What to get the man who has everything…

Silly Season is among us, and you need look no further for proof than the swarming hordes who are currently marauding over every retail outlet in the country searching for that “perfect” gift. Oh, in case you’re wondering, the perfect gift for me this Christmas would be to make Christmas last for just the 12 days it’s meant to, rather than the 4 months it seems to. Hah bumhug, or words to that effect.

Earlier on today I found myself in a rather up-market place which stuffily calls itself a “lifestyle shopping location“. Amongst the replica antique Japanese furniture and pricey glass vases I found…

Mr Site. No 'h' in there, no sireeThis. Yes, ‘Mr Site’ hits a store near you. Immediately my stomach lurched as I thought of the endless possibilities for hideous code, but, surprisingly, the actual website is built with standards. Things could be looking up. Until you take a look at the source code of a sample Mr Site site. It’s not so pretty.

But then again if someone is going to spend 30 quid on a boxed product that offers them the chance to have their own website with no technical jargon, full standards compliance isn’t going to be top of their lists, is it? I bet pretty much all Mr Site customers don’t even know there are international standards by which website should be made. The fact is they shouldn’t need to, but Mr Site sure as heck ought to – and they ought to be making all the efforts they can to mke sure their customers sites are build as well as they can be.

The really strange thing is that pretty much everything they are offering for a fee (£2.49 a month for the second year onward, yes: every month, which is [calculates] £29.88 per year) you can already get for free. Blogging and site content management – check. E-commerce system – check. Forums – check. You get the picture.

The problem is, while all these services us geeks know well and love, the rest of the world hasn’t. They are more likely to see and use a boxed product from a shop that offers all this in one easy package than do the legwork to find and then use all these different (but better) services.

Which brings me onto my idea. Why don’t we – the Open Source community – do the same, but better? For a small fee we could produce a website that will help people; ordinary, non-techy people; to set up a WordPress (or equivalent) website with a Vanilla (or equivalent) forum, a photo gallery, a Shopify site (or equivalent, using their WordPress theme) on a friendly hosting company. We get to increase the user base of our products, and much more importantly break out of the geek-savvy market into the real world more.

So just like Ubuntu has taken some of the best open source software and wrapped it up in a friendly OS package, we could do the equivalent for the web. Bring high-quality, open source software to the masses.