With the introduction of so called Social Networks and Social Features on a lot of websites, the way we see and use the internet has changed from broadcasting to joining conversations.
The good news is that KDE – like most FLOSS communities – is very well set.
„Markets are conversations“
When the Cluetrain Manifesto hit the public 10 years ago, it proclaimed a radical change in marketing with their 95 theses. The times of corporate controlled messages being broadcasted to an attentive audience are over, people want to be involved into how a product is developped and marketed, they want to see the human face behind the corporate walls, they want to be able to get in touch with those working on the product unfiltered by boring customer support. And they want the ability to spread the word about products they like.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The big corporations have been adopting to this new reality for a while now and it seems that they finally understand that building a relation with their customers is what they need instead of huge and expensive ad campaigns. To build those they have to be part of their audiences‘ lives.
Community is the key
What sounds revolutionary in a world of corporate PR is business as usual for KDE:
- the development of a product happens in the open
- there is no wall between internal and external
- developers working on the project are known and reachable via mailing lists and IRC
- developers take part in events and listen to feedback
- many people in the wider circle spread the word and evangelize our products
We have been building relations to users for ages, it is our biggest advantage. We have established a big and healthy community by being part of it for years. We understand what users want because we use our software and listen to what they ask for. And we are honest.
Corporations start playing to our rules
With the adoption of social media techniques in business, those basic rules of community building and user interaction make it into mainstream. Seen from our cozy corner of niche this might indeed be a scary process: with new tools like microblogging new people join the conversation and our old patterns of communication do not necessarily work any longer.
But we do have a solid basis of community work and years of experience to build upon.
Some might be worried about losing control over what is said to whom combined with an unmanageable amount of people who might read and spread the information. But is this really a new situation? I believe it is not. It has never been possible to control what users tell their friends, their bosses or during talks at events. It was just less obvious. We have to believe that everyone acts to their best knowledge, all we can do is prepare those who talk about KDE in the best possible way.
Don’t be scared, embrace the chaos. What do you think?