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Rob Malda Answers Your Questions 221

Posted by Roblimo
from the pants-are-still-optional-but-not-for-you dept.
Last week hundreds of you posted questions for Slashdot's CmdrTaco, AKA Rob Malda. Today we present his answers to 10 of the highest-moderated questions. CT: You can continue to sign up for 10 year anniversary parties but we're already working on shipping shirts so you won't be able to get a care package... but you can still try to run for the big grand prize by just taking videos of pictures or just doing something cool at your parties to prove that we should have been there.


1) Question: Trends (Score:5, Interesting) by vinn (4370)

You've probably followed more news stories and trends over the past decade than just about anyone else.

Based on that, what are your predictions for the next 10 years?

Some technology is obviously going to die a quick and painful death. Some of that technology will be good and some deservedly bad. What's going to catch on? What has staying power? Google has been a golden child the last few years, will that continue? Are there any big turnarounds coming? Who's got good stuff in the pipeline? Don't you dare tell me 2008 is the year of Linux (and I know you won't) - we've both been hearing that marketing crap for the past 10 years.

CmdrTaco:

I don't think I have a particularly unique perspective on these matters. We all read the same Slashdot. What we'll see is mostly obvious: Smaller, Faster, More Portable, More lawsuits, less individual rights. The year of Linux is long passed. Linux will have a strong position on the server for a long time, but as GNOME and KDE bickered with each other, Apple came along and gave the world a great desktop UNIX. It's sad, but true, and there's a huge lesson to learn there. It'll be interesting to see how long Google will be the golden boy- that just can't last forever, can it? I just hope that when the future gets here, we still have the right to copy our own data, and take apart and hack our own gadgets.

2) Have you any regrets? (Score:5, Interesting) by cOdEgUru (181536)

Have you ever regretted starting Slashdot, or investing so much of your time into this site? Did any actions by your peers, by the community or by your colleagues, as a result of a story posted on Slashdot or related to one, made you ever regret your decision to start Slashdot.

CmdrTaco:

Sure. Running Slashdot under the umbrella of a publicly traded company is a huge challenge. A company is a beast that must always eat more... and some people think that making a number for this quarter is so important that it means sacrificing ideals that might hurt you next quarter. Like if I put 15 ads on the page tomorrow, we'd make a lot of money for 3 days and then most of you would leave, and so we'd have great revenue for a week and then no revenue ever again.

So, much of my job is making decisions and fighting with other people at the company to make sure that there still is a Slashdot worth reading next year and the year after that. And advertisers would simply like to buy stories... now, contrary to what conspiracy theorists accuse us of, we don't sell stories. And it quite honestly hurts me when people accuse us of it. But it's scary to know that some folks in the company would be quite happy to do it, completely selling out the integrity of the site to get a bonus. I guess thats a big part of why I stay here: I think Slashdot matters and at least when I'm here I can try to keep it on the path.

3) In and out of Slashdot. (Score:5, Interesting) by pavon (30274)

These are probably pretty cliche questions, but I am interested in the answers.

What is a normal day at slashdot like? How much time do you spend improving slashcode vs picking stories vs the normal computer admin tasks vs other stuff. How are the workload/responsibilities split up among the different staff members? How has this changes over the years?

I also remember back in the old days, the work you did with Enlightenment, as well as the animated short you made (Duckpins?). I was wondering if you get the chance to do much programing outside of slashcode, or what other hobbies you spend your free time doing now (besides being married).

CmdrTaco:

I have a couple of different jobs. One is posting stories- on a day where that is my primary responsibility, I might get in at 7:30 a.m. and read submissions and post them until early afternoon. During this time I might reject a few hundred submissions, post a half dozen stories, and of course try to keep up on my email. Beyond that, I have a number of meetings (a monthly author meeting, a weekly coder meeting, and countless random other meetings for marketing/sales/etc.). I always have chat windows open with various members of the company discussing whatever projects are outstanding.

It's not that different from when we started, except that 10 years ago I would have a terminal window open with code, now I have a chat window open with coders, and 10 years ago I would post stories, and today I have a chat window opened to a group of people who can all post stories.

I read every story posted. I read discussions when the subject matter is particularly interesting. But after that, I make sure that everyone is working on the right stuff, and that things work the way I want them t o work.

These days my time for hobbies are limited, but when I have time I play video games or just goof around with software or hardware. Pretty much all of my free time is consumed by Zachary, the currently 12 lb. terror that exploded out of Kathleen last August. He's awesome.

4) Okay, I'll bite (Score:5, Interesting) by Skyshadow (508)

Something I've been sort of curious about for ages:

Can you talk a little about how you experienced some of the dotcom insanity, specifically as it unfolded here at Slashdot? For a while, it seemed like Slashdot was about to become wunderkind central -- the sale to VA, the infamous ESR post about uber-wealth, etc. I'd be interested to hear about how that experience translated from your side of the ball.

CmdrTaco:

I was seriously buffered from most of the dot com boom. I lived in Nowhere, Michigan so I only saw it when I went to SFO or NYC or Boston for a tradeshow or a meeting. It wasn't until it disappeared that I realized how big it was, and then only by absence: to go to an office building and see row after row of empty cubicles... it was sad.

Slashdot didn't change that much during that era. We added a few writers and a few coders. We bought a few new servers, but even today we run a very lean operation on the production side of the site. Basically 2-3 coders and 2-3 writers replaced me working 20 hour days.

As for the ESR post, I found it very embarassing. I'm of the Gen-X/Grunge era. I cling tightly to my flannel shirt and would never publicly make such a boastful post. Even today, I hate marketing Slashdot. I dislike doing press for Slashdot. I've always felt that if we do a good job, people will read, and there's no reason to hype the site. This is anathema to corporate life, which is why we do things like the 10-year anniversary thing. The only reason we're doing it is that I really felt that after 10 whole years it was worth a bit of reflection.

Personally, the bubble made it possible for me to own my own home at a time in my life when most people my age were living in 1-bedroom roach motels, or worse, with their parents. I'm thankful for that. But when the bubble burst, it took with it my dreams of having a private jet or something, and I was left with a job that pays really well doing something I like.

When the bubble burst I learned a lot and realized that I had made a number of mistakes a long the way. Lessons learned, I guess. It would have been nice to have zillions of dollars, but there are other things that are more important.

5) Silly Question (Score:5, Interesting) by LiquidCoooled (634315)

I assume that through the ether you have met Kevin Rose, but do you two get along or is it pistols at dawn?

CmdrTaco:

Yeah, I met him when I did an interview on some TV show I guess he was hosting. He seems like a sincere guy, and I have no problem with him.

People love to paint rivalries between Slashdot and whatever website they think we are battling at the moment, but I really resist the urge to compare Slashdot to sites like Digg. We do different things and serve different audiences. There's crossover to be sure, but to shoot a guy in low sunlight seems kinda silly.

6) What is this crazy tags thing? (Score:5, Interesting) by Reality Master 101 (179095)

Considering the FAQ hasn't been updated in almost a year, could you explain exactly what tags do these days? At one time, it seemed to be a vote-based system, now I have no idea how tags show up on articles. Frankly, since I didn't understand it and my tags didn't seem to affect anything, I gave up on using the feature.

Could we get a definitive answer to how tags work?

CmdrTaco:

I don't know exactly how 'Definitive' this is... but 'tags' is just an experimental system for us. We're using it for ideas on how we could improve moderation and firehose ratings. We're using it to see what ways people will try to screw with the system. Tags are very open-ended and are therefore used for many things. People use them for opinions, abuse, classification, and sometimes just as an attempt at wit. The system can be all of those things, but when we see abuse we definitely try to stop that.

Basically the way tags work is that you add words that you think are cool. If many people tag similarly, those tags appear on the articles. You can use tags to be informative (a tag like 'slashdot' on this story would make sense since I'm talking about Slashdot) or to provide helpful feedback to editors ('dupe' or 'typo' for example). It's very open ended, and as long as your tags are beneficial to others, we like seeing them.

I don't want to narrowly define tags, either: Sometimes a silly witty tag rises to the top. It may reflect an opinion or a joke, but thats ok as long as it's not mean. At the end of the day, we're learning a lot from how people use tags- knowledge that we're using to make firehose better, and ultimately to make moderation better.

Under the hood, we've actually ported moderation to tags... so now we can more easily expand moderation to incorporate aspects of tagging. The issue here is that we have 2 major differences between moderation and tags: moderation has a very limited domain of tags, and you are very limited in how much/how often you can moderate. So we can't simply flip a switch and use tagging instead of moderation, but many of the tools and rules overlap nicely. Personally I think it's probably the most interesting aspect of what we're playing with on the site. We're not doing tags like anyone else, and I think that's what is fun about it.

7) Most-visited sites.. (Score:5, Interesting) by B5_geek (638928)

What "Top-5" websites are in your daily/hourly must-read rotation? (Not counting RSS)

CmdrTaco:

I only really read the internet via the firehose and via RSS, so I guess I can't really answer this question. I think that if you read Slashdot's firehose, you don't really need to read any other tech news publications since it will contain the best of all those other websites. So the sites that I read beyond the direct Slashdot subject matter tend to be comedy websites or comics... these days Penny Arcade and XKCD are my favorite comics although my feed has a dozen more. Also things like Cute Overload or College Humor. If it's tech news, the firehose has it covered... but if it's funny, well I need to work to get that.

8) Thoughts of giving up? (Score:5, Interesting) by martyb (196687)

When were you most tempted to give up?

Dealing with a bunch of creative, resourceful, tenacious, stubborn, and sometimes outright hostile nerds, I'm sure there were MANY times when you were tempted to just give up on the whole thing. e.g. page-widening trolls; Church of Scientology; Microsoft source code, or even the release of slash code to the community and the barrage of insults.

I'm really glad you held on and persevered, but I'd like to know why.

CmdrTaco:

When the shitty days come, I really wonder why I do it. Hate mail in my inbox. Flame in the forums. DDoS attacks. Sales/Marketing pressuring us to do something stupid. Or the more standard stuff that goes along with being part of a company- paperwork and bureaucracy etc.

I can usually handle the user problems... I've come to understand that if you do anything successful you will create some percentage of fans... and as a subset of fans, you get anti-fans. On one level it's flattering: This is a person so passionate about your work that he will spend hours trashing you in any forum possible. It's crazy... it can really hurt if you let it, and sometimes it does.

I've pondered leaving many times over the years but I always come back to wanting to make this thing work. I really like Slashdot and think it's a better site with me here than away. I can't imagine what others would do to it if I left!

The thing is that every now and then we do something important. Like really important. We break a story, or house a discussion that changes a mind. I think that we serve an important role on-line. We're a pub where people gather to talk about the days events, and I think this has tremendous value. I think I still am here because there's a community here that I like. And besides, it beats flipping burgers.

9) Infrastructure (Score:5, Interesting) by blhack (921171)

Can you give us any insight into the hardware/platform that slashdot runs on? How many servers does it use? What did you code it in? (a half drunk, coked-up deaf guy screaming HTML into a tin can on a string?) How much bandwidth does it use?

I know this is more than one question, but my MAIN question is just: "What does it take to run slashdot, hardware/software/bandwidth wise?"

CmdrTaco:

We'll actually have a lengthy discussion of exactly this before the 10-year anniversary stuff is done. But in short, we're talking about a dozen dual CPU web-heads, 4 quad CPU mega database boxes. We share bandwidth with SourceForge, so we don't use much bandwidth... Slashdot doesn't host video or many pictures so we're fairly cheap. The code is all at www.slashcode.com so you can download it and play with it for yourself. It's all Perl/Apache.

10) What are the biggest threats to /. success? (Score:5, Interesting) by rjamestaylor (117847)

Slashdot is successful by any measure. You've certainly pioneered many things we now take for granted. Many "slashdot killers" have been attempted and failed or found a different niche. What are the biggest threats to /. success today and going forward?

CmdrTaco:

I think the single biggest threat to Slashdot is for us to try to be something we're not. We are NOT CNet. We are not Digg. We are not Wired. We are not Reddit.

Those sites have many things that define them... from the source of content to the method of content selection, to the sorts of business partnerships and types and quantity of advertising on each of those sites, each has a sort of place, and Slashdot isn't exactly any of those things.

The future success of Slashdot depends on us understanding what Slashdot was for the last 10 years and how to continue to be that in the future. The names change, but the fundamental underlying joy of technology shouldn't.

We need to know who you guys are, and what you want, and try to give you what you want in a website, but without selling out what Slashdot has been. We have a decade of legacy now... our single biggest threat is to ignore our past and try to be whatever is popular today... but that's not to say we can't change.

We need to incorporate many of these popular ajax/web2.0 technologies and ideas- our readers deserve the improved browsing experience. But it's a careful balance between taking what is good about what is available today, and blending it with what has worked about Slashdot throughout our history.

It's a mistake for us to want to be CNN or the Wall Street Journal or to spend our days chasing after Digg, or Reddit, or Kuro5hin, or whatever site follows them. We strike our own path. We'll never be the #1 traffic destination on the net, but we're still regularly a great website, and one that I'm proud to continue to be part of.

-- Pants are Optional
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Rob Malda Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • "Threat" response (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rjamestaylor (117847) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:28PM (#20956825) Homepage Journal

    Our single biggest threat is to ignore our past and try to be whatever is popular today
    AND

    We'll never be the #1 traffic destination on the net, but we're still regularly a great website, and one that I'm proud to continue to be part of.
    These answers definitely satisfy me. I'll be around, too...even with the preposition-ending sentences, etc. :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by spun (1352)

      These answers definitely satisfy me. I'll be around, too...even with the preposition-ending sentences, etc. :-)
      Ending sentences with a preposition is an outrage up with which we will not put.

      And I sure hope Slashdot will be around for another ten, at least. I'll be here.
    • Is he one of the ops here or something? Never heard of him.

      Nah, I'm just kiddin...way to go Taco!
    • by Gulthek (12570) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:46PM (#20958075) Homepage Journal
      "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put." --Churchhill (apocryphal)
  • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:29PM (#20956833)
    So I'll ask again:

    Since you were part of the Internet boom of the late 90s, you're obviously worth hundreds of millions of dollars. So:

    What's your favorite jet?

    Which supermodel is the best in bed?

    I really need to know because I have no life and I need to vicariously live through famous people.

    • by sgant (178166) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:58PM (#20957355) Homepage Journal
      Actually, he's beyond that. He skipped the supermodel dating and the jets and all that and went straight to the weird Howard Hughes era.

      I picture him shuffling into the Slashdot control center wearing a bathrobe and slippers and posting a few items that of course are all dupes before Zonk or someone else catches him, slaps his hand, then leads him back to his room.
      • He skipped the supermodel dating and the jets and all that and went straight to the weird Howard Hughes era.

        Yeah, but, with those long fingernails, how does he use a keyboard?

      • posting a few items that of course are all dupes before Zonk or someone else catches him [and] slaps his hand...
        They must have been really, really bad dupes.
    • by mstahl (701501)

      I need to vicariously live through famous people.

      Then maybe you should set your sights a little higher?

      I have no life

      Oh.... My bad.

  • Hopefully something silly about the New Economy. I need a good laugh.
    • by Skyshadow (508) * on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:36PM (#20956973) Homepage
      http://interviews.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/12/10/0821224 [slashdot.org]

      At least from my perspective, this one post almost completely destroyed his influence in the community. There's an object lesson in there someplace.
      • Did the bubble pop before he could cash in?
        • by StandardDeviant (122674) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:23PM (#20957775) Homepage Journal

          http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=LNUX&a=11&b=9&c=1999&d=05&e=9&f=2000&g=d
          http://finance.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:LNUX

          Six months from the ipo would've been around june of 2000, certainly after the peak of the NASDAQ (you can see the decline in the prices above). Still, $36 per share is better than the $3 per share it is now. For simplicity assuming the shares were given to him for $0 and he paid no taxes on them once sold and had transaction costs of $0 and that he sold them all as soon as he could (wise given a $240->$36 drop in six months), that would mean clearing $5,400,000 off of his 150k share allotment. Still nothing to sneeze at, but not the absurd valuation he mentions in his post. After removing all the simplifying assumptions, lord only knows. Less than $5M, probably more than $0. ;)

        • According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, if he held on tight to his shares he still scored almost a million. Of course I don't know what the tax ramifications of the initial high stock price were.
          • Of course I don't know what the tax ramifications of the initial high stock price were.
            Zip. You pay taxes on gain from sale of assets. No sale == no gain.

            Of course, I've always suspected that one reason for the precipitous drop in price of that stock was that people like ESR were unloading their shares for whatever they could get. I'm sure what he got for the shares he sold was much more than the price low, and much less than $300 :)
            • According to the article he had to hold onto them for at least 6 months after the IPO. I wonder what the price per share was by that point.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by koehn (575405) *
              Wrong. In fact, a whole lotta people in ESR's situation ended up with stocks that were worth less than their strike price (the price they paid to exercise their options and buy the shares) by the time their lockout ended. The IRS still wanted its money though.

              Imagine ESR had options on 100,000 shares at $10/share. On IPO day say he exercises his option to buy the shares. Now he has to cough up $1,000,000 to the brokerage to buy them. Of course, the shares are worth a bunch more than $10, so the brokerage ta
        • by moosesocks (264553) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:44PM (#20958055) Homepage

          Did the bubble pop before he could cash in?


          Before I answer your question, I'll add some context from ESR's original article (emphasis is mine):

          The first part of my answer is "I'll do nothing, until next June". Because I'm a VA board member, under SEC regulations there's a six-month lockout on the shares (a regulation designed to keep people from floating bogus offerings, cashing out, and skipping to Argentina before the share price crashes). So it's not strictly true that I'm wealthy right now. I will be wealthy in six months, unless VA or the U.S. economy craters before then. I'll bet on VA; I'm not so sure about the U.S. economy :-).


          Pause for laughter......... Done? Let's move on....

          The day ESR's rant was written, VA opened at $266 a share. Pretty impressive, no? By the end of the day, it was worth $218. For his claimed 150,000 shares, that's just shy of $40 million. In just a few hours, he'd "lost" $7.2 million.

          Fast forward 6 months to the time he was able to legally sell it, and we discover the definition of hubris [marketwatch.com].

          Assuming he cashed out his entire portfolio out the first day possible (which I doubt he did), he would have made a "paltry" $5.1 million.

          Continuing the trend, you soon discover that you'd actually need a logarithmic plot to properly visualize the rate of VA's demise [marketwatch.com] from a high-end server manufacturer into a company that makes a halfway-decent frontend for CVS (and Slashdot). To give an idea of how much of a disaster it was, I should point out that logarithmic plots aren't typically used in the financial industry.

          Assuming he never cashed out at all, today he'd have just shy of $400,000 in VA stock.
      • Ah yes, now I remember reading this back then and wanting my five minutes back. Now, it's even funnier. Thanks for the memories!
      • by Ash Vince (602485)

        At least from my perspective, this one post almost completely destroyed his influence in the community.
        Why?
        • Yes, why. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HappyEngineer (888000)
          I second that question. Why does that destroy his influence in the community? I read it and I don't see anything to get riled up about. Am I supposed to be mad that he got money? Open source is in no way in conflict with making money. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Do/did some people see him as some sort of socialist icon? I've never thought of him in that way, so I guess I don't see what the problem is.
          • by Ash Vince (602485)

            Open source is in no way in conflict with making money.

            And it's a good job too or the OSS movement would not survive very long since we all need money to buy food and shelter, let alone a computer to use to contribute to open source software in any capacity.

            I would rather this wasn't the case since if I did not need to earn a wage I would spend as much time as possible coding things I wanted to rather than things my boss wanted me to. They would probably not even be that different except I would produce a better product without commercial time constraints.

      • by greg_barton (5551) *

        At least from my perspective, this one post almost completely destroyed his influence in the community. There's an object lesson in there someplace.

        Yes. It's "the community continues to have an adolescent attitude towards ESR."
      • Aw, 1999 is so cute. I wanna pinch its widdle cheeks.
    • by shawnmchorse (442605) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:49PM (#20957205) Homepage
      Here ya go, ESR's "musings on sudden wealth" after VA Linux's IPO at the end of 1999:

      http://interviews.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/12/10/0821224 [slashdot.org]

      I remember reading that when it was first posted, and yes it's much more amusing now. From the Wikipedia entry on VA Linux:

      VA Software is notable because of its IPO on December 9, 1999. The shares for the IPO were offered at $30, but the traders held back the opening trade until the offers hit $299. LNUX later popped up to $320, and closed their first day of trading at $239.25, a 698% return. However, this high-flying success was short-lived, and within a year the stock was selling at well below the initial offer price, in a classic example of the dot-com stock market bubble. As of 2005, this is still the most "successful" IPO of all time. The stock price reached an intra-day nadir of 54 cents on July 24, 2002. It then soared more than 1000% to an intra-day high of $6.38 on September 11, 2003. As of November 26, 2006, the stock closed at $4.64.
    • by drix (4602)
      It's funny, I distinctly remember reading that post. I had no idea that it had become some sort of object lesson; I never knew that 10 years on people would be talking about "the ESR interview." But whenever I hear about the glitz, glamor and hubris that pervaded the tech industry in the late 1990s, it calls to mind is always the first two sentences of this interview.
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:33PM (#20956929) Homepage
    It would have been nice to have zillions of dollars, but there are other things that are more important.

    "Money can't buy happiness, but somehow it's more comfortable crying in a Porsche than a Hyundai."

    Interesting to read that the Slashdot editor felt disconnected from the Dotcom thing... When I was living in Wisconsin, honestly hanging around this site and reading the posts people were making is part of the reason I was so eager to move out to the Bay Area (wish I could have picked a better time; July 2000 turned out to be kind of rough). I suppose I just figured that being here at, well, wunderkind central, it would have been like being plugged directly into the horse's mouth (or potentially the other end).

    Guess it's just more proof that Your Mileage, lifewise, May Vary.
    • Another thank you (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CleverNickName (129189) * <wilNO@SPAMwilwheaton.net> on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:12PM (#20957603) Homepage Journal
      I'm assuming you'll read this entire thread (I've done it both times I did ask me anything, so I'm pretty sure it's a geek thing) so rather than hope I make my way through the 'tubes into your inbox, I'll say it here: Thank you for Slashdot. Thank you for all the work and soul and energy and life you've put into this website and the community that it's created. Thank you for nurturing that community.

      I say this for two reasons: As a low-level geek who has always felt like the dumbest one in the room, I've learned a ton here about hardware, open source software and philosophy, and the culture surrounding the technology I love so much. Slashdot has educated and inspired me, and that wouldn't have happened if you and the rest of your team didn't work so hard to make this community one worth participating in. I've been to all the popular community news sites, and Slashdot and Fark are the only ones where it's consistently worth my time to read and add to the comments.

      My second reason is far more personal: When I started my blog, when I desperately wanted to speak for myself and let the people who wanted me to die.die.die know that we were more alike than not, Slashdot gave me the chance to speak directly to them, twice. Slashdot gave me an opportunity to replace the perception of who I was with the reality of who I really am, in a way that was usually reserved for people who were a lot more popular and well-known than me. I saw Zonk at PAX, and told him this, but you should hear it, as well: without those Slashdot interviews, I wouldn't be where I am today, both professionally and personally. I am enjoying the second act that F. Scott Fitzgerald said we Americans don't get to have in our lives -- instead of just being a guy who "used to be" an actor, I'm also a guy who "currently is" a writer -- and even though I don't think any of us knew it at the time, Slashdot played a huge part in making it happen.

      So thank you, Rob, for sticking with it when it sucks, and not letting it go to your head when it's great. Slashdot means more to a lot of us than just a place to read news for nerds. It really is stuff that matters. Congratulations on ten years of awesome.
      • by _xeno_ (155264)

        I'm assuming you'll read this entire thread (I've done it both times I did ask me anything, so I'm pretty sure it's a geek thing) so rather than hope I make my way through the 'tubes into your inbox

        Based on that, I have to ask, since it didn't make it into the interview:

        How long will pants remain optional? And why do you recommend them for me?

        • You could wear a kilt, but that much wool (~9 yrds for a full traditional) is hot and scratchy. So the option exists for other socially acceptable forms of bottom-half-covering, but in most situations pants win by being the most function for the least cost/hassle. You could probably go further into this with a full marginal utility analysis of various cuts and types of cloth.

          I can't believe I just wrote a quarter-serious post about pants.

      • The above is an awesome comment. I was gonna send Rob a thank-you note as well, but you've pretty much summed it all up for me.
      • Thanks Slashdot for entertaining/edumacating me, and for introducing me to WWdn. Yeah, I figured out the parent post authour by style/content.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I'm no actor-writer, but I certainly agree that I learn more on slashdot than anywhere else. It's what I turn to for daily tech news that IS important.

        Beyond that I actually learn stuff from the community comments as well, and I've always been happy with the comment moderation system - although I sometimes wish there was a filter for just the 'funny' comments.

        I could go on, but in spite of the imitators and haters I'd like to think there will always be /.

        • Absolutely. I credit /. with much of my success today. The conversations are thought provoking (maybe not ALL of them...), and many posters are genuinely "insightful" and "informative".

          It's not just the tech conversations either. Even the political and religious flamefests on the site are valuable. Sometimes it's hard to hear opposing viewpoints, but it's somehow easier to read them. It's taught me that it won't kill me to listen to someone who doesn't agree with me, debate can be fun and rewarding, and on
        • My algorithm is just to do a reverse search on "funny". Because I'm searching backwards, the cursor stops with "funny" at the top and the possibly funny comment displayed below it. Generally worked well, though you have to think a bit about some of the chained jokes, since this approach goes backwards through the chain. However, the *BIG* problem is that there is simply very little humor on /. these years, either in the posts that are moderated funny or in the random posts that I've looked at in search of h
          • by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3@@@phroggy...com> on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:54PM (#20962571) Homepage

            Of course, the big problem is that moderation is a game, and a broken game. There are some sincere and honest moderators, but many of the negative mod points are used to suppress intelligent discussion, not encourage it.
            That's why the FAQ about moderation says you should focus on positive moderation, and just ignore the stuff you don't like instead of modding it down.

            Simplified example would be a creationist moderator who sees a sophisticated and articulate explanation of evolution. What easier response than to mod that poster into oblivion?
            This kind of abuse is exactly why meta-moderation exists. If you mod down a post that shouldn't have been modded down (or mod up a post that shouldn't have been modded up), someone else will meta-moderate your moderation as inappropriate, and you'll lose karma. Lose too much karma, and not only are you less likely to be given mod points, but you also get a penalty to your initial score when you post a comment.

            No, I haven't seen any recent examples (though my current book, Pinker's "How the Mind Works", could motivate me in that direction), but perhaps that's because the vocal pro-evolution people have already been obliviated and left /. (and I'm on my way out the door).
            Did I read that correctly? You think the pro-evolution people have left Slashdot, and it's mostly Creationists who are left? That's about as out of touch with reality as labeling Fox News "the liberal media".

            In the answers I noticed that Malda is apparently aware there are problems with moderation. However, his response appears to be to increase the complexity of the game rather than to focus on his first principles.
            Which principles are those, exactly, and how would you suggest that Slashdot's moderation system could be simplified in such a way as to better emphasize those principles?

            I have two concrete recommendations that might improve /. via simplified moderation. First would be the elimination of anonymous negative moderation. There are times when anonymity is justified, but this is *NOT* one of them. If you want to criticize someone, then you should be big enough to put your name on it.
            Alright, I'm not sure I agree with you, but I can accept that this is a valid idea that should warrant further discussion.

            Second would be to basically give everyone a voice in moderation and some mod points. One approach would be for every normal member to have from one to five mod points per day, basically linked to your karma. I would suggest one additional wrinkle for the karma: If your mod is countered several times, that would be grounds for reducing your karma.
            So, essentially you're talking about keeping the same moderation system we have now, but scaling it up so we'd get a hundred people moderating on a particular post, instead of five people moderating on a particular post? Sorry, but I think that would cause more problems than it would solve, not the least of which is that most of us don't come here to moderate, we come here to read. I don't mind occasionally doing my part to contribute, but I don't want to moderate every day. There are other sites that let anyone vote for/against any post, and they usually suck.

            By the way, did you know you can customize your preferences to assign a bonus score to "funny" posts, so you'll see more of them?
      • by Griim (8798)
        I'd also like to thank slasdot for giving Wil that interview, it's one of the two best interviews that have stuck in my mind - the other one being the , if only to read about his fights with William Gibson. [slashdot.org]

        I'm almost the same age as Wil, so his insights and stories about growing up a geek all ring very true with me, there's a ton there to relate to.

        Also I realized upon reading this interview with Rob and the age of Slashdot, that my daughter is 10 and I've been reading it for as long as she's been alive. K
  • Oh dear. (Score:4, Funny)

    by bombastinator (812664) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:34PM (#20956937)
    I fear the reference to "things at cool parties you should have been to" is going to solicit at least several photos of someone's junk.
  • Thanks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdotNO@SPAMexit0.us> on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:36PM (#20956967) Homepage
    Thanks for answering all of that. The one I'm really looking forward to is the hardware article, whenever you get to it.
    • Thanks for answering all of that. The one I'm really looking forward to is the hardware article, whenever you get to it.
      Meh, I'll wait for the dupe.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:39PM (#20957025)
    Never try to be what you ain't. No matter if something else takes off and soars. Chances are it's just the usual FOTM (or year), the hype will go and then you have neither attracted any of their audience (why go to the copy when you can have the original?) nor will your old audience be there anymore, because they were with you not despite but because you're not that other FOTM site/company/game/application/younameit.

    Time and again it's been shown that things go from bad to worse when you try to imitate. Whether you take search engines that try to imitate Google or MMORPGs trying to imitate WoW, all they accomplished was to lose rather than gain audience.

    Looking forwards to another 10 years of /.
  • People use them for opinions, abuse, classification, and sometimes just as an attempt at wit. The system can be all of those things, but when we see abuse we definitely try to stop that.

    Ehrg. I personally wouldn't have accepted responsibility for policing that tags. People frequently troll in the tags, and some are often left standing in such a manner as to reflect certain biases and slant the discussion one way or another.

    Take for example, the recent story on using TCMS to provoke feelings of religious awe tagged with "nosuchthingasgod" or other more offensive tags (which *have* been removed).

    • by nuzak (959558) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:54PM (#20957297) Journal
      I don't much find "nosuchthingasgod" offensive, but I have a hard time believing any significant number of people actually tagged it that way. So Taco, coders, editors (hey, I guess I have faith in something after all), please do us a favor: whatever clever thing you're doing with tags that makes it other than a sheer "most tagged" metric, please just stop it. It's not working. Really, it isn't. Your doing tags "different" is making tags very much broken.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smellsofbikes (890263)
        It's only broken if you consider it an end product. If it's research, well, the most productive research is when you come up with unexpected results. Seeing which tags come up, mapping the rise/fall, getting some idea of how quickly a tag becomes visible through repeated, autonomous additions, then seeing what happens after it becomes visible and people can either reinforce or fight it, is all valuable data for a replacement or update to the tag system. Things that don't break don't get improved.
        I'm remi
  • About Tags (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NickFortune (613926) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:51PM (#20957233) Homepage Journal

    Thanks for the answer (and question) about tags. I've often seen the sig (I forget which user it is) that tells people how tags should be used, (they are for searching, not for giving opinions, apparently), and I've always thought that was the wrong way to look at it.

    But it isn't the done thing to comment on .sigs, and anyway, it wasn't that important.

    But since the subject is raises, I really like what Slashdot, (and the Slashdot readers) do with tags. I like humour of many of the tags; I like being able to look at a story and see - not "what I'm supposed to think" as someone once suggested - but because they give a quick insight into how the readers as a whole view the story. And I like the way that tag use is still evolving here; I like that we're being creative with the channel.

    Anyway, I just thought I'd offer some positive feedback on the subject.

    • by Chapter80 (926879)
      My opinion about tags (based on how they are used on other sites) is to link like objects. For instance, if I wanted to read all the articles that were about "slashdot", I could use the "slashdot" tag as a way to find them.

      Using the tag "yes" and "no" is pretty worthless in my book. Those tags just allow me to search for articles that had yes or no questions in them. And often, the article is tagged with both "yes" and "no" (and sometimes "maybe"). Worthless!

      • Re:About Tags (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NickFortune (613926) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:28PM (#20957853) Homepage Journal

        mmm.... but isn't the whole Web 2.0 (dubious term, I know) idea that users get to feed their input back into the system in unexpected and creative ways? I mean, Slashdot already has a search function, and a "meta" category for Slashdot related stories.

        Using the tag "yes" and "no" is pretty worthless in my book.

        Of course, if you wanted to do research into which subjects has proven most controversial on /. over a given time period, you could always search for articles tagged both "yes" and "no". Hard to see how anyone would get a reasonable metric for that, otherwise.

        That said, I don't tend to use tags for searching, at least not on Slashdot, anyway. But really, if you control the tags too much, you just wind up with a parallel set of keyword/section labels. I think it's much more interesting to leave it to the community and watch how they use them.

      • I don't care about how tags are used in other placed. In /. I use them as a very condensed summary of the discussion. And the yes and no tags are quite useful for that. If only one of them appears, it usually represent the community consensus. If both appear, it shows that the community is divided on the issue.

        The tags has become less useful lately though. Don't know why.
  • by Soko (17987) on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:53PM (#20957279) Homepage
    Pretty much all of my free time is consumed by Zachary, the currently 12 lb. terror that exploded out of Kathleen last August. He's awesome.

    o_O

    Hopefully Zachary isn't 3 feet long with a rather elongated head [wikipedia.org]...
  • Comics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trip11 (160832) * on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:00PM (#20957405) Homepage
    Rob, You talked about how XKCD and other comics are high up on your list of external websites to go to. Could I make the recomendation that you add them to the 'Funnies' slashbox? It seems to have been years since any links have been added (though maybe I'm the only one left who still uses it....) If you put your favorite webcomics onto it, I know I'd like to check out what you like. And if I can add my own $0.02 http://www.xkcd.com/ [xkcd.com], http://schlockmercenary.com/ [schlockmercenary.com], and http://www.phdcomics.com/ [phdcomics.com] are all 'geek' enough they would do well on the funnies slashbox.
    • I'll second that. It never ceases to amaze me how unknown Schlock Mercenary seems to be in the wider geek world.
    • by The Queen (56621)
      And this may be too Mac-centric for /. but I also keep up with The Joy of Tech [geekculture.com] over at Geek Culture. I miss the Techno-Talking Babes of AY2K...
  • Hopefully /. will see the day Zachary will rule here... That said, /. needs constant intake of fresh blood, otherwise it will become stagnant and eventually vanish. People like to see their opinion counted, not just on comments. And to get this fresh blood one might need to change 10 year old concepts...
  • There's crossover to be sure, but to shoot a guy in low sunlight seems kinda silly.

    So... pistols at high noon then?
  • did cmdrtaco really just talk about /. "chasing after...kuro5hin", even in a theoretical sense?? that is bizarre. who'da thunk.
    • by phantomlord (38815) <slashdot@krwt[ ].com ['ech' in gap]> on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:52PM (#20958173) Journal
      I seem to remember, back around 2000ish, a lot of non-US Slashdotters bitching that Slashdot was too US-centric and didn't cover enough international stories... After the sellout to Andover/VA, people complained that it was too corporate and that the editors and story selection sucked. The "solution" was Kuro5hin where you could vote on the stories, pick what went to the front page, etc. Quite a few Slashdotters seemed to have dual-citizenship, if you will. It had a lot of hype for a while and even Slashdot covered stories about K5. I remember K5 getting DDOSed and VA donating a new server for them.

      For a while they were pretty successful, but eventually, the flames burned out. I stopped visiting sometime back in 2001 or so when the site became overly political and have checked in on it a few times a year since. It seems pretty dead these days. Slashdot started becoming pretty partisan about the same time (with nearly every story having to have at least one comment about how Bush stole the election), but it was more in check since users weren't decided what stories everyone got to see. The advent of the politics section and the hiring of a particular editor has Slashdot pushing it in the same direction. I left Slashdot for a while last year but decided I wasn't going to let one editor ruin a site, one I've visted for nearly a decade, for me.
      • by nicklott (533496)
        Hehe, I did the same as you. I just looked at K5 for the first time in years, it seems the same old posters are dominating everything (one has >17k posts!). Kuro5hin seemed to work with a smaller number (like < 10000) of posters, but it just didn't seem to scale very well. Perhaps it was bad luck but it seemed to get hijacked very quickly by political bitching (though I'm pretty sure that's what rusty really wanted).
  • Mazel Tov!

    The 10 years really snuck up on me but it's really good to know that one can indeed make their own niche in the world
    and do it with integrity.
    To me, it sounds to like you're richer than mere money can make a man.

  • Thanks Rob (Score:5, Insightful)

    by localman (111171) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:37PM (#20957975) Homepage
    Just want to say thanks for holding out and keeping Slashdot great. It's my one must check site, even after all this time. I open my email, and I open Slashdot. "S" autocompletes to "Slashdot" in my Safari address bar.

    I apologize if this is too warm and fuzzy, but Slashdot is definitely one of the greatest online communities. We still love to complain about the idiocy of Slashdot discussions, but I think this was just because we didn't know what 1000+ people discussions looked like. Now, thanks to so many other sites showing just how bad it can be, I feel I can safely say that Slashdot (when you read +3 and above) is a beacon of reason, penetrating insight, and great wit. I've learned a lot on Slashdot over the years, not as much as on Wikipedia, but probably more than any other single site. And though it is a narrow segment of the population, I still have my ideas intelligently challenged regularly by what I read here. And I think that is a great thing.

    Okay, enough :)
  • Dang. I was hoping he'd answer the 'what site are you most proud of slashdotting' question.
  • This CowboyNeal chap for example. Is he a real person or concocted mascot like Betty Crocker or Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor?
    • by hawk (1151)
      Neither. He's Aunt Jemimah's love child (and a bit slow). . .

      hawk
  • by east coast (590680) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:57PM (#20958253)
    First let me say that I realize that Taco and crew have put something solid together here but...

    CmdrTaco: you don't really need to read any other tech news publications since it will contain the best of all those other websites.

    Uh, bullshit? While I obviously have hung out here and posted a ton of stuff over the years, Slashdot simply is not a "best of the tech web" site.

    Slashdot is fine for getting a the big tech news on the web in short order but most of us have long outgrown that. I consider Slashdot to be more the Discovery Channel of the web: If you have a mild interest in something it's great but once you get past the surface there's no meat for someone who wants to advance their knowledge on a certain subject. For example: I mostly read a lot of the astronomy stuff because it's a minor interest of mine, almost a hobby. Most of the stories I find here are good reading and sometimes I come into some new information but when I want to read a bit more into it I simply can't do that here. I have to go to the more specialised websites to do that. I don't know if others feel the same.

    And that sad part of all of it is that reading the comments is even worse. I see tons of posts modded +5 Informative or Insightful and a reply 15 minutes later points out why the post is plainly wrong yet the correct post stays at a 0-2 mod. The more of these that I see and double check the facts myself the more I see erroneous information getting passed off around here with the validation of the moderation system. It gets even worse in the stories that often boil down to flame wars. Having a +5 Informative on a post that reads "[Bill Gates/RIAA/Linux/NASA/insert...] is teh fucktard!!!!oneoneone!!!" shows that something has gone wrong. By all means, have your opinion of it but it's just so easy to get modded up by taking a side instead of passing on fresh information or at least an explanation of your opinion.
    • Missed the context? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ohmaar (997049)
      I see you complaining about comments, so I'll guess you're mostly reading the main SlashDot articles and wasting a lot of your time reading the comments. CmdrTaco was talking about the *firehose* containing the best of all the other websites. Only a small percentage of the stuff that comes through the firehose makes it to SlashDot proper, and unfortunately, since the community consists of folks for all backgrounds, you pretty much have to select the articles that appeal to everyone. If you want the hardcor
    • by SiChemist (575005) *
      He was talking about reading the firehose, not just the front page.
      • by quantaman (517394)

        He was talking about reading the firehose, not just the front page.

        From a different part of the grandparent's post

        "And that sad part of all of it is that reading the comments is even worse. I see tons of posts modded +5 Informative or Insightful and a reply 15 minutes later points out why the post is plainly wrong yet the correct post stays at a 0-2 mod."

        As I type this post I see the grandparent as +5 informative and the parent as +2, I guess the grandparent was right about one thing!

  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Friday October 12, 2007 @03:09PM (#20958413)
    "Personally, the bubble made it possible for me to own my own home at a time in my life when most people my age were living in 1-bedroom roach motels, or worse, with their parents. I'm thankful for that. But when the bubble burst, it took with it my dreams of having a private jet or something, and I was left with a job that pays really well doing something I like."

    I remember reading a story long ago about one of the guys who left Atari to form Activision. At the start of the story he was going through the planning for his megahouse with indoor basketball court etc. He was a multimillionaire on paper because of his ownership share of Activision, but he couldn't sell his stock until a certain amount of time had passed. Then the video game crash occurred and he watched the value of his stock drop and drop and drop. At each point he had to scale down his plans. Finally he realized that he was going to have to work for a living after all.

    This story resonated with my friends and I because we too were victims of the video game crash although we were never in any danger of becoming rich.

    So sorry, Rob, it's just a matter of luck and timing.
  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Friday October 12, 2007 @03:19PM (#20958559) Homepage
    I am too far into reading but, Answer 2 is a very insightful answer, it sums up a lot of the problems with corporations now. And should be in a FAQ about what's wrong with many publicly traded companies.

    Though I think his response to the 10 year question is premature, Apple may be hot, but it's still a closed system and as a long time Mac person and a newer Linux person am finding more frustrations with OSX buggyness (on a technical level) than with Linux. I think in the long term ,if not addressed, their limited cross-platform compatibility will kill Apple.

    Back to reading...
  • With Slashdot celebrating its ten year anneversary, Rob Malda (a college student at the time of his creating the Dot) has granted an interview. Malda is your rather typically bright sort, hence the interview being modest and reasoned. A fairly sincere geek, the fellow was eventually working on Slashdot for 20 hours per day, but still managed to graduate and not develop any addiction to stimulants apart from the usual caffeine/taurine drinks. Thus he is well respected.

    ---

    But it wasn't the case for everyone i
  • There's one thing that I just can't get out of my mind... it's the same question that goes for professional coffee samplers - what do they do on their coffee breaks ?

    What do the /. employees do when they feel like surfing to a great tech news site with insightful comments instead of working for half an hour or so ? ?

  • Thank you. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by a9db0 (31053) on Friday October 12, 2007 @04:00PM (#20959263)

    I hate marketing Slashdot. I dislike doing press for Slashdot. I've always felt that if we do a good job, people will read, and there's no reason to hype the site. This is anathema to corporate life, which is why we do things like the 10-year anniversary thing. The only reason we're doing it is that I really felt that after 10 whole years it was worth a bit of reflection.
    You may hate it, but many of us appreciate it. Inasmuch as we take gadgets apart to see how they work, we like knowing about the inner workings of a site we read daily. I'm sure you feel all of this has taken time away from more important stuff that matters, but we enjoy knowing about it.

    Ten years is a huge span in internet time. Slashdot has outlasted companies, technologies, presidents, and search engines. I think it is as good a time as any to step back from the day-to-day fray and get a little perspective. Slashdot has made a difference, both in the web and in the world.

    Thank you.

  • We're a pub where people gather to talk about the days events, and I think this has tremendous value.

    What kind of shitty pub is BYOB? Somebody needs to invent Interbeer.

    And pardon me while I grammar nazi a bit, but it seems you should have said "We're like a pub..."
  • I really like Slashdot and think it's a better site with me here than away. I can't imagine what others would do to it if I left!

    airliners.net is going through exactly that. It's an unholy mess. A quick look at the Site Related forum tells you everything about what happens to a site when the founder sells out to a bunch of corporate bastards.

    I'm glad you're still here, Rob.
  • by Rob Riggs (6418) on Friday October 12, 2007 @05:12PM (#20960299) Homepage Journal

    ...now, contrary to what conspiracy theorists accuse us of, we don't sell stories. And it quite honestly hurts me when people accuse us of it. But it's scary to know that some folks in the company would be quite happy to do it, completely selling out the integrity of the site to get a bonus.
    Proposed solution: hire sales/marketing guys with the following in their employment contract. "We will never sell stories on Slashdot. We have a zero-tolerance policy and any suggestion, recommendation or attempt to sell a story on Slashdot will result in immediate termination."
  • best sig I've read.
    gratz on the 10 year, it's been great being a reader.
  • Now I'm sorry I didn't submit any questions. The kind of things I was wondering about were things like:

    (1) Doesn't it bother you that you guys haven't had a new idea in years? The new "features" you've been adding are all imitations of other sites (blogs, tags, etc).

    (2) Is slashdot an entertainment site, or is it supposed to fill an important social role? Do you focus on making it "useful" or on making it "fun"?

    (2a) Any second thoughts on "anonymity" and letting anyone with an email address sign-up

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