Free Software Evangelism, revisited

Shane M. Coughlan shane at
Tue May 23 12:17:04 UTC 2006

Hash: SHA256

Ben Finney wrote:
> I don't see why you condition evangelism on *not* being business; it
> seems to me evangelism is *all about* selling something.

Agreed.  If we separate evangelism from the concept of selling something
(be it a product, service or idea), then we're left with something quite
vacuous.  Evangelism for the sake of evangelism?  That sounds
dangerously close to selling the idea of selling ideas, a strangely
circular beast that presents the obvious as something innovative.

My mind casts itself back to a book I saw at the height of the dot com
era: "Designing the Killer App" was the title IIRC.  The entire book
basically said "a killer app is something that everyone wants, and it's
a good idea to make one."

If we don't present something useful to our audience then we are
potentially both wasting our own time and undermining the community as a
whole.  If - for instance - someone wanted a great office suite and we
insisted on showing them the GNU/Linux desktop instead we're going to
lose the sale and undermine their confidence in Free Software's ability
to provide the solution to the problem.  If we show them
and give them some copies on CD for free we're done the opposite: we've
provided a solution and armed them with a deployment capability.

If we go into a board-room to make a sale and fail there is little point
in suggesting that the presenter has accomplished the consolation prize
of open-ended advocacy.  A positive impression may or may not have been
created.  Acceptance of advocated models may or may not have taken
place.  It's almost impossible to measure, and the lack of a sale gives
a reasonable indication that something has failed somewhere along the line.

Call me a scientist, but I prefer results we can measure.


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Shane Martin Coughlan
e: shane at
m: +447773180107
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