Communicating with the public (was Re: Possibility for FreeBSD 4.11 Extended Support)

Bill Moran wmoran at
Fri Dec 22 04:29:07 PST 2006

In response to "Adrian Chadd" <adrian at>:
> (I have the same problem with the Squid project. Lots of people want
> Squid to do everything, noone's willing to hire programmers to fix up
> Squid to do these things and release the work back to the public. Then
> people complain that Squid doesn't have 21st century features. Grr.
> Sometimes I think we in the Squid project need better PR..)

You probably do.  In my experience, most F/OSS projects need better PR.

It's not that we (as a group) are poor communicators.  Within the devel
teams and so forth, we seem to communicate just fine.  The fact is that
when crossing cultural boundaries, we usually fall short.

This has come up time and again as the complaint that "FreeBSD isn't
doing well with business" and so forth, but it comes up in other areas
as well that are more subtle.

The lion's share of our community work _very_ well with information.  We
have to, we're buried in it.  I know I sort through a couple hundred
emails each day.

On the flip side, the average Joe doesn't do so well.  We see side effects
of this when people post with crappy subject lines or no subject lines.
We see bug reports that are completely useless because there's nowhere
near enough information to actually do anything about it.  Did it ever
occur to you that these people have as much trouble understanding stuff
that they receive as they do communicating their own thoughts.  Consider,
also, that those folks are an extreme end of the scale.

A couple of years ago, a guy tried to explain to me how you have to deal
with people.  He laid it out in steps:
1) Tell them.
2) Tell them again.
3) Tell them that you told them.
4) Remind them that you told them.
5) Tell them that you reminded them that you told them.
6) ...

The point being that you really have to use The Big Hammer to get your
point across.  It's the same reason we have to see a McDonalds
commercial _every_single_commercial_break_!  (egad I hate McDonalds)

Anyway ... in most of the F/OSS communities I'm involved with, we're
under the mistaken idea that we can make an announcement and people will
see/hear it.  Usually you have to make an announcement 6 or 7 times,
worded differently each time, before it really hits home with the masses.

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that this whole EOL issue with
4.x is partly a result of not reminding people when the EOL date for 4.x
is every 5 minutes.  The result is that it's just hitting home for a lot
of people now that it's the 11th hour.

Bill Moran
Collaborative Fusion Inc.

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