Mike Levin SEO

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Packaging My Linux Distribution For Popular Consumption

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 02/17/2012

I got to work a few minutes early Wednesday morning, with Tuesday’s subway-writing fresh on my mind, and ready to publish. I’m so happy with how my website and personal brand identity development is coming along. I switched my logo to green a few days ago, and have been using it just about everywhere, including as a watermark on my Ubuntu Warty Warthog desktop background. One of the company founders, who probably saw it on Twitter recently, walked past and said “I love your new logo”. Woot!

Download ButtonThis article was in most part written on the subway on my iPad, which I don’t usually carry, but I forgot to charge my iPhone Wednesday morning, so I took it. I took the opportunity to upgrade it to iOS 5.x today which I’ve been putting off, and am using the new correctly positioned thumb keyboard for the first time. Interesting! It will take some getting used to, but at least you can hold an iPad as you should for typing without feeling like you’re going to drop it. This is my first blog post written this way.

Well, I’ve pretty much drawn a line in the sand for myself with that last post, regarding finally getting out Levinux—my personal distribution of Linux. It’s based on Tiny Core Linux, and actually almost ready to go. I need tout the finishing touches on it, give it a strong visual identity for the download link for my site. As complicated as it all is, I need to simplify it with these little touches. This is where the opportunity to meme-ify it occur.

Okay, so if I were editing this post and not just doing stream-of-consciousnesses, this is the point I’m probably trying to distill my way down to, regarding the launch of Levinux and my “Mission in Life” as laid out Wednesday: there are lots of really great ideas and and lots of really smart people out there. So when you’re doing something new, you’re setting your thing out to do battle with all those other things, gust to be heard—not to mention actually succeeding at doing its primary function. Tons of superior products die all the time because nobody knows about them, or has the patience to decipher difficult messaging. So, how can my idea catch on—especially one do esoteric?

To get a decent chance with my little code execution platform / educational mission, I have to use very simple, direct language describing the benefits, what it means for you, backed by social validation. It has to pack all this into an automated punch that’s delivered within a few seconds of first exposure, and then it has to have enough substance there to keep people engaged over the long-run, so as to not just die off as a fad.

I have to somehow make this entire endeavor noteworthy to play well in social media. I have to light the fuse of word-of-mouth on something that really is designed to take off like a rocket, and reach escape velocity so I don’t have to keep putting so much energy into keeping it aloft. There are a few components to pulling this off.

First, it’s pretty clear that MikeLev.in is going to be the distribution point, and I’m not going to give it up as my place to just dump stream-of-conscious. I’ll use site links, categories, tags and navigation to tweak important articles to the surface, but the site proper is all really there so that this Linux distribution has a colorful and memorable distribution point.

I have wanted to name my Linux distribution Levinux, and get a good domain for it. But now with all my focus on consolidation, and rolling it into MikeLev.in, it seems I should be naming it MikeLev.in/UX, pronounced mikelevinux. It’s named where it’s found. You just need to know where to put the dot and slash: mikelev.in/ux.

The missing bits are the download button / logo (it will be the same thing), a download tracker that I’d like to connect to Google Docs, and a bit of polish in the product itself. I need perhaps some ASCII art for a boot menu screen, with instructions on how to log in via SSH or “native” virtual console. It should also have a menu item for building it into a Python / vim platform—I don’t want to bloat the beautifully tiny 12MB download with all that software, nor mandate having to fetch it all on the first boot up. I want people to be exposed to a purely barebones system, initially that’s still under 20MB even when uncompressed.

So, everywhere on the MikeLev.in website will be this download button. “Linux in a Zip”? The tagline, or whatever you want to call it, is all-important here. The concept is so esoteric, it has to be distilled down to that one perfect beautiful concept. It needs to “speak to” multiple audiences. I can’t assume insider knowledge. I’d like to do a double entendre, but it can’t be too obtuse.

Are there other examples I can look at? The year of code? Learn Linux? Linux Here? Download Linux (12MB). Run Linux? Linux on Mac & PC? Linux for Mac & PC? Linux in 5 Minutes? 5 Minutes to Linux? Psst! Wanna see Linux? Psst! You want Linux?

I like “PSST! You want Linux?” It’s just wide enough to go into a well-sized download button. I need to choose a quintessential download button look so that everyone knows it’s a download button. But I’m not really going to want to put it up there until I have those few pieces in place: better cosmetics & boot-screen options on the system itself, and a download-tracker to actually see the download activity.

Okay, change of plans. I re-submitted my Google Author Verification request and was inspired by their use of Google Forms, so I followed the Make Your Own link, and did. Now, I have the ability to put up a Levinux “download” page that actually just collects the email information of the person, and I will send them the link. I may look at a way to send them the download link automatically, but in the meanwhile, I’ll do it manually. It’s still sort of a beta test program to get some people to try it out on different platforms.

I made the graphic you see on my iPhone using AutoDesk SketchBook, which I’ve been carrying around on my iPhone for years—pretty much for as long as it’s been out. But I haven’t really used my iPhone yet as an alternative to a real paper and pencil sketchbook. I’m going to try to do so now. You just have to get over the strange user interface, but once you do, it looks like it’s software where you can get into the flow. And I believe it’s the decedent of Fractal Painter, a Photoshop also-ran, which makes me happy that such software still has live. It’s very apropos that they did an awesome iPhone paint program, while Adobe’s is useless. So this article is unusual for me in it’s mobile-creation on 2 fronts: I used the iOS 5 split keyboard on iPad to write most of it, and I used SketchBook on iPhone to doodle out an illustration.