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Making an Open Source Project Press-Friendly 169

Posted by Soulskill
from the spreading-the-word dept.
blackbearnh writes "Corporations know that part of launching a successful project is projecting the right image to the media. But a lot of open source projects seem to treat the press as an annoyance, if they think about it at all. For a reporter, even finding someone on a project who's willing to talk about it can be a challenge. Esther Schindler over at IT World has a summary of a roundtable discussion that was held at OSCON with pointers about how open source projects can be more reporter-accessible. 'Recognize that we are on deadline, which for most news journalists means posting the article within a couple of hours and for feature authors within a couple of days. If we ask for input, or a quote, or anything to which your project spokesperson (you do have one? yes? please say yes) might want to respond, it generally does mean, "Drop everything and answer us now." If the journalist doesn't give you a deadline ("I need to know by 2pm"), it's okay to ask how long you can take to reach the right developer in Poland, but err on the side of "emergency response." It's unreasonable, I know, but so are our deadlines.'"
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Making an Open Source Project Press-Friendly

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  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:06PM (#29238093)
    The reason most open-source projects get no press is they have neither a story to tell nor a storyteller to tell it. Linux is a good example. There was a story to tell--the story of Linus Torvalds. Windows--always meant telling a story of Bill Gates. Likewise, the Mac story always equates to a Steve Jobs story. Then you have the case of a Gaving King, who never misses a chance to be rude on the forums, who is always irascible--he does his cause no good. If you want good press, you need a story and a messenger.
    • Another reason most open-source projects get no press is that they are very poorly communicated in every way. An example is LaTeX [wikipedia.org]. It requires two paragraphs in the Wikipedia article to explain just the name.

      Another example is GIMP [gimp.org]. One of the meanings of gimp is "cripple".

      Another example is UltraVNC [ultravnc.org]. UltraVNC is excellent. The UltraVNC web site is a mess.

      The open source experience is often "It's free, but you must spend a very frustrating week learning how to use it." Those who write for publication don't have a week to understand a project, and they don't want to write about something that would frustrate their readers.
      • CORRECTION: Should have been UltraVNC [uvnc.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by curmudgeon99 (1040054)
        Excellent points all. It pertains to a larger geek problem: poor communication skills. How many brilliant developers have you met who send emails that sound like they were written by a 4th grader? Too many...
        • by turbidostato (878842) on Friday August 28, 2009 @08:23PM (#29238625)

          "How many brilliant developers have you met who send emails that sound like they were written by a 4th grader? Too many..."

          Not a single one. It's true I found a number of bozos that out of their ignorance think they are ununderstood prima donnas that write like 4th graders. But really good professional developers? They all have above-average comunication skills. What of extrange do you find in people able to express difficult concepts in computer languages being able to express simpler concepts in natural languages too?

      • by Trepidity (597)

        That's true of a lot of tech stuff in general. What the hell is going on at the Oracle [oracle.com] website, for example? About 40 links to some random downloads, middleware, etc.; impossible to find anything if you didn't already know exactly what you wanted.

        • "What the hell is going on at the Oracle [oracle.com] website, for example?"

          Here is a guess: The technically knowledgeable people are paid to develop products. Management considers them too expensive to document what they do.

          Instead, Oracle management hires marketing people to supervise the development of the web site and documentation. The marketing people have no interest in technology -- none. They are bored with their jobs. They secretly think that technically knowledgeable people are inferior. They do, however, learn some buzz-words so that they can pretend that they understand.

          The marketing people don't believe technical communication is important. They have seen numerous examples of people being able to use Oracle products even though the documentation is poor. The web site and product manuals are either almost useless or written for people who already understand the products. Editing for clarity is very limited.

          The writers are hired as consultants. When a writer doesn't understand something, he or she just doesn't document it, or gives a limited explanation.

          Oracle web site page chosen completely at random: Oracle Database Management Packs [oracle.com].

          Quote (Title): "Get Maximum Performance With ROI of 100%" Translation: Meaningless.

          Quote (First sentence): "Oracle provides an integrated management solution for managing Oracle database with a unique top-down application management approach." Translation: Meaningless. A "management solution for managing a management approach"? But... It's "integrated"! And, notice the grammatical error. It should be "managing Oracle databases".

          When I see trash like that I feel sad. I sometimes think I should contact the board of directors and ask to be CEO, so that the company will have adult supervision. I'm being sarcastic, but I really do feel genuinely sad about corporate self-defeat.

          More sarcasm: Will the combination of Oracle and Sun be called "Snoracle"?

          Seriously: Will PostgreSQL [postgresql.org] eventually be the world's most popular database software? To me, those two quotes from the Oracle web site are a very effective ad for PostgreSQL.
          • by jbolden (176878)

            I think you are generally right except for "The web site and product manuals are either almost useless or written for people who already understand the products."

            Oracle publishes about a 1/2 dozen "concept" manuals designed to teach concepts about various technologies. The technical people do write good materials. Also Oracle used to have excellent tutorial manuals and the database still ships with great learning databases standard.

            And that isn't counting oracle press which has about a dozen very good boo

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jgrahn (181062)

        Another reason most open-source projects get no press is that they are very poorly communicated in every way. An example is LaTeX. It requires two paragraphs in the Wikipedia article to explain just the name.

        It's a word-play on TeX, on which it is based, and it also inherits its purposely silly pronounciation and typography. Surely, that's all that needs to be said? I don't mind that the Wikipedia article provides more background, though.

        [...] The open source experience is often "It's free, but you must sp

    • by seifried (12921)

      I completely disagree. Linux is the archetype David vs. Goliath (aka "challenge") story. What makes it even better is Microsoft itself was once a David playing with Goliath (IBM). Empire creation and decline make for fascinating tales.

      On a more recent note there are tons of stories about Linux (hint: there's about a half dozen English language Linux magazines publishing monthly). You have to remember, reporters usually look for stories, stories looking for reporters often mean someone has an axe to grind,

  • by dark_requiem (806308) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:07PM (#29238103)
    Simply put, FOSS developers usually fall into one of two categories: hackers coding in their spare time and those who work on FOSS projects as part of their job. Those in the former category likely have day jobs, and are already short on time. They do this as a hobby, and if their spare time is spent coding, they don't necessarily have spare time to devote to commenting for reporters. The latter category is contributing code as part of their job. They likely don't have the authority to comment on the record regarding their work, or they have to get permission from the marketing trolls to do so. Either way, if you're getting a response, it's not likely to be quick.

    The lesson here is plan ahead. As soon as you know you're going to be working on a story, start asking for comments. If you wait until the last second, you're likely to not get a reply. Yes, reporters can get short deadlines, but you can't expect volunteers contributing their spare time to jump at your say-so, and you have to allow time to get the corporate wheels rolling in the latter case.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The lesson here is plan ahead. As soon as you know you're going to be working on a story, start asking for comments. If you wait until the last second, you're likely to not get a reply. Yes, reporters can get short deadlines, but you can't expect volunteers contributing their spare time to jump at your say-so, and you have to allow time to get the corporate wheels rolling in the latter case.

      A lot of reporters aren't given the luxury of oodles of extra time by their assigning editors and those editors expect results, not requests for more time because "they have to get the corporate wheels rolling over there." The reporter might have hours from the time it's assigned to the deadline for turning it in ... and to some people outside of and ignorant of the writing/editing/publishing process, that short amount of time can be misinterpreted as "waiting until the last second." It's not. It's the natu

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by turbidostato (878842)

        "A lot of reporters aren't given the luxury of oodles of extra time by their assigning editors and those editors expect results, not requests for more time because "they have to get the corporate wheels rolling over there." "

        Then it is the reporter the one with a problem, not the happy hacker or the professional developer paid to do different things than attend the press. When somebody has a problem is both good education and proper path to resolve it to take himself the path to its solution, not trying to

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          In that case, I have no option but to finish the assigned article as best I can within the deadline given by my editor. That may mean that somebody's getting left out of the article. That is also the nature of the beast.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by maharb (1534501)

            If you want information fast then ask the people that stand to benefit from the article, you will be much more likely to get a quick response. If you think you can contact a random developer or coder and get a response fast you are batshit crazy. Developers have enough to do and the last thing they are worried about is making sure some reporter is going to meet a insanely short deadline when they don't get any direct benefit. The reality is that reporters should not expect anyone to bend over for them.

          • "In that case, I have no option but to finish the assigned article as best I can within the deadline given by my editor."

            Your choice, of course.

            "That may mean that somebody's getting left out of the article. That is also the nature of the beast."

            That may mean the due to both your ignorance and your hurryness your article will be an utter nonsense. On one hand, I may prefer not being relationed with such abhorrence; in the other me and a lot of others may take some fun laughing at a slower pace at your igno

            • by 2muchcoffeeman (573484) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:26PM (#29239351) Journal

              There'll be a graf that says "Representatives of (ORGANIZATION NAME) did not return a request for comment" or a phrase to that effect. The effort to make contact was made; for reasons out of my control, it was not successful. My editor gave me a set amount of time; the sand in the hourglass ran out. There's nothing I can do about that. And there's a lot less of that time in the 24/7 online news cycle than there was in the printed media news cycle when the presses rolled at midnight.

              If you want me to have fuller information, please answer my phone call or e-mail. Or, as suggested elsewhere, if you don't have time then designate somebody as your press representative and tell him/her to return my phone call when it comes ... and also tell him/her to register with Peter Shankman's Help A Reporter Out [helpareporter.com] initiative. Or, as suggested in Ms. Schindler's IT World article, create a /press page or section on your Web site like the big companies do. There you should have information about what your project is about, why you think it matters, its current status, who to contact for more information, screen shots (please remember that print media require high-resolution versions of screen shots or other images for the printing press), press releases and other mentions in the media. (That's not the same as an FAQ and I won't quote an FAQ. I want to hear from the people behind the project what they're doing and why they're doing it. People make news stories interesting. There's a human angle to everything.)

              Use plain language, not jargon. If you translate that page into a foreign language, have someone fluent in the language (preferably it's his/her native language) double-check your work. If it's a bad translation, it reflects badly on you. I've lost count of how many foreign businesses have an English press kit that reads as though a fourth-grader wrote it up and I have no doubt that many businesses from English-speaking countries have non-English press material that is equally poorly translated.

              Ms. Schindler's Care and Feeding of the Press [netpress.org] is excellent. Everyone trying to get press coverage should read it -- hell, I've dealt with public/media relations professionals who could learn a lot about doing their jobs from reading that -- and a lot of people who don't currently think they need press coverage might want to take a look at that, too. In many cases, the information that reporters are looking for is precisely the same information developers and end users are looking for.

              Ms. Schindler makes a solid point on the second page: "(Y)ou've gone deep with your project, and I haven't. I may not be familiar with the problem that it aims to solve. So tell me about it."

              • by turbidostato (878842) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:19AM (#29242521)

                "If you want me to have fuller information, please answer my phone call or e-mail."

                And I think that's the whole story. It was you wanting my information, not me wanting you to publish it, remember?

                "Use plain language, not jargon."

                What you think to be "jargon" *is* "plain language". "Jargon" is the plainest, most concise and precise way to say something. That's known from the days of Euclides: there's no royal paths even for kings, remember?

                Again, you are the one with the problem: an article asked by your boss, and again you are trying to pass your burden to something else. You want others to stay by *your* deadlines and you want others to cover *your* ignorance in the issues you are about to comment. You even ask others to write *your* article for you (I won't go through the FAQs; I won't take the time to read the "about" page or wander a bit through your web site: I want a copy-and-paste "for press" resource").

                "Everyone trying to get press coverage should read it"

                I understand what you mean, and I take you as right... provided that sentence. But we were not talking here about someone wanting "to get press coverage" but about someone wanting to make an unasked for press release. If *I* want something, it's my burden to do what it takes to have it done (like having fast reponse and doing sensible efforts to make things easy for the press guys). But if *you* want something, then it's your problem, not mine.

                • Being quoted in an article about software gives you "expert cred" that makes more people likely to try your project, more developers likely to want to work with you on it, and is a nice thing to attach to your resume if and when you want to get a contract, a job or raise capital to start your own company.

                  And FYI, smart reporters have already read the FAQs and other material before they interview you. The interview is, ideally, an exploration of your motives and thoughts. And, yes, maybe a little clarificati

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by centuren (106470)

                If you want me to have fuller information, please answer my phone call or e-mail.

                E-mail is by far a better option, I think.

                Or, as suggested elsewhere, if you don't have time then designate somebody as your press representative and tell him/her to return my phone call when it comes ... and also tell him/her to register with Peter Shankman's Help A Reporter Out [helpareporter.com] initiative.

                This isn't a question of helping a company or organization deal be better with the press, it's about making open source projects press-friendly. It's a valid topic because the same rules (and the same advice such as this) don't necessarily apply. Consider the project contributors may all be volunteers contributing coding time as a hobby. If the project is still worth writing something about, that isn't changed by the situation where none of the programmers have deci

                • If you want me to have fuller information, please answer my phone call or e-mail.

                  E-mail is by far a better option, I think.

                  It's good for making initial contact, but a telephone interview produces a smoother and more conversational exchange which comes out a lot better in a news article. I can certainly do it that way if you absolutely insist but it's less pleasant to the reader's eye.

            • Case in point: Articles on the SCO appeal are often ill-informed about the viability of SCO's claims, since they spend no time talking to open-source dev's and all time listening to SCO upper-management bitch.

          • Exactly.

            Which is why I (and apparently you) are frustrated when we know someone could have something useful to add to this article, but there's no time to wait for the answer.

        • by grcumb (781340)

          "A lot of reporters aren't given the luxury of oodles of extra time by their assigning editors and those editors expect results, not requests for more time because "they have to get the corporate wheels rolling over there." "

          Then it is the reporter the one with a problem, not the happy hacker or the professional developer paid to do different things than attend the press.

          I couldn't agree more. Half the skill of actual reporting is knowing who you can talk to in order to get a quick reply, and in some cases, knowing how to get any reply at all. That means maintaining a long list of contacts, being a total gossip-monger (having something to interesting to tell others is a great way to get them to open up) and always always always having enough information before you ask for comment to write about the topic anyway.

          That last one is incredibly important. I produce about 2000 wor

      • by gd2shoe (747932)

        And people wonder why the "traditional media" is failing?

        Unless there is sudden news to report on, you must take enough time to gather good information (or at least due diligence). By "sudden" I mean: something unexpected has come up today, and absolutely must be in the news/paper tonight/tomorrow or it will be stale. Most open source related news won't qualify as sudden (from my layman's perspective). If you don't have enough time, then your boss is killing your company. (It's called "foresight". It's

        • That's why I made the point about understanding whether a reporter is working on a news article (Quick! Oracle bought Sun, let's get MySQL developer responses to the news) or a feature story, or a how-to story, or whatever. It makes a difference in the time frame, and also in the answer you give me.

          Believe me, we do want to gather good information. That's one of the reasons I wrote that post -- because it helps everybody to know how the system works. If you weren't aware that "time is of the essence" for me

    • by xzvf (924443)
      I think most "journalist" are so busy and have such tight deadlines, that they over rely on people that are paid to speak to the press. Open source, by its nature is a low-cost, high quality grass-roots effort. Even the most successful FOSS companies are tiny and have tighter margins than the for profits. Free software is customer driven (requested not sold) and doesn't have the money or staff to generate press releases or provide a pretty marketing type to spoon feed a story.
    • The lesson here is plan ahead.

      Yes. Put up a page with lots of clear descriptions of what you are, where you're going, what you're currently doing, who's involved, etc. Try to minimize the amount of personal interaction needed to quickly get a vague understanding of the project. Have a clear place to go to see your collective reactions to recent events, and keep it updated in absurd (but clear and easily searchable/accessible) detail.

      Or if that's too hard, just find a way to edit the "news" industry to be more about in-depth content and

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tech10171968 (955149)
      I have another theory why devs sometimes don't "drop everything" for an interview; if developers are anything like electronic engineering technicians (my specialty) then, when they're in the middle of an issue, they are on this creative and/or logical train of thought. I can tell you from personal experience that the last thing a tech wants is to have that train of thought disturbed; I tend to become rather curt if I'm disturbed in the middle of, say, dealing with some inverse Fourier transform or (especial
  • by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:10PM (#29238129) Journal

    I know from experience that some of the voices on the open source movement can be really difficult to deal with (yes, RMS, I'm looking at you). So, what to do in this case? Hide them under a rock?

    • by grcumb (781340)

      I know from experience that some of the voices on the open source movement can be really difficult to deal with (yes, RMS, I'm looking at you). So, what to do in this case? Hide them under a rock?

      Look at the things they've said in the past. In most cases, you'll be able to dig up something relevant. The Internet is kind of cool that way. Call them and repeat the quote, then ask, "Does this [still] apply?" If the person says yes, you can ask them if they have anything to add. If they say no, ask them to explain what's changed. If they never reply, use the quote to indicate what they've said about the topic in the past.

      • use the quote to indicate what they've said about the topic in the past.

        And of course, don't forget to say that they "declined to comment when asked if this still applied." Not only is it true, it's almost guaranteed to give everybody the wrong impression and generate letters to the editor (or blog comments, or whatever) and it's hard to see the downside to that.

    • Examples that show RMS has been a prick with the press?

      • he's been a prick to ME. refusing an autograph on Suse install CD because "it contained proprietary software".

        fanaticism like this is guaranteed to generate a bad impression on the mainstream press.

  • by harmonise (1484057) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:14PM (#29238173)

    It's unreasonable, I know, but so are our deadlines.

    Then fix your deadlines. Use proper planning and communication. This "drop everything now and focus on me" attitude doesn't really work well inside of companies and certainly won't work well when you want something from some else outside of your company.

    • by 2muchcoffeeman (573484) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:47PM (#29238419) Journal

      No, it's not an emergency ... but I just got this assignment five minutes ago and I have to have it done in three hours because my boss said to have it done in three hours so he can put in on the web in three hours and 15 minutes and because he's planning to drop something else on my desk in three hours and five minutes. Man, I don't have an option here. Can you help me, please?

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:53PM (#29238451) Homepage

      When a reporter is dealing with a company, there is generally an information gatekeeper: either an internal PR department or an outside agency hired for the purpose. Even if you know an employee at a given company personally, usually they are not empowered to talk to the press directly without first consulting with their PR team.

      This can be a drag because it means reporters are typically subjected to the usual bland, spoon-fed sing-song about how great and wonderful everything at the company is. But on the plus side it means you have a contact to talk to.

      If I shoot an email to Waggener-Edstrom asking about something Microsoft is doing, I will probably get a response back within 24 hours, and often more quickly than that. The PR people will ask me the basic questions: Why do you want to know what you are asking, where is it going to be published, what is your deadline? And from then on, it will be their job to ferret out the right person to answer my questions, and if they deem that the good press I stand to give Microsoft will be valuable enough, they will take it upon themselves to pester that person into answering my questions in a timely fashion.

      Obviously, this type of thing is fairly infeasible with many open source projects, why is why it's valuable to have this discussion about how to make open source projects more accessible to the press.

      As a member of the press, I certainly can't make you, an open source developer, "drop everything now and focus on me." It will never surprise me in the slightest if you choose to ignore me completely -- a lot of big companies do that, too. But on the other hand, there are a lot of small companies with products already shipping who would absolutely kill for the chance to talk to me, just to get their names in print -- and often, I just don't have time for them.

      It's all a matter of perspectives. Does it make sense for your open source project to get some good press coverage? If no, then my press inquiries are no burden to you. If yes, then is it reasonable to complain about the way in which the opportunities to gain press coverage present themselves? It's not like I'm asking you if I can borrow twenty bucks; I'm offering you what you want. If you don't have time or can't be bothered to take me up on my offer, then maybe it's your process that needs to be modified somehow, not mine (or those of the various publications which I may represent).

      Just a thought.

      • by gd2shoe (747932)

        An interesting perspective. It's wrong (my opinion), but valuable.

        Open Source projects rarely have unforeseen newsworthy stories. A vast majority of the time, it can either wait a few days (filler material), or you should have started asking several days before the event. (An Open Source project released a new version? Oh, my! We didn't see that coming! They didn't even have a release candidate or two or three. What's a changelog?)

        Programming is relatively slow, methodical work. Programmers rarely hav

        • by centuren (106470)

          Unless there is a company behind the project (a monetary incentive), few projects are going to have a drop-whatever-you're-doing attitude favoring reporters (and most of those companies have designated PR people). If you want something that even approximates a timely response, you'll need to give your what/why/for-whom/deadline tuple right upfront. Consider asking your IT people what they know (you may be surprised, or horrified), but don't take their word for it. Ask them to point you to a good resource.

          In addition to your what/why/for-whome/deadline information, include your list of questions in the email. If you get a response, you have your interview. Don't expect programmers and engineers to be technical writers; it's your job to take any highly technical content and make it layman friendly.

          Does it make sense for your open source project to get some good press coverage? If no, then my press inquiries are no burden to you. If yes, then is it reasonable to complain about the way in which the opportunities to gain press coverage present themselves?

          This is faulty logic, because the vast majority of volunteer, not-for-profit open source projects can easily not fit. Yes it makes sense for the project to get some good press coverage. Yes, press inquiries can easi

    • Then fix your deadlines. Use proper planning and communication. This "drop everything now and focus on me" attitude doesn't really work well inside of companies and certainly won't work well when you want something from some else outside of your company.

      I would like to say the same thing to the makers of the open source projects.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jmcghie (1627479)

      Sadly, I suspect *you* haven't got it -- HE doesn't want anything from you, right? YOU want publicity from him. At least, that's the way its supposed to work if you want to create high-volume software.

      As a former journalist, and currently in the IT field, I know both sides of the fence. If you don't want publicity, when he calls, just say so! If you do... well back in my day (1986-ish) the deadlines came up every hour. I was expected to do four to six stories a day.

      I'm not going to get me fired by tell

  • annoyance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by backwardMechanic (959818) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:18PM (#29238207) Homepage
    it generally does mean, "Drop everything and answer us now."

    ...and reporters wonder why we're not delighted to hear from them. One of the nice features of the open-source world is that projects become popular because they're good at what they do, rather than by shouting louder than anyone else. In such a world, press attention is less important. Which is fortunate, given the low quality of so much IT reporting (just because you can copy-paste the press release, doesn't mean you should).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by osadmin (1626991)

      One of the nice features of the open-source world is that projects become popular because they're good at what they do

      Most Open Source projects aren't around to make the authors money or fame. They're there to get the job done. If they do that job well, like you stated they will gain popularity. That's one of the best features of open source; the best product wins, not the most marketed one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "just because you can copy-paste the press release, doesn't mean you should"

      If you don't talk to them, what the fuck else are they supposed to do? Make shit up? You'd bitch about that. Ask someone who doesn't know anything? You'd bitch about that. Research something they don't understand, then report it incorrectly? You'd bitch about that.

      What the fuck do you nerds want?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by greenbird (859670) *

        If you don't talk to them, what the fuck else are they supposed to do?

        I would think they would actually do some research to get their story. You know, reporting. I know that no longer exists in this day and age but one can reminisce about the days when reporters actually did their job.

        Make shit up? You'd bitch about that. Ask someone who doesn't know anything? You'd bitch about that.

        This is the primary methodology used by the modern reporter. Look it up on Wikipedia, call a few random people and then either make something up based on misinformation or even print the press release almost verbatim.

        Research something they don't understand, then report it incorrectly? You'd bitch about that.

        Damn. I thought researching something that wasn't well understood was the whole

        • I would think they would actually do some research to get their story. You know, reporting. I know that no longer exists in this day and age but one can reminisce about the days when reporters actually did their job.

          The single most important tool a reporter has for that job is the telephone. If you've already put that information out in a clear, concise format, that's a good starting point. But I still want to talk to you, or to somebody like you. Without that interview, there's no story to be told.

        • The bug report should be provided in a clear coherent easily understood format by the reporter [despite the fact that the "nerds" are the ones who fucked up, assuming the report is real].

          There, fixed that for you.

      • by grcumb (781340)

        What the fuck do you nerds want?

        To talk to someone clueful enough that they don't make crass generalisations like that one.

      • what the fuck else are they supposed to do? Make shit up?

        How about they write about things they know or else save their damn ink and write nothing at all. It is not my problem that they cannot be bothered to learn the sort of expert knowledge required to write intelligently about IT. Besides, who wants to read their bullshit trade-rag packed to the gills with advertising and PR "press hits" (i.e. article length stealth ads) masquerading as articles? Not me, thanks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ShaunC (203807)

      ...and reporters wonder why we're not delighted to hear from them.

      A salient point.

      Some years ago, I wrote a peer-to-peer IM client that used Blowfish. I didn't want anything for it, but I wanted to put it out there. At the time, in order to comply with federal BXA guidelines regarding encryption, I felt that my easiest choice was to open-source it (and notify the government that it existed, and where they could get it, and make an attempt to prevent anyone from the Big7 from downloading it, and...).

      It wasn't long before I was contacted by someone from a Well Respected Co

  • With a recursive acronym that spells something that sounds like a euphemism or is impossible to pronounce.

  • ...open source SABDFLs can definitely take a lesson from other industries where vying for media attention is pretty competitive. You put a big link on your website that says "Trade and Media" or "Press Kits" and then you put Screenshots, Videos, High-res photos of those contributing to the project (not 1"x1" blurry crop from a team photo taken at your workplace). Put together a list of websites you'll be updating every time you release a new version. Ask your community members to make PDF flyers and other m
  • Annoyances... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by giminy (94188) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:36PM (#29238335) Homepage Journal

    The summarizer says:

    But a lot of open source projects seem to treat the press as an annoyance...

    And the press-person says:

    '...it generally does mean, "Drop everything and answer us now." If the journalist doesn't give you a deadline ("I need to know by 2pm"), it's okay to ask how long you can take to reach the right developer in Poland, but err on the side of "emergency response." It's unreasonable, I know, but so are our deadlines.'

    Wow, I can't imagine why volunteer developers consider the press an annoyance. Maybe the press should cut back on the 30-second deadline and take some time to actually get facts, instead of getting something out the door now, even if it isn't right. I think that journalists with this attitude are probably in the wrong business -- you should be doing research and finding the story, not demanding that a non-storyteller drops what they're doing to give you the story on a silver platter. Software only appears to move quickly...in reality, businesses are slow to adopt new software these days. Taking the time to do thorough research on an open source project will not kill the press, just like waiting a few weeks for a story on a software project will not kill the software project.

    Me, I would prefer to read the right story than the first story. I wish that the press' job to make sure that the right story is the first story...but that shall continue to be my wish.

    • by centuren (106470)

      The summarizer says:

      But a lot of open source projects seem to treat the press as an annoyance...

      And the press-person says:

      '...it generally does mean, "Drop everything and answer us now." If the journalist doesn't give you a deadline ("I need to know by 2pm"), it's okay to ask how long you can take to reach the right developer in Poland, but err on the side of "emergency response." It's unreasonable, I know, but so are our deadlines.'

      Wow, I can't imagine why volunteer developers consider the press an annoyance. Maybe the press should cut back on the 30-second deadline and take some time to actually get facts, instead of getting something out the door now, even if it isn't right. I think that journalists with this attitude are probably in the wrong business -- you should be doing research and finding the story, not demanding that a non-storyteller drops what they're doing to give you the story on a silver platter. Software only appears to move quickly...in reality, businesses are slow to adopt new software these days. Taking the time to do thorough research on an open source project will not kill the press, just like waiting a few weeks for a story on a software project will not kill the software project.

      Not to mention the reporter is likely to be totally unknown in terms of expertise. I imagine many programmers can identify with the annoyance of being asked to explain an intrinsically technical project to a non-technical manager at work (resulting in a manager who can recite some form of car analogy but is no closer to being able to make informed decisions about the project). If I'm contributing code to an open source project as a hobby, the last thing I might want to do is repeat that scenario with a repo

  • by improfane (855034) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:48PM (#29238423) Journal

    Is anyone else struggling to find the actual article? My CPU and fans went crazy on the actual article.

    If you ask me, open source projects need to do these to appeal to the outside world:

    • Treat the project like an actual marketable product, look at UltraVNC homepage [uvnc.com] It's delicious, you'd almost expect that you would have to purchase it. The author is obviously passionate about all these features. The download page even has videos for parts of the product!
    • Naturally, put lots of beautiful screenshots and videos
    • Advertize open developer chats to get user feedback. Maybe a moderated IRC channel which could then be turned into an interview on the website.
    • Create narrated videos with Wink. Take a look at some o
    • Using Mozilla's Press Center as a guide, I found the following:
      • A dedicated press email address. You could set up an email address that autosubmits to your bug or issue tracker I reckon.
      • Links to all closely related communities, like Mozillazine, Foxiewire and For the Record. Anything that expresses 'community support' to a journalist will be juicy!
      • There's a list of rewards and awards down the right side. This kind of thing is quoted by magazines, stuff like 'worlds most secure browser', of course you need reviews first.
    • User testimonials. Look at OpenVPN [openvpn.net].
    • Have a section called 'Community' and link to the IRC channel, mailing list and web forums.
    • KDE has a section called 'KDE for your business [kde.org]'. It is explicitly trying to sell KDE to users by suggesting success stories of real people
    • Impress businessy types makes me go cool. [sugarcrm.com]

    If you want support from everyday people, you have to sell them the idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Believe it or not, some of us are in it purely for fun and have little interest wasting time that could be spent coding (having fun) doing things like making "snappy" websites or accomidating pushy reporters.

      People seem to think that open source developers are obligated to dedicate their resources doing things to make their projects more "commercial-ish" when they really are not and oftentimes have absolutely no desire to do so.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Also, IMHO UltraVNC's website is an absolute horror-show.

      • That's fine enough, especially for projects where the people with a vested interest in the project are geeks or developers already.

        However if you really want your project to be accepted you have to make an effort to make it accessible to business. The real world runs on time, not love of coding.

        The Cathedral and the Bazaar [wikipedia.org] is a particularly interesting essay that is pertinent. Essentially, Linux could be argued more popular today because of its openness and sellability. Read Linus' Linux announcement [linux.org], it's

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

      Treat the project like an actual marketable product, look at UltraVNC homepage [uvnc.com] It's delicious, you'd almost expect that you would have to purchase it.

      Almost? It triggered that same revulsion I get at malware sites.

  • "Drop everything and answer us now." - As others have pointed out, this is not a great attitude if you're concerned that you're being treated as an annoyance. Your average open-source coder enjoys coding, and probably doesn't really enjoy talking to you, especially if you're taking this attitude.

    "If the journalist doesn't give you a deadline ('I need to know by 2pm'), it's okay to ask how long you can take to reach the right developer in Poland, but err on the side of 'emergency response.' It's unreasona
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Of course if you're really desperate for the media attention you may have to do undesirable things to get it, but think carefully before you do.

      It's called quid pro quo and it's the way of the world. These people are writing on a deadline, and if they're going to make sense of your project they're going to need some help. It doesn't take you long to explain it to them. Before they put this Hispanic reporter with my name on the web you could find me quoted all over the place because I answer my email. You still can, if you look around...

  • by seifried (12921) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:02PM (#29239587) Homepage

    1) Have a sane contact us page. Seriously. Not some web form with a pull down menu to select what this inquiry is related to. But an actual list of functions and associated contact data (email minimally, phone is more corporate and I wouldn't expect that of an open source project). Why email? So I have a record of what I sent, otherwise I have random emails showing up from half remembered projects/vendors. If you make it hard for me to contact you I won't. For many projects that are small having the head guys email address listed works well too.

    2) Have a press@ email address, much like abuse@, security@, etc. this is a pretty sane default and leaves very little question as to whom to send email when you're looking for a press contact. It can be a redirect, I don't mind emailing press@ and getting a response from someguy@, if he quotes the subject line I won't have any trouble figuring it out. If you make it hard for me to contact you I won't. It bears repeating.

    3) (to the mental image of a sweaty Steve Ballmer acting like a deranged gorilla) "Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines!". If it's a press article for a newspaper the author is lucky if they have 2-3 hours to research this time and get it in. You may want to consider having press@ be an alias to multiple people in different timezones. The quicker you respond the less likely I am to write you out of my article or downplay your role.

    4) Don't treat me like a sales prospect or try to sell me stuff I'm not buying, I've got a deadline to meet. Be upfront and honest, most reporters/writers can smell bullshit a mile away (or at least they should be able to, I would say bullshit detection is a core competency for writers/reporters). Perfect example: interesting network traffic analysis product, I contact the vendor, they say it's Windows only I say thanks and move on (article is for Linux Magazine Pro). They don't get any press coverage, but they do get remembered for not wasting my time. The next time I'm writing about network traffic analysis on Windows I'll contact them first since I know they play well with others. Reporters/writers have long memories (we keep notes); if you jerk us around we will never, ever, ever write anything positive about you. Ever.

    5) Don't be afraid to go beyond answering our questions a bit, if I was a complete expert in the topic I'm asking you about I wouldnâ(TM)t be emailing you now would I? Interesting back stories, info, related data, this is all golden ("What do you mean you're the only vendor that has a syscall proxy? What the heck is a syscall proxy? Oh.. Oh wow.").

    6) I love love love covering projects that make cool/useful/nifty/clever software, especially if "staffed" (for lack of a better term to cover commercial and Open Source) by helpful people who are willing to spend 10 minutes helping me and educating me. You make my life easier, I will appreciate it for a very long time. Social capital is valuable, earning it isn't hard.

    • by name*censored* (884880) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:52AM (#29240103)

      Why do reporters think they're better than everyone else? No-one else has access to a high-ranking developer just to hold their hands and walk them through a project when that information is already out there (the other users seem to get along fine, or you wouldn't have heard of the project). Just because you're the modern equivalent of the loud-mouthed town gossip, doesn't make you special. Regardless of what journalist screed (the number of articles I've seen of journalists portraying themselves as fantastic heroes and the amount of journalistic fraternity/nepotism makes me sick) and corporate PR departments (they're using you, duh) say, you're not special. No-one gives a flying fuck about your "deadline". Deadlines are your problem and you should take it up with your boss if it's unworkable. There are millions of bored schoolkids with blogs chomping at the bit to take your place. If you're to stand a chance of staying afloat you have to offer something they won't - quality research (which takes time and effort). Remember that you're here to serve us, and you have more to gain than us*, not the other way around. [/rant]

      * You may think that reporters are vital for "The Year Of The Linux Desktop", but I'm not buying it. Firstly, large F/OSS projects like mainstream distros do have many, many press avenues, and yet 2009 still isn't YOTLD. Secondly, YOTLD is an utopia us *nixers want where we get all of the good stuff associated with popularity (better hardware vendor support, mainstream acceptance of F/OSS principles, increased interoperability, richer software library, more developers/code contributors/bug fixers) without any of the bad stuff (malware, brainless users, bigger stakes on the developer Ego Wars, more hardware/software support nightmares, more pressure, more "boring bits" and less coding fun, etc). If YOTLD is delivered by reporters (instead of by technical merit and word-of-mouth), it will be because they dumbed it down, and we'd get mostly disadvantage and only a few of the advantages. Basically, YOTLD is a wet dream where society changes to be more computer literate, and most/all of our current IT nightmares die because everyone's using their brain. This is not as unlikely as you think - nowadays everyone's kid is a techno-wiz. Even if "techno-wiz" only means "I can work the myspace and the msn", the perception of ability alone might be enough to overcome their trepidation of computing, and allow them to try new things (ie, Linux).

      • by seifried (12921)

        Uhmm I don't (and I'm not technically a reporter, more of a writer). I'm not looking for hand holding, I typically do my homework (download software, play with it, read change logs, documentation/etc. But sometimes I have question or want to know things that aren't covered in the documentation (like "what motivated you to make this?" or "where do you see technology X heading in the future"). I would also note that most developers, like pretty much anyone has the option of ignoring requests (for interviews,

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pearl298 (1585049)

        I think the point is to have say 90% the information IN ONE PLACE!

        Not spread over 20,000 source code comments and 60 wiki pages.

        If YOU don't know what you are developing why expect anyone else to?

        Of course if you are really in the business of developing abandonware then ignore all of this.

    • ... is that there is an undertone of sense of entitlement.

      I don't know if that is good or bad, but I certainly see how that would cross a lot of folks in the IT world, some of whom have overinflated egos.

      When the press needs information from people with overinflated egos (sports, show business) they play a self defeating game of who wags the tail.

      It feels like you want to bring the same dynamics when dealing with geeks, it may or may not work, but you just need to look at the tabloid and sports media to see

      • by seifried (12921)

        ... is that there is an undertone of sense of entitlement.

        I think you're reading that in yourself. Again, this was a posting describing what we "want", not necessarily what we're expecting or plan to get. Think of it thus: "if you really want to make A possible then doing B, C and D will help significantly. You don't have to do these things to make A possible, but it really helps". Just like putting up a public bug wiki helps if you want people to submit bugs against your software, or having a mailing list if you want people to participate.

  • His comment about sending people to the FAQ strikes home a bit. I'm sure I'm guilty of doing exactly this, and I try to be more personal with those who might be showing an interest for journalistic purposes, when several hundred people a day ask the exact same question, I'm going to redirect their page directly to the FAQ. Occasionally people do get hacked off about that, and for much the same reasons the author just described. They want a "personal" answer instead of one I decided to write for a general

    • by seifried (12921)

      Honestly though if the FAQ answers my question (and I somehow missed it, didn't find it, or whatever) then I'd be generally quite happy with an RTFM answer (although that's usually the first thing I try, I write so that people will read my stuff, I assume others write documentation for similar reasons =). One thing to note: they may be looking for an updated answer (some FAQs are atrociously out of date and wrong).I think this can all be summed up by a great quote I just saw:

      People that can be discouraged f

  • by Secret Rabbit (914973) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:23AM (#29240745) Journal

    Sorry, I don't mean to be rude. But, as has been stated above, Open-source is largely done by volunteers. So, thinking that you can get a response, any response, within a couple hours is profoundly naive/stupid. It's likely that while you send your email to the spokesman while doing your day job, (s)he is at his/her day job working and won't get around to check his/her PERSONAL account for several hours. It's the nature of the beast and ignoring that is... well... naive/stupid.

    Honestly, what you're attempting is to get "us" to bend over backwards to solve your problem. And I rather take offense to that. "We" are not your monkeys.

    But, tell me, why can't you just say to your boss something like, "The guys that develop this are volunteers and won't be able to get back to us in time because they are at there day jobs right now. How about I figure out who to talk to and send off an email while you get me something else to work on for right now?"

  • You need three things:

    1 - understanding what a reported needs for his/her story - ask if you're unsure (that's also honest, which will help)
    2 - a reasonable character (a sense of humour helps) - rigid opinions can trip you up. That doesn't mean flexible ETHICS, but the world isn't black and white.
    3 - decide what you want out of the discussion

    Three things you must avoid:

    1 - your ego - be normal (I personally detest people with star attitudes who have delusions of adequacy)
    2 - jargon or complexity
    3 - detail.

  • Talk to your local newspaper about a mention in their business/technology section. You may get lucky and have a non-incredible project get written about by nature of it being local; i.e. an overall unexciting twitter client covered through the angle of "twitter" + "local".

    The point of this isn't to have subscribers exposed to your project, but gaining another source for greater exposure. I frequently see stories on Slashdot that link to articles on my local paper's online version that I had just read in the

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