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Funding Goal
For 6-month period:
2021-01-01 to 2021-06-30
(All amounts are estimated)
Base Goal:
$3500.00

Currently:
$698.00
19.9%

Covers transactions:
2021-07-22 12:14:55 ..
2021-07-29 11:57:17 UTC
(SPIDs: [1618..1636])
Last Update:
2021-07-30 13:44:35 UTC --martyb


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We always have a place for talented people, visit the Get Involved section on the wiki to see how you can make SoylentNews better.

posted by martyb on Monday July 05, @09:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the UPDATE++ dept.

Milestone:
I doubt many people noticed, but yesterday (2021-07-04) marked a significant milestone in SoylentNews' history:

Our Independence Day: We're Officially Incorporated!

I'm pleased to announce that as of today, our articles of incorporation have been accepted and signed off by the State of Delaware, and "SoylentNews PBC" is a licensed public benefit corporation, ready to accept business, effective today.

[...] I feel that its fitting to post this today on July 4th, Independence Day, given the mission and unique history of SN.

This transformed us from a collection of like-minded nerds into an official entity and which made it possible for us to (finally!) accept funding for the site! Yes, there have been some hiccups along the way, but this was a key step in giving us a solid foundation from which we could proceed.

Server Upgrade:
It is with pleasure that I can announce that one of our database front-ends, fluorine was updated on 2021-07-02. We had been running with 96 GB of storage. On this date, with Juggs (aka Deucalion) watching over things, I snapped a quick ad-hoc backup and mechanicjay pulled the trigger to upgrade us to 160 GB of storage!

It's not that we were pressed for space. Linode (our web hosting provider) had made a free storage upgrade available to us quite a while ago. We held off for reasons I do not entirely understand except for the classic: "If it's not broke, don't fix it!". Whatever the reason, that wait is over! MJ assured us that the site would stay up (our other front-end hydrogen would carry the load) without any issues. So, with some crossed fingers, the button was pushed, fluorine was taken down, its disk was upgraded, and the server was restarted... with nary a hiccup!

It was suggested that maybe this was not worthy of mention, but we strive to be open with the community. I felt it was critically important we keep the community informed as to our activities, so here we are!

Folding@Home:
Still plugging away, the SoylentNews Folding@Home (F@H) team is still plugging along. Facing competition from the likes of Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM, Oracle, and other huge multinationals, it is a great pleasure to announce our current status.

We are still ranked within the top 400 teams in the world — at last check, we have earned over 2⅔ billion points!

New Funding Period:
According to my estimates, we missed our $3,500.00 funding goal by just 44 ¢. There were some additional subscriptions that came in after midnight UTC[*]. Since then, we have already received $211.69 (6.0%) of our $3,500.00 goal for the next half.

[*] Where to draw the line? I am not a CPA, and these amounts are all unofficial estimates, so for our purposes here I'm using Midnight UTC as the cutoff.)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday July 01, @03:21PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Woo-Hoo! dept.

THANK YOU!

I'm calling it a success.

Our fundraising goal for the first half of 2021 was $3,500.00 — according to my calculations, we raised $3,499.56 or 99.987% of our goal!

We missed our goal by... $0.44, yes just 44 cents!

We received 15 subscriptions on 2021-06-30 alone. When we asked the community to support[*] the site, you did!

But wait; there's more! As of the time of this writing, here were 6 more subscriptions (which netted us $113.82) that came in after the 2021-06-30 23:49:49 UTC cutoff. These will be applied towards fundraising for the 2nd half of the year.

[*] Support is more than money. A big thank you to those who submit stories, write comments, moderate comments, and freely give their time to edit stories and support the systems which, together, make this a community!

Yes, we faced some challenges, but we've met them. And, through the adversity, I'd dare say it has pulled us together and made us stronger!

NB: I'll leave up the fundraising status (which show our) end-of-first-half totals for a few days, so everyone gets a chance to see them.

Lastly, I count it a privilege and distinct honor to serve the community as its Editor-in-Chief. Thank you for your encouragement and support!

Previously:
Site Fundraising Status -- Almost There -- Today is Last Day of 2021H1 [UPDATES: 4]


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday June 30, @11:09PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the We're-thiiiiiiiis-close! dept.

[2021-07-01 01:33:11 UTC; UPDATE 4]:

It came down to the wire, but at we ended up $0.44 shy of our $3,500.00 goal for the first half of the year.

Great job everybody!

[2021-06-30 23:05:04 UTC; UPDATE 3]
We are SO CLOSE!
We are currently at 99.1% ($3,470.73) of our goal! We need just about $30!

I've opened up the "Stretch Goal" field in the "Site News" slashbox in preparation.

We have less than an hour to go... Let's do this!


[2021-06-30 18:40:09 UTC; UPDATE 2]:
Since the last update we received SIX $20 subscriptions.
We are currently at 96.5% ($3,377.75) of our goal and need only $122.25 to reach it!

Books close at 23:59:59 UTC tonight... we can do it!


[2021-06-30 14:12:37 UTC; UPDATE 1]:
WOW! Since this story was posted, we have received TWO $100 subscriptions!
We are now at 93.2% ($3263.63) of our goal; only $236.37 to go!


Today (June 30, 2021) is the last day of the first half of 2021!

Fundraising Status:
First off, a great big THANK YOU to everyone who has started a new subscription or renewed their subscription this year!

As of this writing, we have received approximately $3,028.57 since 2021-01-01 towards our goal of $3,500.00 for the first half of the year!

We need only $471.43 to meet our goal!
We are so close! Please help us.

How to Subscribe:

Load the Subscription page and then:

select a recipient (defaults to your own logged-in account),
select a duration,
enter an amount (the values provided are suggested minimums; feel free to override with a larger amount)
click the [Continue] button which will open a new page.

NOTE: All payment processing is handled external to SoylentNews! You'll need to enable PayPal or Stripe for processing to work!

Then just click on button for the payment processor and payment type you want.

Last step is simple; a new form is displayed by the selected payment processor, enter the requested card information, and follow their instructions. That's it!

Recent Subscriptions:
In just the past month we've received these gross subscription amounts:

AMOUNTCOUNTTOTAL
400.001400.00
200.001200.00
100.001100.00
40.00140.00
25.00125.00
20.0018360.00
12.00112.00
10.00110.00
5.00210.00
4.0014.00

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday June 25, @12:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the The-Mod-Squad dept.

There has been some discussion about moderation on this site leading to some misconceptions and misstatements. This story is an attempt to set things straight. It lays out the historical underpinnings for moderation, history of its implementation on Slashdot, and its later refinement on SoylentNews.

Before that, though, I am going to take this opportunity to thank fnord666 who is out Alternate Editor-in-Chief. I could not handle the load alone and his efforts have made a huge difference! Further, please join me in thanking him as he reached a new milestone: over 6,500 stories posted to the site! Many a late night or rare free moment has been generously given to the site. Teamwork++!

History:
The code for this site is a fork of code written for Slashdot. In that site's early days, it was apparent that some comments were much more interesting and informative than others. It was just as apparent that some users would just as gleefully troll the community. Moderation was conceived as a way to sift the wheat from the chaff and help users more easily avoid the "lesser" comments and more easily find the "gems".

Further, to encourage posting "good" comments, Karma was introduced. "Good" comments earned Karma; "bad" comments lost Karma. Moderation was a mechanism by which Karma could be allocated.

Slashdot experimented with several ways to moderate comments. First, it was just the staff who could moderate. Soon, there were too many comments to keep up, so a select group of members from the community were invited to moderate comments. Again, that failed to scale up, so those who had been selected were invited to recommend still other users to moderate. And, again, there were scaling issues.

Solution: make Mod Points (modpoints) available to every registered user in good standing and who indicated in their preferences that they were willing to moderate.

Originally, mod points were handed out randomly and expired after something like 6 hours: "Use 'em or lose 'em".

For the most part, that seemed to work. But there were some perceived issues and meta-moderation was implemented and introduced — moderate the moderations. Unfortunately, it experienced many of the same issues that it was supposed to rectify with comments, just one level abstracted. Further, it was unwieldy and when all was said and done, didn't work all that well, anyway.

Early Tweaking:
Such was the state of things when SoylentNews started. Well sort of. The code base we started with was not current and the meta-moderation code was broken. So much so, that meta-moderation was ripped out of the code just so regular moderation could be made to work. With that behind us, we finally we had a working moderation system on our site. Yay!

That worked okay for a while, but we found ourselves with complaints from many users that they wanted to moderate and lacked mod points. Nice problem to have, right? This was combined with many more comments than moderations. It was thought that we needed more mod points made available to the community. So, after unsuccessfully tweaking the mod point allocation algorithm, it was decided to just not expire mod points until day's end. Every user in good standing got 5 mod points each morning (00:10 UTC) and those were available until day's end whereupon any remaining modpoints were reset and a new set of 5 of modpoints were allocated.

That helped! But jerks will be jerks.

Mod Bombs:
We started to run into problems with "mod bombs" where one user "A" would apply all 5 of their mod points to downmod one other user "B". So code was written to allow checking for such moderations. Staff could generate a report and find such activity. It was decided that:

If you used ALL of your modpoints to downmod ONE user, that was a modbomb. IOW, 5 downmods bad; 4 downmods were permitted.

Initially, anyone who "modbombed" was manually given a "timeout". The first time earned a one month suspension of moderation privileges. A second occurrence earned a six month suspension.

Later, because there were still many more comments than moderations, the number of modpoints allocated to each registered user having good Karma was increased from 5 to 10 per day. The modbomb threshold was, however, kept the same: 4 downmods was still okay, 5 (or more) downmods to the same user was "bad".

A complication arose in that there is no easy way for users to keep track of how many downmods they had made on one other user. User "A" may do 3 downmods of user "B" in the morning and 4 down mods of other (unrelated) users. In the afternoon they might perform 2 more downmods of user "B". Purely unintentional transgression. When you only have 5 mod points it was reasonable to assume that a user could mentally track how many times they downmodded a single user in one day. With 10 daily mod points available, that became less reasonable.

So, along with the allocation of 10 modpoints per day (easy) it was intended to have code written that would kick in when processing moderations: when the threshold was exceeded, the excess downmods would be automatically rejected. And that is still the intent.

The upshot of all that is that when checking for modbombs, we no longer give a "timeout" for 5 downmods against a single user in one day. We just revert the excess mods. We do take note of repeated excesses and are fully prepared to issue a "timeout" when warranted. (e.g. 8 downmods in one day, or several days in close proximity targeting the same user. This is not done unilaterally but rather in consultation with other staff for confirmation.)

Sock Bombs:
First, there some who failed to take the hint that, maybe, they should take a look at what they were posting when they received repeated downmods. We are a community, not your personal soapbox. So, they created new ("sock puppet") accounts and proceeded to upmod their own comments, aka a "sockbomb". Staff have ways to note such behavior based on the IPID and SUBNETID that is recorded with every comment and every moderation. We try to give the benefit of the doubt. But, certain patterns do become apparent and are not tolerated. Upmodding your own comment is grounds for an immediate moderation ban.

Second, just as there is a limit on how many downmods can be targeted at one user in a day, so there is a limit on upmods. The same limits apply, each user "A" is limited to 4 upmods of user "B" in a given day, just like for "modbombs". Again with the caveat of no up-mods of your own account..

Summary:
Our experience is that the current system could stand some refinement, automation of transgression detection and mitigation is in plan (but it will be a while), but for the most part, what we have works well in the vast majority of cases. In short, Wheaton's Law still applies: "don't be a dick". Following that seems to work the best for the most. (With apologies to anyone named Richard. =)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday June 17, @11:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Last night (actually, very early this morning) mechanicjay generated and installed new Let's Encrypt certs for our servers.

I made a quick check and everything seems to be in place. The old certs were due to expire right about now, so if you do have any issues, please pop onto IRC (preferred) or reply here and let us know!

Thanks mechanicjay!


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday June 13, @04:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

[2021-06-14 02:24:41 UTC; update 2: We made a decision to accept Linode's offer of moving up our migration of fluorine. It appears the migration has completed successfully. YAY!]


[2021-06-14 00:25:32 UTC; update 1: hydrogen appears to have successfully migrated. We had a brief 503 on the site until I bounced varnish. The site seems to be fine, now.--Bytram]


Prologue:
First off please accept my sincere wish for a happy Father's Day to all our dads in the community! (It is celebrated next Sunday in 90 countries.)

Also, I am happy to report a surge in participation on the site over the past month. I've seen increases in story submissions, subscriptions[*], and participation (comments, moderations, etc.) Community++

[*] NB: I was successful in crediting users for their subscriptions on the site after the server crash. Unfortunately, that failed to account for the dollar amount of their subscriptions in our tracking database table which is used to source our progress against our funding goal. I have a plan for getting those updates in place, but want to run it past other members of staff to make sure everything is accounted for before making any changes.

Read on for the rest of the site's news, or just wait and a new story will be out before too long.

Server Migrations:
We have received word that Linode, our web-hosting provider, will be conducting maintenance on two of our servers in the next 24 hours.

Last night Linode shut down one of our servers (boron), migrated the disk image to a new physical server, and restarted it. All seems to have gone smoothly.

Later on today, two more of our servers are due to be migrated:

  • hydrogen (alternate database server) 4 CPU Cores, 160 GB Storage, 8 GB RAM
    This Linode's physical host will be undergoing maintenance at 2021-06-14 00:00 UTC. During this time, your Linode will be shut down, cold migrated to a new host, then returned to its last state (running or powered off)
  • fluorine (primary database server) 4 CPU Cores, 96 GB Storage, 8 GB RAM
    This Linode's physical host will be undergoing maintenance at 2021-06-14 07:00 UTC. During this time, your Linode will be shut down, cold migrated to a new host, then returned to its last state (running or powered off).

Also of note, we are eligible for a free storage upgrade on fluorine from 96 GB to 160 GB. It is not clear at this moment if we will also conduct the storage upgrade at this time.

Cert Updates:
Our certs (issued by Let's Encrypt) are due to expire June 17, 2021.

We are aware and intend to have updated certs installed before then.

(NB: I may have some terminology errors in what follows, but I believe the overall process/concepts should be correct.)

I have personally installed updated certs twice before on our servers, and if need be, am prepared to do so again. It has been a couple years or so but the process should remain largely the same. The majority of the steps are automated, but historically we've preferred to handle the DNS updates manually. That way, just in case something goes sideways, we are hands-on and can take steps to mitigate problems... instead of finding we have a botched DNS and greatly restricted access the servers. (That is a bit of an overstatement, but as I understand it, it's a lot easier to make changes over SSH connections to running servers than through a console port to one server at a time.)

Also, there has been discussion about using a fully-automated Let's Encrypt cert update process, we'll keep you posted.

Site News:
Behind the scenes we've been hard at work. juggs, mechanicjay, and audioguy have put in many long and thankless hours stabilizing and documenting our service infrastructure. They've made great strides and we continue to make progress. We cannot change what was done (and not done) in the past, but we can learn from it! What services "live" on what servers? How to restart each service? Monitoring of disk usage and CPU usage? All are gradually being documented and site operations knowledge is getting shared all around.

Lastly, here's a shout-out to the editorial staff who strive to keep stories coming to you 24/7. Fnord666 just posted his 6,500th story! Also, thanks to janrinok, mrpg, chromas, and FatPhil who have all pushed out stories this past month! Teamwork++!

[N.B. Let's not forget our Editor-In-Chief martyb, who just posted his 10,100th story! This is in addition to serving as our primary QA person. - Fnord]


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday May 21, @12:25AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

As many of you noticed, we had a site crash today. From around 1300 until 2200 UTC (2021-05-20).

A HUGE thank you goes to mechanicjay who spent the whole time trying to get our ndb (cluster) working again. It's an uncommon configuration, which made recovery especially challenging... there's just not a lot of documentation about it on the web.

I reached out and got hold of The Mighty Buzzard on the phone. Then put him in touch with mechanicjay who got us back up and running using backups.

Unfortunately, we had to go way back until April 14 to get a working backup. (I don't know all the details, but it appears something went sideways on neon).

We're all wiped out right now. When we have rested and had a chance to discuss things, we'll post an update.

In the meantime, please join me in thanking mechanicjay and TMB for all they did to get us up and running again!

posted by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday March 31, @12:52AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the automotive dept.

We had a few hours this evening where there were issues we didn't notice with new submissions. We had been mothballing (setting the number of matches necessary beyond what would ever match anything) some spam filters exclusive to submissions and managed to somehow confuse one of the Apache web frontends. The offending filters are now just deleted entirely and incapable of confusing even MS Paint.

Please excuse the embuggerance. We now return you to your regularly scheduled arguments.

TMB

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 17, @02:06AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

On Monday February 17 2014, at 02:06AM SoylentNews announced itself to the world!

(That's exactly seven years ago from the time this story posts.) Does it seem possible? I know it certainly amazes me.

A lot can happen in a year. Here are some items of note. As always, if you are not interested in this kind of stuff, ignore this post — a new story will be along shortly. Otherwise, this story continues below the fold.

  1. Random Statistics
  2. Site News
  3. Staff Activity
  4. Folding@Home

NB: An earlier version of this story containing much more detail seems to have jumped into a bit bucket. Please forgive any errors that crept into this quick reincarnation attempt!

Random Statistics:

Over the past year, activity on the site comes to:

Journals:2,161
Stories:3,927
Moderations:114,020
Comments:155,098

We previously had a great number of posts on the COVID-19 pandemic. It is still with us, but vaccines are starting to be rolled out. Sadly, variants of the coronavirus have appeared, and some appear to be more contagious than the earlier strains. We had let up on our coverage of late, because trying to merge 20-30 story submissions was extremely demanding of time and energy — yet with decreasing amounts of discussion.

In spite of the hit that COVID-19 had on the community, we had a successful fundraiser last year. When we have official results, we will get them to you.

Site News:

We had a few hiccups and a burp or two, but the site has held up pretty well over the past year, all-in-all.

We had a site issue last June where the Most Recent Journal Entries Slashbox disappeared for a while. The Mighty Buzzard (aka TMB, Buzz), investigated, verified the DB was okay, restarted mysqld, bounced Apache/Varnish, and got that running again. Thanks again, Buzz!

We've also had a few (thankfully short) site outages and some issues. One of which, of course, coincided with TMB being on a week's vacation. I investigated, but it was well beyond my ken. TMB made a valiant effort, but being far from home and trying to remotely diagnose/fix problems with a borrowed Windows laptop with a chicklet keyboard was just too much. He got things stable until he could return. At that point, things were fixed up right-quick. Thanks bunches!!

Work continues, in fits and starts, to get our new Gentoo server aluminum up and running. It is slated to take over for our single CentOS server: beryllium. Thanks to TMB and juggs as well as mechanicjay and audioguy for all you do!

Staff Activity:

As noted in last year's anniversary post, TMB had been remodeling a church into a home. "(end of April is what we're currently shooting for as a best case scenario)". Looks like his estimate was pretty close, but just had the wrong year. 😁 As soon as that remodeling is done and he's moved in, we are hoping to start working on some site updates.

That said, there are some non-Perl updates that were made through the template system. We pushed out just such a change last March. When loading a story which contains a wall-of-text, one can now just click "[Skip to comment(s)]" in the story's title bar and save a bunch of scrolling. (Updated the in-memory copy of template: "dispStory;misc;default".)

requerdanos joined the editorial staff last December. We were hoping for maybe a couple stories per week, but in short order he has already posted 106 stories! Thanks so much!

Thanks, too, go to Fnord666 who has been a solid and consistent contributor to the site. He's posted 6,234 stories of which 1,816 have been in the past year — 4.975 stories a day, every day. (No, I have no idea what 0.025 stories looks like!) He has often posted half of the day's stories, and some days has posted every single story. I couldn't have asked for a better Alternate Editor-in-Chief!

Then there's chromas who has posted 158 stories over the past year. (lifetime total: 1,237 stories). He often "seconds" stories (provides a review of the initial editor's efforts) and thereby helps keep our "foe paws" from making it out for everyone else to see and laugh at. But wait, there's more! He also maintains his systemd 'bot' on IRC. It submits stories, resolves links, and looks up things on Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube. It even extracts and generates citations for journal references! I shudder to think of how much harder it would be to post stories without the assistance. Thanks so much!

Our emeritus EiC (Editor-in-Chief) janrinok has had limited spare time while providing primary supportive care for his spouse. Nevertheless, he pushed out 193 stories in the past year (lifetime total: 5,237 stories). Furthermore, he maintains Arthur T. Knackerbracket which extracts and submit stories. Thanks JR! I especially treasure your gentle and able guidance as I try to follow in your footsteps!

Though less frequently, we continue to get regular contributions from mrpg, CoolHand, and FatPhil. Every bit helps and is MUCH appreciated!

Then there's takyon who continues to occasionally post stories (23 over the past year, lifetime total: 1,365). More amazingly, he is a prodigious submitter of stories, too. They are almost always well-researched and well-formatted, with supporting links from other sites beyond the primary source. I suspect he may have been an understudy on Dragnet "Just the facts, ma'am." Whenever I see one of his stories in the submissions queue, I know it will be a simple one to push out into the story queue. In the past year he has had 378 of his story submissions accepted! Thanks takyon!

Hopefully I didn't overlook someone, but before I close here, I should mention that TMB posted 10 stories over the past year... in addition to his efforts to keep the site up and running. Thanks Buzz!

Folding@Home:

You might not be aware, but SoylentNews has a Folding@Home team that contributes spare CPU cycles to a distributed computing project. The effort seeks to determine how different proteins fold and, thereby, be better able to come up with cures. Besides Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease, the past year's efforts have had a huge emphasis on the CARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID 19. Huge multinationals like Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and many others have donated their spare compute power to fighting COVID-19. Yet, even measured against those heavy weights, SoylentNews is still ranked 368th in the WORLD. We have completed 163,441 work units. That has earned us 2,435,739,709 points so far. Yes, 2.4 Billion points!


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday February 14, @04:47AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Constants-aren't-and-variables-won't dept.

[2021-02-14 15:53:00 UTC: UPDATE added need to check apache log before doing a slash -restart]

We seem to have experienced some difficulties with the SoylentNews site.

I've noticed that both the number of hits and comments for each story do not seem to be updating.

Corrective measures taken:

  1. "Bounce" the Servers I doubted it would help, but it causes no harm to try it, so why not? And, as expected, it did not help, either.:
    This is my personal "bounce" script:
    cat ~/bin/bounce

    #!/bin/bash
    servers='hydrogen fluorine'
    for server in ${servers} ; do echo Accessing: ${server} &&  rsh ${server} /home/bob/bin/bounce ; done

    Which, in turn, runs the following script on each of the above servers:

    cat /home/bob/bin/bounce

    #!/bin/bash
    sudo /etc/init.d/varnish restart
    sudo -u slash /srv/soylentnews.org/apache/bin/apachectl -k restart

  2. Restart slash For those who are unaware, slash has its own internal implementation of what is, effectively, cron. It periodically fires off tasks that support the site's operations. But, this potentially has side-effects, so first need to check the apache error_log.

    # Go to the appropriate server:
    ssh fluorine
    # Ensure the apache log is not showing issues: tail -f /srv/soylentnews.org/apache/logs/error_log
    # Restart slash:
    sudo /etc/init.d/slash restart
    >> slashd slash has no PID file
    >> Sleeping 10 seconds in a probably futile attempt to be clean: ok.
    >> Starting slashd slash: ok PID = 3274

    NB: this failed to run to a successful conclusion when I originally tried it a few hour ago. I gave it one more try while writing this story... it seemed to run okay this time?!

Things appears to be running okay, now. Please reply in the comments if anything else is amiss. Alternatively, mention it in the #dev channel on IRC (Internet Relay Chat, or send an email to admin (at) soylentnews (dot) org.

We now return you to the ongoing discussion of: teco or ed?


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 11 2021, @03:28PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

It's been one heck of a week:

Against the backdrop of record-setting numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in the US and around the world, there was turmoil in Washington, DC. As court cases surrounding the presidential election were filed and dismissed, a close race in Georgia was coming down to the wire and with it control of the US Senate. While the US Congress was completing the Electoral College tally and certification, a mob formed outside — and eventually broke into — the US Capitol. This resulted in a 4-hour lock-down. Eventually, the intrusion was repelled, and the Electoral College count was completed: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was confirmed as the 46th president of the United States of America.

Conspiracy theories have flourished. Propaganda has streamed forth across multiple platforms. Tempers have flared.

And SoylentNews has been there for you. And have you ever spoken up! Two of the most-commented stories in the site's nearly seven-year history were posted in just the past week!

Insomuch as the activities in the US Capitol were far from the US' most shining moments, neither were things all unicorns and rainbows on SoylentNews. Tempers flared. People were attacked and called names. I even accidentally deleted a story and the 17 comments attached to it! [NB: Problem addressed: the delete button no longer appears by default for our editors.]

IRC (Internet Relay Chat):

Even our IRC service was not free from controversy. We had a spate of nick (nickname) impersonations. Going forward, IRC users are free to use whatever nick they like with the following caveats:

  • Prefix / suffix of a nick is fine for practical purposes (e.g. ${nick}_laptop)
  • Impersonation or misrepresentation will not be tolerated
  • The use of another user's website nick or derivative thereof on IRC will be subject to sanctions up to and including perma ban.

Further, we understand conversations can easily ramble from subject to subject, but there are separate channels for different topics. (Use the /list comand to see what is available.) As #soylent is the default landing channel, we want to keep the discussions there civil. Name calling and personal attacks are grounds for a timeout. I have had discussions with deucalion (the site's CEO and also IRC-maintainer) about these activities.

NOTE: we are NOT going to sit there watching every discussion, poised to take action. But, if such activity is seen by staff on IRC, they are free to take such actions as they deem necessary.

Aspirations:

As I approach posting my 10,000th story(!) to SoylentNews, I think back to when it all started. How a group of people got together. They shared freely of their expertise, of their free time, and of their hard-earned funds. They tried to create a place free from corporate overlords where people could engage in discussions that focused primarily on technology, but with a dabbling in other areas and current events.

SoylentNews provides a forum for discussion. It also provides tools so the community can express themselves in the comments and moderate those comments, as well.

This got me to thinking. What are our aspirations today? What are our guiding principles? I will list some of my guiding principles, and I encourage the community to share what guides them in the comments.

  • "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong." --H. L. Mencken (cite)
  • "People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov (cite)
  • "If you speak when angry, you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." -- Groucho Marx (cite)
  • "Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."
  • "Don't get furious, get curious" -- Miley Cyrus (cite)
  • "Humiliation is when someone points out my shortcomings. Humility is when I confess them myself."
  • "I need not participate in every fight I am invited to."
  • The most difficult behaviors to observe in another person are the ones I dislike in my own.
  • "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." -- John, Lord Morley (cite)

How about you? What sayings guide your aspirations?

Thank You!

Lastly, I thank all of you for supporting me as Editor-in-Chief. I have no formal background in writing or management. I've made mistakes, but I've tried to own up to them as they happened. I strive to be fair, impartial, and open-minded. Under the watchful gaze of the community, I have grown. It is my hope that I may continue to earn your respect and continue in service for many years to come.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 04 2021, @05:10AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Summary:
It wasn't just you; SoylentNews.org was down today (Sunday, 2021-01-03) for a few hours in the mid morning to early afternoon UTC. It seems to be back up and running, but there are some minor artifacts.

Background:
First sign was some CSS and Slashbox issues appearing on Saturday night. I was editing a story and when I tried to preview it, saw that the SlashBoxes that normally appeared on the LHS (Left-Hand Side) of the page were missing. A page refresh or two later, and things looked okay, again. A bit later I went to view a story and saw the same symptoms. This time a hard reload that ignored and cache on my system (Ctrl+F5) did the trick.

I popped onto IRC (Internet Relay Chat), reported these symptoms, and asking if anyone else was seeing the same thing. Received a couple confirmations.

Oh. Joy. And TMB (The Mighty Buzzard) still seemed to be away on vacation.

Oh well. Skipped on over to boron and ran a script to bounce the apache servers on fluorine and hydrogen. Popped back onto IRC, reported what I did, and asked if things were better. Got some affirmations. Yay!

Just in case, I hung around for another half hour or so to confirm the site was staying up and running okay. Looking good! After thanking everyone for their help, I wished everybody a good night and then headed to bed.

Sunday:
Shortly after I woke and attempted to visit the site, I was greeted by a message explaining the site was down due to DB issues. When I got back onto IRC, found that TMB was already hands-on. The site had crashed early in the morning. With the site already down, and it being Sunday morning, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity to make some backups and then do some maintenance work.

Status:
Site is back up, system loads seem back-to-normal, and things seem to be pretty much as they should be. Except... the Older Stuff slashbox that appears on the RHS (Right-Hand Side) of the main page seemed to be missing some entries. The newest entry as I write this is YouTube Class Action: Same IP Address Used To Upload 'Pirate' Movies and File DMCA Notice.

I suspect the missing entries will eventually start to stream in and repopulate the list.

tl;dr:
The DB crashed and took the site with it. TMB was soon on the scene and fixed the DB and did some other work. We're back up and running.

Thanks TMB!


Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Friday January 01 2021, @08:51PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

[2021-01-01 20:46:45 UTC; updated with estimated totals for the second half of the year 2020 and for the entire year.]

Happy New Year!

The end of the year 2020 is fast upon us. There are many, I'm sure, who will be glad to see it go. And for good reason, too.

I am inviting the editorial team to take a long holiday weekend; we will have reduced story coverage Friday through Sunday.

There's no need to go into a recap of the world's events over this past year — plenty of other sites will do that and I see no need to waste people's time.

Here's a milestone that happened a couple weeks ago that escaped my notice at the time: SoylentNews has been here, for the community, for over 2,500 days! It's amazing what can happen when people pull together in a common effort!

Finances:
We are about to wrap up our fiscal year. (NB: all amounts are estimates.) Our first-half fundraising went very well (thank you!) It looks like we need only about $110.00 to make our year-end goal!

[UPDATE] (2021-01-01 20:46:45 UTC)

We did it! First, the "bad news": we missed our goal for the second half of the year. We had net subscription income of $2,351.56 (which was 67.2% of our $3,500.00 goal.

But... we did make our entire year goal: we had net subscription income of $7,106.08 (which was 101.5% of our $7,000.00 goal).

NB: All amounts are estimates; we will post a followup with final figures after they become available. That will probably not be until we file our taxes for the year 2020.

THANK-YOU EVERYBODY! We'll leave the year-end numbers up on the "Site News" Slashbox for a few days so that as many as reasonably possible have a chance to see.

--martyb
[/UPDATE]

As I write this, for the year, we have raised $6,890.77 (98.4%) of our $7,000 goal. That is, in large part, due to the excellent response to the fundraiser for the first half. For the second half of the year, we stand at $2,136.25 (61.0%) of our $3,500.00 goal. Thanks everyone who has already subscribed; we wouldn't be where we are without you!

If you haven't already done so, and are in a position to do so, please subscribe if you can. Every bit helps!

Journals:
Theeeyr're baaack! Well it seems that way, at least! I noticed the "Most Recent Journal Entries" Slashbox has returned and that the load on our servers has returned to normal levels. I have received no official word, but from what I can see, we are back in business. Yay!

Teamwork++:
Lastly, I am going to take this opportunity to thank the editorial team for keeping the stories coming 24/7/366 (Yeah, 2020 was a leap year). Between politics and the pandemic filling the headlines, it was difficult to find a balanced mix. In a highly polarized environment, it was sometimes difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff. Also, thanks to COVID-19 many events were cancelled and facilities closed or operating under reduced hours. That resulted in even less of the "normal" kinds of news we'd have available to us to choose from.

I am happy to report that requerdanos, who so graciously accepted an invitation to join the editorial team, has already been making a very positive impact. Not just in pushing out stories (though that has been huge), but also in bringing a positive attitude and a keen eye to bear. We are indeed fortunate to have him aboard!

A little history:
I got started as an editor in 2014. It all started when I noticed typos, formatting errors, or word omissions in stories posted to the site. I'd jump on IRC and try to reach out to an editor to get corrections made. After doing this several times, I started suggesting that if I were made an editor, I could make the corrections, myself! Seemed to fall on deaf ears. But I persisted and was eventually made an editor. Little did I suspect: I was in for a shock! There was so much more happening behind the scenes than I had ever imagined. (Can you say Dunning-Kruger?) It was only after I had undergone a few days' training that I was permitted to finally push out my first story.

I did not understand that what gets posted on the main page is the voice of the site. That we needed to watch out for troll submissions (some are plausible but fail under closer scrutiny). Other story submissions came with bold and italics omitted. Others had missing or broken links. There are also matters of defamation and fair use to watch for. That is entirely separate from the logistics of working as part of a team with members on multiple continents and in different time zones!

There is also the matter of following guidelines so that the site has a consistent layout (aka look-and-feel). Then, too, scheduling stories was functional, but unforgiving of errors.

I am grateful the extent of my ignorance was mostly made known only to other (very understanding and patient) staff members. (Yes, I've had my front page flubs, too.)

Join us:
So, with that most glowing of introductions to the work of an editor, I hereby offer an opportunity to anyone who is interested in joining the team. (I feel like I'm writing an ad inviting people to join a team trying to reach the North Pole: random hours, no pay, bring your own asbestos garments!)

Anyone who thinks the job of an editor is quick work or easy is hereby also invited to volunteer.

Here's wishing everyone in the SoylentNews community a safe, prosperous, and Happy New Year!


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday December 25 2020, @08:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

[2020-12-25 22:18:22 UTC -- Corrected typo (with thanks to maxwell demon) --martyb]
[2020-12-25 21:32:03 UTC -- Updated with staff info and reformatted the story. --martyb]

First, on behalf of the staff at SoylentNews, please accept our best wishes for a happy (and safe and healthy) holiday!

Next, here are a few quick items of note that bear calling to your attention.

Please join me in welcoming requerdanos to the editorial staff at SoylentNews! He has already jumped in with both feet and had stories appear on the main page. Welcome aboard requerdanos!

Of note, as well, takyon has not only posted 1364 stories to the site, and he has submitted just shy of 6,100 stories (as I write this it stands at 6,097 submissions... there's more(!) how about posting over 20,000 comments! Thank you SO much!

I always feel reluctant to mention anyone specifically as running this site is a team effort. I sense there are some staff who prefer to work in the background and shun the limelight. We appreciate their efforts nonetheless! Recall the early days when site crashes were a request frequent occurrence. We've come a long way from then and I count it a privilege to have worked with such knowledgeable folk who have been so generous with their time and energy!

Lastly a huge thank-you to those who responded so generously to our end-of-the-year fundraiser! As of this writing, we have had 21 subscriptions totaling $567.40 since our request went out a couple weeks ago.

In this second half of the year (July 1 through December 31) we have raised $1908.15 from 85 subscriptions towards our $3,500.00 goal. THANK-YOU!

We realize it's been a tough year for everyone; take care of your friends, family, and community first. But, if you do have the means, we'd really appreciate your subscribing and helping us to keep things going for you and our community! Please see this comment to our previous story for step-by-step instructions on how to subscribe.

Why subscribe? Why not? Besides, you'll get all the benefits listed on the "SoylentNews - Why Subscribe?".

NB: If you'd prefer, you can subscribe anonymously. There's an option to make a gift subscription, as well. For any questions or difficulty, please reach out on IRC, send an email to admin@soylentnews.org, or just post a comment to this story.

Thank you!


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday December 18 2020, @06:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

The year is winding to a close so I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up on a few things:

  1. Milestones
  2. Community questions answered
  3. Background on site operations
  4. Story Cadence
  5. Site finances

For details, read on below the fold.

Milestones

First off, I'd like to acknowledge an amazing milestone: Fnord666 has now edited and pushed out over 6,000 stories Thanks, Fnord666!

Another milestone of note: our Folding@Home team just reached 2.3 Billion points. Here's a different view of the stats. Out of all the teams in the world, we are in 348th place! And our very own Runaway1956 is currently at 2,077th place in the world with over 630 million points! Go Team!

We had a couple story submissions by Anonymous Cowards that raised some concerns about SoylentNews. I see some misunderstandings here, and wanted to address them publicly.

Story Submissions Queue

The first one concerns the story submissions queue:

upstart hogs the subs queue. Perhaps there should be a way to filter out the subs queue by name so that I can either omit or include specific names and scan through stuff that's not by upstart. Especially since this seems to be 'generated bot-o-matically!', maybe I want to see articles by non-bots without being overly cluttered with bot generated submissions.

Interesting suggestion. Editors also see the — complete — list of story submissions: Nexus, Date/Time Stamp, Title, and Nickname. We, too, have no mechanism for filtering based on nickname. (There are, of course, some additional controls provided us for processing story submissions.)

From the Create Account page:

(Note: only the characters a-zA-Z0-9$_.+!*'(),-, plus space, are allowed in nicknames, and all others will be stripped out.)

It seems far from trivial to design a clear interface for enumerating nicknames to include or exclude. Said UI would need to be designed, implemented, and tested. It is an interesting idea and will be considered when we have freed up some time for development in the future.

It should also be noted that perhaps the massive number of submissions by upstart shouldn't reduce the number of listed submissions at any given time by others because upstart 'bumped' them off the queue list. If the queue list has a max queue count (and not a max number of days before being bumped off) then upstart probably shouldn't contribute to that max count and it should have its own separate max count allowing for the submissions of others to persist on the subs queue even if those submissions have been there before some of upstart's prior posts.

See above, no stories are omitted from the subs queue. If it's in the queue, we see them!

Here, I'm speaking only for myself (but I invite other editors to chime in if they do things otherwise). The first thing I do is scan the entire subs queue. I look specifically for non-bot submissions and also to get a feel for the current zeitgeist. Only then do I select a story to open for consideration. If someone made the effort to submit a story, I believe it is incumbent on me to respect that effort and give it a priority. Having reviewed the entire queue, I've also noticed if the same story has been submitted by someone else (human or bot). A bot sub is often the source for the "See also" links you see in a story.)

Oh! Bot subs still require a person to submit them. But, instead of using the Submit Story link from the "Navigation" Slashbox, they've provided a link in IRC to one of the bots that are resident there. In all cases, an actual person had to manually initiate the submission.

Soylentnews, Timestamps, and Timezones

Next up is a question about time on this site.

Soylentnews posts the timestamps of articles and comments but it doesn't post the time zone. So when I submit a comment or read an article it says 5:34 PM for example but that doesn't really mean much to me if the time zone isn't mentioned.

I suggest the time zone should be next to the comment or article. 5:34 PM PT or 5:34PM UTC or whatever. That way I (anyone) can conveniently stick that into google and have it translate what that means in my time zone without having to think/jump through hoops to figure it out.

This one is easier to address. If you have created an account, you can select what time zone you want used as the basis for the time presented throughout the UI. In no case does SoylentNews explicitly state a time zone; it is implied. So, if you are accessing the site without having logged in (i.e. an "Anonymous Coward", aka "AC") it defaults to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). NB: Occasionally that is (incorrectly) referred to as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Read the link for details.

tl;dr: The time zone is always implied and never made explicit in the site UI. Either it is UTC (the default), or what you set it to in your account preferences.

What do you guys DO, anyway?

I invited TMB (The Mighty Buzzard) to write in with some info on what the site sysadmins do here. In his own words:

So, martyb wants me to let yall know that us admins actually occasionally do stuff around these parts. The thing is, if you do your job well as an admin, you end up not having to do a whole lot of day-to-day stuff. So I'll just tell you about what I've done this past week since it's not a blank page or "everything's working fine". Gentoo system updates and firewalling off the IP addresses of automated hack attempts on our email server.

Firewalling first. Been seeing a lot of identical SMTP attempts from some script-kiddie noobs. Audioguy was forward-thinking enough to write us a just-add-address blocking script so it's just a matter of grepping the logs, doing a little awk to snag the addresses, piping through uniq, and running `lockout 1.2.3.4` or `lockout 1.2.3.0/24` or what have you. Yeah, we could do the same without even having to pay attention via snort but I can't currently be arsed to set snort up and I kind of like paying attention.

Gentoo system updates are pretty routine if you don't get lazy and let six months of them build up. We use a chroot environment on our dev box as a build box for all the Gentoo boxes so we don't have to have the CPUs pegged for extended periods on production boxes or have to install every package on the real root of the dev box. Which means we set it as BINHOST, compile world+dog just once in the chroot environment, and let all the Gentoo servers pull the binary packages they need from it over rsync.

Well, that's all you generally have to do right up until you get one of those fun days when they decide to deprecate the profile you're using and force you to update profiles if you want stuff to keep building correctly. That's what I've been monkeying with the past couple days. On and off, mind you. It doesn't take days to do if you're have time and are willing to sit in front of a terminal emulator the whole time. This time around that means you get this message and have to back up each server and do an annoying extra rain dance:

!!! Your current profile is deprecated and not supported anymore.
!!! Use eselect profile to update your profile.
!!! Please upgrade to the following profile if possible:

default/linux/amd64/17.1

...

The amd64 17.1 profiles switch to a more standard 'no SYMLINK_LIB' multilib layout, and require an explicit migration. The migration is performed using the app-portage/unsymlink-lib tool.

Basically that means you get to cross your fingers, run their tool, recompile gcc and any 32bit libs you have on your system, switch profiles, reboot, and test everything you want running correctly to make sure it still does. So far we've lucked out and had no issues but I still have the least likely to go smoothly box to go. Luckily it's also the one slated to replace our IRC/mail/etc... box and not yet any form of critical since it's not set up to do those jobs singlehandedly yet.

Anyway, that's today's peek into the exciting and glamorous world of an admin. We now return you to your regularly scheduled arguments.

Thanks, buzz, for the info and for all the work you do behind the scenes to keep things running! Also, a shoutout to Deucalion, mechanicj, and audioguy for all you do to keep us going!

Story Cadence

It has been a pleasure working with our editing team. They toil many hours 24/7 to keep the stories coming. One of our staff has experienced reduced availability taking care of a loved one who is ill. And, well he should! With the reduced staffing, it is increasingly obvious that something has to give. I have invited a member of the community to join our ranks as an editor, but this will take some time. In the interim, we have moved to a reduced story cadence. Story spacing going forward is approximately 4 3/4 hours on weekends and 2 1/2 hours on weekdays (UTC). Please join me in thanking Fnord666, chromas, and takyon for their continued selfless service to the community! Teamwork++!

Finances

This is not a topic I like to discuss, but it needs to be done, so here goes.

At last check, we had raised $1,317.17 towards a goal of $3,500.00 for this half of the year (July 1 through December 31). So, that puts us at 36.6% of our goal.

We realize times are tough for all of us. If your finances are tight right now, please take care of yourself and your loved ones, first. But, if you find we provide a useful service, we'd very much appreciate any help you can provide. Go to our Subscription page and whatever amount you can offer will be most appreciated! We had a successful drive in the first half of the year which helped make up for a running deficit, but we're still down from the initial amounts put in to get the site off the ground and incorporated. Every bit helps. FYI: we do not see your account information. You choose PayPal or Stripe as the payment processor and then you are provided a form on their service. They handle all the processing and deposit the net amount in our PayPal or Stripe account for us to then deposit in our bank account.

Please accept my deepest thanks for anything you can contribute. NB: The amounts indicated are the minimum for the stated duration. For example, $20.00 for a one year subscription. You can increase that suggested amount to whatever value you'd like. Gift subscriptions are also welcome!

The largest portion of the funds go towards the cost of our servers. Next up are required fees, taxes, and the cost of a CPA to do our taxes.

It bears mentioning that nobody at SoylentNews has ever been paid anything for their work on the site. Everyone on staff are volunteers and freely give of their free time and energy to keep things running. It's also important to note that we have never run advertisements of any kind, nor has any user information ever been sold.

There are some downsides to this. Should the site go down for any reason, we do not have things staffed 24/7/365 constantly monitoring all services and poised to leap at a moment's notice should anything go toes up. We did have a couple periods of downtime this half. First, when our redundant servers got out of sync and brought things to a halt. Which is good, because when things started coming back up, the older copy of the database was trying to claim it should be the primary. Thanks, TMB, for sorting things out so we suffered no loss of data! A few days later, our site certificate expired and had the site unavailable for a few hours. It's a Catch-22 situation. How can you use expired certs to get access to a site so you can install new certs? I've done cert updates a couple times on SoylentNews, but this had me baffled. Thanks TMB for sorting things out!

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2