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posted by martyb on Tuesday September 03, @06:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the still-looking dept.

An accusation has been made that a Journal Entry made by a member of the community was deleted.

tl;dr No "smoking gun" has been found so far and no conclusion has been made one way or another. The investigation will continue. I have the next two days (Wed. and Thurs.) off from work and intend to dig further into this, then.

When I first learned of this, I immediately started looking around as I found the accusation to be credible and, if true, unacceptable behavior.

Nothing I found that morning could corroborate the claim. I posted my findings and promised that when I got home from work that I would look into it. And I did exactly that spending several hours looking for data through both the UI tools presented within the site and with ad hoc queries to our DB. I dumped sections of tables of interest and brought them local to my home machine for later investigation.

Of course, as life has a way of doing, I was also in the midst of a crunch period at work and my spare time has been scarce of late (e.g. I had a training class to attend that was over 100 miles away and worked the entire Labor Day weekend). Further, we have two editors who are on a leave of absence and another who is on vacation, leaving a greater burden on the remaining editors to keep stories coming to the community. This has been exacerbated by the Labor Day holiday weekend in the US meaning fewer substantial stories get posted to the web at this time. In a nutshell that left fewer editors having to work even harder to find stories that could be brought to the community.

Do remember, also, that we had a rare site outage a couple weeks ago which necessitated restoring the site DB from backups. This was a manual process. There have been a few hiccups since then that were attributed to an unclean shutdown/restart as well as needing to restart various services besides just the database: the web server, load balancer caches (nginx), slashd (a cron-like daemon which periodically starts still other background processes and services), and ... you get the idea.

Still, in what little free time I had, I continued to look for information that could corroborate or refute the accusation.

It bears mentioning that there may well be no "smoking gun". But whether there is or is not, I firmly believe the community nonetheless deserves an investigation. It is a very different thing to toss one's hands up in the air and not even look as opposed to look deeply and diligently and find nothing.

I have decades' experience testing computer software on a wide range of platforms. I have worked at startups and fortune-100 blue chip companies. I once was brought in to a company to test a compiler when my only prior experience was a single college course. Another place I worked at had an automated test harness written in a language in which my only prior experience was it being one of 4 languages covered in a language-survey course in college. Within a week I had started refactoring the code base and by the time I left 9 months later, had removed and/or isolated hardware-based dependencies and rewritten the test harness to run in parallel. A full test run across several different hardware platforms and OS versions, which used to take 8-9 hours, now completed in just 1 hour. These are meant only to illustrate that I have no difficulties digging into things in which I had limited or no prior experience. When SoylentNews implemented Unicode character support using UTF-8 (Unicode Transfer Format - 8bit), I searched for the relevant RFCs (Request For Comment, aka Internet "standards"). One led to another and that to others and when I was done had found about a half-dozen of those. Further, there were different versions of the Unicode standard published by the Unicode Consortium, so I dug into those, as well. Needing test data, I wrote tools to extract/generate all the NCEs (Named Character Entities) as well as both hex- and decimal- numeric character entities. Oh, and then there was the matter of IDNs (Internationalized Domain Names; like "" but "foo" could be in any Unicode supported language!) These then were used in all user-facing, text-entry fields that I could discover and the results were reviewed. I am pleased to say that in the subsequent 5 years' time, I am aware of only two bugs that got through.

(Anecdote time. During the Slashcott, I got wind of some "alternate Slashdot" being developed, but could find no announcement of where it was. I did a bunch of searches. They came up empty. Tried a bunch more. No joy. Then I found what looked to be a bug report for this new site with a screen capture of the main page. And, it had this really strange URL in the address bar. Some domain name like "". Strange! But, I tried it and found it was just what I was looking for. Not knowing who was behind this or how to contact them, I was a bit nervous. Still, after enduring several formkey errors that day and into the next morning, I was finally able to create new account. I then kept a low profile until SoylentNews went live. And that, my friends, is how I got a coveted two-digit UID.)

I present the forgoing not to brag, but to give examples of the diligence and thoroughness that I am bringing to this investigation.

Further, I have somehow become the spokesperson for site-related "stuff" be it an annual summary of where we are at, announcements of server outages due to our hosting provider, Linode, providing updated hardware, different virtual hosting software, bug patches for Meltdown and Spectre, etc. When I have made mistakes I have owned them openly and on the front page no less. I cannot persuade you to believe me, and feel free to believe as you wish, but I can only trust that my integrity in all my actions on this site speak more forcefully and firmly than any words I may bring you in support of it.

My investigation is not complete, but given the amount of time that has passed, I felt it important to give an interim summary of what was planned and any results found so far.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday August 23, @06:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the tragedy-of-the-commons dept.

I was going to post this to a particular story, but thought this might generate more attention and discussion as a general submission.

Seriously, what is going on with all these troll mods? Just because you disagree with someone, thus earning a "disagree" mod, does not mean that person is a "troll." To steal a definition from Urban Dictionary:

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Just because you disagree with someone, does not mean they are trying to do the above. Be faster on the "disagree" and slower on the "troll." Under such abuse, it is hard to have a good discussion and, in itself, is trollish behavior by "generally disrupt[ing] normal on-topic discussion." Other than people disciplining themselves, a concerted effort to police such abuses, or making moderation logs public on the bottom of a comment where the score is shown now, I'm unsure of what to do about. As it stands, it is getting increasingly ridiculous to read what discussion is here on any topic remotely controversial, and is expanding outside of even those. It is starting to drive me away from the site, and I'm somewhat confident it is doing the same for others. I'd be interested to see what others think about the depth of the problem, if they even believe it even exists at all, and what solutions you all have for it.

[Ed note. This story is published exactly as received. First off, it bears repeating that complaining about moderations in the comments often leads (rightly) to an off-topic moderation. That is a contributing factor to my decision to run this story. Secondly, moderation is something that I on occasion have found I've fat-fingered and given a different moderation than expected. Thirdly, in the grand scheme of things, a comment's moderation is — relatively speaking — small potatoes. It is NOT a measure of your IQ or value as a human being. or standing in the community. Just accept that stuff happens and that as likely as not, someone will be along to moderate it the other way. Which is a good opportunity to say: PLEASE USE YOUR MOD POINTS! Lastly, if you think a comment was moderated in error, then send the CID (Comment ID) link e.g. "(#876543)" in an email to admin (at) soylentnews (dot) org. Keep in mind however that we are all volunteers here and there most likely will be a delay between when you send out an email and when we can get around to it. --martyb]

[Updated: 20190823_111312 UTC See comment from JR who far more precisely and eloquently expressed the idea I was attempting to. I concur with his assessment. If I want people to upmod a comment of mine that I believe was unfairly downmodded, then I need to be willing to upmod other's mis-modded comments. For perspective, so far this month, anywhere from ~150-~350 mod points were used in any given day. It bears repeating: use your mod points!]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday August 22, @12:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the say-that-five-times-fast dept.

I just finished updating the certs for SoylentNews.

We get our certs through Let's Encrypt. Yes, we could automate the whole process, but it has been discussed and decided that given our... unique configuration, it is best to have a human in the loop than to let a script somehow run amok and then try to restore things when who-all-knows-what got deployed and things have gone sideways.

I have checked our web sites for production, dev, and staff as well as sending and retrieving e-mail; all seemed to be okay.

More than anything else, this is a check on us to see if we (well, me, actually) overlooked anything. If you do detect any issues, please post a comment to this story.

(Hat tip to The Mighty Buzzard for standing by in case I bollixed up something.)

[Update: Unless, of course, you cannot post a comment to this story! Then pop onto the #Soylent channel on our Internet Relay Chat (IRC) server and let us know over there. --martyb]

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday August 15, @02:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the stuff-happens dept.

Earlier this morning (around 0520 UTC) we experienced a sequence of faults which we do not, yet, fully understand. Unfortunately this coincided with several key admins being asleep as they should be.

Several of the team started to try to recover the site but all the obvious efforts failed to have the desired results (e.g. restarting the failed software and switching it all off and back on again). Chromas took the lead in this but he was unable to resolve the problems. SemperOSS showed up next and made a mighty effort but things failed to cooperate. Martyb was next in and checked on status of our servers and a few other things but ultimately could not provide much assistance.

TheMightyBuzzard turned up at his usual time and he and SemperOSS set to work trying to recover the site. After a long slog it became apparent that the existing software had suffered some form of corruption and that a simple recovery was not going to be possible. The decision was finally made to restore to yesterday's snapshot, but this comes with a downside. All the stories, comments, and journal entries since that snapshot was taken (approximately 2019-08-14 22:02:36 UTC) have been lost. This is regrettable but under the circumstances unavoidable.

Some of you joined us on IRC and provided real or moral support to those carrying out the recovery task. Others sent us emails informing us of the outage and we also received offers of help. For this we thank you. We also thank our community at large for your patience while we carried out the work that needed to be done. The investigation into what happened has still to be done and will take some time to do. The site is now up again, but as we are not 100% sure what caused the problem we cannot guarantee that the site will function properly and we will have to wait a day or two to be confident that we have resolved the issue.

We tried to keep everyone updated on our progress on our IRC channel but, if you could not get there, then there was little else we could do to update you on our progress. Displaying a short 'Site Down' message actually exacerbated the problems so we decided that it was better to leave the database alone until the problems had been resolved.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to the guys who did all the work under difficult circumstances. Their efforts are appreciated. We used the usual piece of software on IRC to find out who should bear the blame for this debacle (~blame) — it responded with the only name it has in its choice of staff. Bytram!

posted by martyb on Friday July 05, @03:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the Buck-Feta! dept.

On July 5th of 2014, SoylentNews was officially given approvals for its letters of incorporation as a Public Benefit Corporation.

This is a good opportunity to take stock of where we are. Read on past the fold for coverage of:

  • Fundraising
  • Site activity
  • Folding@Home
  • Journals of Spam Accounts
  • Submit Stories
  • Thank YOU

Fundraising: For the first half of 2019, the community came through with room to spare! Not only did we attain our goal of $2000, but we also received approximately $549.38 towards our stretch goal of $1000 more. I'll leave the current totals in the Site News slashbox for a few more days before resetting for fundraising for the second half of the year. Please feel free to Subscribe as any new amounts received will go toward our next funding period. In case you were wondering, we had about 100 subscriptions during this period with the largest amounts being $200(x2), $120, $100(x3), and $80; all the rest were for $50 or less. Though this is an all-volunteer organization, we do have to pay for servers, domain registrations, and a CPA to file our taxes, so these subscriptions are key to our being able to "keep the lights on". THANK-YOU!

Site activity: A quick look around the site reveals some interesting statistics. As of my writing this, our story count stands at 27,861 stories. To that, add the 4,178 journal entries that have been posted by the community. We currently have 858,117 comments posted. We have had, however, comparatively few comment moderations: 586,164. We have 8,225 registered users, too!

In case you did not see the follow-up story, we have not performed moderation bans for excess up/down moderations in well over a year. Any moderations by user1 of comments by user2 that exceed 4 per day are reviewed and are simply reversed if it is determined than a mod bomb or sockpuppet moderation is happening. This is in lieu of our implementing code that will automatically handle this in the future when our dev team can scrounge up some spare time to implement it and merge it in. I had my information incorrect in a story posted a while back and want to set the record straight. Remember, there are a few thousand other users on this site, it is not necessary for you to single-handedly moderate all the comments that need it; if it really is that bad or good, then surely someone else will share your perspective and be along before too long to do the same. And, if not, it is not the end of the world; this is a place to discuss stories; not to set the entire world on the right path. In other words: Login to the site and Use your mod points!

Folding@Home: This has not been mentioned in a while, but we do have a SoylentNews Folding@Home (F@H) team... currently ranked #231 in the world! (Based on current trends, we should be #230 within a couple days.) This is purely voluntary by members of the community who saw an opportunity, banded together, and just got things started. Hat tip to SirFinkus for the original impetus and early organizing that has helped us get to where we are today. The F@H client automatically takes advantage of idle time on your CPU/GPU. Once installed and set up, it requests a work unit, processes it, and return the results. These calculations help support research into fighting maladies such as Parkinson's disease.

Journals of Spam Accounts: We have observed accounts being created which have posted no comments, made no story submissions, performed no moderations, but have made postings of a commercial nature to their journal. These are currently blocked from appearing in the "Most Recent Journal Entries" slashbox that appears on the main page until the user has accumulated at least 10 Karma. This reduces their visibility to the casual reader of the site, but could be leveraged to help boost the search engine rankings of the affiliated enterprise.

Some numbers: Out of 4178 journal entries posted to SoylentNews since the beginning, 528 were posted by users who have less than 10 Karma. Of those 528 journal entries, only 26 have a Karma greater than zero. Further, the most recent journal posting from those 26 was in March of 2018 — well over a year ago.

My take on this is that the good name of SoylentNews is being used to advance the standing of commercial enterprises. We strive to be impartial in our coverage and have never taken any remuneration from any outside enterprise lest it give even the appearance of favoritism to what we publish on this site.

Rather than make an edict from on high, I prefer to hear what the community thinks. What, if anything, have I forgotten to look at? Is this even a problem? If it is a problem, what, if anything should be done about it? Require a minimum Karma of 10 to even post in a Journal?

Submit Stories: It is summer time in the northern hemisphere and most research facilities are running with reduced staffing so folks can take advantage of the weather. Also, most schools are on summer vacation, as well. The result is that much less research is performed now than would be during the normal school year. This period is sometimes referred to as the "Silly Season" where on-line publications (many of whom are also running with fewer staff) tend to run more fluff pieces. Please bear with us as we try to find and provide the community with stories of interest with an emphasis on STEM.

This is also a good opportunity to try your hand at submittting a story to SoylentNews. Please see the Submission Guidelines. If you have any questions, feel free to pop into the "#editorial" channel on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and ask for help. As some of our staff may also be taking a vacation, there may not be someone there to immediately respond, so please bear with us. I well remember the thrill I felt when I first saw a story submission of mine accepted and posted to the site!

If the best you can do is submit a link, then do that. If you quote any text directly from the story, please enclose it in <blockquote> ... </blockquote> tags. Of course the closer the submission is to publication-ready, the less work is required of an editor, and the better chance that one of us will run with it. Most importantly, have fun and don't be afraid to try. We all had the experience of making our first story submission and are willing to help you get comfortable with the process, as others did with us.

Thank YOU: We are the little site that could. Splintered off from the non-listening corporate overlords at Slashdot, a bunch of PO'd folk got together and bludgeoned an out-of-date code base into a solid and responsive system. The community that has formed here... I regularly see people looking to find what they can give to the community rather than what they can take from it. We could not have done it without YOU. Providing story submissions. Writing comments and journal articles. Moderating comments. It is a group effort, and this is a group I am grateful to be a part of.

In addition, there is the unheralded work of a small staff who volunteer their time to (try) and keep everything up and running smoothly. For example, Linode (our webhosting provider) recently rebooted 5 of our servers to handle an exploit that was making the rounds. Thanks to the excellent design and implementation, the site kept right on running uninterrupted. There was a minor glitch this morning that a restart of varnishd took care of. And that was it. No muss, no fuss. I count myself most fortunate to be working with such capable and talented people who give so selflessly of themselves to keep this all running so smoothly.

It has been a privilege to serve this community over the past 5 years and it is my fervent hope that we have many more years to come!

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday July 04, @03:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the forewarned-is-forearmed dept.

Updated (20190704_023935 UTC) Server reboots have completed. I am unaware of any issues from these reboots; please reply here and post to the #dev channel on IRC if anything is amiss. Original story follows with minor updates to mark all servers have been rebooted. --martyb

For those who might not be aware, SoylentNews operations run on servers from Linode. I have recently become aware of their plans to reboot servers:

To complete our mitigations against the recent MDS (ZombieLoad) CPU vulnerability, we will be performing maintenance on a subset of Linode’s host machines. This maintenance will update the underlying infrastructure that Linodes reside on and will not affect the data stored within them.

Here is the schedule for our affected systems:

fluorine (*)2019-06-25 05:00 AM UTC
beryllium (*)2019-06-27 09:00 AM UTC
helium (*)2019-06-28 03:00 AM UTC
boron (*)2019-06-28 04:00 AM UTC
hydrogen (*)2019-07-02 09:00 AM UTC
sodium (*)2019-07-03 02:00 AM UTC

(*) Completed.

Historically, there is a two-hour window for reboots to occur, but it usually takes far less time than that.

We will attempt to minimize any impact on site operations, but want to let the community know what was coming up.

posted by martyb on Monday June 24, @12:37PM   Printer-friendly
We are aware of issues when trying to access the site. First noticed at approx. 0300 UTC. Our servers look okay. It appears there may be issues with upstream connectivity.

Also, Linode is planning some server reboots over the next week or so. We will try to give advance notice and keep downtime to a minimum.

Update: Everything seems to have quieted down. Many many thanks to NotSanguine for jumping in and lending his expertise to help identify and isolate where things were borked.

Indications are that a bad BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) route was published causing a relatively small AS (Autonomous System) to have all traffic to/from a large fraction of the internet attempt to go through its routers.

posted by martyb on Tuesday June 11, @04:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the passing-the-word dept.

As many of you are aware, SoylentNews uses Let's Encrypt certificates to protect the vast majority (all?) of our networking connections.

Under the watchful eyes of The Mighty Buzzard and SemperOSS I have updated our certs and deployed them across our servers and services. At this point, all seems to be working fine. That said, I have a well-earned reputation of being able to break nearly anything, so it would not entirely surprise me if you find something awry. If so, please let us know! You can comment on this story and/or jump over to the "#dev" channel on IRC and let us know there.

For completeness' sake, the updated certs were rolled out at 20190611_140630 UTC.

NOTE: Do be aware it takes time for updated DNS records to work their way across the internet, so if you do encounter a problem, try clearing your cache and trying again before assuming things are borked.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday May 27, @03:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the easy-now dept.

Holiday Weekend: For our international readers who may be unaware, Monday 27 May marks Memorial Day in the United States, a remembrance of members of the military who have passed in the line of service. In reality, if has become the de facto start of summer which runs past Independence Day (July 4) until Labor Day.

Over this 3-day-long holiday weekend, a great number of establishments are closed or run at reduced hours and staffing. Stories appear on the internet at a reduced rate, and many more "fluff pieces" appear as filler.

I have heard quite clearly that, given a choice, the community generally prefers quality over quantity.

SoylentNews runs with approximate story spacings of a bit over 1.5 hours on weekdays and a little under 2.5 hours on weekends. We've been "feeding the queue" 24 hours per day, every single day, for over 5 years (still amazes me it has been that long!)

So, based primarily on those factors, I have suggested the eds adopt weekend story spacing for Monday (UTC) so they, too, can have a bit of a break.

Read on past the break for the rest of the site news.

Staffing: I would like to take this opportunity to formally welcome back fnord666 who had been on leave from the end of last year into early this year. Good to have you back! On the other hand, mrpg has recently moved and will be incommunicado until he is able to get situated again. Please join me in wishing him well! Our Editor-in-Chief emeritus is back in the saddle, too, though his circumstances may change at any time. He has many outside obligations and yet willingly gives of his very limited free time to SoylentNews. We are indeed fortunate to have him with us; thanks JR!

Outage: Well, it was not actually an outage, but on May 22, 2019 at approximately 2300 UTC, people started reporting issues with the site. Symptoms included some of the slashboxes on the side of the main page were not loading as well as some reports that CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) were failing to load causing malformed layout. I got wind of the issue just before midnight. It took me a couple tries to invoke the correct script to "bounce" the front-end servers (which basically just restarts apache on both our front-end servers and restarts the single slashd daemon). I promptly reported the outage and corrective measures to the community and it seems that all is functioning properly again. Please speak up in the comments if you are still experiencing any issues. But... be sure to clear your browser cache and do a hard reload of the site (e.g. Ctrl+F5 works on Firefox and derivatives) to make sure you are getting a fresh copy of all the files.

Finances: We have reached our funding goal of $2000 for the first half of 2019! Better still, we still have the rest of May and all of June remaining. I took the liberty of updating the "beg-o-meter" in the site news slashbox with a stretch goal of $1000. I am happy to report that we have already received $168.93 towards the stretch goal. I am so grateful for the support of the community for our efforts. For those who may be new or unawares, this is a purely volunteer organization. Nobody on staff has ever received any remuneration ($5 word for pay) for their efforts on this site. As I understand it, both NCommander and Matt_ incurred large monetary expenses in getting the site going and established legally as a Private Benefit Corporation based out of Maryland — expenses for which they have never been repaid. They have been more than patient and gracious in their insistence that SoylentNews become well enough established before getting repaid.

When you subscribe, some of the site limits are relaxed and you get a shiny star next to any comments you post. For the humble, you can turn that star's display off in your preferences.

If you wish to help out, click on Subscribe and select whether you want the subscription to start/extend your own subscription or you wish to make a gift subscription. If it is a gift subscription, specify the UID for the recipient. The default of UID==6 is that of Michael Casadevall (another nick NCommander used when setting up the site) or you may replace the UID with 2339 in memory of Michael David Crawford, or any other UID that you want.

Penultimately, select a subscription duration and amount (the suggested amount is a minimum; any in excess of that is greatly appreciated), and click on the Continue button. NOTE: Javascript needs to have been enabled for the following step to work. Lastly, choose your payment method of either Paypal or Stripe, fill in the requested details, and submit.

As I have mentioned before, this site has real expenses with server hosting fees, domain name registration, paying for a CPA to file our taxes, and the like. Those who support us financially help "keep the lights on." Thank You!

Submissions: This is not to take away from those who contribute to the site in other ways. Please accept my thanks to all of you who submit stories for the editors to poke at and bring to the community. Some of the community post stories to their journal which has led to many an interesting conversation. Above all, thank you to those who weigh in by posting comments. It is the primary reason for this site's existence, so please keep those comments coming!

Moderations: All comments are visible, but some have more visibility than others, thanks to moderation. For those who wish to see just the crème de la crème, set your comment threshold higher and give thanks to those who have performed moderations.

With respect to moderations, a user may moderate anywhere from 0 to 4 comments by another user. Any moderations in excess of 4 upmods or 4 downmods in a 24-hour period starting at 00:10 UTC will be reversed. It is our intention at some point to have the site impose that limitation automatically so no penalty is currently being imposed at this time. That means we need to monitor moderations and manually reverse those in excess of the limits. The short form of the moderation guidelines is "Don't be a jerk." On the other hand, 10 mod points are issued to every registered user at 00:10 UTC each day... please use them! Please try to focus on upmodding good (e.g. Funny, Interesting, Insightful, Informative) comments but don't be afraid to downmod (e.g. Offtopic, Troll, Flamebait) where appropriate.

When I moderate a comment, my thoughts are for the next person to come along; how can I help curate the discussion to best help them out?

Thank You! Thanks to all the rest of the staff who humbly trudge along behind the scenes to make it happen. We have posted over 27,000 stories and have received nearly 850,000 comments in the just over 5 years since SoylentNews was launched... here's looking forward to many more years to come!!

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday May 23, @12:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the insert-picure-of-big-haired-guy-saying-it-was-aliens.jpg dept.

We recently had reports of some 'wonkiness' on the site.

Reports started appearing in our #Soylent channel on IRC about 90 minutes ago. For example, the Main Page would load, but parts of the page (such as the slashboxes on the left-hand side) were missing.

I borked my first attempt, but on the second try successfully restarted apache and slashd on both of our front-end servers: hydrogen and fluorine.

All seems to be working correctly now. If this is not the case for you, you may need to clear the browser cache on your system and/or do a hard reload of the page (e.g. Ctrl+F5). If things are still not right, please reply in the comments and/or pop into channel #dev on IRC and let us know.

I'm not sure what precipitated the behavior; I'll leave that to TheMightyBuzzard or one of the sysadmin folk to investigate. I'm sure they'll fill us in on whatever root cause was found.

OTOH, one cannot entirely rule out a spurious gamma ray that flipped a key bit in memory that caused an avalanche of untrapped events.

You can now return to your usual, spirited discussions.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday April 23, @03:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-then-there-were-some dept.

We had a minor site hiccup today. All seems to be working, now.

We have always been open and upfront about the site, so in the interests of full disclosure here is a summary of the problem and steps taken to fix it.

tl;dr Comment counts shown for each story on the main page seem to have stopped getting updated since about midnight this morning; appears to be working now. Please accept our apologies for any who were inconvenienced.

Read on past the fold for details.

Problem: Comment counts on the main page showed "0" comments on recent stories, but opening a story showed the correct number of comments for it.

Actions Taken:

1.) Try bouncing the front-end servers to restart apache (This is a low-risk step that seems to fix a surprising number of issues).

No joy.

2.) Ask for help on the #dev channel on IRC.

Ncommander replied asking if slashd (an over-seeing daemon for the site) was running.

Looked through my log files and on the site wiki; determined that slashd should be running on server: fluorine

ps -AF | grep slashd | wc showed 32 processes

Ncommander suggested: killall -9 slashd

Try: killall -9 slashd

"No process found."

Inspection of output of PS -AF suggested this one-liner should do it:
$(ps -AF | grep slashd | awk '{print "kill -9 " $2}' )

Got most of the processes, but there still seemed to be some stragglers.

/etc/init.d/./slash stop
/etc/init.d/./slash restart


Looked like it might have worked... reloaded main page... see updated comment counts!

Looks like all is working again.

It's a credit to the staff here that the site has been running so smoothly and without crashing or hiccups for... I can't remember when we last had an outage. Given that in the early days of the site we had maybe a few hours of uptime between crashes, we have come a long ways!

I'm going to assume this is one of those "have you tried turning it off and back on again" kind of problems, and unless the problem re-occurs, assume it is solved.

Need to hurry to get to work, so I apologize for the brevity of this posting.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday April 01, @03:55PM   Printer-friendly

Staffing: We are fortunate at SoylentNews to have some extremely talented and hard-working people on our staff. It bears mentioning that all work done on the site is by volunteers — nobody has ever received any payment for any of the work done here. That includes maintaining the code, wrangling IRC (Internet Relay Chat), maintaining our e-mail servers, the databases, web servers, etc. It also covers editing community story submissions and posting them to the site as stories for the community to read and comment on.

So, it pains me to report that one of our staff has been having health issues and was in the hospital in February. The initial "event" has been handled, but one of the tests conducted there revealed another matter which is requiring some ongoing intervention. There's other IRL (In Real Life) stuff happening, as well. As he put it: "All in all 2019 is starting out as a major suck of a year."

I have instructed him to take whatever time he needs to take care of things — first things first.

I am sure this attention is somewhat embarrassing to him, but if I have learned anything at all from MDC's passing, is the wisdom behind this saying

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Please join me in wishing a full, and speedy, recovery to Fnord666.

Finances: As alluded to above, it does take real money to run this site (paying for servers, domain registration, and filing taxes are the major expenses). Having just finished the first quarter of the year, I'm pleased to announce that subscriptions to the site have so far been on a trajectory to meet our funding goal for the first half of the year. As of this writing, we have raised $1143 towards a goal of $2000. Most people make ad hoc, one-time contributions. The amounts presented for the different durations are suggested minimums. The majority of contributions received are at the minimum suggested amount, but so far this year we have some generous contributions above that. We had 2 people at $200 (each), one at $100, one at $80, and a couple more at $25. We accept both PayPal and Stripe for payment processing. We do provide an option, should you so wish, to contribute a gift subscription. By default, we use UID #6 as the recipient, though you are free to choose any user on the site. If you run into any problems or have any questions, please post a comment here, post something on IRC, or send an e-mail to admin (at) and someone will get back to you presently.

What it gets you is a shiny star next to your name whenever you post a comment (which you can toggle on/off in your preferences), some relaxed restrictions on the site, and knowledge that you are helping us continue to provide a unique venue for discussion with a primary focus on science and technology. And, need I say it? Buck Feta! I find it hard to believe it has been over five years since this site forked off from Slashdot, and we have remained advertising-free the whole time!

Thanks: Many, many thanks to all who have subscribed!

If you would like to subscribe or to check your subscription status, please click to go to our subscription page.

Again, please accept my deep and genuine thanks to all who have contributed to this site in any way. Above all, please keep those story submissions coming, moderate comments, and (of course) post new comments, too!


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday April 01, @09:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-a-joke dept.

As mentioned here on March 26, Michael David Crawford has passed away. One person in the SoylentNews community was concerned that MDC might, instead, be incapacitated and in a hospital somewhere. He spent a few hours calling around and reported back to me:

Just got off the phone with the Clark County medical examiner
"I can confirm that a Michael Crawford died on March 24th"

Further, we received news that there is an obituary page up for him.

Separately, takyon suggested in a comment to that story:

Maybe we can put a quote or two of his in the quotations thing.

"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"I Am Eternally In Your Debt."
"The Mind Simply Reels."
"Thank You For Your Submission. Our customer service personnel will respond to your request in the order it was received."

Both TheMightyBuzzard and I ran with the idea and independently posted journal stories asking to gather up MDC sayings.

I am happy to inform the community that, as of 2019-03-31 04:20:00 UTC this morning, SoylentNews now has 31 fortunes attributed to MDC in our fortune rotation. Note: fortunes are chosen at random from all of the fortunes we have, so this represents a very small fraction of those available. Point being that it could be quite a while before you actually see one pop up.

Now that I know how to create and update fortune files, it should be simple to add any additional quotes people suggest. Continue to post any sayings of his to either of those journal articles (with a link to the source for verification, please!) In another week or so, I'll take another look through and update the fortune file as needed.

[Updated 2019-04-02 18:29:28 UTC. MDC quotations can be provided us posting a comment to my journal entry or to TMB's Journal entry. Please provide a link to the source so we can validate it is genuine. Thanks. --martyb]

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Tuesday March 26, @04:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the News dept.

Mike Crawford Is Dead, Contributed to Mac System 7.5.X and Activist

Some of you might know him on the west coast. He worked for Apple fixing/debugging System 7.5.X and attended Cal Tech. He was an activist for the mentally ill and homeless. He was openly bisexual and open about his schizoaffective disorder. His Facebook page.

I had helped him with his project Soggy Jobs which is unfinished. It was his project he needed a business model for.

He was on CNN about the taking away of tax credit from software engineers.

His website is here.

He was a member here at Hacker News.

He had serious physical illnesses that made him suffer and he took his own life.

I was an online friend of his, and I too suffer from schizoaffective disorder.

His wish was not to be forgotten to be remembered through his works. To at least have a Wikipedia article written on him or some other Wiki. Wikipedia named him non-notable about ten years ago. But if you met him, he'd always show you respect and even if he disagreed with you he was nice about it.

takyon: Here is MDC's last post on Warp Life, and Last Will And Testament. User page. Twitter.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday March 14 2019, @02:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the certs-are-not-just-a-breath-mint dept.

With many thanks to The Mighty Buzzard riding shotgun and helping me through some misunderstandings, I updated the certificates (certs) for all of SoylentNews' domains. Our certs are now good through: Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

Everything seemed to go as expected. If you experience any issues, please mention them here, or pop onto our IRC channel using your favorite client or the web interface and speak up in the #dev or #Soylent channel.

Original Submission