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Marketing Your Open
Source Project
Deirdré Straughan
About Me
Bio
• 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
beginningwithi.com, @deirdres
Disclaimer
What you’ll learn in this talk
• What is marketing (for open source)
• Why you need it
• How to do it
“If you build it, they
will come.”
Just “building it” is
rarely enough.
A Tale of Tracers
DTrace
ftrace
• 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.
(screenshot ftrace repo)
Sysdig
BPF/bcc
• 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.”
Merriam-Webster
“Why does my open
source project need
marketing?”
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.
Why is this difficult?
The open source world
Marketing Your Open Source Project
How did YOU
choose which
projects to work on?
How many great
projects did you miss
because you never
heard of them?
In open source,
marketing is about
capturing attention
and resources in a
crowded
environment.
What resources do projects need?
The time and effort of people:
• Users
• Contributors: independent, and/or assigned to a
project by their employer (or hired specifically to
work on it).
What resources do projects need?
Money:
• Sponsorships, salaries, bounties, investment,
donations – whatever will allow people to keep
working on it.
Nevertheless…
In open source,
marketing often fails
to happen.
Why?
Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen
“Eww, marketing.”
Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen
Marketing is considered a “soft” skill.
Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen
For a project in its early stages or without financial
backing, “we can’t afford it.”
Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen
No one working on the project knows how to do
marketing.
Marketing is not evil.
Good marketing
does not happen by
accident.
The Tools of Open
Source Marketing
Code
• The basic code
– Architected for participation
– Well-commented
• Tools
• Tests
• Examples and sample code
Documentation
• Good documentation is ABSOLUTELY
CRUCIAL.
• It can also be very hard to achieve.
Non-Code Content
• How to’s, blueprints, architectures, and other technical
material
• Blog
• Videos & Screencasts
• Articles and Press (trade press, scholarly journals,
refereed conferences)
• Books
• Education
• Logo/mascot
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
general.
• Nowadays tend to be aimed at C-level execs.
• …which may be relevant to your project,
especially if you are going after an enterprise
market.
Blog
• 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).
• Screencasts.
• Not “slick” may be more
appropriate.
• YouTube is your friend.
• Attention spans are short.
• Subtitles/captions.
Video and Screencasts
Articles and Press
Refereed journals:
• Communications of the ACM
• USENIX ;login:
Trade press:
• Get PR help with this. Getting
press coverage is an art, not a
science.
• Yes, PR does still matter.
Books
• Great marketing tool.
• Possibly a great career
move.
• Tons of work.
• Never write a book for
the money!
Education
• Tutorials
• Workshops
• Classes
• Certifications
Content Efficiency
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
• Blog
Discoverability
• Project names
• Use keywords, tags, and categories:
– GitHub topics
– Blog tags and categories
– YouTube tags
– SEO keywords
Search Engine Optimization
• Content, content, content!
• …and keep it fresh.
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?
Social media
• Twitter
• LinkedIn
• Facebook?
• Whatever else comes along
Two-way communication
• Mailing lists
• irc
• Slack
Have a Cute Logo / Mascot
Marketing Your Open Source Project
This one marketing
secret will change
your life…
Everything that
touches the
customer
is marketing.
EVERYTHING
Community
• Culture
• Code of conduct
• Diversity
• Responsiveness
• Kindness
Attitude Matters
“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
• Welcome
• Getting started materials
• FAQs
• Responsiveness and friendliness
Growing Pains
• Losing responsiveness
• Forgetting or alienating your founding
community
Conclusion
• 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.
Thanks
• Brendan Gregg
• Laura Ramsey
References & Further Reading
• https://www.wired.com/2017/06/diversity-open-
source-even-worse-tech-overall/
• http://opensourcesurvey.org/2017/
• Building Compassionate Communities in Tech, @izs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kLIonLrKdQ
• http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_u
sers/2005/05/users_dont_care.html
• http://www.writing-world.com/tech/tech4.shtml
Marketing Your Open Source Project

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Marketing Your Open Source Project

  • 1. Marketing Your Open Source Project Deirdré Straughan
  • 2. About Me Bio • 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 beginningwithi.com, @deirdres Disclaimer
  • 3. What you’ll learn in this talk • What is marketing (for open source) • Why you need it • How to do it
  • 4. “If you build it, they will come.”
  • 5. Just “building it” is rarely enough.
  • 6. A Tale of Tracers
  • 8. ftrace • 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.
  • 11. BPF/bcc • 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.
  • 12. Moral of the Story • Four tracers: All good, two well known, two not. • The difference is marketing.
  • 13. What is marketing? “The process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” Merriam-Webster
  • 14. “Why does my open source project need marketing?”
  • 15. 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.
  • 16. Why is this difficult?
  • 19. How did YOU choose which projects to work on?
  • 20. How many great projects did you miss because you never heard of them?
  • 21. In open source, marketing is about capturing attention and resources in a crowded environment.
  • 22. What resources do projects need? The time and effort of people: • Users • Contributors: independent, and/or assigned to a project by their employer (or hired specifically to work on it).
  • 23. What resources do projects need? Money: • Sponsorships, salaries, bounties, investment, donations – whatever will allow people to keep working on it.
  • 25. In open source, marketing often fails to happen. Why?
  • 26. Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen “Eww, marketing.”
  • 27. Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen Marketing is considered a “soft” skill.
  • 28. Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen For a project in its early stages or without financial backing, “we can’t afford it.”
  • 29. Some reasons marketing doesn’t happen No one working on the project knows how to do marketing.
  • 31. Good marketing does not happen by accident.
  • 32. The Tools of Open Source Marketing
  • 33. Code • The basic code – Architected for participation – Well-commented • Tools • Tests • Examples and sample code
  • 34. Documentation • Good documentation is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL. • It can also be very hard to achieve.
  • 35. Non-Code Content • How to’s, blueprints, architectures, and other technical material • Blog • Videos & Screencasts • Articles and Press (trade press, scholarly journals, refereed conferences) • Books • Education • Logo/mascot
  • 36. 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.
  • 37. A note about white papers • Have an even worse rep than marketing in general. • Nowadays tend to be aimed at C-level execs. • …which may be relevant to your project, especially if you are going after an enterprise market.
  • 38. Blog • 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.
  • 39. • Videos of people (talking). • Screencasts. • Not “slick” may be more appropriate. • YouTube is your friend. • Attention spans are short. • Subtitles/captions. Video and Screencasts
  • 40. Articles and Press Refereed journals: • Communications of the ACM • USENIX ;login: Trade press: • Get PR help with this. Getting press coverage is an art, not a science. • Yes, PR does still matter.
  • 41. Books • Great marketing tool. • Possibly a great career move. • Tons of work. • Never write a book for the money!
  • 42. Education • Tutorials • Workshops • Classes • Certifications
  • 43. Content Efficiency 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
  • 44. 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).
  • 45. Places to put content • GitHub repo (necessary, but not sufficient) • GitHub pages • Other website and/or wiki • Blog
  • 46. Discoverability • Project names • Use keywords, tags, and categories: – GitHub topics – Blog tags and categories – YouTube tags – SEO keywords
  • 47. Search Engine Optimization • Content, content, content! • …and keep it fresh.
  • 48. 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?
  • 49. Social media • Twitter • LinkedIn • Facebook? • Whatever else comes along
  • 50. Two-way communication • Mailing lists • irc • Slack
  • 51. Have a Cute Logo / Mascot
  • 53. This one marketing secret will change your life…
  • 56. Community • Culture • Code of conduct • Diversity • Responsiveness • Kindness
  • 57. Attitude Matters “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
  • 58. The newbie experience • Welcome • Getting started materials • FAQs • Responsiveness and friendliness
  • 59. Growing Pains • Losing responsiveness • Forgetting or alienating your founding community
  • 60. Conclusion • 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.
  • 62. References & Further Reading • https://www.wired.com/2017/06/diversity-open- source-even-worse-tech-overall/ • http://opensourcesurvey.org/2017/ • Building Compassionate Communities in Tech, @izs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kLIonLrKdQ • http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_u sers/2005/05/users_dont_care.html • http://www.writing-world.com/tech/tech4.shtml