The proverb says that necessity is the mother of invention, and while I wouldn't call what happened today a major invention, it was at least a necessity. For about a month, one of the servers of the FSFE has been crashing randomly, necessitating us to press the button to restart it regularly. It's been particularly troublesome as the server in question has housed our blog setup, our web pages and svn repositories. From a communications perspective, this is one of the three pillars of the organisation (the other pillars being email and XMPP).
In our new virtualisation environment (think of this as the FSFE's private cloud - but remember there is no cloud), this wouldn't be a problem: the servers would migrate to a new host and restart there. But the services I mentioned run on older hardware and haven't been migrated yet. And they still have to be migrated, more so now than ever, but there's a silver lining to these events, and that silver lining is due to our amazing volunteers.
A while ago, I started talking to a smaller group of people regarding our blog platform. This is a service we provide to our volunteers to give them a place to write about their explorations of free software and their work in the FSFE. Our blog platform, however, has been in a dire state and not only needing to be migrated, but also upgraded in the process. My original thought had been to migrate away from offering blogs, but I was convinced otherwise, for two very important reasons.
One, a volunteer stepped forward and offered to coordinate a volunteer team to focus on maintaining the blog platform, turning this service into a service run by the volunteers, for the benefit of other volunteers. This is an excellent development, and we're just starting to send out the invitations to join this volunteer team for anyone who's interested in blog platform hosting. Which leads me to the second reason why I'm excited about this.
Two, hosting a service is a good learning experience. If you're interested in devops or system administration, hosting your own blog is a way of learning the tips and tricks of the trade. Hosting a blog platform for hundreds, potentially thousands, of others, is even more so. And this is what the FSFE can offer: an ability for interested individuals to join in and work practically in volunteer teams to further their skills.
This is something we've always done with the FSFE's internships and I'm excited we're now at a point where we can successfully do the same in other ways.
If you're interested in helping out with our blog platform team, get in touch with our system administrators at system-hackers (obvious-at) fsfeurope.org or just reach out to me about it. While this team is getting up to speed, I've meanwhile migrated the blogs and svn repositories from the faulty computer to another computer. This squeezes the services together on a slower machine, so everything will run a bit slower, but it will hopefully at least not crash.