Lost article ideas


I wrote for LWN for about two years. During that time, I wrote (what seems to me an impressive) 34 articles, but I always had a pile of ideas in the back of my mind. Those are ideas, notes, and scribbles lying around. Some were just completely abandoned because they didn't seem a good fit for LWN.

Concretely, I stored those in branches in a git repository, and used the branch name (and, naively, the last commit log) as indicators of the topic.

This was the state of affairs when I left:

remotes/private/attic/novena 822ca2bb add letter i sent to novena, never published
remotes/private/attic/secureboot de09d82b quick review, add note and graph
remotes/private/attic/wireguard 5c5340d1 wireguard review, tutorial and comparison with alternatives
remotes/private/backlog/dat 914c5edf Merge branch 'master' into backlog/dat
remotes/private/backlog/packet 9b2c6d1a ham radio packet innovations and primer
remotes/private/backlog/performance-tweaks dcf02676 config notes for http2
remotes/private/backlog/serverless 9fce6484 postponed until kubecon europe
remotes/private/fin/cost-of-hosting 00d8e499 cost-of-hosting article online
remotes/private/fin/kubecon f4fd7df2 remove published or spun off articles
remotes/private/fin/kubecon-overview 21fae984 publish kubecon overview article
remotes/private/fin/kubecon2018 1edc5ec8 add series
remotes/private/fin/netconf 3f4b7ece publish the netconf articles
remotes/private/fin/netdev 6ee66559 publish articles from netdev 2.2
remotes/private/fin/pgp-offline f841deed pgp offline branch ready for publication
remotes/private/fin/primes c7e5b912 publish the ROCA paper
remotes/private/fin/runtimes 4bee1d70 prepare publication of runtimes articles
remotes/private/fin/token-benchmarks 5a363992 regenerate timestamp automatically
remotes/private/ideas/astropy 95d53152 astropy or python in astronomy
remotes/private/ideas/avaneya 20a6d149 crowdfunded blade-runner-themed GPLv3 simcity-like simulator
remotes/private/ideas/backups-benchmarks fe2f1f13 review of backup software through performance and features
remotes/private/ideas/cumin 7bed3945 review of the cumin automation tool from WM foundation
remotes/private/ideas/future-of-distros d086ca0d modern packaging problems and complex apps
remotes/private/ideas/on-dying a92ad23f another dying thing
remotes/private/ideas/openpgp-discovery 8f2782f0 openpgp discovery mechanisms (WKD, etc), thanks to jonas meurer
remotes/private/ideas/password-bench 451602c0 bruteforce estimates for various password patterns compared with RSA key sizes
remotes/private/ideas/prometheus-openmetrics 2568dbd6 openmetrics standardizing prom metrics enpoints
remotes/private/ideas/telling-time f3c24a53 another way of telling time
remotes/private/ideas/wallabako 4f44c5da talk about wallabako, read-it-later + kobo hacking
remotes/private/stalled/bench-bench-bench 8cef0504 benchmarking http benchmarking tools
remotes/private/stalled/debian-survey-democracy 909bdc98 free software surveys and debian democracy, volunteer vs paid work

Wow, what a mess! Let's see if I can make sense of this:

  1. Attic
  2. Backlog
  3. Fin
  4. Ideas
  5. Stalled
  6. What do you think?

Those are articles that I thought about, then finally rejected, either because it didn't seem worth it, or my editors rejected it, or I just moved on:

  • novena: the project is ooold now, didn't seem to fit a LWN article. it was basically "how can i build my novena now" and "you guys rock!" it seems like the MNT Reform is the brain child of the Novena now, and I dare say it's even cooler!
  • secureboot: my LWN editors were critical of my approach, and probably rightly so - it's a really complex subject and I was probably out of my depth... it's also out of date now, we did manage secureboot in Debian
  • wireguard: LWN ended up writing extensive coverage, and I was biased against Donenfeld because of conflicts in a previous project

Backlog

Those were articles I was planning to write about next.

  • dat: I already had written Sharing and archiving data sets with Dat, but it seems I had more to say... mostly performance issues, beaker, no streaming, limited adoption... to be investigated, I guess?
  • packet: a primer on data communications over ham radio, and the cool new tech that has emerged in the free software world. those are mainly notes about Pat, Direwolf, APRS and so on... just never got around to making sense of it or really using the tech...
  • performance-tweaks: "optimizing websites at the age of http2", the unwritten story of the optimization of this website with HTTP/2 and friends
  • serverless: god. one of the leftover topics at Kubecon, my notes on this were thin, and the actual subject, possibly even thinner... the only lie worse than the cloud is that there's no server at all! concretely, that's a pile of notes about Kubecon which I wanted to sort through. Probably belongs in the attic now.

Fin

Those are finished articles, they were published on my website and LWN, but the branches were kept because previous drafts had private notes that should not be published.

Ideas

A lot of those branches were actually just an empty commit, with the commitlog being the "pitch", more or less. I'd send that list to my editors, sometimes with a few more links (basically the above), and they would nudge me one way or the other.

Sometimes they would actively discourage me to write about something, and I would do it anyways, send them a draft, and they would patiently make me rewrite it until it was a decent article. This was especially hard with the terminal emulator series, which took forever to write and even got my editors upset when they realized I had never installed Fedora (I ended up installing it, and I was proven wrong!)

Stalled

Oh, and then there's those: those are either "ideas" or "backlog" that got so far behind that I just moved them out of the way because I was tired of seeing them in my list.

  • stalled/bench-bench-bench benchmarking http benchmarking tools, a horrible mess of links, copy-paste from terminals, and ideas about benchmarking... some of this trickled out into this benchmarking guide at Tor, but not much more than the list of tools
  • stalled/debian-survey-democracy: "free software surveys and Debian democracy, volunteer vs paid work"... A long standing concern of mine is that all Debian work is supposed to be volunteer, and paying explicitly for work inside Debian has traditionally been frowned upon, even leading to serious drama and dissent (remember Dunc-Tank)? back when I was writing for LWN, I was also doing paid work for Debian LTS. I also learned that a lot (most?) Debian Developers were actually being paid by their job to work on Debian. So I was confused by this apparent contradiction, especially given how the LTS project has been mostly accepted, while Dunc-Tank was not... See also this talk at Debconf 16. I had hopes that this study would show the "hunch" people have offered (that most DDs are paid to work on Debian) but it seems to show the reverse (only 36% of DDs, and 18% of all respondents paid). So I am still confused and worried about the sustainability of Debian.

What do you think?

So that's all I got. As people might have noticed here, I have much less time to write these days, but if there's any subject in there I should pick, what is the one that you would find most interesting?

Oh! and I should mention that you can write to LWN! If you think people should know more about some Linux thing, you can get paid to write for it! Pitch it to the editors, they won't bite. The worst that can happen is that they say "yes" and there goes two years of your life learning to write. Because no, you don't know how to write, no one does. You need an editor to write.

That's why this article looks like crap and has a smiley. :)

Created . Edited .