One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a more detailed explanations of various aspects of Slashdot -- things that don't fit in the FAQ. Today we'll address a common point of confusion among users trying to share news with the world: What happens to my submission once I've submitted it?
Once you finish typing up your summary and hit submit, two things happen immediately: you're shown a permanent link at which your words will reside for as long as our database does, and your submission is entered into the top of the firehose. If you'd like to keep an eye on your submission, I'd suggest either bookmarking its permanent link, or watching it from the submissions tab of your user page. It'll always be in those two places regardless of what happens to it. More on that later.
When your submission has successfully entered the firehose, a few more things. Other readers will be able to read, vote on, and comment on your submission. You can comment on it too, so if you stumble upon a correction that needs to be made, or more information you want to add, feel free to drop it there. You're also quite welcome to send us an email for that sort of thing — email@example.com will hit all of us, or you can contact individual editors using their username @slashdot.org.
Speaking of the editors: at the same time, the editors will be looking over your submission for possible acceptance. Unless you're submitting in the wee hours of the night, it's likely they’ll see your submission the moment it comes in. Don't fear that it will get missed — the editors' workspace is basically an expanded view of what users see in the firehose, with a bunch of tools for working on submissions, whacking spam, and so forth. We get a much broader view of the incoming stream of information, and user submissions stand out.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that your submission is going up on the page immediately. There's often a delay, and since users only see one end of the process, it can sometimes feel like nobody's paying attention. But don't worry, that's definitely not the case. The reality is simply that Slashdot's front page runs on a schedule. We try to have a new piece of news at the top of the page at regular intervals so that you get something new every time you visit. One of the side-effects of this schedule is that if five interesting things happen at 8:00 AM, they get spread out over the next couple hours instead of all going on the page at once.
So when will my submission be approved?
Approved submissions generally go up on the page within several hours of being submitted, but not always. If the article you submitted isn't of immediate importance, it will probably wait until the time-sensitive news has been posted. For example, say two submissions come in at exactly the same time. One is about some big company buying another company, and the other is an opinion piece about sci-fi movies. We’ll post the one about the two companies first since it's "hard" news, and something people want to know about immediately. That's not to say the opinion piece is less interesting or less deserving of being posted — it's simply a matter of prioritizing.
One of the big parts of the editors' jobs is prioritizing stories. Sometimes we'll have more interesting stories than we can reasonably post in a day, and the surplus (interesting but time-insensitive articles) spill over into the next day, assuming there's not another flood of good stories. Other times, there will be a few slow news days in a row, so we'll hunt around for any interesting submissions we can find. Also, if there are stories of particular interest to people in particular countries, we’ll try to run those stories when it's daytime in that part of the world.
My submission disappeared from the firehose!
Unfortunately, we can’t run everything we receive. If your submission is gone from the firehose view, it's unlikely to be posted. There are many reasons for this -- it may be that we already ran something about the news you linked, or that it was just too far off-topic for our readership. It's also possible that somebody else submitted the same news and we chose their submission instead. We love getting submissions on the same story from 10 different users, but the down side is that we have to decline 9 of them. Declining doesn't mean we don't appreciate your submission, or that it isn't useful -- often times if we get a few different good submissions, we’ll blend them together.
But my submission was red!
Our scoring system works mostly like you'd expect, but we put in a few tweaks to highlight good submitters. If you've had several submissions accepted, your new ones will enter the firehose at a higher color level than the average submission. This is to make them stand out for readers browsing the firehose. Give it some time -- if people continue to like it, it will stay high. However, as above, if it's a dupe or if it's offtopic, it may disappear despite the high rating.
What can I do to maximize my chances of having a submission accepted?
We have a handy list of submission guidelines that will help immensely. A quick look through the stories on the front page will help, too, to give you an idea for how long and how many links to use. If formatting and hyperlinking is turning you off, don't worry too much about that — as long as the editors get your words and links, we can make it look right. One big suggestion would simply be to write what you know. Whoever you are, you're pretty smart, and you probably know more than the average reader about something. Focus on that. If you know a bunch about Linux desktop environments, write about those! If you're a huge sci-fi fan, send us some sci-fi news and reviews! If you’re an expert on cosmology, keep us apprised of all of latest discoveries!
Again, as always, if you have questions about any part of the process, don't hesitate to contact us.