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Toy Penguins and Male Egos Drove Linux Acceptance 548

An anonymous reader writes "Germany's local and city councils have been pioneering the migration from Windows to Linux. Now, one of the IT staff behind one move has revealed how they persuaded workers to accept the changes. Stuffed toy penguins and Linux t-shirts helped to create an open-source love-in at the council offices, and they got a senior chairwoman to demonstrate the new system to the troops. Male ego stopped anyone claiming that Linux was difficult to use, once they'd seen that the 'weaker sex' could master it :)"
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Toy Penguins and Male Egos Drove Linux Acceptance

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:34PM (#8251846)
    Glad to see Germany's just as progressive as it was back in the day. /sarcasm
  • by eddiegee ( 236525 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:35PM (#8251847)
    and it called MARKETING!!!
    • by djeaux ( 620938 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:39PM (#8251906) Homepage Journal
      Marketing is something Linux needs. Of course, that's the weak point for a lot of open source.

      Tux toys & t-shirts sound trivial, but they loosen people up about something that a lot of non-tech types think is "hard". Setting up the "sexist" argument ("Even the women can use this OS") is even appropriate if that's what it takes to make decision-makers come around.


      • by Killswitch1968 ( 735908 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:55PM (#8252112)
        Despite all the claims of 'monopoly' scarcely anyone steps back and REALLY analyzes why open source hasn't taken hold. And the answer inevitably leads to little or no marketing. A good product that no one knows about won't be used.
        • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @08:19PM (#8254705) Journal
          The problem *really* is, most "marketing" is centered around lying or pushing around half-truths, so people hear only what they want to hear about a given new product.

          If "marketing" really equated with "teaching people about the product", advertisements would point out all the pluses AND minuses.

          Linux lacking "marketing" is probably partially because open source developers don't stand to benefit in the long run if everyone goes around heralding their unfinished work as the ultimate solution to a problem. Folks find out it's not, and then they're soured to the whole project. Developers, unlike businesses, are just concerned with building the best product they can build. Marketing is about generating *sales* and bringing in the maximum amount of *profit*. These aren't an integral part of the Linux requirements for existance.
      • That's true, but part of the reason that Open source doesn't go in for marketing is that that's not the point. It's software to solve a specific problem, and if it solves other people's problems, so much the better. Marketing will potentially help the end users become aware of the software, but it really doesn't do the software any good or harm if people know about it or not.

        Commercial software on the other hand, is simply to make money for companies. This is not a bad thing; simply the way the market
      • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:14PM (#8252310) Homepage
        Don't blame the marketer for putting himself in the marketee's mindframe.

        The sexist attitude exists in the males they're trying to convince. Not necessarily the marketer. The technique was actually trying to change this perception by preying on the mistaken attitude.
        • No, its not trying to change it, its trying to take advantage of it. Akin to the traditional Republican technique for gathering Southern White votes in America. Appeal to racism.

          And how do you think this would rub those that do not have the same shortcomming? Such as women? or non-chauvanistic men?
          • To see a woman demonstrating software? I mean, I assume they didn't put her on the stage and say thinks like "Hey! *Even* women can go this!". It was a 'by example' thing. So the women and non-chauvanistic men would be offended...why?
      • by spacecowboy420 ( 450426 ) <rcasteen@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:20PM (#8252385)
        I wonder if it would help the decision makers to know that not only does my 8 yr old girl use linux, she prefers mandrake over fedora. Not that it is saying much, but she installed and updated Mandrake 9.2 this weekend with very little guidance. If she can do it, so should any grown man. Man, I beam with pride everytime I see my little girl use the command line.
    • by robslimo ( 587196 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:43PM (#8251950) Homepage Journal
      ...and damned good marketing too.

      Somehow it leaves me feeling a little uneasy, though. I bet I'd be influenced by the same or similar tactics, even though I've read this article. It leaves my ego a bit worse for the wear to know that I (hell, we!) am so easily swayed by savvy marketing techniques.

      Example: even if janet jackson winds up paying fines for her Super Bowl stunt, I'll bet she gets exactly what she intended in terms of sales and publicity. The people she pissed off were never her customers anyway.

      • Re:Janet Jackson (Score:3, Insightful)

        by emptybody ( 12341 )
        She has won.

        She was disappearing from the public radar.
        She was loosing her celebrity status.

        On Tuesday following the half time show she was:
        on the cover of 8 different magazines at B&N
        on the cover of a number of local papers
        in the headlines on more magazines and papers
        on every news cast
        in various articles inside the various media formats

        her name continues to be brought up in obscure places like slashdot.
    • Damnably effective marketing.

      The article spends a fair amount of time talking about how they dealt with their proverbial "sticks in the mud" and talking about a few of the benefits of running linux vs. Windows, and then finishes up with the following paragraph:

      Late on Tuesday, Microsoft issued a patch for a vulnerability in its Windows software that could be used to unleash a virus even more devastating than MyDoom. This patch should be installed by anyone running Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP o

    • by eugene ts wong ( 231154 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @07:10PM (#8254217) Homepage Journal

      Just a few minutes ago, Aunt Tilley taught me how to compile my 1st kernel, & when I asked her a question, she refused to answer. I can't remember what she said exactly, but was something to do with man pages, howtos & Google.
  • by JimmytheGeek ( 180805 ) <> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:35PM (#8251851) Journal
    Not that it's a great sales tactic: "You don't need that wimpy ease-of-use"

    Gotta keep the spin "Easy enough for *her*, so you can certainly handle it."
  • booth girls (Score:5, Funny)

    by frankmu ( 68782 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:35PM (#8251852) Homepage
    so we need to send out troops of booth girls with Knoppix in hand to shame the microsofties into submission. they can stop by my office first.
  • by bad enema ( 745446 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:36PM (#8251862)
    Where have I seen this before? :)
  • by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:36PM (#8251866) Journal
    This is hardly new... all it has ever taken to get a guy to do something is say something like "oh, if it's too heavy for you I can ask someone else"

    'cept for those of us who learned the game and call the bluff with "sure, go right ahead"
    • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:01PM (#8252171) Journal
      I always help -- I guess I "get" the concept that I can lift more than almost any woman -- something about testosterone and being a lumberjack in my youth.

      But if you can't lift more than they can, by all means send them along to somebody that can.

      Oh, and just because they are using a trick on you doesn't mean they don't need your help. Just smile and say "Sure, but next time just ask instead of playing the mind games." Being a jerk doesn't allow you to change behaviour -- or get dates for that matter.

      • Actually I tend to do what you recommend (say "just ask"). I am after all a rather big fellow. But if they use the blatant "poor wittle me can't do anything for myself" technique, I'm liable to be a jerk, yeah. (nor, for the record, do I want to date someone who pulls that shit :) )
        • No, you don't want to date somebody who pulls that shit -- but you don't want every other women within earshot saying "asshole" under her breath :-)

          The "sure, but just ask" sends the dual message "not a sap" AND "not an ass".

  • WHAT?!?!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:37PM (#8251872) Homepage Journal
    You mean you converted a group of people to Linux without shouting things like "RTFM!!!"???

    Maybe we should rethink our strategies...
  • Commercialism? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MoebiusStreet ( 709659 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:37PM (#8251879)
    This sounds suspiciously like how the world of commercial software works :o
  • Geek girl? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kefoo ( 254567 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:38PM (#8251889)
    A woman who uses Linux? I'm in love.
  • It's brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The I Shing ( 700142 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:38PM (#8251890) Journal
    To rework a famous old saying, no-one ever went broke overestimating the impact of appealing to the male ego.

    That's brilliant marketing to use a female rep to demo a product to a bunch of men.

    A lot of companies would do well to follow that example, I think.
  • by Supp0rtLinux ( 594509 ) <> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:38PM (#8251891)
    pic []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:40PM (#8251917)
    ...that these penguins were stuffed with narcotics.
  • by lowe0 ( 136140 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:40PM (#8251922) Homepage
    And people wonder where sexism in technology comes from.

    Using it to your advantage is not the same thing as working to eliminate it.
    • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:55PM (#8252109)
      This is hardly a technology issue. Human beings are social in nature and therefore we all experience social pressures. It's a fact of being alive. To ignore the fact that women and men are different is assine.

      Using marketing is only natural. It works, and it works very well is all aspects of life, not just technology.
  • I hate male ego (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:40PM (#8251923) Journal
    I should probably submit this anonymously*, but what the heck.

    I don't know if it is in our genes, or if it's a product of our environment, but male ego resulting from male dominance even affects me a ton.

    I was running on a treadmill earlier this week, and there was a girl who was running on one next to me at the same time, at roughly the same speed. There was _no_ way I was going to let myself stop before she did--because she was a girl. And I recognized this as I was running.

    Seems kind of silly, I know, but that's what was in my head.

    *I've heard that posting anonymously at slashdot isn't really, so what's the difference?
    • have some fun! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 23 ( 68042 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:54PM (#8252097)
      so what's the problem? Dude, don't take yourself so seriously! :-)

      when I'm out running along a well used path in my town, there is no fucking way I can live with a woman running infront of me. At times this put me close to a heart-attack. But I have all the more fun because this kind of stuff. Same thing, when I try to overtake someone who is barely slower than me. heh.

      Man, this is oart of the fun of life! As long as you realize, that your life does not depend on being cooler/stronger/faster/whatever I consider it good-natured fun. After all, where would be in technology without some good ol' testosterone-driven competition?

      plus, women have some fun --uhm, let's call them characteristics to laugh about

    • Re:I hate male ego (Score:5, Insightful)

      by corbettw ( 214229 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:57PM (#8252132) Journal
      Gee, are you suggesting that certain human behavior is hardwired into our psyche? Just like every single other mammal on the planet? And you're just now realizing this??

      You can either accept that you're an animal with instincts, and learn how to control them/live with them, or you can deny your basic nature and keep banging your head against the wall. The choice is yours. The upshot on the former is, everyone else is governed by those same instincts, so you can use them to help get people to do what you want them to.
    • Re:I hate male ego (Score:5, Interesting)

      by queen of everything ( 695105 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:58PM (#8252151) Homepage

      I do too...

      I don't like that if a girl can do it, any man can...I can do a lot of things with a computer that many men can't do. I work hard to learn all that I can and I don't like that when I am up against a man, everyone automatically listens to what he says over me. I know what I'm talking about, I've been using computers longer than everyone that I know. When I go into a computer store all the clerks swarm to help the poor, defenseless, dumb girl buy expensive things for her computer. It really bugs me. Don't question my intelligence, I know what I'm doing.

      I think its an excellent way to market linux to a bunch of men, but it still bugs me that people think like that.

      • Re:I hate male ego (Score:3, Informative)

        by el-spectre ( 668104 )
        Until the last coupla millenia (centuries? decades?) , the primary social skill in our species has been dominance, usually physical. Most men are stronger than most women... we just carry these assumptions over into other fields. Old habits die hard.

        That said, if I have the choice, I prefer a female tech/mechanic/(fill in typically-male-job) because they tend to be the best, having had to overcome bias AND having had the guts to stick with it.

        Out of curiosity, are you the type of woman who is offended tha
    • by pyros ( 61399 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:00PM (#8252166) Journal
      I had a similar experience, only it was with two people: a tatooed woman and a midget. The midget didn't last too long, but he surprised me. I felt pretty relieved when the woman got off the treadmill. I quickly got off my cross-trainer and felt even more relieved when I saw that she had merely moved to a cycle after getting off the treadmill. Then I realised I was secretly competing with a tatooed lady and a midget. I promptly shrunk my hands, bathed in cabbage, and joined a carnival.
    • It's not just me then.

      I went to the gym the other day to do some weight training and I wanted to get warmed up first. I decided that a gentle jog on the treadmill would get the blood moving. As soon as I started jogging a really pretty girl got on the treadmill next to me and started running and I ended running a lot faster and longer than I had originally intended to and my weight training suffered because of it.

      The worst part is that I knew exactly what I was doing, but I did it anyway.

    • Re:I hate male ego (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <kjetil @ k> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:21PM (#8252403) Homepage Journal
      Hehe. Take it from me, unless you're a world class athlete, there is always a cute little 18 year-old girl who do it better than you. Get over it. :-)

      I learnt this fact of life allready when I was 16, and I think it probably helped me avoid a too-inflated ego...: It was at the end of one of my first mountain triathlon, and after three hours of running a was totally exhausted. Just before the final hard climb, there was this girl, one year younger than me, who just parked me completely.

      You bet, if you meet one of those one the threadmill next to you, and you awaken her competition instinct, you'll find yourself dying at the end of the threadmill at the end of the day... :-)

  • by gUmbi ( 95629 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:45PM (#8251977)
    If BSD weren't dying it'd be presented by this chick []
  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <<jhummel> <at> <>> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:45PM (#8251983) Homepage
    Oddly enough, I recently saw this in Doctorow's "East Coast Tribe", but this was something I learned when I first worked in an IT department.

    It doesn't matter if your systems are uber-fast. It doesn't matter if they have a low error rate. It doesn't matter if they are made to be user friendly.

    If the users of those systems perceive they are slow, inefficient, hard to use, great, best machines ever - whatever they percieve, that is the reality.

    So a good IT staff does two things:

    1. Work on their C. I. A. pieces.
    2. Work to help the users percieve their systems as being C. I. A. good.

    Let's face it - this is why Microsoft is on 90-odd% of all desktop systems out there: people percieve their systems as working, as easy to use, and that everything else is inferior whether that is true or not.

    Once you convince them that a Linux or Mac desktop works just as well - if not faster and more securely - on their desk as a Windows box, and that they can use the same kinds of applications, you're set.

    I've had IT guys whom I respect greatly tell me they'd love to switch to "OS X", but don't want to because they fear the "learning curve". It's not a "noobie" issue at all - perception clouds everything.

    And Brauner made the right calls. To those who had problems, he showed them how it was easy. To those who thought he was being mean, he displayed himself as a "fun guy" with shirts and toys. To those who thought the system was "hard" he showed a secretary doing her job with ease - the person that all my programming teachers taught me to program interface for, since "if a secretary can run it, anybody can".

    Excellent work on his part for recognizing that the human element is as important as the technical one at times.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:48PM (#8252021)
    That's it, I'll switch to hurd.
  • by psycho_tinman ( 313601 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:52PM (#8252075) Journal

    I can just see the marketing people on the other side *cough* those convicted monopolists, remember them ? the guys who claim the GPL should be stamped out ? *cough* making hay with this.. ?

    "Ooh, we don't manipulate you", they'll coo. "We just give you a product that you know and is easy to use". And heck, if that doesn't work, they'll just add a whopping discount on top of it to seal the bargain.

    Maybe I'm just egotistic myself, but if I heard that I had been manipulated into something I wasn't sure about, and if I heard about it later on (with a "ha ha ha. owned!" comment, to boot), I'd be quite wary of the next thing that particular guy tried to foist on me.

    Which brings me to the question.. does OSS really need marketshare like this ? It's just me, probably, but I'd prefer people make an informed choice rather than go "hey, why don't we use this because we don't want to be outdone/look foolish". If you can convince people to install it that easily, they'll just as easily be swayed by the next marketing gimmick, and which side (OSS or the other guys) have more marketing muscle ?

  • Amusing (Score:5, Funny)

    by sir_cello ( 634395 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:57PM (#8252140)

    Good to know that Linux wins on technical merit and avoids the kind of gimmicks used by other big name software vendors ...
  • by adrianbaugh ( 696007 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:00PM (#8252163) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago they gave away beanie babies with Happy Meals: I just had to get the penguin one :-) (Actually, I got two as I had a SMP box at the time!)
  • by Teckla ( 630646 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:01PM (#8252176)

    For a long time, I've been a huge proponent of ease-of-use. While I respected Linux from a technical perspective, I've long been dissapointed in it from an ease-of-use perspective.

    That all changed the last time I tried Linux. Knoppix, to be exact. It was jaw-droppingly impressive to me: the hardware recognition; the ease-of-use; the clean interface (KDE, in this case, though I suspect GNOME is just as nice); everything was polished and smooth.

    And then it hit me, there are only two things stopping Linux from making deep inroads into the desktop market these days:

    1. Drivers, drivers, drivers. Not enough hardware makers are bothering with drivers for Linux. Kudos to all the Linux folks writing drivers, but Linux is always at least a step or two behind. However, this problem may be solved if the project that allows Windows drivers to work under Linux is successful.

    2. Inertia. Everyone uses Windows, therefore...everyone keeps using Windows.

    My hope is that the low cost of Linux will keep driving people into its loving arms. does this post apply to the topic at hand? Simple: anyone who has given modern distributions of Linux a chance already knows what I know: Linux is just as easy to use as Windows these days (or close enough that it doesn't matter), and the only thing holding Linux back now are the two items I listed above. Anyone who claims modern distributions of Linux are too hard to use probably shouldn't be using computers at all.


    • The only reason companies don't release driver's for Linux is because "no one uses Linux". "Everyone uses Windows", they think, "so we can capture most of our market by just working on Windows."

      Of course, this isn't true anymore, and slowly, as more people are using Linux, more companies are realizing that Linux is worth supporting.

      This doesn't apply just to drivers, it applies to specialized software as well.
    • by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:34PM (#8252568) Homepage Journal
      1. Drivers, drivers, drivers. Not enough hardware makers are bothering with drivers for Linux. Kudos to all the Linux folks writing drivers, but Linux is always at least a step or two behind. However, this problem may be solved if the project that allows Windows drivers to work under Linux is successful.

      Frankly, I don't want most hardware makers to be writing lots of Linux drivers. I want them to build their stuff to use documented protocols (USB/Firewire/IDE/etc.) correctly so that their hardware Just Works everywhere. That way, I can pick up a piece of new hardware and have it run without any obnoxious CD loading, file downloading or kernel module installation whatsoever.

      That's the sort of ease-of-use we should be encouraging.

  • by mark0 ( 750639 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:04PM (#8252205)
    ... so no penis enlargement ads... Therefore, when I'm using Linux, I know my penis is not in need of enlargement. Reason enough for adoption for me...
  • by ektor ( 113899 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:08PM (#8252249)
    $40 billion would go a long way buying t-shirts and stuffed animals to woo users.
  • by musikit ( 716987 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:11PM (#8252279)
    i would describe this in the same manor i would describe there being few waitors.

    women trust women. and men like to look at breast.

  • Women... (Score:5, Funny)

    by derphilipp ( 745164 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:21PM (#8252387) Homepage
    harder to understand than klingon,
    harder to handle than SAP,
    harder to resist than an open telnet port...

    Ain't women what we all do this for ?
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:28PM (#8252498) Homepage Journal
    My wife mastered it after a year away from OS/2. I have a half-blind neighbor who is getting there, coming from being a 12:00 flasher on Windoze. Many people in the group I hang out with is involved with this, and many of *them* aren't that technically inclined.

    So... how hard is it, really?

  • by Revek ( 133289 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:29PM (#8252511) Homepage
    The problem with migration from windows to linux is really a question of what you are used to. People gripped a lot when microsoft made its migration from windows 3.11 to windows 95. They could not find their programs, screensaveers, etc.etc. The gnome or kde desktops with koffice work just fine. They may not contain all the bells and whistles of microsoft products but they are fully functional. They may have trouble with printers or external devices but I have to show one lady how to print to a different printer on her machine on a weekly basis. Users will get used to anything. After all they got used to haveing to restart twice a day. Personally for me a move to linux would reduce the number of virus ladden emails I can't convince them not to open. It would also reduce the spyware I have to clean off weekly.

  • by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:50PM (#8252743) Homepage
    Someone has just come up with step 2:
    1. Write free software
    2. Promote using techie bimbo and assortment of stuffed toys (was: ???)
    3. Profit!
    A great day indeed.
  • B29 Strategy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:53PM (#8252776)
    A similar strategy was used in WW2 to get pilots to accept the B29 bomber, which was considered difficult to fly.
    The male pilots decided that it was flyable when a crew of female pilots were trained to fly it.
  • by butane_bob2003 ( 632007 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @08:13PM (#8254650) Homepage
    Is responsible for the adoptation of Linux. Bear with me here. The idea of women being the 'weaker sex' is a product of the 1000+ year old war on pagan goddess worship waged by the Catholic Church. Women in ancient times were revered as sacred vessels of fertility. Constantine, later rulers and the Catholic Popes did their best to destroy the idea of goddess worship and make the women a secondary being, which was a major factor in shaping our society today.

    So when men are amazed at women's ability to use Linux, their amazement can be attributed to the work of the early Roman Catholic Church, which continues today.

    IFO was sold on Linux not by a woman, but by a penguin. I don't know how where the Church comes in there. The nuns in the catholic school I went to as a kid looked a lot like penguins. But I was never attracted to them. Really.
    • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @09:37PM (#8255291) Homepage Journal
      The idea of women being the 'weaker sex' is a product of the 1000+ year old war on pagan goddess worship waged by the Catholic Church.

      Well, well, trolling against a religious group I see... I'm not in the habit of defending organised religion, but you're making my bullshit radar go off the chart.

      Women in ancient times were revered as sacred vessels of fertility. Constantine, later rulers and the Catholic Popes did their best to destroy the idea of goddess worship and make the women a secondary being, which was a major factor in shaping our society today.

      Yeah, next you're gonna claim that women had the right to vote in Athens huh?

      First of all, Judaism started a pogrom against godess worship 3 thousand years before that.

      Secondly, women have been considered the weaker sex in china and japan for aeons too, where they hadn't even heard of the Catholic church. Women in china and japan were forbidden from learning to write, so they had to make up their own "women's language". Hiragana and Katakana in japan, and I forget the name of the chineese one.
      What, did the catholic church pray for the heatens to embrace that woman-bellitteling you pretend they invented?

      And finally, the reason women are considered the weaker sex is because they are weaker. Is the roman catholic church also responsible for secretly weakening female olympians so that they would systematically achive lower performances than that of the mens? What secret roman catholic magic powers did they use to accomplish that? The gap has been shortening in recent decades thanks to illicit drugs and homone treatments (see the east-germany women's olympic swimming team from 1976 and 1980...scary!), but women still lift less, swim and run slower, etc.

      Jeez, using anti-sexism to spread racism...that's something.

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