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08.25.19

Thirteen Years of Techrights This Year

Posted in Site News at 8:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mark Webbink
Photo credit: Mark Webbink’s image by Luca Lucarini, CC BY-SA 3.0

Summary: We’re the survivor of a dying breed of sites, which are largely dedicated to FOSS-centric news

EARLIER this year Debian celebrated 26 years. That’s pretty impressive considering the fact that the grandfather of GNU/Linux, Slackware, was having some issues in recent years and its founder sought to raise funds through Patreon some weeks ago. This distribution was created by Patrick Volkerding in 1993, whereas Debian was created about a month later by Ian Murdock. He founded the Debian Project on August 16, 1993.

So far in 2019 at least 3 noteworthy GNU/Linux distributions ‘called it a day’. News sites covering GNU/Linux also suffered heavy casualties; these were some of the biggest sites, notably Linux Journal and Linux.com; few others became stagnant. It’s part of the decline of media in general, not a problem with GNU/Linux in particular.

“So far in 2019 at least 3 noteworthy GNU/Linux distributions ‘called it a day’. News sites covering GNU/Linux also suffered heavy casualties; these were some of the biggest sites, notably Linux Journal and Linux.com; few others became stagnant.”The journey of Techrights began back in the days of Digg. Remember Digg.com? I certainly do. I was a Ph.D. student at the time and “social media” had just begun to catch on (prior to it I spent a lot of time in USENET newsgroups). In 2006 I met Shane on Digg, where we shared our concerns about the Novell deal with Microsoft. That’s how a blog (back then dedicated to a Novell boycott) was born. Digg.com is still around, but it’s in no way related to the original Digg, which stagnated and died within a few years. By 2009 or 2010 it was already quite irrelevant, partly (depending on one’s interpretation) due to Facebook and Twitter, maybe even Reddit. Those three sites are still around. Back in 2006 we also shared concerns and views with Groklaw and Technocrat, the site of Bruce Perens (famous for Debian and OSI). Perens made a bit of a comeback, even in his own domain name, but that didn’t quite replace his original project, the “Slashdot for grown-ups” which suffered an epic demise just like Slashdot itself. As for Groklaw, it too made a sort of comeback attempt, first with Mark Webbink, a former Red Hat employee (he’s retired now; photo above), and then Pamela Jones (PJ) again. I spent years mailing her every day and her decision to ‘disappear’ from the Web was rather disappointing. Snowden’s leaks did not reveal much that wasn’t already known; they just provided hard proof for what many of us speculated about or cited other whistleblowers about (they didn’t have the documentary evidence at hand, so NSA denials was simpler). At the same time Andy Updegrove’s blog became less active (he’s with the Linux Foundation now) and the Web as we knew it was transforming into Social Control Media, which is a lot of hearsay.

The media as a whole is being battered; and no, tabloids aren’t media and channels like Fox News and CNN are mostly partisan feeding frenzy. They lack credibility and accuracy on a lot of topics — typically those that get them many viewers, drawing them in based largely on emotion, not substance.

In a sense, we view ourselves as survivors of much turbulence. We don’t rely on ads and we don’t pay salaries; I work full time in a technical job, so I can afford to keep the site going in my spare time. No rich sponsors, no sellouts, no “affiliate” posts.

“In a sense, we view ourselves as survivors of much turbulence.”It seems pretty certain we’ll reach 15 years. 20 years might be a challenge, but at the moment it seems doable because we're growing. Our European Patent Office (EPO) coverage helped make a positive impact and this year we’re gradually revisiting more and more aspects of GNU/Linux and Software Freedom. Some of the topics we covered nobody else dared cover. We have several important stories in the pipeline. Hopefully we won’t have to see any more publishers in the area of FOSS (what’s left of such publications) perishing and closing down. That creates an information vacuum that gives leeway to Microsoft's PR department and prevents introspection or self-assessment — something sorely needed in today’s tough terrain of GAFAM and Microsoft entryism.

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