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How to market your open source project

How to market your open source project

Talk given at Open Source 101

Ben Nuttall

March 30, 2021

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    How to market your open source project
    This talk is (mostly) not about marketing!

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    Ben Nuttall

    Software Engineer at BBC News

    Former Community Manager at
    Raspberry Pi

    Based in Cambridge, UK

    Creator of gpiozero & piwheels

    Contributor to opensource.com



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    What this talk is not

    How to buy a billboard to advertise your

    How to design a Google Adwords strategy

    How to be a social media pro

    How to go viral

    How to run a great Mailchimp email campaign

    How to optimise Google Analytics

    How to get a celebrity endorsement for your

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    What this talk focuses on

    Things you can do as a developer to make it
    easy for you and others to promote your

    Things you can do to promote your project

    How you can leverage any potential company
    support you might have

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    What does marketing mean in open source?

    Reaching new users

    Advocating for its use

    Showing how it can help

    Sharing case studies

    Building a community

    Promoting a bigger project (e.g.
    this project makes the Raspberry
    Pi look more appealing)

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    Python library - “zero-
    boilerplate” alternative to low-
    level RPi.GPIO

    Easier for beginners, nicer
    experience for advanced users

    Intended to replace the need for
    RPi.GPIO in all cases

    Python Package repository

    Provides pre-compiled
    packages for Raspberry Pi

    Makes “pip install” fast on
    Raspberry Pi

    Easy to go back to the old way
    if needed

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    Requires a change in behaviour

    Requires learning something
    thing new

    Lots of tutorials showing how
    to do things the old way

    Hard to measure success

    No change in behaviour

    Users get the new way by

    Works the same as before

    Automatic collection of detailed
    usage statistics

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    Access to source code

    Ease of installation


    Choosing a sensible name

    Choosing an appropriate licence

    Sensible versioning, backwards-
    compatibility & deprecation policy

    Meeting expectations

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    Rome wasn’t built in a day

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    Choosing a name

    Short, precise and descriptive - ideally obvious

    Well scoped (don’t overpromise)

    What’s available? Check PyPI/npm/etc

    Pronounceable (i.e. not kubectl)

    Easy to spell / not confused with something else

    Is there a convention? e.g. flask-X

    Capitalisation: lowercase, hyphenated, full English?

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    Bad things to hear about a project

    “You can’t install it the normal way - you have to download the tarball
    and build it from source”

    “Don’t bother asking for help - they’ll laugh at you and call you stupid”

    “Documentation? Just read the source code”

    “It’s on SourceForge” (sorry)

    “They only support Arch Linux”

    “It’s a more complicated way of doing X”

    “It’s not worth the pain”

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    Good things to hear about a project

    “There’s a great community”

    “It has great documentation”

    “It’s so much easier than X”

    “It’s much faster than before”

    “It has a really nice API”

    “It’s easy to get started”

    “They accepted my pull request”

    “It’s easy to extend”

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    Defining your project

    What is your project?
    – Snappy one-liner: it’s X for Y; a simple way to do X; a Python wrapper for X

    Who is it for?
    – Beginners? Advanced users? Both? People using X with Y? People using X on platform Y?

    What problem does it solve?
    – Easier? Faster? Cheaper? Automates X?

    What’s the alternative? What’s the route to change?
    – How is it better than X? How to migrate from X?

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    Expectations - finding the project

    For Debian/Ubuntu? Can I apt install?

    Python package? Can I pip install?

    NodeJS package? Can I npm install?

    On GitHub? github.com/org/project

    Where are the docs? readthedocs?

    Is there a website?

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    GitHub repository

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    Welcoming contributors

    Make it easy for someone to set
    up your project for development

    Provide developer documentation


    Lay out your contribution

    Respond to issues & PRs

    Thank people! (even for small

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    Noting contributors

    Maintain a list of contributors

    Include small & non-code
    contributions (ideas,
    suggestions, finding bugs, other

    Name & thank contributors in
    the changelog

    Mention contributors in comms
    (social, blog posts, etc)

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    Noting contributors

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    Noting contributors

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    Issues & questions

    Signpost to where you want people to go, e.g:
    – Check the FAQs first
    – Issues & bugs: GitHub issues (use templates!)
    – Q&A: GitHub discussions / Stack Exchange / community forum

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    Issue templates

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    Issue templates

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    Use appropriate tools e.g. sphinx

    Host the docs e.g. readthedocs
    or custom domain

    Host multiple versions
    (sphinx/readthedocs does this)

    Mix of automated docs (from
    docstrings) and written docs

    Include diagrams & pictures (e.g.
    graphviz & fritzing)

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    Documentation - reference vs guidance

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    The Documentation System

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    Documentation contents

    Landing page

    How to install / upgrade

    Getting started / examples

    Concepts explained

    API / CLI reference



    Migration guide

    Deprecations / breaking changes

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    Migration guide

    Help people migrate their code
    and introduce new concepts

    Compare and contrast

    Cover all areas included and
    highlight any gaps

    Explain benefits

    Cover migration FAQs

    Cover migration back if

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    Escape hatch vs Ejector seat
    What happens when users hit the limits of your abstraction?

    Option 1: go down with the ship

    Option 2: the ejector seat

    Option 3: the escape hatch

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    Open discussions & roadmap

    Be open about project goals

    Public roadmap

    Discuss decisions in public

    Issue-driven development

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    Social media - Twitter

    – Use your own account to tweet / RT about the
    – Follow search terms (e.g. TweetDeck column)

    – Tweets & RTs about your project from a
    company account could have more reach

    Project brand
    – Consider setting up an account for the project
    – Twitter bot
    – Use third-party services like Buffer to help

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    Social media - Twitter

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    Twitter bot

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    Having a website

    Could your project warrant a “home”
    on the web beyond its GitHub repo,
    documentation site, package page,

    Does your project naturally have a
    website as part of its purpose?

    Does it make sense to have a landing
    page pointing to downloads, docs,
    source, issues, social media,
    community, etc?

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    Having a website

    Is there a collection of similar projects
    like SciPy or Pallets Projects?

    Does your company have an open
    source projects page?

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    Could you write semi-regular updates
    about your project?

    Could you collate/accept community

    Start simple - use something like
    hosted WordPress

    Integrate into your website if/when
    you get one

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    Is there an existing blog you could
    contribute to?

    Tweet and promote the articles

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    Conference talks

    Could you give a conference talk
    about your project?

    Even if the talk is not about your
    project, but about another
    concept using your project

    Consider lightning talks and
    local user groups too

    Promote community members
    speaking about your project

    All Things Open CFP!

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    Can you design something simple?
    – Word logo with simple shapes?

    Can you do a call for a design
    – Create a GitHub issue

    Can you ask a designer for a quote, and
    raise the funds to pay it?

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    Hitch a lift

    Is there a relevant email
    newsletter you can submit to?

    Build a demo using another
    project, see if you can blag a RT
    out of it

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  42. @ben_nuttall
    Make & share resources





    Live streams

    Structured courses


    Worked examples (PRIMM)

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  43. @ben_nuttall
    Write for opensource.com!

    Contributions welcome

    Any topic related to open source

    2 million readers per month

    Your article will get more hits here than
    your own blog

    – @opensourceway
    – @JenWike


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  44. @ben_nuttall
    How to market your open source project
    This talk is (mostly) not about marketing!

    View full-size slide