2019-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-12-12 09:14:46 UTC
2019-12-12 14:18:40 UTC
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On July 5th of 2014, SoylentNews was officially given approvals for its letters of incorporation as a Public Benefit Corporation.
This is a good opportunity to take stock of where we are. Read on past the fold for coverage of:
Fundraising: For the first half of 2019, the community came through with room to spare! Not only did we attain our goal of $2000, but we also received approximately $549.38 towards our stretch goal of $1000 more. I'll leave the current totals in the Site News slashbox for a few more days before resetting for fundraising for the second half of the year. Please feel free to Subscribe as any new amounts received will go toward our next funding period. In case you were wondering, we had about 100 subscriptions during this period with the largest amounts being $200(x2), $120, $100(x3), and $80; all the rest were for $50 or less. Though this is an all-volunteer organization, we do have to pay for servers, domain registrations, and a CPA to file our taxes, so these subscriptions are key to our being able to "keep the lights on". THANK-YOU!
Site activity: A quick look around the site reveals some interesting statistics. As of my writing this, our story count stands at 27,861 stories. To that, add the 4,178 journal entries that have been posted by the community. We currently have 858,117 comments posted. We have had, however, comparatively few comment moderations: 586,164. We have 8,225 registered users, too!
In case you did not see the follow-up story, we have not performed moderation bans for excess up/down moderations in well over a year. Any moderations by user1 of comments by user2 that exceed 4 per day are reviewed and are simply reversed if it is determined than a mod bomb or sockpuppet moderation is happening. This is in lieu of our implementing code that will automatically handle this in the future when our dev team can scrounge up some spare time to implement it and merge it in. I had my information incorrect in a story posted a while back and want to set the record straight. Remember, there are a few thousand other users on this site, it is not necessary for you to single-handedly moderate all the comments that need it; if it really is that bad or good, then surely someone else will share your perspective and be along before too long to do the same. And, if not, it is not the end of the world; this is a place to discuss stories; not to set the entire world on the right path. In other words: Login to the site and Use your mod points!
Folding@Home: This has not been mentioned in a while, but we do have a SoylentNews Folding@Home (F@H) team... currently ranked #231 in the world! (Based on current trends, we should be #230 within a couple days.) This is purely voluntary by members of the community who saw an opportunity, banded together, and just got things started. Hat tip to SirFinkus for the original impetus and early organizing that has helped us get to where we are today. The F@H client automatically takes advantage of idle time on your CPU/GPU. Once installed and set up, it requests a work unit, processes it, and return the results. These calculations help support research into fighting maladies such as Parkinson's disease.
Journals of Spam Accounts: We have observed accounts being created which have posted no comments, made no story submissions, performed no moderations, but have made postings of a commercial nature to their journal. These are currently blocked from appearing in the "Most Recent Journal Entries" slashbox that appears on the main page until the user has accumulated at least 10 Karma. This reduces their visibility to the casual reader of the site, but could be leveraged to help boost the search engine rankings of the affiliated enterprise.
Some numbers: Out of 4178 journal entries posted to SoylentNews since the beginning, 528 were posted by users who have less than 10 Karma. Of those 528 journal entries, only 26 have a Karma greater than zero. Further, the most recent journal posting from those 26 was in March of 2018 — well over a year ago.
My take on this is that the good name of SoylentNews is being used to advance the standing of commercial enterprises. We strive to be impartial in our coverage and have never taken any remuneration from any outside enterprise lest it give even the appearance of favoritism to what we publish on this site.
Rather than make an edict from on high, I prefer to hear what the community thinks. What, if anything, have I forgotten to look at? Is this even a problem? If it is a problem, what, if anything should be done about it? Require a minimum Karma of 10 to even post in a Journal?
Submit Stories: It is summer time in the northern hemisphere and most research facilities are running with reduced staffing so folks can take advantage of the weather. Also, most schools are on summer vacation, as well. The result is that much less research is performed now than would be during the normal school year. This period is sometimes referred to as the "Silly Season" where on-line publications (many of whom are also running with fewer staff) tend to run more fluff pieces. Please bear with us as we try to find and provide the community with stories of interest with an emphasis on STEM.
This is also a good opportunity to try your hand at submittting a story to SoylentNews. Please see the Submission Guidelines. If you have any questions, feel free to pop into the "#editorial" channel on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and ask for help. As some of our staff may also be taking a vacation, there may not be someone there to immediately respond, so please bear with us. I well remember the thrill I felt when I first saw a story submission of mine accepted and posted to the site!
If the best you can do is submit a link, then do that. If you quote any text directly from the story, please enclose it in <blockquote> ... </blockquote> tags. Of course the closer the submission is to publication-ready, the less work is required of an editor, and the better chance that one of us will run with it. Most importantly, have fun and don't be afraid to try. We all had the experience of making our first story submission and are willing to help you get comfortable with the process, as others did with us.
Thank YOU: We are the little site that could. Splintered off from the non-listening corporate overlords at Slashdot, a bunch of PO'd folk got together and bludgeoned an out-of-date code base into a solid and responsive system. The community that has formed here... I regularly see people looking to find what they can give to the community rather than what they can take from it. We could not have done it without YOU. Providing story submissions. Writing comments and journal articles. Moderating comments. It is a group effort, and this is a group I am grateful to be a part of.
In addition, there is the unheralded work of a small staff who volunteer their time to (try) and keep everything up and running smoothly. For example, Linode (our webhosting provider) recently rebooted 5 of our servers to handle an exploit that was making the rounds. Thanks to the excellent design and implementation, the site kept right on running uninterrupted. There was a minor glitch this morning that a restart of varnishd took care of. And that was it. No muss, no fuss. I count myself most fortunate to be working with such capable and talented people who give so selflessly of themselves to keep this all running so smoothly.
It has been a privilege to serve this community over the past 5 years and it is my fervent hope that we have many more years to come!
Updated (20190704_023935 UTC) Server reboots have completed. I am unaware of any issues from these reboots; please reply here and post to the #dev channel on IRC if anything is amiss. Original story follows with minor updates to mark all servers have been rebooted. --martyb
For those who might not be aware, SoylentNews operations run on servers from Linode. I have recently become aware of their plans to reboot servers:
To complete our mitigations against the recent MDS (ZombieLoad) CPU vulnerability, we will be performing maintenance on a subset of Linode’s host machines. This maintenance will update the underlying infrastructure that Linodes reside on and will not affect the data stored within them.
Here is the schedule for our affected systems:
|fluorine (*)||2019-06-25 05:00 AM UTC|
|beryllium (*)||2019-06-27 09:00 AM UTC|
|helium (*)||2019-06-28 03:00 AM UTC|
|boron (*)||2019-06-28 04:00 AM UTC|
|hydrogen (*)||2019-07-02 09:00 AM UTC|
|sodium (*)||2019-07-03 02:00 AM UTC|
Historically, there is a two-hour window for reboots to occur, but it usually takes far less time than that.
We will attempt to minimize any impact on site operations, but want to let the community know what was coming up.
Also, Linode is planning some server reboots over the next week or so. We will try to give advance notice and keep downtime to a minimum.
Update: Everything seems to have quieted down. Many many thanks to NotSanguine for jumping in and lending his expertise to help identify and isolate where things were borked.
Indications are that a bad BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) route was published causing a relatively small AS (Autonomous System) to have all traffic to/from a large fraction of the internet attempt to go through its routers.
As many of you are aware, SoylentNews uses Let's Encrypt certificates to protect the vast majority (all?) of our networking connections.
Under the watchful eyes of The Mighty Buzzard and SemperOSS I have updated our certs and deployed them across our servers and services. At this point, all seems to be working fine. That said, I have a well-earned reputation of being able to break nearly anything, so it would not entirely surprise me if you find something awry. If so, please let us know! You can comment on this story and/or jump over to the "#dev" channel on IRC and let us know there.
For completeness' sake, the updated certs were rolled out at 20190611_140630 UTC.
NOTE: Do be aware it takes time for updated DNS records to work their way across the internet, so if you do encounter a problem, try clearing your cache and trying again before assuming things are borked.
Holiday Weekend: For our international readers who may be unaware, Monday 27 May marks Memorial Day in the United States, a remembrance of members of the military who have passed in the line of service. In reality, if has become the de facto start of summer which runs past Independence Day (July 4) until Labor Day.
Over this 3-day-long holiday weekend, a great number of establishments are closed or run at reduced hours and staffing. Stories appear on the internet at a reduced rate, and many more "fluff pieces" appear as filler.
I have heard quite clearly that, given a choice, the community generally prefers quality over quantity.
SoylentNews runs with approximate story spacings of a bit over 1.5 hours on weekdays and a little under 2.5 hours on weekends. We've been "feeding the queue" 24 hours per day, every single day, for over 5 years (still amazes me it has been that long!)
So, based primarily on those factors, I have suggested the eds adopt weekend story spacing for Monday (UTC) so they, too, can have a bit of a break.
Read on past the break for the rest of the site news.
Staffing: I would like to take this opportunity to formally welcome back fnord666 who had been on leave from the end of last year into early this year. Good to have you back! On the other hand, mrpg has recently moved and will be incommunicado until he is able to get situated again. Please join me in wishing him well! Our Editor-in-Chief emeritus is back in the saddle, too, though his circumstances may change at any time. He has many outside obligations and yet willingly gives of his very limited free time to SoylentNews. We are indeed fortunate to have him with us; thanks JR!
Outage: Well, it was not actually an outage, but on May 22, 2019 at approximately 2300 UTC, people started reporting issues with the site. Symptoms included some of the slashboxes on the side of the main page were not loading as well as some reports that CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) were failing to load causing malformed layout. I got wind of the issue just before midnight. It took me a couple tries to invoke the correct script to "bounce" the front-end servers (which basically just restarts apache on both our front-end servers and restarts the single slashd daemon). I promptly reported the outage and corrective measures to the community and it seems that all is functioning properly again. Please speak up in the comments if you are still experiencing any issues. But... be sure to clear your browser cache and do a hard reload of the site (e.g. Ctrl+F5 works on Firefox and derivatives) to make sure you are getting a fresh copy of all the files.
Finances: We have reached our funding goal of $2000 for the first half of 2019! Better still, we still have the rest of May and all of June remaining. I took the liberty of updating the "beg-o-meter" in the site news slashbox with a stretch goal of $1000. I am happy to report that we have already received $168.93 towards the stretch goal. I am so grateful for the support of the community for our efforts. For those who may be new or unawares, this is a purely volunteer organization. Nobody on staff has ever received any remuneration ($5 word for pay) for their efforts on this site. As I understand it, both NCommander and Matt_ incurred large monetary expenses in getting the site going and established legally as a Private Benefit Corporation based out of Maryland — expenses for which they have never been repaid. They have been more than patient and gracious in their insistence that SoylentNews become well enough established before getting repaid.
When you subscribe, some of the site limits are relaxed and you get a shiny star next to any comments you post. For the humble, you can turn that star's display off in your preferences.
If you wish to help out, click on Subscribe and select whether you want the subscription to start/extend your own subscription or you wish to make a gift subscription. If it is a gift subscription, specify the UID for the recipient. The default of UID==6 is that of Michael Casadevall (another nick NCommander used when setting up the site) or you may replace the UID with 2339 in memory of Michael David Crawford, or any other UID that you want.
As I have mentioned before, this site has real expenses with server hosting fees, domain name registration, paying for a CPA to file our taxes, and the like. Those who support us financially help "keep the lights on." Thank You!
Submissions: This is not to take away from those who contribute to the site in other ways. Please accept my thanks to all of you who submit stories for the editors to poke at and bring to the community. Some of the community post stories to their journal which has led to many an interesting conversation. Above all, thank you to those who weigh in by posting comments. It is the primary reason for this site's existence, so please keep those comments coming!
Moderations: All comments are visible, but some have more visibility than others, thanks to moderation. For those who wish to see just the crème de la crème, set your comment threshold higher and give thanks to those who have performed moderations.
With respect to moderations, a user may moderate anywhere from 0 to 4 comments by another user. Any moderations in excess of 4 upmods or 4 downmods in a 24-hour period starting at 00:10 UTC will be reversed. It is our intention at some point to have the site impose that limitation automatically so no penalty is currently being imposed at this time. That means we need to monitor moderations and manually reverse those in excess of the limits. The short form of the moderation guidelines is "Don't be a jerk." On the other hand, 10 mod points are issued to every registered user at 00:10 UTC each day... please use them! Please try to focus on upmodding good (e.g. Funny, Interesting, Insightful, Informative) comments but don't be afraid to downmod (e.g. Offtopic, Troll, Flamebait) where appropriate.
When I moderate a comment, my thoughts are for the next person to come along; how can I help curate the discussion to best help them out?
Thank You! Thanks to all the rest of the staff who humbly trudge along behind the scenes to make it happen. We have posted over 27,000 stories and have received nearly 850,000 comments in the just over 5 years since SoylentNews was launched... here's looking forward to many more years to come!!
We recently had reports of some 'wonkiness' on the site.
Reports started appearing in our #Soylent channel on IRC about 90 minutes ago. For example, the Main Page would load, but parts of the page (such as the slashboxes on the left-hand side) were missing.
I borked my first attempt, but on the second try successfully restarted apache and slashd on both of our front-end servers: hydrogen and fluorine.
All seems to be working correctly now. If this is not the case for you, you may need to clear the browser cache on your system and/or do a hard reload of the page (e.g. Ctrl+F5). If things are still not right, please reply in the comments and/or pop into channel #dev on IRC and let us know.
I'm not sure what precipitated the behavior; I'll leave that to TheMightyBuzzard or one of the sysadmin folk to investigate. I'm sure they'll fill us in on whatever root cause was found.
OTOH, one cannot entirely rule out a spurious gamma ray that flipped a key bit in memory that caused an avalanche of untrapped events.
You can now return to your usual, spirited discussions.