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May 13th, 2013

‘Linux Advocates’ Looks For Angels

A few months ago, while doing my daily web perusing to keep up-to-date on FOSS stuff as well as to update our Twitter and Facebook news feeds, I began running across a Linux blog I hadn’t seen before called Linux Advocates. The site caught my eye because it was well designed and laid-out–not just another generic WordPress blog, if you catch my drift.

Other than that, there was nothing that was really exceptional about the site. It was just another Penguinista blog by a blogger, Dietrich Schmitz, who was unfamiliar to me. His writing was strong, even if he did sometimes seem to be lacking in how-it-really-works insight.

He learned quickly, however. Very quickly. It wasn’t long before Linux Advocates started showing-up more often in my morning web surfing. The writing and quality of articles improved and the major Linux news aggregators began paying attention by publishing links to selected articles. It was obvious; the site was progressing.

Then, a few weeks back, the site unwittingly got caught in the middle of some silliness that exploded and threatened to go viral, when an amateur blogger in a snit wrote a blog claiming censorship by Schmitz, who had evidently deleted some comments the blogger had posted to the Linux Advocates site.

I had a good chuckle. I was glad it was Schmitz and not me in the middle of it–and reminded myself again of my policy to not delete comments no matter how idiotic, unless they cross certain rude, untasteful and offensive thresholds. You know, sticks and stones and all that. Schmitz handled it well. He penned a kiss-and-make-up reply, that was also published by the folks at Techrights–much to the chagrin of the self-styled rough trade crowd on the forums who thrive on flame wars.

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Since then the site has rapidly progressed in a direction that can only be seen as positive. It’s now on my list of sites to check every morning as I prepare our Twitter and Facebook feeds. Schmitz has started partnering with Katherine Noyes, who writes as Linux Girl over at LinuxInsider. She’s not only contributing her journalistic skills, but is acting as an adviser, evidently helping Schmitz learn to navigate the labyrinth that leads to a successful publication.

He’s also started adding guest bloggers, which is something we’ve been planning to do here at FOSS Force as well, and has managed to put together a pretty impressive roster which includes Dr. Roy Schestowitz from Techrights, Robert Pogson and several others. In addition, Ken Starks from The Blog of Helios has been taken on as a “regular contributing” author.

Schmitz and his helpers would seem to have all their ducks in a row to build a successful site that could contribute greatly to our open source community, except for one thing–money.

The plan is for the site to be supported solely by donations–which is difficult to make work even when you’ve got all the time in the world to get it off the ground. The trouble is, Schmitz doesn’t have a lot of time. By his own admission, he’s close to being broke. He specifically doesn’t want to go the advertising route. His vision, it seems, is for Linux Advocates to be “visitor supported,” not dissimilar to National Public Radio’s “listener supported” model sans pledge week.

He has a campaign running through FundRazr, with a goal of raising $10 thousand by June 15th. He’s got a long way to go. As of noon this morning, he’s picked-up $80 in donations. A previous fundraiser, now completed, through Indiegogo, garnered $955.

At present, any donations to Linux Advocates are not tax deductible. In an email exchange this morning, Schmitz explained:

“I have looked into filing as a 501c3. What I lack is the funds to hire an attorney at the moment. It’s kind of like a catch-22, I am afraid. Part of my funding goal will be applied to doing just that if/when said funds become available.”

Again, it’s a steep hill that Schmitz is trying to climb. Launching a successful website is never easy–especially when you’re in a hurry. He’s got some well known talented people who obviously believe in him, or his vision, and who are willing to put shoulder to stone to help him out. It’s a good site. I like it. I like it’s potential even more. Here’s hoping that the cute little penguin chick that adorns the site’s masthead proves to be the exception–a penguin that can fly.


Editor’s note: Article updated 5/13/13 at 5:33 PM EST to identify Ken Starks as a “regular contributing” author instead of as a guest blogger.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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