techcrunch for the open source desktop

Someone asked in comments what I meant about a techcrunch for open source; while I sit at halftime of US-Greece (basketball world championships) I thought I’d answer. Note that there are many linux reviews that do one or more of these things, but none (as far as I know) that put them together like techcrunch does. Of course, if it does exist, put it in comments :)

  • user/feature-focused, not tech/people-focused. LWN’s grumpy editor series is quite good at this, but most other linux software reviews are not. Techcrunch will occassionally mention a technology used to build a site, but only rarely.
  • global perspective: I don’t care whether you like it. I care whether you think other people will like it. Distro reviews are the absolute worst genre of reviews on the entire planet for this; techcrunch is uniformly quite good at this.
  • business-conscious: techcrunch is good at explaining why a site exists. linux desktop software reviews are usually pretty poor about this, especially in the corporate context- if a business is sponsoring development of a tool or feature, a good review should include why that is.
  • concise: techcrunch gets to the point quickly- not much fluff; high information density.
  • focused: techcrunch does one thing- web 2.0-y startup sites- and does it well. I’d like a linux desktop software review site; ignore distro reviews (except to focus on the desktop integration of new distros); ignore web stuff and CLI bits (unless critical to the desktop for some reason). This helps with…
  • consistency: this is huge. If I read techcrunch, I know exactly what I’m getting…
  • timely: … and I’m getting it several times a day. This would be the hardest thing for a linux review site to duplicate, actually, since the combination of consistency and timeliness implies full-time staff, or very, very well coordinated/edited volunteers.

It is probably worth adding that I think the linux desktop needs this as part of the move to broaden its appeal- a site like this allows you to reach out to those who are interested in improving their linux desktop experience, but doesn’t want to dig too deep to figure out how to do that.
(By the way, a truly great techcrunch-like site would build everything they review with autopackage or something similar, to help people try out whatever the reviewer used. The real techcrunch has a huge edge over any linux desktop site that way, generally.)

12 thoughts on “techcrunch for the open source desktop”

  1. [IMG ] Very interesting post from Luis Villa about techcrunch for the open source desktop. If you are interested in press & media, read it. I had an idea waiting for the right moment… that could be now: a news blog focusing on free software for the desktop. News written with a journalist approach, not being tied to a particular

  2. Very good points, as a journalist I can’t agree more. I hope they won’t left forgotten in your blog archives.

    As a journalist too, the first thoughts that come to mind when thinking of a Techcrunch for open source are structural. Of course you need good entrrepreneurs/editors/writers like Michael Arrington and Marshall Kirkpatrick. But there is more.

    – You need an audience (we could create it)
    – You need good sources (paradoxally this is weaker in the open “source” scene than in the Web2.0’s, many developers don’t like to write, many companies don’t invest much in PRomoting their open source projects)
    – You need… some money? (not only money to pay people, also moving capital in the open source field to activate advertising, job search and the need for competent professionals to be update and follow daily something as Techcrunch – I wonder which is Techcrunch’s business model)
    – Related to the previous point, to follow the Techcrunch business model you probably need a shameless approach to advertising, even if you won’t like many of the adverts being published in your news site.
    – You need many other things surely I’m missing in this analisys done in a rush. :)

    Theoretically you can diminish the need of advertising/commercial approach with volunteering, but looking at the open source community something tells me that the more you would rely on volunteerism the more complex would be to perform adequatedly in the 7 points you suggest.

  3. Would be interesting to see if a skilled journalist + Google AdWords could make this pay :) I do think someone could do a decent job of this just as a hobby- you’d sacrifice the regularity of it, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

    • Audience would be easy- frankly, the competition isn’t very good, and lots of people want this. And this is a tightly connected group- if the site was good, word of mouth would spread very quickly.
    • Interesting point about sources. I think one of techcrunch’s strengths is that they do have a strong editorial voice, and don’t just reprint press releases, so the fact that developers don’t write is not much of a problem. That developers don’t promote is a problem, you’re right- techcrunch can just sit there and let news come to them, whereas a desktopcrunch would have to go out and pound the pavement.
    • I get the sense that TechCrunch’s business model is mostly advertising- see this post. I don’t think you really need much capital, beyond being able to feed the author- techcrunch spread completely by word of mouth, I believe. Quim, you may be interested in 37signals’ ‘Getting Real‘, which is (in part) about starting a business in the Brave New World.
    • You’ve noticed, I’m sure, linuxtoday’s particularly shameless advertising approach. :)

    [Ed.: blah, looks like my stylesheet needs work; those should be bullet points.]

  4. interesting post, Luis. i actually read TechCrunch but rarely, b/c the volume of new stuff is simply too high – and i disagree with a fair amount of the analysis. there’s so much Web 2.0 stuff that my eyes just glaze over after a while.

  5. Still thinking…

    I contacted them and I received a first quick reply with a doubt, a question, an observation and a request to keep them informed if the project goes on.

    Still thinking…

  6. Stephen: Interesting; I don’t find the volume all that high- but then again, I just skim the pieces, since I’m not interested in most of it. Something of similar volume for the open source desktop might be overwhelming to me. (Then again, the sector isn’t that active, so maybe not.) I find the analysis mostly decent- at least, typically I find it a decent first cut, even if I’d disagree with it. Then again, maybe that’s why I’m a law student and you’re an actual analyst. ;)

    In response to Lloyd’s post on his site: Lloyd, I’d definitely select a slightly different and less-hype-y voice for an open source desktop site than we see at TechCrunch. But I don’t really hold it against Tech Crunch all that much- it is an inherently hype-y sector and it would be pretty hard to avoid getting caught up in the cheerleading altogether.

  7. Paul: basketball is almost always on topic for me. ;) That sucked. On the plus side, I think that set up K better to win gold in China- this team will be seriously committed for the next couple years, and we’ll be able to present a more effective international team (i.e., ditch Brad Miller, bring in more shooters, and perhaps play one good lineup and have an actual bench) next time.

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