These are just some random ideas for when I finally find the Unlimited Money, Time, and Influence Dimension.
Here's what I've been thinking about lately.
We're at one of those points in “Crossing the Chasm” where there's going to be a big change soon and the General Populace is going to start using Linux in the next couple years. I hope. There's no technical reason for it not to happen. The distros are cute. The installs are in many cases very easy.
But, of course, that's not the whole story.
When I tell my friend Betsy or my parents or other folks not in the technical field that Linux, or OpenOffice.org, or another open source program would be great, they get a little glassy-eyed and start to shake if I talk about non-Microsoft products for too long. It's just not something they believe in. They know intellectually that I make my living in open source and understand that free is cheaper than not free. But don't really believe it. They just don't feel that open source products are an option.
Reasoning is all very well, but as someone very wise once said, "You can't reason someone out of a position they haven't been reasoned into." Which is a very reasonable statement (pun intended). I've certainly got my emotional topics that reason won't trump, period. We can talk all day long about how open source is great and so much cheaper, but that doesn't get to people's amygdala. It doesn't make them feel like they want it or can use it. It doesn't make them accept that yes, cheaper can be better.
Plus, there's no "get an easy cool Linux laptop with support and warantees now!" web site for them to go to.
So I fantasize about how to make people fall in love with open source.
Or, if not fall in love, then help people feel good about it, feel comfortable, and feel excited about it.
And I think about the ultimate pre-installed open source computer web site.
In my fantasy, with the aforementioned money and people, I would do a couple things.
I would create The Warm, Fuzzy, Fun, Exciting, and Absolutely Cool Linux/Open Source Site, For Everyone But Especially Small Businesses and Regular End Users Who Are Not Using Linux Yet.
And I would Shamelessly Pursue Celebrity Endorsements and Product Placement.
About the Site
I would create a different Linux site for people who don't know or care about open source but care about everything you can do with a normal computer save money, do email, edit photos, build web pages, rip CDs, and so on.
In my fantasy, the site would be off the charts on fun, easy, and incredibly cool. The site should make people feel like walking around in Target makes me feel (I have a serious Target addiction). Or Ikea. Just fun and more-or-less mainstream and cute.
The site and associated products and ads would make it blindingly obvious millions of people are using open source software and having a good time doing so.
Here are a few specific things in my fantasy Linux web site.
- Hire a few designers away from Apple (or Target) to design the most amazing web site and packaging ever. ((Mark Shuttleworth's freedom toasters are wonderful. Great design.)
- Hire some writers to do humorous text on the web site and in the documentation. I get a kick out of some of the content on the Mini web site.
- Put games on the web site to draw people in.
- I'd pack every bit of extra stuff, plugins, etc., into the distros that I could. Make it the default so that nobody has to fiddle with adding what they need, and can instead just enjoy using their computer for what they use it for.
- Sell all the PDA and music-playing devices I can—and borrow from Apple's playbook by providing free engraving.
- Create community with contests and prizes, featured Linux stories, and all sorts of things to make people feel as proud of their Linux computer as they feel of their Ipod.
- I would of course hire Kathy Sierra to make all this happen and create passionate Linux users.
Celebrity Endorsements, Product Placements, and All That Stuff
What made people stop smoking so quickly in the 90s after yeaaaars of smoking? Peer pressure. Who can get people to buy millions of copies of an item with a wave of her hand? Oprah!
- I would get on Oprah. I don't know how—Mark Shuttleworth is pretty hunky, so we could maybe work the beefcake angle. Maybe we could get Jonathan Schwartz to write a fake autobiography. Or we just make the pitch along the whole digital divide, make a better society, line. At any rate, we get on Oprah, and at the end of the show Oprah gives away free Linux laptops and everybody dances.
- Microsoft Is for Fuddy-Duddies. Ads and placements and stories in Seventeen, ads on MySpace.com, Linux books on the tables in Urban Outfitters. (It's a stretch, that last one.) Teens and college students, in theory, don't have a lot of money, and in theory want to rebel against established norms. And, of course, are generally more comfortable with computers.
- Product placement in TV shows and movies (maybe ET used VOIP on Linux to phone home?), anything. Mac has a huge product placement thing goin' on; I'd figure out what they do and do it (with all the money from the venture capitalists, yes ;> ).
Now, I'm not actually going to do this. Not this year, anyway. Got to finish a book, got to go do some training, and there aren't that many programmers or designers around who will do my bidding. If you decide to do this, though, please remember me, bring me on as your official trainer. Oh, and I want to be on Oprah. ;>