Frequent open source miles

Frequent open source miles

Summary: The bottom line is there are all sorts of things open source marketers can do with the permission users give them every day.

TOPICS: Open Source

Seth GodinMatt Asay's piece on "open source free- riders" got my goat this morning because we're on opposite sides of the market.

Matt's a vendor, a high-ranking executive with Alfresco who by his own testimony spends a heavy chunk of his life in hotels and airports.

I'm a journalist, a user, who thanks to the miracle of the Internet now gets to spend most nights with the family.

Of course Matt makes a lot more money than I do. And it's evident he wants more. Since I haven't cut any checks to Firefox or Open Office lately he calls me a "free-rider" and wonders how much longer the business can abide people like me.

It's amazing how the brightest people can sometimes say the dumbest things.

The incremental cost of the open source projects serving me is approximately zero. If I need a service that might require payment, I pay for it, in either cash or (often) time, paging through the confusing forums of the projects I use.

Matt asks what it would take for me to give him more of my money, or projects more of my time. Yet in bragging about his room upgrades he answers his own question.

Frequent user miles.

Hear me out. Let's put together a voluntary database of our open source use. Are you running Linux? That's 50 points. Are your most oft-used programs Firefox, Open Office and The Gimp? We'll give you 10 points for each of them.

Now comes the tricky bit. Have you downloaded beta code? Give you 10 points for each program. Reported a bug? Another 15 or so. And so on. Make a financial contribution to an open source project? A point for every dollar you send.

So, what would you give me in exchange, Matt, not just for what I'm doing but the data behind it? What's the open source equivalent of a room upgrade, or the chance to sit in the comfy chair at an airport lounge?

That's where I start to fall down, because I don't know what open source companies can afford to offer. But let's spitball:

  • Membership in a mailing list that tells you first about coming upgrades and beta code.
  • Free minutes to actually e-mail a committer about something that's bothering you. And get them to e-mail back.
  • Recognition at events sponsored by the projects or industry segments you earn the most minutes to.
  • Lottery tickets for fabulous prizes! Trips to Portland or the Isle of Man. Maybe one of Linus' old iPods? (I once bid on a laptop previously owned by Walter Cronkite.)

The bottom line is there are all sorts of things open source marketers can do with the permission users give them every day. Which is why ol' Seth Godin is staring at you from the top of this post, Matt.

He wrote the book on this. And he's got a blog, too.

Topic: Open Source

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  • The gov. should pay for FOSS!

    Since FOSS is like a free utility for everyone, like a library where membership is free, the government should pick up the tab and pay the developers and companies that develop GPLed software.
    Linux Geek
    • In other words you should pay for it...

      ...since its your tax dollars that go into it. However I agree to some extent. I don't believe you always have to pay to support FOSS. As another poster mentioned the government has put some core code into FOSS. I have been a part of two government related projects that may have released code as open source once I left. I believe this should count as support.

      When the government and other companies rely on FOSS they tend to support it as it actually supports their own cause.
    • We are the government!

      That has to be the dumbest idea yet. Why should the US government pay for something available to the whole planet?
    • Not a chance!!!!!

      FOSS, remember, is about freedom. Five of them outlined by Richard Stallman. At least the five most important to him.

      Get government into the act and kiss them goodbye. All of them.

      And just who decides what is developed and by who and when? Some faceless bureaucrat somewhere?

      Get a grip!


  • We do

    Don't overlook the fact that "open source" is publishing. Back in the 70s I griped that there were countless student-hours of programming labor were going down the tubes each semester for lack of follow-up, with the same being done the next year all over again.

    The trend is now moving towards students being assigned to do work on [i]software libre[/i] projects. Per Sturgeon's Law, most of their work isn't worth keeping -- but some is, and the patches are accepted.

    Meanwhile, graduate researchers are using the GIMP and POVRAY as platforms for graphics research, etc. A great deal of their work (paid for by you and me, folks!) is getting accepted. So it goes in other fields.

    NASA has always published its software work. The Ethernet drivers in Linux are overwhelmingly the work of a NASA employee doing them on Company time. The National Security Agency has graciously given us Security Enhanced Linux and vast amounts of testing. Other government agencies are right behind.

    IMHO the US government has done a lot to support [i]software libre[/i] and it wouldn't take much more to justify accusations of distorting the marketplace (not that anyone really cares about rational justification, but still ...)
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • They also serve

    who only pass out CDs to their friends and co-workers.

    [i]Software libre[/i] isn't nearly so hurting for developers as for users, when you come down to it.

    Documentation and bug reports, enhancement requests, support board posts with help for other users ...
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • RE: Frequent open source miles

    Hey, we must be doing something right then. At pjsip we've done three out of four things you mentioned (minus the lottery. Legal hurdles.)
    • legal hurdles to a contest?

      It's not a real cost entry fee, and it's not a real lottery. What legal troubles?
  • Umm, how would they pay for THAT?

    Jeez, here an open source advocate is struggling to figure out how to get the same level of investment in open source as gets invested in general purpose proprietary software, and you're instead saying that's the "dumbest thing" and instead proposing how open source projects can spend money and precious time to attract more people who don't spend money.

    You're right, you are on the opposite side of the spectrum from people who create open source software.