Slashdot’s new interface could kill what keeps Slashdot relevant
Flashy revamp seeks to draw new faces to the community—at the cost of the old.
by Lee Hutchinson — Feb 12 2014, 6:55pm E
In the modern responsive Web Three Point Oh Internet, Slashdot stands like a thing frozen in time—it's a coelacanth stuck incongruously in an aquarium full of more colorful fish. The technology news aggregator site has been around since 1997, making it positively ancient as websites are reckoned. More importantly, Slashdot's long focus on open source technology news and topics has caused it to accrete a user base that tends to be extremely technical, extremely skilled, and extremely opinionated.
That user base is itself the main reason why Slashdot continues to thrive, even as its throwback interface makes it look to untrained eyes like a dated relic. Though the site is frequently a source of deep and rich commentary on topics, the barrier for new users to engage in the site's discussions is relatively high—certainly higher than, say, reddit (or even Ars). This doesn't cause much concern to the average Slashdot user, but tech job listing site Dice.com (which bought Slashdot in September 2012, along with Sourceforge and a number of other digital properties) appears to have decided it's time to drag Slashdot's interface into the 21st century in order to make things comfortable for everyone—old and new users alike."
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If the beta is still around, there's a pretty good chance that I won't be back.
May your coffee be inexplicably stale! May your socks spontaneously change colour and refuse to match! May your sheets repeatedly expose your toes to the chilly air! May your toast be burned, and your pepper be too hot! May your daughter seek to party excessively and bring you endless worry! May your nail clipper be dull, and your pens out of ink! May all of your favorite TV shows be cancelled!
Grrrrrr, I'll put
Hmph. Urgh. I'm so angry right now.."
Change happens, and for those of us who work with technology for a living it is the only constant. Change is a process and in and of itself is not a bad thing when it offers improvement. Unfortunately the change that has been offered negatively impacts the look, interface and most importantly the functionality of Slashdot.
Many people have had trouble reverting back to the classic interface. The new interface simply does not offer the functionality of the old. Things like statistics, comments and layout are very difficult to find. You have a community that lives and breathes data and want to know their data. How is my comment ranked, how many people responded – it’s really all about the dialogue. Can I get the information that I want in a readily digestible format?
As you’re well aware the new site does not offer the very thing that people come here for. This in and of itself is not why your community has organized a boycott of Beta. The boycott was originated because the new version will be implemented whether the community wants it or not.
I want to explain why this change has gone down people’s throats about as well as Windows 8’s Metro interface. The reason has absolutely nothing to do with the interface and everything to do with the perception that the editors and management of Slashdot appear to have.
The message that has been consistently handed down is that we are “your audience”. We are not your “your audience” we are your product. People do not come to Slashdot for the news stories, there are untold other sites that provide those as well as professional and original writing about them. People come here for the community of insiders from across the industry.
Please respect the community and stop what you’re doing. You have commented that you don’t want to maintain two code bases. Your community works in the industry and understands this, which leads many to suggest you abandon the new code base entirely so that you are only maintaining once code base. Tell us what your trying to accomplish and I would imagine that a wide range of experts would be more than willing to help you meet your goals."
I come to
/. for the comments, but with the new Beta, I can't even see anything! It just says:
''Shazbot! We ran into some trouble getting the comments. Try again... na-nu, na-nu!
It seems like the "developers" need to take some advice from people who actually know what they are doing. I'm happy to help explain what graceful degradation means if they like...
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Boycott the site Feb 10-17th
If the beat is still here on 18th Feb do not return.
Do not fix that which is not broken."
Oh, BTW, FUCK BETA"
Slashdot has been around, well, a very long time. Longer than any of it's competators, but not as long as IIRC. Slashdot was a very much one of the first true social media web sites.
On Slashdot, you could create a handle or ID. Something personal, but not too personal, unless you wanted it to be. But it was not required either. We know each other by our handles, we have watched each other grow as people. We may have even taken pot shots at each other in threads. Unless of course you are anonymous, but often we can guess who that really is.
One of Slashdot's first motto's was "News for Nerds" that Matters. I have no idea when that was removed. I have not always scoured the boards here daily, life can get too busy for that. That excuses my ignorance in a way. I guess someone thought it politically incorrect, but most of us "Nerds" enjoyed it. We are proud of who we are, and what we know. Often we use that pride and knowledge to make someone else look bad. That is how we get our digs in, and we enjoy that part of us too. We don't punch people, we belittle them. It's who we are!
What made Slashdot unique were a few things. What you will note here is "who" has been responsible for the success of Slashdot. Hint, it has never been a just the company taking care of the servers and software.
— First, the user base submitted stories that "they" thought mattered. It was not a corporate feed. Sure, stories were submitted about companies. The latest break through from AMD and Intel, various stories regarding the graphic card wars, my compiler is better than your compiler, and yes your scripting language stinks! Microsoft IIS has brought us all a few laughs and lots of flame wars to boot. Still, we not only read about the products but get to my second point.
— User comments. This is the primary why we have been coming here for as long as we have, many of us for decades. We provide alternative opinions or back what was given in the article. This aspect not only makes the "News" interesting, but often leads to other news and information sharing. It's not always positive, but this is the nature of allowing commentary. It also brings out the third point.
— Moderation. Moderation has been done by the community for a very long time. It took lots of trial and error to get a working system. As with any public system it's imperfect, but it's been successful. People can choose to view poorly modded comments, but don't have to. As with posting anonymous versus with our own handle it's an option that allows us to personalize the way we see and read what's on the site. And as a reward for submitting something worth reading, you might get a mod point of your own to use as a reward for someone else.
Why we dislike Beta and what is being pushed, and why this will result in the end of an era if it becomes forced on the community.
1. Bulky graphics. We get that Dice and Slashdot need revenue. I have Karma good enough to disable advertisements, but have never kept this setting on. I realize that Slashdot/Dice make money with this. That said, the ads sit away from my news and out of the way. I can get there if I want it (but nobody has ever gotten a penny from me clicking an ad... nobody!), but it's not forced into my face or news feed.
2. Low text area. I like having enough on my screen to keep me busy without constant scrolling. Slashdot currently has the correct ratio of text to screen. This ratio has never been complained about, yet Beta reduces the usable text area by at least 1/2 and no option for changing the behavior. I hate reading Slashdot on mobile devices because I can't stand scrolling constantly.
4. Ordering/Sorting/Referencing. Each entry currently gets tagged with a unique thread ID. This allows linking to the exact post in a thread, not just the top of the thread. In Beta this is gone. It could be that the site decided to simply hide the post ID or it was removed. Either way, going to specific posts is something that is used very commonly by the community.
5. Eye candy. Most of us are not here for "eye candy" and many have allergic reactions to eye candy. Slashdot has a good mix currently. It's not as simple as the site starting with a r-e-d-i-t, which is good. That site has a reputation that keeps many of us away, and their format matches my attitude of them (s-i-m-p-l-e-t-o-n). At the same time, it's not like watching some other "news" sites with so much scrolling crap I can't read an article without getting a headache. The wasted space in beta for big bulky borders, sure smells like eye candy. Nothing buzzes or scrolls yet, but we can sense what's coming in a patch later.
The thing is, the community cares about Slashdot. We come here because we care. We submit stories because of that, we vote because of that, we moderate because of that, and we comment because of that. At the same time we realize that without the community Slashdot loses most of its value. We respect that we don't host the servers, backup the databases, or patch the servers. Slashdot/Dice provide the services needed for Slashdot.
It's a give give relationship, and we each get something in return. Slashdot gets tons of Search hits and lots of web traffic. We get a place to learn, teach, and occasionally vent.
Look, if you want to change default color scheme or make pre-made palettes for us to choose from, we would probably be okay with that. If you want to take away our ability to block ads by Karma, or move the ads to the left side of my browser window, I would be okay with those things too.
If you want to make drastic changes to how the site works, this is a different story all together. The reason so many are against Beta is that it breaks some of the fundamental parts of what makes Slashdot work.
User input until recently has not been acknowledged. The acknowledgment we have received is not from the people that are making the decision to push Beta live. We told people Beta was broken, what it lacked, and we were rather surprised to get a warning that Beta would be live despite what we told people. People are already making plans to leave, which means that Slashdot could fade away very soon.
Whether this was the goal for Dice or not remains to be seen. If it is, it's been nice knowing you but I won't be back. A partnership only works when there is mutual respect between the parties. A word of caution, us Nerds have good memories and lots of knowledge. The loss of Slashdot impacts all of Dice holdings, not just Slashdot. I boycott everything a company holds, not just the product group that did me wrong.
If that was not the goal of Dice, you should quickly begin communicating with the user base. What are the plans are to fix what Beta has broken? Why is Beta being pushed live with things broken? A "Sorry we have not been communicating!", and perhaps even a "Thank you" to the user base for helping make Slashdot a success for so many years."
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