Open Source Projects run the gamut of software based projects. These projects require a variety of promotion methods. Many good projects go underutilized because their promoters do not understand what is involved, or how to realistically promote these projects. Here is simple guide for promoting an Open Source Project.
Most open source projects have developers, testers, designers and all around supporters who love what they do but don’t always look at advertising as a part of marketing. Open source software can be about as close to an ideal product for advertisement as you can get.
Being noticed as a person
Software is not just about the project itself. One of the biggest lessons to learn is that people are often interested in the person or team behind a project. So the ideal situation is that you get to talk about your project and also to talk about yourself. For this to happen, you have to be noticed as a person and get invited to conferences, or speaking gigs. It allows you to share knowledge and talk about your project at the same time. Don’t get invited? Take initiative and respond to CFP’s, or Call For Papers.
This blog post is actually written while being at on an open source event. This is a great example to show why it works: I’m here because of a previous talk about Docker security. I was noticed as a speaker and got asked to speak about it again, at another event. Being noticed helps.
So when you get the chance to share your knowledge, use the opportunity and go for it. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable enough to do public speaking. In that case, there is always the option to do guest blogging or sharing your project as part of social talk during other meetups.
- Be active and respond to speaking opportunities
- Have a blog, or do guest blogging sometimes
- Show the people who are behind the project
Use the buddy system. A great way to overcome the anxiety of most things we do for the first time is to find a partner. Someone who will share the load, support us when we need an ear, and help us figure out what to do next. This person can do a variety of things to help, like listen to your message and suggest people you should connect with.
Nowadays, people will crowdsource their ideas to social media, perhaps finding a few like-minded folks to connect with and pitch their idea to. This is key: return the favor. Promote their progress and accomplishments where it seems fit. You want this to feel organic, not forced. Don’t over do it; it’s a delicate balance that’s dependent on each person or group in the relationship.
By buddying up, it’s easier to overcome any shyness and build a network. Over time, you’ll create a valuable resource of people you can count on for future needs. Again, do what feels the most natural, you don’t want to abuse the relationship.
There are many marketing tools readily available. First in importance, Deirdré said, is your code. GitHub is your resumé. Your basic code should be architectured purposefully and offer the capability to write libraries or modules so that the barriers to entry for a newcomer are fairly low. It should be well coded and offer tools that help people learn to use and contribute to your project.
A common pitfall relates to documentation. Many companies don’t bother with it, but documentation will help attract people to your project. Documentation usually explains all the commands and parameters and what the output means. This information is necessary, but insufficient. Additional types of documentation are needed, according to Deirdré, such as, white papers, blogs, video, podcasts, and conference talks.
Once you’ve created all this content, you need a place to put it. Obviously, a GitHub repo is necessary, but you’ll also need a website and/or wiki.
Discoverability is crucial, Deirdré said. You have created all this content, but people still have to find it. Toward that end, you should be cautious about project names. For example, if your project name is also a common word, searching for it is going to be difficult. To maximize results in a search engine, you can use keyword tags and categories that will help people find your project.
Search engine optimization is an arcane art. Being on the first page of search results for a keyword is extremely valuable. For that reason, “SEO best practice changes frequently, as search engines are in an arms race with the black hats who want to game search results,” she said. “You can easily find recent tips and tricks on how to improve your rankings. However, it usually takes about a year to make any real progress in search engine rankings. You’ll need patience.
Create great documentation
One of the painful lessons I’ve learned is the requirement of great documentation. It totally makes sense to first create a project, see the amount of interest and then create documentation afterward. However, people expect open source projects to be at least decent, also for documentation.
Lacking good documentation is a warning signal for every new user. Unless the tool is really easy to use, you will need some level of documentation. Divide it into multiple levels of experience, from first use to advanced usage of the tool. This way the users of your software know what to read and avoid wasting time. Typical time wasters are unclear websites with dead links or unclear parameters to use within the software.
- Make documentation easy to understand, especially for first-time users
- Split documentation in different levels of usage
- Have others check your documentation and comment on it
Everything that touches the customer is marketing, Deirdré said. For example, consider airlines. Everything about the airline experience affects what consumers think about the airline. From buying a ticket, the check-in process, boarding, the plane ride and experience, the atmosphere of the airport, timeliness in departures and arrivals, and whether luggage arrived on time and unscathed — all of these processes and experiences help shape the consumer’s opinion of the brand.
“This is also true for technology, and especially for communities and projects. Everything that somebody experiences around your project — good or bad — affects their perception of that project and whether they are going to want to participate in it,” she said.
So, community is important. Community culture is important, as is diversity. Nurture your community. If your open source community is not diverse, ask yourself why, and think about how you can attract a wider range of participation.
Diversity also means diversity of contribution. Does your project recognize and value contribution beyond just the code? Again, you’re asking people to help you do this work, so make sure that they’re recognized for it.
Discover a variety of ways to promote your open source software project. From blogging and newsletter campaigns to searching for investors, we look at various strategies and help you understand the pros and cons of each technique.