Anelok: still need to take care of business

Paul Boddie paul at
Wed May 28 19:53:50 EDT 2014

On Thursday 29. May 2014 00.49.10 Werner Almesberger wrote:
> Rafael Ignacio Zurita wrote:
> > Werner, I guess that one useful idea could be to bring people to this
> > list (and community) with business experience right?
> Not sure if they'd want to follow the list on a regular basis, but
> if someone knows someone who may find some project interesting,
> then yes, why not tell them about it. Otherwise, they'll probably
> never find out.

I can't really comment on the business side, either. It's on my agenda to get 
more into business oriented towards Free Software, and I even know people who 
actually do that kind of thing, but I'm certainly not the person to ask about 
financing or the bureaucracy.

> > The few guys from this list who tried to do business with open
> > software/hardware had no the best experiences with business if I
> > understand correctly.
> I think it's not so much a problem of Open Software/Hardware but
> more of the lack of marketing skills and of the right contacts.
> We often neglected marketing, and paid dearly for it.

Well, I think the named parties probably have some useful lessons for us even 
if they are sometimes negative ones. You don't learn everything from success 

But about marketing, it seems that this doesn't necessarily have to be a 
problem: Neo900 seems to have plenty of willing customers, for instance, but 
it isn't marketing that threatens to terminate that project at every turn.

> Perhaps it's the same as when you hear big technology companies
> laying off their engineers to "tighten" the finances. We instantly
> realize that they're most likely digging their own grave because
> new products don't just materialize out of thin air. But then, we
> make a similar mistake by assuming we can just "wing" the
> marketing, as if it was some sort of unskilled labour.

I'd agree that it's what technical people regard as the "weaker" disciplines 
that cause many of the difficulties, often completely unnecessarily. People do 
their best to make a solid product and then, within yards of the open goal, 
make the most inexplicable move and end up shooting wide.

Take the EOMA-68 initiative as an example. Worried that people might issue 
cease-and-desist orders as you invest in the standard?

I can understand that people get upset when collaborations run aground [*], 
especially when people may well have lost real money, and maybe some of the 
supposedly difficult questions may now be resolved, but that's a very 
expensive way of bringing clarity that could easily have been delivered from 
the start and that could have attracted useful people and organisations rather 
than scaring them off. (How many products have Olimex delivered in all the 
time that people have been talking about KDE tablets?)

So, I'm not quite as pessimistic as you, Werner: people just have to make 
sensible choices, or at least not make obviously bad ones. When people in a 
community around a project start to complain about some decision or statement 
or other, maybe they occasionally have a point to make. That's a good 
indicator of obviously bad decisions being made.

Sorry to add some noise to what was probably a rather focused enquiry. If I 
must distill this down to something it would be this: there appear to be quite 
a few people and organisations out there with the will and the means to make 
stuff and collaborate on interesting projects and products, and although there 
may also be companies waiting to pounce and to profit on other people's hard 
work, being paranoid about the latter shouldn't take precedence over 
encouraging the former.

Forming useful collaborations may go a long way to reducing any dependence on 
classic and otherwise fashionable investment mechanisms: if someone is willing 
to make a bunch of boards because maybe they'll get a product, too, that's 
going to save everybody money. Even the EOMA people were managing to get some 
benefits from this kind of thing for a while.

But these are only my observations from watching people struggle. :-/



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