We started the tradition of “A Letter from the Editor” in 2019. It has become one of my favorite articles to write every quarter. The reviews and content you see on STH are only 15-20% of the work involved with the site. This quarterly series is my opportunity to share a bit about why and how STH is evolving. 2020 has been undoubtedly challenging with a lot of disruption in the way the site was run over the previous decade, so I wanted to give an update on the behind-the-scenes at STH.
If you want to check out how this series has evolved, here are the links to the first five:
- STH Q1 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q2 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q3 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q4 2019 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q1 2020 Update A Letter from the Editor
- STH Q2 2020 Update A Letter from the Editor
This update marks the seventh installment of the series.
STH Q3 2020 Behind the Scenes
I wanted to break down the Q3 2020 behind the scenes look into what went well and some of the challenges we have faced.
STH Q3 2020 What Went Well
Something one may have noticed is that we have been working on a number of transitions recently. For example, Will has taken over the role of our primary SSD reviewer (among other hats.) He has an entire series with a new test methodology and tooling. You can see an example with our Synology SNV3400-400G Review.
Dmitrij has been working on a new router test methodology incorporating high-end tooling to get new insights into an important market. You can see examples in his recent Netgate SG-2100 pfSense Router and Firewall Review and Ubiquiti ER-X Review. Dmitrij is doing a much better job than Rohit or I ever did in this space which is great to see.
Nick has been working on some great guide content for STH such as his recent STH Project TinyMiniMicro the Plex Server Setup Guide.
Francois had an absolutely awesome silicon industry analysis piece in An Arm Opportunity with Cloud Service Providers. If you have not read it, a few market pieces have shifted in the time since it was published, but it is a great piece.
It has been great to see more perspectives added to STH over the past quarter or two. I believe it helps STH to add new perspectives since everyone comes with their own unique background and skill set.
We have had something that was a bit unexpected this year. Typically, August is a seasonally slower month. In 2019, we had the highly-anticipated AMD EPYC 7002 series “Rome” launch which helped. In 2020, we did not have a similar tentpole. Still, we narrowly notched our largest month on record in terms of traffic when we were expecting a 10-15% M/M drop due to seasonality from vacations. Perhaps this is a small case where people staying home due to health concerns have led to more STH readership.
STH Q3 2020 Challenges
Some will notice our Introducing Project TinyMiniMicro Home Lab Revolution series. A big reason that we are doing this series is something I saw in the market in late 2019, which was that we are going through a period where we are between the major platforms and product launches. I covered this in The 2021 Intel Ice Pickle How 2021 Will be Crunch Time.
Effectively, we are really expecting launches this year of Intel Xeon “Ice Lake”, and AMD EPYC 7003 “Milan” but my sense is that we are going to see AMD EPYC 7003 chips in servers in the first few weeks of Q1 2021 simply due to the holiday schedule in the US and Europe, but hopefully well before Chinese New Year shuts down Asia. My expectation is that Ice Lake Xeons will be late Q1 2021 and into early Q2 2021 for availability, after Chinese New Year. As a result, 2020 is actually a year with no new mainstream server platform and not even a new set of SKUs to put in servers. We had the Big 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Refresh and the 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable Cooper Lake Launch but these are not Ice Lake which will be a huge launch with new CPUs, features, and servers. When you have a site that reviews servers and often the CPUs in them, not having a new source of content for more than a year since the EPYC 7002 series was launched is difficult.
We have also seen some challenges in terms of getting products to review and covering trade shows. International travel, but travel in general has been severely restricted. Many companies are not back in the office and warehouse at full strength. Simply logistics have become a big challenge both in getting products to review, but also in doing our normal trade show coverage.
When we entered the pandemic period, we had a 65-day backlog of content. During the worst part of the pandemic that dipped to a 24-day backlog which was scary. We are back up to a 52-day backlog which means I am again spending a lot of time on prioritization.
We are working through it, but it is a challenge I am dealing with every day.
STH 2020 Call for Action
Something that is extraordinarily difficult for us is onboarding new writers. You likely have noticed that my contributions to the site amounted to something like 90% of the content years ago and now I get a byline in maybe 30% of the articles we publish. That number should be lower, and I completely point the blame at myself for not doing a better job.
Here is the call to action: if you want to write for STH, drop me a note (patrick at this domain.) It is fairly hard for me to action an e-mail that says “I want to write for STH”. So I want to put some guardrails in-place that will make it easier for me to follow-up.
Specifically, this edition I would like to bolster our software side. If you are a Linux, VMware, or Windows admin and think there is a great opportunity for guides or software reviews, I would love to hear what you are interested in covering.
Please include a proposal. Let me know what subject you want to cover. How many articles are you interested in doing per month, quarter, or year. It is absolutely fine if you have a day job, want to focus on a subject, and want to do a single post or four a year. Likewise, if you do not want to review products, but you want to do a series of guides once per week so that you can beef up your LinkedIn profile’s publication section, that is great as well. In the proposal, please also include some sense of format and length.
If you are great technically and are concerned about your writing, STH can help edit so do not worry on that front. Also if you are concerned because you think what you want to write about overlaps with what someone on STH already does, feel free to make the proposal anyway. As an example, we will likely need to add someone on the networking team in 2020 because Rohit will become overloaded.
In 2019 we had someone offer to write articles for $250,000/ year at a rate of 1 per week. We cannot support that model. For some context, other websites that do a lot of news posts pay between $8-20 per post. Our content is more in-depth, but as you can imagine, we have budget constraints. Most of our writers are doing this as a freelance passion rather than a primary career.
Please get detailed in your proposal. My hope with the above is twofold. First, it will help me tremendously in evaluating proposals and responding to them. Second, it will help you figure out if you can follow-through on this. If you cannot complete a proposal outlined above, then it will likely be difficult for you to follow-through on writing. As we have had folks ask to write for STH, we have seen a sub-50% success rate in getting the first pieces completed.
Notice for California readers: California passed AB5. In that bill, there is a limit for California freelance writers that they can only submit 35 articles for publication a year and still be considered independent contractors rather than employees. For those who have not heard of AB5, that does mean that if a news writer spends 30 minutes per piece, they become an employee with under 18 hours of work per year. If you are based out of California, the answer to the frequency should be under 35 per year.
As always, I want to extend a big thank you to our readers, our team, and our partners for continuing to make STH grow.
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