Post by William Stein
have any good ideas about how to increase the number of people
downloading SAGE? My hope is that this question will spark a relaxed
but enthusiastic and positive open-ended brainstorming thread in which
a lot of crazy ideas appear.
I'm laying a lot of groundwork (e.g., writing books, articles, etc.)
and I think other people are (esp David Joyner), but there is probably
much more that could be done.
Please share your thoughts!
In my opinion, the most promising marketing plan for Sage is based on
the idea that Sage is the first general purpose computer algebra
system in history that has the potential to radically change the way
people learn and perform mathematics. I have come to firmly believe
this and the main strategy of this marketing plan is to provide people
with the educational support needed for them to see this for
I think Sage's destiny is to create a revolution in the way people
learn and perform mathematics and revolutions are most effective when
they are targeted at the young. Therefore, I think Sage's future lies
with the millions of junior high and high school aged students in the
world today that are more than ready to learn how to perform
mathematics in a way that is vastly more powerful than a hand
calculator and guaranteed to be available as long as civilization
lasts. If Sage is successful in gaining a large user base of young
people today, this will translate into increasingly wider distribution
across all industries and institutions going forward.
The key to successfully distributing Sage to the millions of students
in the world is to understand that they all need to learn fundamental
programming and computer skills before they can use any computer
algebra system. Most K-12 educational institutions and learning
materials are unable to teach these skills because they are extremely
obsolete. The reason for this is that technology's growth is
exponential and most K-12 institutions have simply been unable to keep
pace with it. These institutions know they need help with their math
and science curricula and they are usually very open to solutions to
this large and universal problem.
Using this as a foundation, here are my thoughts on action items for a
Sage marketing plan:
1) All technical students need to learn how a computer actually works
and how to program. Create a series of free eBooks that teach these
topics from scratch in a way that provides a solid foundation for
learning how to use Sage:
Status: Done ( http://professorandpat.org )
2) The Internet heavily depends on UNIX-based open source operating
systems and this dependency is increasing over time. A significant
number of technical students need to learn how to manually install
these type of operating systems so that they have a solid
understanding of how they work. This knowledge is needed in order to
do more advanced tasks like patching applications and building them.
Create a series of free eBooks that show how to manually install Linux
in a way which provides the learner with the skills needed to build
Sage from scratch and set it up as a web service on the Internet.
Status: 3/4 done (
eBooks on building applications and manually setting up a Sage server
still need to be written.
3) Develop an eBook for high school aged students that shows how to
use Sage from the ground up.
Status: In progress.
4) Develop a series of free mathematics books for high school aged
students which are based on Sage.
Status: If it can be assumed that the students already know the
content in parts 1-3 above, these books should be a joy to write and I
bet that people can be located who would be willing to develop these
books. #3 above should be able to significantly increase the pool of
people who have the Sage skills needed to write Sage-based textbooks.
5) Develop online courses that are based on the above materials. Make
the course materials available for free to universities that would
like to offer them as post secondary options to their local high
schools. Encourage schools to donate some of the profits they make
from the post secondary revenues to the Sage project.
Status: This is exactly what my university is doing. We just signed a
contract for $50,000 with a consortium of 16 high schools in our state
capital to offer a course based on the above eBooks, along with 2
other courses. If this goes well, we will be in a good position to
market courses to the rest of the schools in Ohio and this will
hopefully include mathematics and programming courses based on Sage.
Other universities could easily use the eBooks to do the same thing.
6) Similar to #5 except target Tech Prep schools in the US. These
schools are easier to communicate with than normal high schools
because they are all part of the nation-wide Tech Prep program.
Status: My University is currently offering an online post secondary
course based on the above materials to 4 Tech Prep schools and we plan
to increase this number significantly next year. Again, other
universities can use the eBooks to do the same thing.
7) Make the eBooks available to the vast and growing network of home
schoolers that exist in the world. Home schoolers are typically able
to spend more time learning subjects they are interested in. For a
mathematics, science, and technology oriented home schoolers, Sage
will be intoxicating and gaining deep Sage skills can easily changes
Status: This week my University started putting together a plan to
provide a free online course based on the above materials to home
schoolers. Marketing a course like this to home schoolers is
extremely easy because most home schoolers keep in touch with each
other using email lists. It would not work very well to drop into a
list and say "Here is the URL for an open source computer algebra
system." You would be amazed at how well dropping into a list and
saying "We are offering a free online university-quality class that
teaches..." works though :-)
8) After the free eBooks and courses begin to show penetration in a
given state, convince the state to set up free Sage servers so that
their citizens can have easy access to them. It will not be difficult
for states to see the significant wealth-creating potential that a
workforce with strong computer algebra system and programming skills
will have in a future which will be dominated by information
technologies. Compelling arguments can be made that Sage currently
has the greatest wealth-creating potential of any of the existing
computer algebra systems.
9) Outside of the US, do the same thing as #8 for small countries and
regions of larger countries.
10) Obtain an OLPC ( One Laptop Per Child ) laptop and make sure its
browser can access a Sage server correctly. Come up with a way for
Sage to be made available to OLPC students and then provide the eBooks
to these students too. I bet that one or more organizations can be
convinced to sponsor this effort especially since Sage's lightweight
web service model may currently be one of the few ways to feasibly
provide computer algebra system capabilities to OLPC users.
11) Create a logo for Sage that is as easy to recognize as the Linux
Penguin is. My idea for a logo is a Gandalf-like sage surfing on top
of the mother of all waves. The wave represents the exponential
explosion of technology that we are currently experiencing and the
surfer symbolizes Sage's ability to master all of this technology
wave's increasing complexity.
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