open source: YOU are the marketing department

There are hundreds of thousands of open source projects, each addressing a problem and hoping to make the world a better place, and most struggle to gain traction.  It’s disheartening that so many open source contributors fail so badly at the most basic way to promote their project: They don’t say what their project does! I read the planets (aggregators of blog posts) for all the software I run, and every day I come across dozens of blog posts like

“WeboKLavMer 0.6.312 is out! Several fixes and a new DjangoHadoop back-end for SaaS goodness thanks to @Joey. Download it here, patches welcome.”

Great, everyone reading knows you’re an active software developer and Joey helped on… something. This non-communication is an epic open-source industry-wide fail that aggressively and almost contemptuously throws away millions of opportunities to get your message out for no good reason. Instead every time the message is “you’re not cool enough to already know what my pet project is.”

  1. You are the marketing department for your project.
  2. You never know who will come across one of your communications, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So: The second sentence of every announcement and blog post HAS to be a summary of what the hell your project does. It’s a good exercise to come up with a crisp meaningful one-sentence overview and no one will begrudge you the repetition.

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