April 2, 2001

NewsForge posts 10,000th story

Author: JT Smith

We went live last August with a "beta" version of the site but didn't get everything going full-tilt until October, and now -- much sooner than we expected -- we have passed the 10,000 story mark. But this is only the beginning. Some of what has happened with NewsForge has surprised us all, and we have more surprises coming up before long.The original intention here was to be nearly a pure aggregator concentrating on Linux and Open Source news, with most NewsForge content coming from our NewsVac backend software (written by Jamie McCarthy) that does keyword-based searches of over 200 online news sources every day.

We figured we'd run three original columns per week and do a little feature writing, over and above the aggregating, because we didn't feel right about taking from the worldwide pool of online tech journalism without putting something back into it.

But something funny happened: we started scooping other news sources on stories within our little Open Source niche without even trying, and our own original NewsForge Reports started getting more attention (and readers) than the NewsVac feed.

NewsForge now runs more original stories, and links to more stories published elsewhere, than any other single Web site that concentrates on Linux and Open Source news. We expected to get to that point after a year and a half or two years, not after less than seven months of full operation. You can now read NewsForge once a day and get a pretty good idea of everything that is going on with Linux and Open Source. There are stories we leave out, but that is mostly because they are duplicates; once you've seen a Reuters story on Yahoo! News, for example, there is no point in reading the same story again on MSNBC.

Working on NewsForge has been a great lesson on how tech news is reported, by the way. We all "knew" a story written by one reporter for one news outlet would often become the basis of stories written for other news outlets, and that much of the online "reporting" we were seeing was either rewritten press releases or rehashes of stories published elsewhere, perhaps with a little background material from a company Web site tossed in to add depth. But with that NewsVac crawler showing us all the news, every day, it was soon obvious to us just how prevalent this style has become. Our desire to break this pattern was a huge part of our motivation to pick up the phone and go get stories for ourselves rather than be part of the herd, even though doing real, hard-core reporting is tedious and often unrewarding work.

Most of the credit for NewsForge's metamorphasis from "NewsVac feed with a little bit of original work tacked on" to full-blown, authoritative news source goes to managing editor Grant Gross and news editors Tina Gasperson and Dan Berkes. They are the only full-time NewsForge employees. Programmers Jamie McCarthy and Cliff Wood work part-time on NewsForge, but primarily write and code for Slashdot. Designer Wes Moran works on almost all OSDN sites. I, too, am divided; as editor-in-chief for all of OSDN, I can't put nearly as much time into NewsForge as I'd like. We also have several excellent freelancers who help give the site its character, but Grant, Tina, and Dan are the day-after-day backbone and deserve most of the credit for its rapid growth.

Where do we go from here? Obviously "more of the same" is the first answer. But we also have some changes coming. Before long there will be comments attached to each NewsForge Report instead of a single catch-all discussion page (although we'll leave that going for general commentary). We will have polls, although we're not quite sure whether to have a single daily one or to attach polls to each NewsForge Report or what. (Please let us know your thoughts on the matter, either through the NewsForge discussion page or by email).

And we have some nice surprises coming up, too.

No, we won't tell you what they are; keep reading and you'll find out soon enough. :)

- Robin "roblimo" Miller
NewsForge editor in chief

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