September 9, 2011

Weekend Project: Blog on Linux.com

One of the things that Linux.com offers to the community is the opportunity to post on Linux.com community blogs. Because it's been a while since we promoted this feature, I wanted to post a reminder about how to post to your blog, and how they're approved. This weekend, let's look at how you can show off your Linux and open source expertise for the Linux.com audience.

LC LogoFirst, let's talk content. As you probably know, advertising (a.k.a. "spam") is right out. If you're taking the time to read this, you probably aren't a spammer. Thanks for that! But rest assured we do get plenty of spam submitted as blogs and comments, and we do the best we can at whacking the spam as quick as it pops up. You can thank the forum moderators for keeping the Linux.com forums moderators for keeping the forums squeaky clean of spam, too.

'Nuff said about spam. Let's talk content, formatting, and the submission process. There's a gentle process for approvals that we follow. Here's what we're looking for:

  • First-hand experience with Linux and open source software.
  • Reports from LUG meetings and Linux-related events.
  • Tutorials and walk-throughs for using Linux, Linux-related software.
  • Other material related to Linux, open source, and the open source community.
  • Material that's unique to Linux.com.
  • Material that's in English.

In short, we want community blogs to be something you want to read. We highlight content that's of use to the larger Linux audience and on-topic for the larger Linux audience, and skip over material that's not as relevant. All the community blogs that are approved show up in the RSS feed and we want it to be excellent. So, some things don't make the cut – like posts that are just "testing the Linux.com blog" for instance. Make all your posts count, including the first!

We also encourage community members to direct questions and requests for help to the forums, rather than Linux.com blogs. We want you to find help, which is why we have the forums where helpful users are eager to help with your questions. It's also worth mentioning we've also posted about how to find help with Linux. One of the first principles is to go where the help is.

We syndicate some news on Linux.com and point to publications we think you'll find helpful. But the Linux.com blogs aren't for just pointing to other publications or (worse) posting other folks' material without proper attribution. We don't approve posts that are just a summary of material from elsewhere, and we will ban repeat offenders that post material without attribution. (Also known as "plagiarizing.") We will post some non-unique material if it's submitted by the original owner, and there's a good reason for it to be re-posted on Linux.com.

For instance, we syndicate some distribution blogs so that we can amplify the good work that community distributions do. If you want to work with Linux.com to ensure that your project's content is getting a showing on Linux.com, please do get in touch.

That's the type of material we're looking for. Now let's talk about some of the details. We're not asking Linux.com users to be professional writers. It's OK if you have a run-on sentence. It's OK if there's a comma splice, or a few typos. Entries don't have to be a certain length – they can be 200 words or 20,000 if they're of good quality. (If you're leaning towards 20,000 though, you might want to split that up a bit!)

Entries do need to be readable, and very occasionally we can't approve a post because it's just not up to snuff. To pass muster, posts should have complete sentences, be formatted properly, and so forth. If you're not sure, ask a friend to look it over for you.

We know that the Linux community is made up of a broad audience that is multi-lingual, but we do require that material is submitted in English. Primarily, this is because it's the common denominator for our readers. Secondarily, we just don't have the ability to moderate material in other languages.

Here's a few really good examples of what we like to see in Linux.com blogs:

Rewards and Guru Points

As many Linux.com users know, we have hosted a Guru contest the past two years to reward contributors to Linux.com. One of the things that we've used to identify the winners is a point system ("guru points") that provides points for blog posts, comments, etc. on the site.

Unfortunately, that encourages some folks to submit anything in hopes of scoring points. Obviously, this is not good for the community, the site, or our moderators' sanity. This year we're going to be re-vamping the guru system, and points will not be awarded automatically for all submissions. We'll post on that in more detail later this year, but rest assured that we'll be taking care to recognize quality contributions to the site.

Let me stress that it's a very small percentage of folks who've taken the quantity over quality approach.

How to Blog

If you want to submit a post, go to Community Blogs and click the Write New Entry button.

Note, some folks have used the Submit button at the top of the site for blogs. We ask that you use the Community Blog feature instead. If you do want to submit an article for inclusion on the front page, get in touch and pitch it first. We are happy to work with the community to develop quality articles for the front page – but we have an even higher bar for those pieces.

Back to the blog editor. You have two options with the form – a rich text editor, and the plain text editor that allows you to post HTML. Use whichever one you're most comfortable with, but watch out that you don't submit HTML in the rich text editor. It's easy to do, but it doesn't produce great results. We'll have to ask you to re-submit if that happens, because it's too time-consuming to clean up.

One thing you want to do is make sure to choose a category. Right now we have General Linux, Personal, Desktops, Servers, Distributions, and so on. You can also tag your entry, which will help further categorize entries and help other users find posts related to their interests.

I strongly encourage you to write posts in a text editor and then submit. Browsers crash, stuff happens. Save a local copy, and then submit. It would be a shame if you spent a few hours writing a post and then had a browser crash. It's also probably not a good idea to use a word processor to create posts.

If you're writing in HTML and then submitting, we have some formatting suggestions. These are suggestions, but they do help make posts more readable:

  • Use <strong> tags to make a point, don't use ALL CAPS.
  • Use <code> tags for code, commands, filenames, etc.
  • Use <ul> to create an non-numbered bulleted list, and <ol> to create a numbered list. Don't hard-code lists with numbers.

Moderation

Once you submit a post, it goes into a moderation queue. It may be a few hours to a few days before a post is approved, depending on when it's submitted and so forth. If you post a blog over the weekend, it might not be looked at until Monday.

We look at posts and if they're good, we pass 'em on through. If it's not quite what we're looking for, but not spam, we usually try to reach out to authors and let them know. We can't guarantee this, but we do try to touch base with authors to let them know if a post isn't going to go up.

Happy Blogging

In closing, I'd like to thank all the folks who have blogged on Linux.com already, and hope to see a lot more posts in the future. If you have questions, feel free to submit a comment here or drop me a note at
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