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10.14.20

Health Report of GNU and Linux News Sites in 2020 (a Pandemic Year)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 4:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Have so-called 'hipsters' and corporate types ‘stolen’ the movement from “UNIX beards” and “true” geeks looking for computing autonomy?

Yannis

Summary: The deterioration of sites that focus on GNU/Linux (news, instructional material, analysis etc.) is a growing problem; it’s as if a lot of it became “private property” of monopolies, with many projects now indirectly controlled by Microsoft (through GitHub) while a cohesive community voice is systematically muzzled and citizen journalism seems to have lost momentum

HAVING written a great deal about the demise of patent blogs (it’s getting yet worse, apparently there’s even a new vacuum at Watchtroll, based on a new ad), let’s examine what happens in high-traffic GNU/Linux sites. A couple of hours ago my wife noted that LXer had only added two links in half a day. I then asked how much they posted in 24 hours and she said 4. They used to post about one every hour. Linux Today isn’t much better off and hours ago it even posted a link to something from 2017 (not so “Today”). It’s part of an ongoing trend. I’ve watched Linux Today and LXer on a daily basis since I was a postgraduate student at the university around 2004. The amount of traffic and comments they received back then was vastly higher; the same is true for Slashdot, which now owns and controls Linux Journal, one of the oldest sites in that ‘sector’. See what we wrote about the ownership change [1, 2]. Linux Journal has some very old and historic interviews, which go back to the days Linux (the kernel) was a few years old/young. Back when the ego of Linus Torvalds wasn’t too big to acknowledge he was dependent on GNU (to which he ought to be grateful). Linux Journal is a very important site, especially its archives, hence the importance of uptime, availability, preservation etc. So many people wrote for Linux Journal over the years (2.5 decades). Linux.com is practically dead; the Linux Foundation killed it last year, but it’s younger than Linux Journal and we’ve pretty much given up on Linux.com, as did past contributors to Linux.com, who think it’s a disgrace what happened to that site (with a very important domain name). LWN is still struggling a bit, having confessed cancellations by subscribers due to COVID-19 (job losses and budget readjustment). The candid confession came months ago. LWN has been very active and highly professional for decades. LWN still does some fine technical journalism and the paywalls lapse after a fortnight or so, which make it all like ‘referred’ open access (OA).

Linux Journal has some very old and historic interviews, which go back to the days Linux (the kernel) was a few years old/young.”Seeing the demise of journalism in general (at large, across all domains/topics/sectors), it would be wrong to claim that this is a “Linux” thing or to insinuate it says something about GNU/Linux “losing appeal” (the contrary has been true in recent months, which is why more OEMs now offer it preloaded on laptops and desktops).

Yesterday somebody reached us out regarding Linux Journal; in the not-so-distant past both subscribers and fans of Linux Journal — sometimes even writers and editors (past and present) — wrote to explain to us what had been going on at Linux Journal. It’s not a happy story; far from it. One person associated with the past owner of Linux Journal ‘lost his mind’ and had a nervous breakdown. We won’t name him, but some people might be able to guess… he wrote back to me weeks later through an assistant (who helped him cope with the breakdown).

Me by MeYesterday someone who had been writing about GNU/Linux since the 1990s (also as a journalist) asked us: “Linux Journal on and off again? So, now that Linux Journal is “on” again through ./ media, I have some questions… Like – what is going on over there? Really. What’s the story behind the closing and opening and closing and opening… I have observed the lack of community minded articles – for the most part – for years…”

“This morning I saw a podcast which suggested that insistence on “FOSS” (as in software freedom) was harming “Linux” (as in GNU/Linux) adoption; as if our goal should be to just make a cost-free kernel to run DRM with Skype and Netflix and other proprietary crap on top of it.”This happens to be a gap that we at Techrights hope to fill somewhat. Linux.com is the anathema or opposite of that. It’s almost 100% corporate spam, much like the Linux Foundation, which earlier today revealed that it sold another keynote to Microsoft. Typical…

Linux Journal had been publishing articles with this tone and message,” told us the above contact. “To be clear here: there is nothing wrong with using a proprietary license for the software that keeps the lights on at your company (figuratively speaking).”

This morning I saw a podcast which suggested that insistence on “FOSS” (as in software freedom) was harming “Linux” (as in GNU/Linux) adoption; as if our goal should be to just make a cost-free kernel to run DRM with Skype and Netflix and other proprietary crap on top of it. What would be achieved? Another “brand”? Certainly no freedom for anybody…

“Now, it’s expected,” our contact continued. “The newer articles of recent are written by people I have never heard of. Just wondering if you have the dish on what was going on over at Linux Journal…”

“So far Linux Journal (reborn under Slashdot’s wing) is mostly howtos, which is probably OK.”I noticed the same thing. I said this several times. Even publicly. But it’s wrong to talk down the authors just because they’re perceived to be “new” and “not widely recognised” (it’s a shallow criterion and a form of discrimination; better to judge by the work/words, not the messenger).

So far Linux Journal (reborn under Slashdot’s wing) is mostly howtos, which is probably OK. I’ve been actually pleased to see that unlike Slashdot’s “Linux” section, Linux Journal is actually about GNU/Linux and not about Microsoft and Windows (promoting Microsoft and Windows agenda). Let’s hope that Linux Journal can add a bit to the news cycle; otherwise, sites like Lxer and Linux Today won’t have much left to link to. Linux.com is barely being updated anymore (except for the occasional promotional spam). It’s a dead site. Unlike Linux itself. As for ZDNet’s “Linux” section, most of it is anti-Linux.

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