brussels, fosdem, what an amazing community!

The Atomium in Brussels.

Back from Brussels! I arrived back home yesterday night, coming back from a four-night-visit
to Brussels. The first part was dedicated to a meeting with fellow researchers and some Open Source
enterprises about a European research project that in the long run should improve KDE’s quality of
the source code, project management and other aspects of quality related to Open Source projects in
general, and KDE specifically. If we can pull this off well, KDE can profit greatly from combined
efforts of the European Union, research institutes and coorporations.

On friday, I took a couple of hours off from work for a walk through a part of Brussels city
centre and a visit to the Atomium which has been
renovated and re-opened only about a week ago. Nice.

FOSDEM (my photos) inofficially started with the
annual beer event in “Roy d’Espagne”, a nice café at the Grand Place in the heart of Brussels.
Naturally, we kept “socialising” until deep into the night. After four hours of sleep, we went to
the university to attend the keynote of RMS who talked about patents and made a
couple of the usual jokes (GNU/Linux, png = png’s not gif, you get the point). We skipped the last
couple of minutes in favor of some fast food, though.

Later that day, I presented KDE’s recent marketing efforts to the people that didn’t fit into
the room that was overcrowded with people interested in Xgl. I was delighted to see that people are actually
very interested in the work that has been going on for the past months. My talk (slides) was received
very well, and it started some lively discussion. After the talk, a couple of people came to me,
stating that they are very happy about the things we’re working on. Heck, I didn’t really expect
that kind of enthousiasm, but all the better of course.

Saturday night, we went out for Indian food, and didn’t return to late to the Hostel where we
had some beer and discussion. Didn’t go to bed too late that night, since I was already lacking too
much sleep. Sunday, KOffice day at FOSDEM brought us a wealth of knowledge and updates about
KOffice. Bottom line: Krita is very nice and some features are extremely cool, such
as embedding all kinds of office documents in others. Imagine embedding some spreadsheet into your
photo, you’re working on in krita. As soon as you click on the spreadsheet part in the image, krita
switches into KSpread so you get all the features of that, same goes with KWord (and OpenDocument!).
Oh, and my personal favorite: adjustment layers. That kind of nifty features add so much flexibility
in your workflow. Aaah well, you should try it yourself! Bart (from the amaroK team showed us some
of the new eye-candy of a recent svn-snapshot of amaroK, Ooooh, Aaaah, nifty!
KDE is an amazing project, getting new, extremely cool, useful and innovative stuff added
everyday. I am very proud to be able to take part!

One thing though, some people might not be aware of the actual success of the KDE project, but
the userbase of KDE is growing at an extremely fast pace. A personal guess would be that a couple of
thousand new users a day is really not exaggerated, but of course we need some research there to get
real figures. (We’re working on that on the freedesktop promotion platform, though.)

Bottom lines:

hosp networking event and more

This month’s Holland Open networking event was quite nice. First attended a presentation about
community, sharing knowledge within that. Close to things I’ve studied. Frightening, at least.
The day started off with a 35 EUR fine because I bought a salmon baguette instead of a train
ticket. Bummer, but probably a good lesson (never get up before half past seven again?). The
morning, we spent with a bunch of kids at a school in the South of the Netherlands, giving
instructions for becoming better geeks. In fact, they probably don’t need those, but some
explanation regarding subversion workflows will save them some time in the future. The real reason
we got there was vanity. NRC, a dutch quality paper, showed interest in CodeYard, and asked for an interview, which Adriaan, Jasper and I
were happy to give.

In the train to Delft, where the Holland Open networking event had to take place in a nice
building in the old centre of the City, I talked to a girl who had been working on a watermanagement
project in Bangladesh. We discussed merits of information technology for third world countries for
some time, and it was quite an informative and enjoyable chat. Actually, having a worn-out battery
in the laptop can have advantageous side-effects.
At the networking event itself, I talked to
quite some people, introduced Martijn and Claire whereever possible to reduce single points of
failure in KDE-NL’s relationships. I also talked to a couple of people, mostly about marketing
related issues, which left me wwith a longer list of “Oh, then you should read this!” items, which
I’m happy with. His presentation refered quite often to Crossing the Chasm, which only proves my
point. Everyone involved with KDE marketing should read that book.
Coming home after a 16 hours
day, I only had 80 emails to walk through, but Kim left me a pancake, so I had something to enjoy,
apart from flamewars and bikeshedding on different mailinglists.
Tomorrow: Brussels.

Hooray for unstructured blogentries!

marketing: broad vs. niche

market segmentation - defining the piece of the pie

Should KDE target a broad or a niche market?
That question has been
raised on the kde-promo list recently, and people are arguing away. The question itself is rather
valid, of course, but — and here comes the surprise — the right way to answer it is not discussing
to reach consensus. The right way is doing research.

From a scientific point of view (yeah, marketing is also a science), there’s a couple of things
that can help with answering the ‘broad vs. niche’ question. First, the strategic situation has to
be taken into account. Crossing the Chasm offers quite some insight on that topic. I’ll not go into too much
detail here, but consider two scenarios.

Imagine you want to introduce your product into a mainstream market (‘crossing the chasm’
between early and mainstream market), choosing for a broad approach is generally considered the
wrong thing to do. The right thing in this situation is concentrating on a market segment (niche)
and try to become market leader there. Rationale: Being a market leader in one market will gain you
much more than being second in several markets. Supporting technologies are developed for the
leading product, not for the second. Mouth-to-mouth advertising does not promote the ‘second best’
implementation, and there are many more situations where the 2nd winner is the first loser.

So you’ve entered the mainstream market, you have a market segment where you are the
first choice. Consider that the king-pin that initiates a chain reaction. Now you can concentrate on
the second wave of market segments to take over. Look at your strenghts, the needs of possible
target markets and use mouth-to-mouth advertising. But why not keep concentrating on one market?
Here’s why: The added support of the first market segment you took over gains you additional
resources, makes you stronger, and offers a basis to work off. Now you actually have the resources
to broaden your strategic approach.

Second, what is your product. Some product have been designed for niche markets. (To be clear,
KDE as a ‘general purpose Desktop’ is not one of those.) KDE is a platform, rather than a product.
This has certain implications on a decision for or against a niche-strategy, as I stated above. In
fact, a general purpose ‘platform’ such as KDE can be used in many niche segments. So what do we
have? A product that can easily be changed to serve as a good solution in a niche, and a product
that can easily be changed to accomplish a task in another niche. Voila, low switching costs when it
comes to ‘marketing mandates product development strategies’. In fact, consider a whole product based on KDE. Now try to work out what has to be changed to
target one market, or the other. You’ll probably come to the conclusion that those changes have to
be made in the outer ring. That’s why KDE can easily be marketed into different
markets. But there’s also a threat buried in this conclusion: The fact that we can does not mean we
should target broadly. It merely means that we could.

So the actual strategic position is one consideration for the choice “broad vs. niche”. I do
not want to advocate one or the other right now, but show that we should not ask each other the
‘broad vs. niche’ question, but we should try to answer the question “Where are we
. The answer to that question mandates one or the other approach.

Yeah, mandates. Marketing is – sadly – no rocket-science. Uuuhm, sadly? – Exactly.
Here’s where the infamous bikeshedding comes into the picture.
We should be aware that one possible approach to those strategic issues is discussing it and trying
to reach consensus. It’s rather easy to have a personal opinion on the ‘broad vs. niche’ issue. But
frankly, this is wrong as an approach to get real results. Marketing has been
researched for quite some time, and trying to solve the problem by discussion does throw away all
that previous work we have available. But luckily, marketing KDE is no rocket-science. It
certainly makes sense to lay the marketing and strategic groundwork in a structured and validable
fashion – it even isn’t all that hard to do. Structured means scientific here, it means
applying professional methods. Validable means: Make it easy to follow why you took a certain
decision. You’ll need that validity in two respects: First, strategic decisions are generally
important ones. You have to convince people why your direction is the right one. People need to
understand why a decision is made. Second, you’ll be getting new data and new insight all the time.
Decisions based on longish discussions would have to be reiterated then. That does not scale.
Structured and validable strategic analyses can be reworked in the input data that have been used,
you can change only the bits that have changed.
And all that’s worth nothing if you do not open your mind for a strategy that seems

Marketing KDE is moving towards a structured, professional approach.

it’s a 0.6!


Last night, guidance 0.6 has been
released. This is the feature-complete version that will go into Kubuntu Dapper Drake.
Highlights of this release are

  • Dualhead support in guidance
  • i18n support
  • Disklayout and usage is displayed now
  • bugfixes, bugfixes, bugfixes

Furthermore, guidance has seen multiple improvements in usability, such as a lot of consistency
fixes in the wording in the interfaces, the user interface should be a fair bit more self-explaining
now. Another nice thing is that displayconfig should now detect when another graphics adapter has
been plugged in, so X still works (and thus can be set up with displayconfig). The disk usage widget is also released now.

We will release updated versions during the next months more oftenly, fixing more bugs that’ll
be revealed by testing the modules, so please drop me
an email if you’ve tried guidance and tell me if it worked. We expect updated packages to appear in
the Dapper repositories soonish.

borg, it is!

seemed to be wondering if I were using a Singleton in my PyQt code from yesterday
night, well, probably not.

Still, it made me get my Design Patterns book out and read up on Java a little. Explaining the
problem a Singleton is supposed to solve to my not-so-geeky girlfriend, I came to the conclusion
that instead of using only one agenda, I’d rather have more than one, but all of those with the same
appointments in them.

So Borg it is!