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posted by janrinok on Friday February 23, @06:11PM   Printer-friendly

It might seem that things are a bit quiet at the moment - but that belies the work going on behind the scenes. It has been a while since we have updated you on our progress and also I would also like to give you a flavour of what else is happening that you might not have noticed.

A New Site - Same As The Old Site

As I hope most of you are aware by now we are planning to create a new company that can assume responsibility for the this site's assets so that NCommander and Matt Angel can relinquish their current responsibilities. After 10 years they quite understandably wish to move on to other projects and activities. We are aiming to purchase the domain(s) that the site uses, the database and its accounts, and to keep the community intact. You should not see any immediate difference in the site - you will log in as you do today, all your comments will still be there and, with perhaps the exception of a few teething problems during the actual transfer from one set of servers to another, it will appear unchanged. However, there will be a new board structure made up of volunteers from the community, and you will all have a far greater say in how the site is managed and the topics that we will discuss in the future. Most of the staff have been involved in this process over the last 8 months or so.

I decided that one of my New Years resolutions was to get the new site back on track again. So I spent about a month sorting out the problems that we had identified with the structure that had been last discussed by the Governance Committee. The main problem was that it would require members of the Board and other posts to waive their anonymity and this was unpopular. There is no simple solution to maintaining anonymity of the Board members and something had to change. So I identified a different structure that would only require 3 people to have to give up their anonymity (Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer). This subsequently required that the by-laws be rewritten to reflect the new structure. Various other members of staff were already busy with real-world issues so that really left it up to me. It is not a thing that I would recommend to anyone. These were presented to the community as Draft 8.

I finished that task but I was running out of steam (like another community member, I am facing possible non-trivial surgery). Fortunately, fliptop (who had been absent for a while in order to sit the electricians' examination) returned and he agreed to take on the next phase of the work, for which I am most grateful. Trying to create a business in the US while living in France is not an easy matter. Fliptop has created several businesses in the past and knows far more about it than I do. We also discovered that Delaware was not the best place to create a business of the type we wanted and we have opted to do so in West Virginia for several practical reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, each US State has different requirements for creating a business and they use different terminology for certain aspects of the creation process. Combined with the requirements to change from my UK spelling (en-GB) to American spelling (en-US) this required yet more work on the by-laws. The subsequent work does not change the structure specified in Draft 8 or the rules that are declared in the by-laws, but they have required a continuing rolling process to get everything in compliance with the requirements of West Virginia. Thanks are due also to the volunteers for the initial Board and Community Representatives who have assisted in this task.

Fliptop has applied for IRS approval for the appropriate desired status and, when we have that reply, we can formally apply to create the new company. We are now waiting for the inevitable bureaucracy to do their stuff. How long this will take is unknown but we are optimistic that it will not be too long.

I have been able, as a result of fliptop's help, to assist with the daily preparation of stories to the front page and other tasks that I will come to in a moment.

Statistics

Community members sometimes ask for details of our community size and the level of activity that they create. I have collected some statistics which might be of interest. It is important to note that these are a very small snapshot of our overall activity but they are typical of the last few weeks.

Each week there are around 250-300 unique UIDs logging on to the site with occasional peaks just above 300. These are people who actually log in using their username and so represent only a portion of those who read the stories that we produce. Interestingly perhaps, they use around 7500 different IP addresses indicating perhaps that VPN use is increasing from what it was a few years ago and, equally likely, that they are logging in using different devices and perhaps from different locations (work, home, laptop, smartphone etc). But this is only those logging in by name. Others prefer to use our RSS feeds and dedicated software so that they can see the output of several different sites in a single display. Finally, there is the group who never log in but who read our front page content without making comments or joining in by moderating. Nothing can be done to identify their numbers. Elsewhere on the site there are an unknown number of Anonymous Cowards who participate in the discussions in journals. The current statistics do not include journal discussions as far as I can tell.

The daily figures indicate that we receive somewhere between 60 and 180 comments per day. This varies considerably from day to day. Some only log in at weekends, others only log in during the working week, and of course it also depends on the actual stories themselves. Some stories can attract over 50 comments or more alone whereas others, which are there to inform but not necessarily require a response from anyone, might only gather a few comments. But a better picture can be gathered by looking at the page hits. The average number of article hits per day is over 2500. Each week we serve almost 250,000 pages but because we use a simple text format with virtually no graphics, adverts or anything else distracting it appears to only amount to single digit GBs. Again there is a significant daily variation. There is also a variation of course during the 24 hour period with the site receiving between 2 and 5 hits per second. This is not as clear to see as you might think it would be and it seems to suggest that either people keep very unusual hours or that our readership is spread far more evenly around the world.

As an aside, it was possible to see the breaks during the SuperBowl transmission as, on that particular day, the activity levels peaked significantly at those times.

We Are Not a Linux Only Site

Some comments have been critical that we are including stories about Microsoft Windows. Why shouldn't we? We always have done so. We are not limited to a single OS. We can discuss any OS, or indeed any software whatsoever. Some of our community have chosen Windows because it is what they like, others use it because it is necessary to have it to control a specific item of equipment or produce a specific data format, and for others it is forced upon them by work or contractual obligations. I realise that we have far more Linux users than any other OS but that is because our community includes many who have the technical ability to manage it and an interest in open source software. Like it or not, Windows is included in STEM. Just because we don't all choose to use it doesn't mean it no longer exists.

Remember, it is YOU who provide the submissions. The editors' job is to prepare them for publication while maintaining as much variety as possible in discussions. So let us hear your praise or gripes about BSD variants, Linux variants (e.g. including TAILS, recovery thumb-drives etc) or any other OS that you use today or have used in the past. If you are using it today then tell us why you chose that particular OS.

Spamming

We have had a couple of dormant accounts suddenly spring into life and start spamming. They had been created weeks or months ago but had been inactive since being created. If you see any similar activity please let the staff know - there could be many more. It is easy to stop it but with over 30,000 fake accounts it is a monumental task to watch them all. The standard Spammers ban (for 10+ years) was applied to both accounts. As it was, they were spamming where they were unlikely to be seen by many people

Spamming continues to be a problem but it is being managed and that tends to keep it away from the main pages. We have our own local spammers of course. At the time of writing, one of them has posted the same message (beginning with "We don't hate you, my dear soft and fluffy khallow") a total of 97 times since 05 February. It had already been posted many times before that but now we have new software that makes spamming easier to identify and a method to remove it from view. However, there is a copy of every comment that is 'removed'. The same person has posted 258 spam comments in total in the same time period including a doxxing attempt. The site Policy document details the action that we can take against spammers. It refers to a graduated system. We have tried polite requests, (from 2021 onwards), followed by firmer requests, marking as Spam and recently we have increased that to the next level. The comments are removed from view. This is an exceptional measure and not one that is taken lightly. I do not expect that this will change anything but it does clean up a lot of the discussions in the poll and the journals and does take away the spammers 'voice' significantly. He is, of course, already permanently banned. That he is complaining many times a day makes me suspect it is also working as well as we could have expected.

There is another local spammer who seems to be confused as to the method to be employed when making complaints but I am hoping that we can remedy this. Which brings me on to the next topic...

Complaints About Staff or Policy

It is no good complaining about how staff are managing the site or your own particular views of any individual staff member by making comments in a journal as an Anonymous Coward. Firstly, we are not responsible for the contents of journals so there is no guarantee that we will actually look at them (but we are responsible to our community for ensuring that the site is not abused, and that individuals are not harassed in attempts to try to silence them).

Secondly, as an Anonymous Coward, you are welcome to participate on this site but you do not have much say in how it is run or managed. That privilege comes only with an account.

If you wish to complain about a member of staff there are several actions that you can take. Send an email to our usual Admin email address (with an email address life expectancy of more than a few minutes, but we will accept emails from secure email sites such as Proton or Tuta Mail) to our usual Admin address. It does not only go to a single admin but goes to every admin. It will get read and, if the complaint requires it, it will be investigated and the appropriate action taken. If we cannot contact you then your complaint may be ignored. More serious complaints can be sent by mail to the site's formal address which you can find by looking at the business records of the site. That will go directly to the Board which, as you know, has the ultimate power on this site.

If you wish to complain about the site's policy then the first action should again be to send an email (with an address life expectancy of more than a few minutes) to our usual Admin address with your reason for wanting a policy change and also submit a draft of what you would like the actual policy to be. It can then be presented to the community for further discussion and a vote. If we cannot contact you then it is unlikely that any action will be taken. If you do not provide at least a suggested solution then you cannot reasonably expect anyone to action your anonymous request.

There are a couple of community members who have been looking at policy issues for several years now. I think they will agree that we always give what they say serious consideration and implement what they suggest if it is possible. We learn a lot from each other. When the new site has been created then you will all be invited to make your suggestions as to future policy.

Finally, complaints like "I don't like what you are doing - close the site down now!" will be carefully studied before we all roll around laughing and throw it in the trash can. If you do not like this site then you are free to go elsewhere. We do not have to close the site down simply because you are unhappy.

Nobody on the staff has a problem with receiving a genuine complaint if it is intended to improve the site or the community's enjoyment of it. But that enjoyment has to be applicable to the majority of the site, not simply to one or two individuals or even a significant minority.

This discussion was created by janrinok (52) for logged-in users only, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Friday February 23, @06:47PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @06:47PM (#1345921) Journal

    A big Thank You to all who keep this site running.

    --
    To transfer files: right-click on file, pick Copy. Unplug mouse, plug mouse into other computer. Right-click, paste.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by technoid_ on Friday February 23, @06:49PM (3 children)

    by technoid_ (6593) on Friday February 23, @06:49PM (#1345922)

    According to Netcraft....

    Who uses Netcraft anymore?

    Anyways, I would like to see more BSD on the site, so I will start posting BSD news that I find. Hopefully the community members will appreciate the post.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, @08:51PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, @08:51PM (#1345951)

      Check this [bsdweekly.com] out. It may give you some BSD content to submit.

      Good luck!

    • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Friday February 23, @11:25PM

      by Gaaark (41) on Friday February 23, @11:25PM (#1345976) Journal

      Anyways, I would like to see more BSD on the site, so I will start posting BSD news that I find. Hopefully the community members will appreciate the post.

      Always!

      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by psa on Friday February 23, @07:02PM

    by psa (220) on Friday February 23, @07:02PM (#1345926) Homepage

    I also want to add my appreciation of everything that has been done to keep this site running all these years, and all the recent progress around securing its future. I know organizational structure like this is a tremendous amount of work and it seems it is being well-handled. Hopefully in the future I'll be in a better position to contribute more to this site.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by turgid on Friday February 23, @07:02PM

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @07:02PM (#1345927) Journal

    We need to know about Windows and we need to keep an eye on what Microsoft (and everyone else in the industry) is getting up to.

    Thanks for all your efforts.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by nostyle on Friday February 23, @07:16PM (6 children)

    by nostyle (11497) on Friday February 23, @07:16PM (#1345933) Journal

    I wish you well with your mayhap surgery.

    And thanks to all who keep this site alive.

    --
    "They'll fix you. They fix everything." -Robocop

    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday February 23, @07:22PM (2 children)

      by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @07:22PM (#1345934)
      Seconded on all counts.
      --
      🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
      • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Friday February 23, @11:27PM (1 child)

        by Gaaark (41) on Friday February 23, @11:27PM (#1345978) Journal

        Thirded, 'cos.... me too! :)

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
        • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Saturday February 24, @02:24AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Saturday February 24, @02:24AM (#1345991) Homepage

          Me Too!!!!

          And as usual, I have no complaints. Only good thoughts about the folks behind the scenes.

          --
          And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by janrinok on Friday February 23, @07:27PM (2 children)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @07:27PM (#1345936) Journal

      Likewise for your future too.

      The initial draft mentioned you by name but I then decided that I perhaps ought not to do that without your permission. I edited it slightly.

      • (Score: 2, Funny) by nostyle on Friday February 23, @08:19PM (1 child)

        by nostyle (11497) on Friday February 23, @08:19PM (#1345948) Journal

        For a moment there, I was Almost Famous TM.

        --
        ...story of my life.

        • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Friday February 23, @08:25PM

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @08:25PM (#1345949) Journal

          I think that you are as well known on this site as anybody else. Your willingness to provide journals for fairly open discussions is also appreciated.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by sigterm on Friday February 23, @08:02PM (3 children)

    by sigterm (849) on Friday February 23, @08:02PM (#1345945)

    I have to say that after reading the submission I've gained some appreciation of exactly how much work it takes to create a non-profit. Hats off to anyone willing to take on this task.

    But regarding this:

    A New Site - Same As The Old Site

    ...I think there might be some room for improvement, possibly on either the policy or the enforcement front, I'm not quite sure of which.

    Case in point: If you go to this recent submission, https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=24/02/22/0218210 [soylentnews.org] , and take a look at all the comments that have now been modded as either "troll" or "offtopic," there really does seem to be an issue with partial or disingenuous moderation.

    Do you agree that this could be the case, and if so, what steps could be taken to prevent this from reoccurring in the future?

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by janrinok on Friday February 23, @08:15PM (2 children)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @08:15PM (#1345947) Journal

      All the policy documents will have to be rewritten. Initially we will start with what we have but our intention is for the entire community to be involved in specifying what kind of site we want, what range of topics will we cover, what the rules should be, and how the site will be managed etc There will be far more community involvement in both the long term planning and the day-to-day management. There will be Community Representatives, elected from the community by the community, who will be part of the Management Group ensuring that your views are represented on a daily basis and to provide reassurance to the community that the site is being managed correctly.

      This will not all happen on day 1 of course. But the start of this process is the first task once we have a new site up and running.

      I don't underestimate the amount of work involved but a start has to be made somewhere.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by sigterm on Friday February 23, @08:29PM (1 child)

        by sigterm (849) on Friday February 23, @08:29PM (#1345950)

        Well, that sounds a) very good, and b) like a monumental task, as it's basically a complete rebuild of the foundations of the entire community. Not saying it can't be done (it probably can, and definitely should), but as you say, it will obviously take time and considerable effort. I'll do my best to show some patience, which admittedly isn't always my strong side.

        I appreciate you seeing the point I was trying to make. Over at That Other Site they are showing signs of becoming an echo chamber, with (at least) two factions occasionally engaging in a tug-of-war involving strategic comment moderation. If that is allowed to continue, over time users will eventually stop participating, as no-one will ever see their heavily downvoted comments anyway.

        And nobody, and I really mean nobody, needs another echo chamber.

        • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Friday February 23, @08:58PM

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @08:58PM (#1345952) Journal

          Initially, the site will just be like it is today. But over time, and I am not suggesting any specific timescale, the site can be improved depending on what the majority want. It might not be perfect for everyone, but I don't think it will be any worse than what we have today.

          We have to grow the site again and we will probably not succeed without a lot of effort.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by The Vocal Minority on Saturday February 24, @05:24AM (1 child)

    by The Vocal Minority (2765) on Saturday February 24, @05:24AM (#1346028) Journal

    Also WTF, there is no reason to not past articles about windows! Some of us are forced to use the damn thing at work...

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Saturday February 24, @05:42PM (1 child)

    by VLM (445) on Saturday February 24, @05:42PM (#1346093)

    I've been online since before usenet spam was invented.

    It's interesting that there's a lot of "anthropological research" or whatever around tribal sizes being around 100-400 various implications our brains are optimized for social groups around that big, and by golly that's right about how big SN is. So we're a tribe-sized org, interesting. At least those of us actively participating are tribe sized.

    And once we're around or bigger than a "tribe" here comes the spam.

    I wonder if there are documented examples of groups smaller than tribal size that get spammed as an inside job. My guess is, no, but my confidence level in that guess is pretty low.

    I just thought that was an interesting observation based on the posted data, that we're juuuuuuuust barely big enough to have a spam problem.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Freeman on Monday February 26, @02:45PM

      by Freeman (732) on Monday February 26, @02:45PM (#1346311) Journal

      There's one particular instigator of spam and I have a feeling that said instigator would have ended up spamming the site no matter the size.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
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