In order to increase the size of our userbase we must approach the general public (~95% of desktop users who don't use GNU/linux). This requires us to make certain adjustments that aren't necessarily related to the improvement of our software, but to the way we market our community and software. We must understand what are the psychological motives behind people's choices.
Some of the choices that people make aren't necessarily based on rational factors but on random factors. For example, People tend to choose what is near and accessible over what is better but far, or choose something that is familiar over something which is unknown, or something which represents values and ideals with which they identify or wish to be identified, etc.
Our marketing strategy should adopt a course of action that attends to the aspects by which people choose the way they choose (easy, accessible, identity, coolness,..).
In my opinion there are two main hurdles that prevent the primary adoption of FOSS and mainly GNU/linux, and these are:
- The Technical - The products are unfamiliar to the general public, their visibility is dwarfed by that of proprietary products, people are accustomed to proprietary products, and this is a vicious circle.
- The Ideological - People don't identify with the ideas and values of FOSS and more over with those of the Free Culture movement. The principals that we promote aren't just open-source or privacy or free (be it freedom or beer), they have a more meaningful and profound impact (over the economy, society, community, environment, etc.) which people would identify with had they understood them better.
In order to deal with these obstacles we must take an action in the real world, where the general public is, and not only over the internet and educate the people.
We should organize public courses in which people will learn the technical aspects of using Plasma/linux and in which we will have a stage to assimilate and explain our values and their impact on society and the world.
These courses will take place in the real world (universities/colleges/public libraries/community centers/school/etc.), by people from our community who have the knowledge and skills to do so. That way we will take advantage of the decentralization of our community in order to contact people all over the globe. The courses should give the students the basic tools and knowledge to become Power Users in order for them to be ambassadors and supporters of FOSS community in their family/community and later in their working place.
What it will take
This project should become known to the majority of our community so that everyone with the right skills and abilities will understand that it's possible to contact and educate the general public, not just by the internet but also in the real world. To not only write guides and wikis but to actively educate people.
We should create a layout for a course that encompasses the most important things we think that basic power users should know. Also a template of leaflet of a course, that people would be able to use and fit to their needs.
Individuals from our community should contact places where it's possible to hold these meetings and advertise it in a very basic manner (for example, a leaflet or entering in the beginning of a class and saying few words about the course which we offer).
And of course the most important part, educate the public throughout the course's meetings.
How we know we succeeded
We should see an increase in the number of users/developers/donations.
If we create a chat room for all the students we educated everywhere, and where they can help themselves/their peers, than we will see an active chat room.
We will see other FOSS communities mimic our project.
We will see more cooperation from institutions and sponsors.
Psychology and Identity
Adoption of new technology/ideas
What are the technical things that people will learn in this course?
- We should decide what are the most important things that the majority of people are able to learn in a short period of time, and that will give them the optimal computer experience and capabilities.
- Some of these things are: Better acquaintance with a computer, how to customize Plasma for their needs, basic knowledge of the linux system, how to install a distro on a computer, how to work with the new programs (simple but important things that they can learn in libreoffice, gimp/krita, gwenview/digikam/etc - to bring them to the normal capabilities they had with proprietary software and aspire for more), how to edit a picture, install an ad-blocker on their browser, install programs, fix certain problems, how to find solutions for their problems, maybe even how to post a bug report. They must certainly know how to contact the community through the irc or the forum. Helping them create a user for the forum brings them a huge step into the community. We should promote KDE's programs, but not if they're not yet suitable for the general users. Our main goal is bringing people over to Plasma/linux and thus to be a part of KDE, and not to make them users of a specific KDE program.
Why should we talk about ideology?
- People want to be involved with a cause. The Identity that they adopt is also defined by values and not just by class/gender/money/age. We must give them values to identify with and explain why our cause is important. We must explain the advantages and disadvantages of FOSS. For example: Explain why privacy is important in a democratic society, it's not enough to say "privacy is important", because then the retort is "I have nothing to hide". We should explain what is the influence of FOSS on the economy (a decentralized economy, that isn't managed by a few big companies in Silicon Valley who tunnel all the money that way, but by small, local companies and developers that are part of the local community - as people and as taxpayers), on the environment (We can use older hardware which is like recycling, our resources are decentralized and don't create overload on infrastructures), on the community (we see ourselves as community where the programs we create are for the community and not money-driven), on democracy (we promote freedom, privacy, diversity), on the world (we cooperate between people all over the world), on education (we wish to educate and empower people so that they will have better tools to advance their lives and their communities), etc.
- 30 years ago, it was hard to imagine that a lot of people would spend their time recycling their garbage or look for an efficient/hybrid/electric car or that 195 of countries will sign an accord that will try to lower the emissions of CO2. The reason that we see a change today isn't because recycling became easier, but because people started believing in the ideals and concerns of the environmentalist movement, who educated the masses in the last decades. Their work gave fruit - people listened, understood, believed and are trying to act accordingly.
- The issue of ideology is so important that I will just add this: The basis of every human action requires ability and will. In order to improve people's ability we will focus on the technical aspect, but in order to encourage people to use FOSS and make them spend a bit of an effort (contrary to what they're used to do in say Windows/Office/Photoshop/etc), then we must explain to them the consequences of their own volition and why they should act differently.
In our case - people will keep on doing what they're used to, until they will start agreeing and believing in something else - a different ideal. If we manage to make someone believe in a different ideal, then with this act alone, no matter what the proprietary alternatives he's being offered, he will only want to choose FOSS.
Why would people want to come to this course?
- Our course will offer people to derive more from their computer. They will know more about open source software that is leading a change in software today and is being used in places like Google, NASA, etc.
- We should also stress that our community is "cool" and not as it is usually perceived (nerdy/for people who are only interested in science/computers/math - We are interested in society, economy, community, environment, freedom, etc.).
Should we give a diploma/certificate at the end of the course?
- Yes. People like getting something physical in return for the time they spent. This is also a way to bring someone closer to the community as he/she are officially part of the community.
- Also, it is a good way to give status and drive revenue for these projects.
-In the future, we can hope that this document becomes a proof for a basic level of knowledge of the Plasma/linux system, that maybe companies and employers might want to see.
Should we charge money or ask for donations for this course?
- It's a possibility. If the course requires paying for a place to hold the course, then it's important to charge money for the course. We shouldn't spend KDE's money for that. Moreover, people tend to appreciate things that they pay for and to view free things in suspicion. If the course is free it might look like we're trying to get something else from people.
- The middle way might be to charge a symbolic fee for the course or for donations to KDE, or to be given as payment for the people that will arrange and conduct the course. If people from our community can earn a bit by helping our community to grow, this is something we should encourage.
What is the appropriate duration of the course? Should it be during the day/night?
- The members of KDE that wish to organize this course, know their community better than us. They should decide by themselves.
Should the courses be held on a daily or weekly basis?
- It might be wise to hold these meetings weekly so that people will have time to experiment with their new OS and applications, and if they encounter any problems they can ask their instructor in the next meeting. Also the longer people experiment with a "product" they tend to get used to it and find their own workflow. And people will see in a weekly course something that is comprehensive and valuable like a regular course that people enroll to.
Should we offer online courses for KDE software?
Yes. We should offer online courses. Even though we wish to interact with people in the real world and introduce them to Plasma/linux and KDE software, this is a good way to reach people that are looking for information and that wish to expand their competence/knowledge when working with KDE software, and essentially become power-users. Either by becoming an expert in one KDE program or in Plasma/linux. This can also help students of our 'real-world' courses that have forgotten few things after the course.
Furthermore, this enables us to be be seen at one level with other big software companies, since there are online courses for using their software as well as ours.
Who should be our primary target groups?
- We should target primarily groups that can lead the change we wish to achieve, these groups are, for example:
- Young people in school/high-school/public libraries - who aren't bound by their jobs to certain proprietary software. Also most companies are interested in them as consumers. If we influence them, it can influence other industries.
- Students of universities/colleges - who will soon enter into leading positions in the academic world and the economic world.
- These groups have long life expectancy and are prospected to have big influence on companies (whether as consumers or as workers from the inside).
- Teachers (school teachers, university professors,..), Librarians, any other group that acts as a window to education and knowledge.
- Activists - since they are already interested in changing the world for the better and might agree with some of our ideology.
- Any other group that seeks empowerment through knowledge.
- Elder people - They are a growing group, they have more free time, less bound by their employer to work with a certain proprietary software, are predicted to have more money/financial stability than younger generations and they might even care for privacy and democracy.
- Windows 7 Power Users.
Are there any extra benefits?
- Our contributors and developers who will take part in conducting these courses will be able to meet regular users and see their difficulties and needs at first hand, to better adapt our programs to the public.
I am willing to put work into this
- chfanzil - I can help writing the syllabus and structure of the course (what we want to emphasize and what we don't).
- Neofytos Kolokotronis @neofytosk
I am interested
- Gregor Mi (@gregormi) - I did some courses on my own: teaching GNU/Linux in public school on a weekly basis; offering single-time courses on FOSS/privacy topics in folk high school. I am specifically interested in collaboration on German teaching material e.g. on installing, using GNU/Linux and learn programming on it. Especially young people need material in their native language.