Warp 35

Soapbox of a GNU/Linux lovin' guy.
FOSS just works.

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Location: Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands

I'm a Dutch guy born in 1974. Growing up I went from a dreamer to halfway mature. In 2002 I met my life partner and I'm living happily with hime ever since. I'm seconded at Stork Technical services since 2001. Right now I'm pretty happy with where I'm at.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Linux marketing idea.

I've struggled with the idea of marketing Linux. Up till now I've felt there was always something off about the various efforts to bring Linux to the masses. The problem most of the time was the scope of the message. Some efforts try to encompass all of Linux and end up incomprehensible, like the IBM ad with the little blond boy or the "We are Linux" campaign from the Linux foundation. Others, like the Tux500 project, take a small logo like Tux and try to convey all of Linux with an image tied only to the kernel component of the Linux ecosphere.

I'm not against marketing Linux. Far from it. It's just that Linux is an abstract concept and you can't easily "sell" abstract concepts. If you advertise Linux, then people will want to get a box just saying "Linux" on the cover. The problem with that is that such boxes don't exist. We have Fedora, we have Ubuntu, we have Mandriva, we have OpenSUSE, etc. Those are all Linux, but not one of them is THE Linux.

The other alternative is to market all the distributions as separate OSes (which they are), but then we lose the benefit of scale. Linux is a broad all encompassing concept and once you "get it", you only have to know that a certain OS is "Linux". If we lose the all encompassing part, it becomes over three hundred tiny and isolated efforts to push niche OSes.

There is a huge disconnect between the abstract and the concrete. The key to success is to bridge that gap. Till today I couldn't see a way to overcome the disconnect. All of Linux is too big and only a portion of it (Distro's) is way too small. How can you convey the all important abstract values about Linux, without losing the link with the concrete embodiments we call Distro's?

I've had a light bulb moment. What links all the Distro's to one another, despite being separate efforts? It's their common lineage and their common characteristics. There is another concept among humans which is abstract, with concrete embodiments all connected to each other by the abstract umbrella. It is also a concept that is widely understood by mankind. It's the concept of family.

Family is an abstract concept that catches the intangibles of relations and common characteristics and ties them inseparably to a group of unique individuals in a way that is widely understood. We can use that understanding to simplify the marketing of Linux by tying the abstract concept of Linux to the concept of family. When we link the encompassing Linux with family, we automatically trigger the ingrained understanding of people that we are talking about a group of individual members who share lineage, history and characteristics.

As a plus, it sounds good. The Linux family. Family conveys core values of connection, bonding, belonging, sharing, having common history and traits, all the while leaving room to be unique and have different views and values. I'd say it's a perfect fit for Linux to get the message across. All distro's share a common lineage and have a common body of idea's, but they also have their own unique set of features and viewpoints.

By using "The Linux family" we can simultaneously focus attention on the broad aspects of Linux and also point to the individual characteristics of a distro, e.g. "The Linux family. Bringing powerful computing to you." and "Ubuntu. A Linux family member. User friendly, modern, powerful, safe." (Feel free to replace Ubuntu with your favorite distro :D )

IMNSHO, it's an angle worth pursuing.

© Ronald Trip 2009. Verbatim copying and distribution of this article are permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.