Many people believe that open source is a good thing. The whole
teamwork and community aspect is what draws most of us into open
source, Linux, and that whole other slew of terms in the first
place. There's only one little problem with having so many helping
hands about: an overwhelming load of communication.
Aaron J. Seigo ran into this problem in two different areas
involving the KDE project. As a result, he started two sites of his
own: the KDE Kernel Cousin, and KDE Myths.
What is a Kernel Cousin?
Anyone who tries to follow the main kernel development mailing
list knows that it's a busy, busy place where even the most
dedicated reader will have a hard time keeping up with posts--if
you can even understand half of them. Now, let's assume that you're
following the main kernel list because you're interested in helping
to make sure that particular features work or get implemented, such
as a specific type of hardware or some other favorite item. If
you're interested in a particular topic then you've probably
subscribed to not just the kernel list, but any number of lists
devoted to drivers, interfaces, documentation, and other aspects of
that bit of technology.
A few years ago, Zack Brown decided to do something to help
collate his particular area of interest's discussions into a
central location. He created the first Kernel Cousin, called Kernel
This Kernel Cousin is specifically devoted to the main kernel
development list, linux-kernel, and its purpose is to produce
weekly summaries of the various discussions on the list. Specifics
of who said what are maintained, and posts are quoted where
Since then, a number of other Kernel Cousin sites have sprung
up, and they all reside on http://kt.zork.net/. Existing Cousins
include: Zack's own Kernel Traffic, one for the GNU/Debian Hurd
kernel, one for the WINE project, one for KDE, and one for the GNU
Enterprise project (called GNUe). There are also others that are
considered "asleep," where the topic covered is still going strong
(such as Samba) but no one's currently maintaining the Kernel
Cousin site associated with it. The sleeping cousins include one
for the Debian distribution, the GIMP, Samba, and SLUG (the Sydney
Linux User's Group in Australia).
Some of these Cousin sites are run by a single person while
others are maintained by a team of volunteers. The Kernel Cousin
Authorship page (http://kt.zork.net/author.html)
includes instructions on how you can get involved with the
group-run Kernel Cousins.
The KDE Kernel Cousin
Our spotlight here is on Aaron's KDE Kernel Cousin. Aaron
started as "a happy KDE user." But he wanted more. He wanted to get
involved in the KDE project himself, so to him that meant getting
to know as much about the people, culture, and goings on as
possible. Soon he found himself on not only kernel issues for KDE,
but also on more than a dozen other lists related to various
aspects of KDE development. Several thousand pieces of mail a week
flooded into his mailbox.
Now, some people would have set up elaborate filters so they
could just read what they wanted. Or they would have scaled back
their reading selections. But not Aaron. Aaron followed the kernel
issues by reading the Kernel Traffic Kernel Cousin. What better way
to "contribute to the [KDE] project while achieving [his] goal of
learning about the people and culture around it" than to do
summaries of the KDE lists and build a KDE Kernel Cousin?
Making an official Kernel Cousin site involves getting in touch
with Zack, and learning all of the proper bits and pieces of how a
KC site works. All Kernel Cousin sites are in a standard format.
There are scripts to use that analyze mailboxes and make note of
threads that have recently died, which means they are "ripe for
summarization" as Zack puts it on his Tools page. There's also XML
under the hood, so you have to learn how to work within the
existing tag structure and how to play nice with XML's strict
Once he had the KDE Kernel Cousin up and running, Aaron got to
the regular work of producing the regular issues that included
summaries and more. At the height of his solo effort, he spent ten
to fifteen hours a week on this single project, and it sounds like
if he had to do it all over he'd do the same: "It was very
rewarding and educational, if not a little labour intensive." But
even the best of us burns out. Rather than letting his Kernel
Cousin die, Aaron brought in help.
Today, Aaron has reached his goal, and spends more time on KDE
development than he does on the Kernel Cousin. However, a dedicated
team of editors, authors, and translators keeps the site going,
using an email list to coordinate their efforts. It's paying off,
as this site is tracked by any number of Linux and KDE news sites,
including Linux Today.
Due to the spread out nature of distribution it's difficult to
gauge how much readership the KDE Kernel Cousin has, but with an
educated guess it sounds like they're getting 8,000 or even 10,000
views or so per issue, and that's just in English. Then there's the
German and French translations (and perhaps others that Aaron
doesn't know about). Hopefully this makes all of that effort worth
One itme of note the KDE Kernel Cousin site, in the latest issue
(as of this writing), there's a call for more authors to join the
team. See issue #40 if you're interested It's a great way to get
involved even if you're not heavily into coding.
And Then There's the Myths
Aaron puts it best: "KDE is a very large, very successful
project with a rather complex history." Anyone who's spent any real
time in a real life or online forum where there's a lot of new
people wandering in and out, and a lot of outside interest, knows
that you end up spending a good part of your time answering the
same questions again and again. It's maddening. It makes a lot of
group old timers grouchy. And if you're trying to explain to
someone who doesn't speak your own primary language, it can be
When he saw how often the project members had to try to explain
KDE history or current facts, Aaron had his usual reaction. Why
spend all of that time and frustration when he could just set up a
KDE Myths web site? That way anyone who asked could be pointed
there for an answer, it would cut down on flame wars, and the
project members would have time for actual coding and productive
A trip to KDE Myths (http://kdemyths.urbanlizard.com/)
is an interesting ride through both history and the inner workings
of the KDE project. Most readers are sure to learn something new
And learning something new is what the Kernel Cousins and their
offspring are all about.
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