Technology

Ask Slashdot: How Can We Improve Slashdot? 1822

Hi all. Most of you are already aware that Slashdot was sold by DHI Group last week, and I very much enjoyed answering questions and reading feedback in the comments of that announcement story. There's no doubt that the Slashdot community is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and prolific communities on the web.

I wanted to use this opportunity to get a discussion going on how we can improve Slashdot moving forward. I am not talking about a full re-design that will detract from the original spirit of Slashdot, but rather: user experience, bug fixes, and feature improvements that are requested from actual /. users. We appreciated many of your suggestions in the story announcing the sale, and I have taken note of those suggestions. This story will serve as a more master list for feature requests and improvement suggestions.

We welcome any and all suggestions. Some ideas mentioned in the sale story were, in no particular order: Unicode support, direct messaging, increased cap on comment scores, put more weight on firehose voting to determine which stories make the front page, reduced time required between comments, and many more. We'd love a chance to discuss these suggestions and feature improvements and pros and cons here before we bring them back to our team for implementation.
Education

Interview: Ask CEO Anant Agarwal About edX and the Future of Online Education 55

Anant Agarwal is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the CEO of edX. A massive open online course platform founded by MIT and Harvard, edX offers numerous courses on a wide variety of subjects. As of 2014 edX had more than 4 million students taking more than 500 courses online. The organization has developed open-source software called Open edX that powers edX courses and is freely available online. Mr. Agarwal has agreed to take some time out of his schedule and answer your questions about edX and the future of learning. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Security

Video Do the Risks of BYOD Outweigh the Benefits? (Video) 82

Steve Hasselbach is a Senior Solutions Architect (AKA Marketing Guy -- but he's also a serious techie) for Peak 10, a datacenter company. In his work he deals with his clients' security problems, and often shakes his head at how security unconscious so many businesses are, even after endless publicity about corporate IT security holes costing companies millions of dollars.

He says, "...it doesn’t shock me anymore, but you’d be so shocked and surprised at how noncompliant this country is in terms of businesses around things like healthcare data and all that." In this interview, Steve talks about how (surprise!) the current BYOD trend is making things worse, but isn't necessarily responsible for the worst security holes, and offers benefits that might outweigh the increased security risks it brings.. (Note: The transcript contains material not included in the video.)
Books

Interviews: Ask David Peterson About Inventing Languages 87

samzenpus writes: David J. Peterson is a language creator and author. He created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for HBO's Game of Thrones, and more recently has created languages for the CW's The 100 and MTV's The Shannara Chronicles. His new book, The Art of Language Invention, details how to create a new language from scratch, and goes over some of the specific choices he made in creating the languages for Game of Thrones and Syfy's Defiance. David has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Linux Business

Video GNU/Linux Desktops with No User Knowledge Needed (Video) 85

Joey Amanchukwu is co-founder and CEO of Transforia, a company that leases computers pre-loaded with Red Hat Enterprise Linux -- a distro choice that may have been made at least partly because Joey used to sell for Red Hat.

There have been other companies that tried to sell Linux desktops and laptops on a "don't worry about a thing; we'll administer them for you, no problem" basis. Not a lot (maybe none) of those companies have survived, as far as we know. Will Transforia manage to make it big? Or at least become profitable? We'll see.
Medicine

Video Alfred Poor Talks About Health Wearables at CES (Video) 22

The biggest shift in wearables that Alfred Poor saw at CES was from consumer wearables to wearables designed to serve corporate goals, especially cutting health care costs. He says that when it comes to fitness and other health-related wearables, "consumer is the past and business is the future."
Handhelds

Video Which do You Prefer: Mobile Web Apps or Mobile Websites? (Video) 90

On December 28, 2015, Larry Seltzer wrote an article for Ars Technica provocatively titled (by Ars editors), The App-ocalypse: Can Web standards make mobile apps obsolete? A link to this article was posted on Slashdot, where it provoked a spirited discussion. In this video conversation, we talked to Larry about mobile aps vs. Web standards. Not surprisingly, he had some interesting things to say.
Input Devices

Video Api.ai CEO Ilya Gelfenbeyn Talks About Conversational Voice Interfaces (Video) 32

Api.ai makes an Android voice-controlled utility called Assistant. I have it on my Android phone. It is one of many simiar apps, and I have been trying them a little at a time. Are any of them as good as Siri? Let's just say, "Quality varies."

And Android voice assistants aren't the point of this interview, anyway. It's more about the process of developing interactive, voice-based IO systems. This whole voice/response thing is an area that's going to take off any year now -- and has been in that state for several decades -- but may finally be going somewhere, spurred by intense competition between the many companies working in this field, including Ilya's.
The Media

Video FOSS Force is a FOSS News and Commentary Site (Video) 41

Christine Hall is FOSS Force's founder, publisher, chief editor, and everything else. She started the site about five years ago, but it has only started to attract notice in the last year. Christine brings the cynicism and writing style of a long-time freelance journalist to this tech niche, which makes her site a welcome addition to the Open Source news pantheon. And on the Slashdot front: this is our first video in a while because we have switched video hosting services. We hope you like this host better than the last one. Native HTML 5 at (long) last. Yay!
Science

Interviews: Ask Ray Kurzweil a question 174

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading authors, inventors, and futurists. Kurzweil was the principal inventor of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. Among Kurzweil’s many honors, he received the 2015 Technical Grammy Award for outstanding achievements in the field of music technology; he is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, holds twenty honorary Doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents. He has given us some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Media

Video WeMedia's Andrew Nachison Discusses the Future of Online Journalism 17

WeMedia is partly a think tank and partly a consulting firm that advises news organizations on how to deal with the ever-changing world of online journalism. Andrew Nachison cofounded WeMedia with Dale Peskin (who went back to newspaper editing in 2014) and is now the main sparkplug behind WeMedia. Andrew has been around journalism as a reporter, editor, consultant, and academic observer. If you're interested in the future of journalism, this interview with Andrew is a "must watch" (or "must read the transcript") piece. And we'll have another video starring Andrew on Slashdot within the next week, since this one ran long but only covered half of what we wanted to.
Programming

Video Write the Docs Helps Create FLOSS Software Documentation (Video #2) 14

Say hello once again to David Smatlak, who works with Write the Docs -- a group that started some years back as Read the Docs.They have conferences in the U.S.and Europe, and Meetups in over a dozen cities. We ran a conversation with David Wednesday, but couldn't fit all he had to say into one video, so here he is again, with additional info that tags onto Wednesday's video.
Politics

Interviews: Ask Attorney and Author Mike Godwin a Question 83

Mike Godwin worked as the first staff counsel of the EFF and served as general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. He has been a contributing editor of Reason magazine and was elected to the Open Source Initiative board in 2011. Mike is probably best known however for coining the internet adage Godwin's Law. He is currently general counsel and director of innovation policy at the R Street Institute. Mike has given us some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question (and one comparison involving Nazis or Hitler) per post.
Programming

Video Write the Docs Helps Create FLOSS Software Documentation (Video) 27

Say hello to David Smatlak, who works with Write the Docs -- a group that started some years back as Read the Docs.They have conferences in the U.S.and Europe, and Meetups in over a dozen cities. It's a low-key group, open to both people who write documentation and developers who want help writing professeional-quality documentation for their Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) projects. Also welcome are those who would like to learn how to write good software documentation, starting with this online tutorial about the art and science of writing technical documentation. (And if you are interested primarily in Linux documentation, you'll want to check the Linux Documentation Project, too.)
The Courts

Video The FSF's Donald Robertson Talks About Secretive Trade Negotiations (Video) 32

Donald Robertson, is the Free Software Foundation (FSF) copyright administrator (and wearer of several other hats as well), so he's the FSF person to turn to when you want to discuss trade agreements, how they are negotiated, and how info on these (typically) secret) goings-on get leaked so that we can see what our negotiators are up to. And don't think, even for a second, that the TPP is the only trade agreement our government is working on, or necessarily the worst. After that, we learn how Don Robertson hooked up with the FSF and got what may be the best job in the world for an attorney who likes (and uses) GNU/Linux. (And for more, check out yesterday's interview with Mr. Robertson.)
The Courts

Video The FSF's Donald Robertson Talks About Copyrights, Patents, and the TPP (Video) 39

We all know (or know about) Richard M. Stallmann, founder of and vociferous spokesman for the Free Software Foundation. But the organization is far from a one-man band, and Donald Robertson, their copyright administrator (and wearer of several other hats as well) is the person to turn to when you want to get into the murky depths of copyright and patent law. He's also somewhat of an expert on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the FSF says, '...has a number of truly dangerous provisions that harm software freedom."

What can you do to help stop this trade agreement that has gotten the FSF (and the EFF, among others) up in arms? Don answers that question in the video (and accompanying transcript for those who would rather read than watch). And any unanswered questions will probably be taken care of in a second video interview with Mr. Robertson that we plan to run in the next day or two.
Network

Video High-Security, Open-Source Router is a Hit on Indiegogo (Video) 112

The device is called the Turris Omnia, and its Indiegogo page says it's a "hi-performance & open-source router." Their fundraising goal is $100,000. So far, 1,191 backers have pledged $248,446 (as of the moment this was typed), with 49 days left to go. They've shipped 2,000 pieces so far but, says interviewee Ondej Filip, "95% of them are in the Czech Republic."

This is not only an open-source project, but non-profit as well. A big motive for it is heightened security, as the interview (and transcript) make clear. It's also apparent that the hardware here is overkill for a router; it can run a complete Linux distro, no problem, so it can function as a server, not just as a router. Interested? You might want to put a reservation in soon. This isn't the cheapest router (or even server) out there, but a lot of people obviously think a Turris Omnia, with its crypto security, automatic updates, and server functions would be nice to have.
Businesses

Video Being Effective and Having Fun at Your Company's Trade Show Booth (video) 20

No, working your company's trade show or conference booth isn't your job. But sooner or later, an awful lot of people (including me) get tagged for booth duty whether we want it or not. Fine. At least we can learn a little about how to do it well, which is why Andy Saks, of Spark Presentations, is offering us some useful tips on how to do well at trade shoms and conferences.

While Andy's focus is on corporate displays and presentations, everything he says also applies to FOSS projects that exhibit at anything from regional Linux conferences to multinational expos like OSCON and LINUXCON. And one last thought before we turn this over to Andy, who we recorded from Skype at an extremely low frame rate to make this a narrated slide show (with accompanying transcript, as usual): If you're working in a typical corporation, trade shows are often your best way to meet your own company's executives, espcially at casual after-show gatherings. You might also meet execs from other companies and be open to conversations about changing jobs, but this is not something you want to talk about with your bosses or their bosses, but is best kept quiet until or unless you have a firm offer in hand.

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