I really should ‘egosurf‘ more. It was only because I was testing a seach engine yesterday that I stumbled across this post on ZDNet’s Linux and Open Source blog. In it, Dana Blankenhorn argues that social media make this recession different from previous ones, and that releasing open source software can help advertise your abilities as a media professional. And he does so by taking me as an example.
While it is true that WP-Cumulus has brought me some modest fame in the WordPress community, I wonder why Dana didn’t contact me to confirm some of the details in the story.
For one thing, I didn’t become self-employed until 2007, and the decision to ‘go solo’ was entirely voluntary. The article suggests I lost my job, when in fact I chose to start my own business in a relatively comfortable position, with a couple of launching customers and plenty of work.
Another thing I want to correct is that WP-Cumulus has actually brought me very little paid work. A few modified versions here and there, and it might have won a few clients over. But 99% of the people I do work for find me through word of mouth and business networking. All the direct and indirect income generated from WP-Cumulus could perhaps have bought me a nice mid-range laptop. That’s it. For now at least.
It’s been fun to have customers ask me whether I know how to install ‘that really cool 3D tag cloud’ on their blog, but to really make money off open source projects directly, you’d probably need to get into paid support, or offer a paid ‘pro’ version. If you’re using open source software to promote yourself as a professional, make sure you pick the right expertise to display. There’s very little work out there for a 3D flying tags expert :).
Social media, open source vs. the recession
Still, Dana’s basic point is correct. You can use open source software to place yourself in the spotlight. And blogging, twittering and social networking can definitely help put you on the map. It allows you to create opportunities for yourself. I guess I’m just not the best example out there.
As for making friends all over the world, that is something that surprised me. I now indeed know people on every continent, and it’s been great fun connecting with these fellow web enthusiasts. Like that one in Atlanta. Guess I’l have to send him a LinkedIn invite and see where that takes us. Here’s to optimism, Dana!