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GNOME Women Outreach / Marketing

Marina Zhurakhinskaya from Red Hat ran the session. In 2006, a Google-supported, 3-slot version of Summer of Code which was exclusively run for women. The Board would like to repeat that using Gnome Foundation funds. The first task is to contact the women who participated in the previous program and get an idea about where they stand today with regard to open source involvement.

There's a perception that, generally, the best way that these programs work is to select participants that already contribute in some regard. This is a challenge because there aren't a lot of women in GNOME today.

The second task is development of better introductory materials for both GSoC and Women's Outreach; there was a feeling from earlier meetings that there should be resources for the student that the mentor should go over: a list of aspects to the GNOME community that the mentor should introduce the student to: IRC, Planet GNOME, the social side of things. Also, the technical documents; not making it a scavenger hunt for the documents that they will need to accomplish their goal.

Third, proactively finding students by contacting universities and asking: "Do you have students that would fit this Women Outreach program?" This can make a huge difference in the level of participation.

Finally, finding mentors and working with them before the program starts is another focus area. (Marina asked that I link to the page where you can sign up as a possible mentor: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen/OutreachProgram)

Marina then gave a summary of the FSF Women's Caucus. A summary is here: http://groups.fsf.org/wiki/Womenscaucus/9.19.2009

Then the floor was opened to discussion.

There was a question about having all module maintainers make an extra vigilant effort to to include women. It was pointed out that this can go too far: putting women on the spot unintentionally. It was agreed that this is a fine line to walk.

An issue was raised that we are generally, regardless of gender, very bad about helping new contributors. It's too hard to hand-hold the new contributor with no experience--most of us don't have the time. Owen's team working on GNOME Shell was pointed to as an example of a module doing an excellent job of to giving everyone who comes in to the IRC channel as much information as they can reasonably provide. A proposed solution that everyone agreed on was to revive GNOME Love--everyone remembered this being largely a success until the people (or person) providing the man-power could no longer run it.

The conversation switched then to marketing. A proposal for an effort to get more Windows to GNOME conversions was seeded as the starting point. There was some disagreement about whether GNOME should even be brought up in such a conversation with a point to the new Google "What is a web browser?" video that was published last week. It was pointed out that 5/6 of the most popular distro's give you GNOME by default so most people would have no idea that they're using GNOME, having not selected it.

The discussion got very lively at this point transitioning between many different tangential topics. There was some agreement that advertising is only a tiny portion of marketing: listening to users and implementing what they want is a huge part of marketing. It was pointed out that many people are now Tweeting their frustrations so we can mine social networks for "hot spots" of usability problems. And in some cases it may be good to engage the user directly and help them solve their issue.

There was disagreement about which message to emphasize in advertising: cool stuff you can do with free software or the freedom aspect, itself. The iPhone commercials were raised as a good example of showing off cool stuff that makes people want to have the product. This tangent was tabled until Monday but there appeared to be agreement that short videos would be better than putting up introductory documents.

We returned to the theme of trying to get more users and there was agreement that it's a very hard task to accomplish. A point was raised that, like buyers of hybrid cars, a "this is good for the world" aspect can be played on a portion of the population. There was agreement that this would work for some but not all audiences.

We ran out of time so the discussion will resume on Monday.


color, uphair, smile
Jason D. Clinton

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