Home > Conferences, English, open-source, Talks > The free software activist game – draft

The free software activist game – draft

If you are a free software activist like me and want people you expose free software to in conference, large meetings and other gatherings like that (preferably developer-oriented) to understand what the value of free software is, here is a game proposal for you to try out (please report on the success of this method if you do implement it). It is inspired from a recent SCRUM course we took here at BeezNest Latino.

General considerations

  • You will probably need 30 minutes at a minimum to implement the game
  • This should work for 30 to 150 people, which should all be in the same room
  • You will have to explain the rules to each teams category separately (they can already start working one you’re done explaining, but they will have to stop exactly 10 minutes after starting)


  • 1 sheet of paper for each participant (can be a quarter of A4, or even smaller)
  • 1 pen for each participant (this might be costly, so you can depend on each participant having one or having minimum 2 pens per team)


  • Try to use maximum 10 minutes for the whole preparation process, so max 2 minutes to get team leaders to line up in front of you, max 2 minutes for you to explain the rules to all categories, and max 2 minutes for them to get back to their seats and start working.
  • Try to plan for enough space to give each team its own round-circle
  • Plan to distribute pens and papers quickly and efficiently
  • Assistants will have to form teams of 5 (minimum 5 per team, can be up to 8 but you’d better ask for 5)
  • Teams will be split in three “types”: type A, type B, type C
  • Give one paper and one pen to each participant
  • In each team, there will be: 1 team leader, 1 salesman, 1 developer, 1 designer, 1 quality assurance guy (software tester)
  • You (and ideally a few other guys) will represent the Product Owner: that is, you will receive the work done by each team, through the salesmen, and decide which is best for your company. The price is considered equal for each feature.
  • If there are more people than what makes an equal number of teams in the three categories, assign more teams to category C


You will have to explain the rules to each category of teams at a time: first, teams A*, second, teams B*, third, teams C*. Try to give each team a number (A1, B5, C3, …)

The following rules are true for all teams, but there are a few rules specific to each team category:


  • Will have 10 minutes to complete the game (develop one feature – you can imagine something appropriate to the circumstances here, or you can use the list of features suggestions below)
  • The salesman will have to present his product to all product owner in 30 seconds
  • The product owner will decide (secretely) which team won for each category, and will ask the other categories to vote as well (on the back of their paper, or by folding the paper in a specific way)
  • All members of the group must write something on his paper
  • Team leaders help the other members of the team who are having difficulties (they are the scrummasters)
  • Salesmen make sure they understand the product and all its goodness (including quality and design)
  • Developers make sure they describe the feature in many details
  • Designers make sure they draw a set of screenshots for the salesmen to present at the end
  • Testers make sure they test every detail of the system (including the user interface) and confirm with the developer and designer that every feature works
  • Teams can choose whether to sell their software or the fruit of their work

Teams A

  • Will be considered as representing companies being located in the same city, so they will actually compete very closely with the other teams in category A
  • All of A teams will develop the *same*, proprietary, feature
  • Team leaders and salesmen can “spy” on other teams

Teams B

  • Will be considered as representing companies being located in different countries/states of your continent, so they will have to compete if they have a very competitive product
  • All of B teams will develop different, proprietary, features
  • Team leaders and salesmen can “spy” on other teams

Teams C

  • Will be considered as representing companies worldwide which already have a competitive product based on open-source software
  • All of C teams can decide to work with other teams in order to get several features back to their customer
  • They can only sell what they developed directly, they are forced to “give away” the rest

Features list suggestion

  • Store contacts
  • Send an e-mail to a contacts
  • Store an invoice
  • Request the status of a stock of products
  • Request information about a company
  • Chat
  • Find an address
  • Show a street on a map
  • Show a translation
  • Find an image
  • Find the definition of a word

Ending the game

The assistants have to put their sheets in the hands of the salesmen and the salesmen will stand-up and go line-up in front of the stage, once the time is up for their category. Teams not sending their salesmen in line will be eliminated (they delivered behind schedule).

Each salesman comes in a line to present his product (30 seconds max). He says his team number (e.g. A3) and starts describing his solution. He stays on stage until all salesmen have given their description (should be 2.5 minutes max for 5 teams)

At the end of each category, the other categories vote for the best team. You count the vote (“Put your hand in the air, all people voting for team A3”) and declare the winner.

Note that categories A and B should not know that category C was able to share their work. This is why categories A and B will actually understand better the point of free software.


Whatever the results are, they should always tend to these conclusions

  • a majority of teams of category C have performed better, because they were allowed to share, and they made an effort to learn from each other, while concentrating on its own customer’s satisfaction
  • the salesmen are necessary because they are the ones through which the work of the team is presented. The best salesmen give a considerable advantage to its team
  • sharing, in the same environment (which is a competitive international market), leads to better solutions than the equivalent non-sharing mode
  • all assistants will have spent a good time

These rules are to be considered licensed as Creative Commons BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

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