I've been pondering the problem of what do about Advogato's
article section on the main page. Aside from the various
bugs and feature requests I've been working on, the single
most common complaint I've seen about the site is the low
quality of the articles. As I mentioned in an earlier post,
this problem has been brought up before.
It seems to me that rather than worry too much about how to
prevent the occasional bad articles, we should focus on how
to encourage useful and interesting articles. The first step
is to find a definition of what useful and interesting mean in
the context of Advogato.
Obviously, articles about software
topics are always interesting. If you're working on a
paper or a talk for an upcoming FOSS conference, consider
posting a freely licensed draft as an article to get
feedback. The occasional interview,
from someone in the community can also be interesting.
Unfortunately, past experience shows we can't expect many of
these types of articles. That still leaves a pretty big gap
that will likely be filled by noise if it isn't used for
something more interesting.
There are already plenty of sites like Slashdot where one
can find vaguely FOSS-related links to news stories. I don't
think Advogato should go the route of becoming yet another
aggregator of recycled news stories. While that's an easy
solution and would probably generate a lot of traffic,
it's not why we're here. In one of Raph's early postings about
Advogato he said the purpose of the site is "to bring a
group of people closer together, not to generate hits.".
What is it that makes Advogato different from other Free
Source web communities? Most sites focus on a very
particular FOSS sub-community: GNU, Apache, BSD, KDE,
Mozilla, RedHat, Debian, FreeDesktop/X.Org, Perl, Python (to
name just a few). Often, members of each community aggregate
around each other, ignoring or forgetting what's going on in
the larger FOSS community. Advogato, on the other hand, has
active members from almost all these communities. This is
one place where we can read each other's blogs and find out
what's going on in other parts of the FOSS community.
When I realized what a unique position Advogato is in, it
became obvious to me that one useful and interesting thing
we can do is use the articles section to inform each other
of what our respective communities have been doing on a
weekly or monthly basis. Often the volume of news, blogs,
and websites in each sub-community makes it difficult for an
outsider to stay up to date.
As an illustration of this, I'm reminded of the LKML. The volume
of the list makes it impossible for me to keep up - I simply
don't have the time. However, I used to enjoy reading the
Kernel Traffic summaries regularly so I'd have some idea of
what the Linux developers were up to. Sadly, Kernel
Traffic is no more. Likewise, there have been similar
efforts to summarize activity in other communities (e.g.
Brave GNU World, This Month in BSD, the gcc newsletter,
WineHQ news, etc). Most of these are defunct, being replaced
by dozens of individual websites, blogs, and mailing lists.
What I propose is recruiting Advogato users from each of the
many FOSS communities to write and post a periodic summary
of significant events in their respective groups. I'm
willing to work with these volunteers to devise a useful
format and a system for assembling the reports. This will
take some time to get going so I think the best plan is to
focus on the communities one by one, working out the system
and getting things started, then moving on to the next
group. As a start, I've written an example summary of the
GNU project's activites this month. I've worked out where to
get the information and how to assemble it into a simple
format. I'll post it shortly as an article. What I need now
is just one volunteer willing to contribute an hour of their
time once a month to assemble and post a GNU update.
Who's up for the job?
The next question is what FOSS community would you like to
see a monthly summary of next? Ruby? Perl? BSD? I need
suggestions and volunteers. email@example.com