Marketing an open-source project – Part I

Hey there, 

I’d like to start by saying that I started this research back in 2017 and wrapped it up by 2019. Even though I’ve come across heaps of new discussions on the subject since then, the core findings are as valid today as they were back then.

But before we dive into the essence of what this series of blogs will dish out, let me give you a little background. I’m a systems engineer who’s been working as a developer for over a decade. My relationship with the open-source (OS) world sparked early in my studies. I was part of the Linux Group at my university and I realized how much I liked the philosophy and culture behind OS communities.   

While studying, I did some small developments for ADempiere/iDempiere and got a taste of how some of these OS communities worked.  

Now, as for my Bachelor’s thesis, I wanted it to be more than just some demo software gathering dust in the university library. So, I chose to develop a plugin that’d put the Kanban Board into iDempiere. The decision was mainly because the process of writing a thesis is demanding and time-consuming and I didn’t want my hard work to end up archived and forgotten. Developing something for an OS project meant I could share it with the real world, test it out, and have the chance to get feedback from seasoned developers and users.

Post-graduation, I worked in the banking sector in Colombia, where I learned a lot, but I also felt that I wanted to do something more, and I definitely didn’t want my code buried among hundreds of files of proprietary software. I kind of got used to the great feeling of having my code out there, open for all to see, appreciate, and critique.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m wrapping up my MBA studies in the Netherlands. I found myself thinking about what I could bring back to the iDempiere community I was proudly a part of. Ideas flowed in, some good, some not so much. This time, I wanted my thesis to be less techy. I wanted it to be something that helped the project grow. 

One of my favourite classes was marketing. It pretty much changed my perspective on its head. Pre-MBA, I figured marketing was all about manipulating people into buying stuff they didn’t need. But then I learned what it really is and how it can help, for instance, promoting non-profit organizations, charity events, etc. 

That’s when it hit me. Using these marketing tools to make OS projects more attractive and reel in contributors could be a game-changer for these communities. So, I dove into the existing literature (I couldn’t be the first soul with this thought, right?). I found that some people, not as many as I expected, were working on similar topics but the existing number of academic papers or research was very limited. So, it all began …

The topic is not small and we need to cover many areas before reaching the conclusions. So I will split this into a series of blog posts to make it more digestible. I’ll start next week with the first post introducing the topic and explaining why it is important.

PS: If you want to read the full research document, please let me know, I am allowed to share it privately but not to post it publicly because the university has its rights. If you want to see a summarized version of what will be discussed here, you can check out the presentation I did in Lyon back in 2019. It’s like the spark notes for what’s coming your way.

See you soon!