OSNews’ Clean Slate

Consider the following a little Christmas gift. Some of you may have already noticed, but for a few months already OSNews has seen a shift in content. Not necessarily in the subjects we cover, but more in the way we present our news. We’ve experimented for long enough now – we have settled on a definitive change in our content type. Read on for the details.

The first thing that many noticed is the introduction of page 2. Page 2 was a place where we posted items that we, the editors, deem less important than items belonging on page 1. The criteria that governed what items go on which page didn’t really exist, it was mostly a gut feeling thing. As you may notice, I’m referring to this in the past tense, and there’s a reason for that. I’ll arrive at that shortly.

Another addition that many have noticed are what we internally refer to as “long items”. These are the items that carry a “read more” link, under which an editor writes in a little more detail about the subject at hand, and maybe provide an opinion or two. The idea is that we want to offer more – on the crew mailing list, I explained that the internet is actually a pretty simple entity. The better input you give to the internet, the better output you get. The general idea is that if we write a little more in-depth news items (input), we are awarded with better quality comments as well (output). While this is hard to measure, we’ve seen that this is actually happening.

You see, before I introduced the longer items as a regular format for presenting news, we editors mostly expressed our opinions in the “My take” format, and these were hated vigorously for a very good reason: throwing a random, unargumented opinion into the internet is kind of asking for trouble. The front page doesn’t have the space for arguments, so this is where the body section of each article comes into play.

Now, some of you might wonder why we would express our opinions on OSNews in the first place. Other than the “because we want to” argument, there’s more reason behind this apparent madness. Let me explain by giving you a rare insight into the discussion we have behind-the-scenes on our crew mailing list. This is a paragraph I wrote from our long discussion on the future of OSNews:

Forget about being neutral. This isn’t an attack, but uhm, since
when are you neutral? Since when am I neutral? Since when is Adam? Years and years ago, Adam already said: forget this whole OSNews-is-unbiased charade. It took me a few years to realise, but he was right then, and he’s right now. This might seem a little arrogant, but I personally know a thing or two about a number of subjects, and I want to convince others of the way I feel.

There are a few guarantees we will be able to give you. First of all, we will always make sure that you are not forced into reading the stuff behind the “read more” link by placing the main link on the front page no matter what. Of course, there will always be stories with multiple links where you can’t really identify a main link, but you get the point. Secondly, we want stay away as much as possible from pompous headlines. Of course, if we can make a clever headline, we will, but you get the point.

This is where page 2 comes back into play. As you may understand, we don’t know enough about every subject to cover them all in-depth, and as such, we have made a very bold decision. Basically, we love and hug our longer items so much, that we have decided to make them our primary focus. Starting from now, we have a very simple criterion for what goes on page 2, and what goes on page 1:

If we can’t turn something into a long item, it goes on page 2.

This means that some items which may deserve the front page get relegated back to page 2 for the simple reason that none of the staff is knowledgeable enough on the subject it covers. This is a shame, but it cannot be avoided. This does bring me to my next point, though.

OSNews is not Thom’s blog

With just me doing the longer items, OSNews was moving dangerously close to just me spouting opinions, which is of course not desirable. That’s why from the moment I started doing the longer items, I started a very strong push towards getting more dedicated editors on board, with opinions that differ from my own, so that they can bring balance to the site as a whole. The best example of this is our most recent addition to the team, Kroc. Kroc and I have had multiple strong arguments in the past, so I was very happy he wanted to join the team and work with us.

So, our end goal is to have an OSNews with lots of editors, who cover various subjects in a more in-depth manner than happened in the past. The problem is that dedicated editors don’t grow on trees. This brings me back to the input/output argument: “We want serious writers to work for us? We better show we are serious about writing.”

From now on, that’s exactly what we are going to do. This is a transition phase; we will start with moving the front page to longer items exclusively, which in the beginning will mean a reduction in fresh content on the front page, because we have too few editors to post 7-8 long items each day (the number of items we used to do each day). However, page 2, which will move back to the sidebar, will continue to be updated as often as possible with fresh news. In other words, you’re not getting less news – in fact, you’re likely to get more news, because page 2 + page 1 > just page 1.

As time goes on, we hope this will make more writers and potential editors consider OSNews as a good venue for publication. Let me assure you that this will not “fix” OSNews overnight; this is a long term process that may take months. Everyone on the team is now committed to this new direction, and we will work as hard as our other obligations allow to make sure we reach our ideal.

We hope that you understand our new direction, and that you will help us in reaching our goals. And yes, you can help too. Want to submit a news item, and you know a thing or two about the subject? Write longer and more detailed submissions! This will help us greatly, and we would really appreciate it if our regular tipsters could help us out on this one.

Let me close this story with wishing you all a very merry Christmas and very happy holidays, and that you may spend lots of time with the people you love and cherish.

Feel free to post suggestions in the comments, but be advised that we are looking for your advice, not for pleas to return to the glorified-RSS-feed era. I can assure you that those days are definitively over, so complaining about it is useless.


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