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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

The Open Source Brand

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I recently read the book Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon. It is a nice read and is replete with numerous tales of companies, brands, community building etc. It proposes a theory: brands are belief systems which have seven primal code embedded within them. The Creation Story, the Creed, the Icons, the Rituals, the Sacred Words, the Pagans and finally the Leader(s). The author goes on the cite examples of existing brands which have all of the seven pieces of code and hence are successful brands (eg. Nike, Starbucks, UPS, Microsoft). There are several which do not and according to the author they are not as strong.

Reading the book it struck me how the FOSS movement has each of the seven pieces of the code. The term Open Source however is never used in the book. So here goes my analysis of the Open Source brand.

The Creation Story: It all started when RMS found that he is not able to modify his printers source code to make it work as he wants. It picked up steam when Linus decided to write a unix like kernel for the Intel x86 processor. And thus Linux was born. For a concise history, go here.

The Creed: Undoubtedly the four freedoms. The freedom to execute for any purpose, study the source code, modify if required and redistribute. They are the cornerstone of the open source movement.

The Icons: A number of them. The most identifiable being the Tux which is the mascot of Linux. The Open Source Trademark is also a popular icon. Individual projects have their own icons as well.

The Rituals: Depends upon who you are. For the user, its the downloading a tar ball, extracting it and executing the configure, make and make install steps. For the programmer its accessing the cvs or svn repository. Postings on mailing lists, forums, the LUG's are also a ritual. Even the Vi vs Emacs flamewars on slashdot is a ritual.

The Sacred Words: Again lots of them. FOSS, FLOSS, OSS are commonly used acronyms. On the mailing lists flamewar, trolling, top posting are the words one has to learn to become a part of the community. For the programmers and hackers, the acronyms get even more arcane.

The Pagans: All Microsoft'ites in general. Even within the community there are some naysayers. The recent debate of GPL v3 has brought them out in the open. The FUD practices of Microsoft is also an example.

The Leader: Depends upon which camp you are in. If you are in the FSF then its RMS. If you are more secular, its Linus. Individual project have their own leaders.

Going by the theory of primal branding, the open source brand therefore is fundamentally very strong. And its here to stay. Hence its proven. :)

Technorati Tags: Brand, Primal Branding, FOSS, Open Source, Linux.
posted by Rajiv, 3:01 AM


Good :) The book served its purpose

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