Marketing Open Source To Universities - A Brain Dump

By Andrew Price, 2006-09-08 11:27:08 in General.

Having been on the exec committee of SUCS for two years I've come to realise how much potential there is for organisations to utilise student computer societies to advocate and spread awareness of free/open source software at a local level and to a demographic which would find some of the principles surrounding open source attractive. Students, that is. Google has already exploited this font of publicity with their pizza ambassador program.

For example, student computer societies annually attend some kind of "freshers fayre" at which all of the societies in the university try to attract and sign up new members or just increase awareness of what their society is capable of. To attract new members, societies give out enticing freebees to any passing students, sometimes society-branded to market the society or sponsor-branded because the freebees were funded by outside organisations.

If student societies were offered the opportunity to get sent some freebees, like OS installation CDs, branded pens, small notepads, wall planners, etc. I'm sure they would take it up without hesitating. In return, the organisation that helped the society out would get some free targeted publicity and the pleasant side effect would be happy students who don't have to eat into their student budgets to buy commercial software.

Unfortunately the life of a computer society is an unstable one. From year to year the executive committee changes, and with that so does the society's priorities. Personalities and levels of motivation also fluctuate annually. So I think that some proactivity (</buzzword>) from the open source organisation could help it a great deal should they think it would be a worthwhile strategy.

Unfortunately, in the UK at least, there doesn't seem to be a single point of contact for all university computer societies. Compsoc.org.uk was set up to gather all UK computer societies together but it has been dormant for quite a while, not all UK computer societies have participated in it and there doesn't seem to be as much interest in getting it on its feet as there probably should beĀ¹.

I guess I could be accused of being lazy and told that I should contact a possible sponsor for these things under my own steam instead of just hinting about it in my blog, but this entry isn't for the sake of my computer society, I thought i'd just get my insight out in the open so that organisations such as Canonical and computer societies in general might benefit from it.

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1. I hear someone is creating a new CMS-based website for them, but it'll need to be publicised sufficiently for it to work.

Comments

Sean writes:

Interesting. I just applied to be a Google Ambassador for the next academic year :-)

The SoC organisers sent out an e-mail to all participants of SoC,encouraging them to get involved.

2006-09-08 11:44:25

dinda writes:

Another interesting approach I've thought about is perhaps creating some ready made curriculum products for professors to use in their courses. The materials would be free, easily incorporated into existing courses and help seed the next generation into the FOSS world. Of course getting some Faculty to use anything new is another challenge. . .

2006-09-08 16:28:25

Mattias Wadenstein writes:

As someone involved in a Swedish university computer club (acc.umu.se, you might recognise it from hosting of such things as se.releases.ubuntu.com, ftp.gnome.org or cdimage.debian.org), around here there are plenty of places to step in. And we do indeed have a box of shipit ubuntu CDs in our computer room for our members to pick up in case they want.

One of the more obvious ones for Sweden, Norway and Finland would be to get noticed at the Nordic University Computer Clubs Conference, a yearly occassion where people gather and party, listen to talks, and socialise.

One of the problems is that computer societies/clubs are very different from eachother. You almost need someone involved to tell you what would be appriciated. But then, small freebies is likely to be accepted, getting wider notice could be a bit tricky.

2006-09-12 15:43:01