Building up the Advocacy Community

by Jono Bacon

When I first got into Open Source many moons ago, the advocacy movement was a thriving and vocal part of the community. Most of the movers and shakers back in the day were advocating the use of free and open software at work, to their friends and to their local community via LUGs and other groups. Back then, advocacy was a key part of the community, not only in showing existing computer users this alternative software, but also advising disadvantaged people for whom free software could really open up the doors to skill, employment and potential.

Recently it seems this community-driven advocacy effort has petered out somewhat, and there are far fewer people talking about, conducting, exploring, refining and pushing Open Source advocacy. What is surprising is that advocacy is certainly still going on. Within Open Source organisations as well as LUGs, community groups, IRC channels, forums and mailing lists there are countless people discussing and pushing the Open Source message. As I have written about a number of times in previous articles, advocacy is an artform that needs a reasoned, measured response, and is something that can certainly be buffed and refined. In other words, a stronger community could not only help spread Open Source further, but refine the quality of the message that is being pushed to develop an increased understanding in Open Source and free software.

So what can we do? Well, I would love to see more and more people getting involved in advocacy. To help push this a little further, I have set up Planet Advocacy. Like every other Planet site, Planet Advocacy collects together the blogs of those people who are involved in advocacy in some way. Planets have proven an ideal mechanism for developing ideas and communication between different people. It provides a one stop shop for the cutting edge.

With the site still shiny and new, I am looking for people to add to Planet Advocacy. If you think your blog would be an interesting addition, get in touch with me and tell me how you are involved with advocacy and also include a 62x80 hackergotchi .png of your face. To be clear, you don't need to work as a professional advocate to get on Planet Advocacy - if you are advocating Open Source in your spare time, you are more than welcome. Planet Advocacy is really only the start. It would be great to see more articles, case studies, discussion groups and public meetings. The people are out there, we just need to share our experience and ideas.

Advocacy is an important component in the Open Source community. There are thousands of companies, charities, schools and people for whom Open Source could make a real and tangible difference - intelligent advocacy can help bring them over to us. There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing someone get as excited about Open Source as we all were when we first started out. Helping to bring new people over not only extends and improves our community, but it spreads the underlying principles of Open Source such as choice, openness and collaboration. Lets see what we can achieve...

What do you think? Would you like to get involved? Do you think increased advocacy is worthwhile?