Although they're often one and the same, I'll organize this HOWTO around two types of freshmeat users. First, I'll cover the resources available here for software users, then talk about what you can do with freshmeat if you're a software author.
You don't have to have a user account to use freshmeat, but many of the features I'll discuss below aren't useful unless you're a distinct entity, so you might consider getting one. The registration process is quick and painless, and we promise that we'll sell your personal information to only the very highest bidders. Just click the "register" link that you'll find on each page.
Once you've logged in to your account, you'll see a "My" menu at the top of each page and will be able to go to http://freshmeat.net/my/. There, you can see all sorts of information about yourself, including lists of the projects you have listed on freshmeat and of the comments you've posted on the site.
You'll also see three other sections:
The "Lounge" section provides links to everything that's new on the site since the last time you reset the counter. You can click "reset" to reset all the sections, or go into each to reset them individually, then return here to catch up if you're not one of those who watch the front page compulsively.
The "Release subscriptions" and "Your project ratings" sections will make sense after we've talked about the options you have on the front page and on projects' pages.
If you click the "preferences" link in the "My" menu, you can change your information and control whether you want it to be shared with others. Most of the options there are self explanatory; the only one people ask about is "Fake email". We don't show your email address anywhere on the site, to try to save you some spam agony. By default, we do mild spamproofing to turn your address into something like "jeff dot covey at pobox dot com". This can be replaced by whatever you put in the "Fake email" box on your preferences page. You can even put your real address in there, if that floats your boat.
Play around with the other preference settings; some of them are quite useful. For example, I find it handy to sort search results by popularity; this lets me use the collective wisdom of the freshmeat community to bring the most noteworthy projects to the top of the list. You can also hide your personal page and session information (more on this below) if you like.
Now that you're logged in, let's go take another look at the front page.
One of the problems people have with freshmeat is that it's too much of a good thing; the number of releases posted each day can be overwhelming. Here's one way of dealing with it: As you scroll down the page, you'll notice a checkbox to the right of each project's name. When you see a project that you know you'll never have any interest in, check the box. When you get to the bottom, hit the "ignore" button, and you won't see the projects you checked any more. If you change your mind later, you can edit your list of filters by clicking the "filters" option in the "My" menu. You can also click that link to configure whether you want ignored projects to disappear completely or only be displayed in a way different from the way regular projects appear.
When the front page reloads, you might want to check all the projects you definitely want to know about and hit "subscribe" when you get to the bottom; if you do this, you'll receive notification by email whenever a new release is made for one of these projects. (You can edit your list of subscriptions on your personal page.)
You can also filter out any categories you don't want to know about. Click "filters" in the "My" menu, and you can filter out the types of articles and categories of applications that don't interest you (or filter in only those that do interest you). This will go a long way towards making the front page manageable.
To place even broader constraints on what you see, you can go to http://freshmeat.net/my/preferences/ and remove the checkmarks from the topics that don't interest you under "Include which sections in main section". If you remove the mark next to "Themes", for example, you won't see any themes when you go to http://freshmeat.net/. (You may not need to do this; by default, you won't have any sections checked, which results in only the default section (Software) being shown.)
If, on the contrary, you just can't get enough meat, click the "newsletter" link in the top menu bar to subscribe to our newsletter, which will send each day's complete news to you by email. If you're a Usenet junkie, you can get your fix at news.freshmeat.net.
There are two ways to find projects on freshmeat. If you're the kind of person who takes a shopping list to the store, you can use the search box at the top to search for the exact project, article, or comment you want. If you prefer to stroll up and down the aisles to see what's available, you can click the "browse" link at the top of the page, and make your way through the many categories that are available (for articles, click the "articles" link in the top menu bar to browse the article categories). Either way will get you to a list of projects.
If you still don't see what you want, there are a couple of tools in place to help you refine your results. Try changing the setting of the "Sort order" dropdown box; a different choice might bring your desired project closer to the top of the list. If you're getting too many results, take a look at the list of categories associated with each project. Next to each, you'll see a link marked "[filter]". Clicking this will limit the list to projects in that category. You can keep setting filters until the list reaches a reasonable size.
Once you find a project you want to investigate, you can click its name to find all we know about it. On the project's page, you'll find a box that contains a number of functions you can perform. You can add a comment or question about the project to the page, rate it so other readers know your (anonymous) opinion of it, subscribe to receive notification of new releases in any or all of its branches, add it to your list of projects to ignore, or email information about it to a friend.
freshmeat provides several ways to get in touch with your friends, other readers, project authors, and the freshmeat staff.
In the upper right corner of each page, you'll see a "$n users online" link which will take you to the active sessions page, where you can see who is logged in to freshmeat and what they're doing (if they haven't turned on privacy mode in their preferences). If you spot someone you know, you can click her name to go to her public freshmeat page, at the bottom of which you'll find links to send her email, to send her an instant fm message, and to add her to your friend's list. (The list can be edited by clicking the "friends" link in the "My" menu bar.) When someone you've named as a friend comes online, you can click the "($n friends)" link next to "$n users online" to see who it is. If someone sends you an instant message, you'll be notified on the next line, in one of the rare legitimate uses of the <blink> tag. You can review the instant messages you've received by clicking the "inbox" link in the "My" menu bar.
You can share your ideas and questions with other freshmeat readers by attaching your comments to articles and editorials, and by replying to what others have said.
Please note that this is a means to reach other readers. Don't look on it as a reliable way to reach project authors or the freshmeat staff; see the section below on how to do that. In particular, please don't post comments saying things like:
These are all issues that need to be handled by the freshmeat staff, but instead of contacting the staff, you're just posting comments to be read by other freshmeat readers, who can do nothing to help you. Instead of posting a comment, see the sections below on how to contact the staff or on how to maintain your project listings.
Also, don't forget the "Send replies to my comments by email" and "Send comments to my projects by email" options on your preferences page.
If you've read a project's documentation and have a question that isn't answered by it, or if you want to contact the author(s) for any reason, you'll find that each project's page includes the email address of a contact person for the project, so you can write this person directly. (Don't send bug reports about projects to us, ok? Just don't. Please?)
Before sending email to the contact person, you might check whether the project page includes a link to information about a mailing list. Writing the project's mailing list might get a quicker response for you and put less burden on the developer(s).
Don't post a comment and expect the author to reply unless you're sure she checks the project's freshmeat page regularly or has comments about it sent to her by email.
If you need to report a problem regarding a project listing (not a tech support question about the project itself, please), please click the "broken links" link on the "Project" menu on the project's page. Please do this even if the problem isn't really a broken link (the link used to be named "report problem", but that resulted in dozens of messages like "Help! I cAn't geet this two compil on my Lisa!!").
If you have a generic question or comment, please use the "contact" link in the top menu bar
If you need immediate gratification, you can join us on IRC by clicking the "chat" link in the top menu bar. We're almost always there, but may or may not be paying attention. :)
As a programmer, your adventure will start with the "submit" link in the top menu bar, which should take you to a clear, simply-worded form you can use to submit a listing for your project to our database. If you find it's not clear and the words aren't simple, let us know, and we'll see if we can fix it.
Before you do anything, make sure your project belongs on freshmeat. First, it must be something people can obtain and run on their own machines, whether it's obtained through downloading, buying a CD, or in some other way. We list products, not services. We'll link to the tarball of your PHP calendar software, but not to your online calendar service Web site. Secondly, it has to run on *nix or PalmOS systems, and it has to be something reasonably substantial and useful (i.e., not something written in one hour by a CS major that only applies to your Bavarian AIX RealAudio servers).
freshmeat will be easier to use if you understand the hierarchic arrangement of the parts that make up a project's listing. You can list any number of projects on freshmeat. Each project can have any number of branches. (For example, you might have a Stable branch and a Development branch, or Linux and FreeBSD ones, or Commercial and Open Source ones.) Each branch can have any number of releases under it.
The project database entry contains generic information about the project, such as its name, the name of its author, and its short and long descriptions. The branch entry contains the licensing information and all the URLs. The release entry contains a list of what's changed since the previous release.
You must have a project entry and at least one branch for each project (if you have no branch, you'll have no URLs, which would be silly). If you want your project's name to appear on the front page, you must make release announcements within your branches.
People are occasionally frustrated that their submissions are reviewed instead of being published directly to the front page. If you saw what we see in the submissions bin, you'd be grateful that we go to the trouble we do. If you'd like to improve the chances of your submission entering the database ASAP, take a look at some of the articles in http://freshmeat.net/articles/section/freshmeat/. They outline our editorial policies, and the closer you can match what we're looking for, the quicker we'll be able to put your changes through. Try to be as simple and clear as you can so we don't have to contact you for clarification.
BTW, don't release too often. We'd rather not put an announcement for one of your projects on the front page more often than once every two or three days. More frequent announcements are unfair because they crowd out announcements from other projects. Try to limit your front page announcements to important releases. You can still add less important releases to your branch's record and set "Hide from frontpage" to "Yes" on them.
Project ownership is one of the aspects of freshmeat that cause the most confusion. People are often upset when they notice that their projects are owned by "N/A". If you see this, remain calm.
All it means is that the original freshmeat code did not associate projects with user accounts. When we launched freshmeat ][, we set all the owners to "N/A" and asked everyone to claim the projects. If you haven't done so before, you can click the "change owner" link in the project menu bar to request ownership.
It's also possible for the number of owners to be less than or greater than one. If you want to add a project to the database but you're not the author, you can add the author's name and address to the submission form. If you are the author, you don't need to put a name and address there, as the listing will be associated with your user account automatically. If you'd like to have more than one author listed, use the "[change]" link in the "Project admins" box on the project's page to add the other users and their roles to the list. You can also use the page found at the end of that link to control whether the general freshmeat public or only the authors can submit updates and changes to the project's records.
The list of categories and dependencies can be updated by following the "[change]" link next to each on the project's page. Please make sure your list of categories is up-to-date so people can find your project when they're browsing the database.
Themes are the latest additions to our database. There's nothing complicated about submitting them to us; the only differences between a software project and a theme project are that theme tarballs can be hosted on our servers (you'll be given the opportunity to upload yours during the submission process) and you must include a screenshot with your submission (how else can people decide whether or not to give your theme a try?).
The first place you should check if you're not sure how to do something is the FAQ. We don't honestly believe you will, but we have to mention it anyway. :-P
If you need more detailed information, try the aforementioned collection of articles in the freshmeat category.
If your needs aren't met by our documentation, click the "contact" link at the top of the page to drop us a line. If it's (legitimately) urgent, you may want to click the "chat" link for information about how to reach us on IRC.
We'll look forward to hearing from you, and always welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks for using freshmeat; we hope you enjoy your stay.
As threatened, scoop just finished another whirlwind tour of coding duty, and has implemented features many of you have suggested, and a few interesting twists of his own. Some will be immediately obvious to everyone, and some await discovery by those who probe further beneath the surface. You can read scoop's round-up to see what's new. Enjoy!