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[OH-Publicity] Improving open source comes to campus websites

Asheesh Laroia asheesh at
Wed Feb 6 02:22:19 UTC 2013

Hi Publicity peeps,

Michael Stone and I were chatting a few weeks ago about making websites 
really encourage action -- in the case of e.g., they 
should encourage signups.

I wanted to invite Michael to, if he has time, try his hand at a redesign 
of the site that is more sales-y. It'd be a huge 
help; we can work from those design changes as we advertise future events.

The page he was really impressing me with was: (which is a single-page advertisement for 
a book about how to make engaging web apps) -- in particular, the page 
really grabs the attention and retains until you ask yourself, "How do I 
buy this?"

For Michael, if you want to give it a go: is the source to the site. 
Note that it uses an awful homebrew framework I hacked together 2.5 years 
ago; you'll be able to figure it out if you start by reading the Makefile. 
You'll probabl need to do this to make it run:

sudo apt-get install php5-cli

If you want to port it to some other framework that permits generating 
static HTML files, I'd be a huge fan, but I don't consider that essential. 
Also, if you want to just run 'make' and hack the outputted HTML rather 
than deal with the framework, that's fine too.

The action we want to encourage people to take is attending the event.

A sample bit of email-able text that gives you a sense of what we're 
trying to say:


On Saturday, February 16th, OpenHatch and Harvard Women in CS group are 
inviting you to a day-long open source software immersion event.

In the morning, open source contributors from various projects will teach 
you about open source licensing, collaboration tools, and how free 
software projects are organized. In the afternoon, they'll help you make 
contributions to open source projects. And throughout the day, they'll 
feed you, get to know you, and talk with you about opportunities for 
students in open source.

Open source software -- software that is shared freely and available to 
build upon -- is a great way to apply your programming skills to 
real-world projects and social causes. This event specially welcomes 
newcomers to that style of development, and the day begins with teaching 
workshops that anyone can follow.

Open source participation is one way to gain real-world skills and make 
connections that will last you through your career. Volunteer staff will 
include professionals and academics who use open source daily, from 
entities like Red Hat and Harvard Biology.

The event is open to all Harvard students. Learn more, and sign up, here:


As context, I'll summarize the bits from that 
I think we should add to our announcements:

* We should emphasize that open source software is used by lots of social 
causes, and in general is a great way to take learning programming and 
apply it in ways that matter. (I adjusted the above text with that in 

* We should emphasize that the event is not just for experienced people, 
but a good way to get started on a journey into open source. (I adjusted 
the above text with that in mind.)

* The event (and open source) are the entry point to relationships with 
professionals that lead to mentorship and career advancement.

We should also, as I think about it, be tracking click-through rates, and 
get a sense of where people stop reading. Google Analytics and Piwik, I 
believe, should be able to help with that.

So, Michael -- penny for your thoughts!

(And Shauna, or anyone else: if you want to give it a shot too/instead, 
feel free to! Just say so here so people know.)

-- Asheesh.

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