If you were in Skopje (Macedonia) on the 3th of June 2004, and you were somehow part of the small but growing IT sector, then there was probably one place to be at. It was the opening of the second Microsoft conference "Vizija" (Vision), a keynote session that was supposed to present the Macedonian version of WindowsXP and commercial software as a business model under the title "Free is only free if your time is worth nothing". Funny enough the tickets for this session of "Vizija" were free - as in beer that is.
Microsoft Macedonia spent a lot of money to inform all citizens of our small country (population a bit over 2 milion, 4% of which have access to the Internet) that the conference was in place once again. As we (Free Software Macedonia) were pondering some future activities, following a successfull InstallFest, we came up with an idea. Why not use some of Microsoft's money, or better yet some of our money that the Government decided to give to Microsoft after signing a strategic partnership agreement few months ago, for promotion of free - as in speech - software?
The idea was simple. Since we could not in any way rent a venue as big as Universal Hall and gather more than 50 people we decided to use Microsoft's activities for a setup of our operation. People will be coming here for software issues anyway, so why not give them some free software? They will be surprised and curious, and they might find the software usefull. That was the idea.
So, we rallied the troops: 10 CD burners shared 1000 CDs (500 for Knoppix 500 for The OpenCD), and in two days we had the discs. Packaging followed. The CDs were enclosed with leaflets with some basic information about the software and about our organization. A stamp saying "It's already legal" (as an answer to Microsoft's campaign "Attention, make it legal") was applied to the CD covers. We spent the whole budget of the organization for this event - a total of $250, which is a considerable amount of money for the likes of Macedonia. The CDs were ready, and off we went.
The CDs were given to IT people, mostly managers, who, because of the rain, were rushing towards the entrance of Universal Hall. Still, some of them stopped and asked questions like: What's this? Is this Mandrake? I would like to try it, I've heard it's good. Estimations say that there were around 600 people who decided to use their free ticket for the conference. Only 15 to 20 refused to take a CD. In most cases, their reaction was: Hey, we already have Microsoft's software. And it's legal too.
We did our job to the best of our abilities. In a time frame not bigger than 30 minutes we gave away nearly 900 CDs with free software. We decided to call this operation "Free Software Flood". The rain had its doing in the title, but the more important thing was the fact that we were flooding Microsoft's conference with free software.
We hope that our efforts will not be in vain. We hope that most of the people that took the discs will have time and interest to try and see what's on them, and that they will learn useful stuff such as that there are other options besides paying big amounts of money for restrictive software licenses.
Until the next Microsoft conference, may the source be with you. ;-)