author-faq

1. How do I become an author for LG?

New authors are always welcome; the Linux Gazette is dependent on Readers Like You for its articles. Although we cannot offer financial compensation (the LG is purely a volunteer effort), you will earn the gratitude of Linuxers all over the world, and possibly an enhanced reputation for yourself and your company as well. The Linux Gazette is a refereed journal (ISSN: 1934-371X, listed in the Ulrichs database), and articles published here can be used for academic credit (please notify the editor if you need the acceptance reply to have some specific format.) If you haven't written for LG before, the first thing you need to do is submit a short bio (for examples, see our authors list) and a 200×200 picture of yourself. This bio will be reused for all future articles until you submit an updated one. Read the rest of this FAQ for topic suggestions and formatting requirements, and submit your completed article after formatting it accordingly (Exception: "2-cent Tips", i.e., short bits of technical advice, should be sent to The Answer Gang). If you're unsure about the suitability of the topic to LG, send us an abstract of your proposed article, and we'll happily give you feedback.

2. Acceptance policy

After you submit your article, you should get a response fairly quickly – usually within a couple of days to a week. The style of the current editor is "acceptance with a smile, or rejection with a list of suggestions"; that is, if your article is rejected, you'll get an explanation for the reason and a list of suggestions for improvement (if applicable.) Your article will usually be published in the upcoming issue, but may be delayed due to publication requirements.

Article topics

The main question to ask yourself is "Does the article provide new, interesting, Linux-relevant information?" An article may overlap a previous article in content, but is it a 100% overlap or is there any new information or a different perspective? We do ask that authors use the LG search engine to look for previous articles about the same topic and link to them if appropriate. This makes it easier for readers to find all the useful information LG has on a certain topic. The following types of articles are always welcome:

  • Technical articles of a HOWTO nature; how to set up a program, how to maintain it, "my experience running a program even if I'm not an expert", etc. An article discussing how you arrived at a solution by trial and error, and what problems you encountered along the way, will be of interest to many readers. These real-life experiences are the unique and exciting content that we like to publish in the Linux Gazette, because that's exactly what's missing from most standard documentation.
  • Articles discussing the use of Linux in your company or industry, especially in an environment where commercial software was traditionally used.
  • General Open Source issues – philosophical, political, etc. (no rants!)
  • Software reviews, as long as it is a balanced review and not simply an advertisement. Comparing the pros and cons of a program with similar programs is a plus.
  • Conference Reports.
  • Lighthearted and funny stories related to computers, etc.
  • New, creative, Linux-relevant topics – including those not mentioned above – may fit the bill, or may create a category of their own. As we move forward in parallel with the development of Linux itself, our ideas on presentation and content change as well – and your article may well be the agent of that change. Go wild… you never know till you try!
  • For even more ideas regarding possible articles, look in the Mailbag for recurring questions.

Keeping your content readable

To quote Joseph Kimble, "Plain English is the style of Abraham Lincoln, and Mark Twain, and Justice Holmes, and George Orwell, and Winston Churchill, and E.B. White. Plain words are eternally fresh and fit. More than that, they are capable of great power and dignity [...]". Here at LG, clear communication with the Linux community is the goal – and clear, concise, plain language is the means. LG is an English-language publication – but it is also read by people from almost every country in the world. In order to make our content as accessible as possible, we ask that you avoid jargon, colloquial expressions, and complicated grammatic constructs in your writing. LG is also translated into a number of other languages, and an article that is difficult to read is likely to be ignored by a translator whose job is difficult enough in the first place. Here are some resources if you need specific guidance:

 

General Considerations

Submissions should be written in simple HTML (see the LG author's crash course in HTML and the LG author's style guide), or even plain text; most other formats, including HTML created in FrontPage, MSWord, or OpenOffice, will be rejected unless they are easily convertable to the two acceptable formats. There is no specific word limit on article length. Most articles are 5-20 screenfulls of text; occasionally, if the article is very long, we'll ask you to split it into two or more articles in a series. We have all levels of readers, from neophytes to gurus. In order to appeal to both, the "howto"-type articles should be centered around an interesting topic or task – even a complex one is fine – but should also contain clear, explicit instructions sufficient to replicate your results. If you see an article that is too technical or not detailed enough for your taste, feel free to submit another article that fills the gaps.

Copyright Issues

We're happy to accept articles previously published elsewhere, as long as the original copyright does not prevent that article from being re-released under the Open Publication License (OPL), LG's default publication license. Our official copyright statement (in short, the OPL without the optional clauses) is at http://linuxgazette.net/copying.html. While we're on the subject of copyright: if you use a substantial part of someone else's work – a long quote from it, etc. – be sure to attribute the source. When in doubt about whether to credit someone's work that you quoted or paraphrased "just a little", wrote "in the spirit of", "used ideas from", etc., do it (feel free to run any borderline cases by the Editor – or just cite'em anyway.) In a very small number of cases, we've had to delete an article after publication and replace it with an "excessive uncited copying" note because in our view it crossed the line; humiliating to an author and unpleasant for us. You don't want this happening to your piece. We don't, either.

3. Deadlines

The article submission deadline is ten days before the end of the month, modified by the US holidays that occur during the publication period. For reference, here are the actual dates:

January 21st
February 18th (19th on leap years)
March 21st
April 20th
May 20th
June 20th
July 21st
August 21st
September 21st
October 21st
November 19th
December 19th

Since we're not a paper magazine, we don't have a certain amount of space to fill. If you miss a deadline, don't fret; just send your article in anyway and it will go into the following issue.

4. Style Guide

Create the file using any plaintext editor. Put a blank line between paragraphs and wrap each paragraph in <p></p> tags. Name the article author.html (where "author" is your last name in lowercase). Delete (or don't create in the first place) the standard HTML headers (<html></head><title></title></head><body>) or footers (</body></html>) – they would just create problems in your article's layout. Instead, the first two lines of the file should be

author: author's_tag
title: Article Title

(You can also add an optional 'summary: ' line. This is used to show a short description of your article on our main page.) The author's "tag" is used by our scripts to identify/credit an author and usually consists of your last name in lower case; if we already have a "niratpattanasai" (or a "smith"), we'll tweak it by adding your first initial, etc. In any case, we'll let you know what it is after you send in your bio.   Note that there's no markup used around these header lines: they are simply text, just as you see above. They will be used to generate the article and page title, as well as a link to your bio. Keep the in-article formatting as simple as possible. The Linux Gazette is read on a wide variety of browsers and hardware, and we try to accomodate as many readers as possible. Please bear in mind that our content is distributed as part of several CDROM/DVD collections, and that many people read it off-line; as a result, any off-site links become useless, and pointing to, e.g., sample code on your web site damages the article's readability and usefulness. There is, however, a limiting factor from the other perspective as well: many of our readers pay for their connections by the kilobyte, and large article attachments, particularly those that are not of broad interest, represent an unfair load on them. Therefore, the LG policy is an attempt at a compromise between the two: if the total of your referenced content does not exceed 1MB, please include it as part of your article submission; otherwise, please post it somewhere accessible and provide a link. All supplementary article content (e.g., program listings, images, reference material) is stored under that issue's 'misc/' directory, in a subdirectory "tagged" for that author. E.g., an image link in an article by N. Machiavelli would look like this:

<img src="misc/machiavelli/Il_Principe.jpg" alt="The Prince" width="100" height="200">

If any of your images are > 600 pixels in width, shrink them. Use PNGs or JPGs ( GIFs are questionable, and thus best avoided), and make the file size as small as possible. Short program listings or scripts can be included right in the article itself; however, if the program is longer than 20 lines or so, save it as a text file and link it as above.

5. LG's "minimal HTML" guide

Good:

  • Enclose paragraphs in <p></p> tags.
  • Wrap <h3></h3> around the section headings.
  • When including images, be sure to use the alt=width= and height= attributes in the <img> tag, i.e.
    <img src="misc/author/file1.jpg" alt="TCP/IP four-layer diagram" width="140" height="80">
  • Place <pre> around program output, command lines, etc.; to highlight program listings, use <pre></pre>.
  • Use standard markup tags (<a><em><strong><code><blockquote><ul><ol><dl>, etc.) at will.

Questionable:

  • Local style declarations (e.g., <p style="width: 200">); these may conflict with the LG stylesheet.
  • Tables. Reserve tables for tabular data; avoid using them for layout unless it's absolutely necessary. Often, <dt> and <dd> are actually what you need.
  • Fonts and colors.
  • JavaScript.

Don't use:

  • External stylesheets.
  • Underlining (<u></u>) makes the text look like a link. Replace with <em>, and all will be fine with the world.
  • Decorations and doodads on section headers. Sometimes these are tolerated for variety; other times, they go "poof".
  • <br> and &nbsp; tags to achieve precise indentation or vertical space. Much of that stuff will be lost anyway when people use a browser that is different from yours; use <pre></pre> instead.
  • Platform-specific fonts. Unless you're sure that 99% of the computers in the world have it, don't bother: it'll just fall back to Fixed, Helvetica, or Times New Roman anyway.

6. After Submission

So, you've submitted your article. At the time that you wrote it, it was the most wonderful bit of prose ever released into the wild, flights of fact and fancy unparallelled in history – but now that the end of the month (and actual publication) approaches, you can see… umm, certain improvements that could be made. Not that there's anything wrong with the original, of course, but – a bit of clarification never hurts, right? So, you set out to revise your brilliant treatise and resubmit it… If this is what you were about to do, STOP! What you'd be doing is creating a fork: a second, divergent version of the material. You see, at this point, the article has probably been proof-read, possibly heavily corrected with regard to the HTML, maybe even had some of the material moved around a bit – and all of this work would have to be re-done if you were to resubmit your original version with corrections. As a result, your "new" submission may well be rejected.

So, what, is correction after submission not possible?

It is – in fact, it's very easy if you follow procedure. That is, simply contact the Editor and say that you want to add/change/correct something. If it's a minor change, just submit a diff (i.e., show what you want changed) and we'll apply it. If the changes are more comprehensive than that, and it's not too close to the publication date ("too close" being a constantly-changing variable; you'll just have to ask and find out), we'll 'freeze' your article and send you the working copy, which you can then correct and send back to us. And don't forget, lest you get into a stew about getting it all done by the deadline: there's alwaysnext month.

A good idea whose time has come

(thanks to Barry O'Donovan for setting a good example) If you've written an article that mostly concerns or describes a specific piece of software, you may find it of benefit to notify the author of that software. Not only is it a pleasant and courteous thing to do, but they may have a salient comment – and you will have the security of having had your article vetted by the number-one expert. We will usually be happy to post the resulting exchange in the Mailbag section (assuming that you've asked your correspondent for permission to do so and had it granted.)

7. After Publication

What happens if I spot a mistake in my article sometime after publication?

Click on the "Talkback" link for that article, and email us your corrections, citing as much detail and context as possible (i.e., location of the error within the article, additional relevant information, etc.) We will do our best to bring it to our readers' attention by publishing it with the rest of that month's Mailbag.

But can't you correct it at your site?

Yes – but generally, there wouldn't be any point to doing so. Our mirror sites (http://linuxgazette.net/mirrors.html) pull down our new content (and only our new content) once a month, when we publish an issue. This means that the old content – including your article with the error in it – is now part of web history, essentially unchangeable. Note that this is not an effect of LG policy but simply an artifact of life on the Net: whatever you say publicly is usually archived - somewhere – forever. The best policy is to accept that as a fact of life and act accordingly. There is one exception to the above – but it is mostly a goodwill gesture that we are only occasionally willing to make. If your error is going to result in ongoing repercussions – e.g., you have unwittingly insulted the Grand Poobah of Ungah-Bungah, and now every Ungah-Bunghese man, woman, child, and spectral tarsier wants to eat your toes for breakfast – we may change the content at our site just to "show willing", as the expression goes. If this is the case, feel free to write to our notoriously-cynical Editor-in-Chief- although a letter of apology to the Grand Poobah would probably be a more efficient use of your time.

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