Madagascar is all about users helping each other and advancing open technology for the benefit of everyone. Because of the network effect, all users benefit from an increase in their ranks, through more bug reports, more user-contributed documentation, more platforms configured and more developers emerging. I see two ways of increasing the community that can be exploited through concerted action. I list them below and welcome opinions and suggestions in the “Comments” section.
The first avenue for concerted action is targeted more towards small users. It consists in conducting a “Google bombing”. Let me explain what that is.
There are basically three ways in which users get to Madagascar’s website: (1) Word of mouth; (2) following a link from a website, and (3) typing a search phrase in a search engine, and finding Madagascar highly ranked in the search results. It is this last one (3) which can be improved. The number of phrases that a user would search for a package like Madagascar is relatively small: “open source seismic software”, “free seismic software”, maybe with some attribute like “processing” before “seismic”, or “package” instead of “software”. Madagascar users are a pretty web-literate bunch, and many of us have websites. If we decide on a search phrase that users are more likely to search on, we can improve Madagascar’s ranking for that search by using that phrase in links from our websites to Madagascar! Technical details on Wikipedia. Suggestions of which search phrases users are more likely to search are welcome.
Google’s bots are smart! It is important that the link be made from a page that contains actual content (especially content related to Madagascar, i.e. geophysical/reproducibility/software dMadagascar Enterpriseevelopment). It may be tempting to make the link invisible and place it on a lot of pages unrelated to that topic on one’s website, but this can cause Google to downgrade the linker itself for spamming. The domain name of the linker matters. Websites of well-regarded institutions with educated, selected members and no commercial interests can propel the ranking to the top of Google. A single link from a page with a reputable “.edu” subdomain can propel a search result to first place. It is a good idea to put the link on a page that itself is being a target of honest links from other pages, especially popular, high-content-quality pages on other domains. If possible, the linker should be as close to the root of his domain name as possible: A page buried 7 levels deep in a website is not even indexed. Also, the Madagascar has 3 URL aliases, only one should be chosen.
The second currently unexploited avenue for increasing the number of users is geared towards the industry. One of the classic reasons why companies are reluctant to embrace open-source solutions is that many times the open-source projects do not provide an “interface” for the checks that companies use to verify whether suppliers / business partners are reliable. The “interface” components relevant to Madagascar are:
(1) From the lawyers: “Who are these guys?” A supplier or a business partner must be incorporated in some legal form that states the degree of liability of the people involved, who they are, whether they can represent the project, etc. That is why for example the Apache Software Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. A good idea is to get the creator of the Madagascar logo to trademark and license it for free to basically anybody who is not seeking to harm the project in any way (suing, spamming, etc). I am not sure if an already-existing name like Madagascar can be trademarked. Those entirely made-up can certainly be trademarked – as Linux is. I should have thought about that when there was the discussion about choosing a name 🙁
(2) From IT: “Will their software break our systems?” Corporate IT has to deal with hundreds of installation requests daily, and cannot manually audit all codes for security and stability. That is why the Linux Standard Base, and all enterprise-class OS vendors, provide certifications for applications.
(3) From the resource manager: “I need some verification that an employee has had proper Madagascar training, so I can mark him in the SAP database as being available for projects needing Madagascar-trained people”. The solution is an online paid certification system for users and developers. It should be cheap enough that people can become a “Certified Madagascar Operator/Developer” on their own, but expensive enough that it is taken seriously by companies paying it for their employees. The study material is: everything in the wiki and in the Madagascar distribution, including the books. The study group is the users mailing list and the forum. The Operator exam consists of giving the applicant a temporary Subversion user account and an input data set and asking him to solve a given geophysical problem using a flow in a SConstruct and to produce a short reproducible paper about his solution.
The fees can be used towards the time of those preparing the exam (grading is easy: the paper has to be reproducible!) and for other Madagascar purposes, i.e. LSB Certification ( $1000 for one release on one architecture + $250 per additional architecture or additional release – see schedule). Having a fee of $250 ensures one certified user one gets one additional architecture-release certified 🙂 A reduced rate could be offered to students, so that they can put their Madagascar experience in their CV. For a Developer certificate, one would have to have: (1) passed the user exam; (2) added meaningful GPL-ed capabilities to the Madagascar core that show he understands the way its SCons system functions; (3) contributed a GPL-ed program of moderate complexity with a reproducible paper and user guide/implementation notes.
(4) From the project manager: “It’s nice you guys have a two-day school once a year, but employee X needs to start working as a user on project Y in 1 month, and anyway it’s a headache to get him a visa for the country the school is held in”. Well, that’s why I said “online course”.
(5) From the procurement manager who is contemplating paying some huge amount for the purchase of a commercial geophysical package with a framework for developing plug-ins, and is told of the existence of a free alternative: “Who provides support?” Answer: “Get the Developer Certificate to one of your employees, or hire somebody with such a certificate, and he will”. That’s long-term thinking; to start competing with the commercial systems, Madagascar still needs a few features like a 3-D data format, a parallelization system, and GUI tools for tasks that actually need it, like picking velocities.
So, what do you think?