[IAEP] Sugar Labs Marketing Team Report
sdaly.be at gmail.com
Wed Sep 14 18:14:12 EDT 2011
Name of team: Sugar Labs Marketing Team
Mission statement: The mission of the Marketing Team is to raise
awareness of the Sugar Learning Platform, particularly amongst
educators. The Marketing Team also handles press relations.
Context: Our goal is a breakout - achieving a rapid rise in awareness
of Sugar amongst the world's 10 million or so elementary school
teachers. This is possible, but requires funding (possibly joint
marketing with an OEM partner beyond OLPC) and support for a strategy
from the Sugar community. Without these, grassroots or
"lemonade-stand" task-based marketing is of course possible, but
awareness will only grow very slowly over time. A breakout will start
a positive cycle of new contributors and resources, safeguarding
Sugar's long-term longevity. I believe Sugar offers undeniable
benefits in an uncrowded product market and has the potential to gain
major market share.
Short Term Goals (three–six months):
1. Launch new website, with new content in particular screencasts
ready for localization.
2. Define new strategy.
3. Ramp up social media participation.
Medium Term Goals (6 months–one year):
1. Build up the Marketing Team.
2. Develop and launch merchandising.
3. Improve trademarks protection.
Long Term Goals (one year–three years):
1. With funding, develop a media mix including advertising to reach teachers.
2. With funding, commission recurrent market studies to better
understand (a) teacher attitudes to information and communications
technology (ICT) in the classroom and Sugar's competitors in
particular and (b) market shares of major competitors.
3. Work toward OEM deals beyond OLPC including joint marketing.
What does the team see as its constraints from being more successful
in its Mission?
* The chief constraint at this time is lack of resources. Marketing
and PR are costly and it is quite difficult to obtain meaningful
results without funding. The Marketing Coordinator has personally
funded nearly all expenses up to now, but it is no longer possible for
me to donate several thousand euros per year (not including travel
expenses). In my view we need to find contributors to start and
develop a Fundraising Team. Beyond that, the community would need to
support earmarking a hefty share of the budget for marketing and PR.
* We do not have a strategy at this time. The previous strategy -
combating the installation barrier by marketing a demo version as
Sugar on a Stick spotlighting the benefits of Activities, and
combating the unfamiliarity barrier by raising awareness working with
the press - was successful, but unfortunately fell apart after Sugar
on a Stick was taken over by Fedora. We consider teacher buy-in to be
essential, yet we are unable to offer a simple path for trying Sugar
to teachers. We have laid groundwork for an umbrella "Virtual Sugar"
strategy - proposing a matrix (distros, languages, Activity sets) of
preconfigured VMs for Windows, OS X, and GNU/Linux, supporting many
distros on an egalitarian basis - but this is on hold unless the
community can choose to support this approach. A variant involves
online emulation of the Sugar experience, but the technical challenges
appear to be insurmountable at this time.
* Technical orientation of Sugar Labs. This is a difficult and
possibly insurmountable structural problem. The majority of SL
contributors today have an engineering background; the hacker-teacher
disconnect has been well documented. There is widespread ignorance,
dismissal, or distrust of the importance of marketing, PR, and
trademarks. Often, the professionalism in writing, reviewing, and
committing code disappears when it comes time to do marketing or PR
where anything goes (cf. obscure project names). There is an
over-reliance on systems and technical tools. Contributing code is a
higher-status activity than doing something else, which encourages a
caste system. In these regards Sugar Labs closely resembles other
free/libre open source software technical projects. Unfortunately,
very few such projects have ever succeeded breakout marketing. I
believe we need to break the mold and do things differently.
* Product quality. Sugar is buggy and, if not already installed on a
non-OLPC computer, represents a technical challenge for teachers who
need a trouble-free tool in the classroom. A reliable, bulletproof
Sugar would spread very quickly by word of mouth; teachers would
become product evangelists. This is not possible today. Compounding
the problem, teachers do not find the assistance and support they need
on our current websites; the MIT MarketLab study showed that today,
our site is not fulfilling its role of informing and supporting
teachers. We may want to consider a one-year development cycle over
the existing six-month cycle in order to focus on quality.
* Absence of OLPC marketing support. OLPC has never had a marketing
department, yet has done a great job of raising awareness through
world-class PR and product design. To my knowledge, OLPC has never
conducted a market study concerning teacher awareness, but anecdotal
evidence suggests that aided awareness of "the little green laptop
with a crank" is quite high. Unfortunately, Sugar is often omitted in
OLPC communications; for example OLPC's new website's About/Software
page only mentions Sugar in passing, with no logo at all. The OLPC
Association has helpfully worked on promoting Sugar as part of their
value proposition in pitches, but consistent joint marketing with OLPC
would benefit everyone in the ecosystem.
* Limited availability of XOs. From the start of the project until
today, with the exception of the G1G1 program, it is extremely
difficult for teachers and journalists to obtain an XO laptop running
Sugar. As this is Sugar's native platform - eliminating the
installation barrier - this policy hampers our ability to easily
demonstrate Sugar as it used by most Learners today. Adam has done a
great job with the Contributors Program, but the possibility of easily
organizing small deployments would be invaluable for obtaining
* Absence of usage experience data from teachers and Sugar Learners.
With over two million instances of Sugar in use through OLPC, we do
not have consistent, reliable feedback flowing back to us from the
major deployments. We are not even sure which versions of Sugar are in
use where. This information is vital for us to understand teachers'
and pupils' needs better and to shape our marketing message.
* Documentation. Sugar is an unfamiliar interface for teachers and
documentation (including screencasts) need to be improved. (I have
struggled for two years to find a reliable screencast solution, I am
hoping the newly updated Activity will fit the bill.) Rich
documentation eases the preparation of marketing materials.
* Infrastructure. With Google Apps, we were able to easily publish our
PR. This has disappeared and there is as yet no replacement (I use
gmail and mass mailings are immediately blocked from personal
What are you doing to try to resolve the constraints?
The marketing challenges can be met. I am however pessimistic
concerning the technical orientation of the project. In my view, if
teachers had more weight in Sugar Labs, the Marketing Team could spend
a lot less time explaining and fighting and more time marketing.
However, for this to happen, developers would need to accept teachers'
recommendations concerning the project's orientations. FLOSS engineers
generally have a healthy aversion to accepting assigned projects such
as at classic marketing-run companies like Microsoft or Apple. It is
my hope that SL developers (and packagers, etc.) would become
motivated to do so through contact wth teachers and Learners and
reliable feedback concerning Sugar.
What can Sugar Labs 'central' or the community do to help?
I believe it is critical for Sugar Labs to:
1) Raise funds. The absence of resources causes many other unnecessary
difficulties. This of course also involves a treasurer and
comptroller, but countless other nonprofits have met that challenge.
2) Create a forum for teachers. This was a key recommendation of the
MarketLab study and is underway for the new SL website. This could
help us in gathering reliable feedback from deployments. We will need
3) Give more governance weight to educators. This could be achieved in
several ways, but I believe the best way would be to form an executive
committee of team leaders meeting periodically. The marketing strategy
could be aligned with the development roadmap for a start, resources
allocation could be hashed out, in general more unity of purpose could
be achieved. At the same time, I believe it may be beneficial to
remake the Oversight Board with allocated seats for educators (under
the current conditions they will never be elected). Perhaps candidates
could run as either general contributor or educator, and the top two
scoring educators could take seats on the Board?
Many thanks for those who manage to read through to here :-)
Sugar Labs Marketing Coordinator
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