Posts Tagged ‘Free Software’

Last year I attended a talk by Richard Stallman in Manchester, UK where he explained the motivations behind Free Software as well as its history and what we could do to support the cause. Whilst I enjoyed the talk and agreed with most of his views, I found myself hooked on obvious marketing anomalies.

First of all, there is the name – FREE SOFTWARE. Most people in the audience assumed (even after Stallman reiterated the point on several occasions) that it’s all about not paying a penny, when of course the name refers to the FREEDOMS to run, modify, redistribute and improve the program. Surly, calling the movement something like FREEDOM SOFTWARE or LIBRE SOFTWARE (See Gratis versus Libre) would cause less confusion?

A further negative consequence of the confusion caused by the name FREE SOFTWARE comes about as a result of the psychological weakness of human beings to perceive quality in terms of price. When I’ve tried to explain Free Software to the casual computer users/business people (not programmers), their immediate impressions of the name is that the software is free (gratis) AND THEREFORE there must be something wrong with it. Like the GNU OS is some cheap knock-off of MS Windows! My point is that the name FREE SOFTWARE creates unnecessary hurdles to climb when we are trying to pitch the benefits of Free Software to a wider audience.

Now I’m done ranting, I will balance the karma by advertising a Manchester Free Software event this evening – Dan Lynch, Audio Production with Free Software – 21st July. I hope to see you there!


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You may think this is an oxymoron, for example, I was having a conversation with one of my hippie friends a few weeks ago about how trade would operate if we got rid of money.

He believed that we would no longer need marketing, or marketing would become redundant because people would be completely free to choose what product/service to use and that if no one used your product then it didn’t matter. I found this view to be rather depressing – if we are living in a utopia where we are free to spend our time working on a project of our own choice, I would make it the best damn thing ever! More than that, I would aim for my product to change people’s lives for the better. The last thing I would want is to have my life’s work sit in a cupboard for the rest of eternity.

What I’m trying to say is that marketing is important for Free Software now and in the future. Even in a non monitory environment, healthy competition still exists, e.g. KDE v GNOME, which is beneficial to everyone providing innovations are not monopolised and restricted e.g. Apple patenting multitouch for phones.

Having well known intellectuals such Steven Fry on the GNU homepage is one nice way to market free software, but a lot more marketing is needed for free software to be successful.

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