of 'niche' software that I considered useful and backed up to disc. Especially software where they've upgraded it and added new features that made the software either too feature-filled when I just want something simple for one purpose, or when I needed a particular app because it was the most optimized and would load up quickly and do what I want. When I ha
  • My solution (Score:5, Funny)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:15AM (#22025012)
    I tried persuading all my friends, citing the freedom argument, the security argument, the stability, community etc. Nothing worked. Then I learned how. Show them the spinning cube (With my heavy metal friends, I go for a pentagonal prism), and shout 'It's free! It's free!' Over and over.
    • Re:My solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:51AM (#22025288)
      Amazingly, that is exactly how to generate interest. People like things that are shiny, translucent, 3D, etc.

      We actually had a discussion here at FUDCon about this very issue yesterday, and one of the real problems most people encountered wasn't generated interest as much as it was keeping people interested when they encounter little bugs or usability issues (there are quite a few in the Fedora utils which will be resolved this year). Unfortunately, polishing off apps to make them more usable (or even just having them update the UI during a complex operation) is not a high salience issue, and so such things often get neglected in open source projects, even though they can be a deciding factor in keeping non-programmers interested.

      • >Unfortunately, polishing off apps to make them more usable (or even just having them update the UI during a complex operation) is not a high salience issue, and so such things often get neglected in open source projects, even though they can be a deciding factor in keeping non-programmers interested.

        And this is the reason why Linux on the desktop is actually a lame duck operating system. Linux on the server is a different issue, but on the desktop what actually costs money and time is finishing the appl
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Comparing Mandriva 2008 to Vista, I'd have to say Vista is actually the lame duck. Especially if you have less than stellar hardware. You can buy a $500 laptop and Mandriva will scream on it. Do the same with Vista, and you'll be cursing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ronocdh (906309)
      Dude, honestly, this is exactly how it worked for me. I've of course tried to politely let others in my life know about how absolutely great it can be to live in the world of open source, but no one ever cares. "What do you mean I can change the program? I can't write code."

      Then one day I simply went to shut off my music before going out with friends, and when I clicked the Amarok icon in my taskbar, the cube flipped to another desktop. Everyone in the room urged me to do it again.

      Funny thing? First t
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:15AM (#22025014)
    Just tell 'em it's free[1].

    That way of they don't like it, they've lost nothing. They can always go ahaed and buy some stuff.

    As the article says, this is about people who don't care. All they want is to get stuff done. They're not interested in discussing your personal philosophy so just give them what they want - without the sermon.

    [1] yes, yes, I know free beer or speech. Don't forget we're still talking about people who don't care

  • by haluness (219661) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:15AM (#22025022)
    seems to resonate a lot with most people. Of course, this assumes that installation etc does not involve a command line. But given a MSI like installer, I think that free would be a big selling point, followed by be able to do what you usually do.
    • by pclminion (145572) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:22AM (#22025090)
      Everything else is free too, if you are willing to ignore the law, which a lot of people are. I don't think it's a terribly strong argument. In fact, it may even work against you by causing the person to think "Hell, this software sucks so bad they can't even charge for it."
      • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:57AM (#22025340) Journal
        Microsoft themselves have given me the strongest argument I need: "you will never see a pop up window telling you that your software needs to be registered to work" ... there is no Ubuntu Genuine Advantage, and unless someone writes a malicious piece of code, it will never call home. In other words, it's safe to use.
        • by pclminion (145572)
          Agreed. It's only subtly different than saying "It's free" but it makes a much stronger point.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by russ1337 (938915)

          "there is no Ubuntu Genuine Advantage"

          Don't speak too soon.. There is Linux Genuine Advantage:

          http://www.linuxgenuineadvantage.org/ [linuxgenui...antage.org]

          Linux Genuine Advantage(TM) is an exciting and mandatory new way for you to place your computer under the remote control of an untrusted third party!

          According to an independent study conducted by some scientists, many users of Linux are running non-Genuine versions of their operating system. This puts them at the disadvantage of having their computers work normally, wit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It depends on how you phrase it. For example, this is the explanation I commonly give when I tell people about Red Hat and how they give things like JBOSS out for free:

        "The business model is centered around charging businesses to get help from a Red Hat employee with setting up or troubleshooting their software, so it is in Red Hat's best interests to give the software out for free. Of course, for people like us, that just means getting free, legal software to use."

        People are very open to that idea, b

  • Lead by Example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:15AM (#22025024) Homepage Journal
    Here's what I do: I lead by example. Then, when someone comes to me with his IE problem, I (honestly) tell him that I'm sorry but I can't help him with that because I use a better browser instead and point him to Firefox.

    I don't evangalise, not anymore. But if you come to me with a question or a problem, you get to hear my opinion and very often that is "sorry, that sounds like it's a windos/IE/MS-Office/whatever-specific problem. I don't do windos/IE/MS-Office/etc anymore, can't help you with that. I can only recommend you check out Apple/Firefox/OpenOffice/etc as an alternative, it works for me and doesn't have that problem."
    • by s20451 (410424) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:50AM (#22025278) Journal
      I lead by example. Then, when someone comes to me with his IE problem, I (honestly) tell him that I'm sorry but I can't help him with that because I use a better browser instead and point him to Firefox.

      Lead by example? That's my way of (politely) not giving free technical support to moochers.
      • Either way, it ends up with not being bothered. If they actually listen to you, they generally end up with a better experience and thank you later.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by quickgold192 (1014925)
      Apple? That's like the opposite of open source.
    • Bingo! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PotatoHead (12771)
      I quit doing win32 tech support for free sometime in the early '00's. I will, on occasion, setup a new computer, or rebuild one.

      When that happens, I load it up with Open Office, etc... and explain the new and free stuff. I also explain why their computer got all hosed up, and that lots of shovelware, freeware, etc... can cause them lots of problems. OSS is reliable, free and useful.

      From there, they get to make their own choices, knowing they are largely on their own. (I'm not likely to rebuild again, i
    • by HalAtWork (926717)
      I do that too, and now it's mostly because I simply don't know, and I'm not familiar with these programs or the OS anymore. The last version I used heavily is 2000, and I haven't touched Vista. For my computer skills I actually want to go out and buy a copy of Vista (or if someone wants, they can mail me theirs so I don't give any cash to MS) just in order to keep up to date on things. I don't really go over to peoples' houses and fix their computers anymore... My family's setup with Ubuntu so I don't h
  • Three simple words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858)
    Vendor lock in.

    The biggest advantage of Free Software is freedom from vendor lock in. Ever found a bug in a program and been told 'yes, we fixed that. Pay $100 for the new version if you want the fix?' Ever wanted to run the software on another machine and discovered you have to pay extra for another license? Ever wanted to send a file to someone else, found they don't have the software to open it, and wanted to send them a copy?

  • Ask Walmart (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:17AM (#22025044)
    The latest Linux computer Walmart is selling has moved enough units that it was out of stock for a while. My questions would be:
    1. How many of those units came back because people couldn't cope with Linux or were disappointed that they didn't get Windows?
    2. How many customers were so satisfied that they bought second units or recommended them to friends?

    Answer those two questions and you will know if there is any point trying to convert people who don't care. There's no point trying to convert them if they aren't going to like the experience anyway.
  • I have a co-worker who absolutely loves open source software and uses every opportunity to lobby for its adoption in the office. Anytime Microsoft is mentioned or some MS software is causing him problems, he gets extremely upset and says that it's a perfect example of why we should switch our workstations to Linux.

    He always loves to talk with me about how he used to do a lot of "scripting" back in the day and that I need to train him to administer our server someday so he can "know everything that's going

  • It's about who owns their computer, them or the people who write the software. I point out numerous instances where various bits of proprietary software cause their computer to act in the developers best interests and against their own. DRM is one such, but there are others. I talk about how having the source code available allows 3rd parties to check up on the code and hold the original programmers accountable.

    This is a complex argument, and hard for some people to grasp. But when people do it's pretty effective. Some people still don't care, but it's a much smaller percentage than the ones who think they don't care whether or not they have the source.

    I think, maybe, I could refine it by linking it to voting machine issues and more people might get it then.

    I also talk a bit about how they can give any software they have to friends for free and that it's perfectly legal and everything, and really that's how it should be. But that's a minor part of my little presentation.

    • by conlaw (983784)
      Yes, I have a dear friend who talked about Linux all of the time and I kept thinking "too boring, too geeky, too much work for me." Then came the day when my Windows XP update wanted to "give" me "Windows Genuine Advantage." Although my computer was squeaky clean -- no pirated or unlicensed software, it was MY computer, not Microsoft's. That day, I called my friend and said, "okay, tell me how to get Linux."
  • by AusIV (950840) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:22AM (#22025084)
    I've learned that trying to convince someone who is happy with their software that they need to switch will be fruitless.


    - When people are having problems with IE, I promote Firefox.
    - When people are buying a new computer, I encourage them to try OpenOffice before buying MS Office. I've had several people try it and stick with it.
    - When people complain about the loud ads in AIM, or having to run 4 different programs for AIM, Google Talk, MSN and Yahoo, I promote Pidgin.
    - When someone wants to do some photo editing, but can't afford to shell out the cash for Photoshop, I suggest they try the Gimp. Nobody seems to like it, but they get their work done.
    - When somebody can't get a media file to run, I suggest they try out VLC.

    I have portable versions of all of the above (and then some) on my flash drive, so I can show people what I'm talking about if there's a computer nearby.

    Once somebody is using most of the above software on Windows, I might suggest they try Linux if they voice a complaint about Windows (viruses, activation issues, slow boot time, bogged down system, etc.). I've gotten two people to try it out, one stuck with it, the other got a Mac.

    There may be better promoters than my self, but I've found that if you're trying to push software (Free or not) on people who don't want it, they'll resist and you'll end up looking like an ass.

    • by samkass (174571)
      Imagine-- promoting FOSS because it actually works well. Who cares about the license? Most FOSS is only "free" if your time is worthless, especially compared to what I can get on my Mac. But there are some packages, and you mention many of them, that are honestly better and more convenient than their closed-source counterparts.
      • by Random Destruction (866027) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:59AM (#22025366)

        Most FOSS is only "free" if your time is worthless
        Could you expand on this point? I assume you mean that FOS software is hard to set-up or something, but I really haven't experienced that. Sure some programs are shitty, but so is a lot of non FOS stuff.

        I have found FOSS to be less of a time commitment in many ways, as I can install it all with a click of the mouse. No cds, serial numbers, allowing the software to phone home, updating programs one by one, etc, etc.
        • I'll join this one.

          Elsewhere, we determined that certain OldSchool types would say "Gee, the software is 'Free', so I'm confused".

          The answer is, "That's right. The professional companies make the living with customized personal support."

          Having thought about this for a few minutes, our User comes up with "So, what are *you* going to charge me?"

          "Nothing. My time today is a gift so you can get started like a demo. If you want me to manage your company's switchover, we can talk about a contract."

          In Business Ter
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            In Business Terms: The accounting term is called "goodwill". That's what the single user-demos are building.

            sigh I hate to nit-pick these things, but "goodwill" in an accounting context means something completely different. Specifically, when one company acquires another, they pay an amount of cash, often (usually) well above the value of the other company's assets. To balance this difference, the purchasing company is said to have acquired a fictitious asset called "goodwill" that accounts for the difference in value between the company's assets and the paid value of the acquired company. So if you pay $10,00

      • Having been privy to some bizarre, Kafka-esque telephone calls to Adobe's support center, I can tell you that Adobe doesn't put any more worth on your time than the Gimp developers do.
        • I've used Adobe products for a decade and have not needed to contact Adobe or any kind of document for installation or operational failures. GIMP on the other hand, did require that I follow arcane steps to install that aren't necessary with Adobe products.
      • Most FOSS is only "free" if your time is worthless
        No kidding! I've been trying to install GIMP on OS X off and on for months now. I don't want to slave over pages and pages of discussion forums to figure out how to get it installed. Open Office, on the other hand, is awesome.
    • Good point. It's no good trying to push an alternate solution on people who are happy with their current system. Wait for it.

      At some point, someone will get an ODF file. At that point, you can say, "Oh, you don't have OpenOffice? It can read ODT and DOC files." When they ask how much it costs, hit them with the news that it's free. You're more likely to get a convert than if you go to a happy Word user and try to explain that they should switch for ideological reasons.

      Being eager to convert people m

    • - When someone wants to do some photo editing, but can't afford to shell out the cash for Photoshop, I suggest they try the Gimp. Nobody seems to like it, but they get their work done.

      That's the wrong comparison anyway. GIMP is closer to Photoshop Elements in many ways. A current version of PSE is about $50 to $100 depending on where you buy it, and older versions are usually fine for most people too. There's one that is one version old included with the $100 Wacom tablet.
  • This implies that the advantage that open source offers is lost on the common man. The best arguments have little or no value. I might be missing something, but open source has no advantage to the common man that does not understand it. So you have to play the game and forget the fact that it's open source. Open source alone does not improve a product.

    To win the common man, you need to provide the advantages that a company currently offers. You need a nicely boxed product that has a support number. Y
  • You shouldn't have to promote anything. It's counter-productive, and you'll get blamed when stuff goes wrong. If FOSS solves a problem people have, make them aware of that. Then keep your mouth shut.

  • by Tim Ward (514198)

    "Since most people would rather die than write or study software source code, it is actually counterproductive to promote software 'because you can modify it yourself and be part of its community'.
    Now, if the open source "movement" had realised that years ago ...
  • Do they have current problems with the software they're using? If so, explain how a different piece of software will be able to alleviate those problems. If you're trying to get them to switch software just because its proprietary vs open source, well you should probably just leave them be.
    • by Locklin (1074657)
      It's about education. Ignorance allows people to be taken advantage of. If a friend is putting premium gas in their '99 honda civic, I have no problem educating them that higher octane gas is mostly a gimic, and is a waste of money for them.

      Similarly, people pay out the nose for ms office just so they can type of an assignment for class, or write a letter to print out. I have no problem educating them about free alternatives that not only cost nothing, but can be transfered from machine to machine and share
  • Here, try this DVD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:42AM (#22025226)
    Someone I know gets a new PC, and very soon they ask "Do you know where I can get a copy of program X?" Generally, they're implying cheap or bootleg. I give them a DVD of a bunch of Windows apps that I've collected. Some FOSS, some not, but all legally free. Somewhat similar to the (now un updated) OpenCD project. "Try these". Paint.Net(which I find to be MUCH better than GIMP), OpenOffice, T-bird, Pidgin, IrfanView, audio editing, video editing, antivirus, etc, etc.

    No evangelism, no preaching. Don't go on about the source code availability, 'giving back' to the community, just let the apps stand on their own. Their eyes will glaze over if you try too hard, because they don't really care. Yet.

    They won't understand the underlying FOSS concepts, until they play with it for a while.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ACS Solver (1068112)
      Absolutely, not preaching is the key. Don't start talking about modifying the source, freely studying it, etc. - that gives the impression that this software is for enthusiasts only. Always emphasize the practical advantages. That means, saying that the software is free as in beer and showcasing the funcionality. For someone who's using IE (in particular, IE6), install Firefox, show tabs, show DownthemAll, show Adblock, show CustomizeGoogle - they'll be sold.

      Likewise, when trying to get "normal" users to in
    • Somewhat similar to the (now un updated) OpenCD project. "Try these". Paint.Net(which I find to be MUCH better than GIMP), OpenOffice, T-bird, Pidgin, IrfanView, audio editing, video editing, antivirus, etc, etc.

      If it's not too much trouble, could you post a link to your set of freeware? The videoediting one might be new for me. I agree with what you said, but you could show as well as tell.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:42AM (#22025230) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that for open source to advance, we need to get past this notion of FOSS as a "liberal" thing. There are plenty of us conservative neo-nazi fascist trying to take over the world Republicans that love Linux and it is incumbent upon us to communicate that using Linux is not an endorsement of Joseph Stalin.

    a) Open Source is not communism and its not socialism. Socialism and communism are centrally planned, whereas, an open source system consists of thousands of voices, each operating with their own agenda. If any system is more like a communist system, its a big corporate system, which has all of its components centrally planned and designed. It's not like Linus Torvalds writes all of Linux. He's just famous for writing a very important piece at the center of things. While its true that you are not going to make billions of dollars writing that one thing and selling it over and over again, there's nothing to stop you from building a consulting firm offering open source solutions that makes billions and billions of dollars, if you want.

    b) Rugged individualism. Open source is software about the inventor, without all of that unproductive fluff of corporate programming. You make something yourself, and then you publish it. If its good, people will use it. If not, then the project quickly dies.

    c) Honesty. Open source systems are brutally honest. Whereas a system in a store will be filled with hype and lies, by contrast, an open source system tells it like it is. One of the things that I love about Linux is that the documentation with most of the software package clearly and immediately lists things that don't work or haven't been tested enough.

    d) No spying. These days, using a copy of Windows makes it almost seem like you might be a criminal just for using it. And Windows is completely sealed up, and who knows what sort of deals that Microsoft cuts with the government. Because there's no secret codes in open source systems, everyone would know right away if something was wrong with it.

    e) A real community. Every program these days has its communities, but with open source, you have a genuine interaction between the people that write and the people that use the software. Working in an open source community is like working in an old rural town, where everyone chips in to build that neighbor's house. Open source lets all of its dirty laundry out.
    • by dcollins (135727)
      This is an interesting thought experiment, actually.

      "...conservative neo-nazi fascist trying to take over the world Republicans... Open Source is not communism and its not socialism... If any system is more like a communist system, its a big corporate system, which has all of its components centrally planned and designed."

      The problem is, neo-nazi fascists are *not* troubled by communism because it's centrally planned and designed. They're *solely* troubled because its non-corporate (upwardly profit motivate
  • I was a guest speaker in a 4th year Engineering Management course earlier this year where I gave an hour long presentation on open source, including its history, the principles of community development, licensing, business models, and a class discussion.

    During the presentation, I was discussing the motivations to use open source over proprietary software. I explained that one of the largest drivers was that it was free (as in liberty), and often free (as in beer). Very few of the students were programmers
    • The perspective you need to focus on for non-techies is to show that Firefox is more stable and faster than Internet Explorer. It is also critical to point out that 99% of everything works on Firefox too. As a lifelong Macintosh advocate, I'm well versed in seeing people bitch and moan for that 1% of time that something doesn't work on any sort of Microsoft alternative.
    • >1) Internet Explorer isn't really free. It's disguised in the price of Windows.

      Firefox is not really free its disguised in the price of a computer...

      Seriously think hard about this. If I buy a computer preloaded with Windows IE is free. Sure somewhere there is an included cost of Windows, but I don't see that price.

      If I buy a computer with Linux preloaded on it then disguised in the price of the computer is some person who went through the configuration of the computer and installed everything properly
  • by downix (84795) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:50AM (#22025276) Homepage
    Our office was doing a major expantion, double the staff. The accountant was driving herself nuts trying to source Office CD's for everyone.

    Then I installed OpenOffice on my machine. She walked by, and went "you didn't install Office without a key did you, because that's against the rules." I then proceeded to show her OO, how it works, what it was. Then came the big sale, "..and best of all, it's free."

    Our office is MS Office free now, altho one holdout refuses to go OO, so eventually I installed the beta of IBM Lotus Symphony and all is good.
  • by quetwo (1203948) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @11:50AM (#22025282) Homepage
    I try to promote FOSS projects as much as I can -- however it is the community that often kicks themselves in the butt. Often times I have received calls from friends or co-workers that installed a one-off OSS project that I recommended. Usually when they took the time to find the proper support for something that is broken, people's responses are "Well, go fix it!", or "Download the latest code from the SVN, change XYZ to file ZZZ.cpp and compile." They have no idea what an SVN is, let alone an idea of how to use it, or compile the results.

    Lots of these people just want to use their computer. Paying some company $50 is no big deal if they can call them up and complain about a bug or mis-guided feature. Heck, they don't mind paying the $150 for Office because they know it is a well-supported community, and just about everybody can help them. (OpenOffice is making great strides in this area too).
  • If as many people got sued for using pirated software as got sued by the RIAA/MPAA etc. for alleged copyright infringement of music and video, Open Source and Free Software would become very popular over night.

    Big software companies will never do this since they know that the grass roots user base, who often "borrows" software from work and friends are vital to keeping interest in their products.

    How many home users have ever been sued for having a non-legitimate copy of Windows, Office or Photoshop?

  • by nurb432 (527695)
    Just tell them its free, that will at least get their attention.
  • I tell my friends that I get special disks from the manufacturer that don't require activation. That it's normally very expensive software but, as a promotional deal, they can install and use it on as many machines as they want and not get in trouble.

    For some reason when people think they're getting some kind of special deal, FOSS gets a better reception.

    The other promotion for FOSS that works is using Knoppix to rescue a Windows box with a virus. It's like magic to them.

    I'm not worried about F/OSS

  • Tie them to a chair in your basement in front of a PC with no OS on it and a Slackware CD, and tell them no food or water until you see a nice KDE/Slackware install...
  • People who don't care about free software may do so because they don't know what freedom is. So we need to link software freedom with other broader freedoms and educate people on general freedom issues as well. If a person doesn't care about their freedom of speech, for example, there is no chance they will care about free software either.
    • That's a bit presumptious. I see no correlation between free software and freedom in the classical American sense.
  • Most people aren't aware of alternatives, because they got used to going online and downloading "shareware" or "freeware" They don't realize that there are full-featured Office alternatives out there that are much more than just some little shareware program. My coworker (at a software company) has never even heard of Firefox either! Making them aware of the alternative is step #1. But I would suggest not making step #1 until the FOSS is ready. As long as it is free, EASY TO INSTALL (cough, not GIMP, c
  • Businesses are mortified by the idea of software that is zero-cost. They know it because it's unrealistic to assume they're getting something for nothing, and just telling them those costs are in consulting or hiring instead doesn't make them feel any better.

    Instead, I focus on avoiding lock-in, where lock-in is if you pick a vendor, and they go south, (or you do), you're shit out of luck; Whichever vendor your chose is going to make it as difficult as possible for you to ever use another vendor, but if the
  • We will never convince Joe Sixpack. But I know a man who can! KDE, configured with Windows mode and Redmond theme, needs a lot less retraining than Vista, and their old machine will run faster than a new one (if you disable the eye-candy).

    In the past 12 months, I have had many occasions when freinds or family have been unable to open Word files (possibly because they are old, we dont know) or edit tables with newer versions of Word, and the answer is OpenOffice! Files open, and tables edit. MS products ar

  • ... is for there to actually BE FOSS alternatives.

    Currently these exist for Office, web browsers, IRC clients, and a wealth of programming language, server functionality, networking tools, etc.

    Where FOSS fails and fails hard is in the creative space - and I don't mean grammar checking or forty different ways to parse text. I mean, ultimately, FOSS alternatives for applications like the Macrodobe MX and CS suites, the Final Cut Studio suite, 3d Studio MAX, etc. The areas where the major ISVs are still raki
  • MS Office 2007 has been a runaway bestseller at retail. The Year of Office 2007 [microsoft-watch.com]

    The zealot never considers the possibility the proprietary alternative may simply be best-of-breed. He inflates the cost by quoting retail list for the most expensive version on the market.

    If your employer has a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft, you may be able to get a full version of Office for the price of S&H. Home Use Program [microsoft.com]

    MS Office Home 2007, with a three seat license, sells retail boxed for around $125.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) * on Sunday January 13, 2008 @12:46PM (#22025746)
    People have no idea that a thing, software, can be "free as in speech." I don't even go there.

    But when I tell people the software is free as in "you don't have to pay any money, you can copy to as many computers as you want, you can pass it along," they tend to look at me sideways. They are deeply suspicious. They just don't believe it. Generally, they voice two objections. The first is "If it's free, it must be crap." The second is "What's the catch? It can't *really* be free."

    At that point, it's easy to reel them in. I just appeal to their natural skepticism, make them think their view of the world is especially insightful, and feed their greed. Here's how: "No, actually, it's not crap; it's better than the stuff they charge money for. Ya see, the people who write this free software give it away to everyone so that people will use it. Every once in a while, the head of I.T. in some big company tries it, likes it, and installs it in the company. Then the company will need some customization or training or other support so they'll call the people that wrote it and give them money to help out. The software writers make big money providing support, the companies save a lot of money because free software plus paid support is still cheaper than paying the ungodly cost of MS Office for every employee, and as this sort of minor, unintended side effect, regular folks like us get to acquire and use really high quality software for no money at all. Ain't that cool?"

    The light bulb clicks on over their head. Their eyes furtively dart from side to side. Suddenly, they act like they just found a Rembrandt accidentally thrown out in the trash. They join me in the conspiracy to rip off the man (or so they think) and gladly take the CD that I'm offering.

    No, it's not 100% accurate and it does tastelessly appeal to the base instincts of the mark. It's even comparable to an end-user marketing strategy commonly used to push crack. But it gets people to use (most often) a free AV product or (occasionally) OpenOffice, AbiWord, Firefox, et. al. They can learn more deeply later; I just want them to start using the stuff in the here and now. I want them to get used to the notion of not paying for software. This approach has had the most success for me.
  • Anybody else notice this? I have not done a scientific study, but it seems to me that when an article is not msft friendly, there are a flood of the "N" word posts.
  • Free = zero cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @12:52PM (#22025804) Homepage
    Already large groups of people believe that software is "free" - they download it, install it and use it. They never paid a dime for it. They aren't going to, because someone made it available to them for free and you can count on people continuing to do so. Regardless of any laws to the contrary.

    They have been doing this for years, since before the "Internet", although it has really taken off with the advent of warez web sites, P2P downloading and other stuff.

    You are never going to convince someone that "vendor lock-in" is bad when they consider they are shafting the vendor just as much as the vendor is shafting them. Excessive costs? What cost? They are getting this stuff for free.

    Does everyone do this? No, but it is a sizable group. Certainly enough to make a dent in overall statistics of revenue and use. The folks "in the know" about this consider the people paying to be losers and dummies, so you need a "guide" to get in with the right crowd. Information like this isn't free, especially for the people that are just graduating from AOL U.

    Arguing about "free" software is pointless to these people. They aren't going to listen because to them all software is "free". There are no "vendors", there is no "support" and there are no costs.

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

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