Open source and the computer press

For a long time non-commercial open source projects had exclusive access to an audience. Sites like Slashdot are very focused on open source, commercial software doesn’t get a look in.

With the emergence of commercial open source players things are a little more complex. The commercial open source players have access to traditional media, but they are also able to access the traditional open source audience as well. That is bound to cause problems for the non-commercial players.

Evidence of the problem non-commercial players are facing comes from Tarus Balog, the project lead at OpenNMS, in a recent post.

Network World performed an open source network management tool review. The three products reviewed were the new wave open source projects. Non-commercial projects like OpenNMS and Nagios were not included in the review.

My suspicion is that commercial open source players will become THE open source players so far as the traditional media is concerned. From the journalist’s perspective, the commercial open source players are much more available and understandable. They have a marketing department, so they create press releases, marketing collateral and have a public relations company. The investors in the commercial players are also likely to have media contacts too.

Non-commercial players are going to find it more difficult to interface with more traditional media. They don’t have a public relations company, and I doubt many create press releases either.

My advice to the non-commercial players. Start acting like the commercial players. Create press releases, distribute them to the relevant people. Appoint somebody in your community to be the point person. Make the point person permanently available to traditional journalists.

The idea that non-commercial open source projects will be given any leeway just because they are open source and non-commercial isn’t true any more, if it ever was.