This kind of conversation is the sort of thing that's been on my mind with regards to Fedora Marketing recently. If I were to try and generalize my thinking a bit more, it would go something like this:

  1. Fedora has a lot of wonderful stories to tell.
  2. These stories are hard to convey - they're full of subtleties that depend on a lot of context that's hard for those not immersed in the day-to-day of Fedora (or open source, for that matter) to see.
  3. We need to learn how to tell our stories to those who don't already know them.

This isn't gospel or anything - it's just how I'm currently trying to make sense of open source marketing and what it means for Fedora, for myself, in my own mind. Thinking out loud.

Original image CC-BY-SA by Jarek Tuszynski via Wikimedia Commons.

I'm slowly coming to understand Marketing as "the storytelling team" (among other things). This doesn't mean we're always the storytellers ourselves - we shouldn't be. It does mean that storytelling is what we make it easy for people in the Fedora community to do, whether they're Ambassadors going to events, developers working with upstream, testers explaining why they're advocating a bug, or anyone else. We help people tell stories - stories of what they need, stories of what they want, stories of what they're doing - and once those stories are out there, it's far easier for people to find each other and solve their own problems.

The Chartered Institute of Management defines Marketing as "the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably." This made me scratch my head for months. What the blazes does this mean in open source? It assumes a top-down dictation and financial gain as the bottom line, and that... just doesn't work in our world.

Here's my current rephrasing.

Open source marketing is the community-driven process responsible for enabling users to identify, anticipate, and satisfy their own requirements sustainably.

When we do that, we turn users into contributors. We practice the open source way of enabling folks to scratch their own itches, and the itches of others they care about, by participating in a community of practice where we share our questions and answers and ideas with each other, no strings attached.

This brings me back to stories. I personally find it difficult to tell people what open source is, what any of the open source projects I'm involved with (primarily Fedora and Sugar Labs) are - unless they already know. The only way I know how to explain it is to show people - to bring them to IRC or FUDCon or a mailing list and give them a simultaneous annotation on what's going on. "This acronym means that, that nick belongs to this person, this project's history is such-and-such." The details we all know, and usually assume, but that newcomers don't. The adage "show, don't tell" has a second part: "and make sure that your listeners have what they need to understand."

Challenge: Can you take this kind of conversation (this example is from Ambassadors via the Marketing list) and explain it in a blog post that would make someone who'd never heard of Fedora or open source / free software before understand why we care about this stuff so deeply, why it gets us excited, why we work on it?

That's the thing I'm trying to learn how to do. Suggestions, tips, help, and companions on the journey are enthusiastically welcomed.