Open source is an interesting thing to say the least. In fact, that's quite an understatement. Allow me to explain:
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of representing Red Hat with a booth at POSSCON 2010. On the table sat three distinct groups of items: a few Red Hat whitepapers and datasheets, Fedora swag, and finally on the right-hand side were opensource.com fliers and buttons. A volunteer at the event came up to me while setting up and asked if he could have a button. He immediately attached it to his lanyard directly above his nametag. Cool, I thought. I didn't really think much of it as I still had a booth to finish setting up.
However, as people began to filter in, a few came up and said they had seen his button, asked him about it, and wanted buttons for their lanyards. While they were at the booth, many also grabbed a Fedora 12 disc, and we were able to carry on a conversation about Red Hat services and products. Yet I kept getting interrupted by people just wanting a button. It seemed as if it had become uncool to not have a button on your lanyard. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was completely out of buttons.
Regardless of any extra traffic I was able to generate for opensource.com or any extra customers I was able to bring to Red Hat, I know that our primary mission was a success. I helped people new to open source learn how they can get involved. When students from local schools stopped by, they were shocked to learn that they could get involved with open source without knowing anything about code. They told their friends, and those friends stopped by for more information. Judging by the great conversations I had with so many different people, coupled with the visits from people who had heard we had something more to say than that we are selling software that also happens to be open source, I'd say it was a resounding success.
Little did I know that a little button with simple text would be the catalyst for such great interactions.
So, as usual, I like to follow up with a request for comments. Did you come by and talk to me at POSSCON? Did you get a button or a flier? Have you had similar experiences where the open idea you're presenting just speaks for itself? If so, share below.