How can the free software movement improve its communication?

One thing that is challenging the free software movement is communication.

Communication skills are quite a “known skill” – persuading people is not really cutting edge – people have been persuading other people about $stuff since forever.


The question is, therefore, how we can be better at communicating free software, given we know how things, historically, have worked for others?

Example 1: The Open Data Movement.
The open data movement is not the same as the free software movement, but *is* much younger.The open data movement has had considerable success in various fields, and considering that in 2008, barely anyone had heard of it, has had a meteoric rise to popularity.

Why is that? What has it done that we can copy and emulate?

Example 2: Wikimedia Foundation.
Wikipedia is not, in essence, a free software project (it’s a free knowledge project) but it communicates better than the free software movement.

Find someway you’re happy with to watch their videos and tell me they don’t manage to communicate in powerful ways::

The Impact of Wikipedia

Children in Peru write their own history on Wikipedia
The free software movement has code that powers millions of servers, that runs in space, that has connected millions of people, that has underlined millions of businesses… but we don’t talk about it.

Perhaps we could start doing? How?

Example 3: Coding as standard for schools.
In the UK we’ve seen massive boosts in young people coding – there’s a massive push to get young people not just to be passive consumers but to be creators. This is the proverbial, “everyone plays games, but only a few people know how to make them” or “everyone uses apps on their phone, but how can you personally make one?”. With the rPi and all that that brings, we have free software, for the first time ever, being pushed into the hands of school children.

This is tremendous news – and a massive opportunity. How can we communicate better about this?
Find someway you’re happy to watch this:

Mark Zuckerberg on helping others learn to code

(How the above got 9 million views this year)

It’s 2013. From that video, go back and look at how many people in that video, work for organisations that aren’t businesses primarily based around free software infrastructure. I count, two, arguably soon, one?

In 2013, to have a job, how can you afford for it not to be free software? how can we communicate that if you’re looking for work in today’s world, employers are crying out for experience with free software systems? I mean, really, seriously, isn’t a threat, it’s a joke. How can we get that across to people?

Basically, I think better things could be done, and the people who do those things, are the ones that will choose which way the future goes.

One thought on “How can the free software movement improve its communication?

  1. While I’m not arguing with you, I think all your examples have it a lot easier than the free software movement. Open Data and Wikimedia benefit from a broadly-accepted notion that knowledge is good, and making it widely accessible (a.k.a. education) benefits society. Of course the free software movement is founded on similar principles, but to tap into the same fundamental acceptance software has to be identified as the kind of knowledge that should be public, rather than the kind of secret that secures jobs, and overcome a broad acceptance of patents/”IP” and fear of Chinese plagiarism.

    Coding in schools is playing in a completely different league: there is obviously a lot of money involved, from industry lobbying to parents dreaming of their kid being The Next Bill Gates.

    But back to the original question: The idea that “we need to persuade people” is all well and good, but who are you trying to persuade to do what? Free software already IS everywhere. Apart from in large companies that have an established Microsoft or Oracle infrastructure, more often than not, free software wins simply by being the best tool for the job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>