I am thinking of Fedora in light of an article about Billy Mays on Copy Bloggler.

“So how do you know if the product you’re currently selling or developing is great… and easy to sell? According to Billy Mays your product must have these 5 Essential Character Traits:”

1. Solve a problem
2. Have mass appeal
3. Be unique
4. Offer instant gratification
5. Be demonstrable

The Fedora Project is not selling anything.  It is all free, but we still want to create a solid product that is wildly successful.

But great salesmanship, contrary to popular opinion, is not about selling ice to Eskimos.

The truth is less flamboyant, and far more reasonable.

Simply put, behind every great salesman is a great product. And Billy Mays understood that better than most.

Because if it’s a great product—it was easy for Billy to sell, using salesmanship techniques he had honed over two decades of selling.

As the Fedora Project continues to define its Target Audience these are great points to think of in terms of how we attract people to the Fedora Project and what it looks like to create a compelling Linux distribution.

Some people people may chafe at the notion of the Fedora Distribution as a “product.”  I can understand that, particularly if working on a “product” is associated with strict process, lots of bureaucracy, endless meetings, and the pressure to constantly generate more revenue.  Maybe that is one reason some people think defining a target audience for the Fedora distribution is going too far.

Here is how I see these five points applying to Fedora.

Solve a problem–Many people will try Fedora for fun, but if it really solves a problem for them they will stick around.  They will also share it with others.

Have mass appeal–Fedora should put its best foot forward among the segment of people that we identify Fedora for. This point may not fit Fedora as well.  We maybe not be able to appeal to as many people as a stain remover.  The heart of the “Target Audience” discussion is that Fedora cannot be everything to everyone.

Be unique–A lot of Linux distributions look the same.  A lot of open source projects have the same goals and structure.  What really differentiates Fedora and how can we call that out in a way that corresponds to these other attributes?  We may need to differentiate ourselves more than just being the “free-est free” Linux distribution.  Especially if our Target Audience does not understand or place a high value on the pureness of Fedora’s free-ness.

Offer instant gratification— If Fedora “just works” people are less likely to abandon it in favor of something else.  If it solves a problem they have immediately, in a meaningful way, why would they go somewhere else?

Demonstrable–if we can’t clearly and easily demonstrate that the Fedora Distribution: solves a problem, is appealing, is unique, and gives instant gratification, new users may go somewhere else.

Admittedly, Fedora may not fit in as broad a market as OxiClean, so I’m thinking of these points in the context of our identified target audience.  Some of these are a stretch, but they are great questions to ask ourselves if we want Fedora to be great.