Tuesday, April 03, 2012
No SOPA or April Fools: Slashdot is officially dead
But over the years, Slashdot as slid into irrelevancy. It remained largely unchanged for 15 years while other sites innovated. The "Slashdot" effect is more likely to come from Reddit, Twitter, or YCombinator than it is from Slashdot itself.
The "nail in the coffin" for Slashdot was the Jan 18 SOPA/PIPA protest. As other sites blacked out, like Wikipedia and Reddit, Slashdot continued business as usual. It mentioned the blackout, but only as yet another story that hackers might be interested in. It failed to participate in the hacker cause, as it would've at its height.
Slashdot actually died last August 2011 when its founder Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda finally quit. But we didn't realize it had died. For all we knew, he could've passed the torch to the next generation of smart hackers. But the lack of a Jan 18 blackout or April Fools pranks prove otherwise. The lights are on, but nobody is home. Its corporate owner is leaving the servers on as long as advertising pays for it, but is doing nothing else to the site.
Slashdot was on life support even before CmdTaco left. The wannabes had long ago chased away the real hackers. Once the leader in comment moderation, it now fails to separate signal from noise. It once decided to cap moderation at a measly +5 points, but that's now that's too few. Comments appealing to popular prejudices ("Microsoft is evil") quickly get those +5 points for being "insightful", drowning out truly insightful comments. In contrast, comment moderation actually works on Reddit and StackExchange. Moreover, your "karma" or "ranking" on these sites is what matters. People are even putting their ranking on StackExchange on their resumes, to demonstrate their mastery in their field.
I've been Slashdotted around once a year since 1998, back when I served my site from a DSL line on a Pentium 90-MHz server. Nowadays, even when one of my blog posts makes it onto the Slashdot front page, I'll still get more hits coming from Reddit or YCombinator or Twitter or Facebook.
For hackers, there is a lesson here: innovate or die. Slashdot was so afraid of losing existing readers that it failed to make necessary changes to attract new readers. The Internet is a source of constant revolution – no matter how many years you are ahead of the competition, they will catch up, and they will surpass you. The new "Slashdotted" is what they did to themselves – remain static for 15 years while everything else passed them by.
So Slashdot, I'll miss you. In the dotcom boom, your nerd news indeed mattered. I visited your site several times a day to see what was going on. I eagerly read what other hackers had to say about a story, and I competed to write original, interesting comments myself to max out my karma. But these days, visiting your site is a painful experience, like going back to the town where you grew up where everyone you knew has moved away.