from the where-are-we? dept.
This is a meta post concerning Soylentnews' background, finances, operations, staffing, story scheduling, and a conclusion. If this is not your cup-of-coffee++ (or tea, etc.), then please ignore this story — another will appear shortly.
In February of 2014, a group of ticked-off Slashdot users got together, said "Fuck Beta!", and launched an alternative web site focused on the community. It started with an out-of-date and unmaintained open source version of slashcode which was promptly forked and renamed 'Rehash'. We incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation. We experienced site outages, questions of leadership, and faced predictions of failure. Thanks to persistence, dedication, many late nights (and some very early mornings), we persevered and are still here today.
Soylentnews is a place for people to engage in discussions about topics of interest to the community. Not all topics are of interest to everyone, of course. In large part it is up to the community to submit stories — the large majority of these do get accepted to the main page. This is all the more important during the "silly season" &mash; summer in the northern hemisphere — when many people are on vacation and fewer scholarly articles are published.
We are still an all-volunteer organization. Nobody here has made a profit off this site. In fact, Soylentnews is still in debt to the founders who put up the funds required to get us up and running. I am happy to report that we have finally made enough progress that some payback to the founders may be possible.
Here are the unaudited numbers from site subscriptions for the first half of our fiscal year (2017-01-01 through 2017-06-30):
Base goal: $3000
Stretch goal: $2000
Subscription count: 133
Gross subscription income : $3795
Net subscription income: $3645 (estimated - after payment processor fees)
Net over goal: $645
So, thanks to all you Soylentils who have donated, we have a surplus at the moment. The ultimate decision is up to the Board of Directors, but the current sense is that we should build a prudent reserve of some months' operating expenses before paying back the founders. In light of the foregoing, we are aiming for the same fundraising goals for the second half of the year... $3,000 base and $2,000 stretch goals. More in line with business norms, however, these are now being presented in the "Site News" box as quarterly goals: $1,500 base and $1,000 stretch goals, respectively.
We've been forthright and upfront right from the start and it is our continued commitment to keep you informed of any issues in the site's operations.
To wit, we recently received a notice from our web-hosting provider, Linode, that one of our servers had been reported as having been added to a spam-blocking list. Staff immediately responded and found a misconfiguration in our link-shortening service. (It was only supposed to shorten links originating on Soylentnews.org, but was accepting links for other domains, as well.) A dump of the database was taken, non-SN sites were purged, the shortening service was updated to correctly implement the restriction to only shorten links from soylentnews.org, and Linode was informed of these actions.
We also recently experienced a problem with our slashd daemon which, among many other tasks, hands out moderation points each night. This fell over on us for a couple of nights leading to our handing out mod points manually to all users. This seems to have been rectified — please let us know if you see a recurrence.
Lastly, one of the senior editorial staff has been on hiatus to deal with major illnesses in his family. His dedicated efforts in helping them has brought ill health upon himself, as well. I ask you to keep janrinok and his family in your thoughts and, if you are of a mind to do so, in your prayers.
There have been discussions in the past as how we should best handle circumstances when there is a dearth of acceptable stories in the queue. Do we post something marginal just to fill the time or should we hold out and only publish when we have enough suitable material to publish. Past efforts and comments have suggested the majority prefer we avoid posting stories just to fill time slots. In short: quality over quantity. Further, staff cannot work 24/7/365 without a break either. We all need a break sometimes and summer is a good time to take one. In other words, we have been running with reduced staffing for the past couple of months and will continue to do so for the next few months as well.
The result? Over the past month or so, we have experimented with further spacing out stories on holidays (Independence Day in the USA) and on weekends. Instead of the usual cadence of a story appearing every 90 minutes or so, we have tried slowing to posting a story every 2 hours or even every 2.5 hours.
My perception is that this has worked okay. At least I have not noticed any complaints in the comments. It could well be that I had missed something, too. So I put this question to the community: How has the story spacing been working out?
Please keep those story submissions coming, please continue to subscribe (you can offer more than the minimum suggested amount), and — most importantly — please keep reading and commenting! Discussion is