Insensitive clod

Slashdot

Slashdot, often abbreviated as /., is a technology-related news website owned by SourceForge, Inc. It features user-submitted and editor-evaluated current affairs news with a "nerdy" slant. Each story on the site has an Internet forum-style comments section attached. The name "Slashdot" is described by the site's owners as "a sort of obnoxious parody of a URL", chosen to confuse those who tried to pronounce the URL of the site ("h-t-t-p-colon-slash-slash-slashdot-dot-org").

The summaries for the stories are generally submitted by Slashdot's own readers with editors accepting or rejecting these contributions for general posting. While Slashdot's haphazard editorial style produced a unique voice in the pre-blog age, users frequently post criticisms of perceived arbitrary or biased editorial choices. Slashdot itself is known for its biased positions relating to privacy and the open source movement. Though the site predates the modern concept of the weblog, Slashdot's architecture is commonly compared to that of modern blogs. The content management system, Slash, has long been available under the GNU General Public License.

Editors

Created in September 1997 by Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, Slashdot is now owned by SourceForge, Inc. The site is run primarily by Malda, Jeff "Hemos" Bates (who handles articles and book reviews and sells advertising) and Robin "Roblimo" Miller who helps handle some of the more managerial tasks of the site, as well as posting stories. The site is headquartered in Dexter, Michigan.

Moderation

To prevent abusive comments, a moderation system has been implemented whereby every comment posted (including those posted anonymously) has a starting score which can be incremented or decremented by semi-randomly chosen moderators. When moderating, the moderator chooses a given descriptor (such as "insightful", "funny", "troll") and each descriptor has a positive or negative value associated with it. As such, posts not only are scored, but characterized ("20% insightful, 80% interesting"). Users can configure the value of each descriptor. The descriptors available are normal, offtopic, flamebait, troll, redundant, insightful, interesting, informative, funny, overrated, and underrated.

Moderation points added to a comment are also added to a user's karma score. Having high karma gives one bonus point to posts made by that author. (Being a registered poster adds one more, so that the highest normally achieved starting score is two).

Conversely, users with low karma have penalties imposed on them. People that post comments designed to get more karma, for example mirroring a linked article or presenting a banal groupthink opinion or lame joke, are often referred to as karma whores. Those who can moderate are selected by their karma score and number of meta moderations (and maybe other criteria). Slashdot editors, including Rob Malda ("CmdrTaco"), can moderate limitlessly. Moderator access for non-editors is time limited to a few days.

A given comment can have any integer score from −1 to +5, and Slashdot users can set a personal threshold where no comments with a lesser score are displayed. A person browsing the comments at a threshold of 1 will not see comments with a score of −1 or 0 but will see all others.

A meta-moderation system was implemented to moderate the moderators and help contain abuses.

Karma is implemented in the Slash Content management system and hence is generally used by all the sites that use this software.

All posts with scores −1 through 3 are hidden by default when not logged in.

Meta-moderation

Meta-moderation is a Slashdot mechanism whereby a reader can volunteer to review the correctness of moderation decisions. The reader is presented with eight to ten moderation decisions made by other readers and is asked to say whether or not those moderation choices were fair, by reading the post which was moderated and considering the moderation given.

The correctness of users' initial moderations, as determined by the users who are meta-moderating them, affects how often the initial moderators are given moderation points, so a reader who moderates but constantly has his moderation decisions marked incorrect under meta-moderation will only infrequently be given moderation points.

Slashdotting

Slashdot has about 5.5 million users per month, and encourages its readers to read the articles linked to in the summary [sic]. This leads to a sudden upsurge in people visiting any website linked to, a phenomenon known as the "Slashdot effect". Sometimes the website's server is unable to cope with the level of traffic, and the site becomes unresponsive: the site is said to be "slashdotted".

The demand on the servers is reduced as the Slashdot story is moved down or off the front page from new stories being posted. Some webmasters have responded (either before or during a Slashdotting) by replacing dynamic content with static content on that page, to reduce the load and allow their servers to handle more requests. Rarely, a webmaster will take the entire page down or replace it with a blank page temporarily if the traffic is not wanted. Today, most major websites can handle the surge of traffic, but Slashdotting continues to occur on smaller or independent sites.

Article sections

As of May 1 2006, Slashdot articles are divided into the following sections:

  • Apple • Articles related to products from Apple Inc, such as Mac OS X, iPod, as well as items that directly compete with those products.
  • Ask Slashdot • Articles that seek advice from the Slashdot readership about jobs, computer hardware, software glitches, philosophical problems, etc.
  • Backslash • This section contains editor's picks of best comments from a recent popular article, primarily intended for those who do not want to read hundreds of high-moderated comments from the original thread.
  • Books • This section is for original book reviews on (not necessarily) tech books.
  • Developers • News about the software, or anything that directly affects the practice of programming. (e.g. new programming languages, useful techniques, licensing issues)
  • Entertainment
  • Games
  • Hardware
  • Interviews • Slashdot occasionally has interviews with various people. Questions are posted as comments in an initial story and 10 highly rated questions are sent to the interviewee; the answers are posted in a follow up story.
  • Information Technology (IT) • Anything that people with "Information Technology" in their job description might be interested to know.
  • Linux • The Linux section is for news specific to GNU/Linux
  • Mobile
  • News
  • Politics • This section is for news relevant to United States government politics. It was created primarily to cover the 2004 US Presidential Election, but now exists for occasional stories that are related to U.S. Politics.
  • Science • This is the place for science articles. Cool technology, space telescope observations, interesting medical research.
  • Technology
  • Your Rights Online (YRO) • News affecting your ability to live as a free, responsible person online. Such examples are Spam, invasions of privacy, and onerous licenses. Copyrights, patents, intellectual property, and other lawsuits often appear here.

The Apache and BSD sections are still posted to, although they no longer enjoy a place in the main site navigation. The Geeks in Space section was a web audio broadcast featuring several of the editors of Slashdot; there have been no recent updates to this section.

Criticism

One recurring problem is the frequency of reposts (also known as "dupes"), where editors approve articles for the front page, often slightly re-worded, that have previously appeared on the site. One proposed solution is to have mandatory procedures to search for Slashdot dupes before an article is published.

Culture

As Slashdot has existed for so many years, it has developed its own subculture, especially running jokes and gags, and the continued obsession with repeating certain quotes or phrases, as well as the use of obscure puns, collectively referred to as Slashdot-Memes.

These include:

  • Goatse (For years, a common tactic of Slashdot pranksters was to place comments with links which appeared to be article-relevant sites but were in fact links to the goatse.cx site, which featured nothing but a shock image.)
  • Natalie Portman (Referencing her attractiveness, a meme that began on Slashdot around the time of the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
  • "Hot Grits" Troll (Referring to a probably apocryphal story about Southern women pouring hot grits mixed with lye into the pants of unfaithful male lovers to maim them; usually combined with Natalie Portman references)
  • In Soviet Russia... (Referencing a hackneyed joke form popularized by the '80s comedian Yakov Smirnoff)
  • Al Gore References (Joking references to Gore's semi-apocryphal claim to have "invented the internet", when the subject is the Internet. Headlines referring to Gore are also frequently tagged with "manbearpig", in reference to episode 145 of South Park.)
  • “Imagine a Beowulf cluster of those” (Slashdot's early history coincided with the rise to prominence of the Linux-based parallel computing Beowulf system; speculation about powerful new computers arrayed in a Beowulf cluster quickly became an overused comment.)
  • “You must be new here.” (Invoked frequently after a poster complains of a common Slashdot issue such as duplicate stories or perceived bias by certain editors) first mention in 1999
  • “But does it run Linux?” (especially regarding Linux devices)
  • "I don't believe in censorsh%!$*%& [NO CARRIER]" (referencing a NO CARRIER signal from a disconnected modem)
  • I, for one, welcome our new <some animal/object> overlords (Referencing the famous quote from newscaster turned would-be alien invasion collaborator Kent Brockman of The Simpsons)
  • “I <cite silly personal offence>, you insensitive clod!” which originates from a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip dated 1986-02-14.
  • 1) 2) ??? 3) profit! . Originates from the South Park episode involving the Underpants Gnomes and Harbucks Coffee
  • Defective by Design (Referring to Microsoft products, DRM, or any technology that undermines the user's best interests)
  • Series of tubes variations (Referencing Alaska Senator Ted Stevens's infamous explanation of the Internet as being a "series of tubes")
  • "<Some action>. Cancel or Allow?" (Referring to Windows Vista’s User Account Control, which is reputed to frequently ask for permission to perform an action.)
  • "Stephen King is dead" variants (Referring to a popular early Slashdot troll which claimed to be posting breaking news that author Stephen King had died)
  • "Move along, nothing to see here." (Referring to a frequent line by Officer Barbrady on South Park, sometimes to discourage rubbernecking and other times hoping to cover up his own incompetence. This line is actually from when articles were posted to the front page, but the 'more' page had not yet been created and thus displayed only the text "Move along, nothing to see here."
  • Using "Young Sebastian" to refer to an innocent child, after the lead character from "The Neverending Story".
  • The high system requirements for Microsoft Windows Vista. Frequently appears in response to articles on supercomputing.
  • Reference to Steve Ballmer throwing a chair .
  • References to William Shatner's halting vocal style when a user is deemed to have either overused or incorrectly used commas.
  • Most of the online polls seen on Slashdot include an option to vote for CowboyNeal, the account name of editor, Jonathan Pater, with contributors feigning outrage when it is left off.
  • “In Korea, only old people use ” (origin)
  • References to the Back to the Future trilogy.
  • "itsatrap" tag and comment (sometimes "I have a bad feeling about this.."), reciting quotes from Admiral Ackbar and Han Solo from Star Wars. Usually used with articles describing a "generous" or "benevolent" act by a company or entity not usually known for either, and maybe as an allusion that the act has a negative ulterior motive. (example: "Microsoft To Open Source Some of Silverlight")

  • “There. Fixed it for you.” Used after humorously or insightfully modifying the parent post.
  • All your <some object> are belong to us.” quoting a mistranslation from the video game Zero Wing for the Sega Genesis video game console.
  • "Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads." Quoting Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Inevitably appearing in comments on any story involving laser technology. Often alluded to simply as "fricken' lasers".
  • "BSD is dying" lengthy, frequently repeated troll post which explains that the BSD family of operating systems are moribund. The general form "Netcraft confirms it: <some software> is dying" might also be spotted. Example:
  • Libraries of Congress as a measure of data capacity. Such as in an article about a new hard disk capacity breakthrough "How many Libraries of Congress is that?". Relates to the amount of data that would be required to store a digitized version of the library.
  • Car analogies.
  • References to the release of game Duke Nukem Forever, which was first promised in 1997. This took the place of the earlier long delayed but eventually delivered Daikatana.
  • Schrödinger's cat.
  • "Whatcouldpossiblygowrong" (What could possibly go wrong?) - a tag expressing a perception of risk, especially catastrophic risk.

Additionally, the ID of the Slashdot user is sometimes regarded as a sign of how 1337 the user is, although this is not taken very literally. Having a user ID that is a prime number or other significant mathematical number is also valued. Some people have successfully sold their Slashdot ID (usually because it was a low 4 digit or smaller), although the website's policy on this isn't exactly clear. Slashdot assigns user ID numbers in the order that the user registered; i.e., lower user ID numbers correspond to older accounts. A 3 digit user ID was among a number of items that were auctioned for the benefit of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Recently, a Slashdot community poll indicated that the 'In Soviet Russia...' meme is considered the most popular in Slashdot's first 10 years. The grits meme received the fewest votes.

Audience

While Slashdot's core audience is often said to consist of Linux enthusiasts and various other enthusiasts of the open source software movement, there is a significant Windows audience as well. A poll on Slashdot suggests that approximately half of all Slashdot visitors use Microsoft Windows as their operating system, a third use some form of Linux, and above ten percent use Mac OS X. But only 32% claim not to use Windows. Polls on Slashdot, like most on the Internet, may be unreliable (all Slashdot polls include the disclaimer "If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane"). The ongoing assumption that Slashdot is Linux-oriented comes from historical reasons and from its famous Bill Gates "Borg" icon, as well as the strong anti-Microsoft postings made by Slashdot members. Despite this reputation, a significant number of Slashdot stories are related to Windows video games or applications, or Microsoft security bulletins.

Famous or well-known active "Slashdotters" include:

Several engineers from NASA involved in the Mars rover exploration projects have also participated in Slashdot's forums.

Appearances in books

Slashdot has been named, either directly or indirectly, in a number of works:

Appearances in popular fiction

Slashdot has been used or mentioned in a number of fictional works, including:

Slashdot Japan

Slashdot Japan is owned by VA Linux Systems Japan, led by Oliver M. Bolzer. It started beta test on 2001-05-09, and began operation on 2001-05-28. However, the first Slashdot Japan news article was published on 2001-04-05.

The site carries some of the original Slashdot articles, and localized Japanese news.

Timeline

  • July 1997 - shortlived forerunner to Slashdot, called "Chips & Dips"
  • September 1997 - Slashdot is created.
  • December 31, 1997 - First archived Slashdot post.
  • February 2, 1998 - Slashdot begins accepting advertisers.
  • May 13, 1998 - Slashdot introduces the "Ask Slashdot" section.
  • September 14, 1998 - Slashdot is hacked.
  • February 1, 1999 - The Slashdot effect is first mentioned.
  • June 29, 1999 - Slashdot is acquired by Andover.net.
  • September 7, 1999 - Meta-moderation is introduced to Slashdot.
  • September 10, 1999 - Slashdot announces the addition of the "Your Rights Online" section.
  • October 15, 1999 - Slashdot announces the addition of two new sections: Apache and BSD.
  • February 3, 2000 - Andover.net, Slashdot's parent company, merges with Linux company VA Linux.
  • February 24, 2000 - Slashdot's 10,000th article is posted.
  • May 2000 - Slashdot is the victim of a week-long Distributed Denial-of-Service attack.
  • September 28, 2000 - Slashdot is hacked again.
  • March 9, 2001 - An anonymous poster posts the full text of Scientology's OT III ("Operating Thetan Level Three") document in a comment attached to a Slashdot article. The Church of Scientology then demanded that the Slashdot editors remove the post under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A week later, in a long article, the Slashdot editors explained their decision to remove the page while providing links and information on how to get the document from other sources.
  • August 18, 2001 - Slashcode 2.2 is released, which allows for comment notification, journals, and UNIX-style user pages.
  • January 2, 2002 - Slashdot introduces the "zoo" system, allowing the marking of users as "friend" and "foe".
  • January 16 - January 30, 2002 - An off-topic post purported to be detailing the results of an investigation into Slashdot trolling phenomena becomes itself the subject of a "moderation war" and ends up being moderated a record 851 times (as well as getting 268 direct replies). The editors are accused of indiscriminately modding down all the posts in the thread collectively as well as permanently banning anyone who moderated the post up from moderating or meta-moderating again.
  • March 1, 2002 - Slashdot begins a subscription service, where subscribers are given special perks in exchange for a small fee.
  • March 6, 2003 - Slashdot subscribers are given the ability to see articles 10-20 minutes before they are released to the general public.
  • August 18, 2004 - Slashdot has its ten millionth user posting.
  • September 7, 2004 - Slashdot "goes political" and creates a new politics subsection, two months before the U.S. 2004 presidential election.
  • April 8, 2005 - Slashdot introduces "day passes", allowing all users to enjoy the benefits of subscribers for the duration of one day if they watch a commercial.
  • September 22, 2005 - Slashdot begins using HTML 4.01 and CSS on its pages, replacing the aging HTML 3.2-based system which had been in place for many years.
  • April 1, 2006 - OMG!!! Ponies!!! pink theme is used for the day, some users report eye strain. The theme can be applied to the current Slashdot layout using the Slashdotter Firefox extension.
  • June 4, 2006 - A new design is implemented following a contest.
  • September 2, 2006 - richardcpeterson registers as Slashdot's one millionth member.
  • November 9, 2006 - Slashdot reaches 16,777,215 (or 224 − 1) comments, temporarily breaking the database.
  • October 2, 2007 - Slashdot marks its 10 years online

Notes

References

External links

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