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?