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A Blog on Sourceforge

May 6th, 2010 by

A little more than two weeks ago we released Kraft version 0.40, the first version of Kraft based on KDE 4 software platform. The release went fine as far as I can tell, no terrible bugs were reported yet. Some work went into the new website since then, but in general I need a few weeks break from Kraft and spend my evenings outside enjoying spring time.

Today, Sourceforge posted a blog about Kraft after they kind of mail-interviewed me. It’s nice, it really focuses on the things also important to me. This might be another step towards a broader user base for Kraft. I say that because one could have the impression that the number of people actually really using Kraft could be larger. A high number of users is one of the fundamental criteria for a successful free software project and thus I am constantly trying to understand whats the reason for the impression or the fact.

The first idea is that the Kraft project simply does something wrong in the way a project should be driven. But there are releases, there is a so far ok website, there are communication channels with information on it and people answering questions. Of course, it always could be done better, but I hope and believe we are not doing too bad. Marketing could be more, that’s granted.

The next thing could be that nobody needs this kind of software. But there are quite some companies doing this kind of software in the commercial space. So there must be a market. Actually I think the market is huge. People are writing invoices all over the world and I bet many of them are not really satisfied with the way they do it usually which makes Kraft at least an option to try for them.

And this might lead to better path: Probably these people do not know that the option exists. They simply haven’t heard about Kraft yet and if they would there is a good chance that they would not believe that it is free etc pp. And this is probably not specific to Kraft but also applies, of course much more weaker, to larger projects like openSUSE or KDE: A lot of people from the ‘real world’ don’t know about free software communities, the ideas behind and the benefits for users of the software. That sounds strange to us, as this is our daily reality, but start with asking your parents or non computer related friends if they really understand what it is about. Imagine what people know who have no computer job nor -hobby nor know you!

What consequences can that have for us? Well, we could decide to skip this group of people. That would mean, beside some other effects, that Kraft would not make sense any more and I don’t like that. It probably should influence the way we see the ‘product management’ aspect of our projects. For me, ‘product management’ is often equivalent to “take care that the result is especially useful to non computer scientists” (which is probably not what PM really is about) and the focus on that is very important and the precondition for the next point.

We might have to take our projects even more out of the geek niche and go to places where the ‘real world’ happens. That is difficult for various reasons. First, it means that we have to start to explain again from start, and maybe also get questions where the answer is not obvious. Furthermore it might have practical issues, because for example fairs for handcrafter utilities charge seriously for software boothes which is not the case if we present projects on FOSS events.
On the other hand its easy because we all just have to spread the word even more and tell everybody about free software, our projects and free culture. And try to think as if we weren’t free software people. I know, most of us do already what they can and that’s great :-)

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8 Responses to “A Blog on Sourceforge”

  1. Since you are speaking of a software aimed at business, what would be really needed is to provide commercial support for it. I don’t think companies would want to rely on volunteers (who might or might not have the time) to fix the issue they need to have fix now because otherwise they cannot issue their invoice, meaning they cannot get their money.
    Since you work for Novell, maybe it is time to try to convince your management ;) (not counting that the Novell brand should be strong enough to attract the trust of customers)

  2. Tom

    You need a better website .. sorry. It needs to be simpler, less German in the logo. You need to emphasize the key features in big letters, big download buttons for all major platforms, videos and you need real world use cases where users tell how they use Kraft. And you need SEO. Sounds harsh, but that is what you need.

  3. Tom

    And don’t start the website with saying “Kraft is KDE-software”. Honestly nobody really cares. Kraft should be software for small businesses first and KDE-Software second. Instant turn off. Mention the KDE part at the bottom. And get a better domain. Volle-kraft-voraus is too german.

  4. You say “A high number of users is one of the fundamental criteria for a successful free software project”. I kind of disagree with that. A high number of users of course is a criteria for success, but it’s not the only one, and for many projects it’s even not really relevant, especially if you are targeting a specific group of users. Kraft is great, because it has a very well defined audience, that’s already a very important prerequisite for success. As this audience is much smaller than the audience for general software like a media player or fundamental components of everybody’s stack like the kernel, I think that the number of users is not the best criteria to judge the success here.

    That said, of course it would be great to reach more users, and I think you are completely right that the only way to do this is to leave the geek corner and address the target audience on their own terms, speak their language, use the opportunities where they are present, etc.

    And finally, I love the domain ;-)

  5. jospoortvliet

    I agree with pretty much all comments here.
    - the website could be better (content AND layout)
    - an option for commercial support would help

    This is a business app so it will need a different kind of advertising. Spreading it in our own community won’t make much difference. Setting it up as a commercial enterprise with a few people could certainly work best, as you’d have the resources to do ads in magazines & buy adwords. It might be advisable to try and get free google adwords, however… And try and get a high google ranking for the homepage.

    Of course you could try to contact business magazines to get free advertising in the form of articles, but you’d have to be sure the product is really easy to try (also available on windows & mac, with a few-click-installer) etcetera.

    I think the pond you’re fishing in currently is very small… At least in the western world few small companies use linux and would consider using this. For large companies I doubt this is higly interesting, they rather keep to the big players in the field. At least for now. It might be useful for eg India and Brazil but you need some dedicated promo for that. I would offer to help out if I had a little more time…

  6. Anonymous

    I agree with pretty much all comments here.
    - the website could be better (content AND layout)
    - an option for commercial support would help

    This is a business app so it will need a different kind of advertising. Spreading it in our own community won’t make much difference. Setting it up as a commercial enterprise with a few people could certainly work best, as you’d have the resources to do ads in magazines & buy adwords. It might be advisable to try and get free google adwords, however… And try and get a high google ranking for the homepage.

    Of course you could try to contact business magazines to get free advertising in the form of articles, but you’d have to be sure the product is really easy to try (also available on windows & mac, with a few-click-installer) etcetera.

    I think the pond you’re fishing in currently is very small… At least in the western world few small companies use linux and would consider using this. For large companies I doubt this is higly interesting, they rather keep to the big players in the field. At least for now. It might be useful for eg India and Brazil but you need some dedicated promo for that. I would offer to help out if I had a little more time…

  7. I’m going to attack the elephant in the room here. You’re concerned about user base? You want to expand your audience? On your downloads page I don’t see a Windows or Mac port of your software. If you really want to easily expand your user base you need to go where the most users are. I am an avid linux user so don’t get me wrong here…but in general I think the long term success of attracting new users to KDE software relies way more on porting our applications to these other platforms than most people care to admit. Once you hook these Windows/Mac users on your software then they might start to care about other FOSS projects and wonder what linux is and eventually give that a try. But imho it all starts with application developers like you making your applications the gateway drug to show people the way into linux communities ;-)

  8. Gonzalo Porcel

    I am the perfect candidate for using your software. A small business owner who is well versed in free software and who runs his whole company on Floss software.

    Yet when I last tried Kraft, which was a few months ago when Kraft was still developed with the kde3 libraries, I found it too hard to use and too limited. I need to be able to issue invoices easily, but also keep track of which are paid and which are unpaid.I need to keep track of inventory and clients. In other words, who are my suppliers, what they have sold me, who I have sold it to, etc.

    But even if it was just issuing invoices, I need a system that is dead-easy to implement and use, since my administrative staff would be the ones using it. At the time, I did not understand the template system you use and the documentation was full of “Germanglish” that made it hard to understand.

    I am very grateful for the work you are doing. It is really needed and I am at your complete disposal for testing, answering questions or helping in any way I can.

    Thanks,

    gonzalo