Bringing non-technical people to the Free/Libre/Open world and why it matters

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 25, 2015 from 4:45 – 5:30pm in B301


Software freedom advocates sometimes believe a myth of "trickle-down technology" — that open collaboration and freedom for programmers will somehow lead to more free and open technology for the rest of society. To build technology that truly empowers most people, we need more non-programmers actively involved in development.

I'll share my story of how I started as a music teacher and became the co-founder of an ambitious Free/Libre/Open project. We'll discus lessons about outreach to others like me.


I have a classical guitar degree, I teach music lessons for a living, and I have no substantial technical background. How did I end up co-founding an ambitious Free/Libre/Open project? My journey took many small steps, and many times, I almost walked away. Today, I work to promote free/libre/open values to my guitar students as well as to friends and family — although it’s not easy.

I’m not alone, but I’m still in a tiny minority among those involved in Free/Libre/Open software. Even major projects like Firefox and Wikipedia see a very small portion of users become participants in the community. How can smaller projects hope to recruit a wider range of participants?

Among all the methods we will discuss, nothing beats plain personal hand-holding. Programmers may wish to design the best welcoming tools and websites, but the key to successful outreach to people like me comes from building a culture that actively seeks to engage people. And instead of only pulling more people into the tech world, we need to expand our community and go to where other people already are.


outreach, recruiting, diversity, marketing

Speaking experience

I haven't given this specific talk before, but I have presented about related issues regarding my project, I have given longer presentations at DebConf 2014 and at a local Linux Users Group in 2013. I have also given several lightning talks and run unconference sessions. Details about those presentations and some recordings are at

As a teacher and musician, I also have substantial experience teaching, engaging groups, and general confidence with public speaking.