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More Than 10 Ways to Get FOSS Past the Boss

More Than 10 Ways to Get FOSS Past the Boss

If you're a free software fanatic stuck in a Windows workplace, here are some suggestions for sneaking FOSS over the transom. What have you got to lose? If your boss finds out, you may get a pat on the back. If you get busted chops instead, it's probably time to look for a new boss anyway.

By Katherine Noyes
01/04/10 5:00 AM PT

Jan. 4 is here at last, and not a moment too soon! Good riddance to all the eggnog, the mingling and the jolliness.

It's time to settle back down to work once again, and for that, what better companion than FOSS? There's certainly no better way to get things done -- the only catch, of course, is that not everyone realizes that.

Bosses, in particular, can sometimes lag behind those of us in the know when it comes to appreciating free and open source software. Luckily, IT World's Esther Schindler recently put together a handy how-to guide just for such occasions.

'Why Mention That It's Open Source?'

"No research can show what motivates a hidebound, traditional boss to change his mind about the suitability of an open source application for the company," Schindler wrote. "Very likely, I suspect, the adoption happens eventually because someone who works at the company argues for the new application or OS ("Hey boss, if we used this alternative instead -- "), but I'm equally sure that plenty have tried the arm-twisting and failed."

Schindler then goes on to summarize the recommendations of a variety of open source advocates, whose suggestions range from the standard to the creative. One, for example, asks the provocative question, "Why mention that it's open source at all?"

Bloggers on IT World quickly chimed in with their own suggestions, and were soon joined by those on LXer.

Inspired to extend the brainstorming session even further, Linux Girl strapped on her snowshoes and headed over to the blustery Linux blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge for some more insight.

'Show It in Action'

"The way to convince the boss to accept FLOSS is to show it in action," blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider.

"Butter him up a bit first -- discuss budgets, software licensing costs, processes per server and the like," Pogson went on. "Then knock him out."

With today's tight budgets, inexpensive thin clients sell particularly well, Pogson noted: "The versatility, flexibility and speed of implementing a solution are amazing with GNU/Linux."

'Explain It Very Briefly'

For Linux fans with the freedom to do so, "just do it your way," Slashdot blogger David Masover recommended. "If you need to ask the boss questions, you still don't need to bring FOSS up unless it's directly relevant.

"No need to tell them more than they need to know," as Schindler's article suggests. "Not because there's something to hide, but because you don't want to overload them with information," Masover told LinuxInsider.

"If it does come up, explain it very briefly," he suggested. "It shouldn't take more than a few minutes -- they aren't stupid, they just don't know yet."

Next, "respond to their questions and concerns," he went on. "In this respect, no article will give you the answer, because if your boss has concerns or misgivings about open source, they may well be unique to your boss."

If the boss remains unconvinced, Masover concluded, "that's a sign that you should be looking for a new boss."

'Slap a Windows Sticker on It'

It takes a sense of humor to handle such situations "because it's either laugh or cry," said Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

Hudson's own suggestions?

No. 10: "Slap a Microsoft Windows sticker on it," she told LinuxInsider.

'Wink Wink Nudge Nudge'

Then there's Hudson's No. 9, which is to "tell your boss it's normally (US)$5,995.00 a copy, but you 'borrowed it from a friend whose initials are T.P.B. wink wink nudge nudge,'" she said. "This will help you to displace the pirated software that many places unofficially tolerate or even encourage."

No. 8: "Employ reverse psychology," Hudson suggested, "such as by saying, 'It's too complicated for you to understand.'"

No. 7: "Slap a lower-case 'i' in front of the name: iFirefox, iOpenOffice, iWiki, iApache, iVsFtp, iBash, iVim," she suggested. "Okay, that last one won't work -- and no, iEmacs won't either, even though it's got both 'IE' and 'Mac' in the name. :-)"

'Fill the Other Slides with Kittens'

No. 6: "Send them a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation," Hudson recommended. "They won't look past the first three slides -- just like they only read the first three sentences of any long email, so you can make all sorts of wild claims. Fill the other 97 slides with kittens."

Of course, "some people will actually look at the last slide or two, so you might want to add a couple of charts showing 'Case study costs savings,'" she added. But "don't make them too interesting -- use tiny fonts, lots of lines, small legends, confusing shadings ... you want to achieve the Jedi Knight 'These are not the slides you're looking for' effect."

No. 5: "Viruses are your friend," Hudson asserted. "Subscribe them to every piece of malware and every .ru site you can find, to show that proprietary software is part of the problem."

No. 4: "If your boss is a guy, tell him that it's endorsed by both Sarah Palin *and* Tiger Woods."

'Just Sneak It In'

No. 3: "Send them .odt files instead of .doc files," she suggested. "When they complain, tell them that you're complying with government initiatives and make up some story about how the IRS can't audit you if you use open formats because, in typical government fashion, they haven't made the change-over yet."

No. 2: "The time-honored way: Just sneak it in."

And finally, Hudson's No. 1 suggestion: "Two words: cattle prod."

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

In all likelihood, "you can probably convince your boss to let YOU use FOSS," she concluded. "As long as you aren't asking THEM to change how they work, you can show that it helps you work faster and cheaper."

Of course, for those bosses who are irrevocably wedded to Redmond, there's always the PhrankDaChicken technique -- newly popularized in China -- of making Ubuntu look just like XP.

You get the performance, security and reliability of Linux while the bosses believe they're getting that old Windows "magic" -- it's a win-win for everyone! Except, of course, Microsoft. ;-)


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