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Running To The Website 215

The excerpting of my book "Running To The Mountain" on Slashdot last week was shockingly and surprisingly successful. Because of the excerpting here, I shot near the top of Amazon's Top 100-selling books in just a few hours, and stayed on the list all weekend. This experiment in digital literary empowerment flew in the face of just about every conventional publishing wisdom about how books and the Internet and Web do -- or don't -- interact. It suggested that for writers, as well as for so many other groups, the Net can, in fact, be just as empowering as gasbags like me have been saying for years. What happened to me wasn't supposed to happen. It shocked my publisher, and more than a few journalists. And typically,it provoked some especially ugly -- and for me, quite sad -- discussions and accusations on the site.

Last week's excerpt of a chapter from my new book "Running To The Mountain" was a Net experiment, a chance to practice what I preach, and to test the boundaries of the much-invoked idea that the Net "empowers" people in new ways.

It succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams, especially those of my stunned publisher. And it might have made a bit of publishing history.

The idea to publish an excerpt from this particular book on this site was always both a stretch and a gamble. Although I'd talked to several magazines last year, including Wired and Outside, about excerpting it, I decided in January to offer the first serial rights to Rob and Jeff, who founded and run Slashdot.

This site has become my spiritual and literal Web home, and I've come to see the open source and free software movements as the most significant - and appealing -- movements in media.

My publisher was wary of the idea, since the rights were being offered for free. And since mainstream books are almost never launched on the Net or the Web, at least not successfully. And even though the chapter that was being excerpted related to technology and spirituality, it wasn't exactly the daily fare of Slashdot's technologically sophisticated editorial menu.

But I argued that the Net is inherently spiritual, and that technology can sometimes fit into that impulse. And that I'd rather see any money go to Slashdot (as an Amazon associate, they get a tiny slice of every book sold from the site, a long-standing and publicly disclosed arrangement) than to some magazine or publisher. I wanted to sell books, but also to demonstrate the potential of the Net for increasingly embattled writers as well as people wanting to buy stocks and talk about sex. An open source site - my open source site - seemed the right place to do that.

Everybody has to understand that this impulse flies in the face of every conventional wisdom in publishing: Media there means "Slate" or The New York Times or NPR, the thinking goes. It does not mean a website founded by some kids from Holland, Mi., with a Penguin for a symbol and names like Cmdr Taco and Hemos.

You can't sell books on the Net, is a publishing mantra. People are so used to getting things free that they won't pay for anything. People online not only don't read, but the very existence of the Net and the Web are destroying reading.

But Rob and Jeff generously agreed to excerpt the book, a personal account of a Mid-life trek to a mountaintop partly inspired by the late (and technology-hating writer - monk) Thomas Merton. Mostly I think, Rob and Jeff published the chapter because I'm an author on the site and they wanted to help.

They didn't know that I am what's called a "mid-list" author - this means I don't sell a lot of books, Grisham or McCourt style. Those kinds of writers make a lot of money. And those at the bottom of the list are usually academic or literary writers who don't write for money. People outsideof publishing often don't know what somebody like me will never make it to Oprah, and that as a "mid-list" author, I'm something of an endangered literary species.

Given the rise of giant publishing conglomerates (like my own publisher Random House) and chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, it increasingly isn't really worth much of anybody's time to publish writers like me. We just don't move enough books.

So for some years now, me and hundreds of writers like me, have been trapped in mid-list Hell, struggling for a way to reach readers beyond the conventional gatekeepers - publicists, marketers, reviewers, talk-show hosts and producers. Writing for some years about the Net and Web, I knew I was staring at just such an alternative possibility, but had never had the chance to put it to the test.

Fortunately for me, a number of different things converged. I started writing for Slashdot, which has, along with interest in OSS, taken off. My Random House publicist loves and understands the Net (the first publicist I've ever met at a publishing house who does). I've been experimenting for weeks now with the effects of linking my book subject to various Websites whose readers and members might be interested - Merton sites, geek sites, Boomer sites, even Yellow Lab sites, since the book prominently features my two dogs.

So last Thursday, the day the book excerpt ran on Slashdot, and I caught another break. USA Today wrote a long, enthusiastic review ( .. Things really cranked into high gear. I e-mailed Jeff Bates (Hemos here) who inserted the review into the body of the excerpt. My publicist quickly e-mailed the review and the Slashdot URL to other Websites, reporters and reviewers.

Few at Random House thought this experiment had much of a chance of working, I could tell. The notion that books couldn't be sold via the Web has become an article of faith, even as the recognition that the Web is important is growing.

A week ago, my Amazon ranking was 1.2 million. (There are about three million titles offered on Amazon. The morning Slashdot excerpted my book, my ranking was 9,000. The book hadn't yet shipped to bookstores but a few hundred copies were in the Amazon warehouse. Some perspective here: Amazon is one of many thousands of booksellers in America. It takes hundreds, not tens of thousands of books to shoot up on their list. But few writers like me ever sell hundreds of books in a two or three day period, let alone a few hours.

Within two hours of the Slashdot excerpt, I had shot up to the Amazon top-selling 100 books list. The people at Random House were flabbergasted. My book had their full attention.

The people at Amazon were surprised too. One editor there sent me an e-mail in the morning that read: "What the hell is going on? Your book is taking off!" By 2 p.m, the book was in the top 50. By that night, it was at 22.

Everyone's first impulse was to cite the USA Today review. But that didn't make sense. It was obvious to me that it was Slashdot that was driving the books. For one thing, USA Today is linked to Barnes & Noble's website, not Amazon. For another, newspaper reviews, even great ones like that, rarely move that many books so quickly.

By 7 p.m. Thursday, Amazon was out of books (they've gotten more), and the order time went from 1-2 days to two weeks. They remained out of books all weekend. The book began to show up in bookstores Sunday night and Monday.

It's hard to describe just how astonishing this was. For a book about spirituality and personal experience to be launched on an open source Website and then jump to the top of the Amazon list, ahead of some of the best-selling authors in the country, was shocking. The USA Today review helped, for sure. But since the book wasn't even on bookstore shelves, the overwhelming bulk of the sales had to come off of Slashdot.

This has a lot of significance for writers and publishing. And for websites like Slashdot as well. Writers can connect directly with their own audiences and free themselves of the marketing process. Smaller and more idiosyncratic writers can escape the mass-marketing pressure of modern publishing and reach smaller, niche audiences. More people - including people familiar with how the Web works - can become writers. And those Web audiences will buy books. The fact that so many /. readers would step outside of their own specialized interests and experiences suggest an audience that will make specialized and individual decisions about what it wants to buy, see or read.

Publishers can perhaps begin to grasp that their phobic, reactionary and profoundly uncreative response to the Internet is wrong. The Net won't harm literature or books. It could very well be the salvation of both.

By Saturday, the word that something unusual had happened was buzzing around publishers and media types - fitting enough, via e-mail. I'd gotten numerous e-mails and calls from publishing executives, reporters and writers asking what had happened, and how it had happened.

I told them that I was practicing what I'd been preaching. The Net is, in fact, empowering, and wherever it goes, people like me can take more responsibility for their own work and lives, bypass the very many greedy and spiritless people who only look at numbers and stats, and create my own history.

These days, writers are viewed in much the same way welfare recipients are - a dependent culture nobody wants to subsidize any longer. To some extent, it's a brutal new reality. But to some extent, it's also fair. How many of the people reading this are subsidized and supported in their work?

The very coolest part of all this is that I hacked the Net to sell a book that wasn't a cyber-book and became a best-seller, even if it turns out to have been for just a few glorious days. I've learned on Slashdot, and especially while struggling to use my Linux operating system, that hacking isn't just about breaking into phone companies. It's about taking control, learning how to master and use the system. Very heady stuff.

The Amazon editor e-mailed me on Friday to say that if the excerpt had stayed up on Slashdot (it is still up in the book section), I would have gone to Number One, almost certainly.

This is a great launch, and it was done on the Net and Slashdot. The book is just coming out. I have the book tour, more publicity and reviews, and plenty of Net and Web mischief to make. No matter what happens with here, I'm pleased with myself, with the Net, and with Slashdot. I spent the weekend linking the excerpt and the review to more than 100 different websites, and throughout the weekend, the book stayed in the Amazon Top 100 lists.

It was definitely one of the high points of my writing life, and an affirmation of my faith in the Net and the Web as a generous, profoundly liberating place.

So thanks.

Mail-to: *********

On a less happy, more personal note. The successful launch of "Running To The Mountain" was marred by some especially ugly public postings the day the excerpt ran. For the first time since I've been writing on Slashdot - more than three months - I've had an experience with public posts and flaming that I felt crossed the line of civility, decency and fairness. Perhaps it's a simple-minded fantasy, but I see places like Slashdot not as collections of strangers, but as new kinds of communities within which we often - always even - violently disagree, but yet still understand that we all belong here.

My transition here has been tough and rewarding. I've had copy transmission and bug problems, had to struggle with a whole new technical language, grasp a new kind of media movement, and taken on what is for me a fundamental challenge - mastering Linux. As many of you know, while I've been welcomed here by the vast majority of Slashdotters, some have argued that I hadn't proven my techno-manhood on a kick-ass site like this and shouldn't be allowed to write here.

This is something I've encountered in one form or another for much of my life, so it really hasn't bugged me. It happens on all Websites, including Hotwired, where I wrote for three years. Writing online, one can't hide behind secretaries, voice-mail or security guards. The people who are unhappy with you are sitting right there next to what you right, and that's fine with me. If you can't take it, you won't last long online.

Flaming is part of the free spirit of the Web, and nobody should feel under the least bit of pressure to like me or agree with what I write. I agree with the sentiments of many of the flamers, mostly young males, that one of their functions is to keep people like me in check.

But the ugliness and venality of some of the public postings about the excerpt descended to a new level, even though many hundreds of you expressed support in the most direct and powerful possible way - you bought my book.

Some posters argued this was Katz-worship, a bizarre suggestion given the criticism I've gotten here, and how many books are mentioned, reviewed, and referred to on this site. From the first, the people e-mailing me on Slashdot have always been intensely and very diversely literate, bombarding me daily with book recommendations and ideas, from novels to computer books.

But the public posters - a small group which dominates public discussions -- function in a different, if parallel universe. One even suggested this was some sort of a corrupt "kick-back" arrangement by which a book unrelated to OSS content was excerpted, so that the owners of the site -- and me -- could make lots of money. Others said the content of the excerpted was unrelated to a technology site and shouldn't have been published.

This was pretty tough to read, not only because it's hurtful but because it's false. First off, it's absurd. If anyone at Slashdot makes a total of $50 from the excerpting of my book I'd be stunned. We're talking about hundreds of books here, not thousands, and royalties and percentages are tiny all around. Writers like me make so little money from the books we write, can't do them full time. In fact, my book advances and royalties are almost embarrassingly small. I couldn't possibly live off them.

And that's not a complaint. I love writing, and choose freely to do it. But there's no way my book can make a lot of money, even if it sells thousands of copies. That's not how publishing works. And there's sure no way the people running Slashdot are going to get anything more than a good dinner off of publishing my excerpt, and then if they go to Taco Bell. Publishers make money off huge, Oprah-driven best-sellers and specialty books about cooking, sex, religion or the Millenium. So writers like me write for different places - magazines, Websites, plus books - in order to make a living.

Whether people like the book or not, I'm also puzzled and surprised that anybody could argue that the subject matter of the chapter - the conflict between technology and spirituality - wasn't appropriate for Slashdot (truthfully, hardly anybody did make that argument except for the posters. Almost none of my e-mail did). Wired magazine thought it was appropriate enough for them. And hundreds of people on the site bought the book, the clearest refutation of that idea. Rob and Jeff would publish excerpts from the book of any Slashdot author, and be supportive of any book in any way they could. Thanks to them for that.

I can't complain because people disagree with me or my writing. It's also perfectly appropriate to jeer at my presence and my opinions. But when posters cross the line into vicious unfounded accusations, they've entered a different place. They've just become a brutal, ignorant mob.

Anybody who sincerely had questions about this, and wanted answers, as opposed to the joy of public preening, could have simply e-mailed me, and still can. I answer all of it:

The fact is, there was a generous intent all around here. I write for Slashdot for free, and gave the rights to Slashdot for free, hoping that might draw some attention to the site, which it did, and if it helped them pay the rent and acknowledge the vast amounts of work they do to make this site for very little money, that was great. If it sold some books, even better.

To take this impulse and try and translate into some venal, mean-spirited enterprise seemed to me to go over the boundary of civilized disagreement, to betray the spirit of any community. It was ugly and disturbing, and not at all representative of the many people who e-mailed me their support and encouragement and who bought the book. If the excerpt and the response were a high point of my writing and Net life, this small but angry and hostile group of people embodied one of the lows.


You can pick up the book at Amazon.

CT : I'd like to post a tiny addendum to Katz's bit here. As usual, the postings on the original review got flamey. This time it was really bad. I often am offended by Comments posted on Slashdot, but I'm rarely sad that I work so many hours running the site. Hate filled comments are the one thing that sucks about running Slashdot. It breaks my heart to see people use something that so many people work so hard (for so little) on, as a weapon for them to scream about anything that they disagree with. It's all right to disagree, but try to be civil about it. Katz is an important part of Slashdot. You can disagree, but I'm glad to have him here, and when it is all said and done, it is my decision. And it was the correct one. The postive mail about Jon always outweighs the negative, and more importantly, I usually enjoy reading Jon's articles. That's always my first goal- posting stories I want to read. I think thats why you guys are here- what you like is similiar enough to what I like that it's all worth it.

This whole hoopla really made my day- finally Katz got a little payback for the dozens of columns he wrote for free for a rinky dink little website. We probably got a few bucks to. But hopefully- and most importantly- a few of you got a book that you'll enjoy reading. Not a bad days work for anyone. If we can ignore the flames.

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Running To The Website

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I check /. at least once a day. And Jon's stuff is almost always the first thing I read. He is the closest thing to an advocate I have in the regular slashdot posters.

    I'm not usually an A.C. (I don't have the cookie at work), but I'm almost always a lurker. I'm a designer and a Mac user. I loathe Windows, and yearn to be a Be user (still waiting for those apps!), but I'm not sure that I will be using a *nix derivative on my desktop for years, except for OS X. This isn't because I hate the idea of *nix, it's just because I'm set in my ways in the apps I use. I think that the open source movement is the best thing to happen to computing since the Macintosh, and I await the window for my smooth transition to open source tools. But it's not there yet.

    In short, I love slashdot and what it stands for. I love that open source exists. I am not a coder, or a hacker. I'm almost a tinkerer. But I think that slashdot is still the most important site on the web right now. Does that make sense?

    So go ahead and flame me, and tell me that I don't belong here. Whatever. But you will realize one of these days that Jon does. He's one of the things that makes this place great.

    wugmump (josh goldberg)
  • by Gleef ( 86 )
    I'm a radical spritualist mystic, actually. And I don't think John Katz talks to much. The majority of /.ers don't seem to think he talks too much. It's just a small group of Anonymous Cowards who talk too much about how they hate him.

    PS: Slashdot poll question idea!
    I consider myself:
    * Atheist
    * Agnostic
    * Deist
    * Catholic
    * Christian (other than Catholic)
    * Muslim
    * Jewish
    * Buddist
    * Hindi
    * Wiccan
    * Other
    * Huh?

    I suspect agnostic will be most common, but that's just a wild guess.
  • Open Rant/Letter
    It's disturbing to see Slashdot used as a publicity vehicle for, as I most unkindly said the last article, an aging hippie writer. "This site has become my spiritual and literal Web home". How many people can, without embarrassment, make statements about their spiritual web homes? One thing for damn sure- this is part of the reason why Katz doesn't get along with genX.
    I have to confess to a little personal anger and frustration, though, and this tends to make me harsher than I might otherwise be. I am a writer, too. In fact, in a previous Katz thread, a couple people were saying 'ditch Katz and hire the Chris!' *hehe*
    That's not going to happen, as near as I can tell. One thing that is happening is that I'm trying to help out the Golgotha project's story team- this is almost the writer equivalent of open source. It's not going to pay me anything, but it might be a foot in the door of something somewhere, if Golgotha can be made to be not embarrassingly dim :)
    Also, while Jon Katz is getting tremendous support for a non-Linux related book that he's selling at Amazon, I've never seen any publicity for my novels []- of which, one ("Kings of Rainmoor") is actually finished. For personal reasons I ended up putting all this work on the web so it could be enjoyed by people, because I felt that the business was so locked up by people like Jon Katz that I had no hope of breaking in. I gave up a lot to do this, to 'free' this work (it is still copyright Chris Johnson, mind you, but I'm not charging to read it). I gave up hope, to give this to people. It makes it hard to justify writing more of it, since it can't buy me food or shelter, since it displaces other activity that might help me survive.
    Now here comes Katz, making big bucks off Slashdot publicity. That stings.
    I hope, I seriously hope, that Katz's exploits here will change the way internet publication is viewed. All this time I've been quite certain that my own open publishing of my work has completely scuttled any hope of ever actually _selling_ it. I would be delighted to be proved wrong- and I have always secretly hoped someone would read my site and go, at best, 'Hey, can we have paperback rights? Lot of people without Web access you know', or more plausibly, 'Do you have anything like that which is _not_ all up on the web? We can use this web one as a publicity angle'. I'd willingly do that- though I'm not being given the opportunity at the moment.
    The situation of the internet artist is a dicey one. It would be terrific to see this change. However, from the perspective of someone who's actually made the choice to give something to the largely distracted community- I don't see Katz's experience as a blow for freedom. I see it as an aging hippie unthinkingly using a community as his soapbox, for personal gain. I don't think this is his primary intention, but he isn't doing anything that the typical slashdot reader would have as an option.
    Again: Katz angers me with this. I'm offended that he can so easily cash in on slashdot and be praised for it, and all I seem to have available is to put up work I've sweated blood over, and watch mostly nothing happen. I am _not_ a writer luser. However, I'm out of the loop.
    If Katz's 'self-discovery through publishing contracts' makes it easier for people to find and understand _me_ (hey, even if I still can't make a fscking cent from the art I love and have slaved over!) then it is, in some way, a good thing. If it makes it more likely that somehow, in some way, I or someone like me can actually get some bread money from writing 'customers' (readers, publishers...) then this is a very good thing. If this never goes beyond one person's ability to use an unrelated community for personal gain, then it's not a good omen.
    In the meantime, you can be damn sure I'm going to add the link to my novels [] again. That's something I can do, and it's even somewhat relevant. I am very aware, right now, when trying to slashdot myself, that I haven't set up for personal gain from this publication at all. If you want to, and can get to a Mac, you could register one of my GPLed shareware programs- they are set up through Kagi Shareware. I worked hard on those too, and made them available to all, including source up on the web and in the downloads. Some people have greatly admired this, and thought it was just great. Nobody has ever registered even one program through Kagi. I am going now to put computer-repair paycheck money into the back and pay a fee from one of my checks bouncing- this will reduce the amount of groceries I can afford for the rest of the month.
    Katz, I can't buy your book. I'm having trouble buying food. I've been sharing a lot, over the years. I don't know if I can do this dance much longer. But then, you're not doing it at all, are you? Do _you_ think there is value in giving to the community? What is the direction you're actually going in- what is the message you have for publishers? For fellow artists? Please think about this. If my views disturb you, they should- I've been harsh. It's easy to be harsh when you're out of the loop, and it's easy to not mind it when you have it made- but it seems that you do have vulnerabilities, after all, and one thing that truly hurts you is being attacked on your sincerity.
    Please decide where you really stand. Are you with us, or are you not? If you are, then you're suddenly in a hell of a position to help us. You, not CmdrTaco, not I, are the one who might be doing talk shows, plugging this book, working the angle about how suddenly Internet publicity made it take off. You are the one who can choose between basking in the attention, or evangelizing like Eric Raymond that there are _people_ out there, who care and work hard and are getting nothing but some random links on other people's web pages. Tell them about us, about Golgotha, about me. Tell them it's a gold mine, that one could trawl the web like a Hollywood director trolling for starlets, and grab up fully realized talents that were rotting in the digital equivalent of Paducah. Tell them that it's true, that people with no inside track can take their case to the people on the Web, and that you can package it and sell it without removing it from the freedom of the Web- you can have virtual and paperback both, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. It can hardly be more of a crapshoot than publishing already is, and you can get vital publicity through Web grassroots. Sell them the dream... and in so doing, you'll finally find a role far beyond linux dilettante and cheerleader, a role that perhaps you're meant for, a role that's come to you if you have the guts to take it.
    Please, Jon, give it a try. For us.
  • There was a poll attached to the Lose The Gasbag article (on the right side; couldn't miss it). Same type as usual, updated automatically, etc.

    Katz won.
  • The article was clearly titled as to let one know that it was the plate to be if you wanted to dump the gasbag. If folks cared enough to want Katz gone, they could have gone in there.

    That's right, it's encouraging only interested folks to vote! I consider this a Good Thing.
  • I voted on that thing while it was up.

    I can see bringing it down after a while as reasonable. Would you say that the presidential election should remain open, so that if at any time during a term someone else gets a higher approval rating the head guy gets the boot? Same idea. Perhaps it could be rerun, but there's no reason the poll should still exist as an open vote.

    Btw, I voted in that article, monitored its change over time, etc and have no reason to believe anything fishy was going on there. Regarding the skin-of-his-teeth comment... . We'll see if Katz replies to explain that.
  • I disagree. The hardcopy is not like a binary. An electronically posted version is not like the source.

    By this reasoning, distributing software only via CD (but with source) would be akin to distributing a binary only. It is not. Not by a long shot.

    A text is its own source. The licencing on how that source can be redistributed... now, that's a valid thing to argue. Not the initial means of distribution.
  • Posted by HolyMackeralAndy:

    Guess we now know another use for the /. effect.
  • Posted by rayola:

    I think people are being too harsh, in fact. But that's the way life is. As it says at the bottom of the page here, "Love your enemies: they'll go crazy trying to figure you out"... I think we should all be friends. It's a mean world out there, but somebody's gotta stop yelling.

    It hurts my eyes to read.
  • Posted by Dukane:

    Give it a break and ease up a little dude. I don't
    care how much you know it is always good to get another point of view. If you do not want to read
    what Jon has too say then don't. Or perhaps you just like to belly ache about things you do not understand. Give it a break Felix.
  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    I will try to be "civil", whatever that means. I won't swear once, so as to maybe make it more difficult for you to justify censoring this.

    I have from time to time flamed katz on some issues, but have defended him at times as well. Sure, he may not be as technically literate as some /. readers but that is no reason to dismiss his work our of hand, some of which I thought was quite good.

    But this "excerpt publishing" is gross. Based on the fact that

    1) Non-technical, let alone human interest literature is not usually directly related to what /. is supposed to be about. There are exceptions but this is usually true.

    2) Such articles are often flamed as irrelevant, especially non-technical articles by katz.

    Thus your posting, katz, of an excerpt from your book was both 1) not particularly wanted by a significant number of people and 2) directly led to your financial gain. The first result is not really debatable IMHO because of the strong backlash of flames. As far as your claim that you stood to make little money of the deal, so what? Even if this book makes you nothing, I think you will find it hard to deny that the reputation gained from being on the best-seller list at Amazon is worth quite a bit.

    So how can we not consider this a shameless exploitation of the /. effect for personal gain? Wait, you argue, some /. readers found my work interesting. So what. Some recipients of spam find the services advertised useful as well. The fact of the matter is that you took advantage of the undeniable privalage of writing for /.

    What if every person who was involved in a free software service of some sort decided to take advantage of their position to help themselves financially? What if RMS decided to refer to his recent book on his sex life while writing emacs in the help section? What if Linus decided to reference his kernel developers CD in the kernel source? The list goes on and on. If this happened we would no longer have the OSS model that we have today. We would have proprietary software with only the appearance of freedom. Why do you think RMS fights so hard against O'Reilly?

    The proper thing to do, IMHO, would have been for you to put a reference to your book _on your homepage_, not /. You would still have gotten some traffic, via your name, and it would have then been appropriate. But you did not do this. Instead you used /. You are a hypocrite. I only flamed you mildly before because I thought that maybe you had made a mistake and had perhaps thought, somewhere, in the back of your mind that this was not right. But instead you come back with another string of thanks for the /. readers, followed by a holier-than-thou post about how the flaming is out of control. That is inexcusable.

    As for you Malda, I will never again take your endless condemnation of censorship seriously. You have continually pointed to virulent posts that were not removed, or only had their threshold lowered, as evidense of your belief in the free exchange of ideas. But now that we finally have an issue which affects you personally, now that it finally matters what people say, you say that /. comments are ultimately "your decision" and ones that aren't civil are to be removed. (I assume you were referring to the suggestions that there was some sort of kickback scheme by this.)

    So just what is civil? Is anything that is unpleasent to those in charge uncivil? If that is the case, then without incivility, there would be no freedom.

    I don't know if there was a kickback scheme. I am inclined to doubt it, and to further believe katz when he says he did not stand to make a lot of money. But that doesn't matter. What transpired here goes against all that /. has claimed to stand for.
  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    This is what RMS was referring to, I believe, when he said "shallowness" was increasingly prevalent in modern society.
  • Posted by Chris Morrone:

    This really isn't novel at all, what Katz did was simply advertising. He advertized his book in a place that is read by a great many people, and those people just HAPPEN to fit his target audience, thanks to all of the articles he has written here.

    No one who reads Slashdot should be suprised by the result, we are already familiar with the "slashdot effect". Neither should it suprise us that the "suits" didn't realize the power of internet advertising; they just don't have the inmagination to see the opportunities that the internet have for them.

    So my main point here is that this probably wasn't very shocking or "empowering" for the readership of Slashdot. Keep your target audience in mind please.

  • Materialism, as a philosophical term, simply means that you think 'stuff' is all that exists. No 'spirits', no 'souls', or any of that, just 'stuff'. Materialists are almost always determinists too, since with a 100% materialistic viewpoint, the only source for free will would be randomness, and that's not quite the same thing.

    Just because you are a materialist doesn't mean your only motivation is distribution of possessions, as was stated earlier in this subthread. You can still be motivated by emotional things like 'the need to be free' or 'love'. You don't have to *own* 'stuff' in order for that 'stuff' to affect you in some way.
  • That's a good idea, but the groups overlap too much. (For example, the fact that Wiccans are a subset of Pagans).

    This is especially true of agnosticism. Agnosticism isn't about what you belive, it's about whether you believe you have the proof to back it up or not, and why. It is possible to be an agnostic athiest (Although I know can't technically prove anything, I find the idea of God unconvincing and I put it in the same category as UFOs and leprechauns, which I can't technically disprove either.)
  • Telling someone he has to sign his name to what he says is not censorship.
  • The proper thing to do, IMHO, would have been for you to put a reference to your book _on your homepage_, not /.

    ...What transpired here goes against all that /. has claimed to stand for.

    It's Rob's call. He's in charge of the evolution of /., but I'm sure that the cacophony of responses to this (and similar) topics has its way of getting into his thought processes. I've only been lurking and posting for a year, but it hasn't changed so much in that time that the site is ruined; there are things on the periphery that have changed - passwords, disclaimers, AC Hell, the new sport of Sengan-bashing, m'odd-erators, "First Post!"... but the great "kernel" is still very much there. Yes, I am slightly squeamish about the New Slashdot Effect being used with Katz' book; but it's not like he publishes a book every week.

    ...What if RMS decided to refer to his recent book on his sex life while writing emacs in the help section?


    This is hypothetical, right?



  • Actually, i believe Rob used to use HTML to write all his docs and print them with netscape.
  • You're also into spiritual stuff, and many of those in the /. community are radical materialist atheists.

    In my youth, I was hostile to the concept of "spirituality", mostly because it was an oft-thrown-around word which nobody seemed to be able to adequately define, for my tastes. Now that I'm older, I understand it better, yet managed to remain steadfast in my faith that there is no god.

    Life, the universe, and everything is an awe-inspiring subject of thought -- and that's all that spirituality really is. There's nothing about being godless that prevents one from experiencing the mental state that some call "spirituality". The relationships between matter, energy, and information alone do it for me -- as do minds, memes, and media. Or models & mathematics. The quantum universe and the macroscopic. Endless meta-levels of abstraction. Transcending the holism/dualism dichotomy, badump-crash.

    Oh, and the vastness of space. There's a good one.

    P.S. Thank you, Jon Katz, for challenging the vocal minority of intolerant simpletons. And thank you, Rob Malda, for letting everybody know how you feel about their hostility. Put it in the FAQ for posterity.

  • by pohl ( 872 )
    ...and NOW we have to read about...

    You're not required to read anything here. It's all optional.

    "Where do you get-off wasting an hour of my life? I've got half-a-mind to turn the TV off!"

    Half-a-mind is 'bout right.

  • I agree completely. That sentence was a weak attempt at some dry humor: a parody of unwavering faith.

  • I would just like to comment on this "less than $50" from this excerpt comment. Anyone who is an Amazon affiliate (like me) knows that you get 5% to 15% of a book's sale price, if they sold "hundreds" of books, that is still more than $50 by a long shot. Here are the real stats:

    5% of $14 is $.70
    15% of $14 is $2.10

    100: $70-$210
    200: $140-$420
    300: $210-$630
    400: $280-$840
    500: $350-$1,050
    (and so on)

    In one of my many emails to Mr. Katz on this issue, I questioned his math with real documented numbers and he did not respond. Unfortunately instead of giving out the real numbers, he chose to downplay them to his advantage. He also said that he as the writer only gets around a dollar a book. Looks like he'd make more money selling his own book than writing it.

    My question is this: If so many more people like Katz than hate him, where are they? Why aren't they posting? Any why hasn't there been a REAL poll about keeping him? The only poll I saw was by Katz himself where he and only he got emailed the results.

    Put your money where your mouth is, if so many people like you and want you here, put it to a public vote.

    I also found it interesting that Katz and Taco complain about how people responded publicly to Katz yet their own private responses to me were the same type of "14 year old pimple faced geek" insult types as everyone else.

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • I totally agree with the threshold issue. Saying "we don't delete stuff, we just hide it away so 90% of people don't see it" is crap. It's the exact same reason many people here oppose IE being bundled with Windows, we know that 85-90% of users use whatever default that is set, and when the default threshold is 0, that's what they all use!

    I've even had a message set to -2! What is up with that?!

    Censorship by any other name is still censorship.

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • If the threshold system was ONLY used to filter AC's from registered users, you would only see scores of O and 1 but this isn't the case.

    Any comment a moderator (and how many are there and who?) doesn't like gets downgraded below the default threshold and effectively deleted since most people never change the default.

    You also see some posts boosted to a score of 2 and 3 sometimes (most recently, Jon Katz's "hail" to slashdot for selling more of his books in a hour than he could in an entire lifetime). What does this prove, kiss Rob's ass and he wont delete your posts.

    So you see, it's not an AC vs Registered User thing, it's a "we'll only show what we want people to see" thing. That can be considered a form of censorship.

    Only 28% of slashdot readers use Linux or *nix, while 55% of them use Windows. How ironic.

  • The book costs about $14. It isn't produced in the mind-numbing quantities of a Grisham novel. They can't be profiting hugely from it. The reviews are by people who have read the book. If they enjoyed it, then the praise is warranted and due Mr. Katz. He wasn't forcing anyone here to buy the book. /. readers are supposed to be independent thinkers and able to make judgements for themselves. He posted a chapter here and people read it and bought the book. What is wrong with him communicating directly with people he wants to reach with his book?

    It's Rob's site. If he thinks Katz' excerpt was appropriate for the site, then who are you to argue with that? If you don't like it, then don't read it. Hundreds of people here obviously did like it because they bought the book. I don't see that as manipulation by Katz. I see that as his way of getting around the problem of not being a big-name author that has publishers falling all over themselves to cater to and market for.

    He writes many articles for free here. Nobody makes him do it. Plenty of people here like his articles. If you don't, then again, don't read them. They are clearly marked so you have no excuse. I'm glad Rob posted the excerpt from his book. I'm glad people liked it and bought it. That's the way things should work here. No arm twisting. No corruption. If it's appropriate for the site, it will be posted. If you don't like it, then don't read it and don't buy it. That's all there is to it.

  • ...and NOW we have to read about how writing that account helped you make a bunch of money?

    I don't see why you HAVE to read has been stated above, if you don't like Katz's posts, DON'T READ THEM. Is your life so vacuous that the only thing you have to do is peruse every post on /., even those you KNOW oyu won't like? I doubt it.
  • And the same goes for you or I.
  • One of the first posts I read was "linsucks" and the poster was complaining that everytime there's an article about linux it's posted on /.

    Anyone under the impression that every article posted about linux posted here should really take a look at .. Those are the true authoritative collections of Linux articles. :)

    Seriously, though, anyone calling Linux "linsucks" is obviously trolling.. If you want to see all the trolls, set your threshhold at - $#moderators, and you're set.

    And, yes, I use Solaris and BSD, and even advocate them when they're right for the job. Despite the "linsucks" crowd, not because I'm trying to fit in w/ them.
  • Oh, come on. Give it a break.

    1) I don't believe I've ever read anywhere that Slashdot stands for communism and the abolition of all that is commercial and money-grubbing. Ever noticed those little graphics at the top of the page? They're called ADVERTISEMENTS. If you click on them, Rob probably gets a little bit of money. If you don't, Rob might still get a little bit from the impression, but I'd guess not.

    The amazon link is quite clear. If you click through and order the book, Rob gets money via the Amazon partners program, and Katz gets money because he's the author. If you don't click, they don't. What the hell is so hard to understand about that, and why could it possibly be a big deal?

    2) Re the community thing: If you don't like Rob's moderation, go somewhere else. There are plenty of places on the net where you can post to your heart's content without fear of being moderated. Of course, nobody actually reads those posts anymore because there's so much dreck. Slashdot exists because Rob and various other people spend hours of their time making it exist. If they choose to censor people, it's their choice. They are even nice enough to give you the option of setting your threshold low enough to see just about _everything_ -- they don't just remove the posts as is done with most moderated sites.

    Personally, I like Katz's stuff. I can, however, understand why many people don't. But I will NEVER understand why those people cannot simply ignore him, and continue to suggest that he should go away from whereever those people happen to like to hang out.

  • "I do not think this book is of particular interest to the slashdot following."

    "(we have heard what he has to say about the geek ethos and understand, we don't want to hear it anymore)."

    Speak for yourself, buddy.

  • If you want an open forum - you MUST give us control over what we see, and say, and provide SOME level of responsibility.

    This is precisely what the scoring system is for. We give you control over what you see by providing you with a persistent means of setting your threshold (check your user preferences). We give you control over what you say by allowing you to post whatever the hell you want, anonymously if you desire. I also believe the moderators tend to act responsibly in their moderation methods so as to separate the relevant, ON-TOPIC posts from the off-topic, irrelevant and inflammatory ones.
  • Sometimes, there may be 2, 3 or 4 moderators reading through an article at any given time. To moderate, they simply click on a radio button and when they're through looking through the comments, they click on a submit button. Unfortunately, this means it's entirely possible that each of those moderators will end up simultaneously knocking a post down a point or two. They're not doing it to bring the score down to -4, they're each individually trying to bring it down to 0 or -1.
  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 )
    Censorship by definition is the banning or deletion of material you don't want others to see.

    If you want to see the comments that are marked down, enter your user preferences and select an appropriate default threshold (-5?).

    If you want EVERYONE to be be able to read something you post, try posting something relevant, on-topic and will not cause a flame war. If you just want to post something inflammatory for everyone to be able to read, this isn't the place. Try doing something productive.
  • If all of your posts are being MODERATED (not censored) down, perhaps that should tell you something about the quality of your posts?

    Scores are adjusted downward for posts that are off-topic (irrelevant to the thread), inflammatory (trolls or flames or anything else that would start a stupid argument) or just plain obnoxious and offer no additional insight to the thread at hand.

    There are literally dozens of moderators, and they're all volunteers. Most of them have proven themselves to be impartial and fair (though don't get me wrong, one or two of them can be relatively childish as has been demonstrated before).

    Since there ARE so many moderators, it's usually quite likely that one moderator's lapse of impartiality will be noticed and corrected, but if ALL of your comments are being moderated, and you're posting them as an AC, really that says more about you than the moderators.
  • If I see a comment scored at '1' and I think the comment really doesn't deserve that much attention, but shouldn't be wiped off the face of slashdot completely, I might decide to set its score to 0, which means I need to decrement it by one. If four other moderators are thinking along the same lines, that comment will end up with a score of -3.
  • People flame katz for the same reason that we
    invented sewer systems and digital networks.
    Digital networks drastically increase the
    signal-to-noise ratio; and sewer systems cleaned
    out all the horseshit our ancestors had to step

    Katz is not just technologically incompetent --
    which is forgivable -- and literarily
    incompetent -- which is also forgivable; he's
    also claiming to be our philosophical figurehead
    and purveyor of wise and important words. But
    the emperor is naked, folks. If there's one
    lesson that history and especially recent Linux
    history should have etched into our brains, it's
    that anyone who elects _themselves_ into the
    'leading intellectual light' position is looking
    for a quick buck, a quote in Time, an appearance
    on Larry King and an O'Reilly writing credit.

    Every self-appointed 'leader' so far -- esr,
    Bruce Perens, OSI, and of course, katz -- has
    unerringly turned out to be primarily interested
    in self-promotion.

    So it shouldn't surprise anyone that the net,
    one of the most advanced self-defensive organisms
    ever to emerge onto the planet, immediately
    starts taking action against the clearly false
    and manipulative bullshit. Think of it as an
    active sewer system working the way nature

    Call me cruel, malicious and malevolent if you
    have to, but I count it as a positive point that
    katz's feelings appear finally to have been hurt
    by the net's self-defense. If, contrary to all
    previous evidence, he's not some sort of bizarre
    Eliza-style automaton, then perhaps he's
    educable. Or, if not, perhaps he can at least
    be convinced to take his incoherent, poorly-
    written scrabblings and his tin commander of
    open source epaulets and sulk home to the
    company of his fabled motherboard-eating dog.

    The net wants clarity and competence. See:
    Linux, FreeBSD, free compilers, perl, python.
    The net hates nonsense and incompetence.
    See: katz, Microsoft,Freedows/Alliance/whatever,

    (part of the Felixes Against Morons Initiative)
  • It seems clear enough why the books moved as quickly as they did. It wouldn't take a large percentage of the number of Slashdot readers chasing the links to buy the book before you'd see sales increase by a few hundreds. I'm surprised that anyone was surprised by that!

    BTW - a pox on all flamers. Yes, I know I've not always been the model of civility, but I'm not going to pretend that that has ever been acceptable behaviour. It isn't. One of these days, you might just push things TOO far. Slashdot wouldn't exist, if it's maintainer pulled the plug, or all the main contributers became too wary to post! I WANT MY SLASHDOT, and I am NOT going to be happy if Some Troll goes and kills it!

  • > Writing books just doesn't have that same flow on possibilities.

    They are called "speaking" engagements, tours, etc. All generate revenue, and more sales.

    Take a step back and really think about what is "sold" when you sell software and books. Both are based on ideas. Both revolve around information. Both serve some purpose, or multiple purposes. Both are the result of brainwork, more or less.

    For example:
    Software game - there are entertainment, education, and social effects. It's fun. Perhaps you learn something about the world, history, science or whatever. There are online game get-togethers. You meet people in some fashion or another to talk about the game, strategy, tactics, etc.

    "Hardware" book - Entertainment is obvious. Education is obvious. Social effects from talking about the book(as we do right now, right here), lending the book to a friend or whatever.

    How about construction, AKA designing, writing, developing, debugging? Much thought and a lot of head sweat is applied to making good software. The same is true for a good book. Just as the skeleton of a program may simply flow from your fingertips, so the outline of a good book can smoothly flow through the keyboard. Just as any prog needs testing, evaluation, editing, and other forms of re-work to make it just right, or as right as the writer can make it; so does a good book. And just as some 2nd or 3rd party coder or user can read/run a release, find shortcomings, discover the bugs in a program, and make suggestions; so can an editor/proofer/reader do the same for a book.

    The only things left to compare are sales and follow-on revenue sources and I think that writers and publishers have been taking advantage of these since the beginning, they just haven't realized it yet.

    A good piece of code can generate follow-on support revenue because people use it. The same applies for books. People will want to hire the author for speaking engagements because they want him to expand upon the stuff expressed in the book. They will pay for autograph and photo sessions just to have a bit of memorabilia. They might even go and buy a hardcopy of the book just 'because'. Don't forget such tremendous follow-on opportunities like movies.

    And of course there will always be ads. Why can't Jon release his next "book" entirely on line on a web page? There are good reasons to do so. First of all there is nearly zero publishing cost, just like software. He can generate revenue by having banner ads on each "page" of the book, just like a software site. There are additional features available online that are not available to dead tree style books. Links are just the start. How about making the book "live"? As readers send in suggestions, make the changes! Announce each revision. So we start having versioned books, which in a limited fashion we already do. More readers will come and check out the new release, just like software. They'll see your banners again. They'll run a 'diff' and/or patch just like software.

    Is anyone getting the idea that "free bookware" can be done just like free software? I think that it can be done in much the same fashion as music, printed news, databases like phone books, and so on. The "information age" is going to change a lot of things, and just 'cause you can't think of a way to make money using the new tech, doesn't mean that someone else can't.

  • I've already moved my default article score threshold to -2 just so I don't have to go through a series of reloads in order to see what everyone is bitching about. I'm already leaning towards setting it to the minimum and forgetting about it.

    I also agree about the legitimate points being made and some lively threads that disappeared earlier because some unkown moderator had dropped the score of a parent post. I still have not figured out why this is done on any thread, subject or whatever. All it does is raise more questions.

    Are the mods supposed to be our surrogate parents?

    Is there some stuff posted here that we really shouldn't see, unless of course we really want to see it? IOW, we click three or four times to read all the headers instead of once.

    Is Rob fearful of "looking bad" as more and more of the "rest of the world" checks out his page?

    Who are the moderators, really?

    Is there a real honest-to-goodness formal policy on how/why/when a comment gets downgraded or not?

    Have you ever experienced race conditions where two or more mods have tried to downgrade the same comment at the same time?

    What is the lowest possible article score? Are we 8/16/32/64 bit here?

    Do any of the mods read the threads that spring from downgraded comments just in case there was something of value posted?
  • I guess I'll have to take your word for it since none of us have credentials here.

    Do the other moderators follow the same guidelines?

    Do you strive to uh, err, on the side of not-moderating?

    Is it possible to promote a whole tree, or perhaps to prune and graft so that the chaff can be thrown out and the good stuff re-threaded to the the root article?

    I guess the tough question is what is noise? Hell, even FPs are entertaining sometimes, especially when they come in 8th or so. The trouble is /. is trying to serve a big heterogeneous mess of people and all have different ideas about what constitutes noise and signal. Even their own personal thoughts about what is noise and what is not change over time. I guess I would just let what I think is noise pass through and let everyone apply their own individual filters rather than worry about upsetting people by filtering too much.

  • I generally follow the advice of those who say "Hey, if you don't like it, don't read it." I've read Mr. Katz in Wired (hey did you know he wrote for Wired?) and generally enjoyed him. But don't look for him to do the obvious thing of just putting his stuff out on his own website, whether for free or not. Mr. Katz and most writer-wannabees I've known are not interested in a mechanism to make their words available for the masses (i.e. "getting published"), they're interested in validation and attention from book publishers and talk show hosts, because then they are taken seriously as "real writers" and the visionaries they usually want to be. Fair enough. Personally I find much of his work too pretentious for my taste, as indicated by thinking that getting traffic for your book could be described as "hacking the net" and what an amazing day it for all publishing and society or (again) that he wrote for Wired, etc. I'm sure he is sincere, which actually makes it worse in a way. If you think that Jon really wants to make a living at this, ask him how much he wants in cash money to write for your no-name website as I did after he got bounced from Wired. Despite a number of pleasant messages back-and-forth, when it comes to that he won't even respond. In my opinion, if he really believed in the power of the web and his work he'd have his own site and Rob could just post links to the public area. We could all donate $2 or otherwise subscribe to read his stuff online and he would be raking in the dough. Or not. As far as Slashdot is concerned, it's absolutely their business to make it all-Katz-all-the-time if they want, and if some of us go away because of it that'll just help their bandwidth issues. Just let them know if you vote with your feet so they can make an informed decision.

  • OK, I'm not sure if I'll read this or not (I'll go through Slashdot if I *do* get it, Rob, I promise :>), though I'm typically an omniverous reader. But the important thing here is hope for mid-list (Spider Robinson, anyone?) and new writers. I'm getting ready to face the publishing world, and to be honest, I was terrified. If I can even find someone to publish me, I was worried my coauthor and I would sell about 4 copies, and those all to friends. ;) Granted, what we think is pretty good stuff might actually suck badly, but if it doesn't....

    You've been an inspiration, Mr. Katz. Flames are no fun (I've been there), but please persevere.

    Les the Book
  • According to the Portrait of J. Random Hacker (taken on faith as representative, granted) the Slashdot community is the perfect place for Jon to sell his book, since hackers love to read (and not just technical books), and question spiritual matters.

    I doubt you'll find many hackers who qualify as materialistic. A hacker is someone who sees beyond the material, questions everything (which is why we tend towards atheism), and does for love what others can't do for money.

    Personally, I find a flamer who ignorantly questions the value of philosophical thinking a very repugnant form of person. Don't merely go insulting another for what they do, if you have to question it, do so logically.

    I think that is the great loss of what Jon has been talking about... the popularity of the OSS movement and being a hacker in general. Those who more recently integrate into the culture lack the proper perspective on life that being a hacker used to include by default (which is to say, generally shunned).
  • Put your money where your mouth is, if so many people like you and want you here, put it to a public vote.

    If we vote to keep 'im, does that mean you'll shut up? If not, why should we bother?
  • Wow. So the slashdot effect works with booksellers, too. Nice to know.
  • If you were able to read the deleted comments, in what way were they being censored? Answer is: they weren't. They were being marked as "You probably don't want to bother reading this, but you can if you want."

    That's precisely the function of an editor, and I'm glad someone is exercising editorial control.
  • Was this poll [] not valid? Why do you people have such a hard time with this guy? Admittedly, some of the things he's posted have rubbed me the wrong way, but it's also true that some of what he has written has been very interesting. If you have such a problem with him, why do you waste time reading and replying to his articles? For you and the rest of the Katz haters, Slashdot can be virtually Katz free, just by you not clicking on his urls, but what you want, is not just for you not to have to read him anymore, but for nobody else who wants to read him to have that privilidge anymore. If you don't like him, don't read him. I really don't understand where the huge problem is.

  • i was dissappointed today(02/28/99) when i stopped by WaldenBooks @ the mall and found out they didn't have "Running to the Mountain" by Jon Katz.

    after half-searching the bookstore, i decided to go ask the front desk if they had any copies. after correctly remembering it was Jon and not John, she came across the book, then stating how they did not have any copies. actually, it was more like "no we haven't seen that book yet". she said it was in hardcover, and i didn't ask when they would be getting any in, because the mall is out of town for me and i make it there about once a month if im lucky. so i ended up buying a book found in the computer section titled "extra life" by David S. Bennahum. the cover was what actually caught my attention; it bears a very old computer, where the screen is cut out of the outside cover, and hard-printed on the book it says, "extra life". thats it except for a subtitle, his name, and a whole lot of white space. its very good, as i continue reading it(i read the whole introduction and part of chapter one sitting in the little reading area in biography section).

    i was also suprised to see many many linux and unix books available. although most of them donned the Red Hat logo. i hope that dosen't lead people to think that Red Hat is the one and only linux operating system. i also thumbed through a book titled "Steal this computer book", which was full of malicious ideas, reports, and websites, and it also suprised me that inside it showed a nude shot of a woman.. usually don't see that in most regular family-book-stores books.

    maybe ill go down to my local book store to see if they can order "Running to the Mountain", which im sure they can, its just a matter of how lazy i am and when i will get the time to get down there. :)

    scott miga
  • Actually, one of the best posts I've seen in a long time. I know this isn't "long and literary," but I agree with you the proverbial 110%.

    - Sean

    - SeanNi
  • > If anyone at Slashdot makes a total of $50
    > from the excerpting of my book I'd be stunned.

    If doesn't make more than $50 I'll be stunned. Even if your current deal is so bad (which I doubt) then I can imagine the next one will be much more generous after this little bit of exploitation?

    > I write for Slashdot for free, and gave the
    > rights to Slashdot for free, hoping that might
    > draw some attention to the site, which it did,
    > and if it helped them pay the rent

    $50 to help pay the rent ... ? Guess we all just got raped by Random House then. And the very idea that Slashdot needs Katz to "draw attention to the site"!?! Get a clue fellas. (Rob too, don't you really know the value of what you have here? This is no "rinky dink little website". You don't have to be ripped off by the likes of Katz (and/or his big-business pals.))

    Regards, Ralph.
  • DaBuzz, I'm happy to be able to read your comment before it gets demoted to -5 (which it surely will.)

    Orwell was here.

    Regards, Ralph.
  • > yes ralph, you're a clueless twerp

    I forgive you for your impoliteness and for not having the time to read Katz's article too carefully.

    All the best with the work on the oracle-ish type help system for ilug. I should be doing more of my real work too. :-)

    Regards, Ralph.
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Monday February 22, 1999 @07:52AM (#2008543) Homepage
    Halperin put his entire first novel, The Truth Machine online for people to read- and he experienced the same effect as you did with your book. Halperin surmised, initially to the dismay of his publisher, that people would want to buy the book- it's cumbersome to read the book online, few would have the resources to download it or worse print it out for themselves, the readers, having seen what they liked and liked the fact that he shared the whole thing with them would buy the book. To the publisher's surprise, the sales spiked just like your book's sales did the moment it went online.
  • So what! So Rob and Hemos made some $$$ off of their
    site? Who cares? Does this fact somehow delegitimize
    /. is some way? When they start posting gushing reviews
    of windows2000, they i'll start worrying.

    So go ahead, please flame me off the map because
    I think they desrve some money for running a good
  • ...or something.
    I don't know why I get so worked up everytime these
    Katz flamefests erupt. I guess I take offense
    when people try to tell me what I shouldn't read.
    Which is exactly what all of you "dump Katz" people
    are doing. No one is holding a gun to you head,
    making you click on his articles (i hope.) I have
    had to come to grips with the fact that sengen will
    never be canned, so I just skip over his articles.
    Is that so hard? I knew you could...
  • Actually, I don't care for pepsi myself. I just
    noticed people putting ads in their /. sigs, and
    thought pepsico might notice and give me an endorsement
    deal, or something.
    I usually drink coke, with an occasional mountain dew.
    Just to set the record straight. ;)

  • Don't get too carried away. Some of those are subsets or supersets of other groups. I know committed Christians who are hard-core scientists, just as I know atheists, deists, etc who are hard-core scientists as well. If by saying scientists, you mean people who believe that the ultimate hope of humanity lies in scientific understanding, I would say that that would fall under the category of Secular Humanism, which likewise, would probably fall under the category of some form of atheism, deism or agnosticism.

    Maxism probably falls under the same category.

    Just a thought
  • Don't get too carried away. Some of those are subsets or supersets of other groups. I know committed Christians who are hard-core scientists, just as I know atheists, deists, etc who are hard-core scientists as well. If by saying scientists, you mean people who believe that the ultimate hope of humanity lies in scientific understanding, I would say that that would fall under the category of Secular Humanism, which likewise, would probably fall under the category of some form of atheism, deism or agnosticism.

    Maxism probably is the same way as well, being a superset or subset of something else.

    Just a thought
  • The actual line is I hacked the net. And in a way, he did, I guess. Social engineering and the slashdot effect and all that.

    I'm not the happiest about him. I tend not to read him. I think he's taking "geek" as the next big buzzword, like "pomo" or "grunge", and I think that is wrong. But if you don't wanna read him, you must exercise your own self control.

  • The _right_ choice is to let each slashdot reader choose the right choice for themselves.

    Please allow each account to select their preference to see Katz writings or not.

  • * Animist

    * Marxist

    * Mormon

    * Materialist

    * Secular Humanist

    * Scientist
  • I see it as an aging hippie unthinkingly using a community as his soapbox

    I'd agree here. Now I'm not saying it's some grand plan. He's just found a way to get his writing attention. He seems to write articles that will get attention, with non-slashdot material like politics, and then stretch them like taffy to fit under the broad umbrella of 'technology'. Remember his Jesse Ventura post? I live in MN, and his was the only article I'd seen giving the WWW credit for Jesse's victory. But I'm sure he realized that an article about a wrestler becoming governor wasn't slashdot material, hence the net. Ventura's TV ads, his performance in the debates, and his popularity with young people were the reasons generally cited for his victory.

    And I do remember the call to have you replace Katz, Chris, and for what it's worth I agreed then, and I agree now.

    yaC (yet another Chris)

  • Way to go Jon! I think the idea that the Web provides a way for an artist to connect directly with the audience is something that many people don't get. Perhaps the idea is too obvious.

    A similar phenomena is taking place with music and MP3.


  • As both a programmer and a writer I can see both sides of the story here. To all the kiddies out there that think being a "hacker" is the one true thing and that writers like Katz are just a bunch of windbag looser, you've got a lot to learn in life.

    As another moderately successful writer (yes, here I am at work finishing off the contribution to my latest book - on Java3D), I can honestly say that writing is a sh*tload more difficult than coding. In coding, so long as you're APIs work as documented, it doesn't matter what happens inside. You get the work done, and somebody keeps employing you. As a writer, if you cannot explain yourself clearly your book won't sell, and no publisher is going to ask you to do another - no food on the table. It's easy to be a mediocre coder and live. It's not easy to be a mediocre writer and live.

    Before you all just start another flame fest in my direction, how about you go and have a look at my homepage and resume. I've produced more than half a million lines of GPL/LGPL'd code in my lifetime, 8 books as well as a lot of ISO spec work. I think I might be just qualified enough to comment. (oops darn, some of the links are broken on the web pages, try a CLI FTP)

    BTW - I don't know what everyone else got as a fortune on the page, but I thought this was rather appropriate:

    Love your enemies: they'll go crazy trying to figure out what you're up to.
  • Mostly it's kids who have been alienated who are so vehemently blasting Katz. They are so happy at finding "a club" that they are ecstatic to be able to SET THE RULES finally and EXCLUDE OTHERS just as they have been excluded.

    Most of us 'older' folks (I'm in the 31-40 range :) ) have learned that causing others pain is no path to healing one's own.

    When you see an anti-Katz flamer, what you see is a young, intolerant person with an acid pen. They haven't yet realized that what they do really hurts -- or have been so emotionally damaged that they don't care.

    It's funny, in a sad sort of way, when you realize that it is probably intolerance and rejection in real life that caused them to be that way. Abusive parents raise abusive children; children that have been rejected and scorned in turn do the same.

    They are doing exactly what they themselves were hurt by and despise so much.

    "How can we be in, if there is no outside?" -- Peter Gabriel

  • One more time, for those of you too dense to get it the first thousand times around.

    Free software does not mean you have to give it away -- it simply means you make no claims to it after someone else has it.

    Katz could very legitimately only SELL his book. As long as you were allowed to duplicate and re-distribute it, it's free.

    Next time, get your head out of your ass before posting, please.
  • I was not defending this particular issue. I was simply refuting the previous AC's claims (are you the same AC? I wouldn't be surprised.) that, just because he is charging money for it, it's not free.

    Please tell me where a literate person would fail to get that meaning from my previous post.

    (Of course, posting at a literate level on Slashdot is probably a silly thing to do, considering the average mentality of the posters around here. Next time I'll try to keep it to 10 words or less, and spike it with profanity and excessive punctuation. Would that help the MTV burnouts?)
  • Navel Gazer
  • I'm not sure why you feel a killfile is really any different than the setting of one's profile to view only posts having a rating greater than a certain number. Perhaps because the person who runs the site determines the ratings?

    Still, you're free to set your profile to view any level you want. And, of course, you don't have to look at posts you don't like.

    CT doesn't delete posts. He provides a crude level of moderation, which we are all free to use or not use.

    (Remove "x"'s from
  • I take it you don't like Linus's final say on Linux, either?

    (Remove "x"'s from
  • Since I used to work for a small-print-run publisher, I am fairly aware of the economics involved. The fact is, a publisher needs to sell at least 200-250 copies bare minimum in order to break even. This is when the publisher doesn't go through all the extras like extensive editing.

    That's why academic textbooks cost so much -- the short print run usually demands high prices in order for it to be worth the publisher's time (yes, this takes used books and retailer markup into account).

    I truly doubt Katz will make much money on a book that sells fewer than several 10's or 100's of thousands of copies.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • oh man, it's a conspiracy. you're right. let's see, of all the issues of the world we should expend energy on:

    crisis in kosovo
    bugs in gnome
    the flood tribunal
    dublin's transportation issues
    how much money rob makes

    yep, the last one. that's definitely going to affect my life the most.

    otoh, maybe you just need to get a life. asshole.
  • You miss the point. Katz is distributing the "binary" (the hardcopy version), without giving away the source.


    Until Katz practices what he preaches, I think he should generally be regarded as a poser.

    Katz is giving away some of what he writes - an obvious example is the articles he writes for Slashdot. I don't know of anybody that gives away everything they write under a license that would qualify as 'Open Source' - even Stallman only allows redistribution of unchanged articles.

    You're talking of the GPL, and thus looks like a Linux person - Linus is working on properitary intellectual property right now. In my book, that doesn't make him a poser - I hope it doesn't in yours, either.


  • First, I personally am glad that slashdot has Katz. He is a fine writer and I enjoy his work.

    Secondly, why go to a publisher at all? Who needs them? If you can copyleft your work and publish to the web ...
    The problem is how to make money off of it; it is entirely different from software, no? You could still sell "added value" (a hardcopy) but who would publish a copylefted book (besides O'Reilly)? Are we really looking at an age where authors, artists, programmers - in short, everyone who creates information - actually OWN the work THEY produce? It is very interesting indeeed. That it was ever any other way will soon be looked on as an absurdity, I hope.
  • There's an idea! We can all chip in to get Katz his own web page. If you want Katz to go away, pay up!
  • I'm only about 4 years less ancient than Katz (which makes him about 30 years older than I had thought him to be), and my parents are still together and as far as I know neither is planning to run off and abandon their family, so there must be some other hidden cause of all my neuroses and psychoses that cause me to find so much of Katz's writing to be touchy feely drivel and new age psychobable desperately in need of proofreading, editing and a lot less "let me tell you all about how I'm a professional journalist even though it's irrelevant to the topic at hand" self-promotion, and, just to make this a good example of a run-on sentence, if he never uses the word "geeks" again he's still used up all of his quota and a goodly sized chunk of mine. Perhaps if I were better able to wring immeasurable depths of alienation out of my interest in "tech" stuff I wouldn't wonder how he could be so blind to how his career at slashdot to date could be seen by some as a cross between cloying sycophancy,infuriating patronizing, and desperate bandwagon jumping.
    Having said all that(and having withheld a whole lot more), let me say here and now that I want him to stay. I believe that he is, in his own peculiar and baffling way, sincere, and, as I have indicated before, his writing is, slowly, getting better. And, to steal a previous poster's analogy, he's an incredibly tempting target of a top hat on the other side of the hedge from an arsenal of snowballs.

  • If a library puts books on the top shelf and you have to get a stepladder to get to them, do you cry censorship? It's all still there, and Rob's system is a good compromise between those who want to ban the ACs and those who believe that this would be an affront to free speech. If you want to see more AC stuff, set your threshold down. If you don't, crank it up. It's YOUR choice, and it's not censorship, IMHO.
  • The posts are still there. I don't really care if they're AC or not. The site is edited, and you can change the degree of editing you'd like to (not) see. If a user doesn't change their threshold, or if they don't know that the threshold exists, then they should educate themselves about how /. works.

    Editing != censorship. Rob doesn't post every submission he gets. Nor does he bless every comment with a score of 2. It's the way it works, and if you want to see EVERY post, you can. Generally, I don't.
  • I will read Katz's book. I will also continue to read and post to the discussions at Slashdot even though I need to wade through heaps of venomous bile from the immature. It is a shame that respect not be paid to an author and an artist, as well to the people that bring this wonderful forum to life. I will only have to assume that many of the "A.C.s", though they claim to be technophiles, must be illiterate. I guess now I am guilty of flame... but I feel justified.
  • Go away, Jon, go away. Rob, PLEASE add a kill file function so that I can killfile this air bag!

    Just consider what damage you do by promoting people like Jon and not others who deserve attention more than him, people who actually contribute something and not just praise themselves and their inflated egos.
  • Okay, I haven't been well and truly pissed off at something I ran into online in a long, long, long time. I usually just read and lurk, but what I've been reading here has goaded me into a great big rant. And I'm well aware that everything I'm about to say has already been said by someone else. Cope and deal.

    Apparently, there are some Slashdot readers out there that know exactly what /. and geekdom are all about and now wish to purge everything and everybody that doesn't measure up to their standards of ub3R-3l33tness. Apparently Jon Katz is exhibit numero uno, although the reformer's ire has other targets as well. Well, boys, far be it from me to pollute the purity of the movement. I quit. You may no longer call me a geek.

    It would seem that being verbose is ungeekly. Yes, God forbid we have any thoughts that can't be compressed into easily digestable soundbites. It's also not geekly correct to have any areas of interest outside OSS software. My god, we have articles up here about Star Wars! And.... Lego! If this keeps up, y'all might absorb some piece of information that might contribute to your becoming a well-rounded person, and we can't have that! Because, it seems, being as one-dimensional as possible is a really geeky thing to be.

    It really, really bugs me when people bash Katz' book because it deals with spiritual topics. Apparently all geeks are supposed to be atheistic materialists or libertarians or something that makes spirituality and human issues irrelevant to us. Well, then it's time for me to turn in my Geek Membership Badge. I find issues like the conflict between spirituality and technology to be interesting and highly relevant to my life.

    Another requirement for membership in geekdom that I wasn't previously aware of is disdain for the Baby Boom generation. "Never trust anyone over thirty!" Who coined that catchy little phrase? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't Generation X. Anyway, it was silly then and it hasn't got any less silly. At least do Katz the courtesy of flaming him based on his ideas rather than what you imagine him to be associated with due to his age. (For that matter, how old is Katz? And since when did that make any difference?)

    So, you don't like Jon Katz's essays? Guess what, people, there are at conservative estimate ten million websites out there that don't feature his writing! You could be reading one of them right now instead of bitching about how Katz and, by extension, Slashdot, sucks. Please, go somewhere else which is free of content written by someone who falls short of your standards of k-rad haX0r purity.

    You know, what's funny is, I don't even like Katz's essays that much; I think he has a tendency to exaggerate the importance of simple events that anyone could have predicted. But believe you me, I like his detractors an awful lot less. And if they really speak for geekdom like they're saying they do, then count me out. I'd rather hang here with Katz. At least he's human.
  • Felix is just trying to be one of those obnoxious so-called BOFHs from alt.sysadmin.recovery.

    Personally, I do consider Jon's exploit (the one described in this article) a hack.

  • This [slashdot] has gone from a wonderful experiment to a cesspool of bad comments and censorship of a much worse degree than usenet.

    I think rob is getting a wakeup call here from something most of us on the 'net already know - anonymity means irresponsibility. You can find it spoken in different ways in different texts since books were first published - and it's still true today.

    What's accelerating this plunge down faster than BillG's quality control is the censorship issue. I've been toggling my view to -1 to see what's being censored, and I'm dissapointed. For a site dedicated to "an open forum" - this ain't.

    There are legitimate gripes in those censored messages. Entire threads - some with good topics completely unrelated to the original post. On usenet - we use kill files to block the provocateurs. But it's OUR choice to use them. And it's OUR choice to ignore those types of people whom we disagree with. You wouldn't catch me posting in a winnt advocacy group - it would be pointless! In much the same manner...

    If you want an open forum - you MUST give us control over what we see, and say, and provide SOME level of responsibility.

    You've gotten us this far rob, don't let us down.

  • Excuse me rob, but I was under the impression you were building a community here. Instead we have just been informed by you that this is not the case. Your claim to total control over the beast you have created is most definetly your right... but unfortunately it also is against everything your site supposedly stands for.

    I for one am amazed to have seen you say this and will start to look hard now for alternatives to slashdot where the "editor" is a bit more open minded.

  • by juuri ( 7678 )
    Next time you steal someone's qoute at least put "'s around it and please at least phrase it correctly.
  • So if you want to read MEEPT being an ****, go ahead and read at -100 or whatever. Personally I have not desire to have some 14-year-old's ego thrust in my face. The scoring system /. uses is a good way of controling discussion without actually censoring them. The only thing Rob could do which he does not is give an idea of what will end up at different scoring levels.
  • People are not held accountable for what they say here. Most people don't even use an ID that they can be named with in argument.

    Very few corners of the web have been able to sustain reasoned discussions without experiencing a very high degree of flaming and immaturity.

    Then again, I have to ask, what were your exepectations? Flame wars are idiocy are assumed as the norm by anyone who has used the internet for any period of time.
  • Please, check your information before posting to tell us what you THINK happened.

    Follow this link [] to the original review. There you will finda out that:
    a) Hemos (not Rob) start the review saying
    "I've read an advance copy of the book, and was impressed..."
    b) Apart from the initial comments, it was mostly an excerpt, not a full review.

    How I love people jumping on to pot on something they don't even care to check...
  • I am borrowing the title of this from Boris Sparsky (former chess world champion back in the early 70's). His book was called "Chess for Fun, Chess for Blood". The main theme there, that I think applies equaly to this situation, is the difference between the joys of playing a Sunday afternoon game of chess with a friend and the hardships of playing professional chess.

    As long as I can remember I have been fond of writing. Nevertheless, I have never had the guts to go all the way and bet my career on my writing skills. For the time being I am a good coder and a fair technical writer. If eventually in my life I will manage to write and publish real fiction is yet to be seen.

    But then the internet may change all this right away. If ever e-books become a reality the way MP3 is becoming a reality, the publishing market as we know it now will simply disapear. We also need saner payment formats, but this is also coming.

    I dont really think the dead-tree industry will notice you or anyone. They will be run over by you and your brethen, editorless authors with nothing to lose. If we can build a technology that will let you publish your works in the web and get say, some dozens of cents per download, wouldn't it be a real deal?

    As for Katz, I think he is OK. I used to like his texts in wired, and I like them here too (but indeed he sometimes get repetitive). And his age really shows. But I would not think he can start the revolution you call for. But I guess you should write to him and discuss it directly. Maybe he will go for it.

    I am going to check your novels. I liked the way Kings of Rainmoor starts. I will let you know when I am finished.

  • Well, I guess we now have to broaden the definition of the "Slashdot Effect", wouldnt we? ;-)

    Greetx, Erik

  • Jon,

    You've been successful in ignoring the petty flames up to this point. Don't stop now. Glad to hear your book launching was successful. The subject matter is not really my cup of tea, but it's good to hear that someone has used the system successfully. Congratulations and many happy returns of the day.

    Rob Levin

  • My view is that /. puts up with far too many AC's who, in this case, used their anonymity as a convenient shield to hide behind while they got really offensive.

    I'm opposed to censorship but Rob censors all the material that is sent to him each day as news stories and nobody complains about that. If he didn't /. would be chock-full of rubbish.

    I'm not opposed to AC's either but I think an editorial policy of censoring AC's if they are *really* offensive is warranted.

    Who should decide if something is *really* offensive? /. readership should - just complain about comments that overstep the mark and Rob will be forced to remove them and put in their place "This message removed for offensive comment" (it shouldn't be removed without a trace).

    That wouldn't stop logged-in idiots overstepping the mark but at least their comments would be attributable to them and the rest of us can ignore them in future.

    Lets not get so lost in personal freedoms that we forget personal responsibility.
  • Voting here is a privilege, not a right. This is Rob's site. Deal with it.


  • > If so many more people like Katz than hate him, where are they?

    They're lurking. You don't honestly think that the majority of the readers bother posting, do you? I would guess that fear of rude responses is the #1 reason for that.

    See also: Luring the Lurkers; shtml

    Warning, it's an article by Katz and so if you REALLY don't like him, don't bother to read it.
  • There's a difference between removing someone's right to offer their opinion and removing the ability to attack someone while hiding behind the shield of anonymity. If you have a strong belief that you're right, why be afraid to have your name attached to it?

    (I also believe Voltaire knew the identity of the person he was talking about.)
  • I really don't care where john puts his articles. If Sengan or whoever wrote a book about politics, for example, I would still be fine with it being on slashdot because it is someone who is working with Rob. Perhaps I don't like the feeling that John is using slashdot to sell his writtings, i don't really like any book review on slashdot, because it feels like a sale.

    as for posts being moderated, i don't like it either. I understand people's desire for a better signal to noise, but there is too much room for abuse. That's why I set my threashhold to -5, so I can view everything. Unfortunitly, the average user does not have their setting at -5.
    I think perhaps a compromise is to have a default of 0 and not have posts go bellow 0. Then if someone wants a higher (someone else's choice of) signal to noise, they can raise the threshold, but joe slashdot will have uncensored content. I would rather not have any moderation at all, but I beleive I would be in the minority.
    Four years in jail
    No Trial, No Bail
  • Um, I for one don't. That's why I try not to use Linux.
    -lx (rabid bsd user #37)
  • I think that we should can the AC's altogether. People who can't be bothered to create an account or cannot remember a password are not likely to be able to make a positive contribution anyway.. If people are concerned about privacy, it only takes a few minutes to set up a hotmail account, or similar. At least then I would be able to work out which AC is actually the same AC that made a previous remark...
    Anonimity gives people too much scope to be obnoxious. Freedom is one thing, but with freedom comes responsibiity; It is everyone's responsibility to behave in a social fashion, to give everyone the same respect. If someone is talking junk, then that is self evident and usually it requires no comment, or at least a polite debunking. It is rarely appropriate to be offensive, and people that do are usually covering up for their own shortcomings. I think anyone should have the right so submit any kind of artical to slashdot, if you don't like what you read, stop reading. It's as easy as that. Even better, write another artical yourself to state your point of view - if your thoughts can be stretched out that long.
    As far as censorship is concerned, frankly this is Rob's forum provided at the expense of his own time, and if he doesn't like what is said it is his perogative to remove it, just like you would kick out some offensive jerk from your house if you wanted to. It would be a shame if he got so pissed with the whole shebang that he closed it down. Remember, if people had been acting responsibly then the whole issue of censorship would not arise.
  • I am probably going to get flamed for this, and to be frank I don't care.

    If Slashdot was not censored to some degree, many of us would not bother to read the pages. If there were not writers like Jon Katz associated with Slashdot, we would not return here as often. I am sick of "windbag" comments -- at least Jon Katz is tuned into the same issues that most Slashdot'rs are. Not only that, Jon returns e-mail and even reads our comments. So in a way, his voice reflects a little bit of our voices to him.

    Rob, keep up the good work.
    Jon, keep up the good work.

    Flamers who have nothing better to do than take pot shots at one of the "good guys" should think about keeping a new habit.

    Shut the hell up.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun