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Tweaking LT's Editorial Policy

Nov 02, 2007, 22:30 (42 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

One of the things that people always compliment Linux Today on is the fact that we filter the content of the Internet and provide one-stop reading for pertinent news, features, and opinion articles about Linux and Open Source. Recent events have prompted me to ask the question: what does warrant a good link from Linux Today?

As I plow through all of the potential stories to link to every day, a mantra unashamedly ripped off from the New York Times goes through my brain as a very basic criteria for judging an article's merit: "all the news that's fit to link." Of course, right away there are other qualifiers: needs to be about Linux or (if not) about open source or (if not) something that directly competes with Linux and/or open source... and so on.

And, naturally, it can't be all of the news. When Distro X is released, there will be invariably 10-15 reviews posted on the Web about the new software within a few days' time. I try to catch perhaps 4-6 of them, with an eye on balancing positive and negative reviews if I can. When SCO first sued IBM, it seemed like every other story on the Web was about that event, though at the time, I think I posted just one or two news stories about the incident per day, give or take a major gaffe from McBride.

The reason why this is cropping up as an issue is because of a problem that at first blush doesn't seem like a problem at all: lately, there has been almost too much content on Linux Today, and my fear is that it will eventually cause us to lose readers.

This is not just nervousness on my part: there have been studies that show that too many entries in a blog can cause reader fall-off. LT's publication model, essentially, is one big blog that runs 24/7. When there are so many stories that I have to post a story every half-hour, the per-story read numbers show a marked decline.

Talkbacks also drop in number, because stories are pushed down the main news feed so fast people don't always get a chance to read/reply to reader responses. (The ideal rate seems to be around one story every 45 minutes.)

Clearly, some sort of additional editorial filter has to be put in place, to bring the quantity of the stories down a bit and bring up the overall quality of the stories that do get posted. I can, and ultimately will, make the final determination of what gets posted and what doesn't, but I wanted to put this out there and solicit reader feedback on the types of stories would be best to post. I understand it will be hard to publish a site that pleases everybody, but gaging the readers' general preferences seems like a good idea.

To create a set of common terms for the discussion, here are the categories for types of articles that we tend to post.

News
Business Features
Product Reviews
Software Announcements
Security Announcements
Kernel Announcements
Analysis/Roundups
Community Profiles
Opinion
Tutorials
Community-contributed Articles

Given recent feedback, it seems that blog entries should be judged to a higher standard than they have been, and already I have been posting less blog entries than I was last month at this time. This does not mean I am anti-blog; to the contrary, I want to link to any well-written article. But I will acknowledge that linking to an article that's arguing just for argument's (or traffic's) sake is no longer part of the equation.

I am also wondering about tutorials, from sites like developerWorks, LinuxPlanet, or HowtoForge. Are more of these types of pieces wanted, or less? If less, would more opinion pieces or more news articles be desired?

Based on talkbacks and direct e-mails, my sense is this: good tutorials are still wanted, but opinion articles need to be well thought out if they are to be posted. The same holds true for product reviews. I have also read many requests for fewer "Company X deployed Linux and they luv it" stories.

None of these changes would be drastic, mind you: I'm talking about nudging the ship back on course, not coming 180 degrees about. Here's your chance to help steer the ship.

(Just remember, we're talking about the editorial policy, not the advertising policy. Comments such as "Get rid of the $@#! M$ ads" would not be germane to this particular discussion. Not to mention, this is an obvious desire for more readers already.)

Thanks in advance!