1) Development issues
What important changes do you plan on making to the whole discussion thing?
Isn't it about time the moderation abuses and "first posters" are addressed?
Will we ever be able to moderate or score the articles themselves?
I'm toying with removing anonymous moderation, but I'm concerned about the moderation becoming the topic instead of the topic. Maybe that's good.
I'm also looking into the idea of spinning off discussions repeatedly marked as 'offtopic' into a "Related Threads" sorta thing. Mainly I'm trying to encourage people to stay on topic, but also to allow people who want to move offtopic to be able to do so... but without cluttering up Slashdot for those who want things more ordered.
I also would like an internal messaging system so that the system can send users notes. This would be really useful so that the system could alert users that a comment they wrote had been replied to. Or maybe that they have just been meta moderated. And it would be fun for message passing too.
A lot of the other changes are backend: Optimizations to make it easier for us to post stories more efficiently. Right now we have 4 to 6 people working in the middle of the day, and we need better communication to make that work better.
- Isn't it about time the moderation abuses and "first posters" are addressed?
I think they are being addressed. Try reading at Score:2 and see how many first posts you see. Even at Score:0, the vast majority of First Post comments are caught minutes after they are posted. Moderation abuses happen, but they usually are caught.
- Will we ever be able to moderate or score the articles themselves?
I've been trying to figure out a clean way to generate a composite rating for articles, but it's tricky. I mean, what do I weigh into such a metric? It has to include traffic, comments posted, and average rating of posts, as well as some sort of rating of the Slashdot story itself. And then in the end, what do we have? "This story was a 6, but that story was a 9?" I don't think that it would really help.
Whenever I think about adding a feature I try to think about the problem it is trying to solve. I don't think this solves a problem. What would you use this new metric for? Setting your user preferences to say "I only want to read stories with a metric of 5?" That seems pretty pathetic since these numbers would have great fluctuation.
In the end, such a metric would be neat only to settle curiosity. I don't know if it would be useful so I don't know if its worth the work.
Wordy way of saying that I'll probably do something like that at some point, but since its only for curiosity, I don't see it ending up on the front burner for awhile.
We've been talking about a variety of issues - one of the things that's been tossed around is creating a system to let people know that their comments have been replied to. This would be an interesting addition, as I think it would promote longer discussions.
One of other areas that's been suggested is giving a way to look at how much comments have been moderated without having to look at the comments, like a scoring index or something. That'd be an interesting touch, if nothing else, to see how controversial particular comments are.
- Isn't it about time the moderation abuses and "first posters" are addressed?
I think that the revoking of auto-long comment bonus has done substantial work on that. My general feeling is that logging in and reading the comments at Threshold 1 goes a long way towards helping to sift out the abuse comments.
- Will we ever be able to moderate or score the articles themselves?
That's an interesting concept, but one that's difficult to implement. What do you take into account? Comments? Click-thrus to read the comments? Rating the story itself? And should the author be rated as well? Morever, what point does this accomplish? The same as reading comments, in that you don't read some below a certain level? But I don't agree that comments and stories are the same thing - I think that sometimes stories that wouldn't get much as much traffic, and thus a lower metric, should still get attention from readers.
So, long way of saying, yes, something could/will be done, but it's difficult to decide what exactly "it" is.
2) Editorial Independence
Other media take steps to separate the Editorial from the business functions so as to maintain Editorial Independence.
What will Andover be doing to make sure we can continue to trust that Slashdot Editorial policy is not in thrall to advertisers' concerns?
Well, early on we had a couple struggles with that particular issue, but since they were settled things have been wonderful. They understand that we've got the vision for the site, and that if we compromise our vision Slashdot will suffer. They don't want Slashdot to suffer because it would hurt the amount of banner ads that can be sold on the site, plus the fact that they're simply being moral human beings.
Morever, we had a really good lawyer who worked with us on the deal. We've created a contractual situation to run things as we always have. Frankly, I don't like dealing with advertisers - even though I sold the banner ads for a while. It's not because I don't like selling the banner ads, but the notion of compromising is one that makes me squeamish inside.
I also get a huge amount of flame mail if anyone thinks we're compromising. Considering asbestos is hard to get your hands on these days, for my own self-protection I'll avoid it at all costs.
Closing: Basically, you need to trust us. You also need to tell us if you think it's happening. I don't think it will because of both Rob's and my non-desire for it, as well as, honestly, Andover's really good and sharp people, who actually have an understanding of Slashdot.
Take our word for it? Part of the Slashdot contract with Andover guaranteed that Hemos & I would be given editorial control over Slashdot. Our editorial independance is very important... I had to explain this one a few times in the early days at Andover when sales folks would try to get me to post stories for advertisers. Once I explained the concept of integrity they backed off.
3) Slash 0.4
For a long time now, those who want to use and improve the slashdot code have been wondering, and waiting, and hoping for the much promised 0.4 tarball. Many of them have in fact become quite irate about the lag between code releases, the lack of a CVS server, and the overall appearance that the slashdot gang doesn't practice what it preaches ("release early, release often"). How would you respond to these criticisms, and do you intend to change the development practices in any way in the future?
I get a nice flamey email about once a week from some ass who calls me a hypocrite and slams me for not getting out a new release. My usual response is to tell them that I delay the release by 24 hours each time someone asks me when a new Slash tarball will be out.
Seriously, there are only 3 people who really know how much work a source release for this is: CowboyNeal, Patrick and Me. And the three of us have been working on a lot of stuff. As I write this, we are bugfixing and documenting and preparing for a source release. There is a private CVS server that one day soon will be publicly read only.
This isn't like other projects: it has been custom fit to our hardware and to our needs. It doesn't have install scripts or help or even comments in the code. We're just too busy to play tech support helping dozens of people compile mod_perl and tune Apache. We've decided to squash the bugs and make a clean release rather than rush it.
It's really easy for someone to complain that I didn't release a new version of the source code every week. Its also easy to forget that in the last 6 months we've doubled in traffic and we've had to optimize our code and hardware to handle that. A new source release is secondary: Our job is running Slashdot. We want to release new versions of Slash, but it is a definite second priority to keeping Slashdot moving.
Finally, it's coming soon. It'll be out when its finished. And if you ask me again I'll postpone it again.
How well is Meta-Moderation working? What pergentage of Meta-Mods are unfair? Do you think that it has improved Moderation on /.?
I still meta-moderate on occasion, although the percentage of time that I do it has been dropping off. Why? Because in the beginning I was rating at least a few unfairs in every screenful, but at this point the percentage of unfairs I rate has really dropped off. I think that's a credit to the readers, really. We had huge numbers of people going through and rating the moderators, and we eliminated quite a number of moderators. The number of fairs is well north of the 90% range.
Informally I've gone in and meta moderated myself several times over the last few months and found the percentage of bad moderations dropping. When I started, every page of 10 M2 moderations I loaded had a couple of unfairs on it. These days I can occasionally load a page and get only fair moderations. I definitely think M2 has improved Slashdot.
5) Critical Person Insurance
How crucial are the two of you to Andover's vision of /.? Do you have a clause like Charles Schultz' that says that nobody else can edit slashdot? What happens if the whole thing stops being fun for you (as it very well might)? Do Andover suck in the loss, or do we get introduced to "Scrappy-Doo and SuperGeek, the ALL NEW slashdot crew"? Has Andover.net taken out critical person insurance on you in case something dreeadful happens? Could they, in principle, fire your asses, or force you to resign on matter of principle?
Our contract says we're staying at Andover for quite awhile, and I'm cool with that. I spent 2 years tailoring a job to be exactly what I wanted to do, and now Andover pays me every other week to continue doing it. As long as I'm involved with Slashdot, I have creative control. And they can't fire us without 'just cause'. And we have a good lawyer! So I'm not really concerned about that.
Well, as I said before, we've got a really nice contract. Rob and I are both on contract with Andover for quite some time yet - it's over 2 years that we are going to be there. Frankly, both of us really like it here and wouldn't want to go anywhere else. Our jobs involve doing what we love to do. As for the insurance question - yes. That's under control.
Like I was saying above, Andover recognizes how critical we and our vision of Slashdot are to Slashdot itself, and that makes for a good working situation. That, and we can only be fired for just cause, which as far as I can figure means that I need to be convicted of a felony, shoot Rob, or reshape Slashdot into an interpretative dance site.
6) One for all those grrls out there...
After going back and reading the archives from After Y2K, I have only one question, which I'm sure many of the women around here would like the answer to as well:
When will we finally see the "Men of /." pinup calendar at Think Geek?
I think the black-market calender has already surfaced on eBay. If I remember correctly, that's the shaved-and-baby-oil calender. The other, the one with the motorcycle picture, has been sighted as far as Beta Teugue and as close as 7-11.
Just as soon as someone decides to start randomly gimping my face onto pictures of the hunks from Baywatch or something. Quite frankly, my real body ain't quite pinup-worthy, but with a little doctoring I could be super hunky.
7) Personal life?
by Mark A. Storer
I guess this is a question for both of you:
How's life in meatspace?
Lets just lay all technical issues aside for a moment. I want to know Who You Are, as people, not webmasters.
We have a pretty good idea of the comings and goings of your professional lives, but what about your friends, family, and groupies?
Thats a big question for a little interview, isn't it?
I think anyone who reads Slashdot (or who has read Slashdot since Chips and Dips) has a really good idea of what I'm into: Linux, Hacking, Movies. CmdrTaco.Net shows a lot of my art. I'm into ceramics. I spend my free time with my girlfriend, who also is a homebody. I watch South Park and the Simpsons and the X-Files. I obsessively play my guitar whenever I possibly can (and drive hemos nuts: I keep my Les Paul in the office and play it far too loud whenever possible). I don't leave the house very often (I've put 2,200 miles on my car in the last 6 months) except to go to the airport for conferences. Most of my friends live here at the geek compound too.
Frankly, I've had the best year of my life. Slashdot's been doing really well, which makes me happy. I'm going to be getting married in June (24th, for all you wedding present purchasers. :)) and have moved comfortably into psuedo-parenthood of my fiancee's daughter.
At some point in the next six months I'll probably be moving. There's a couple of places in mind right now, one East, in the Boston area, while Ann Arbor, MI is also a contender.
Besides my recent housefire, I've had a really good year. I work with some of my closest friends, and have had more time recently go out hiking and spend time in the room-with-blue-ceiling. I think I'll be taking a vacation sometime in the next few months and may not even bring a computer.
Plus, Moby released "Play" which is one of the best albums ever.
8) What About the Slashdot Story Submission Queue?
I think it would be interesting to be able to view the story submission queue. That is, what type of stories are being submitted, which stories are being rejected and why, and other interesting trivia. Would you allow users to be able to view this queue, and if not, why?
One comment: Having us write rejections is probably impossible. I've tried to do the math, but considering the sheer amount of submissions we get, the people-power to write the rejection reasons won't work. Perhaps as a drop-down box, but still - we're dealing with hundreds per day.
This is in the FAQ dammit! I don't wanna answer it again! Thats what the FAQ is FOR! AAAAGGHHH!
Seriously, there are a lot of reasons that it would make sense to do this. Unfortunately there are a lot of reasons not to do this too. The reason is abuse. If you saw some of the crap that gets submitted, you'd understand. Besides that, I don't want the submissions bin to be littered with noise like "First Post" and "Meept". We're already really busy sifting through 300 odd submissions each day, and we don't need it to be a game.
9)What happened to browser and os stats?
by John Ratke
There used to be a slashdot page where we could see the daily hit count by browser and OS. While sometimes depressing (2/3's browsing from Windows!), it was very interesting. Is there any chance we will see this again? Is this now information that you feel you need to keep private for some reason? What about the number of registered slashdot users? Could we find that out?
I stopped logging it. I could stick it back in someday, but since I wasn't logging browser info, I couldn't generate those numbers. Maybe we'll do that again someday. Its fun trivia if nothing less.
by Col. Klink (retired)
The DVDCA named /. as a John Doe in the DeCSS case. Will you guys be personally fighting this battle, or letting others? Will you be donating $ to EFF to help fight this battle?
We aren't personally fighting this. Because the case is based in Santa Clara, and Rob starts gibbering whenever he's taken outside, we won't be doing shuttle commuting to the hearings. Chris DiBona has been keeping an eye on it, and Andover's lawyers are obviously interested in what's going on. I think because of our corporate involvement in it, we won't be contributing money to the EFF, but will be using our own resources to help in the fight.
I think after the upcoming Jan. 14 hearing we'll take stock of where things are then, and if the situation is such that we need to get personally involved, than by all means.
I don't really know what we're gonna do quite yet. As it stands, I really don't think they have much of a case: the First Amendment gives us freedom of speech. It means we can talk about things. It means we can share information. And it means that simply talking about a piece of code is no more illegal then talking about how you feel about Chechnya or how your Senator voted on something.
11) One Definitive Day
It seems like whenever we embark on some crazy job, there ends up being one day we always remember, one set of circumstances that we could never have experienced without beginning that journey but never have predicted in advance.
Since the creation and subsequent explosion of Slashdot, what one day stands out in your mind as the most randomly odd of them all?
I can't pick just one. Here are the most critical:
1. The day Mozilla's Open Source announcement hit. Many people were crediting Slashdot along with ESR for the big news. It was definitely a defining moment, and a major publicity thing. We doubled our traffic in the following weeks. That was when the mainstream media started skimming Slashdot for story ideas.
2. The day I quit my "Real" job and started work on Slashdot full time. I was freaked out for a week.
3. The night I changed the moderation system from 20-odd people to 500 people with a single database query. I knew that it was a major step towards creating a scalable system to encourage group discussion.
I think there's a few times that really stand out:
-One of them is the Hellmouth series. The post-Columbine writing really brought an outpouring of writing and people to Slashdot, as well as a lot of attention from the outside world.
-The Mozilla Story was one of our first stories that really got a lot of the outside world interested in Slashdot and what we were doing. This was probably our first stepping stone to building what we've currently got.
-Comments. The day that comments really started is when this whole sense of community really developed. Without comments, this interview wouldn't exist, and this site would not be what it is today.
12) More "News for Nerds" Please...
While others have commented on the degrading S/N ratio of the user comments, I would like to bring attention to the degrading S/N ratio of the stories.
I believe Slashdot got much of its "mature" geek following back when most of the headlines were apolotical in nature. A couple years ago, the biggest threads were generated while discussing new microarchitectures, physical limits of the lithography process, the size of the universe, and other *real* high-tech news.
Since the stories were less subject to political debate, the S/N ratio was good. Now, the only "tech" stories are about nanotech (thanks hemos!) or the Aibo.
With Andover.net now owning Slashdot, am I just SOL? I know that most of the stories are going to be Linux/GPL/Open Source related, and that's fine. But please, Please, *PLEASE*, don't forget that many of your readers are well educated, and would like to spend time thinking about something new and exciting in the tech world rather than reading 500 posts ending with M$ $ucks...
Thanks for the nanotech props. I love my nanites, as everyone well knows. It's a hard question to answer, though. I guess I think that there's stories that go up that I wouldn't really want to be on there. That's been an on-going struggle to define what we want to appear and what we don't want to appear. Remember, as well, that we are limited by what people submit to us, so we're choosing from that bin. We've been trying to do less on the main page, and more in the sections - like YRO, Apache, BSD, and now a Science section.
I'm open to suggestions as to how to keep that up - and please, submit all the stuff that you think is good signal - but remember that it might be someone else's noise.
I don't think what we've posted has significantly changed in the last few years... I think that what happens is that each person only remembers the stories that mattered most to them. The brain has a fuzzy compression algorithm... so the thing that you remembered as being the best on Slashdot was microarchitecture and lithography... but I get email from other people complaining that we should post less of that sort of stuff and more about Linux "Like it used to be" when Slashdot never was just about Linux... they apparently are just remembering the Linux stories with more clarity.
The facts are that we post what people submit. If nothing cool happens in an area, then nothing gets posted. If nobody submits when something cool happens, well, then it won't get posted.
But when the sun sets, we've posted 10 to 15 stories that we think are interesting and we hope you do too. We've done this 8000 times (I've posted over four thousand stories alone!) in the last 2.5 years. Sometimes they're all good. Sometimes there are a few that aren't so hot. Other times so much cool stuff happened that we just couldn't squeeze it all in. But in a year, you're only going to remember the stories that hit you the hardest.
Tomorrow: Steve Wozniak answers.