OSDN problems and advocacy

Posted 31 Oct 2001 at 14:09 UTC by mpawlo Share This

VA Linux is changing its name and dropping its strong Linux connection. K5 is thrown out of OSDN. This could affect the free software and open source community at large.

According to a Slashdot article VA Linux is changing its name. Who cares? Well, VA Linux has a very strong connection to Slashdot. On a related note, Kuro5hin is reported to leave the OSDN cooperation. The reason for the latter is that K5 doesn't fit into Rob "Roblimo" Millers view of the OSDN. I appreciate the work of Roblimo and he has to make his own decision, but I am concerned that the two incidents, though maybe not directly related, may cause a much more severe blow to the free software and open source advocacy than any of Microsoft's fear, uncertainty and doubt campaigns.

We still don't know how the two incidents will affect the community at large, but I think we should consider a world without K5 and Slashdot and maybe discuss how the advocacy for free software will function in such a design. Maybe the Linux community is so strong today that K5 and Slashdot and the other OSDN web sites are not crucial for the survival and expansion of the community, but I am pessimistic. What about other projects within the free software and open source movements? How will they be affected?

I have no answers, but I would like you to share some educated views on this.

The importance of VA has been blown out of proportion., posted 31 Oct 2001 at 14:35 UTC by asleep » (Journeyer)

In Leaving SourceForge we talked about the fact that if SF just went *poof* we'd live on.
What makes anyone think VA is any more important then the focal point of most of our projects? It's not.
Since dropping most of the good hackers VA hasn't done much for me, has it directly effected you? SourceForge and freshmeat are about the only things I can even think of that I normally use that's owned by VA (no, I don't use /.).
I will admit, I wish my project had been accepted on tigris rather the SF, I am a little worried about that now. I can't see SF being able to maintain itself if VA was to drop dead.
Anyway, I don't see VA as the end-all be-all of Free Software and our community will go on no matter what, this as already been proven a few times and I'm sure we'll be tested some more. When the day is over, the Free Software tools are still the best.

"hit by a bus", posted 31 Oct 2001 at 14:41 UTC by mpawlo » (Master)

This reminds me of the old "what if Linus Torvalds got hit by a bus" discussion, but I am not concerned with the survival of the software, but the survival of the advocacy. To put it more bluntly: the OSDN and Slashdot are great marketing tools for open source and free software. Not only does users read stories and get inspired by Slashdot and download software from OSDN web sites, but journalists often get stories from the network, thus spreading the word.

I am afraid that this strong focus on free software and open source will diminish if popular web sites like Slashdot disappear. Sure, people will still read News.com, Wired.com and ComputerWorld and the elite will still use its free software, but I think the major breakthrough for open source software and free software may be postponed.

Something like that .-)


No surprise, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 15:19 UTC by MartBrooks » (Journeyer)

Since they stopped doing hardware, they've been effectively a vapourware company with a shaky revenue stream. It's such a shame because their 1u 1220 servers, one of which I have in the rack, it a really nice piece of kit.

VA were never going to make money out of SourceForge directly, I think everyone knew that. I think they could have made money shipping Linux servers with their SourceForge software preinstalled.

past and future of VA Research, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 17:31 UTC by sej » (Master)

It's too bad VA jumped out of the Linux PC reseller business right before Dell did the same. Then they inadvertently donated their services division to RedHat. Now they are simply SourceForge and Slashdot, with limited revenue and enough cash reserves to survive for a while. I would predict a buyout by some larger entity with an interest in open-source. Not IBM, because they can whip up the equivalent strength web-sites in a week if they wanted too, and strategically they don't need to play that game. Probably HP/DEC/Compaq.

VA does ship LInux systems..., posted 31 Oct 2001 at 17:33 UTC by ftobin » (Journeyer)

MartBrooks, they do ship Linux servers with Sourceforge installed. This is part of their gameplan: turnkey SourceForge setups inside a company at the enterprise level.

Personally, I would think that this is a viable business strategy. The value-addedness that a company like VA can give is enormous. If I worked at a company large enough to warrant a system like SourceForge, you can bet I'd suggest to management to look into it.

What is the relevance of VA/OSDN to us, really?, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 17:36 UTC by dlc » (Apprentice)

Are people really worried that if VA/OSDN went away, their affiliate sites would go away as well? A site's name and corporate ownership is not important; it's the people who use, maintain, and contribute to the site who are the important ones. That's us, folks. If OSDN shuts itself down, I'm definitely not going to stop using, promoting, and developing Free software.

The mainstream IT media would wonder where Slashdot went, for a while, but would eventually catch wind of Slashdot2; Slashdot2 would rapidly gain a foothold in their collective consciousness in the same way that Slashdot itself did.

CmdrTaco, Scoop, Rusty, and their crews are not in danger of being closed or shutting down, no matter what may happen to OSDN. As long as they're out there, doing what they do, namely, Slashdot, Freshmeat, and K5, there will be a Slashdot, and there will be a Freshmeat, and there will be a K5, regardless of sitename or corporate sponsorship.


No great loss, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 18:45 UTC by Qbert » (Journeyer)

I don't understand why you bemoan the loss of Kuro5hin. It's not a free software site; it's a generic discussion site. People post and discuss stories about family, politics, the war, flash animations, religion, and sex, and every once in a while they talk about the social impacts of technology (or, more often, laws pertaining thereto). There are other places to talk about all these things. In fact, it might be more valuable to talk about technology politics in a more general political forum, where the people who understand the issues could explain their importance to a larger audience.

I casually mentioned Kuro5hin to a friend just the other day; he looked it up and exclaimed, "A site less topical than Slashdot? Amazing." He was exactly right. Kuro5hin isn't a free software site; it's a glorified BBS. The mixed quality of the "stories" is the result of letting the Anonymous Coward crowd make top-level posts as well as replies. (Yes, I know there's a system of peer review. It doesn't work any better for Kuro5hin stories than it does for Slashdot comments.) In the case of Kuro5hin, there's no social pressure to post things relevant to free software (or even to post intelligently), partly because that's not an aim of the site and partly because--let's face it--the audience is different. What kind of people do you expect to attract with a H4X0R D00D name like Kuro5hin--script kiddies who like Tolkien? If you posted half the crap that passes for discussion on "K5" here on Advogato, you'd quickly be certified as an Observer.

The valuable thing about Kuro5hin is also its weakness: It allows posting on any topic, by anyone. As such, it has its place. But this is not a tragedy for free software.

The Sky Is.. Er... Still Up There, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 20:14 UTC by chromatic » (Master)

The last time I talked to anyone at OSDN about business (July), they said they're making money. That's not just revenue either, but profit. I don't have any details, not that I would remember any, but I personally don't see Freshmeat or Slashdot shutting down.

That doesn't mean the odd announcements coming out of VA Linux in the past six months have made a lot of sense to me, but having discussed them with a couple of people there, it's not as bad as it sounds. It would be fair to say that the management of the company has made some costly mistakes, and is paying for it. They're also facing some rough roads, trying to find customers. Who isn't, besides tin-foil hat vendors?

You'll never see me panic, though. There are still smart and dedicated people at OSDN and VA who intend to do the Right Thing. Will VA be around in a year? Probably. Will Sourceforge be around as long as VA is? Of course. Will OSDN survive? Absolutely.

If I'm wrong, will there be suitable replacements? Without question.

(Of course, any replacements will have their full share of detractors and critics. Maybe I'm still an idealist, but it would be nice to go a week without someone trying to shoot the wounded -- or the healthy.)

Freshmeat's DB is a problem...., posted 31 Oct 2001 at 22:55 UTC by sethcohn » (Master)

I've said this before other places:

Freshmeat's index needs to be mirrored. Prior to this year, the entire DB was downloadable, and usable with standalone software. In Febuary (I believe it was), a change was made, and the old format tossed, and all URLs are now encoded as freshmeat forwards. This makes the DB useless without FM being a working website.

yes, it's trivial to do a lookup, build a new DB, but it's timeconsuming and it's not nearly as nice as the old format...

Should FM go away, a number of smaller projects will be MIA, as people try to track down the URL in question.

freshmeat doesn't matter, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 23:02 UTC by splork » (Master)

google will find any useful freshmeat listed project. without freshmeat any active projects that matter will have people resubmit index entries to some other index maintainer later. 2/3 of the listings on freshmeat are for stupid useless me-too copy cat projects.

Not much loss, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 23:02 UTC by amk » (Master)

What significant part of Linux advocacy would be lost? The baying mobs of Slashdot, or the amateurishly written stories of Kuro5hin? Neither forum covers topics in a remotely professional way; neither encourages rational discussion; neither would be presentable to your CEO or manager.

The most effective advocacy is carried out by actually doing something, or by carefully writing something that's persuasive; these activities are not commonly found on either forum, so if they both vanish, the larger flow of free software development wouldn't really be affected.

K5 Scope, posted 31 Oct 2001 at 23:04 UTC by kuro5hin » (Master)

Qbert-- your comments are mostly true, but I think kind of miss the point of Kuro5hin. We are fairly unfocused, and that's on purpose. I don't really think we're a key element of the "open source community" either, personally, and I'm glad to have a broader range of subject matter than just OSS.

Your take on the quality of the writing is, well, your opinion. I know plenty of people who'd disagree, and plenty who'd agree. Not everything is for everyone, and probably the vague impression that we are a "Free Software" site has caused more confusion and disappointment with K5 than anything else. If you look at it that way, we sure suck, I agree. I don't think that's the way most of the contributors see K5 though. We do have a strong contingent of readers who use and work on Free software, but I think they come to K5 mainly to talk about other things.

I guess the only thing I really take exception to in your comment is the characterization of "Kuro5hin" as a "H4x0r d00d" name. It really isn't. See the FAQ for where the name comes from. I don't think we have any script kiddy types. They'd probably find it boring.

Finally, on a general note, there's no danger of K5 disappearing, with or without OSDN. They never owned us, and we're all set as far as hardware and bandwidth go. So, the good news, or the bad news, depending on how you feel about K5, is that the future looks just fine.

Re: The importance of VA has been blown out of proportion, posted 1 Nov 2001 at 08:50 UTC by jrobbins » (Master)

BTW, the project that asleep mentioned in the first posting on this thread is now, in fact, hosted at xitecode.tigris.org.

for ftobin..., posted 1 Nov 2001 at 08:54 UTC by MartBrooks » (Journeyer)

ftobin, from the front page of VA Systems.

"VA Linux is no longer selling hardware, but continues to support existing systems customers. Click here for support information."

Sourceforge could survive if it wasn't gratis., posted 1 Nov 2001 at 15:07 UTC by murrayc » (Master)

Sourceforge has more chance than most of surviving as a pay site. There aren't many communities whose members are that committed and involved. The only people who wouldn't pay are the people whose projects are not active.

Of course, you should only have to pay to host projects, not post bug reports.

Freshmeat and LSMs etc, posted 1 Nov 2001 at 17:20 UTC by gregorsamsa » (Master)

It would be great if Fresh Meat, SourceForge and other hosting sites would go back to sharing project metadata like the LSM (Linux Software Map). Back in the day, we all used the LSMs and we could search and find projects whereever they were hosted. The hosting sites don't even have to abandon their fast nice databases to share metadata either.

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