|FROM ||Joshua Zeidner
|SUBJECT ||Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Eric Raymond's tips for effective open source
| anyone hear this latest anti-OSS management mantra?
"Open Source: free as in kittens."
On Sun, Jul 26, 2009 at 1:48 PM, Contrarian wrote:
> The text at the link I just sent
> Eric Raymond's tips for effective open source advocacy
> by Rick Moen
> If anyone is qualified to tell us how to effectively lobby for the
> wider adoption of open-source software, it's Eric S. Raymond. After
> being propelled -- much to his surprise -- to sudden global prominence
> in 1998 through his involvement in inspiring and launching the Mozilla
> Project, Raymond found himself the de facto spokesman for an entire
> movement, observed that he was fairly good about it, and so set about
> explaining how and why. He briefed a large audience at the recent
> LinuxWorld Conference & Expo on these happenings, and on how the rest
> of us might do likewise, in a talk entitled "Meme Hacking for Fun and
> Eric's first step was to figure out why the 1998 effort suddenly
> worked, making business interested in our community's software model,
> after nearly two decades of entirely futile attempts. It wasn't easy.
> In May of 1997, Eric published an essay, "The Cathedral and the
> Bazaar" (CatB), explaining his theories of how free software (the only
> term for it, then) gets created, and why the process creates such good
> software so quickly, based on his experience managing a piece of
> utility software called Fetchmail (see Resources). This
> socio-technical analysis, while written to be accessible to a
> nontechnical audience, succeeded only in generating acclaim among
> propeller-beanie Linux users -- preaching to the choir. Eric remained
> better known as Guy Steele's successor in editing the MIT Jargon File,
> one of the cornerstones of "hackish" (computer programmer) culture,
> and as mastermind of the shadowy, tongue-in-cheek (or so They would
> have us think) Eric Conspiracy -- until January 23, 1998.
> That morning, Eric received an emailed tip from a friend, suggesting
> he look at the prior day's announcement from Netscape, and cryptically
> commenting "I think someone's been reading your paper." And so Eric
> did -- and was thunderstruck by the fact that a major corporation
> seemed to be implementing his software-management ideas. Indeed, many
> parts of the announcement seemed to be quoting CatB directly.
> He cold-called Netscape Communications Corporation's main telephone
> number, working through a bureaucratic maze for fifteen minutes,
> seeming to reach a dead end at a voicemail mailbox. His bewildered
> message went something like, "Hello, my name is Eric Raymond, and I
> think I had something to do with your announcement. Could somebody
> please call me?" Within the hour, Roseanne Cino of Netscape Marketing
> called back, saying, "Yes, all of our top people read your paper and
> loved it. Jim Barksdale is giving your name to the national press, and
> wants to meet you."
> As Eric says, "This was the moment of vindication our tribe had been
> waiting for for twenty years." During all that time, the
> technical/Unix community had received essentially nothing but
> brushoffs, being considered impractical freaks in sandals, even though
> it offered clearly better technology. It was clear that the problem
> was not one of substance, but of perception, and Eric saw that Mozilla
> was our key to changing that.
> We'd never had a success before, and a procedural analysis of the
> traditional Unix evangelism strategy, typically carried out by
> software engineers within their own companies, showed why. In a such a
> situation, you typically would:
> 1. Become excited by some great technology, and become impressed by
> its potential to change the world for the better.
> 2. Talk it up to your peers.
> 3. Join your peers in approaching the next level of management,
> trying to get them excited, and hope that the excitement trickles
> upward until it reaches the top and changes company policies.
> 4. Sit back and wait for the people at the top to clap their hands to
> their foreheads, and exclaim in a sudden burst of enlightenment,
> "Gosh, we were wrong all along! But we'll change our fundamental
> policies and fix everything!"
> Enlightenment doesn't flow uphill
> Of course, real authority hierarchies don't work that way. Instead,
> you have, in rough terms, three strata.
> * Decision-makers inhabit the top of the hierarchy.
> * Below them are the middle managers, whose job is to be conservers
> of organisational stability. When asked to change company
> policies, their job is to say "no."
> * At the bottom are the implementers. This is where dwell the
> Unix-loving engineering staff.
> The traditional strategy fails because it hits the purposely
> granite-hard wall of middle management, and advocates of open source
> software will wait until Doomsday trying to work past them. And until
> 1998, that's exactly what they were doing.
> Mozilla gave us an example to point to, but also material to learn
> from: in that case, enlightenment did not trickle up from below. One
> guy at the top (Jim Clark) encountered a persuasive essay, had a
> moment of enlightenment, and enforced his new vision on everyone
> beneath him.
> Clark was convinced, not by moral suasion, but by CatB's pragmatic
> analysis showing why free software yielded shorter time to delivery,
> better code quality, and lower costs.
> Ambassador to the suits
> Eric could see that the Mozilla code release would be a crucial
> moment, which could yield any of several alternative outcomes:
> * Mozilla could succeed, demonstrating open source's benefits.
> * Mozilla could succeed, but in a way that made it appear to be a
> one-time, freak case.
> * Mozilla might be perceived as having failed, and then become the
> standard reason cited in business circles for not trying again.
> He decided that he could help ensure the first outcome by working out
> a credible, coherent explanation of the open source model and its
> benefits that would be amenable to the right sort of audience. That
> target audience would be precisely the one ignored by prior advocates:
> Fortune 500 chief executive officers.
> This is easier said than done. As Eric puts it, "Most of us don't play
> golf with Jack Welsh [longtime CEO of General Electric]. We need some
> other way to slip our LSD in their water supply."
> Thus, Eric figured, our best bet is a media-centered campaign aimed at
> Fortune 500 CEOs. It might seem at first glance that entrepreneurs
> would be a better bet, but the Fortune 500 are the biggest, most
> influential market that can be reached by a single marketing campaign.
> He decided to concentrate exclusively on the following news outlets:
> the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Barron's, and the
> This list pointedly excludes technical journals, since the people we
> need to reach don't read them, but leave that task to underlings. Eric
> cited what he called Rule Number One of Marketing: "Appeal to the
> prospect's interests and values, not to yours." If the smarter, more
> forward-looking CEOs were convinced to come aboard, the others would
> tend to follow.
> The sales pitch
> The term "open source," coined by Chris Peterson of the Foresight
> Institute at a strategy session Eric attended in February 1998 after
> the Netscape announcement, followed naturally from this logic. Eric
> feels that the traditional term, "free software," had been a millstone
> around all of our necks, and was simply a nonstarter as rhetoric to
> convince any but the hard-core believers. From the businessman's
> perspective, "free software" sounds at best ambiguous, or possibly
> even threatening: you must explain which meaning of "free" you intend
> (free as in speech, rather than free as in beer), and then clarify
> what free speech has to do with software. Your audience might react,
> "Free? That sounds cheap, shoddy." Or, worse, "Free? That sounds like
> It's much more effective to sell the concept on the basis of
> reliability, instead. Big corporations lose millions of dollars per
> hour when their datacenters go down. Executives are keenly interested
> in avoiding that.
> Also, even concerning their desktop boxes, executives are aware of the
> money drain. Mean time before failure (MTBF) of Windows 9x is less
> than a week. As an installation ages, that shrinks to less than a day.
> With Linux, a box left alone has MTBF of around two years.
> Your winning points will be:
> * Total cost of ownership (TCO)
> * Insulation from risk and loss of control
> An executive who allows his company to becomes dependent on software
> he is not allowed to see inside, let alone change, has lost control of
> his business, and is on the wrong side of a monopoly relationship with
> a vendor who can thereby control his business. With open source, the
> executive is in control, and nobody can take that away. The
> opportunity to reduce and control business risk is a key concern of
> any CEO. You'll be listened to.
> Eric warned that none of this will work without purging one's mind of
> the common techophile's notion that business people are stupid. Eric
> characterised them as "differently optimised," and said that we should
> respect them for their specialty. For one thing, you cannot sell to
> people if you project an attitude of disrespect. Even if you don't
> express it explicitly, it will come through in body language,
> intonation, and other subtle aspects of your demeanour.
> Of course, it probably seems reckless to approach one's company CEO
> and advocate changing company policies, and it may well be so. It's
> usually more successful to work on other people's organisations, since
> companies seem oddly resistant to listening to their own technical
> people. Also, partially because most executives will be less inclined
> than Jim Clark to read long essays on the Web, Eric has published "The
> Cathedral and the Bazaar" as part of a book of the same name,
> available from O'Reilly, suitable for leaving as anonymous gifts on
> executive desks.
> Dress to persuade
> Eric himself tries to adopt the Prince from Another Country stance, a
> term coined by science-fiction writer Norman Spinrad to describe his
> technique for being accepted in multiple communities: You adopt the
> attitude of being a high-ranking member of a different hierarchy,
> which gets you respect without subjecting you to hierarchical
> obligations. Thus, when Spinrad was trying to gain respect in
> Hollywood as a scriptwriter, he conducted himself as a respected
> science fiction author. Conversely, in the science fiction community,
> he billed himself as a leading Hollywood scriptwriter.
> Following in the same mold, Eric dresses well but casually, and
> donates his time as a speaker on open source, rather than billing it
> as consulting time. Dressing "well" includes good shoes, meaning, in
> Eric's case, $90 Rockport walking shoes rather than beat-up Reeboks.
> He generally combines these with a neat polo shirt and slacks.
> Don't dress like a hacker, Eric warns. Dress the way hackers do in the
> movies. You want to look like a credible, respected member of a
> foreign social system to an audience of executives who've never come
> closer to a real hacker than a Sandra Bullock movie. Therefore,
> "Birkenstocks are right out!"
> Even worse than underdressing, as a strategy for being credible to
> executives, would be overdressing. A technology advocate dressed in a
> business suit would tend to come across as a bad imitation of a
> business person -- and thus a person to ignore. It's far safer to
> stick to neat, good-fabric casual wear.
> Amy Abascal, head of the Web development team at VA Linux Systems,
> interjected, "But what should the technical woman wear?" I had a brief
> moment of lurid anticipation that Eric might recommend that she
> emulate Carrie-Anne Moss. The daydream passed, and Eric quite rightly
> pointed out that the high-quality black casual wear Amy was wearing
> would serve perfectly.
> Local Linux user and magazine columnist Mae Ling Mak shouted out, "But
> what about me?" Eric gazed at Mae Ling's black vinyl cheongsam and
> replied, "Mae Ling, you're a law unto yourself. Never change a thing."
> The other sales front
> Eric anticipated that his other task would be equally tough:
> convincing free-software advocates to change their rhetoric when
> speaking to business. The Open Source Initiative was founded in
> February 1998 towards that end, with Eric and fellow OSI director
> Bruce Perens advocating the new approach among traditional
> free-software advocates.
> To their utter astonishment, they observed 85 percent of the community
> switching the wording on its Web sites within six weeks, suggesting
> pent-up demand in the community for a more effective, less
> confrontational approach. Some organs of the press that used to carry
> what Eric termed "condescending, snarky pieces about free software"
> fell over themselves to speak glowingly of open source.
> Talking to the press
> Eric's strategy for getting his views across in the press ("press
> manipulation," he freely admits) relies on knowing that most people
> are asleep most of the time. It's impossible to keep your audience
> awake. Therefore, you keep a good stock of attention-getting sound
> bites in reserve, and zap the reporter with them at well-spaced
> intervals. The theory, which Eric claims works quite reliably, is that
> the reporter will remember the sound bites, reproducing them as the
> backbone of his coverage, and discard the parts he half-dozed through.
> (This reporter found the suggestion about as annoying as the wrist
> cramp from his nine pages of lecture notes, but concedes the point may
> be more correct than not. Eric stoked some of our egos a bit by saying
> that technology reporters tended to be way ahead of that curve on
> account of the same hackish traits that got them into that field in
> the first place. Sorry, no kind words for technology readers.)
> The other side of the coin
> One member of the audience asked how corporations should approach
> relations with the open source community. It's the same problem as
> before, just from the other side: "Appeal to the prospect's interests
> and values, not to yours." Once more, if anyone is qualified to
> address this point, it's Eric.
> * Never lie to geeks. They take it seriously. Most general members
> of the public expect casual prevarication and evasion, but
> technical activists notice it and are offended.
> * Respect community customs. In particular, respect the community's
> software licences. Don't write your own and expect to be greeted
> with open arms.
> * Value your own internal experts. The community doesn't like
> dealing with faceless organisations, and prefers one-on-one
> "horizontal" dealings with individuals. Therefore, identify your
> own people who are likely contacts with the community -- who may
> already be part of it without your being aware of it -- and
> burnish their presence and potential as spokespersons.
> * Give the community members toys; you'll make them happy.
> But seriously, folks
> As a bit of parting advice, Eric suggested that the most valuable
> skill to pick up is that of effective public speaking. There are a
> variety of groups that aim to teach it, but Eric found his model in
> what at first might seem an unlikely place: stand-up comedy, which he
> says can be effectively studied for tips on timing, punctuation, and
> body language, among other things.
> Eric is an animated and extroverted speaker, with a flair for reaching
> out to audiences, and a whimsical sense of fun -- but conceptualising
> him as a Robin Williams or Mike Myers puts him in a new light.
> Me: Maybe I'd be a reporter.
> Eric: An evil reporter?
> Me: You always do that!
> * The Fetchmail utility:
> * "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," Eric S. Raymond:
> * The Jargon File, aka the New Hacker's Dictionary:
> * Eric Conspiracy Secret Labs:
> * Netscape's announcement of the planned source code release:
> * The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by
> an Accidental Revolutionary, Eric S. Raymond (O'Reilly and
> Associates, 1999):
> Rick Moen is a recovering system administrator in the San Francisco
> Bay Area, who served as primary Bay Area organiser for Windows Refund
> Day, and has been one of the main troublemakers behind Silicon Valley
> Linux User Group's Silicon Valley Tea Party, the Great Linux Revolt of
> '98, and other Bay Area Linux PR events.
> Copyright (C) 2000 by Rick Moen, rick-at-linuxmafia.com.
> Article first appeared in LinuxWorld.com