Many of you are frustrated, as am I, by the bugs that are currently present in the system and wondering why they are not being fixed. I am now in a position to perhaps shed a little bit of light onto the reasons we are where we are...
What's In A Name?
There are significant challenges happening behind the scenes that even I was unaware of until an hour or two ago. One is a problem with our domain name itself. You may recall that in the very initial stages of the site the domain was taken by Barrabas who then only relinquished it for the sum of several thousand dollars. I do not have the details but is appears that there is some form of new dispute regarding the name, which NCommander and another board member are currently trying to resolve. If I have understood it correctly, it seems that another entity is trying to grab the name but all that I have to go on are a couple of cryptic comments on IRC. If and when I have more information I will pass it on.
Addendum: After a discussion with another member of staff I believe that our own domain name is safe. NCommander is having an issue with a domain elsewhere. I will keep you informed.
NCommander has a professional life away from this site (as do all the staff with myself being the only exception). There has been significant upheaval in his work over recent weeks and, as a result, he has not had the time that he had expected to have to work on the site. Others are contributing where they can but any resolution of the current problems is unlikely to happen before Christmas. He has also made commitments that he has to honour and he is burning the candle at both ends for the moment. At the end of the day he has to pay the rent and put food on the table. The site is an entirely voluntary and unpaid activity for all of us.
The three major bugs (lack of mod points, the failure to display new journal entries, and the search facility not finding recent stories) are all slashd issues. Some community members are currently scouring the logs/code to try to pinpoint the precise error so that, when NCommander does have some time, the necessary software changes can be carried out quickly.
There has been a bit of a feeling of pessimism over the site recently - so I thought I would do some analysis of the figures to see exactly what the situation is.
Since September we have had a total of 465 unique accounts contributing with comments - and most contribute many times. To be honest that figure is higher than I thought it might be. There are more who have been moderating but not commenting. Figures for how many people actually read our site regularly are difficult to calculate accurately because we cannot count those who do not log in. But by comparing current active participants and page hits with historical data gives a rough estimate of a community of around 700-800 people but that potentially has a wide margin of error. There has also been a reappearance of quite a few accounts that have been dormant for the last couple of years who have returned to the site. I hope that this trend continues.
I was also concerned about the fall in the number of comments since non-logged-in AC posting was disabled on the main pages. Again, it turns out that it is significant but it is not as bad as the figures first suggest. When I account for the number of off-topic, troll, and down-modded posts the comment figures are lower than they were a few months ago, but only marginally so. The quality of discourse is much higher now and is, I think, more acceptable to community as a whole. I am not suggesting that ACs do not make a significant and valuable contribution to the discussions. In fact, it is clear that the majority of Anonymous Cowards do act sensibly and contribute just the same as most other members do. But to enable them to return to the main stories we have to have a way of differentiating between each AC rather than having to control them all in a single account. A recent proposal on how to achieve this was rejected so, for the time being, I am concentrating on other tasks.
It has been claimed that we are not accepting new accounts. This is simply untrue and it is a statement being repeatedly made by an Anonymous Coward. As at the time of writing we have a total of 21836 accounts, but over the last few weeks a 'fake account' bot has been running and has created well over a thousand account entries which simply do not exist. However, there have been 77 new accounts created recently which have been active on the site. These figures do not include the many sock-puppet accounts that have been created; over 600 have been identified and disabled. As far as I can tell, and contrary again to many AC claims, only 3 or 4 of them ever belonged to Runaway1956 and none have been active since last year.
Without a doubt one of our biggest problems currently is funding. NCommander has managed to reduce our server count significantly and has therefore reduced our running costs. People everywhere are struggling to make ends meet and many have to make a difficult decisions regarding how to spend their money. If you are able to make a subscription - no matter how big or how small - it would be appreciated by the entire community.
Over the holiday period we will be reducing the story output to 5 stories a day (the 'weekend' rate). I will be travelling to visit my own family many of whom I have not seen since the start of the Covid pandemic. I will only have periodic internet access, and we will try very hard to find current newsworthy stories to publish. Good submissions are always welcome and we try to select those which have a submitter's identity over those that are created by some of our alternative collection bots.
I read somewhere that there are actually 11 different holidays being celebrated around this time of year. So on behalf of all of the team here at SoylentNews may I wish you, your family, and those close to you, the very best wishes for the holiday period and into the New Year.