A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

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twodogs
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A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by twodogs » Wed May 22, 2019 10:33 am

I found this post on /r/linux and it pointed to a nice article on Linkedin.

A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop
Rory Sutherland talks about Linux on the Desktop and things that could be better.

He specifically talks about Linux Mint, too.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/london-a ... mes-mawson

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by lsemmens » Wed May 22, 2019 10:24 pm

Thanks mate.
Gonna spend the rest of my day watching all those TED talks. :D
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Out of my mind - please leave a message

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by eddycanuck » Mon May 27, 2019 12:11 am

Hmm - some interesting points. As a newish user I am deeply appreciative of this Forum for researching issues. It is an amazing collection of group intelligence - and the deep knowledge/history base of the support techs is astonishing.

As I compare to other software forums/service sites I find this "old style" Discussion Board more honest as the newer ones (I am thinking of Brave Browser for example) tend to be designed to "corral" the user into a pre-planned route. This doesn't always help but it seems to result from a Tech Support success metric judged by "Issues Closed".

When I began as a Newbie I was similarly confronted by the "wall of tech" not knowing where exactly to start to solve my problems (which we triflingly rare in any case). I tended to gravitate to "Tutorials" but most of them were the very old ones and had not been kept up to date. Hence they ended up creating as many new questions as they solved. Of course I can see how just keeping track of such improvements would be a full-time job.

I thought one of the better Tutorials was this one - aimed directly at new users by highlighting RECENT links and Forum Posts - and is fairly current/up-to-date:

Getting Started for Newbies by
viewtopic.php?f=90&t=245700

(something got skipped when I posted - see below)

As it seems unavoidable that all Tech Discussion Forums like this shall be "up-graded" (used as a Marketing Slogan) to include some AI in the future - it would be a shame of all of the old DB was lost or at least left behind. I suggest it likely that any future upgrade to a "better" forum will require "watching" the routes users take to solve their issues. Similarly some kind of query as to degree of satisfaction with "Issue Resolved" would have to be implemented to see HOW successful user's experience has been - indeed if that is what they came to the Forum for in the first place (some just come to read for fun - they are not task motivated). Therefore some way to "up-vote" sucessful posts rather than just sheer #comments - would be helpful.

These paths may contribute to constantly revised FAQ Pages. Another idea that would be relatively simple to implement is a "20 Trouble-shooting Questions for Newbies" that might help new users understand the parameters of their issues (ie sort of a "pre-ops" checklist such as Identifying the Mint Version, Type of O/S, Make Model etc - almost like the frequently requesting by Tech Support of running of the <INXI -Fxz Command> before continuing). There may also be some way for AI to identify core characteristics related to the users issue.

Regards,
ed
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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by handsomegenius » Tue May 28, 2019 10:14 am

twodogs wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 10:33 am
I found this post on /r/linux and it pointed to a nice article on Linkedin.

A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop
Rory Sutherland talks about Linux on the Desktop and things that could be better.

He specifically talks about Linux Mint, too.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/london-a ... mes-mawson
Thanks twodogs. I'm glad someone actually likes this. It just felt like a torrent of abuse when I shared it on Reddit and I got a bit discouraged.

Just to be clear, the article itself was written by me (James Mawson). Rory Sutherland is the guy in the videos. I took his wider ideas and insights and did my best to apply them to Linux in a way that could be useful :)

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by twodogs » Wed May 29, 2019 10:12 am

handsomegenius wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 10:14 am
twodogs wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 10:33 am
I found this post on /r/linux and it pointed to a nice article on Linkedin.

A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop
Rory Sutherland talks about Linux on the Desktop and things that could be better.

He specifically talks about Linux Mint, too.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/london-a ... mes-mawson
Thanks twodogs. I'm glad someone actually likes this. It just felt like a torrent of abuse when I shared it on Reddit and I got a bit discouraged.

Just to be clear, the article itself was written by me (James Mawson). Rory Sutherland is the guy in the videos. I took his wider ideas and insights and did my best to apply them to Linux in a way that could be useful :)
Awesome! My bad not citing you as the author. I did like reading it and I thought your ideas were really great. And of course, I love Mint. Have a great day!

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by gm10 » Wed May 29, 2019 10:46 am

handsomegenius wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 10:14 am
Thanks twodogs. I'm glad someone actually likes this. It just felt like a torrent of abuse when I shared it on Reddit and I got a bit discouraged.

Just to be clear, the article itself was written by me (James Mawson). Rory Sutherland is the guy in the videos. I took his wider ideas and insights and did my best to apply them to Linux in a way that could be useful :)
Gets my thumbs up as well, good article that touches on most of the important points, even though you glossed over some of the others.

For example, there is no doubt that perception often trumps reality but when you suggest for "the linux world" to address this then the problem is, of course, that we do not have a coherent Linux world. We have Android, which successfully addressed it for itself, we have the whole range of Linux based services, which care less about perception and more about the engineering as far as the Linux backend goes, and then we've got the Linux desktop that your article focuses on, with is suffering from such heavy fragmentation that it simply lacks the common voice to address any perception issues.

There's still well known graph showing the timeline of Linux distributions that you also find on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_dis ... meline.svg. That's your perception issue right there.

But besides perception you somewhat brushed aside the engineering aspect, despite it being one of the major considerations. Software and hardware compatibility are among the major factors other than the long term support package that decide what OS a company chooses. Because let's face it, the Linux desktop market share will only rise if companies and government ditch Windows for Linux. Switching your IT infrastructure to a new OS isn't something to be undertaken lightly, and entrusting your data to something that a community of developers maintains rather than a company, a legal entity that you can take to court if things go bad, is a hard sell.

The end-user market share will follow the commercial/governmental developments, but it won't lead. Operating systems aren't typically after-market buys for most users. Instead they go with whatever the machine came with. In addition, people gravitate to what they know, it's a question of convenience. If you work 9 to 5 on Windows, you will likely stick to Windows for your home computing needs without even considering other options. And this causality you won't change even should you manage to change the public perception of desktop Linux in general.
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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by handsomegenius » Fri May 31, 2019 10:10 am

Well brushing aside all the engineering stuff was intentional.. the whole point really was to look at it from a totally different POV. That's not to say the engineering challenges don't matter.

I don't think my experience or expertise places me all that well to speak to the engineering challenges. OTOH I would say I know much more about Linux than a lot of other marketers. Just the fact that I actually like it and use it probably puts me in a certain percentile there.

You are right that businesses want professional support. That's the big opportunity to sell something.

ATM one of the difficulties around marketing desktop Linux to busy decision makers is the state of social proof around Linux as a desktop operating system that "normal" people would want to use. The reality of defensive decision making is completely against you there. If more home users could be converted then that social proof would start to change though.

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by gm10 » Fri May 31, 2019 11:24 am

handsomegenius wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:10 am
The reality of defensive decision making is completely against you there.
Exactly.
handsomegenius wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:10 am
If more home users could be converted then that social proof would start to change though.
Maybe. I get what you're saying, but I think it would have to be quite the massive popularity increase in the home sector to tip the scales for business deciders. I mean it worked back in the day with the IBM PC, which gained wide popularity in particular with the home users before becoming ubiquitous in the commercial sector, but that was IBM with all the infrastructure and sales force that came with it, not the fragmented Linux world, and more importantly there wasn't yet an existing monopoly in the market - instead it created one (and the market with it).

Don't get me wrong, I would love for desktop Linux to become more competitive because that would draw more developers and thus increase the overall quality of the ecosystem and generate further momentum, I just have my doubts that I'll live to see it. Added difficulty is that the home market isn't desktop-centric anymore by the way.

On the other hand I also still think that the IBM PC and with it eventually Windows becoming ubiquitous was a good thing for the industry, the synergy effects both for hardware and software development were amazing.
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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by michael louwe » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:02 am

twodogs wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 10:33 am
I found this post on /r/linux and it pointed to a nice article on Linkedin.

A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop
Rory Sutherland talks about Linux on the Desktop and things that could be better.

He specifically talks about Linux Mint, too.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/london-a ... mes-mawson
.
Marketing via changing a bad perception has its limit, ie reality or facts or absolute truths, eg you just can't market a dud or ugly celebrity/car/phone or short model or the not-as-user-friendly-to-the-average-masses desktop Linux into a success.

Personally, as an average home-user, I have been a satisfied Windows user from Win 95 days and when desktop Linux was born in the early 1990s = Win 95 was affordable, very user-friendly and fully GUI-based, well supported and a generous EOL of 10 years. I was told to avoid desktop Linux because of its very tech-geekiness, eg Debian and Archlinux. Ubuntu was born in 2004. In 2008, after hearing some good things about Ubuntu, I gave the Live Ubuntu 8.04 CD a try and immediately gave up due to its still-not-very user-friendliness and not being fully GUI-based for some apps and customizations.
....... I was happily using Win 7 in 2015 when the Win 10 GWX KB3035583 and KB2952664 tsunami struck, which forced me to seek refuge elsewhere = so I had to force myself out of my non-DIY cocoon and gave desktop Linux another try and Eureka.! ... the 2014-released LM 17.x turned out quite usable for basic web use. Installation of LM 17.x can require some tech-geekiness, eg I got a "disk not aligned" error during install and Broadcom Wifi did not work after install.

If not for Win 10's forced auto-updates/upgrades and Telemetry & Data collection, I would have remained on Windows maybe forever, ie would have never delved into desktop Linux. Presently, I'm dual-booting Windows and Linux.

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by handsomegenius » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:38 am

gm10 wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 11:24 am
handsomegenius wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:10 am
The reality of defensive decision making is completely against you there.
Exactly.
handsomegenius wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 10:10 am
If more home users could be converted then that social proof would start to change though.
Maybe. I get what you're saying, but I think it would have to be quite the massive popularity increase in the home sector to tip the scales for business deciders. I mean it worked back in the day with the IBM PC, which gained wide popularity in particular with the home users before becoming ubiquitous in the commercial sector, but that was IBM with all the infrastructure and sales force that came with it, not the fragmented Linux world, and more importantly there wasn't yet an existing monopoly in the market - instead it created one (and the market with it).

Don't get me wrong, I would love for desktop Linux to become more competitive because that would draw more developers and thus increase the overall quality of the ecosystem and generate further momentum, I just have my doubts that I'll live to see it. Added difficulty is that the home market isn't desktop-centric anymore by the way.

On the other hand I also still think that the IBM PC and with it eventually Windows becoming ubiquitous was a good thing for the industry, the synergy effects both for hardware and software development were amazing.
Well yeah, I agree with you about Windows being mostly positive. Bill Gates and Compaq, in the scheme of things, opened computing up massively. Before that, desktop computers were all proprietary platforms made by one company who had a monopoly on it. Once any manufacturer could build a PC, hardware became much more of a commodity market where manufacturers compete on performance and price, which meant more families could own one.

My father ran a small business in those days, writing timetabling software for schools, and he went from needing to develop for 6 platforms to 2. So it was good for him too. It was less good for his son though, because he would buy less computers and then spend all his time on the good one (the pc), which meant I couldn't fiddle with it.

I actually liked Risc OS more than DOS/Windows. But they were fiendishly expensive machines and the software library was never really there. Bill Gates just had the better business model.

As for the rest of it.. growing market share is nothing if not a numbers game. So any tweak you can make at any stage to improve conversions is part of the answer.

With the share of desktops as low as it is, even very small gains become relatively large gains in visibility. If Linux on the Desktop grew by 0.2%, it's 10% more visible. If some of those new users are less technically sophisticated, that counts even more.

This visibility is crucial. One thing both academics and business people have in recent decades started to really pick apart about human decision making is the extent to which we're all influenced we are by social proof. That's our unconscious tendency to copy what others around us do.

Superficially, it can seem a bit dumb.. a mindless failure to think for oneself. But if you think about humans as an evolved species of primate, it's actually pretty clever.

It's actually not that crucial for us to find optimal outcomes. What matters most is avoiding catastrophe and making decisions reliably and quickly. Being influenced by what visibly isn't killing people is actually a very good cue.. you avoid the poison berries and the crocodiles. It's useful in a modern city too, where the amount of decisions we have to make would be unmanageable without a raft of unconscious cognitive shortcuts to fall back on.

But for Linux, being on the wrong side of this dynamic means it's penalised just for being unpopular.

This is why so much advertising involves popularity claims. "New York Times bestseller", "5 billion burgers sold worldwide", "America's favorite tea" and so on.

Social proof also can be very malleable - it can depend on perspectives and framing. One of the more effective campaigns that British Airways ran was "We fly more people to more places than anyone else". The fact was that they were actually the fifth most popular airline in the world at that point. What they were able to claim instead was the number of countries they flew to.

To the extent that Linux Mint is actually one of the most popular versions of Linux for ordinary desktop users, they could probably very fairly make one of these social proof claims. They could tout try touting it from the very top of the website.. it might be a much better than asking new users to choose between desktop environments they don't understand.

It could easily be split tested, anyway.

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by handsomegenius » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:13 am

michael louwe wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:02 am
twodogs wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 10:33 am
I found this post on /r/linux and it pointed to a nice article on Linkedin.

A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop
Rory Sutherland talks about Linux on the Desktop and things that could be better.

He specifically talks about Linux Mint, too.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/london-a ... mes-mawson
.
Marketing via changing a bad perception has its limit, ie reality or facts or absolute truths, eg you just can't market a dud or ugly celebrity/car/phone or short model or the not-as-user-friendly-to-the-average-masses desktop Linux into a success.

Personally, as an average home-user, I have been a satisfied Windows user from Win 95 days and when desktop Linux was born in the early 1990s = Win 95 was affordable, very user-friendly and fully GUI-based, well supported and a generous EOL of 10 years. I was told to avoid desktop Linux because of its very tech-geekiness, eg Debian and Archlinux. Ubuntu was born in 2004. In 2008, after hearing some good things about Ubuntu, I gave the Live Ubuntu 8.04 CD a try and immediately gave up due to its still-not-very user-friendliness and not being fully GUI-based for some apps and customizations.
....... I was happily using Win 7 in 2015 when the Win 10 GWX KB3035583 and KB2952664 tsunami struck, which forced me to seek refuge elsewhere = so I had to force myself out of my non-DIY cocoon and gave desktop Linux another try and Eureka.! ... the 2014-released LM 17.x turned out quite usable for basic web use. Installation of LM 17.x can require some tech-geekiness, eg I got a "disk not aligned" error during install and Broadcom Wifi did not work after install.

If not for Win 10's forced auto-updates/upgrades and Telemetry & Data collection, I would have remained on Windows maybe forever, ie would have never delved into desktop Linux. Presently, I'm dual-booting Windows and Linux.
I'm not sure what the underlying absolute reality would be behind Linux's bewildering choice architecture though. To me that's purely a problem of perception and presentation.

The fact is that very few people have any hard need to figure out their Arch from their Kali. They just want to browse the web, do a bit of word processing, a bit of casual gaming. You don't need to know jack about your operating system's genetics to do that. You're kind of left to just figure that out on your own once you're through the looking glass.

The underlying absolute reality is that the vast bulk of distributions are just irrelevant to a mass audience. They're for servers, or for admins and developers who maintain and program for servers. There are novelty distributions like Hannah Montana Linux and hobby distributions that people build to level up their skills. A lot of distros are really just variations on a theme too, much more similar than different - I used Ubuntu Studio before Linux Mint, and while I like Mint better, it's hardly a night and day difference.

Once you start counting all the different kinds of Windows out there - even just all the different versions and editions of Windows 10 - that's all a bit of a headache too. Very few people are made to feel they have to navigate that though.

I think I have had a similar experience of Windows to you. I happily used it for 25 years. I dipped my toe into Linux at some point in the early 2000s, but it was just too much to wrestle with. A few years ago I started playing around with VPS accounts and Raspberry Pi - I was coming to like Linux as a thing to tinker on. But the impression I had was that it was too fiddly to use as a daily driver.

It took me actually trying Linux on the Desktop to realise how good it can be. Now, when I have to go back to Windows, it's just painful.

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by gm10 » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:09 pm

handsomegenius wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:38 am
One thing both academics and business people have in recent decades started to really pick apart about human decision making is the extent to which we're all influenced we are by social proof. That's our unconscious tendency to copy what others around us do.
Very true, and accelerated through social media these days, which has people validating statements by number of followers and "likes".
handsomegenius wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:38 am
To the extent that Linux Mint is actually one of the most popular versions of Linux for ordinary desktop users, they could probably very fairly make one of these social proof claims. They could tout try touting it from the very top of the website.. it might be a much better than asking new users to choose between desktop environments they don't understand.
Well, it says hidden in the "About" section that it is "one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions"... Just kidding, I don't think anybody ever claimed that Mint had good advertising, and many have stated, with reason, that the opposite is true. I won't be contesting that, either. ;)
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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by all41 » Tue Jun 04, 2019 1:07 am

Thanks for the informative post. This will spawn many discussions here--I hope

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by handsomegenius » Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:27 am

gm10 wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:09 pm

Well, it says hidden in the "About" section that it is "one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions"... Just kidding, I don't think anybody ever claimed that Mint had good advertising, and many have stated, with reason, that the opposite is true. I won't be contesting that, either. ;)
I think Linux Mint is actually relatively good at speaking to a wider audience. I've not seen any Linux do it better, anyway.

I think it's also well positioned to get even better at it. Other large and well known distributions have zillions at stake as infrastructure operating systems, so their communication has to have that audience as its priority.

Anyway, I am happy to offer suggestions, if it's welcome.

Ultimately, anything that I or anyone else comes up with is just hypothetical until it's tested.

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by gm10 » Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:31 am

handsomegenius wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:27 am
I think Linux Mint is actually relatively good at speaking to a wider audience. I've not seen any Linux do it better, anyway.
Except there's no actual speaking outside of the monthly blog posts, that's what I meant with lack of advertising. You can see the immediate result of some publicity from all the click-bait articles that popped up after Clem's emo blog post in March, followed by Mint receiving the highest amount of donations ever. Imagine what would happen with some actual advertising, a social media presence, some interviews or maybe podcasts, etc.
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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by twodogs » Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:37 am

gm10 wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:31 am
handsomegenius wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:27 am
I think Linux Mint is actually relatively good at speaking to a wider audience. I've not seen any Linux do it better, anyway.
Except there's no actual speaking outside of the monthly blog posts, that's what I meant with lack of advertising. You can see the immediate result of some publicity from all the click-bait articles that popped up after Clem's emo blog post in March, followed by Mint receiving the highest amount of donations ever. Imagine what would happen with some actual advertising, a social media presence, some interviews or maybe podcasts, etc.
Absolutely correct!

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Re: A London Ad Man's Lessons for Linux on the Desktop

Post by handsomegenius » Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:13 am

gm10 wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:31 am
handsomegenius wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:27 am
I think Linux Mint is actually relatively good at speaking to a wider audience. I've not seen any Linux do it better, anyway.
Except there's no actual speaking outside of the monthly blog posts, that's what I meant with lack of advertising. You can see the immediate result of some publicity from all the click-bait articles that popped up after Clem's emo blog post in March, followed by Mint receiving the highest amount of donations ever. Imagine what would happen with some actual advertising, a social media presence, some interviews or maybe podcasts, etc.
Yeah. Advertising externally is $$$$. Clicks are often quite expensive in technology markets. It might be worth spending that if the increase in sponsorship and search engine revenues makes sense. I really have no idea though.

Going straight into ads is also kind of the deep end of the pool. It's fairly ordinary for even sophisticated advertisers to lose money on new campaigns. They do that intentionally: test and track different messages, different keywords and so on. It's about gathering data and then stripping the campaign back to what works.

There would be an added difficulty for Mint in that there's no purchase to track. It's probably only realistic to track what happens on the website, You'd want to have a fairly clear idea what each of those clicks is worth in terms of future revenue before you threw money at it. That's non-trivial in itself.

On the other hand, it would be very cheap to apply the same kind of copywriting to the inbound traffic that the project has earned already. To test different messages there is really just a matter of setting up the tracking and trying a few different landing pages. Then you've got a bit of revenue growth, and some solid data.

As far as publicity and PR, Mint actually doesn't do too badly at all. Journalists are obviously interested in the project and it's landed great headlines from high tier publications. That's a thing worth building on.

The interviews and podcasts you suggest are a good idea. Though the time commitment means you can only do so much of it. To the extent that they're probably all going to want to speak to the guy in charge, it's hard to scale. So it's a matter of picking the best opportunities.

The other way to go about a PR effort would be to publish interesting data that journalists would want to write about. That's a way to get into multiple publications in one go. It's also easier for the community to help with it.

If the team aren't copywriting and publicity masterminds right out of the gate, I think that's fair enough. You're talking about a small team of talented programmers who took it on themselves to build an open source software project. It's a very different area of specialist expertise they've invested their limited hours into developing. In the scheme of things, they do relatively well at this stuff.

If anything I can suggest turns out to be helpful, I'm happy to throw ideas around. I absolutely love the software.

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