Community / Learn / Marketing / Ubuntu / UVLC

A Surprising Ubuntu Conversation

Last week, I went to a Meetup for a walking labyrinth meditation and after the session a group of 10 of us went out for a coffee/tea and a chat.

The conversations started out as usual with new group and then… and I can’t quite recall how it all happened but the organizer asked me directly if I used Ubuntu. Of course the first thing I thought in my mind was, did I meet you before? And asked him are you using Ubuntu?

The organizer confessed he was not using Ubuntu but is a member of Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo. However, he has yet to attend a Meetup. I asked him why that is. He said, he is waiting for a Meetup where he can just go and test drive Ubuntu without doing an modifications to his computer. He wants to come and try it a few times. Once he feels comfortable that it’s the right choice for him and his needs, then he would consider a dual boot.

Ok, so far nothing new. I’ve had this conversation a few times now. But wait the story gets more interesting because the other 8 attendees now wanted to know what is this all about. But rather than being the one who does all the talking, I just wanted to listen and see what others are saying.

So I let the Organizer explain what is Ubuntu to the group. He summarized it as an Operating System that is similar to what you would currently use on your Windows or Mac.

Not bad for a non-Ubuntu user!

And of course, he also said, Best of all – it’s all FREE!


A few members said ok, we seem to understand the gist of it being an alternative operating system.

So why should I use it?

And the Organizer replied, ‘It’s free, isn’t that good enough.’

All the attendees said No that isn’t. Lots of things are free it doesn’t mean it’s good or it works well. And we are back to our original question. Why should I use Ubuntu instead of what I use currently?

Now I decided to try and explain the philosophy of open source software using reading and writing as an analogy. Similar to what Douglas Rushkoff explains in his youtube video, Program or Be Programmed.

They were more responsive with this explanation, although they did not believe they were being ‘controlled’ by their software.

From there the conversation died out and we moved on to other interesting subject matter.

But what came out of that for me was a few very interesting observations and questions.

1)      Most Users understand that Ubuntu is another operating system that they could choose to use

2)      It is not clear as to what makes Ubuntu stand out among its competitors (The question of: Why Should I Use Ubuntu Rather Than What I Use Currently?)

3)      The current reasons of Free, Freedom, Community, Open Source, Alternative OS are NOT the selling points for Users to even be interested enough in trying Ubuntu

4)      There is a lot of fear to change to Ubuntu and Users need a safe place to come and try Ubuntu. I’m not talking about, you must bring your computer and boot Ubuntu. Even that is asking too much and if you send them home with the boot disk they won’t spin it, they just use what boots up.  They need to come a few times to a place where there are no rules. You try it, you don’t have to buy it. Once they build up enough confidence and see what can and can not be done, then maybe they’ll feel comfortable to try a dual boot. This kind of in-person baby steps will (I believe) lead to higher conversation of Ubuntu users.

5)      Users do not see themselves as being ‘controlled’ by their software. Which means (to me) more education and understanding is needed. However, this is a fine line because Users don’t see this as a problem or they just don’t care. Maybe the best way to capture new Users is to omit this for time being and sell them on the features of Ubuntu and once they are using it and are happy, then start to add education about FLOSS for those that are interested.

6)      Marketing! Ubuntu needs a sell – a real sell – What makes Ubuntu stand apart from its competitors?

Here’s a thought:

Couple with a local coffee shop. Bring 2-3 laptops running Ubuntu and set up guest accounts running stock out of the box Ubuntu. Post a big sign out front that says: Windows Getting You Down? Want to Try Something New? No Risk – No Cost – Come On In! Give it a Spin!

It’s simple, it’s fun, it gets people talking and that is the first baby step.

Lots of questions and I’m sure tons of great ideas but I’ve found the hardest part isn’t the idea generation. The hardest part is the doing.

What kind of action steps can we take to get some real Ubuntu converts from the masses?


8 thoughts on “A Surprising Ubuntu Conversation

  1. Good thoughts, here! I really like the idea of the coffee shop. Perhaps a local public library would be good, too.

    But, and this is something I’ve experienced in talking to people about Ubuntu, a lot of people have at least a couple of deal-breakers in their pocket – iTunes and Netflix. Since neither of these will work with Ubuntu, they automatically disqualify it as a viable alternative.

    Now, I can work around this. I can convert all of the iTunes music purhcases to mp3’s by burning cda discs and then importing them into Ubuntu (and being the type of person I am, I have to add all of the meta data back before I important them since iTunes strips this off). But, that’s not a small task for someone with a rather large music collection!

    Furthermore, most BlueRay players now have a Netflix portal. But, a lot of people like to watch Netflix on their computer. And that won’t work.

    So, what I’m saying is this: Yes, I think we can do with some good marketing. We can put in demo units at local shops to help people experience Ubuntu for themselves. But if we can’t jump those two hurdles, we won’t be able to bring in the masses to Ubuntu.

    That’s just my two cents. And, yes. I make change.

    • I did not think burning to CD was required any longer since iTunes switched to unencrypted music files. You might be able to convert within iTunes or use an external program on the files.

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  4. The “disbelief of being controlled” is easily dissolved by your fruity-Tunes conversion example. That is precisely what is meant by being controlled 😉 There are many other examples of this across the proprietary computing landscape.

    Basically, it comes down to this: One has to want freedom to have it. And those who don’t likely won’t notice it’s gone until it’s too late.

  5. Nice observations. The selling lines – Windows Getting You Down? Want to Try Something New? No Risk – No Cost – Come On In! Give it a Spin! – are really good. But I fear even these lines are not so good enough to sell such a good product.

    The observation of the group members makes sense – “Lots of things are free it doesn’t mean it’s good or it works well.” Many people still thinks that free things are not good. A GNU/Linux distribution is FREE as in free speech, but it is also FREE as in free beer as well, right? In India, primary education in Government schools is free of cost, but most people – even the poor ones – send their children to private schools where they have to pay heavy fees. Result – most of the seats are vacant in many Govt. schools. Along with teaching the students, the Govt. schools bring food to the students. This phenomenon can be seen all parts of the world. Why? Today’s world is market centric. The rules of market teaches us that quality depends on pricing. High price high quality. Low price low quality. No price, it may be testing not stable. In the case of Ubuntu (or any other distros G/L distros) there is another fear also – when hearing the name LINUX or GNU/LINUX people runs away saying that that stuff is geeky, not for us!

    • I use it on 10 public machines at our library-I use the classic interface. I bet 95% of the public don’t realize it isn’t windows though I do have a Ubuntu 12.04 stcker and all the keyboards. No complaints in several years.Though I think Unity would scare off most people.

  6. I am reading this in Akregator, a KDE reader. Interesting take when I usually use google reader. I dual boot with Win 7. i don’t hate the Unity nor gnome but enjoy the Ubuntu freedom to explore and install. That said, my wifi keeps “seeking” under ubuntu (at least in Unitoy – haven’t noticed yet in KDE [no I’m not *nix techo enuf to know if wm should affect wifi]) . My new AIO printers dont have a nix install (yes I found a kludge that “worked” for basic printing at least – though my contact sheets wouldnt print [stuck in the queue]). And with images, in Win I know what I’m doing- right click, open in Paint to crop, save and close. Select 9 images, “Print” and I can choose a contact sheet which is autofilled. Ubuntu offers many more options, NONE of which is as simple. And Ubuntu locks me down unacceptably – eg Firefox. What a freakin nerve that I am not allowed to pull an update but must await the push. (Update manager is just pulling the push). Yes my past install contained the instructions for manual FF update – but how “unfree” of an ability I have in Windows!
    I appreciate in FOSS (I know there’s a longer acronym) and linux (yeah GNU/Linux or better yet LINUX/gnu since they STILL can’t ride herd on the Hurd) but these are difficulties…

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