I attended the Think GCloud event in London last week, which was extremely interesting and informative. In the exhibition area the words ‘open source’ were everywhere on the pop-up display stands and freebies. Clearly the sector has taken the government’s indication that it wishes to seriously consider open source solutions very seriously. Leafing through the event pamphlet while trying to recover my composure (don’t try running up the escalator at Angel on a hot day, it’s longer than you think) I noticed that although the stands were richly laced with the words ‘open source’, the descriptions of the seminars seemed to avoid them. Most notably Red Hat (tag line: “The World’s Open Source Leader”) did not mention them, instead choosing a slightly odd circumlocution:
Unlocking the Cloud
Cloud services have made Business question the relevance of IT. Innovation based on Open Standards and basic freedoms have allowed rapid take up of new technology, but without the IT control or forward thinking Departments are used to providing. Architectural oversight and a clear set of requirements, allows departments to prepare for cloud services, not just based on today’s offering but also with a view to future opportunities. The session will concentrate on Unlocking the Cloud, so Departments can take advantage of Cloud technologies but avoiding lock-in, both now and in the future.
“Open Standards and basic freedoms”? Which basic freedoms are we talking about here? Open Standards and freedom of religion? Open Standards and the right to life? It seems to me that we are probably talking about software freedom here, but for some reason we dare not speak its name.
Now I have no idea what the author of that blurb had in mind when they chose that formulation, and I am certainly not saying that Red Hat are in some way generally avoiding those words; just look at their web site. It has made me speculate though, about how we use the idea of free and open source software as a marketing tool when it is rapidly becoming the norm. Do we need to highlight it any more, or can we expect our audience to either not care or know already? For some reason Red Hat decided here to lay off their usual emphasis on the subject. Is that related to their perception of this particular audience perhaps? Or is it an understanding that when talking about cloud services, people tend not to care about the underlying freedom of the platform?
Whatever the truth, I have decided to pay more careful attention to how the freedom of free and open source software is referred to in marketing from now on. Please send me your examples!