The Open Source Public Relations Engine

by David Lane

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends, both at home and abroad. June was a very busy month for me, which is why there were so few postings and I wanted to jump on July with a really big bang, but I am having trouble finding a topic worth discussing. I could talk about my new netbook, an ASUS Eee PC that I picked up for a song, but it is still running Windows and while I have downloaded the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, I have not had time to unspool it and begin the install process. I have trawled my Twitter feeds looking for something exciting or provocative related to Open Source, but nothing, other than the release of Fedora 11 and Firefox 3.5 is jumping out at me and frankly neither is particularly news worthy, despite the large number of people that are supposedly downloading both code sets.

Has Open Source lost its mojo? Has it become so common place that there are no real innovations to talk about? Or is it simply the summer lull? Before you fire up the flame throwers, I will assure you that I do not think Open Source has lost a step. It is still exciting, vibrant and diverse. Just looking at some of the tips on the left shows me that there is always something to learn. The topics across the top are always changing to reflect everything and anything you can do with Open Source software.

Perhaps then, the biggest news is the news that is missing. Over the last couple of days, a big deal has been made about the absurd pricing structure of Windows 7. Where is the news that Dell is going to ship 50% of its machines with Linux installed? No, I did not see it either. Maybe it was HP? No, neither company is moving away from Windows, sadly. But that would certainly be news. The truth of the matter is that most open source projects do not have large marketing budgets. Most programs are released quietly and spread by word of mouth, and until they are reviewed by someone like the Linux Journal, they tend to toil in a certain amount of obscurity.

Trawl the PR News wire and you will see very few releases for this great new piece of Free and Open Source Software. But you will see notices for the newest hole in Windows or Adobe’s newest picture manipulator. Perhaps we need a better PR engine. Perhaps, as my friend Paul Frields suggested, we need a single location for all FOSS projects that would prevent duplicative effort. Not as in building a better mouse trap, but as in literally reinventing the wheel. There is so much talent out there, solving the same problems, that some legitimate projects are short shrifted. But how would we even go about letting everyone know about a single source for information when there are so many sources for information, and so few of them covered by the main stream press except when they are covering the bad news?

I do not have a solid answer for this. But I am willing to listen to suggestions. Maybe I need to establish the new innovations list myself? What do you think?

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