November 17, 2004

Site review: LinuxFoo community site is a friendly haven

Author: Tina Gasperson

Mark Angeli is leading the Linux faithful to a new place: Foo. LinuxFoo.org is a community site that provides Linux users with a place to ask advice, share wisdom, rant about flaky software, and chit-chat about the latest distribution release.According to RFC 3092 - Etymology of "Foo," the word is either a term of disgust or a "sample name for absolutely anything, especially programs and files." (According to the RFC, it could also be "First on the standard list of metasyntactic variables used in syntax examples [bar, baz, qux, quux, corge, grault, garply, waldo, fred, plugh, xyzzy, thud]." But some things are just too geeky even for NewsForge.)

Assuming that the first meaning in the RFC doesn't apply to the site, LinuxFoo must be a place where you can hope to find absolutely anything about Linux.

Angeli's other site, Tinyminds.org, is still live, but he decided to start fresh with LinuxFoo, with a new domain and a new look. The LinuxFoo logo has a decidedly Oriental flavor -- it's nice, but the cartoon-like Chinese man is a little over the top, especially in today's climate of political correctness.

The site's home page links to a great big collection of discussion forums. There isn't much else -- but does there really need to be? With all these topics, most of them active, what's wrong with having all the site content in a discussion board format?

The site runs on phpBB, and resembles a classic blog combined with the old-timey atmosphere of the BBS. It is what users are familiar with now, a la any one of the billion or so blogs already out there. But most importantly, LinuxFoo is accomplishing its owner's purpose: to create a community where visitors can go to get to know other Linux users in a helpful and friendly atmosphere.

"I started LinuxFoo because I felt that the majority of Linux communities had lost their friendliness," Angeli says. "On some of the larger sites, unless you were an old-timer, the attitude was occasionally rude and unappealing." The attitude is anything but that at LinuxFoo. Instead of flames and insults, you'll find an appealing fellowship that encourages new members and old to interact like family.

LinuxFoo hasn't been around that long -- the domain was registered last April, and there are only about 90 registered users so far. But the amount of activity on the site belies that number. There are many hundreds of posts in dozens of topic areas and interest is high. Other areas of the site are obviously just getting started, like the knowledge base, which has only a few articles posted, and the gallery -- an interesting addition that lets users post images, like the ever-popular desktop screenshots. There are five so far.

Other features and standard issue items for phpBB boards:

  • A "forum tour" link looked interesting, but led only to a pop-up window that said the tour isn't available right now.
  • The profile management page lets you create a highly tweakable presence, if you are into that. You can upload a custom avatar as well as a photo of yourself. You can have a signature, and there are at least a dozen preference settings to play with.
  • A calendar lets visitors view events posted presumably by the moderator or site owner. It doesn't appear to be modifiable by the user. It shows the birthdays of registered users who entered that information, with a little popup on mouseover that shows the user's avatar and age, and "happy birthday, tinahdee!"
  • A statistics page shows most active topics, most viewed topics, and the number of new posts and topics by month.

These are all nice, but the real meat of LinuxFoo is in the wisdom a diligent visitor can glean from posts that offer help to the newbies who are brave enough to risk asking questions that could be perceived by cranky Linux experts as stupid. The cool thing about LinuxFoo is that it's really OK not to know things; answers are gladly given, without strings attached, just as you'd expect in a family.

Category:

  • Linux
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