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Thread: An Open Letter to the OpenFree Community

  1. #1
    Administrator Advisor peter's Avatar
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    Lightbulb An Open Letter to the OpenFree Community

    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

  2. #2
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    I welcome your openness....

    I too live in Silicon Valley and I know how demanding a life can be here in the Valley. I believed that open communication is the key to its success as well as the community it try to serve.

    I'm here again to address that issue. I almost quit this forum just because we were shuffle around like toys. We are here to help new Linux users to over come that first part of their journey to freedom. LJR (Our former site) was just for that purpose. There are plenty of other resources for Linux help ( such as SVLUG mailing list where many Linux Gurus hangout such as Chris Dibona of OSDL, Rick Moen of LinuxMafia ). But if you were involve in that league and its manners, you can't help but wonder how the hell I ever survive this kind of zealotisum and smack-the-face-for-not-asking-the-right-question stuff. So I started to hang around at Newbies sites beginning with LinuxNewbies,org (now Justlinux.com). After Sensei (the admin of that time) was booted off and got cut from Internet,com's payroll, many of us left the forum largely due to its treatment of him and the way it was handled. So may of us vowed NOT to give in to that kind of things and not be assoicated with corporate style management. And that' the reason why we are so resistant on putting ads in because one of the reason Sensei sold LNO (LinuxNewbie.Org) was that it was attracting enough ads generated income.

    But anyway, I welcome your openness and honesty. I hope we will find each other a good way to compliment than having us to start a new site. A community is much more than the content.

    I have yet to check out your linuxhomenetworking.com though. I never needed it somehow.
    LinuxVillage - The truely community run Linux/Floss forum !

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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Compunuts
    After Sensei (the admin of that time) was booted off and got cut from Internet,com's payroll, many of us left the forum largely due to its treatment of him and the way it was handled. So may of us vowed NOT to give in to that kind of things and not be assoicated with corporate style management. And that' the reason why we are so resistant on putting ads in because one of the reason Sensei sold LNO (LinuxNewbie.Org) was that it was attracting enough ads generated income.
    That's a good point. I'm not sure how many are familiar with this history of LJR and the reasons for its founding, so I'll elaborate.

    Way back in the day (pre-2000? Man that's a while), there was LinuxNewbie.org. It had a vibrant, thriving forum with thousands of members and a rocking community. It was pretty much the go-to place for Linux Questions. The traffic of LinuxQuestions.org and the community of a smaller site. Sensei was the founder and moderator of the site. Well, times being what they were, Sensei eventually sold the site to Internet.com and was put on the payroll as the administrator. This is back when Internet.com was profitable, and somewhat benevolent in its workings. At first, this worked well. Sensei was getting paid, and things continued as normal.

    Then one day there was a post by Sensei basically saying he had been fired, and was leaving for good. Within a day, we had a new forum moderator. I'm sorry to say it, but the guy was a real douche bag. He appeared to be some kind of consultant hired by Internet.com, and he just didn't get it. His first order of business was to lock any thread he didn't like. Even if there was no hostility going on in the thread, he would lock it because he didn't agree with the subject matter. Or he would lock it because he felt it wasn't pertinent enough to the forum topic matter (despite the fact that these threads were in off-topic forums). When he stopped locking threads and instead started editing individual posts (ie, altering the text without indicating that the text had been altered), people started jumping ship like LNO was the Titanic. This was all happening in late 200, early 2001. Cloverm, an old regular at LNO, founded LJR. In the spring of 2001, there was a mass exodus of many regulars from LNO to LJR. We lost a lot of good posters who were exceedingly helpful to the community and all around nice people (anyone remember FoBoT? Is he still around under a different alias, or did we lose him in the transition for good?). I wish I could point you to some of the posts in question, such as Sensei's farewell post and some of the ones that had been locked or moderated, but Internet.com has since done away with the off-topic forums, and possibly even the technical forums by now. They have effectively killed a once-flourishing site.

    It was this event that put such a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths for ads and corporate sponsorship. LJR was founded with the promise that it would be completely unladen with ads, free from corporate sponsorship; as open and free as Linux itself. This way, the hope was to ensure that the same thing never happened again. If you're wondering why people are so up in arms about the ads, that probably has much to do with it.

    That said, I don't think ads are such a big deal provided people don't see this forum heading down the same route. Ads to pay for hosting are quite acceptable, provided it is made known that this is the only reason.

    Myself, I don't even notice them and I don't really care that much. I'm just providing some background so that people might understand why many are so hostile to the ads.
    I lost my self-respect at Wes' Rib House

  4. #4
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    The ads has a lot to do with association to business side of things. I agree that there should be some way to pay for the costs even if it has some ads. But the way Peter had been grabbing sites seems to suggest he has bigger plans in mind (not that I blame him for having a big ambition) and he takes no effort to assure us that this site will never be commercialized.

    So, now is the decision time, I guess.
    LinuxVillage - The truely community run Linux/Floss forum !

    No IT BS !!

  5. #5
    Administrator Advisor peter's Avatar
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    I am not interested in repackaging websites for resale. I just had a hunch and got lucky. I am now happy that the forums are finally communicative when I was despairing before.

    I have read your comments about LNO, and it is a clear warning about the perils of the rapacious dot com bubble years. Those times have changed, the gold rush is over.

    Yes, there has been a flurry of business activity around community sites like MySpace, Blogger and Friendster. This site is so tiny by comparison and the highly technical membership has the ability to recreate the experience anywhere, just like LinuxJunior did.

    I want to nurture a healthy self-supporting web community. That goal helps to ensure its survival, and that's important to me because as OpenFree grows, I'd like to be able to slowly slip out of corporate life and manage it full time from home. I hope that puts the advertising in a different light.

    The mergers were done to jump start the process by creating a more dynamic unified community. For the foreseeable future, I expect growth to be primarily through word of mouth.

    How would you like to see OpenFree develop? What did LJR lack that could be fixed now?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by peter
    How would you like to see OpenFree develop? What did LJR lack that could be fixed now?
    My biggest problem with Linuxjunior was the lack of time we all spent on maintaining the site. Broken links on the link pages, really old news on the front page, things like that. That is still the case with the surviving LJr portal that leads here.
    My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive.

  7. #7
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyr_7BE
    [snip]
    (anyone remember FoBoT? Is he still around under a different alias, or did we lose him in the transition for good?).
    [snip]
    foBoT! The fellow had a picture for anything! Wonder whatever became of him.

  8. #8
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    I don't have a problem with the ads as long as they remain unobtrusive as these do Ė no big animated banners and popup crap, please. I have no problem with folks making money.

    Compunuts is correct about the initial merger seeming to be some kind of mass take over. It was a surprise, and as Tyr_7BE has explained, those of us who went through the LNO fiasco have a lot of trepidation about a perceived loss of control of our community. Itís been five years, but some of us are still angry about the way Sensi and we were treated.

    I think Peter has been straight forward and upfront with us about what is going on, and I see no reason not to work with him to make this merger work. As I have posted previously, LJO is gone and we can not change that. I donít see any realist way to start a new site from scratch and even if we did, we would like loose a lot more people. Here, we can keep our history, our PETs and our culture. We just have more new people to meet and other cultures to associate with.

    Letís take it a step at a time and see where things go.

  9. #9
    I think the merger was good, the forums are now more active and it's nice to have more people also good job on the merger Peter

  10. #10
    Hey Guys,
    We expressed a lot of disappointing aspects of the site but the fact that Peter has completely tried his best to make us happy with the sub-forums and the avatars show that he needs some applause. So thanks Peter!
    Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
    --Albert Einstein
    #350566 Registered Slackware Linux User.

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