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Contributing to OSNews

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It's the first of January, time to make resolutions that lead you to a new lifestyle, open new doors, and challenge you to leave the rut in which you're languishing. I resolved to get more involved in the Open Source community in more meaningful ways, and here we go.

I was talking to Thom Holwerda over at OSNews who was lamenting the dearth of interesting articles submitted to the site for publication, and I volunteered to help out. My first couple of pieces have already gone live, and I've got a lot more ideas. This is fun!

The submitting process led me to reflect on the nature of web publishing these days. Is there a need for topic-specific news sites when anyone with an RSS reader can simply subscribe directly? Is Twitter the way to go now and is RSS too passé? For that matter, what about old Usenet-style discussion centers? In the 21st century there are so many competing fora and formats it's bewildering. But I think there will always be a role for community - that is, human curation. Given the overwhelming number of fora, blogs, feeds, and accounts out there, sometimes it's nice to be able to just go to one place for an update. Check me out at

Click for the afterward: this experiment is over.

Afterward: Feb 2013

Well, that lasted about three weeks. I had fun scouring the news for new scoops, but a couple of things happened that dampened my enthusiasm, and all were predictable.

First, some of my submissions were rejected by the editor. No surprise there - it's the role of the editor, after all! Second, a lot of my articles languished "on the queue" while other news sites reported them first and fostered interesting conversations. Lastly, I realized not only how much work it is, but how many other sites there are out there. Worse, many of them seemed more interesting, more lively, and more engaged than the one I was helping out. That led to some disappointment: should I start my own site? Would I be an editor? Would custom software require a huge investment and then the inevitable requirements for advertising and funding? Then I threw in the towel.

I still feel there's a role for news sites like OSNews, but it's tough. In the modern world, anyone with an RSS reader can get their news from the source. Why bother? Simply, because a curated site can help promote interesting articles and filter the scoops from the scrap. And a good site that promotes comments and discussion leads to an interesting community. For me, that's a big deal and that's why Slashdot remains my first website of the day.

I'd been an avid reader of LinuxToday as well for a number of years, but they peppered that site with so many ads and chased away the commentators and that was that (the huge ads for Microsoft products didn't help either, I've got to say).

So what's the next step? A community-run site with commenting and voting and an NNTP interface and spam filters and moderation and, and, and ... want to help me build it? Because it seems like a hell of a lot of work.

And in the meantime, I've found something else to do. Starting in early February 2013 I'm now a contributor to KDE's documentation. And that seems like a really useful way to help out everybody!


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