Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
The little boy that learned everything.

The little boy that learned everything.

As Joe has pointed out, the Linux Foundation is sponsoring a “We’re Linux” video contest, soliciting budding filmmakers for their take on Linux for the masses. As someone pointed out in an earlier comment here, a winning commercial is really going to have to stand out compared to IBM’s super-cool 90-second spot and the array of supporting spots.

I think the argument rages on as to whether or not it’s useful to market Linux right now to the masses. I certainly believe Linux at least solves some of the most aggravating problems regular Joes and Sallies have with home computing. On the other hand, there’s a fair case that right now, Linux comes along with its own set of head-scratchers. All other things being equal, I’ll take freedom any day, though. I certainly believe that Fedora is on the right track both to creating a less problematic Linux, and to showing off the best of what Linux can do to solve the problems created by other operating systems, in a way that promotes the principles and practices that have made FOSS successful.

Having said all that, and with the competition hopefully being stiff, let me offer some pointers for things to avoid; were I a judge, these things would eliminate entries.

  • Bad production quality. Unless the production values play directly into the message of the spot, anything not shot at the quality level of 24p HD video and with good sound would be out.
  • Montages of community people. I love community, and I suspect most people reading this do as well. But the masses don’t care a fig about it, so it’s not a way to market Linux to them.
  • Aping other successful commercial ads. Unless the joke is really, really good, originality is what sets successful ads apart. Stand out with a new idea, not by rehashing someone else’s. Building on others’ code works wonders, but building on someone else’s ad campaign is usually a buzzkill.
  • Being wordy. Wordy is for business audiences, and explaining what Linux is in 30 seconds to the layman doesn’t make for a great ad. Finding an idea that Linux exemplifies, and then magnifying that, just might.

Anyway, this is all my humble opinion and I wish all the contestants, and the Linux Foundation contest judges also, well in their efforts! I hope any ambitious filmmakers out there in the Fedora community will give this contest a shot, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results in April.


  1. I haven’t watched that famous IBM ad in a while, and re-watching it years later made for an interesting experience.

    For once, with hindsight, I know that Linux has indeed learned and grown a lot, and is the prodigy the ad portrays it to be. It is a good feeling.

    Secondly, and disappointingly, the ad is populated exclusively by males, with the exception of one female talking to the kid and a disembodied female voice asking “What’s his name?”

    This parallels the gender representation in the Linux community to some degree, which is also kinda sad.

    I hope the ads submitted to the contest will speak to men and women alike and make Linux look attractive to everyone, no matter their gender, level of education, or their cultural background.

  2. Zonker

    Great points, well made. I hope to see some high-quality videos that the Linux Foundation (as well as community distros) can promote. Ideally, we’d be able to promote these widely after the contest. Every bit helps.

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