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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Gergely Nagy dijo [Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 01:32:32PM +0100]:
> I see people around me teach their children to use and control
> computers, to build things with them, even before they learn to
> write. They have their toys, they build stuff, sometimes they
> unknowingly write programs - before the age of eight. I find that
> astounding (I used to be so proud at writing my first program before I
> could write - now it isn't all that rare, and that's a good thing, that
> people have the opportunity to do that).
> The thing is, Debian is often not available on the devices younger
> people start off with - and even if it is, not by default. Someone who
> just began to experiment, to play, will not install a whole new world
> onto his/her device. That's advanced stuff.

Well, Debian is *almost never* available by default on the devices
they start off with, and has never been. We have always been of appeal
to the technically minded (and less so to the very-freedom-minded)
public. Of course, we have tried to go beyond our natural "limits",
but -outside of some local governments providing Debian-based
solutions for a wide spectrum of their society, which cannot of course
be downplayed- have been unable to.

> Debian is also not impressively different, so to say. We have a distinct
> culture, we have great technical solutions, but those are hardly enough
> to impress someone who just casually looks. We need to reach out and
> show them that there is much more under the hood than they may imagine,
> that we can, and we do provide something unique.
> And we need to impress them. That's a very, very hard thing to do, and
> something that we'll need lots of help to accomplish, and not
> necessarily from technical folk. (Which is why one of my primary aims is
> to reach and and recruit non-technical contributors to Debian.)

How would you suggest "impressing" them? A new, shiny user interface
is not what it takes, or at least, not all it takes. We have packaged
*great* user interfaces for a very long time. Even other Linux
distributions, aimed at the desktop, have given a lot of extra shine
and polish to their UIs, someof them (i.e. our derivative Ubuntu)
developing completely new frameworks, targetted IMO to touch-devices,
which are all the rage now. And I still cannot say it impresses or
dazzles newcomers.

> Share the knowledge, share the culture, the stories. I've attended a
> couple of code retreats recently (they seem to be quite popular, and for
> a good reason), and found that they're a great forum not only to meet
> others, learn and teach, but to spread the word too, to evangelise, so
> to say. Much like DebConf, but for the not yet initiated.
> What I think would help, are more local events - not always strictly
> Debian related, as you'll only reach a tiny fraction of people with
> that. But things where the attendance can be impressed, to bring them
> closer to our culture, to our ideas. Once interested is sparked, we can
> proceed further, but it is a gradual process: we won't win anyone for
> the project overnight.
> We need to impress the young. We won't be able to do that with technical
> feats alone (though those do help, and are required, and we have much to
> improve there too, at least in the being readily available for all kinds
> of fun devices department).
> Most of the younger people I talked about Debian with in recent years
> were in their early 20s, and what they seemed most impressed about is
> not our technical feats, not our quality, not anything like that. But
> the culture.

Right, I liked very much the insight in this part: What makes Debian
unique, besides the software (which can be integrated into myriads of
other distributions) is the culture. My recent free software-related
talks have also gone more towards the free culture and flat
organization aspects than to towards technical feats. And, although
it's been a long time since I feel I got a new Debian "addict", I
think that's what we should promote if we want to give a sense of
uniqueness. The way our community works, and why it attracts the kind
of people it does. And why we continue working together.

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