Marketing Your Open
• 30 years in tech: documentation, customer support,
community, open source, books, articles, blogs,
videos, and, yes, marketing.
• Lots more about me – mostly not tech – at
What you’ll learn in this talk
• What is marketing (for open source)
• Why you need it
• How to do it
• A general-purpose tracer written by Steven Rostedt.
• Integrated directly into the Linux kernel since 2008.
• Great technology, great code, great documentation.
• Critically important: it was in mainline Linux.
• But, by 2014, practically no one had heard of it and
no one used it.
• Based on Berkeley Packet Filter (1992).
• PLUMgrid extended BPF (eBPF) to do software-
defined networking, and added tracing features.
• PLUMgrid is no more, but eBPF is in Linux.
• Provides programmatic capabilities
necessary for an advanced tracer.
• bcc: a front end for BPF.
Moral of the Story
• Four tracers:
All good, two well known, two not.
• The difference is marketing.
What is marketing?
“The process or technique of promoting, selling,
and distributing a product or service.”
“Why does my open
source project need
What does it mean to market open source?
You’re not selling “stuff.”
You’re selling ideas.
You’re asking people to dedicate something
valuable – their time and attention
– to your ideas.
• The basic code
– Architected for participation
• Examples and sample code
• Good documentation is ABSOLUTELY
• It can also be very hard to achieve.
• How to’s, blueprints, architectures, and other technical
• Videos & Screencasts
• Articles and Press (trade press, scholarly journals,
How-To’s, Blueprints, Architectures, etc.
• Good documentation explains what you can do
with the software: commands, parameters, how
to interpret output.
• This is necessary, but not sufficient.
• Other kinds of technical content are needed
explain how and why to use it.
A note about white papers
• Have an even worse rep than marketing in
• Nowadays tend to be aimed at C-level execs.
• …which may be relevant to your project,
especially if you are going after an enterprise
• Yes, have one!
• News and technical posts are both appropriate.
• There is no canonical length.
• If you’re not a great writer (that’s ok, most
people aren’t), get help.
• Videos of people (talking).
• Not “slick” may be more
• YouTube is your friend.
• Attention spans are short.
Video and Screencasts
Articles and Press
• Communications of the ACM
• USENIX ;login:
• Get PR help with this. Getting
press coverage is an art, not a
• Yes, PR does still matter.
• Great marketing tool.
• Possibly a great career
• Tons of work.
• Never write a book for
Time needed to create different kinds of content:
• Informal talk (video it!): 10 mins-1 hour, not counting
video edit time
• Blog post: 1-10 hours
• Formal presentation: 3-10 hours
• Published article: 3-30 hours
• Technical paper: 5-50 hours
• Book: 2000 hours
Shortcuts to Developing Content
• Bug database
• Email threads
• irc/Slack discussions
• Code comments
• Rule of thumb: if you have to answer the same
question more than 3 times, put the answer
somewhere easy to find (FAQ, blog post, wiki).
Places to put content
• GitHub repo (necessary, but not sufficient)
• GitHub pages
• Other website and/or wiki
• Project names
• Use keywords, tags, and categories:
– GitHub topics
– Blog tags and categories
– YouTube tags
– SEO keywords
Meetups, talks, and conferences
• Are a source of content.
• Help with community building.
• Earned speaking slots > paid ones.
• Start small / local, work your way up to large
national and international conferences.
• Can’t do them all? Have technical evangelists.
• Run your own conference?
• Whatever else comes along
• Mailing lists
• Code of conduct
“Around 50 percent of respondents had witnessed
bad behavior in open source, and they said that's
often enough to keep them away from a particular
project or community.”
Wired on the GitHub Open Source Survey
The newbie experience
• Getting started materials
• Responsiveness and friendliness
• Losing responsiveness
• Forgetting or alienating your founding
• Marketing is not evil.
• You may already be doing marketing – you just
don’t think of it that way.
• The marketing appropriate for open source is
mostly stuff you’re comfortable with, and
probably also good at already.
• Ask for help.