Linux, It Does a Body Good: Approachable Promotion Efforts
Remember the IBM "Peace, Love, Linux" campaign? Perhaps its impact was greater in some areas than others -- I remember seeing Tux's smiling face on taxi cab billboards (and spray painted on sidewalks) all over Boston. It was merely a month or two later I found myself nervously installing my first Linux distribution. Was this ubiquitous (and not terribly self-explanatory) ad campaign the reason I tried Linux? No, but I can't discount that the ad's approach and playfulness wasn't some sort of subliminal influence.
I'm not suggesting free software advocates hone Svengali-like powers and study hypnosis, but it seems that a lighter, not so "tech heavy" approach to promoting open source could be quite successful. It's not possible to completely divorce technology from open source software, of course, but for average users, what matters most when it comes to software is what they can do with it. An open source application is useful at face value, and has the potential to always be a little bit more.
And the average user doesn't care much about that. Many might like the idea, some might find they never fully understand the concept -- and a smaller number will find it so appealing, eventually, that they begin to modify their software. Having no desire to hack an existing open source application doesn't mean it isn't useful for its intended purpose right now.
There is a reason I find ideas like the Linux Dairy Council so appealing. The group is rather quiet presently, but one of the driving concepts behind it is that it can do for Linux what the National Dairy Council did for milk -- take something people view as utilitarian, and make it personable, applicable to daily life, and, well, cool.
The Dairy Council is a great analogy -- milk has many health benefits that most don't really care to hear about. How nice, it's good for me, that nutritional information on the bottle is absolutely fascinating, but right now all that matters is that the scratchy, thirsty feeling in my throat goes away -- can milk do that for me? If it delivers that now, I still am not sure if I'll ever care how the calcium in milk works with the vitamin D additives to help bone strength. It does what I need it to, right now.
The Linux Dairy Council hopes to be something different from LUGs or the Linux Foundation. It's not distribution-specific, it's not there to necessarily provide support or govern, organize or standardize the Linux world. It's there to promote it in a friendly, unassuming, accessible way for the average computer user. These potential new users will probably never opt to develop open source software, but there are other ways they can contribute -- actively, or simply by telling friends and contacts they use it regularly.