Thursday, February 01, 2007

Marketing Free and Open Source Software

Pia WaughSome will recall assembling at the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra for drinks and discussion of the Internet and Web in 1995. FOSSACT are continuing the tradition, with talks on Free and Open Source Software. This week's talk was by Pia Waugh on Marketing Your Business and FOSS Advocacy In The Enterprise.

Before the talk there were announcements, during which I mentioned the Sahana open source disaster management system is working on a Geographic Information System module (GIS) (to keep track of people needing help) and a mobile phone version (for wireless disaster management). Sahana was built for the Asian Tsunami and has been expanded for use in earthquakes and other disasters. I have proposed it be used for any bird flu pandemic.

Pia's talk was about how small companies (which ones specialising in FOSS typically are) could promote their business and FOSS at the same time. Essentially this involves using the same principles of shared development used for creating the software to the marketing as well. Pia argues that businesses can help themselves by promoting general knowledge of FOSS amongst the community and customers.

It can be difficult for dedicated IT geeks to come to grips with the idea of marketing. Pia provided examples from her work on advocacy.

Some other points of interest were that it was proposed to run a course on writing responses to Government tenders for Open Source. The course may even workshop some real joint responses to read government tenders.

Pia mentioned HR-XML and its standardized XML based resume format as an example of an industry coming together to do work for the common good. There was discussion of what sort of projects might be useful and how to get them done. Earlier the same day I had attended a meeting at ANU looking for projects for information systems students to do. These have to be less about programming and more about business needs. The benefits and needs of open source and tailoring for specific industries would seem to make good student projects. Anyone who has an idea for a project can send it to the Course coordinator: Peter Christen.

There was a bit of good natured grumbling about proprietary products, as usual at a FOSS meeting. One issue was the use of proprietary word processing formats by government agencies locking them into one vendor's software. The work by National Archives of Australia on standard long term preservation formats for government documents was seen as a positiver change. At NAA's request, the ANU has created a course on "System Approach to Management of Government Information". My bits of it are based on my e-records and information architecture lectures. I hope to put the content into the Moodle course management system for general use.

Pia mentioned a census of FOSS companies in Australia. This is an ambitious project and I suggested consulting the ABS. They are working on specific measure of the contribution of ICT to the Australian economy. There is an ICT Reference Group, which consults with government and industry (I represent the ACS on it).

Pia is taking part at some work at Oxford University on openness of open projects. It is an interesting place to visit and a little challenging. In 1994 sunk into the Oxford Computer Center, but the Director Alex Reid forgave me and invited me to give a seminar in 2000. Alex is now on the ASK-OSS Steering Committee and Oxford runs a similar organisation in OSS Watch.

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Blogger greebo said...

Hi Tom,

great post, thanks for the excellent write up and I'll follow a few of these links through :)

February 01, 2007 1:38 PM  

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