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Offer HN: create a collaborative tech blog?
60 points by alexis-d on Nov 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments
Hi fellow HN readers!

tl;dr: what about setting up a community blog about technical topics?

Sometimes I want to share my experience/knowledge on some subjects, but I don't want to maintain a blog which I'll update only a few time per year. So I was thinking that if some of you are like me we could setup a blog where each of us could share his thoughts on whatever he want as long it remains topics that may interest HN readers. Moreover if the quality of the posts is great we may have more visibility (what's the point of writing if nobody read it?) than if each of us as his own blog lost in some dark corner of the Internet.

Want to tell everybody why (vim|emacs) is awesome? Want to show us your nifty new demo in (HTML5|CSS3|WebGL)? Want explain some IOCCC entries? Want to talk about internals of the Linux kernel? Rails advanced topics? Python metaclasses? Lexing and parsing? Node? Something else? It's ok, c'mon guys I'm pretty sure we can do something together! We just have to use Hyde/Jekyll and setup a repo on Github. It'll allow us to submit new articles (via pullrequest, and discuss them before publishing them), and to fix already published articles (by submitting an issue/pullrequest).

What do you think about it? Would you be interested in a such project? Another questions? Just drop a comment!

Isn't this what an aggregation like HN is in practice?

Although getting knowledge transfer from people without blogs is a good point. But, in that case, I think a simple Wordpress setup would be better than running from a git repository. I think we tend to overlook git as the barrier of entry that it is.

What gives HN its value is that it's already curated, so if you decide to do this, I think there needs to be a voting system to help give weight to particularly good points.

I could see this turning into too much of a directionless, superfluous stack of tech posts, though.

You're right that quality will become an issue for such a collaborative tech blog. To do it properly, the posts would have to go through some sort of peer review and editorial process - hopefully community driven. In fact, this could form a nice quality gateway... Basically, if your article cannot get two other people to agree to edit/review your article and either "fix it" for you or approve of your resubmission with the recommended changes, then it is just quietly left to languish and die unpublished.

As somebody who would want to publish articles here, I see another benefit of a peer review process--it would make sure my writing is good enough and, hopefully, help me improve it. So I see a system like that not only maintaining quality, but helping the authors as well.

I think that git should not be too big a barrier to entry for a tech blog. Additionally, considering this is aimed at programmers that are not already heavy bloggers, they are more likely to know how to use git than Wordpress.

If the number of contributors is sufficiently small--this really depends on how many people would be willing to put time into this--then we could probably get by with an IRC channel and no super-formal decision making process.

The most difficult part with a project like this is getting started; if we get to the point where voting becomes an issue, we've already got something so it will be worth more time and effort to perfect the system. For now, I think just chatting would do.

Using pull requests requires stakeholders to review each amendment, and coupling it with github accounts gives a level of accountability that a wordpress blog wouldn't have, in my opinion. It really isn't that difficult to fork the blog and issue a pull request; you could even do it completely within the github gui if need be.

I think the Pull Request for article submission is a really awesome idea. Sounds like a neat idea, you should start it up.

This is a great idea, but a lot of thought needs to be put into how it could be abused. Some potential problems that come to mind immediately are: self-promotion, low quality posts, SEO shenanigans, and wikipedia style edit wars.

What keeps HN relevant and high-quality is the flagging and voting system, and I don't know how that translates to a git-based architecture.

EDIT: I misunderstood how github's pull requests work. Sounds like a perfect tool to maintain community standards.

I think this is where using pull requests to submit articles really shines.

The community would vet articles and potentially help with editing and clarity. This would help contributors make sure their articles are well-written and well thought-out, while giving readers consistently high-quality content.

Of course, this requires an at least moderately engaged community of contributors, but I think that's completely reasonable. We would also have to be careful not to scare away insightful people who aren't great writers, but I think it would be manageable.

I agree. Who gets push access to master?

If not too many people want to post at the start, it can always just be a volunteer or two from the initial pool of interested people.

Perhaps, at the very beginning, the submitter could just take care of all the administration (hopefully it's not too much work) and everybody could work out a system for discussing and approving posts as a group.

By the way the "big thing" isn't the hardest part of this. The most important thing is probably the review of issue/pull request, and everybody who want to help can do that ;)

That depends on how closely affiliated with HN the blog is going to be and if our ycombinator benefactors are interested in endorsing such a project. If so, it should be one of them or someone they designate from the community.

If it is not associated to HN, then this is not an easily solved problem.

I love the idea of a community blog for HN readers, but I doubt anyone wants to make it official. Maybe we just see who's interested and hand the reins over to whoever has the highest karma?

I think that just having anybody with enough time to manage would do. As long as there's a focus on community, and everything gets discussed, any power issues should be remediable at the very beginning.

Basically, we should just have a community where the person managing the github account and whatnot is more like a sysadmin than a CEO. The main goal should be to find somebody willing to do a little extra work to get everything working.

Agreed; electing a button-pusher-in-chief shouldn't be an issue until someone actually contributes something, and at this point the OP is MIA. I think you should do it.

Sounds like a good idea. If you execute it, I hope you'll give some careful thought to hierarchy/organization/browsability. It'd be nice to have a community knowledge base that could be an alternative to the declarative/referential tone of a wiki. Well organized blogging could probably be a valuable artifact.

Pull requests would be awesome. We've got something similar to this for the UtahJS community.

Random, half-baked thought:

Set up a blog with 10 participants. Each person writes/curates for 1-3 days and then hands on responsibility. Any AdSense revenue from the site is split by randomly displaying account holder AdSense IDs. A contributor must complete one cycle before their ID joins the ad display pool.

Motivation for writing is enforced to some degree by swapping out a writer if they fail to contribute during their period of responsibility for the blog.

Encourage writers to queue up ideas or entries to cover for being stumped or busy when their time comes.

Sounds brilliant.

I'm a student, so I don't have enough time (and probably don't know enough) to maintain my own blog, but I would love to write an article or two once in a while.

Also, discussing articles with other contributors before publication sounds like a great way for me to improve my own writing quality--it's like free editing.

What do you (and other interested people) think the minimum number of contributors is? How many people would make something like this both interesting and lasting (e.g. people continue publishing posts in the far future)?

I don't really know it really depends on the number of a contributor! The goal isn't to have a huge blog with 20posts/day. The hard thing is to get a motivated team to get started to be sure the idea will last (there's no point if everybody post something at the beginning and then nothing).

Maybe we should start to talk on IRC? Or Google groups to see who's motivated?

Would love to contribute to the design. Can also offer UI/UX skills, sitemaps, wireframes etc. http://www.andrew-rose.com

I'm for it :D. I've tried maintaining a blog a couple times but never end up writing enough, and as you said therefore no one reads the few things I do manage to write up :P.

That sounds like a great idea! I'd be quite interested. (Email in profile - keep me posted if you put together a mailing list or whatever.)

Good idea! I'd be interested in such a blog for the very reasons you mention. And I'd be sure to learn a lot in the process.

I created a site called learnfrom.it which is coming down tomorrow since i got busy with other stuff. But if you guys want i can put it back up so people can contribute. Aside from being busy it was hard to get people to contribute so if people volunteer i'll keep it up and change the cstegories so its tech focus.

Check out the site and let me know

That sounds like planet-aggregation to me, something like planet.ubuntu.com, but could be set up as planet.hackernews.com or something.

As I love to read planets, I'm all up for it. I agree to your argument, what's the point of blogging if nobody reads it. And why have 100 blogs rss'ed if you could have them all in one place.

Awesome idea. Hook up a repo and post back! I'm up for helping out, and collabing on the actual site too.

I like it; I do agree that there are many blogs hidden somewhere with gems in them. Meanwhile, when posting on HN, you can use the 'text' inside of the url and write the article in it. It's not nearly the same; but it's tweetable and can get feedback/exposure to the community.

I currently write an article or two every now and then over at http://tech.navarr.me/. I'd love to work on a more collaborative project, where I can write every now and then and not be part of a dead corner of the net.

Coincidentally, I had such an idea for a long time and have started writing an application for such a blog in my spare time. But my blog isnt just for the tech community. Will do a "Show HN" soon, when I have a working site.

But would be nice to see a github hosted version.

This is an excellent idea--would love to contribute somehow! Contact info is in my profile.

Love the idea. You should talk to the guys at kapost.com. They're a platform for group blogging and have lots of the features you'd want for managing a bunch of different editors on one blog.

That sounds like a neat idea. I'd be happy to contribute occasional article and/or an EC2 instance that the blog could be hosted on if needed.

Would it not be hosted as github pages?

Sounds great. I'm not regular at it but still I would love to make occasional contributions. My contact details are in my profile.

If you require.. i can contribute in domain and blog maintenance and Some article contribution.

This idea interests me, I'd love to help out in any way I can. Email is in my profile.

I'm confused; without any explanation of why you are posting this link here, it appears you are trying to trick people into thinking that this is the collaborative tech blog proposed in the submission, unless it is, in which case you could use a little help with the messaging on the landing page.

EDIT: Okay, I see your comment elsewhere on the page. You should probably post this as a child of that comment to avoid confusion.

Sorry for the confusion. I've added the link as a reply to my original post. I do agree the "explanation" could use some changing! The initial idea was to put a blog together for people to share their experiences with others without having to maintain their own blog, similar to this. I do agree that it needs a lot of work since i only put it together in a few days reusing old code.

I'd get involved. I have a lot of editing experience too, if that helps.

As far as showing off nifty demos. www.HackerCache.com is coming soon.

I'm interested as well. Lifehacker for programmers and startups!

Sounds awesome, count me in (email in profile).

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