Saturday, March 18, 2006

Adoption of Open Source Software

I came across this link in Economist, which was pretty good in the sense that it put things in perspective. It is a good article worth reading. Go ahead and read it. I will be waiting here patiently for you.....

.....Did ya read it? ahead and read it...its pretty good....

well...lets discuss this figure presented in the article in this post. Basically this figure makes the point that in the open source software users can be represented in the form of concentric circles. The outermost ones being mostly people who use the product and talk about it in the forums, the next inner circle being users who report problems they face and so on while the innermost zone would be users who would actively provide code and add valuable features.

The article also talks about "commercial open source" companies like MySQL and how they would like to have even the most uninvolved users too as even they contribute towards the effort. Lets assume that is true (I think such users are also useful, others may have a different opinion). Now the next question becomes, how does one drive such users towards a particular product.

I believe the most basic way to do it would be to make things as simple as possible for their involvement. By this I means conveying to wide enough range of people about the availability and capability of the product. The best way to inform people about the capability of a product would be enable users to use the product.

At this point some of my readers would retort that one should concentrate one's (limited) resources on getting the maximum number of paying customers as opposed to trying to garner maximum number of non-paying freebie-loading leeches....Just joking...:)...But that's a business discussion which has to be made. Once you have made the decision to get in the hordes of users please continue to read ahead.

Continuing with the point, what are the best ways to attract people to use one's product:
The first step of every users: Make the product easier to install. Better, still skip the installation altogether by providing a web interface into which one can login. Why should one use a rich-client interface now-a-days? In which cases is this justified?
Make the product usage as seamless and intuitive as possible: Making the (web)UI AJAX is the best way to do this (at least as of now)
If a download option is provided make sure that no complex configuration is needed to experience all the features of the product.
Make sure that users can seamlessly participate in the community (for example don't insist on login and email details if someone wants to post a problem/bug on the forum)
Enable the building of a community around the product. Host the product. Enable communication between users so that they can share common interests and discuss the likes (and dislikes) of the product.

What do you all think?


At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right on with your advise. The company I work for released Shine Live help which integrates with SugarCRM. We have trials where both applications are up and users can see how they work together. One way to push open source on more people is through making your application inter operable with an existing projects.


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