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User Journal

Journal Journal: Transient Archive...

Every now and then I find I'd like to refer to an old posting, but I don't want to spend five minutes running various searches on Slashdot and Google for it. So I've decided I'm just going to add them here:

Journal Journal: Why Are NY Times stories so prevalent on Slashdot? 2

Let's look at newspaper front pages from a recent big news day (Thursday):

I would post examples from The NYTimes, but they don't let you see previous issues of the paper online for free. However, as I recall their picks closely mirrored The Washington Post's:

The Washington Post
Top Story: Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared
No. 2 Story: SEC Charges WorldCom With Fraud
No. 3 Story: U.S. Court Votes to Bar Pledge of Allegiance

The Los angeles Times
Top Story: 'Tweens: From Dolls to Thongs
One of the store mannequins wears a fringed denim skirt riding low on the hips and a top pushed high on the midriff. Another has shorts that roll down on the tummy and a one-shoulder top.
No. 2 Story: Pledge of Allegiance Violates Constitution, Court Declares
No. 3 Story: WorldCom Hit With Federal Fraud Lawsuit

The Los Angeles Times shows a consistent bias toward "Reader's Digest" type stories that are entertaining and give you something to gossip about but don't really tell you anything of value. I also get the sense that many LA Times reporters are really failed screenplay writers who can't let go of the need to create drama. However, they do occasionally print something worth reading.

The LA Times is owned by The Chicago Tribune , which puts even less original content on its Web site and is more "in-your-face" about pressuring you to subscribe.

I suspect Slashdot would link to The Wall Street Journal more often if the paper made more than 1% of its content available to non-paying subscribers. (I had a paid subscription to for about a year, but I no longer do because it's just not worth that much to me.)

I'd like to read Le Monde , but the French refuse to publish an English version. Go figure.

All of Knight-Ridder's newspapers (The San Jose Mercury News , Miami Herald , Philadelphia Inquirer , et al) have been crippled by the "RealCities Network" which forces all of its sites to use the same content-poor, ad-rich design. The saddest story of the group is the SJMercury though, which has just fallen apart since the parent company began slashing costs and forcing the RealCities conformity on its once industry-leading site. The Miami Herald is an unofficial training school for future Washington Post reporters, but that doesn't matter if you can't find their content on the Web.

Slashdot doesn't link to the Financial Times often (ever?), though it's a great paper. It just doesn't turn out a lot of unique content that's of interest to most Slashdot readers.

Newspapers aside, Slashdot has linked to CNN and the BBC in the past, though not the CBC . ABC, CBS and NBC generally provide watered down news for people who don't like to read newspapers -- not Slashdot readers.

Slashdot often links to MSNBC , but I expect that will begin to decline --'s founding editor (Merrill Brown, a former Washington Post reporter) recently announced that he's resigning after 6 years to pursue other, undisclosed "opportunities." The New York Times noted on June 12 (you'll have to pay for the archived version of the story) that he offhandedly mentioned that is about to be swallowed by MSN for economic reasons. (In other words, Microsoft put its foot down and said financial concerns outweigh editorial concerns.)

The International Herald-Tribune writes some of its own content, but a lot of the paper is an amalgamation of New York Times and Washington Post stories.

I haven't read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer or the Seattle Times in a while, but you may find some good technology stories there.

Bottom Line: Slashdot links to a disproportionate number of New York Times and Washington Post stories because both papers' sites post a lot of content and that content is top notch. It also helps that they're among the most recognizable names in journalism, but the Slashdot system is set up to allow editors to pick from the best stories that are submitted, regardless of the content provider's brand recognition. If you read a good story somewhere, submit it -- the quality of the story is more important than the misguided registration policies of the content provider. And if I've missed a good site people should be reading, reply to this message and let people know.

United States

Journal Journal: Letter sent to Sen. Feinstein on the Pledge 2

Senator Feinstein:

As a California resident who voted for you in the 2000 election, I find your recent comments on the Pledge of Allegiance embarrassing, cowardly and ill-informed.

In your press release of June 26, 2002, you stated:

"This nation from its foundation has had a belief in God, and has a long tradition of expressing that belief."

In 1791, the first amendment added the following to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In 1954, 163 years later, Congress passed a law adding the words "under God" in response to lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, a religious group that proudly states its purpose as "Protecting Catholic Families for Generations." (see The bill was forced through the legislature at the height of Senator Joseph McCarthy's reign as a statement to distinguish America from "Godless Communism" and signed by President Eisenhower (who was under direct attack by McCarthy at the time) just five months before Congress censured McCarthy (see

The individual's right to pursue his own religion without the pressure of government-imposed religious tenets is one of the oldest of American traditions. The profession that all true Americans believe in God is a modern, flawed tradition born of fear and political terrorism. The words "under God" must be stricken from the Pledge to preserve the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

I find it hard to believe that you truly believe it is Constitutional to require public school educators across America to teach children that this country is "one nation under God." It is a government endorsement of religions that believe in a God. I suspect it is more likely that you fear the backlash of the uninformed masses who believe that this ruling is an attack upon their religions.

Your comments on this subject only serve to perpetuate the cycle of fear and misinformation, heralding a return to the political climate of Sen. McCarthy. In an era where the Justice Department has declared that President Bush has the authority to arrest and hold American citizens ("enemy combatants") indefinitely without evidence, review or trial, our country cannot afford the kind of acquiescence you have demonstrated.

In your press release, you stated: "The words 'Under God' were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and I have never heard a single comment from anyone in half a century objecting to that." Now you have heard an objection, and you heard an objection in the ruling by the 9th Circuit Court justices, who are California voters as well.

If you cannot reconsider your statements on this subject, I must reconsider my vote. I will be vocal and precise in explaining that I cannot vote for you again because you have failed to serve your country in your capacity as a United States Senator.

Journal Journal: Karma Caps and Beanies 3

Dear Rob (Taco, Whatever-you-go-by, etc.),

When I began regularly posting comments on Slashdot, I had a motivation. Every time I posted something good, I was rewarded with karma beans.

After I amassed about 25 of these beans, I was given the ability to "speak louder" with a +1 bonus. I got fewer beans per good comment, but my comments were more noticeable, so my bean hill grew faster.

When my mountain of beans grew to 50, I found (as expected) that I could no longer acquire beans. In fact, if three people modded my comments up and then one person modded a comment down for being moderated to high, I would lose a bean! The only logical thing I could do to protect my mountain was to keep my mouth shut, which I did.

A funny thing happens when a person shuts his mouth... he tends to hear a lot more. What I heard was that other people in the same situation were looking for ways to "spend" their karma. After all, they had earned it, so why couldn't they spend it?

Some people griped publicly about the existence of a karma cap, others complained about the non-existence of a karma store, and others went karma-postal -- they decided to blow their karma by being the biggest, loudest trolls they could muster.

All these people

  1. Were positive contributers, and
  2. Had lost their artificial impetus to contribute

So I think the karma cap ultimately hurt Slashdot by discouraging these contributors who have moved on to Troll-world, Abraham-Simpson-world, or silent retirement.

My Solution

Open a karma store where positive contributors can cash in their beans... and their cash. 50 karma beans plus $9.99 plus shipping plus tax (where applicable) gets you a beanie propeller cap with the words "I'm a 'karma whore'|'Slashdot nerd' emblazoned on the front. The first time you buy one you get yellow. Next time you get blue. Then another color, until you reach green, and finally black.

I envision a day when I can look out across a cubicle farm and tell the true nerds by the color of their beanies; and workers can be heard proudly stating "I have a Black Cap in Slashdot."

Thank you for sharing my dream.

Good morning.

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"We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement." -- Richard J. Daley