from the community++ dept.
SoyentNews is staffed by volunteers who give of their time and knowledge to provide a forum where people can discuss stories submitted by the community. We have no outside funding source.
Per our advance announcement on Saturday, May 20th, we completed our site update... one day ahead of schedule! And, even more amazingly, the community came together and we had over four dozen people subscribe since then! THANK YOU! Read on for more details.
The Site Upgrade: I am happy to report things went smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, I didn't even notice the upgrade was being rolled out! I was on the site at the time, following along on IRC (Internet Relay Chat), and didn't even realize the updates they were discussing were not on some support server... these updates were on the main site! (Given that I have a long background in QA/test, that's high praise indeed!) Many thanks to The Mighty Buzzard, NCommander, a surprise visit in IRC by "NC|FromTheFuture", and the rest of the SN staff waiting at the ready to help out should things go sideways.
IRC Server Updates: As mentioned in the earlier article, we are continuing apace with moving to Gentoo for our base OS across all our servers. Before we update the OS, all of the facilities and services underlying SoylentNews need be ported over. To that end, Deucalion has been working diligently to port our IRC servers to run on Gentoo and to do so in a 'multi-server' arrangement. (Behind the scenes, SoylentNews staff primarily coordinate our efforts using IRC. Should something go wrong, we do have fall-backs in place, but they are much less efficient.) We will keep you informed as to our progress.
Folding@home: Our progress has been slower and competition has been greater as we reach the higher ranks. We are currently still on track to be one of the Top 300 F@H Teams in the World by May 28th, 2017 — barely fifteen months since we started! To put this in perspective, there are over 226,270 teams behind us. Please consider helping us in the fight against many debilitating diseases such as Huntington's, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. (Original Announcement.)
Site Suggestions: The prior story brought a wealth of comments. Several suggestions for the site look to be both helpful and reasonably feasible to implement.
One proposed change is to provide a means for a user to set an explicit time (or a reference comment) for which comments newer than that would be flagged as *new*.
Several people shared how they had failed to notice their subscription had expired. One suggestion recommended dimming the "Site News" box which shows the site funding status, based on your current subscription status. Dim the box (user preference) when your subscription is up-to-date; display full-intensity when your subscription has expired (or you are an AC). Another suggested we add a banner at the top of the main page to keep folks appraised as to their subscription status (and a link to re-subscribe).
Separately, when viewing an article which appears in a nexus other than "The Main Page", some of the links on the page are particular to just that nexus, and not the site in general. This story, for example, is in the "Meta" nexus.
Staffing: It is my pleasure to introduce a new member of our staff, Xyem, who came on board on May 16th and has already made contributions to our code base! Please join me in welcoming him aboard.
Funding - In a word: WOW! The actual dollar amounts deposited into our accounts remain to be tabulated, but the current estimated tally, (as shown in the Beg-o-meter on the main page in the "Site News" slashbox) tells the tale. As of the time of writing this story, we have reached our base funding goal!
It bears mentioning that the base funding goal only covers our ongoing operations expenses. We have no prudent reserve should something goes sideways. Further, when SoylentNews started, there were setup expenses that were funded out-of-pocket by our founders. That was over three years ago and they have more than graciously allowed us to continue operating so far without insisting on getting repaid. Sadly, this all went down so long ago I don't recall the exact amount, but I believe it was on the order of $5K, total, that is owed two to people. It would thrill me to no end to know that they have been made whole. It is also important, as a Public Benefit Corporation that we be beholden to noone so that we can continue an an entity that provides a forum where the community can have open discussions on topics of interest. The community submits the stories, writes the comments, and moderates the comments. We are here for you.
It bears mentioning, for those who might not be aware, one is able to subscribe multiple times and/or specify a larger amount on the subscription page than the amounts offered. So far this year, NINE people have subscribed at $100.00 and one especially generous person subscribed at $250.00! Oh, and thanks to this upgrade, we have regained support for subscriptions via Bitcoin!
So, we have a stretch goal of $2000.00 which, if we were able to reach it, would allow us to make a significant step towards making the founders whole and allow SoylentNews to stand on its own.
Funding tl;dr: For tax and accounting purposes, all values are based on actual transactions to our bank account. Entirely separate is what we record internally to the site based on user's interactions with the UI, and there are some historical issues which we are addressing. The amounts appearing the "Site News" slashbox are, therefore, close approximations.
[*] We just discovered a few days ago that PayPal charges different fees depending on your local currency. For example, Alice (in America) subscribes to SoylentNews for one year with the suggested amount of $20.00 US using a credit card drawn on a US bank. Günther (from Germany) also chooses to subscribe for one year and at the suggested amount of $20.00 US. He, too uses his credit card, but it is drawn from an account denominated in Euros. You can see where this is headed, right? It appears there are additional fees charged for the conversion to $USD. See PayPal's merchant fees page for the low-down. Pay special attention to the fact that the additional fees are denominated in the user's local currency, not in $USD.
PayPal does inform us of the actual amount requested, the fees charged, and the net amount we receive. (We get similar info from Stripe, but of course, in a different format.) That information is now stored in our site database. But it wasn't always this way. In the very early days, we were mostly just trying to keep the site from crashing because the code on which this site was based had not been supported in several years and was rife with problems. As things stabilized over the ensuing months and years, we could finally bring our attention to other areas of the code. Since accounting was performed strictly by what happened through our bank account, there was little concern about what was happening internal to the site's inherited accounting code. And wouldn't you know it, the historical data had the gross subscription amount, but failed to accurately account for fees. Net amount was set to be the same as the gross amount. We are in the process of rectifying this, but it will take some time. Hence, the amounts shown in the "Site News" slashbox are an approximation.
To summarize, the site upgrade went smoothly, we have one of the top folding@home sites in the world(!), we are still working to improve the site, the community has been amazing in meeting our ongoing funding needs, and we are hoping we can start repaying our founders.
I've taken the liberty of setting up an official folding@home team for Soylent News. In case you aren't familiar with folding@home, it's a distributed computing project that simulates protein folding in an attempt to better understand diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's.
There is more information on the project here, which explains it much better than I could.
Clients are available for Linux, OSX, and even Windows (if you swing that way), so come join our botnet!
That Other Site's team is ranked at 1817, so we've got some catching up to do.
On a personal note, my Dad carries the gene markers for Huntington's disease, and will eventually succumb to it. Research like this is very helpful for understanding, and hopefully developing treatments for it.
tl;dr Our Soylent News team ID is 230319
[Ed Note 2: Damn devs have made a liar out of me... moved it back to the original schedule noted below. - cmn32480]
[TMB Note: Site update complete. Bumped so folks will notice.]
It has been a few months since we last updated SoylentNews, and we've not been content to rest on our laurels. Our next site update is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, 2017-05-21, depending on staff availability. We'll update this story when we know for sure when it will take place.
Since this post was started, other things have come to light, so there's a bit of everything in here. Read on for the full scoop:
Web Site Changes
In this latest update (scheduled around 00:00 UTC on 5.21.2017, but we are flexible), we have made the following improvements:
- Supported subscription payments made with Bitcoin [again].
- Fixed a bug which blocked non-whole-dollar bitcoin subscriptions.
- Provided immediate feedback of theme changes.
- Added button that, when clicked, marks all comments in a story as "unread".
- Added support for "<s>" and "<strike>" tags.
- Fixed bug where a plus sign "+" in a user's nickname made their user page inaccessible from site links.
- Made minor, non-user-facing changes (code cleanup, etc.)
Separately, the team has made great strides in moving to running on Gentoo. We are taking this step very methodically, making sure we have a solid foundation in place on one server before we even think of rolling it out to the rest of our systems. Yes, that means we will be free from systemd. Kudos to NCommander, Mechanicjay, Audioguy, TheMightyBuzzard, Paulej72, and Deucalion.
SoylentNews' Folding@Home Team Update
It's amazing how spare compute cycles add up! SoylentNews has a Folding@Home team which is helping researchers find a cure for diseases such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's — among many others. Our team was launched on Feb. 12, 2016. In just over 15 months, we have amassed well over 300 million points which places us at Team 304 out of 226564! Barring any surprises, and continuing at our current rate, we are on track to break past 300 and into the 2xx's on or about May 28th, 2017.
We are always open to receiving new team members. Contact Sir Finkus for more information, either via email at this site, or via the #Soylent or #folding channels on our IRC -- Internet Relay Chat server.
New account creation has been relatively consistent and steady over the past year averaging out to a new account pretty much every day. It is a pleasure to inform the community that, on May 18th, account number 6600 was registered on the site.
Lastly, it is my sad duty to inform the community that our cash intake has been seriously deficient so far this year. Our budget for the six-month period of Jan 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017 is $3,000 and we are currently at approximately half that, with less than 6 weeks to go.
We have in excess of 100 users who have been active on the site within the last 30 days whose subscription has lapsed. It is easy enough to do — I have failed to notice my own subscription's end on more than one occasion!
Plain and simple, the site needs to pay its bills. Please look at your subscription page and consider making a contribution. The dollar amounts shown in the text-entry fields are the minimum amount required for that subscription duration. We've had a few users anonymously contribute significantly more than that in the past.
Some have chosen to give a gift subscription to NCommander (UID: 2) as a sign of support. However you choose to make a contribution, please do so now.