Falling in love all over again

/me facepalms. Seriously? Falling in love all over again? Blind love can't possibly lead to usable design and good power management practices. Blind love is bad. It might be what keeps Mac users firmly attached to the latest Apple gadget, but it shouldn't be what powers the development of products. If we are to compete and "win" we must remember that games are won with strategy. And strategy must be based on needs and wants and desires (sometimes these are clearly defined, sometimes they are not). The strategy must play into what people love and want and lust after, but it cannot be fueled on love alone.

A long time ago I had a conversation with someone that completely turned my world upside down. I was sitting in a very nice Web design studio and looked up at one of the shelves to see a whole row of Adobe software packages. I made some kind of comment about how much "better" pirated software was and the response I got was something to the effect of, "a carpenter doesn't steal a hammer; why would it be appropriate for me to steal my tools?" Within a very short amount of time I had switched all of my software tools from pirated software to freeware/open source or paid software. I stayed with Windows (which I had purchased with my computer) until it was time to upgrade. And then I switched my desktop platform as well. I've gotten huge support from the software community as I've stumbled through the learning curve of each of the tools I use to earn my income. The support communities define, to a large extent, the tools I use today. But that's not why I love Ubuntu.

For me The Ubuntu Ethos has nothing to do with falling in love with a product or a community. It doesn't have to do with love at all. Oh sure I may say that I "love" Drupal or "love" Ubuntu every now and then. But that kind of love is more about not wanting to go through a learning curve of new products (all over again). Love doesn't pay the mortgage or the grocery bill or the hydro bill that keeps my computer running. The thing that keeps me attached to Ubuntu is the same thing that attracted me to free software in the beginning--the freedom to earn a living. I am free of software licenses and free to move my data around as I wish. I am free to contribute and to benefit from the contributions that others have made before me. You can't survive on love alone.

I am a member of the the Ubuntu community and the Drupal community. They are very, very different. But here's one thing that I love about the Drupal community--the social structure of the community allows me to contribute to the software AND make money from it too. I've had more than one conversation about how Drupal can help you to earn even more money. The Drupal community started as a labour of love (and efficiency). And it is one that I have donated both my time and my money to (yes, actual cash-money). Having given away money, I think my commitment to Drupal could probably be defined as "larger" than my commitment to Ubuntu.

My contributions in the Ubuntu community lean towards advocacy and documentation. When I create within this space it's because I want to help you work more efficiently so that you can spend more time with your family, or perhaps (you should see this one coming), earn more money. I want work and volunteer with people who are committed to seeing "our" project do better. Of course friendships are inevitable. And I love participating in the tit-for-tat of a meritocracy (and have spent hours trying to figure out why diacritics weren't showing up in Romanian PDFs). Quite frankly the more esoteric the problem, the more interesting it is to me. Within the Ubuntu community I've contributed to projects that have helped people directly with their salaried income and with their hobby projects--with no discrimination between the two because I don't know what kind of help I'll need tomorrow. But none of it made me fall in love with Ubuntu. As long as Ubuntu helps me, stays out of my way when I'm trying to work, and gives me random esoteric problems to solve, I will stay interested and committed. But you don't want me to be in irrational and in love.

As Jeremy Allison said at the Ontario Linux Fest back in October--of course open source is going to win. We don't need the money. But that doesn't mean that we can't earn a little along the way. Thinking past our own needs and to those of the consumers is going to make Ubuntu a stronger product. Looking beyond our own community and thinking about the social value consumers put on closed-source products may reveal part of the ethos that has made the closed source products so successful within their own market. Thinking about ways to market (and money from) Ubuntu will help us focus on new kinds of users. We can't beat Bug #1 by looking only to ourselves and our own love of the projects we work on. We need to look outside, over there, to see what they will fall in love with. And once we see what it is they want to love, we need to deliver it to them a bow or perhaps dill pickles. Yes, dill pickles. They're in love with proprietary software--obviously the rules of the game are already irrational.

Five pieces of free advice

Earlier this week my aunt and uncle beat Walmart. The giant super store has been expanding its business in the US to include a grocery store called Marketside (I refuse to link to them and increase their search rankings). My aunt and uncle have, for the past twenty years, operated a wonderful food shop and cafe in Owen Sound called Marketside. You see the potential conflict here right? After a few weird phone calls from people looking for the Walmart version of Marketside my aunt and uncle started doing some digging. And that's when they discovered that Walmart had applied to use their business name in Canada. But it gets better...Walmart is also in the process of asking the City of Owen Sound for permission to expand their store to include...you betcha: a Marketside.

Two Marketsides in Owen Sound is one too many. My aunt and uncle hired the best freakin' trade mark lawyer evah (she also spoke at HICK Tech and truly is made of awesome) to tell Walmart that the name was not available for Walmart's use and that if they would kindly shove off, that would be great. (Contents of the actual letter from the lawyer may have varied slightly.) On Friday Walmart wrote back. They didn't just write a letter back to my aunt and uncle though...they also wrote a letter to the Canadian Registrar of Trade-marks WITHDRAWING THEIR APPLICATION on the word Marketside!

That's right: my aunt, uncle and their lawyer BEAT Walmart! Please insert wild cheering here.

This victory belongs to my aunt and uncle, but the blog belongs to me. I'm not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one on television, but here are my five favourite pieces of advice from this week. I give them to you, gentle readers, for free. The first one starts with advice relating to my aunt and uncle's victory:

  1. Make sure you have something tangible, and that can be purchased, to go along with your business. If my aunt and uncle had the .com instead of the .ca for their Web site, how would this have changed the story? If there had been something for Walmart to "buy" from my aunt and uncle, would they have made an offer? If your brand is beautiful, make sure you have something tangible to go along with it.
  2. Are you sure it's plugged in? This advice was given to a new computer owner who called me in anger and frustration at the new computer they'd just purchased. The monitor was "broken" and there was a confusing mess of extra cables. Hint: computer stores are not like Ikea. They do not send you home with extra parts.
  3. Combine left over balls of yarn into zip lock bags, sorted by colour. When you have enough scraps of the same colour you can make something out of them, like a hat. I believe this tip comes from Lorraine. It was passed along to a fellow knitter in the change room at the gym.
  4. Your work has social value. It's your own fault if you're not being paid that price. Someone is willing to pay X number of dollars for a service you provide. Make sure you are charging the full social value for your work. Do not compete with products that people feel they can get for "free." Give away the free stuff and charge for the work that has social value. This advice was passed along to a photographer thinking about setting up a Web site to showcase his photography...because isn't that what you're supposed to do? Have a Web site?
  5. Laphroaig goes really well with home made chutney. This last one is advice I gave myself.

Congratulations to Karin and Paul on your victory. I'm super proud of you for standing up to Walmart. But I'm even more proud that you're now updating your Web site. Way to take control of the things are scary, the things only seem scary, and for knowing the difference between the two.

Updated: After receiving a private email and two blog complaints that this story was not "Drupal enough" I have removed it from the Drupal planet feed. My intention was to show the importance of a micro-business being able to maintain an online presence and how that may have affected a large corporation's decision to remove their application for a trademark. The Marketside Web site is a Drupal site and is maintained by the owners of the store. Twice over my aunt and uncle have been empowered--once to maintain their own information through the use of Drupal and a second time in retaining the right to use their name. I did not make this explicit in the original story and this has made the content "inappropriate" for the Drupal Planet. For those of you who enjoyed the story, you're welcome. For those of you who thought it didn't belong on Planet: thanks for your notes, I've removed it.

Kdenlive: install instructions "work for me"

If you've been following along with my screen casting saga you may be pleased to know that I now have 0.7 of Kdenlive running! woo! I've been monitoring the wiki page with instructions on how to install Kdenlive and I'm pleased to say the instructions now "work for me" (on Ubuntu 8.10). These instructions include information on how to download, compile and install the latest version of Kdenlive using the script written by Mads Dydensborg.

The version of Kdenlive that is currently available in the Ubuntu repository is much older. You should upgrade if you are running the older version.

For fun, I uploaded my first attempt at figuring out screen casting. You'll see that I'm not exactly familiar with the new UI and that I'm basically talking to myself. Crank your volume way up...it's pretty quiet. It was interesting for me to go back and watch the recording to see how I use my mouse to think about a UI as I'm trying to puzzle it out.

Please blog your experiences with the new software...and contribute to the documentation as you get things figured out.

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