[openbeos] Re: Waltercon 07

  • From: "Jorge G. Mare (a.k.a. Koki)" <koki@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: openbeos@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 02 May 2007 15:17:31 -0700

Hi Simon,

Simon Taylor wrote:
Besides, doing WC one way or another does (should) not preclude you from doing stuff on the web. It's not like this is an either or situation; they actually should complement each other.

Yes, OK. I think the web is by far and away the more important channel however.

I think you are taking the discussion in a different direction than what it was intended. We are talking about WalterCon and how to make it more useful, not comparing whether the web is a better channel or not.

What I am saying is that since you are going to spend time, money and effort in organizing WC, you might as well take advantage of the event by positioning it properly in your marketing communications mix. Right now, WC is a wasted opportunity.

I agree with that. Where I think we disagree is the size of the opportunity 
being wasted. I'd rather the effort for WC went more into developing good 
introductory web content and just have WC as an informal gathering.

You keep making this a conference vs. web issue. It is not. This thread is about WalterCon and how to make it better (at least, that's how it started). Information on the web could certainly play a role in promoting the conference, but the focus of this conversation is about the conference in itself.

Look at WC06: in spite of the progress that Haiku development had made in 2006, only about 10 people showed up, the lowest ever in the history of the conference. Why do you think that happened? It's quite obvious to me (and I told the admins at the time): there was little perceived value in the event, to the point were even the regulars had difficulty making up their minds. [snip]

Absolutely. The problem I have is I cannot imagine a 2 day Haiku event possibly offering 
enough perceived value to offset the cost for the "new Haiku developer" 
audience that we're trying to attract.

That is analogous to the reaction to the proposition of starting a marketing push for Haiku last year. Look where Haiku is now.

I would only go in order to meet the gods of the project, but "new developers" 
will be less attracted by that. An introductory Be API presentation might be nice, but 
I'd rather save money and read the Bebook (or better, watch the presentation for free on 
the web).

You, like many others, make the mistake of looking at this from a very personal POV. This is not about what I, you or any other single individual for that matter would want WC to be, but rather what WC approach would benefit Haiku most. One thing is what you may want, and another what is in the best interest of Haiku.

Additionally, I proposed a mix of educational, informational and social activities that would cater to the regulars *and beyond*, not suggesting that the regulars be sacrificed for the newbies that may come, and that the content and format be more *aware and accommodating* of the needs of those who are not regulars. You will still have plenty of time to meet and talk to your Haiku gods. :)

So, in spite of the fact that there is obviously something wrong, there is this fixation with the same failed model instead of trying something different that has the potential to be really beneficial for the project.

There is something wrong. I think it is the whole concept of a "conference" rather than 
an "informal gathering" at this stage of the project.

WalterCon is a conference, and it was meant one from the very beginning. That's why it was called WalterCon. It may have started informal as a result of Haiku being a small project composed mostly by a group of self-motivated individuals and having little to no visibility outside of this group. But that it has maintained the small group approach until today, when the project has *undoubtedly* much more visibility and general recognition than it has ever had, is more a matter of Haiku's inability to recognize/accept the need to adapt to the changing needs of the project.

You can look at past problems that became very evident with WC06 with a critical eye and try to change course by trying new approaches, or you can choose to pretend that everything is OK and stay with the same failed model. I would rather take the former approach, even if it may encompass some inherent risk.

Like you, Michael Phipps thinks that nobody beyond the regulars are likely to come to WC. I think this is both the small group mentality at play, a reflection of an oversimplified view of how marketing works and a lack of knowledge on how to exploit the potential of an event by creating real value for an audience.

I think your belief that people outside the small group are likely to attend a conference at this 
point in the development of the project is due to a lack of understanding of the type of people you 
are trying to attract. I don't think it is possible to "create real value" for the new 
developer audience currently interested given the state we're at. It's easy to say we need to 
improve the value proposition of WC for these new potentially interested developers - but what in 
concrete terms does that mean in terms of content? The fact that I have not seen any suggested on 
this thread underlines my feeling that any "conference" will not be successful.

I don't claim to know everything about the audience, but I think know a bit of how marketing works. :)

Even not being techie at all, there are some general topics that I can think of, along the lines of Haiku programming for Linux devs, introduction to the Haiku API, setting up a Haiku development environment, etc. Obviously, there needs to be thought put into finding what the sweet spots for your audience are. I am sure the other Haiku devs out there can think of many more topics and help make a well designed program.

There will come a time when Haiku is a stable platform when we want to reach out to 
people and get them using and developing on Haiku. Then we can advertise a conference 
where people can learn about using and programming for Haiku, the API, UI guidelines, 
meet other interested developers, learn a little about the internals. That is the point 
when we have an audience comfortable with going to conferences (professional developers, 
perhaps even funded by their companies) and a solid idea about the things we need to tell 
those attendees. That's when a "conference" makes sense.

Let me see if I understand: are you saying that Haiku has no interest in finding more developers that could potentially work on stuff that needs to be finished before R1?

And why do you keep coming back to this professional developers thing? I am not talking about professionals or businesses. I am talking about devs that could be enticed to attend if they were given a good reason to.

[snip] But Haiku is not a small group of fanboys anymore, so it needs to adapt (whether you like it or not).

I have no problem with Haiku adapting (actually I find your suggestion that I 
do a little insulting, given that I suggested an entirely new method of 
connecting with new people in my previous email).

Please, don't feel insulted. That's not what I intend. I just want to point out the fact that there is a reluctance to accept a different approach for WC which, considering last year's low key results, is badly needed and could potentially benefit the project.

Finally, I am not sure why you ask me what the target audience for WC should be. It is no secret that Haiku needs more developers, so is this not obvious?

I find it very hard to believe that people who are interested in developing 
Haiku in their spare time would pay money to go to a conference without doing 
research on their own first. And once they've done that research it's hard to 
think of any content that could be in the conference that would make it worth 
the money for them to attend.

The kind of value added that a conference can offer, along the lines of face to face with core devs that have name recognition, networking with other devs in person, and a program of technical interest, can wet the appetite of people who have certain interest in Haiku but could not find a reason to make the jump.

Furthermore, don't underestimate the power of marketing. A compelling and timely articulation of the conference can increase its perceived value and therefore the chances that more people will want to attend it.
Since the target has been identified, go figure out where to find them and what their sweet spots are, adapt your product to meet their needs (this would be the conference content in the case of WC) and aim your message at them through the appropriate channels. It's the combination of right content, compelling message and good articulation through the right channels to reach your target audience that will help you succeed in attracting people.

Absolutely agreed. The "right channel" for this target audience is very 
definitely the web. It's true we could use some better content (I *really* like the 
online presentation series idea, by the way).

The web is very important, and I don't question that. But the web is not the only channel to promote your conference: that's why I said *channels*. There is the media, community networking and advocacy, personal contacts, and more. You need to do some research when planning your event in order to come up with a good mix of channels to promote it. Just throwing stuff into the website will not necessarily do the trick.

In addition to the website and mailing list, Haiku could lay the ground for WC by reaching out to universities and LUGs in the area, and even leverage its presence at other events (like but not limited to LinuxWorld, for example). This would be real marketing at its best, but it requires both planning and a lot of work, both of which cannot be done by a single person.

Targeting universities and other open source events is very definitely a good 
thing. Direct people to the website, with some good content, and people will be 
interested. Asking them to fork out money and time for a conference (even if 
it's local) will greatly reduce the number of people who follow up on the 
introduction.

Nobody is about to ask anybody anything. Don't look at me as a pushy car salesman that wants to give people a sales pitch about WC, and in the process turn them away from Haiku. The idea is just to make a much wider audience aware of a value proposition and make that proposition better suited to their needs and as compelling as possible so that they will want it. It is not easy, but it can be done, and I think it is worth a try.

So in summary: Any Haiku "conference" is not now able to offer enough value to people who 
are likely to attend it. Therefore WC should be used as an informal gathering and advertised as 
such (actually I'd argue the target group are more likely to go to that than something called a 
"conference" anyway). Improving the introductory content for new developers on the Haiku 
website will be orders-of-magnitude more successful than any conference in attracting new 
developers.

If it's not a conference, as you say, then the name of the event needs to be changed. Perhaps something like WalterFest may be more attune to what you envision for WC. Otherwise, the name does not reflect the reality and is therefore misleading (one of the BIGGEST no-no in marketing).

With regards to the informality aspect, I suppose you are referring to a casual atmosphere (correct me if I am wrong), which I also think is preferred. But one thing is a casual atmosphere, and another informality in the form of lack of organization and/or a well defined program; the latter is very detrimental, and a real show-stopper.

Cheers,

Koki


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