Thu, 11 Aug 2005

Some quick thoughts about OpenSUSE, before they pass from my mind. In general, I think this is great- the more distros which allow for and encourage open distribution, the better. It makes our whole ecosystem more robust and healthier. And like I’ve said before, I still have a lot of friends at ximian, novell, and suse, and I honestly think opensuse will help them become successful by increasing suse’s mindshare in important markets. It seems like they’ve done a lot of things ‘right’ too- learning from Red Hat Linux Project, I mean Fedora ;), they have not overpromised on the build system or governance, and little birdies tell me that they will likely even hire a bugmaster, something fedora and ubuntu still are screwing up ;) SUSE’s engineering is good, and while this will be a big cultural change for many of them, I think in general this will be something they’ll all adapt to and appreciate down the road.

That out of the way, suse and novell’s marketing people should go out and buy a copy of the cluetrain manifesto tomorrow. (It is available for free at the website, but they need hardcopy on their desks.) Manifesto is at points a little naive, and often just plain weird, but it is at its best when speaking about communication and community- which is exactly what we’re talking about when we talk about opensuse.

So, when I went to sleep last night, this space contained a 2400 word lecture on the manifesto and the opensuse FAQ snipped. No, not kidding. Still might publish it later, if there is interest.

The argument of it in a nutshell: the essence of cluetrain is that you are in a conversation- a dialog- with the people who might interact with your product. Treat them like intelligent humans, not like ‘customers’, or else they’ll go elsewhere. The opensuse FAQ… well, it has ups and downs, and the ups are good (kudos to suse for publishing a conservative schedule) but the downs are very down. The folks who wrote it should go through every question and ask ‘is this how I would have explained it to a computer-literate friend?’ In many of the answers, to a friend, you’d cut the adjectives and answer with simple facts, and in some of them (particularly the last one) you’d be honest with a friend, instead of making things up like ‘yast is a standard’. In all of them, you’d speak ‘with a human voice’ (to quote cluetrain)- I don’t see the voices of Sonja or AJ in that document; I see marketing. Intelligent friends know when they are being BSd, and there is a lot of BS in that FAQ. Growing openSUSE (or really, growing any community) is a process of creating new friends, and that FAQ doesn’t do it- at best, it speaks only to the converted, and at worst, it sets off everyone’s BS detector, which is no way to start a relationship.