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Comment: $230 isn't the problem (Score 5, Insightful) 611

by JustinOpinion (#47719933) Attached to: Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year
Actually, I would be entirely happy to pay $230/year for ad-free Internet; meaning that I would continue to have access to all the sites that I want, but those sites would be directly supported by my yearly subscription, and so they wouldn't need to display ads or be otherwise beholden to advertisers. I'm sure a great many people would be willing to do so.

The problem is that such a state of affairs is impossible. If people actually started paying for subscriptions, the ads would disappear only temporarily. Eventually companies would realize "Sure, they're paying subscription fees, but if I just put a little unobtrusive link to 'related products' in the sidebar, no on will complain. And, yeah, sure, I'll get a little extra money on the side for displaying links to specific (paying) partners..." Soon enough, the ads are back (in some form or other), and we're now paying for the content twice. (We've seen this happen many times before; e.g. subscription cable-TV was supposed to be ad-free. More recently I've noticed that digital downloads from iTunes or Google Play have ads for other shows added to the beginning.) Moreover, oftentimes 'ad-free' really just means the ads are less obvious but more insidious (product placement, 'trusted' reviewers being bribed to give positive reviews, etc.).

The simple fact is that we cannot ever trust companies to actually honor the social contract of subscription models. Since they cannot stick to the rules, the only option is for end-users endure the constant ads, since at least in this case we don't have to pay subscription costs.

Comment: Re:There is this button. (Score 5, Insightful) 184

by JustinOpinion (#46884255) Attached to: Distracted Driving: All Lip Service With No Legit Solution
You're of course correct. (As are the many other replies that amount to: "Just don't use the phone while driving, dummy!")

However, it's worth keeping in mind how the human mind works; in particular its limitations. Our minds and behaviours are inherently flawed. Part of being a smart and responsible person is not just modulating your behaviour, but also designing your life so as to elicit the right kinds of outcomes. A simple example is putting an item that you want to bring with you tomorrow by the door. You could "Just remember to grab it when you leave tomorrow morning!", but you're accounting for your own fallible memory by putting it by the door while you're thinking of it. Another example would be a person who puts a tempting snack on an inaccessible shelf: they buy the snack because they want to have a treat sometimes, but they purposefully make it slightly inconvenient for themselves to eat the snack, so that they don't just reflexively eat it all the time. It's part of a strategy to invoke more rational thinking, rather than just let your immediate impulses win.

There are many more examples of such behaviour. Obviously it's "better" to simply have infinite willpower and rationality; but for people who do not (and if we're being honest, this describes all of us; though our individual temptations and biases are different), it can be useful to design your life to account for your fallibility.

So, in principle a cellphone app that disables the phone while driving can be useful. It's for people who recognize that it's a really bad idea to use your phone while driving, and yet are so addicted to their phone that they cannot avoid answering it when it rings. (Or are so addicted to status updates that they will absentmindedly check when bored, even if they are driving!) These people may also not have the discipline (or memory) to (for instance) always put the phone in the trunk before getting behind the wheel. For those people, such an app can be useful.

Having said all that, I think it's unrealistic to expect an app to properly differentiate between the situations where you would want the phone disabled (while driving) and those where you don't (parked, passenger in a car, etc.). So I think the question-poster should instead investigate other ways to modulate their own behaviour (e.g. put a holder in the car, in a very visible location, that says "PHONE BATTERY GOES HERE", and always pull out the battery before turning on the car).

Comment: Re:Brake Pedal (Score 1) 262

by JustinOpinion (#46597083) Attached to: Prototype Volvo Flywheel Tech Uses Car's Wasted Brake Energy
Same for the Toyota Prius: unless you press the brake, regenerative braking is not engaged. So with neither pedal depressed, the car is just coasting. In fact, because the Prius is so aerodynamic, it coasts 'faster' (by which I mean it slows down due to air friction more slowly) than most other cars, so you can coast for quite awhile before needing to touch the gas again. In fact, I've actually been in situations where I was over-taking other cars while coasting...

Comment: Re:Use both (Score 1) 181

by JustinOpinion (#46429297) Attached to: Physics Forum At Fermilab Bans Powerpoint
Indeed, the best talks will use both for what they are good at: a pre-arranged slidedeck for images and complex graphs that cannot be hand-drawn; and a chalkboard/whiteboard for developing an idea, skething a graph, deriving an equation, or discussing back-and-forth.

I will note that many conference rooms are poorly designed in this regard. They have the screen for the projector on a slow motor, and when the screen is down it entirely or subtantially covers the chalkboards/whiteboards. This makes it cumbersome to jump back and forth between them. If you want to encourage people to use both (and we should), then the screen should be offset and there should be a large whiteboard always unobstructured and available for the presenter to draw on. (Another pet peeve is that the whiteboard markers in the room will often be dry, or the chalk missing; which makes the whiteboard/chalkboard useless.)

Comment: Re:Here's the problem, vehicle designers (Score 1) 237

by JustinOpinion (#46287035) Attached to: A New Car UI

Parenthetically, (geek alert) the controls on TOS Enterprise, with their distinctive shapes, seemed a LOT more practical to me for an environment with lots of tipping and juddering in combat, as opposed to the all-touch-screen controls in later generations, which required that you keep your hands in contact with the control surface in a potentially hostile environment and watch your hands manipulate virtual buttons and switches, when you should probably be looking at something else.

The "Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual", on page 33, when describing the touch-panels, says: "Also incorporated into this layer is a transducer matrix that provides tactile and auditory feedback to the operator..." They don't elaborate on what this 'tactile feedback' might be like. At a minimum it would presumably indicate (e.g. via a vibration) that a button was pressed. Some fans have hypothesized that the panels perhaps incorporate miniature versions of the force-field technology used throughout the ship: so that even though the panel looks flat, you can actually 'feel' the buttons/layouts as you move your hands around; and of course this tactile response updates as the layout does. (This is supported by the fact that in Voyager, when Tuvok is blinded he is able to activate a "Tactile mode" on his workstation, implying that all panels have the ability to generate tactile feedback.) Thus, the TNG-era touchscreens could have had substantial amount of tactile control.

The reason I point this out is that the creators of a sci-fi show in 1991 could easily imagine that a flat-panel interface would benefit substantially from tactile feedback. The fact that modern vehicle UI designers can't understand this is thus rather ridiculous.

Comment: Re:Real question (Score 5, Informative) 161

by JustinOpinion (#46186855) Attached to: Graphene Conducts Electricity Ten Times Better Than Expected
You are correct that using graphene or carbon nanotubes (which are close cousins) only for the wiring wouldn't gain you much; especially since large resistances can arise from the junctions between two conductors/materials.

People are certainly investigating how to turn graphene and nanotubes into transistors. There have been demonstrations of using an applied voltage to mechanically 'kink' a nanotube so that its resistance changes. Thus it can be used as a non-volatile memory element. (The kinking is reversible and fast.) Others have looked into ways to 'dope' graphene by controlling what material it is sitting on top of (which changes its electrical properties, similar to doping atoms into silicon). Things like this can be used to make transistors out of these carbon nanomaterials; and in principle to do it in a way where the conducting carbon network is unbroken.

Of course, the devil is in the details. We've seen demonstrations of many pieces of the puzzle, but turning it all into a technology (where you can build it all easily on a single substrate, in a scalable way, etc.) is still a ways off. But there is at least a chance these materials will pan out.

P.S.: Don't let this comment distract from the legitimate outcry against Slashdot Beta.

Comment: Re:Kill Beta! (Score 1) 221

by JustinOpinion (#46178259) Attached to: Military Electronics That Shatter Into Dust On Command
Yeah the Slashdot comment-box has some longstanding issues, like support for displaying source-code/html properly, or unicode support in general.

The devs should really consider coding an improvement to Slashdot that addresses these concerns. Some kind of 'Slashdot beta'. I'm sure it would turn out great...

Comment: Re:blind leading the blind? (Score 4, Interesting) 221

by JustinOpinion (#46178187) Attached to: Military Electronics That Shatter Into Dust On Command
What really scares me is the thought that the editors haven't really even noticed.

One of the things that has always surprised me (even bothered me a bit) about Slashdot is that the people running the site do not appear to actually use the site. The editors don't routinely participate in discussions. We occasionally see a comment from an editor, but they are certainly not among the top commenters. (Even CmdrTaco's comment history was surprisingly thin...) These are people who are paid to be involved with the site. I know they have other duties, and perhaps being an employee makes participating in the community less fun. But on the other hand, if your job is to manage an online community, I would expect to see more involvement.

I sometimes wonder whether the editors actually read through Slashdot comments at all, or whether they just queue up some stories and then work on something else.

I'm guessing that by now they've noticed the firestorm of hate, since it's being injected into the comments, firehose/story-submissions, polls, via email, etc. But even so, I feel that ultimately the disconnect between what the Slashdot community wants, and what the powers-that-be are planning to provide, is that the people running Slashdot are not Slashdot users (much less contributors). So they do not even realize why we hate the beta so much. To an outsider, one commenting system and another might seem pretty much the same. It might seem like we're complaining over minutia. But to someone who is trying to participate in the fast-paced and highly technical discussions that erupt on Slashdot, the commenting system is paramount. Ruin it, and you've killed the site.

Comment: Re:Begun they have... (Score 5, Insightful) 234

by JustinOpinion (#46177871) Attached to: The Standards Wars and the Sausage Factory
I agree that the owners of Slashdot are free to take it in another direction if they want. Presumably what they desire is more money, and they believe the redesign is a way to increase ad revenue. So far so good.

In this case, however, I believe their strategy is not a good one. If you alienate the commenters, then they will leave, and all that will be left is a stream of story digests with links to other sites. The bulk of their readership (all those people who come to Slashdot but don't comment on stories) will go to other sites (there are plenty that do a better job of finding and organizing links to interesting stories). The only differentiator that Slashdot has is its vibrant and intellectual community, which leads to interesting discussions, which in turn justifies actually visiting the site. Once the commenters leave, your revenue stream (ad impressions) will go away.

The problem is, most slashdot contributors I don't think click on the ads. So frankly as a community, you're not that valuable.

There is some truth to this. Slashdot users are probably less likely to click on ads than the average person. We are probably more aware of advertising tactics, and may thus avoid being influenced (to the extent one can). Slashdot users are probably more likely than most people to use ad-blockers. On the other hand, Slashdot users occupy a huge number of key decision-making posts in all the major tech companies. Even 'lowly' employees can have a huge impact on what their employer spends money on. I would also note that an ad is not necessarily a failure if no one clicks on it. One of the main purposes of advertising is awareness and branding. If you see ads for a given company on Slashdot, you will subconsciously become aware of them, making it more likely that you will consider them when making your next purchase. No clicking required.

I fully admit that it is difficult to quantify the 'value added' of advertising to the unique Slashdot community. I would hope that Dice has made this case to their ad partners; I guess it wasn't enough?

And what's wrong with that? They have ongoing costs in terms of servers, IT support, and the moderators. Word is for the most part the Slashdot revenue stream has been shrinking for Dice, which means they'd be bleeding money.

Actually it's not clear to me that's the case. The things I've read indicate that revenue coming from Slashdot is decreasing with time. But this isn't the same thing as saying that Slashdot doesn't generate enough revenue to pay for operating Slashdot. From what I can gather, Slashdot is a net money-maker... it's just not making enough money, and the owners want to make more. (If someone has better info, please share!)

Comment: Re:We'll go aggressively passive-aggressive then (Score 1) 156

by JustinOpinion (#46176049) Attached to: Is Intel Selling Bay Trail Chips Below Cost?
The nascent "AltSlashdot.org" effort hasn't settled on a name yet. The name will be changed, and will avoid all trademark issues. The plan is to have a community vote on the new name; several punctuation related puns have already been suggested.

The hardest part, of course, is building up enough momentum fast enough for such a large community to transition. It may or may not work...

Comment: Re:Dice have already written off Slashdot (Score 4, Insightful) 116

by JustinOpinion (#46175961) Attached to: Amazon's Double-Helix Acquisition Hints At Gaming Console
This is probably right. We are all looking at the beta redesign as an obvious failure. But the people in power may well believe that overall the loss of the community of commenters will be "worth it" to transform the site into a higher-traffic (and thus higher-profit) news aggregator. On some level this makes sense: the active community of Slashdot commentors is far smaller than the size of the people who just visit the site. So if one can piss off the commentors but increase web traffic overall, then it's worth it.

The problem with this logic is that all of those visitors only come to the site to read (if not engage in) the commenting that goes on. Really the (relatively high-quality) comments are the only thing that differentiate Slashdot from any other website. Once you make commenting/discussion more cumbersome, it will go away, and all you will be left with is the Slashdot "brand". But does that brand really have any weight? It only does with the small community of tech-enthusiasts that you just drove away from your site. It's not like the average person is going to see a "friendlier jazzier Slashdot" and immediately think "Wow, finally a Slashdot I can enjoy!".

If you look into the financial details, it appears that Dice considers Slashdot a loser:

... advertising revenue has declined over the past year and there is no improvement expected in the future financial performance of Slashdot.

Note that this isn't saying that Slashdot's ad revenue isn't enough to pay for operating Slashdot; merely saying that the ad revenue is falling with time. They are no doubt desperate to increase profits. It's actually quite possible that Slashdot's ad revenue is undervalued (because it isn't taking into account that many Slashdot users hold key positions where they influence what tech is purchased by companies, friends come to them for tech advice, etc.). But overall the idea that they can increase ad revenue by revamping the entire site is a bad gamble: the community will disappear in a flash, and ad revenue will drop to zero.

Ultimately, Dice management appears willing to take the gamble. It is one they will most likely lose, and we will lose Slashdot in the process. But they won't care much, since Slashdot as-is just isn't pulling in that much money. It's a sad reality that even a community as big and stable as Slashdot (generating constant ad revenue) is still too small/niche to satisfy their money-lost. Our last hope may lie in efforts to build a new site that we can migrate to (e.g. AltSlashdot.org).

+ - How to fix Slashdot Beta? 17

Submitted by Forbo
Forbo (3035827) writes "Since the migration to Slashdot Beta was announced, it seems all meaningful discussion has been completely disrupted with calls to boycott and protest. Rather than pull an Occupy, what can be done to focus and organize the action? What is the end goal: To revert entirely to the previous site, or to address the problems with the new site?"

+ - AltSlashdot is coming-> 3

Submitted by Okian Warrior
Okian Warrior (537106) writes "I've registered "AltSlashdot.org". I intend to run a site much like Slashdot used to be — better articles, less decoration and less "in your face" functionality. I'm reviewing and getting comfortable with slashcode right now. I'm looking for volunteers to help with setup and running the site. If the site becomes profitable, I intend to hire from the pool of volunteers. If you've ever wanted to participate in a site like Slashdot, here's your chance! I'm particularly in need of people who can:
  • Set up and manage a high-traffic site (servers, load-balancers, data sites, &c)
  • Edit story submissions
  • HTML, CSS, and script creation/bugfix/repair

Contact me if interested John (at) AltSlashdot (dot) org"
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:So, about Beta (Score 1) 116

by JustinOpinion (#46175755) Attached to: Amazon's Double-Helix Acquisition Hints At Gaming Console
Actually, Slashdot alternatives should avoid having a name too closely tied to "Slashdot", so as to avoid trademark disputes down the road.

In fact, Slashdot has actually used the "backslash" brand. If I recall correctly, the original idea was for that site-section to house various 'about slashdot' material, but currently there seems to be nothing there. The tag "Slashback" has also been used on Slashdot and so should be avoided.

FYI, there is burgoning effort to build a replacement at AltSlashdot.org (final name pending a community vote). If you're interested in having a replacement exist, then consider contributing to one of these efforts.

Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. -- Quentin Crisp

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