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Linux(Foundation).Com

For what felt like forever, Linux.com was a stale holdover from an earlier generation of the Web -- and an earlier generation of Linux. Now it's about to get a major makeover, thanks to both the Linux Foundation and SourceForge. To get a better idea of how the revamp will take shape, I got up close and personal with people on both sides. On the SourceForge side, I spoke with J

For what felt like forever, Linux.com was a stale holdover from an earlier generation of the Web -- and an earlier generation of Linux. Now it's about to get a major makeover, thanks to both the Linux Foundation and SourceForge. To get a better idea of how the revamp will take shape, I got up close and personal with people on both sides. On the SourceForge side, I spoke with Jon Sobel (official title: Group President, Media); on the Linux Foundation side, Amanda McPherson (VP of Marketing and Developer Programs).

My first question for both of them: whose idea was it, exactly, to remake Linux.com in this manner? Turned out they had both been mulling over something like this for a while now, and after finding themselves at the same dinner table, so to speak, they got to talking. After a few months of sussing each other out, the gears have now started to turn in earnest.

What kind of content will there be on the new Linux.com site? One key thing that they want to offer is documentation and answers as written by pros -- something that's been sorely missing as a whole from the Linux community. Yes, each distribution has its own documents, but the total quality of such documentation varies wildly and is often distribution-specific.

That said, on a distribution-specific note, another big part of the featured content will involve participation from the major Linux distributions -- they'll each have their own little slice of the site, with room for other folks to come (e.g., the Moblin crew, or even folks from micro-distros like Puppy Linux). The idea is to create things that people looking both for general Linux know-how and distro-specific goals -- whether they're end users, programmers, admins, or tinkerers -- will be able to find something to suit their needs.

How's all this going to be pulled together and made relevant? I pointed out that right now, most people who get Linux help or know-how don't tend to go to a single place for it. If they use a given distribution, they go to that distro's community and documentation; if they're getting started, they go to a guru or a friend; if they're an admin, they go take classes or hire consultants. Linux hasn't been a one-stop-shop kind of environment for a long time -- probably because Linux itself hasn't been like that.

These are all issues they seemed to be aware of, thank goodness. One of the things Amanda talked about was how the upcoming IdeaForge project is meant to address such gaps, by getting feedback directly from the community both for what Linux.com and Linux itself need to be. That could include social networking functions from other sites (Facebook, Twitter), emulating the functionality of other sites for the sake of user-demand ranking of content (a la Digg), using existing standards for user credentials (OpenID), and so on.

The sheer scope of a project like this tells me it's not something that's going to take final form for a long time. A beta-test version of the new Linux.com is to be unveiled later this year -- but think about how Wikipedia wasn't unveiled and used as-is, but has been continuously refined and revised as its goals have become more sharply defined.

The single most important thing about this is how it reflects a growing centralization of Linux effort. Not Linux itself -- talking about that is a whole 'nother piece -- but rather the work done to support it and further its growth. We have needed this in some form for a long time now. The exact form's bound to be mutable for a bit, but the need is the same as it's always been.


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