The year is winding to a close so I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up on a few things:
- Community questions answered
- Background on site operations
- Story Cadence
- Site finances
For details, read on below the fold.
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 184.108.40.206` or `lockout 220.127.116.11/24` 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:
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!
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++!
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!
[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 email@example.com, or just post a comment to this story.