Why Free Software is a Matter of Life and Death

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As the worlds of digital and analogue become intertwined, so the fundamental idea behind free software – that people have a right to see what this stuff is doing – becomes not a theoretical matter of ethics, but a practical, quotidian necessity if we are to avoid the situation where bad code leads to the ultimate Blue Screen of Death – ours.

A fascinating solution proposed for what sounds like a very real problem. It would benefit more and more people for embedded source to be available for perusal for more things, like medical devices, telemetry systems in vehicles, and voting machines—then again, could we trust that the code released is the real stuff in use?

(via ComputerworldUK.)

Who Has Control?

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For decades, the overriding construct of good marketing and public relations was that you had to tightly control the message your company was broadcasting to the world. Commercials, press releases, and other materials were carefully meted, checked, and rechecked to make sure everything was “on message”.

In the 00′s (the “aughts,” if you’re wondering how to pronounce that), we like to call these things “talking points.” Even though we are still in an environment where the method by which we share information is changing on a frequent basis, companies still like to make sure that everyone is toeing the line. After all, you want to make sure that everything is portrayed in the most positive light possible, right?

The problem with this approach is that in this post-Cluetrain, post-information-revolution age, control is an illusion.

Companies don’t have control anymore.

The control has passed to the consumers. To the rank-and-file. Your company might try to stay on-message, but look at the statistics. People don’t trust “official” communication now. They see it as too closely managed, too dishonest and impersonal. They want to hear from someone they trust.

Your customers have already taken the conversation to places you possibly haven’t thought. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? A forum somewhere? Email lists of their colleagues? You’re not going to reach them by elbowing in on their turf with an impersonal, robotic corporate mouthpiece and a few posts somewhere. They don’t want subversion; they don’t want to be crushed. They might even be avoiding you.

They want you to participate. And they want you to participate—as in you, the person who is reading this. Not your company. Not some official place for them to gather information. They want to hear from people on the inside, from people very much like them. They want to “get to know you” and to build a relationship of trust.

Sometimes, they want to lavish praise on you. Sometimes, they want to dump on you. They want to share their opinions, and they want honest, personal responses and discussion. The reward for your participation in this conversation is that you earn a measure of trust and can then share with them things that interest you—and those are very likely the things you are working on. (At least, they should be, or you should find a different job.)

They’re in the driver’s seat now.

What are you going to do about it?

You May Take This As Encouragement

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Michael Hyatt on why people in traditional publishing need to be blogging (transcribed from the embedded video):

…People get stuck right here. Because they think: ‘Okay; Do I want to start a corporate blog or do I want to start a personal blog?’ And we’ve all seen those personal blogs where it’s just—you know—somebody’s diary, and it’s boring, and it’s not that interesting, and we’ve all seen the corporate sites, where it’s nothing but a stream of PR announcements. You know, I don’t think either one of those will garner a lot of traffic, and I think fundamentally it’s a false dichotomy. I think the best corporate blogs are blogs that are personalized—that are about the individuals in the company that are writing the blog.

We are a nation—maybe a world—of voyeurs. Reality TV is still very popular. People want an inside look at how you think, what you have to say, how your company operates. And the great thing about publishing is it’s very mysterious. I get emails all the time from people who—they can’t fathom how a book makes its way to the market […] but they just don’t know what the process is. They’re mystified by it. And for you to peel back the curtain a little bit in a blog and give people an inside look at your company connects them to your company. And an inside look at your own life connects them to you.

He goes on to list twelve reasons why publishers should be blogging. I think you should watch the video to receive the context and to hear the rest of the talk, because it’s really good. I’ll place a summary of the twelve reasons behind the cut below.

In his post linked above, he entreats other publishers to attend the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference next year (where this talk was taped):

I also one of two traditional publishers who participated in the “CEO Panel.” (The other one was Tim O’Reilly himself.) Surprisingly, I did not see any other CEOs from traditional publishers in attendance. Perhaps I just missed them. Perhaps they sent people to attend. Frankly, I think they need to attend themselves. This is not something you can afford to delegate.

If you are a traditional publisher, you need to be there next year. The world is changing fast. This is the only conference I know of that is totally dedicated to exploring the future of publishing.

I hope this conference gains steam over time. The list of presentations was staggeringly interesting. I plan on watching a handful of the other presentations over the weekend. You can find them at toccon.blip.tv.

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