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User Journal

Journal Journal: Winduhs

I think the whole mobile operating system thing has screwed up GUI design to a certain degree. Microsoft, Ubuntu, and GNOME have both been brave and tried something new, but what they ended up with ended up being highly unpopular on the desktop. And to be honest, I think only Microsoft ended up with something truly good on a touch interface, though I admit to not using Ubuntu or GNOME in those contexts, just being aware that they've not really encouraged an ecosystem for applications to work well in a tablet environment, leaving users with only the main shell being friendly. So the loss of optimization for the desktop lead to no significant gains elsewhere.

The way I'm seeing it, Windows 10 seems to be genuinely exciting, and a decent modern desktop, that also encourages cross interface design. Microsoft has learned from the mistakes it made with Windows 8, kept the good parts, and put together something truly great and modern.

I don't really want to be stuck with Windows though as my primary OS. I'm hoping Ubuntu et al actually learn from it.

This is something you'll never normally hear from me, but perhaps they need a Miguel type figure to take a lead in either GNOME or Ubuntu. At this point, at least to me, it looks like Microsoft is the one with the good ideas about how a UI should work and the relationship of an application to the UI frameworks of the underlying OS. I don't want anyone to clone Windows, but it would be nice to learn from it, at least.

Back in the 1990s, nerds like me put together our own "desktops", running random window managers, app launchers, and file managers (if that) that seemed to go together. I'm feeling like the FOSS "desktop" is heading back to that era, of stuff that doesn't really go together, being shoehorned to fit, with no real philosophy binding the system together.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Parents aren't perfect 7 7

Seen rather a lot of the "Parents are evil because they did something wrong because they believed that something was right" meme that's going around at the moment.

Worst case: massive harassment and threats against the parents of a trans teenager who killed herself blaming their insistence on "Christian" therapy. Horrible case, entirely the wrong approach by the parents, but at the same time if the parents hadn't cared, there wouldn't have been any therapy to begin with, bogus or not. The parents were convinced by people they trusted that the wrong thing was the right thing. Screaming at them, particularly at a time when they are mourning, that they are evil and heartless is evil and heartless.

Now seeing it in the vaccine "debate". Not the only problem I'm having with the pro-vax side (Reminder: yes, I'm pro-vax, and yes, I'm in favor of it being mandatory for the obvious deadly common diseases), but there's a world of difference between a lazy parent not having their kid vaccinated because they can't be bothered, and a parent being too scared to vaccinate their child because they've heard from convincing sources that vaccinations can cause terrible things.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is the Touch UI irredeemable? 4 4

Thoughts related to the Windows 10 "Desktop is a desktop, no "Start" screen" thing:

From 1984 to 1990, there was a serious debate as to which was better, the command line or the WIMP (Window/Icon/Mouse/Pointer) UI. Why? Well, because Mac OS's Systems 1-4 were user friendly in the sense people knew how to use them, but user unfriendly in the sense that they got in the way, were kludgy, awkward to use, and offered zero advantages - beyond a lack of training for users - over the command line. At best you could say some applications needed a mouse, but some, such as word processors, were actually harder to use in the prehistoric era of WIMP user interfaces than the keyboard based versions.

What changed? Microsoft Windows. From Windows 1.0 onwards, Microsoft offered a vision, initially a very, very, ugly vision, as to how a computer could be more, not less useful with a WIMP UI. The critical feature was multitasking. Windows offered a better way to multitask than command line based systems, because each Window, representing an application or document, could co-exist in the same "world", the desktop.

Windows wasn't anything like the best implementation, but it was the only implementation of the concept available on standard PCs.

When Microsoft pretty much forced manufacturers to provide Windows and a mouse with all MS DOS based computers, users had a straight choice of using one UI or the other, and they overwhelmingly chose Windows. By comparison, when GEM was bundled with many PCs in the late nineties, GEM was a nice to have that was ignored by most users (anecdotally, outside of stores, I never saw an Amstrad PC1512 running GEM in the wild, despite it becoming with it and being a major advertised feature.) GEM, a Mac OS UI clone, did not offer multitasking.

So: timeline:

1. Mac OS released around 1984. Causes schism between WIMP and command line users
2. Windows 1.0 released 1985ish. Most users recognize it's a very powerful system, but are put off by user interface and memory requirements.
3. DOS vs WIMP rages for next five years largely because Windows is crippled by other factors.
4. Finally PCs are forced to be powerful enough to run Windows in 1990, and Windows UI improved enough to be "good enough" compared to Mac OS. Everyone jumps to Windows. End of DOS vs WIMP debate.

Touch UIs? Where is the touch UI that is more powerful, as opposed to being easier to use, than the WIMP UI? It took Microsoft (and Commodore too) less than a year to come up with something that was actually an improvement on the command line having seen WIMP. It's been nearly a decade now, who has come up with a touch UI that is more versatile than a WIMP desktop?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Classifications 1 1

Apropos of nothing, just some thoughts in the shower this morning: I see people getting very upset when they hear Doom being described as "3D". "It's 2.5D!" they scream, pointing out that the maps are two dimensional albeit augmented with a height map.

The thing is while I kinda see their point, it essentially puts Doom in the same category as, say, Isometric games, while Quake is in the same category as numerous 1980s Flight Simulators. And then there's "First Person" vs "Third Person" where, again, the latter is so overly broad that it puts, uhm, a lot of isometric games in the same category as modern 3D games that are clearly "nearly" FPS but with a view of the protagonist.

Me, I'm kind of wondering if any of it is ever going to be anything but misleading anyway. 3D Monster Maze (for the ZX81), Hired Guns, the various flight simulators, Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein... all with slightly different takes on technologies that were ultimately trying to converge on the idea that you could see something broadly real, rather than an abstraction. The classifying makes it harder, not easier, to see the leaps forward each type of game engine made.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Wikipedia is fucked 1 1

GamerGate targeted the most active editors on the Gamergate Controversy article for abuse for several months. They also abused the article itself, inserting blatant violations of WP:BLP (the policy that stops the Wikimedia Foundation from being sued for libel every five minutes) During this time the trolls, in parallel, continually leveled complaints at the relevant Wikipedia admin authorities.

Finally, the combination of forum shopping and driving well meaning editors into the ground has paid off: the vast majority of editors in question are to be banned not just from editing the GamerGate Controversy article but from even discussing gender related issues on Wikipedia. Some token throwaway accounts on the GG side are being banned too.

What good faith editor in their right mind will want to touch any article covering an issue affected by well organized trolls after this?

Oh, and don't expect Jimbo to step in. He's actually been telling editors being harassed to step away from the article for several months now.

The backdoor password to the constitution is "terrorism". The backdoor password to Wikipedia is "Civility".

User Journal

Journal Journal: Nuts vs Nuttiers 1 1

It's kind of annoying that when there's an active hate campaign against a group of people you're largely sympathetic to, it becomes harder to call out abuse and extremism by individuals within that group lest you play into the agenda of the hate campaign.

Another way of saying the same thing: GamerGate and similar mobs make it hard to have rational discussions about anything.

(If you're after specifics, no, I won't give any directly, the nearest I'd mention is that I thought Pax Dickinson was treated abysmally back when he was essentially fired for alleged over-enthusiastic dudebroism.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Supporting extremism 6 6

The legal right to be offensive aside (and likewise the right to be offensive without suffering death or severe violence), which is an entirely different issue and one I wholeheartedly support, I'm not going to promote punching down and re-enforcing hatred simply because terrorists brutally attack and murder some people who are doing that.

And the fact such an act has been perpetrated may mean condemnation from me, but it doesn't mean I'm going to lionize the victims or even worse promote their rotten cartoons.

You cannot attack extremism with extremism. It doesn't work that way.

Also as a former resident of Britain, which had plenty of Christian terrorism while I was living there, and which was subject to, albeit overseas, Jewish terrorism a mere 35ish years before I was born (interestingly by groups so nutty that they even, on occasion, sided with Nazi Germany seeing it as "less terrible" than the colonial British Empire), can we cut out the "Islam has a special problem" crap?

(Not that I'm saying religion can't be peaceful, Buddhist terrorists are fairly rare for example, though not non-existent, but Islam doesn't seem to be worse historically than any other Judao-Christian movement. It's just large right now, and over-represented in areas currently ruled by corrupt dictatorships propped up by the West and countries that are former examples thereof.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Windows 8.1 is a great tablet operating system and is better than Android 22 22

Unfortunately third party support for it sucks. It's the AmigaOS of tablet operating systems, kinda sorta. Hey, Microsoft, have you heard of this new, 30 year old, technology called MVC? Developers love it, and it makes it relatively easy to produce frameworks that allow completely different user interfaces that use entirely different paradigms to be targeted by the same application. There's another company that makes both desktop and tablet operating systems (ironically, currently not merged though apparently from the same code base) that supports MVC quite heavily. Can't remember their name though...

It'd be nice for a FOSS equivalent of the "Tablet + Desktop" system Microsoft is doing, vs "Let's try to create a merged interface that sucks" approach of Ubuntu and GNOME. I would have been very happy with a Ubuntu for Android system, but Ubuntu and Google never seemed to go anywhere with that one.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Controversy 8 8

So...

systemd - think it's a good idea. init sucks. init scripts suck. I mean, have you ever written one? Something that uses cgroups to track and manage daemons seems an unbelievably great idea.

Slashdot Beta - For as long as I can remember, Slashdot's commenting system has been broken. Now they're trying to fix it. Not perfect, but seems in line with what others are doing successfully. If they can get it feature complete, it'll definitely be an improvement.

xfinitywifi - What a great idea! Comcast, you guys need to provide those of us who don't rent your routers with a free box that, without interrupting our networks, provides an xfinitywifi connection. Costs nothing, provides a huge amount of roaming Wifi coverage, it's a great idea.

Eich? He was a dick. People had concerns about his ability to work with a diverse group, his response was to insult everyone with concerns rather than address them. He was not CEO material.

Pax Dickinson? Honestly, I think he was stitched up and shouldn't have been fired/pushed/whatever. Buuuttt.... he's now associating himself with GG, so screw him.

Not trolling (mostly) but I do seem to be at odds with most of Slashdot these days.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Saints Row 4

Really enjoying it. I got it for $15 on Steam a few days ago, a day or two before they dropped the price to $5. Yeah. $5. *sigh* Well $15 was a good price.

Anyway, if you liked 3 (loved it myself), you'll almost certainly like 4. However there's some controversy over SR1/2 and SR3, as the game changed significantly between 2 and 3. My friend who doesn't care for 3 for that reason still loves 4, so read into that whatever you want.

What is it? Well, it's a big open-world thing. SR3 was a "take over the city from hostile gangs" thing that was incredibly over the top and funny. SR4... many of the same concepts, but you're now in a simulation of a city, and you're also the President, but still a gang leader, but you have superpowers, and it's still over the top and hilarious. There's a lot of references to other games/media and there's some meta stuff in there too. I thought on reading the synopsis that it wouldn't work, but it really does. Said friend who doesn't like SR3 described it as the best superhero game out there.

Probably worth playing SR3 before SR4, but otherwise a big thumbs up.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The GamerGate aftermath: the positives 6 6

Must be miserable being a female gamedev right now, but I think there are genuinely some long term positives that may come out of this - none of which, I admit, are as positive as what might have happened if a powerful minority of men weren't complete bastards.

1. Men know it's happening now.

Call it projection, call it being blind to the obvious, but if anyone had come to me in August and told me how a sizable proportion of men absolutely hate women with a passion, with the abuse being entirely one-way, I would have nodded but not understood, because I like to think there's good in everyone. I would have poo-poo'd the more extreme examples of "one or two bad apples". Now I understand. Reading prominent GamerGate figureheads writing articles like "How to rape a woman and get away with it" or "How to break a woman" (no direct links but more information on this anti-misogyny site: http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/) is eye opening for those of us sheltered behind a general assumption of human decency in most people, even the ones we see as sexist. Yes, I've worked with at least one obviously sexist co-worker. No, I thought this was just mommy issues and that the guy was OK underneath. I don't think I'd treat him the same way now.

I had no idea the situation was this bad. I had no idea such evil attracted support from such a large and diverse group of people. I know better now. I have some idea of what to say to my daughter - when she's a little older, obviously - to ensure she can defend herself when the time comes. I know what to look out for from colleagues and "friends." I know what to tell friends who deny that the situation exists.

2. More women are speaking up, and being heard

GamerGate isn't happening because misogynists are slut-shaming a female gamedev who produced a game that wasn't to their liking, it's happening because women - and men - are rallying behind her. The superficial "Actually it's about ethics in gaming journalism" trope exists because those who attempted to intimidate said gamedev out of gaming found themselves the target of an overwhelmingly negative press, with large numbers of developers and other people in the gaming industry, especially women, standing up and saying stop.

It would be nice to go further and claim that this is universal, that women are exclusively looking at GamerGate as a chance to stand up and be heard, but alas, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and others are reporting that they're talking to many women devs who have headed in the other direction, seeing GamerGate as a reason to want out and to leave. This is terrible.

3. Related issues are receiving more attention.

That video with the women being cat-called, followed, and generally harassed, while walking through New York? Would that really have gone viral in a different environment?

Meanwhile, I wonder how many men have actually sat down and forced themselves to watch Anita Sarkeesian's videos on tropes in video games (caution: part six is actually fairly hard to watch), simply because of the controversy over the last few months? I know I did. It's hard to believe more coverage of this kind of constructive, concrete, criticism cannot lead to both less sexism in video games, and stronger, more original, video games in future.

4. Final thought

I'm not saying GamerGate is good or has been positive. It hasn't. We can choose to build in the ashes, or we can get angry about the loss of the city we once had. Or we can do both. I think I'm feeling both right now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: On posting anonymously 14 14

...as opposed to pseudonymously.

I'm finding it easier to post 100% honestly when I post AC on at least one subject at the moment. Why? Well, because if I post pseudonymously then I risk inflaming the wrath of an extremely nutty group, and I really don't have the time or patience or stomach for the kind of harassment I'd expect if I piss that group off.

I say this because it's a counterpoint to some of the stuff that's been said recently, especially in response to, for example, GamerGate and related Tech Sexism controversies, where many are of the opinion that anonymity has little value, encouraging the lowest forms of life to crawl out and make terrible attacks (such as death threats) without fearing the repercussions.

I have some sympathy with the position, but I also think linking identities to comments can severely limit people's ability to comment on things that genuinely bother them when there's a degree of mob like behavior by some on the opposing side of the issue in question.

Accountability is a force of moderation, but accountability cannot be the only means by which commentary is moderated, merely a significant but not insurmountable factor.

Update: This seems relevant ;-)

User Journal

Journal Journal: /. Resurgent: On Stemming Audience Decline and Rebuilding that Good Ol' Brand 13 13

I'd like to talk about Slashdot. We all remember that old troll, Netcraft confirms it, only these days you don't need pagerank to see the decline in comments and community involvement. It's a problem. And facing that truth is the first step in finding solutions. But before I begin, a bit of meta about this journal entry:

First of all, while I've submitted to the editorial queue I don't expect front page placement. I know this kind of navel gazing isn't FP worthy. The intended readership is editors and those interested in /. enough to vote on submissions. Any upvotes it gets will thus hopefully encourage site editors and Dice management to read, perhaps comment, and maybe even change direction. Because we all know the direction Slashdot is currently going will ultimately lead to a bad place.

Secondly, this journal is not a bitch session. I don't want to talk about which editors suck, why the beta should or shouldn't be tossed, or how much better things were when Malda ran the shop. All that is gazing into a rear view mirror. And you can't drive a car based on what's already passed by. Success requires looking out the front window at oncoming obstacles and steering clear. Otherwise, you tumble off-road and crash and burn.

Thirdly, I like Slashdot. I want it to succeed. And I think there are exploitable opportunities to regain audience. So this diary is about grasping opportunity for renewed success. I want to offer hopeful suggestions. For there is no point in promoting defeatism and failure.

To begin, let's look at what's wrong. Most of it is inertia following an old model that was once wildly successful. The editorial policy still focuses on short blurbs about off site articles. Yet these days a well written subject line conveys everything one needs. That's why Twitter is so successful.

The next problem is slow turn-around for material already publiziced by competitors. It might take a half-day to a day between submission to front page. Which were editors carefully selecting from a vast deluge of stories might make sense, particularly if most of them were somehow folded within the Slashdot umbrella and not already publicized. But right now, that's not the case.

There's a competitor that's taken over link aggregation. We all know who it is. Reddit. The once Smiling Alien has become a Ravenous Gorilla, eating everything and everyone in its path. Reddit has already eaten Slashdot's lunch. Now it's taking seconds and thirds from the nerd site's breakfast and dinner plates.

In particular, /r/technology, /r/science, and more recently /r/futurology. These subreddits reap the exact audience Slashdot targets, publicizing submitted material almost instantly. Communities at those subreddits quickly drives popular submissions to notice. Anyone following there learns those stories long before they're published on Slashdot. Game over.

Combine these two, redundant write ups of old news already popular elsewhere and you get decline. In link aggregation, Reddit won and Slashdot lost. Get over it. Because Slashdot lost that war long before Reddit even came on the scene. The question is why. Answer that and it's a first step toward putting Alien Kong on a much needed diet.

Sometimes examining history is a helpful lens through which to understand the present. Slashdot has always been a community driven site. That is, back in its founding, Malda et all took users seriously and tried to meet their needs. On occasion this led to site editorial policy contorting itself around conflicting community demands. And was that community demanding. It's as if Slashdot's success seemed to have knit together too many groups with differing interests. It seemed impossible to please everyone.

By the end of the 1990s, there was recognition the site couldn't rely entirely on externally generated content. That link aggregation was only a partial means to drive audience. Should the site promote user submitted content or hire professional writers? On the one hand, community submissions engage the core audience. On the other hand, professional writers produce professional content. Some users expected professionally copyedited submissions given the site dominated 'Net tech discussion. Others wanted to retain its amateur community charm.

The downfall of Jon Katz as Slashdot professional writer and editorial staffer said more about this community divide than it did about his competence. Even if he did screw up. A real editorial process would have caught his mistakes before publication. And he is a good writer. Even if only marginally competent with tech news. But that community breach - not Jon Katz but the divide between amateur community and professional - provided opportunity for competition.

One dev took advantage of dissatisfaction on Slashdot and developed a community driven competitor, Kuro5hin. Its unique claim was that users could vote on story submissions rather than the site's press being controlled by a central editorial body. It offered a private submission queue where community members could propose editorial changes prior to publication. Then a story 'election' stage where voting would decide success or failure. Those stories that succeeded made it to the front page. A community voting model was tried many times before Reddit took the reigns as self-proclaimed "Front Page of the Internet."

This led to a debate on Slashdot over whether community managed or centrally managed models should win out. Slashdot was the market gorilla then and Kuro5hin a semi-popular upstart. Slashdot continued their traditional editorial approach, with editors who selected community submitted content. They continued publishing Jon Katz. And ran on the inertia of success.

Kuro5hin challenged Slashdot by letting the community write, edit, and choose stories by popularity. And in this challenge the site became very popular very quickly. Not as big as Slashdot, but big enough to gain real attention. And Kuro5hin did this by at first slicing away a noticeable portion of the Slashdot community. But people stayed because the system allowed successful contributors to build notoriety, creating a symbiosis between writers, community, and publisher. Something Slashdot only partially embraced with open submissions.

But there's a reason why few remember Kuro5hin today. It had a slow-burn downfall. The more popular it became the more valuable was front page real estate. Just like with Slashdot, community members began to split off into different groups each with their own vested interest. And here was where the story voting queue transitioned from an enticing unique feature to its Achilles Heel.

Soon the queue became gamed by those groups, organized around parochial interests particular to each. Some were trolls, others political ideologues, and still others wanted a pure focus on tech. None could share a communal printing press. And the owner, in his infinite folly, decided to step away and not interfere with community choice. It was a community driven site, right? Let the community decide! Idiot.

People began to leave. Over a couple years that trickle of departures became a rush. Then a scandal or two and a huge migration cleaved the community in two. The site imploded. Finally, a focus on trolling for click-throughs left it publishing such insightful fare as Fuck Natalee Holloway, attracting eyeballs by impugning some girl who'd disappeared and became a media sensation.

Controversial stories like that can generate lots of short-term clickthroughs by an angry and indignant public. Hey, it's an advertising model. Click-bait. Before Gawker there was Kuro5hin. But it didn't last. Because it tarnished the brand for a bit of short-term gain. Kuro5hin lived off googlesearch results to old controversial stories for a time. But now it's a ghost town of 'Net-tumbleweeds and World Wide Cobwebs where a once vibrant community once stood.

The decline of Kuro5hin might have convinced Slashdot's editors they had made the right choice. It's demise is instructive. Centralized editors can prevent organized trolls and political insurgencies from taking control of a site's press. But as Kuro5hin devolved to infighting over an increasingly less relevant front page, another community driven site emerged. And this one would beat Slashdot at its own game in every way imaginable.

Digg. For those who remember its spectacular implosion the name evokes sneers of derision. But there was a time when Digg overtook not just scrappy media startup Slashdot with its little focus on 'news for nerds'. Using Slashdot's link aggregation model, Digg took over 'Net everywhere. Newspapers, magazines, music, film, television... promoting everything media. It became a powerhouse portal relevant to every press outlet and publisher, discussed on television, courted by public relations specialists, ultimately becoming worth billions of dollars on paper.

Contrasting Kuro5hin and Digg against Slashdot, one might call the founding of Kuro5hin a writer's dream of what community publishing could be; content, written by local authors and democratically selected for promotion by the community itself. Digg, on the other hand, represented a marketeer's fantasy of how to aggregate audience without doing the hard work of content creation. While Slashdot sat somewhere in the middle, promoting a little bit of community content on the front page and a whole lot of professional content published elsewhere.

Digg won. Its devs took Slashdot's model, transformed their editorial focus away from nerds to the general public, and reaped vast rewards in audience share. Then, like a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, it spectacularly died in a bloody 'Net mess. And, curiously, for much the same reason as Kuro5hin before it. Internal infighting. Corrupt vote rigging. A public scandal that destroyed credibility.

For a site that had prided itself on community content selection, ultimately a kind of payola system infected Digg. Perhaps not with money changing hands, but the power over a vast audience engendered a corrupt system of power users who self-coordinated to rig the selection process. Digg became Rigg, so to speak. Thereby undermining its entire raison d'etre for existence. Goodbye Digg.

Digg has changed hands and - like Kuro5hin - exists as a shell of its former self. They've even transitioned to a centrally managed editorial model, just like Slashdot. But it mostly remains dead. Reddit reaped their userbase and walked away with The Grand Prize. And to this day Reddit remains Alien King Kong, a giant gorilla eating everything off of everyone else's plate. Including Slashdot's.

So now we've seen two examples of site implosion by internal corruption. Perhaps there's a cyclic lesson to be learned here. A point I'll return to after discussing what I think is wrong with Slashdot's community partnership model. Now, I want to shift focus away from link aggregation to content production. Because today original content is king. There is no link aggregation without content. And what was once a vast diversity of publication houses and outlets has consolidated into a paltry few. Forcing content creators to either partner with corporate leaches or else die in obscurity.

Let's start with an old-timer, Dailykos. It's been around since Kuro5hin. Almost as long as Slashdot. And it's still highly popular with large audience share.

Forget about Dailykos' political leanings. The site is openly partisan, left leaning, and exists to promote Democratic candidates. And that's not why Dailykos is interesting. The site is interesting because it's old and yet still successful. Therefore Kos is doing something worth learning from. However, partisanship is not the lesson here. That's never been a viable model for Slashdot.

Instead, the lesson to learn is how a central editorial body sustains audience through community content generation. That's what Slashdot needs to foster. Because in this era, as long as Slashdot is focused on promoting material produced elsewhere the Giant Alien Gorilla will eat its lunch.

Diaries, not comments, are what drive community involvement at Dkos. That diary system creates a symbiosis between community and publisher. True, most diaries suck. But that's the case with all content. Most everything sucks. So what matters is not that sucky diaries are published but that quality filters exist to pick out diamonds in the rough.

There are two levels. Dkos has a voting system that publicizes the titles of popular diaries in a side box to the main page. If someone writes a recommended diary, it can generate thousands of page views and hundreds of "Recommended" upvotes. From there some diaries are chosen for promotion to the main page. Now you're talking tens or hundreds of thousands of page views for a story. That's real name recognition for a writer. And very well received diarists might get an offer to write for the front page regularly. Talk about incentive.

This mix of content by official site writers and promoted diary entries creates a path of upward mobility for lower ranks of creators and contributors to aspire to. It is these aspirations that sustain a community. Because getting noticed isn't merely some popularity content. Several writers have wound up landing professional gigs. What dkos gets from in content by diarists the site returns to writers with increased notoriety and even potential employment opportunities. Symbiosis.

All while the site publisher retains control over their press. Kos doesn't let trolls and other organized groups direct editorial policy. Slashdot editors should take note.

This model has been copied with more recent successful web startups. For example, Medium and Vice are sites that attract high quality content by providing an easy means for new contributors to get a foothold while retaining editorial control to weed out crap. The 1% rule is relevant here. The trick with a viable community model is to pair the interests of creators and contributors with the publisher. Rob Malda knew this from the beginning. But somewhere along the line that symbiosis between contributor and publisher on Slashdot broke down.

It's not as if Slashdot didn't try. There's a Journal system that was intended to replicate diaries on dkos. But it doesn't work. The place is a ghetto. Mostly because the promotion system is broken. On the one hand, only friends see new journal entries. On the other, journal entries can be submitted as stories to the Slashdot submission queue. But this creates a dead area in between. Journals on their own can't be used to build audience.

If you want to submit, there's little reason to write a journal entry. If you want to write a long form journal entry, there's cultural baggage opposing self-promotion. You might as well publish on your own blog and find some way to pass it around competitors and Slashdot. Which only diminishes its value as a potential Slashdot submission. You've got a negative feedback loop going here with Slashdot's most important potential community asset.

Earlier, after finishing up the history of Kuro5hin's and Digg's respective implosions, I said I'd discuss a special opportunity emerging that Slashdot could perhaps exploit. Implying that such an event might happen again. And I definitely think that's the case. However, there is a big difference between then and today.

When Kuro5hin died it wasn't even a leader in its field. There was significant competition not just from Slashdot but numerous other sites as well. Similarly, Digg imploded with Reddit standing by ready to fill that market gap. But today Reddit is a last site standing. They hold an effective monopoly on link aggregation. As they say, they're the "Front Page of the Internet." And these days they are. This makes Reddit sticky in a way prior sites weren't.

However, like Kuro5hin and Digg, there are serious problems with a perception of submission queue rigging and censorship by Reddit moderators. And it's pervasive across the large subreddits.

For example, back in October of last year it became clear that moderators in /r/politics were engaged in wholesale censoring of major publications. Even by publishers who had won Polk and Pulizer prizes. I wrote about that and made a short video.

Then, a few months later in February 2014, a new scandal emerged whereby the mods in /r/techology were exposed as having employed a bot to censor all sorts of keywords from submissions. "Tesla," the car maker, was one. "NSA," another. Even "bitcoin." Terms clearly relevant to a technology forum. The scandal was so serious Alexis Ohanian - a site founder - removed himself from the mod team and site management demoted the subreddit from default status. That is, /r/technology is no longer a subreddit users are - by default - subscribed to when they first create new accounts.

Just recently, a web developer was banned from for submitting a project of his own. He created a video, asking:

Has Reddit become a place for celebrities and big brands benefit from free advertising while the average Redditor who wants to share a personal project gets shoed away?

In the video he then spoke to why this is a bad thing for community relations and how this experience has impacted his trust in the site. At least discussion of his experience hasn't been censored on /r/videos.

Regardless, the issue here isn't about this guy's trouble. There have been so many other examples of this kind of manipulation a pervasive expectation of community exploitation by Reddit admins and mods has developed. The community knows - or at least believes - they're being actively censored for Public Relations purposes. Which is exactly what happened at Digg right before implosion. And Kuro5hin before it, for slightly different reasons.

That means there's market pressure building for a free-as-in-speech competitor to appear. That's called opportunity.

Slashdot? This situation is exploitable. The publisher and editors should take this opportunity to punch that Alien Gorilla in the face and give Reddit a well deserved bloody nose. You can't get everything. But if you're aggressive you could cleave off a chunk of audience at /r/technology, /r/science, and /r/futurology.

This is YOUR OLD NERD AUDIENCE. Bring these people back to the fold by offering them what they want. An open community portal.

After these messes at Reddit and before that Digg perhaps they'll remember you fondly. Slashdot may have been incompetent but it was never corrupt. Not like that. At least nobody thought so. In contrast, that Big Bad Alien Gorilla wants it all so badly they've grown complacent to competition and arrogant to their community. Reclaim your community by promoting Slashdot as the free speech alternative to a now corrupt competitor. Just like Reddit did to Digg.

Combine that with fresh community content creation and you've got a strong means to rebuild your brand anew. With real community involvement and original content hosted locally. You'll know you're hitting them hard when Slashdot comment forums begin competing with Reddit in new comment numbers and page views. You'll know you're winning when Slashdot stories starts popping up in the Reddit new submissions queue.

In summary, it's my belief that Slashdot should change focus away from link aggregation to publishing professional and semi-professional original content. It should do this with community involvement by tweaking journal promotion to focus on community-publisher symbiosis. Dailykos is a model for process, Medium and Vice standards of quality. But most of all, you've got to change direction. The old model doesn't work any more. And recognizing that truth is the first step to change for the better.

I hope this has been an interesting read for /. editors and site stalwarts. And maybe even provided some useful suggestions. Good luck and may success follow regardless.

GNU is Not Unix

Journal Journal: systemd 1 1

Having read up on it, I don't think systemd is a bad idea. I rather like:

1. Doing away with shell scripts with huge amounts of redundant, and frequently badly written, garbage to manage starting and stopping system services.
2. Using cgroups to properly isolate, contain, and track system services.
3. Centralizing the services concept so it's network aware, rather than a separate inetd server

The major criticisms seem to be "I don't like change/I understand shell scripts" (well, true to a certain extent, but I don't think the current situation was particularly good), XML configuration (reportedly, having seen it, but yeah, XML sucks), and the developers are rude, arrogant, and assholish, which I assume means that the critics are also boycotting Linux and half a dozen other FOSS projects...

I think criticisms 1 and 2 are valid concerns and are essentially the same concern expressed twice. My belief is that there's much to be said for making configuration files as simple as possible, and to avoid manual configuration where possible. Hopefully that's what the systemd developers believe too.

A large number of installed systems work by fiat. That is, they work by being declared to work. -- Anatol Holt

Working...