Over the last few years, we’ve seen openSUSE grow into an international project consisting of a large number of volunteer contributors from around the world. These contributors have a wide range of skill sets and interests such as software development, systems engineering, artwork & marketing, in addition to more general enthusiasts. This diversity of contributors and their geographically distributed nature leads to some interesting challenges and questions for the project. For example:
How do we as a project ensure we’re listening to and addressing the needs of our contributor base?
How do we ensure openSUSE is represented and visible at important FLOSS events around the world? How do we ensure we have a good show at these events?
How do we try and attract new users, and ideally new contributors to help the project and our products grow and improve?
The Ambassador Program
openSUSE addressed the issues mentioned before through the Ambassador program. The program has proven excellent at spreading the word about openSUSE. However, it has not been equally effective at tackling all these goals, some of which are better described as ‘co-ordination’ rather than promotion. There is room for improvement in the current program:
We never did a good job of defining what the Ambassador program is meant to achieve. This led to some people believing the Ambassador program was a way to start contributing to the Project rather than a role better suited for existing contributors who have knowledge about the inner workings of the project.
There were no defined duties or expectations, therefore our Ambassadors didn’t know what was expected of them.
Conflicting entry requirements: to become an ambassador the ambassador team did look for prior involvement at events. Yet it seemed that to help out at a booth, one had to be an ambassador
We also have a problem with the list of Ambassadors. The current Ambassador List includes a large number of individuals who are no longer active in the project. Absence hurts when users and fellow ambassadors try to contact them and find out the list is out of date.
It is a testament to the hard work of the ambassadors world wide, attending hundreds (!!) of events each year, that the program was so successful despite these issues. But we’re always looking for improvements!
And Now, as the Song Goes…
The times are a-changing. The current Ambassador Team have spent over a year thinking, planning, and discussing these issues with ambassadors, the board and others. Finally we can announce some action!
First of all, we’re renaming the Ambassador program. Instead of “openSUSE Ambassador”, anyone spreading the word about openSUSE can now call themselves an “openSUSE Advocate”. We think this new name does a better job of describing the role in promoting openSUSE. We’re also opening up the Advocate program so there is no longer a formal enrollment process. Do you like openSUSE? Do you tell other people what’s great about our Project? Then you can call yourself an openSUSE Advocate and join in the great work all our Advocates are doing. Join the mailing list (currently still firstname.lastname@example.org) and get to work! You can add your details to the Advocates List (https://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Advocates_list) if you wish, but this is no longer a requirement. Finally, we’re introducing two new programs: the “Local Coordinator” role and the new “Merchandising and Event program.”
The Local Coordinator
The “Local Coordinator” is meant for established community members who are prepared to help coordinate openSUSE’s presence in their community. These volunteers will need to be aware of how the openSUSE project works, so they can help guide people who need to find their way around the project. They will be expected to promote and advertise the openSUSE activities in their local area, through various methods like blogs, social networking, or writing articles for news.opensuse.org. These new Local Coordinators will also be responsible for ensuring that events in their local area have an openSUSE presence, either by attending themselves or helping organize other openSUSE Advocates to attend. They will also be responsible for helping keep the openSUSE Event List up to date, which will have a much greater importance for reasons that will become clear below. If you’re interested in becoming an openSUSE Local Coordinator, please read the wiki page to learn more.
The Merchandising and Event Program
Alongside the Local Coordinator Program, the openSUSE Team at SUSE has been investigating how to improve our presence at events with the materials they send.
Sending DVD’s now
Right now, the openSUSE team processes event materials requests which come in via a website. We find out if the request is legitimate and if it is worth sending materials. We then send DVDs and more depending on stock. Unfortunately, sending 100 DVDs, for example, to South America can cost 1000 Euro (that is 10.000 times the value of the DVD’s, yes!) and while it is not always as expensive, we spend far more on shipping than creating good materials -and note that just DVD’s doesn’t make for such a great booth!
Quality Over Quantity
The openSUSE team created a proposal to the board to focus on “Quality over Quantity.” Smaller but better packages will be sent. Not just DVDs but a full set of booth materials! It will include things like table cloths, banners, posters, flyers and name tags but also booth basics like tape, scissors and markers. Of course, there will be including DVDs but also other cool give-aways.
As each package will be more expensive we need to make sure of its usefulness for the event. The team made a list of events based on the places openSUSE Ambassadors visited the last year. The events considered bigger and more relevant will receive a box -smaller events for now will not receive a box.
For smaller events our Travel Support Program will provide funds to reimburse local Advocates to create the needed materials. The openSUSE team will assist in creating sources like PDF files for posters to help with this. Much you can already find in our github repository and we’ll work on improving that. The plan is also for the boxes to contain materials which can be re-used at other, smaller events.
For this year, the openSUSE team will thus send boxes to the major events. Work still has to be done on communicating what events will get what, and once the plan is public, we urge you to provide feedback on it! Next year, the planning of the events as well as decisions about the content of the boxes will be handed over gradually to the openSUSE Board, which will work with the Local Coordinators and Advocates to get the right things to the right place.
As you might have noticed, we are in a transition now. At the moment, we no longer ship openSUSE DVDs and the website for ordering them is down. The materials needed for our big boxes is not ready yet- materials still have to be created.
Meanwhile, we have only just begun talking to potential Local Coordinators and this, too, is still very much a work in progress. What we do here is the typical ‘release early, release often’: the new plans are thought out but the implementation is barely Alpha! We do need help with this. If you know a local Ambassador who would make an excellent Local Coordinator, please contact us (link…). And keep an eye on the ambassador- and marketing mailing lists for information about the merchandising.