There have been many changes on the site in recent days, and I have been asked to make a statement about OpenFree.

This is request wholly understandable, so I will explain.

Around the time of Y2K, I decided to put my resume on Monster.com to see if anyone would be willing to hire someone from overseas to work in the USA. Many people were. I got a job in Silicon Valley working for a web hosting company as a network engineer. During the dot com bust there was the constant risk of being laid off so I decided to broaden my skill set to improve my chances of finding a job in a more stable environment. Friends at work suggested that I learn Linux. It didnít seem like such a bad idea, especially as I had done some UNIX systems administration in the past.

I set up a server at home, but couldnít figure out what to do with it until some friends at work suggested setting up a website on a home DSL line. I found the Linux resources on the web inadequate. To do things the way I wanted, I needed step by step guides on how to get the most common web hosting things done. So I decided to post my experiences on the website, and soon Linux Home Networking was born.

The site became popular, and I decided to start a forum using phpBB. After about two years, it had about a thousand members and a couple posts per week. During this time, I kept wondering why no one was really visiting, and figured that forums associated with a home networking site probably wouldnít have much vibrance.

I chose the name OpenFree so that it could be more easily associated with open source, Linux and technology life. The forums became a little more active, and posts got more replies. I was happy, and encouraged by it. I was helping people.

At Christmas time I started to wonder whether there were any other forums around with the same problem, interested users, but little activity. I searched around on Google for Linux forums that were about the same size and asked the administrators whether they would be interested in merging their sites with mine, for a nominal fee.

To my surprise I got a lot of positive responses. A common theme was that the administratorsí careers, lives or new interests didnít allow them the time or resources necessary to keep their sites healthy.

So, in January I unexpectedly got into agreements with three or four forums, which will probably be merged into OpenFree during the month of February. This required a rapid upgrade to vBulletin and its forum merging feature, both of which I am still learning.

At times I have asked myself whether I bit off more than I can chew. I have wondered whether I should I have said ďyesĒ to these arrangements. Like all the new members to the forums, I have had my doubts too.

What will the culture be like? Will everyone like it? How can I make the user experience consistent for all? What new features can I add given the fact that I also have a demanding full-time job? What sort of moderation should be used? What sort of backup strategy should I use now that so many people rely on it?

I like the forums and the interaction. Itís engaging; it keeps me alert. It would truly be nice to do this full-time so I could have a more normal life. Iím going to stick with it.

Thatís the motivation. I do not represent a corporation. The advertising on the site is there to help cover my hosting costs without having to ask members for contributions. For now, I have limited them to being text only, to keep the site uncluttered.

I want OpenFree to be a welcoming, engaging, lively and enjoyable community.

For the membership, the topics need to be flexible, the home page should be intuitive, the responses to queries need to be timely, moderation needs to be light and new features need to be useful and used. The soon to be re-launched Plain English Tutorials are an essential part of this goal. From a technology standpoint, the site needs to be fast and simple to maintain.

There are forum sites consisting of plantations of featureless users, and Las Vegas style sites that are a little bit of everything. OpenFree needs to be the place where Linux users can chill out and talk about Linux, or whatever else.

If lots of members specifically ask for a feature and there is an easy to maintain package to handle it that wonít burst my budget, then Iíll consider adding it, but till then there will be no Linux ISO downloads, no constant updates of hardware compatibility lists, no formal product reviews, and no streaming radio. Hey, it needs to be fun for me too!

I hope this has been informative and that answers many of your questions.

I welcome the new members to OpenFree. I am looking forward to long term, open and free collaboration within the community.

Peter