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A Pre-History of Slashdot (medium.com)
751 points by cmdrtaco on Oct 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 350 comments

I remember getting my house's cable modem slashdotted in 2001 when i launched a community site (half-empty.org) I built -- what a wild ride that was. (If you are reading, thanks to Tim Wilde and the rest of the DynDNS crew for all the memories helping me, a young kid, get that site into an actual DC :))

I remember always rolling my eyes at the Linux and Free Software crowd on /. and the anti-Microsoft zeitgeist that you could find at the top of pretty much any thread, even if it was about something completely unrelated. At the the height of it these people were painted as communists by Microsoft (and if they had any real visibility in the media, I'd imagine they'd have gotten the same treatment.)

But here I am today sitting at my desk at Mozilla committed to working only on open source software for the rest of my career and never writing another line of proprietary code, after having seen enough good and pure-intentioned closed source projects morph and turn bad after the pointy haired bosses, the "visionaries", and the investor class got enough control over them.

I guess those days have always been in the back of my mind. It took a lot of life lessons to really understand how important the things the /. community was always debating back then around software licenses, privacy, and IP really were. Images of "billg" as the borg were fun, but behind those gags were serious conversations that ended up shaping our world, and ensuring to one degree or another there would always be a hedge against corporate control of software.

In today's world of mass surveillance, corporate consolidation of internet infrastructure, and the call for censorship of speech on the web, a community like /. is sorely needed. Here we are on the modern day equivalent, a site owned and operated by a startup incubator. It's fortunate that a community like this exists at all in some form, but how truly times have changed.

Open source is the main thing that prevented cyberpunk dystopias that many authors imagined. This community deserves some love.

Let's be honest: It prevented some and created others.

We got a wealth of free tools that allowed us to create things like Slashdot without crippling license fees and we got a wealth of cheap IoT and poorly programmed devices that can DDOS and bring down GitHub.

In the 1990s the fear was that Microsoft would take over everything. Now the concern is that Linux will show up in places it has no business being, collecting data it doesn't need, and connecting to services that aren't necessary, all in what should be simple, dumb appliances like your refrigerator or washing machine.

The kinds of hacks that were absolutely, hilariously laughable in movies like Virus are now quite plausible. Blender went berserk and set the kitchen on fire? Who would've guessed that's actually practical now, given a sufficiently Internet of Thingsy appliance.

>Now the concern is that Linux will show up in places it has no business being, collecting data it doesn't need, and connecting to services that aren't necessary

But linux is just a kernel and devices based on it are usually easier to reverse engineer.

> simple, dumb appliances like your refrigerator or washing machine.

Dumb appliances are not going away, you just probably spend too much time on websites that overhype ioT garbage.

> ...you just probably spend too much time on websites that overhype ioT garbage.

Buying a "dumb" TV these days is an exercise in frustration.

It's a bit of a stretch to attribute opensource with the rise of IoT. Those devices have plenty of proprietary software as well.

Since the licensing costs are often zero it's made products possible that were previously impossible if they needed to license QNX, Windows CE or something proprietary.

Open-source reduces friction. This is good in some areas and bad in others.

Prevented what exactly? We are living in the quintessential cyberpunk dystopia at this very moment.

Free Software, maybe. Open Source, not so much...

HN is like the california gold rush. Nobody is going to stop to think of ethical concerns and if forced to will make the appropriate posturing noises but the focus is completely different.

The irony is inspite of all the posturing about freedom and liberty seen at places like Slashdot its software folks who are currently neck deep in building surveillance infrastructure and selling out the world, of course qualified with suitable hand waving and apologism.

For the same commentators to reflect in a different context you need a more laid back venue like Slashdot. The problem with sites like Slashdot is to retain authenticity they cannot be profit driven. But there appears to be little room for that kind of thinking in the software ecosystem currently.

In today's world we need to call out people who do the job for these spy machines. Developers working for Google & Facebook should be ashamed of themselves. Money talks, I guess.

I don't have the vitriol towards the devs you do, but I will admit it's a bit disheartening that some of the greatest minds of our time are figuring out ways to trick your brain into clicking advertisements.

Somewhat relevant to my comment on another thread. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15413217

"...education sites are competing with very powerful algorithms that are designed to keep users watching video after video. If youtube starts encouraging users to do a few Khan Academy problems before watching the next video, I will consider our project, DnsLearning.org, a total success"

I work for Google. I am not going to be "ashamed of myself," but I am also not into drinking the Koolaid.

It's an oversimplification to demonize groups in this way. What is more troubling is the (non)reaction of society to the vast encroachment on privacy and rights from all sides, not the least of which are governments, telecommunication companies, and advertisers.

But you should. It's obvious you're privileged enough to change jobs once you have worked for them but you won't, because you don't want to take responsibility of knowingly playing part of the evils and histories biggest and most dangerous spying system.

You actually don't know what my job is, and you can't be sure that my presence here doesn't actually slow the growth of "histories[sic] biggest and most dangerous spying system."

context is everything.

you were lucky to be doing an online gig. the rest of /. audience was probably in desktop software. most of the people there were ruthlessly crushed by Microsoft business tactics.

they mostly had a very good reason to attack Microsoft.

most of the people there were ruthlessly crushed by Microsoft business tactics

That has to be hyperbole. Even at the height of Microsoft's aggression, there were many professional software devs left uncrushed.

You didn't have to be crushed directly if they crushed one of your favorite tools.

Happened to me three or four times and I picked up a pitchfork too.

Microsoft deliberately went out of their way to make life incredibly difficult for anyone who competed with them. To the point of corrupting standards bodies. Just look at their document format, and we are still dealing with that bullshit years later.

I feel like avoiding the steamroller of "embrace and extend" that was MS at the time was highly dependent upon luck.

The steam roller is still there from quite a few companies, make something popular and Google, MS, Facebook will clone it and force it on people. No luck about it though, these companies are only interested in mass market stuff, the long tail has only gotten longer.

> The steam roller is still there from quite a few companies

It never left, it will never not exist.

Amazon is presently crushing the old-line retail industry in a manner that is little different from what any number of giants in the past did to the competition, whether Walmart or Sears before it.

In the days of Sears, you got a big catalog every so often. It had everything. You could go to the Sears store and it would probably have it in stock. I remember that's where you bought Boy Scout uniforms some 30 years ago... and the necessary basic patches.

Last time I went to Sears, I was looking for some good working outside pants. The store had an odor of perfume. Most of the clothes were for women. The size of pants I wanted was sold out with no idea of when it would be in stock.

So I went over to Target. They didn't have any good working pants. They might get some in the next shipment in a week or so. I went over to REI... and the pants were a bit too expensive for what I was after. I ended up at Duluth trading... the outlet a good half hour drive away from where I am now.

If I was living back up in the north woods where it was more than a half hour drive? I probably would have ordered online and probably from Amazon. Sure, Cabela's has same day shipping to a store, but at my previous residence, the nearest store was an hour and a half away... and shipping on one pair is %20 of the cost of the pants.

There was a sears in the town where I lived up north... but Amazon hasn't killed Sears. Sears has been committing a slow suicide for decades with poor availability and service. Other stores with an online presence still have what I would consider exorbitant shipping costs.

Don't blame Amazon for picking up the customers of the once mighty Sears mail-order empire - they didn't get their catalog online fast enough and ignored that silly Seattle company selling books for far too long.

I don't see it as Amazon being aggressive at undercutting competitors or vaporware them in the way that Microsoft was in its day (Competitor A announces a product... Microsoft announces they're going to do it too - everyone waits for Microsoft to come out with it while Competitor A's product withers on the vine). Amazon has a product and a focus, and they're doing a better job of it than other companies are.

First they offer to buy it.

If you aren’t insane you sell it.

If you think you can beat the big three you probably deserve to be crushed.

>If you think you can beat the big three you probably deserve to be crushed.


> If you think you can beat the big three I cheer you on.

Its funny, that on HN of all places, your statement is not challenged. The major point of HN over /. was the startup/incubatorish habits of Ycombinator.

HN attitude is about getting the big payout, Slashdot was much more "fuck the man". I think it's part of a larger trend, in the Slashdot prime we had protests like the battle of Seattle against globalisation, the hardcore left from that era would be cheering trumps trade policy, but offshoring didn't work out so we collectively sold out.

That's why as a user I tend to consider the license of software I use and sometimes even the legal status of the entity behind it.

By no means my statement implies that software developed under a free software license by a nonprofit organisation will for ever keep being fit for my use case scenarios but I do believe that changes that constitute planned obsolescence wouldn't be the case.

Of course such a model has limitations, you can't go on funding rounds but still it's an interesting model.

"Most of the people there". Not "most of the people".

if you want to be pedant: "most of the people developing software" would be the most accurate imho.

>>In today's world of mass surveillance, corporate consolidation of internet infrastructure, and the call for censorship of speech on the web

I am going to have to call you out.

I had a low-digit ID on /.

We (people like me) have been calling this out for FUCKING DECADES.

I feel that we can talk about generational millenials etc.. but we can also call out DIGITAL millenials; those who thing they know what the fuck is up just because they "work at facebook"

I have been a whistle against NSA router backdoors since 1997...

So nobody wanted to hear it then - and the giants have surpassed me - and I concede...

but to think that this is some freaking revelation is bullshit.

We have been talking about it for literally decades. FFS FB threatened to sue me for that which I revealed even here on HN.

Today's "world" has been here since the 70s.

I think you misinterpreted my post. I wasn't claiming these were new problems. I was just claiming that now more than ever (since software is eating the world) we need communities like /. raising the alarm. I was also admitting that I underestimated the importance of these things back when I was reading /. as a high schooler in the late 90's (I, too, have a low digit ID on slashdot.)

Indeed. I remember the evolution of ECHELON in the 90s having the same impact in some circles. And then Carnivore coming out a decade later. If someone doesnt (at least) know of SHAMROCK and MINARET they really have no context.

Unfortunately, people had already forgotten about the Clipper Chip when Al Gore got the nomination the first time.

I believe we'd still have better outcomes from a candidate who was trained in the sciences than an alternative completely ignorant about technology.

I make mistakes when I'm writing code all the time. But as a science professional, I test my code against an objective reality, characterize my bugs, then change my approach.

Politics could use a lot more of that.

And I'd also offer that in the mid-90s key escrow wasn't as bizarre an idea. We were just starting to grapple with mass physical communication transitioning to digital.

And while I hate the dragnet currently used, targeted, court-approved interception of communication content is a good to society (via an effective law enforcement branch, hence an effective court system, hence rule of law).

same story here. Low number ID, privacy advocate, etc since the 90s.

the part that disgusts me recently is that when these conspiracies are turned into fact by post-facto released information from official sources, a good amount of the reaction is "So? Everyone already knew that anyway."

I feel like that reaction is so blasé that it will ultimately be the deathknell of the personal privacy movement.

Whether or not the propagation of that kind of attitude and reaction to such things is state-induced is another question, but the damage that such opinions do to such activism is definetly real. If I were an adversary to a cause, I would definetly consider those kind of tactics against the ideals of my enemy.

Yeah, it's funny. We all heard about ECHELON a long time ago, only to find out it was true and that not many people care because they don't really get what it means.

Ask not what the damage is on activism. Ask what is the damage to real human freedom.

Hear, hear. I had a conversation last week where I mentioned that 20 years ago, on Usenet of all places, people were saying that due to the growing size of corporate databases, privacy had already been dead for a long time.

22 years ago: "You could sit at home, and do like absolutely nothing, and your name goes through like 17 computers a day. 1984? Yeah right, man. That's a typo. Orwell is here now. He's livin' large. We have no names, man. No names. We are nameless!"

Not a great movie in the traditional sense, but they hit on some important stuff. I loved when the one fed was reading from the Hacker Manifesto...

    This is our world now... the world of the electron and 
    the switch, the beauty of the baud.  We make use of a 
    service already existing without paying for what could 
    be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, 
    and you call us criminals.  We explore... and you call 
    us criminals.  We seek after knowledge... and you call 
    us criminals.  We exist without skin color, without 
    nationality, without religious bias... and you call us 

    You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, 
    cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for 
    our own good, yet we're the criminals.

    Yes, I am a criminal.  My crime is that of curiosity.  
    My crime is that of judging people by what they say and 
    think, not what they look like. My crime is that of 
    outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive 
    me for.

    I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto.

> We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons

This sounds like it was written by an angsty 14-year-old who has no idea what actually goes into building and maintaining public infrastructure. Not, of course, that telecoms are always good citizens, but still.

Also this indicated quite a good understanding of 'hacker' culture at the time. It's from http://phrack.org/issues/7/3.html

Oh, definitely. I'm just intrigued by how my perception of that culture has altered over time, especially as I've become more involved with the world 'behind the curtain', and the true magnitude of the industry required to produce all our modern amenities.

Long distance calls in those days were prohibitively expensive. He was writing about the public telephone system and BBSs, not the Internet. You did not dial a BBS outside of your area code (and sometimes not even within the area code because there might be toll charges).

Yeah, I was around then.

Long distance calls were expensive because they were trying to pay off billions of dollars of basic infrastructure - the phone network that we're only now replacing nearly half a century later. Those fancy exchanges that the phreakers were exploiting? Those had to be invented, prototyped, tested, mass produced, installed, maintained... and that's not even considering tens of thousands of kilometers of telephone wires and poles, negotiating land rights, etc.

We only think of long distance communication as being next-to-free today because our information tech is already bootstrapped, computers are a billion times more powerful, and the market across which those costs are amortized are at least a million times bigger.

17... cute. I wonder how many it is today.

Thank you for sticking up for what's right.

> FFS FB threatened to sue me for that which I revealed even here on HN.

Can you talk more about this? My curiosity is piqued!

> The anti-Microsoft zeitgeist that you could find at the top of pretty much any thread, even if it was about something completely unrelated.

Just a side comment, I feel like Hacker News is going this way with Facebook a little. Posts that tangentially mention Facebook, there's usually a high-rated comment about how Facebook is evil and since the user left Facebook their life has improved. Those "I don't even own a TV"-like posts are a bit grating as the top comment on every thread, but hey maybe like you say, it's really pushing towards a better future in the end.

Not owning a TV is pushing my kid to watch a lot of YouTube. I'm seriously considering buying a TV, after living for 30 years without one, just so that I can have a quality entertainment feed that doesn't bend to the new media's idea of what my kid should watch, because what that ends up being is endless advertisements ("open this egg! What's inside? A Ken doll!! Wow!!") and videos of pandas killing each other with chainsaws, then reaching into the body cavity to find their surprise egg.

What a world.

I totally know what you mean.

I’m worried that my kid is not getting a ‘big’ view of the world, and is instead seeing it via YouTube, and anti-Trump playground conversations (which I agree with, to be sure, but it’s not a very deep or diverse understanding of the world).

When I think back to my childhood, my view of what the world, and human society (civic society?) ‘is’ came from TV news my parents happened to be watching - and occasional glances at their newspapers.

Even though I try to consume news from wide ranging sources, my kid sees none of that; it’s all an individual pursuit.

I fear there’s also a lack of ‘coherence’ in society today, and suspect that everyone watching the same news programme was something that provided it. When we think of current events, I don’t think that we’re all even aware of things outside our ‘bubbles’ - adults are sort of aware of this. What must growing up like this be like though?

I’m considering starting to watch evening network news. One problem with that is that we don’t have a TV - just iPads, laptops, and a projector for watching movies.

I’ve also subscribed to a delivery of the newspaper on Sunday (though it’s been a month and it’s never actually been successfully delivered to my home yet...)

Who’d’ve thought we’d be lamenting the decline of TV the same way our parents lamented the decline of newspapers?!

Yep. My FB feed seems to be 50% pictures of food and travel and 50% anti-Trump articles.

Even if you agree with the general sentiment, imagine a child growing up whose main media sources are the informational equivalent of a cross between crack cocaine and junk food.

I've limited it to Netflix on the big screen. I don't want the constant jumping from video to video either, pick one and then be stuck with it 'til it's done (or turn it off).

I am considering Amazon FreeTime Unlimited as well, I would recommend trying that before a TV though I would appreciate any anecdata on it.

Also, a shout out to https://dnslearning.org/ https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14913547 (Aug 2017) <- expanding that whole YouTube discussion might be worth your time.

> utefan001: This is how my 11 year old daughter uses YouTube now... After 30 min, DNS no longer works for entertainment sites.

(Pricing was 1 free, $10/month but I don't see any info now... boo!)

DnsLearning.org now says it is free until January 2018.

Depending on the age of your kids, I suggest total YouTube curation. I've only got up to a nine-year-old but I'm thinking it's going to have to go up to at least 13 or 14 before I can have a serious discussion about just what is out there and how people are trying to manipulate them.

Five years ago that would have been more to avoid them from stumbling across the various types of adult content that for various reasons I would have preferred them not to view, and perhaps the HN zeitgeist would have called me a puritan (although I'm not just thinking sex and violence here, but also things like conspiracy theories and politics they are currently incapable of processing and other things [1]). Now, unfortunately, it's more about avoiding the brain hackers that you describe that know how to hack their brains into getting low-level addicted to that sort of garbage, and now perhaps the HN zeitgeist will be less offended at my policy that a poor defenseless six-year-old or nine-year-old in my case can't be expected to defend themselves against this level of sophistication.

(Because however stupid those videos may strike you as an adult, they are sophisticated, in their own way. The "cartoons that were just toy commercials" of my youth were nothing compared to what modern kids are being targeted by.)

The good news is that we're actually finding some channels where we have some common ground. For instance, they're really digging Homestar Runner now, and I've got some others that I can pick and choose from that we all like.

I increasingly pity the "digital natives" that didn't get to ease themselves into this world like I did. I'm not saying they're hopelessly lost; today's article about kids rebelling against social media is heartening. I'm just saying, I had a much easier on-ramp than they did. My first few years worth of youthful indiscretions are now utterly obliterated, because the dial-in BBS they were on is now long gone. I wasn't fucking up on Facebook or where the Internet Archive could find me. By the time I got on to the real internet, oh, I'm sure I could find things that would make me cringe now, but I'm pretty confident I wasn't blowing my foot off anymore.

[1]: Oh, and I'm pleased to say that they both seem to be on track to be voracious book readers, which I think is the strongest Step One to being able to deal with the onslaught they will eventually face. My strategy here is not just mere "denial of access", as I am well aware that doesn't work into their adulthood, and my goal is to raise good adults, not good children. I'm still feeling through what my strategy is, on what is shifting sand anyhow, but there's more to it than just "shield them forever."

How are you managing "total curation"? Are you always there with them when they're on YouTube, or are you whitelisting specific channels in some way?

"Are you always there with them when they're on YouTube,"

That one. They currently have no independent access to YouTube. (Well... technically if they knew what buttons to push where they do. I'm not using high-tech to block them. But they don't know and I'm not teaching them yet.)

Even a few years ago I might have considered this a bit much. But since "Elsa-gate" my mind on that has been changed. I know it's not just a weird conspiracy theory or something because I've even seen a couple of them pop up in my "related videos" list myself, and I don't really have a viewing profile that looks like a kids profile. (The reason why Elsa-gate is happening may be conspiracy theory related, but the brute fact that it is a thing is something I've seen first hand in my own feeds.)

The increasingly aggressive targeting behavior across the Internet is I think something not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately we're going to have to raise our children to deal with it, but my considered opinion is that the best solution before the teen age years is to just cut it off entirely. It is not as if we are leaving them adrift, the only ones without tech in an increasingly technical world; my kids play Minecraft, they've seen enough of the current YouTube videos that they can discuss them at school, their school is using technology in a halfway sensible manner so the nine-year old can already type and the six-year-old is on the way. It's only certain segments of the Internet that they are better off just locked away from.

Heck, it's not even terribly hypocritical of me... I lock myself away from those very same segments for the very same reason! I use uBlock origin pretty extensively, and whenever I see one of those bullshit Taboola blocks, I'm actively annoyed that they are so tuned that I find myself wanting to click through myself. (I'll know I've gone senile when I no longer can resist it.) I'm not magically immune to this crap, and I know it, so I avoid it. I rely on my own discipline to do it. But relying on a pre-teen's discipline is probably not a good plan.

Not the OP, but there is no way that I'm aware of to whitelist (or blacklist!) specific channels on youtube. And thanks to HTTPS, I can't even intercept + modify youtube pages at the network level. Thank you, privacy folks, hope you're happy!

Alternatively, there is always kids.youtube.com which is weirdly just an app for Ios/Android. I haven't tried it, and myself have actively disabled/removed all Youtube from being accessible by the younglings. Curated media, decided by me is all they get to watch then.

I haven't tried it, but it should be possible to MITM SSL for your own machines since you have control over trusted certificate authorities.

There might be a better article if you search deeper than I did to come up with a quick link, but here:


I haven't tried it either, but many big name sites use certificate pinning to avoid the attacking form of this MITM.

A manually trusted cert overrides pinning, it's only protecting against certs signed by another of the default installed certs (otherwise Google and others simply wouldn't work in many corporate environments).

Looks like a very nice find! I'll definitely be having a look at it, thank you.

The YouTube Kids app has a really nice interface, but there's no whitelist option unfortunately. I wish there was. It does let you block videos or channels individually, but you can imagine how much good that does on a site as big as YouTube.

As you say, it's also iOS/Android only. No PC option for kids at all.

I'd look into youtube-dl. I tried all the parental controls on Youtube, Netflix, Amazon and devices only to finally realize that my idea of what's suitable doesn't have an equivalent rating.

There are so many safe for any age videos that have a bunch of kids with the worst, most cynical attitudes and no respect for authority and then wholesome shows with "intense emotion" or whatever that get rated tv-14.

So I download everything and put it on a USB hard drive hooked to a media hub.

I've got an Intel NUC I could do this with. Is there a video player app for iOS that kids could use (i.e. Interface isn't super complex), that'd play remote media?

Edit: Looked into this myself just now. VLC Streamer looks decent, as does Infuse by Firecore.

Also check out Plex Server. It's awesome. The management side is particularly well done.

Thanks, will do.

Safari should work well enough with a webserver file listing of MP4s.

You could drag an icon to the desktop for an HTML page with thumbnails if it was necessary to get fancy.

VLC also has a great iOS app that can stream and/or download from a desktop running the companion app.

The inability to blacklist channels is a major PITA.

The Power of Block is powerful, and denial of it a major Internet dysfunction.

I do believe you can hack at Squid to intercept HTTPS and terminate if for you, as well as run filtering (Squidguard), also possibly Dansguardian. Though I've not fully researched this yet.



HSTS would probably be an issue, although you could configure squid/etc. to strip those headers.

Does YouTube app/whatever not honor device-trusted root certs? I know Google pins some stuff, and some YouTube players are embedded in appliances.

If it were possible to mitm HTTPS specifically for YouTube that would still be a lot of work, maybe a good Raspberry Pi project.

I occasionally hear people complaining about ads on youtube, but I have never seen a youtube ad aside from when random people try to show me a video on their computer. Do people just not use adblock+ any more?

You can't avoid the ads if they are presented as videos.

It's actually a cultural phenomenon of people making a living by buying toys and making you tube videos about them. You tube then pipes children's eyeballs to these videos.

Sure, but not on my phone and on my Samsung 65" smart tv.

Ah. Yea, I use firefox for android for mostly that reason.

I really just meant the "I left Facebook" posts have the same kind of feel as the old "I don't even own a TV" cliché, but yeah, I know what you mean as well, and it's a problem. I wish the YouTube Kids app let you optionally whitelist a set of channels instead of only allowing a blacklist. It's nice that you can block a video or a channel, but there are thousands of low-quality channels.

> Just a side comment, I feel like Hacker News is going this way with Facebook a little.

In slashdot, PR companies working for Microsoft were operating dozens of sock puppet accounts to post copy-paste messages extolling the company for its perfection, and praising each and every single product they were announcing. Slashdotters became aware of the problem, and what appeared to be a deep collusion between those PR companies and slashdot itself to keep pushing that propaganda while persecuting vocal critics who raised attention to the problem, and started to nurture a profound dislike for the whole affair.

Some people may not like Facebook, but HN is far from the path that slashdot was driven into.

>In slashdot, PR companies working for Microsoft were operating dozens of sock puppet accounts to post copy-paste messages extolling the company for its perfection, and praising each and every single product they were announcing

the more things change the more they stay the same.

It's not a winnable bet (at least right now), but i'd wager that groups are doing that right this very second, even here.

Techies are an important group to influence, and there are a lot of interests here. The level of discourse and discussion is fairly high here, but don't let that trick you into the naiveté that folks with vested interests here are any more honest than they are anywhere else in the world or on the net.

Some people may not like Facebook, but HN is far from the path that slashdot was driven into.

Perhaps, but I have no doubt that there are a substantial number of sock puppet accounts running loose here. I just wish I had enough free time to try and prove it using text analytics. Then again, I'm not sure it would make any difference anyway.

Can you link to any examples?

I'm curious as I don't remember things as being that bad - no expectations of any unwanted research just for my sake though!

Yes the leaving Facebook has helped so much or the exaggerated posts of how Facebook is just too evil are a bit much. It annoyingly ends up making me want to defend and like FB more. Even though rationally I don't want to do that.

I was with Slashdot for 8 years. There are a lot of memories I could share, but the thing I appreciated most about my time there was just how much Rob (and the core team of engineers and editors) really cared about the site and its users. It's rare to see such conviction from tech companies or leaders of large, user-centric websites.

I'm not sure Slashdot's users ever really understood how much time and energy Rob expended defending the site from user-hostile changes tossed without concern from the upper echelons of the org chart.

Thanks Rob.

They sent pizza to Kuro5hin during a difficult time. That showed real class.

Oh, man, Kuro5hin! That was such a great, diverse, welcoming site for a couple of years. So sad what it descended into.

For anyone who wonders why HN mods are overly strict, then note that Kuro5hin tolerated trolls and they utterly destroyed the site. It doesn't exist any more.

It had limped along until a year or so back when the server finally fell over.

The domain is parked now.

But yeah, the trolls pretty much ruined it, life lesson. Rusty turned up running a Mastodon instance, though I haven't seen him for a few months.

The change in direction of content of kuro5hin, is that the trolls you refer to?

I just visited sporadically and noticed focus drifted from tech related and interesting to political and sometimes into conspiracy theory areas around the time when I stopped visiting.

Not OP, but that was a significant part of it, yes.

Both the quality / topic of posts, and of discussion, faded quickly.

Same happened to usenet. Too much noise.

Oh Kuro5hin. I miss blixco.

Thanks Rob for the trip down memory lane. I have two to share:

I started using Slashdot in ‘97. I remember back then you had a cron to update the front page and we figured out you only run it every 10 minutes, so I built small shell script on my Linux desktop that would pop up a notification reminding me to reload slashdot every 10 minutes.

My second memory was when I was working for Sendmail. Because we were “famous” and appeared on Slashdot for every Sendmail release, one of my first jobs was helping the senior admins set up a new web server for Sendmail.org. I was told by the creators of Sendmail “this server must be able to handle getting Slashdotted.”

So we bought the biggest Dell server we could find, put it in Level 3 in San Francisco (back when they still hosted things — that datacenter is now Dropbox’s HQ), and then I asked the creator of Bind if he could secondary my DNS on a.root-servers.net. When he actually replied and said yes I felt huge pressure to get that entry right and was a bit starstruck.

I was also awestruck as I was doing tail -f on the logs and we hit Slashdot for the first time after setting up the server. I couldn’t believe one site could send that much traffic.

If it weren’t for you none of that would have happened, so thanks Rob!

> I started using Slashdot in ‘97. I remember back then you had a cron to update the front page and we figured out you only run it every 10 minutes, so I built small shell script on my Linux desktop that would pop up a notification reminding me to reload slashdot every 10 minutes.

I did something similar but then at some point I ended up blocking slashdot.org in my hosts file because it was killing my ability to focus or get work done. I need a beowulf cluster of attention at work.

> I need a beowulf cluster of attention at work.

I used to have one of those! Sadly, Natalie Portman filled it with hot grits.

It makes my heart swell to know there are still those out there thinking of dear Natalie, petrified and with hot grits down her pants...

I don't have time for Natalie; I'm fretting over Netcraft's confirmation that BSD is dying.

We need a poll to determine what CowboyNeal says on the matter.

CowboyNeal is busy waiting for DukeNukem 3D to come out

HN doesn't support polls, you insensitive clod.

I'm dreading the first of those Microsoft Halloween documents that are going to be leaked soon, all about how WSL will wipe out GNU/Linux.

2018 is going to be the year of free as in speech GNU/hurd on the desktop. M$ is shaking in thier boots.

Well you didn't need to be the Amazing Kreskin to predict that.

+5, Troll

In Soviet Russia, where the pants wear you!

In Korea, only old people wear pants.

Level 3 still has some facilities there; I don't think they ever used the space that Dropbox was in. (And since vacated; it's occupied by Stripe and Lyft now)

I never publicly announced this but I loved Slashdot’s friend/foe system so much that I built it as a cross browser extension for Hacker News. It’s called Hacker Smacker and it’s on GitHub.


Supports not only friends and foes but also friends of friends and foes of friends. Makes it easy to scan the HN homepage and comment threads and see what’s good. Much like how Slashdot’s friend foe system highlighted the good stuff in threads.

Slashdot got a surprisingly large amount of stuff right, amazing considering it was one of the pioneering web-based discussion systems.

- You cannot both moderate and comment on the same article.

- Limited moderation points (too limited on Slashdot arguably, but better than infinite up/down votes).

- They didn't have up/down, but a system of "Interesting", "Informative", "Off-Topic" and a few others. These are the same as up/down votes in the end, but make you classify postings.

- Set threshold to (say) 3 and quickly see only the +3 interesting comments on an article.

- Meta-moderation didn't work well, but was an interesting idea.

When I was younger I thought that Slashdot's moderation was brilliant, and every time that I tried to think up something better I invariably came back to that model. When I first stumbled across Reddit I thought to myself that it couldn't possibly work: too simple, too accessible, too easy to game. And yet over the years I kept reading Reddit and stopped reading Slashdot, and it dawned on me that Reddit's comment rating system miraculously was better than Slashdot's somehow, in a way that I couldn't put my finger on. Somehow their algorithm for knowing which comments out of thousands to place above the fold is basically perfect; even when I click on the "load more comments" links at the leaves of comment chains I nearly always find that the originally loaded comments were exactly where I wanted to stop reading. And of course Reddit still gets plenty of visibly-upvoted bullshit, but the difference is that on Reddit the top response to that comment will be a refutation that is just as upvoted, if not moreso. In contrast, on the rare occasion that I visit Slashdot these days, I wince at all the confidently-asserted yet blatantly wrong comments marked with "5, Informative", while the informed refutations languish invisibly below with a score of 1. Maybe Slashdot's moderation would work better on a more focused site, but in practice it just seems like the people selected for moderation just aren't often enough experts on the topic being discussed to distinguish the signal from the noise.

The "fall of Slashdot" had nothing to do with moderation and everything to do with the fact that articles are chosen centrally. That meant that Slashdot could never expand into other areas outside tech or dynamically follow its users' tastes.

>could never expand into other areas outside tech

Why would anybody want to?

On Reddit, you get the same thing in certain subreddits. I think it just depends on how you are in relation to the local groupthink.

I think it's similar to Netflix replacing stars with thumbs up/down. They realised they didn't need that data, they just needed more dimensions (ie for you to rate more of their library).

Slashdot didn't need to limit voting so severely. And it turns out replies to funny comments are usually funny and interesting comments are usually interesting.

They also never scaled it - +5 was the maximum from when an article might top out at 200 comments or 5000 comments.

> They didn't have up/down, but a system of "Interesting", "Informative", "Off-Topic" and a few others. These are the same as up/down votes in the end, but make you classify postings.

I might be misremembering things, but I seem to recall that it was also possible to assign boost points to these in your user settings - i.e. so that Interesting posts would be treated as +2 rather than +1, for example.

I have wanted HN to have a friend/foe system since I first found the site. I'd also like it to have the ability to make notes, like 'farkies' from Fark.

On Slashdot, you simply add them to a friend or for list. On Fark, you get to flag them in certai colors and then leave yourself a note (other people can't see it but admins probably can) that I use to remind me of why I put them on the list.

I'd like a combination of those two things. A simple friend/foe list with comments that show next to their name. I'd have no use for ignore functionality. Also, I usually use said note to write polite things that help me remember the user.

I think it encourages getting to know the other people and humanizes the pixels on the screen. Both sites have led to my meeting people in real life and making real life friendships. That's easier, for me at least, when I can more easily identify them as individuals and remember them.

Slashdot is where I first read your comments, then you didn't post for a while and I found HN and you post here too!

I didn't create an account on /. since AC was easy and I mostly lurk anyway but I always enjoyed the insights that everyone brought.

I remember either around the time of the revelation of the NSA phone closets there was a guy who used to do SIGINT and he posted a bunch on how to avoid surveillance. I think he had moved to the Philippines, sometimes what happened to him.

Just wanted to say hi and that you seem like an interesting guy!

Thanks! I took the karma hit to say hi to taco, in the thread. Worth it!

something like this?


NB: the icons beside your name are for "model", "traffic", "acquired" and "phd"


I second this. At the very least. some way 'favourite' a HN user, and their name on their posts appears in a different colour. There are so many good commentators here, that keeping track of people is hard.

Funnily enough, every time I see the friend/foe dots/pills on a post my first thought is "that's an old-timer". I'm betting well over 75% of the current Slashdot readers don't even know it exists.

I have a four-digit Slashdot ID and I don't remember friends and foes. Is it after my time, or is it just that I don't remember anything any more?

You just don't remember anything anymore. IIRC, it was implemented around 2001. It was little more than a curiosity though, you may have just bypassed the little colored "pills" on comments, but aside from being angry about having foes, or happy about getting a new friend, nothing was really done with the feature.

I think that friends' posts had an extra point of moderation calculated for your display, though that feature might not have been present in early incarnations.

The point of it was letting you give free pass from the moderation for some people's comments always appearing for you, or hiding other people.

It still exists if you have the original discussion system enabled. I never moved on to the javascript-based one.

I don't really understand the appeal of a friend/foe system. If I don't like a person, I typically try to avoid interacting with them unless/until I find a way to reevaluate them or myself so that I can find something positive, a way to like them. Pretty much the last thing I want is a computer to remind me that I don't like someone. In fact, I wish frequently that I could suppress my own internal feelings of dislike for people. When reading comments on sites like this I try not to read who posted them until I've evaluated the post on its own merit. The times I find myself pre-judging a post when I see who made it, I kick myself and struggle to evaluate its claims as objectively as I otherwise might.

I do understand that not everyone interacts with every site in the same way, and I personally do not approach every online community in the same way. So, I say, to each their own. The use of a friend/foe system seems to impose a bit of centralized structure, however, and I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of enumerating to some website exactly whom I prefer as people, when I'm constantly trying to reevaluate and expand that in myself.

Slashdot is interesting in that it is one of the remaining bastions of (at least superficially) anonymous discussion. There are apparently several strata of users: some don't read anything by anonymous cowards, some don't read posts by their foes, and some only use the site anonymously. It makes me curious about how these different self-selected filter bubbles might give different perceptions of the discussion to different participants. Personally I have great difficulty engaging in public discussion without trying to read and understand as many diverse opinions as possible - I feel as though otherwise I'd be speaking out of ignorance.

EDIT: On occasion (at least speaking for myself) we don't like someone because they remind us of something about ourselves we try not to acknowledge or think about. Blocking their posts en masse can deprive us of an opportunity to explore this and grow.

The whole point of friend/foe system on Slashdot is that foes' comments are less visible, and friends' are more visible. It's basically a way to say "this person tends to say ridiculous things, and I don't care to read more of them" and "this person tends to say interesting things, I'd love to hear what they have to say on other subjects".

So if your approach is to "try to avoid interacting with them", it just automates that.

I used the friends/foes on /., but never thought much about it. Filtered out a number of vocal nutcases.

But wouldn't this sort of create your own cozy echo chamber, where all opinion is streamlined?

I think it would be interestring going the other way around, a bit like some sub Reddits don't show comment score for a day or two, to not cause self reinforcement in moderation.

Maybe even take it a bit further by anonymizing the commenter's name for a limitid time, could be interesting as the comment would then rely fully on content, not reputation or score feedback reinforcement.

It depends on how you use it. If you only friend people who agree with you, then yes, you'll get an echo chamber. If you friend people who say interesting things instead, you won't.

> So if your approach is to "try to avoid interacting with them", it just automates that.

Well, I didn't really mean that I don't read or listen to what they have to say. I just choose not to engage with it.

This is awesome!! Thank you!

Hey - it's a little hard to see the splits like foe of a friend (I'm red/green color blind), what's an easy way to tweak the colors?

EDIT: I unpacked it and tweaked the CSS. Wooo!

Been looking for something like this, as i have been using RES over at Reddit for a similar purpose.

The one thing that the friend/foe system missed IMHO was the ability to tag posters with comments like "suspected oil shill" or "actual Intel chip designer" or stuff like that. That's often more useful than some vague idea that a poster had some especially good or poor posting in the past.

The RES browser extension does this for Reddit (which I suspect you might already know, but others might not). It also sort of does automatic friend/foe for you, as it displays the net number of votes that you've given to each user next to their username, turning bright green for positive numbers and bright red for negative.

The Hacker News Enhancement Suite does this, plus other things.

It's not compatible currently with Hacker Smacker, but fixing that takes one line of tweaking.

Oh, that's nice!

It's not currently compatible with Hacker News Enhancement Suite. Quickest solution I found was to change a line in findCurrentUser(), but just FYI. It would've been a deal-breaker for me.

Looking forward to playing around with this :).

@mercer - There a PR or Fork for that?

I've never done one of those, but if I find time this weekend I might try and do that. If anyone else cares to, or if you want to fix it yourself:

- open the folder for the extension (name of folder can be found in the extensions screen in Chrome)

- edit client.js

- go to line 25 or the function 'findCurrentUser'

- replace with this.me = $('.pagetop .nav-links #my-more-link').text()

fascinating :D

I do have my own system on following/starring PoI in HN, using no extension at all, so I can instantly know who's comment is more useful

no banning though, since valuable nuggets on knowledge can come from anyone

How does that work?

just using Firefox only... Set the color to always use your own colors, then change accordingly

whomever you want to take interest to, will pops up in 'Visited Link' color, the rest just normal URL

obviously works best in less-hyperlink sites like HN, wikipedia quite tolerable


I read the Slashdot FAQ on the Friend/Foe system, but I still don't understand it. Is the idea just that it lets you filter a comment thread to emphasize comments written by people you're interested in (friends)? Does it hide the comments of foes?

Yes, alter the displayed scoring.

Also based on the 2nd degree information, friends of friends and such.

I would use it behind the scenes to look for bad accounts too. Someone with lots of foes would be a candidate for some silent moderation.

Slashdot's score weighting is configurable. You could even add a positive score offset to foes.

The impression i have is that it gives fores a personal -1 on their comment score. So unless they get some +1s from others, or you have set /. to show everything, they will vanish below the breakpoint.

Note though that anyone can look up who has them flagged as foe on /..

I remember the early days of slashdot fondly, although I didn't actually make an account until a few years later. It was such an interesting mix of serious discussion, in-jokes, and amusing trolls (even the infamous goatsx troll that I fell for more than once.)

I still think that the moderation and meta-moderation was one of the most interesting experiments in a self-governing commenting system, even though it was clear that it was mostly a failure in the long run. My conclusion is that a site needs hands-on human moderation to maintain quality.

Slashdot is also a perfect example of the general life-cycle of cool social site. Humble beginnings -> lots of interesting people -> own little subculture -> lots of interesting content with some impenetrable in-jokes -> existing userbase ages out as they get jobs or have kids -> less interesting content, more in-jokes -> owners sell -> dry husk of a site remains.

More like:

1. Group #1 joins who care about site

2. Group #1 improves site. Sense of "community" keeps things in check.

3. Site grows in popularity and group #2 joins

4. Site loses sense of community and ability to moderate itself effectively.

5. Group #1 leaves

There is even a term for this phenomenon: eternal September [1]. It originated as Usenet slang for a period beginning in September 1993, AOL started offering Usenet access to its users which overwhelmed the existing culture for online forums.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

There are platforms which can and do survive. HN, despite bumps, does pretty well. Metafilter is another that seems to be kicking along.

Others tend to become Generation Ships of the founder culture. I'd put the Well in that category, as the userbase still seems to be strongly focused on the original cohort. Some fresh blood is necessary.

Actually: the idea of a university as an intentional community that tends to survive over time has occurred to me. Not fully assured, but there are an impressive number of centuries-old instances.

And, continuing that thought: YC emulates a critical element of that dynamic, in having regular incoming classes.

The platforms that survive tend to be either incredible focused around a certain niche (ycombinator), or heavily moderated with a strong editorial hand (metafilter). Slashdot is still limping on as a much less interesting site since it had money behind it but places like Kur05hin (however it was spelled) and its ilk quickly imploded.

People like to complain about heavy-handed moderation but all the experiments to try and build self-moderating communities eventually get overrun with trolls and (worse) self-promoters.

Any automated system will eventually be gamed, something that even huge sites like twitter and youtube are starting to realize now that state-level actors are using them for their own purposes.

I'm coming to agree there's no substitute for effective moderation.

And despite occasional (and strong) disagreements with dang and sctb, they do a really good job on HN.

Oh its worse -

After you make your peace with that, theres an entire world of rules and theories on moderation, all of it useful and important to get the job done.

The cheat code to cut through that mess is -

"I'm coming to agree that theres no substitute for good editorial control"

Trust me on this, the proof is to painful to reproduced regularly.

Also agreed.

(You're going to have to try harder for an argument ;-)

haha not arguing, just seeing how deep this rabbit hole goes.

Like teachers, now editors are another social good that we need to manage information dissemination optimized for civilization's good.

Always has been, or at least so long as mass media have existed.

I've been exploring this topic, as a particular focus over the past year, though it's been an interest for some years.

If you look back to the Catholic inquisition (and its precursors), Gutenberg, Martin Luther (500th anniversary coming up at the end of October), J.S. Mill (I've run across some excellent discussion by Hans Jensen: https://www.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/6x7u6a/on_the_... and http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00346760110081599 (available via Sci-Hub)).

It's sobering.

For some reason I think this going to happen to HN too, and I feel it is at 3. And I'm not sure if I'm in group #1 or group #2.

I think it's been at step 3 for longer than most sites have last. I know I'm part of group 2, but I've seen a somewhat consistent culture since I arrived over five years ago.

Looks like you joined about 5 1/2 years ago. I'm surprised you think you're part of Group #2.

Before what date do you think people can be group #1? Or are you ascribing the group number to contributions rather than date of joining?

When a friend first recommended hackernews to me it didn't show up in google searches. So I gave up. I think techcrunch finally led me to finding it. By the time I actually created an account(just 10 days before nathan^), people were already complaining about the deterioration of the community, so I assumed I was in group 2.

I am most definitely Group #2. I wish I was Group #1, but I was too loyal to /. (and a few other sites), and after /. got DICEd along with the 'f*ck beta' stuff I jumped ship to Soylentnews.org which had an okay community but a rather fascist set of admins (despite what their manifesto says).

So after a few months of lurking, I registered here, and now it's my daily[1] go-to site.


[1] Hourly. :)

That's exactly how I felt.

I, along with a lot of people, joined HN in 2008 after Techcrunch wrote about it. That's pretty close to "Group 2 joins" and yet 9 years later HN persists!

I get the feeling a lot of group #1 left in between 2010 and 2012. There are still tons of folks here who made accounts on day one, but a lot of the more conservative or libertarian leaning folks seem to have migrated to other communities around that time.

>other communities

lobste.rs ?

I think there's more keeping things in check here than at ./ when group #2 joined.

I'm definitely in group 2. Possibly in group 3 if that's a thing.

I think I am 'Group 3'. My account is 4 1/2 years old and I was a 'read only' site visitor for a while before that.

So there were the people who got here first, then the people who discovered the site in 2008, which was a long time ago, and have fair claim to being 'group 2'.

So I think 'Group 3' is me. A defining characteristic of 'Group 3' is that goes back to pre-Snowden times, before the truth was known. Kids today must be 'Group 4'.

This reminds me of A Brief History of Who Ruined Burning Man:


That general pattern is followed by companies, social organizations, and even countries - to an extent.

I don't know what you guys are talking about. What happened was very clearly:

1. Group #1 joins who care about site

2. Group #1 improves site. Sense of "community" keeps things in check.

3. Site grows in popularity and group #2 joins

4. ?????

5. Profit

Where's the Profit ???

from stealing underpants obviously

also see: twitter, the internet, tech in general...

> I remember the early days of slashdot fondly, although I didn't actually make an account until a few years later.

I still consider my mid 4-digits slashdot id a mark of pride. It's also a great regret that I had spent a significant amount of time on the site before a friend convinced me to finally register an account. I'm pretty sure I could have been in the 3 digit club.

I too remember slashdot fondly, but the webbernets are a very different place today—more fractured, self-selected into groups, more appealing to the masses, less wild west freedom.

Slashdot user #578 here. :) Besides pre-web stuff like Usenet and BBS boards /. was the first place I really felt like part of a community. I still remember fondly the times that stuff I submitted made it to the front page (like the story announcing the title of Star Wars Episode 1), like I was now "famous" with a bunch of people I really wanted to impress. Like most of us, I drifted away a long time ago but I'm always happy to see people in new communities who were around back then. Happy Birthday /. and thanks for all the grits!

User #527 here. I sold my username (iota) on eBay for $150, back when your slashdot user number still meant something. I've always wondered what the buyer was up to, it was funny at the time to think of "selling" something that didn't exist. I guess it's commonplace now

came here looking for a story like this. i had a 2-digit id that i coincidentally sold for exactly $150 on ebay also. college beer money. don't regret it at all.

cmdrtaco announced his site on irc and i happened to see it in the first few days.

I remember /. before user reg even existed. There was some buildup to it finally being released, I recall. I signed on within an hour of it going live and though it was all pointless. Guess that's why I wound up with a 4-digit uid instead of a 2-digit one :)

I had (and I guess still have) user id #10, which for a few years conveyed a minor amount of Internet cred. I should have sold out in 2005 and retired to a country with an extremely low cost of living.

Imagine a beowulf cluster of grits?

Imagine a beowulf cluster of hot grits and Natalie Portman

I don't know how GNAA would feel about that...

Like most of us, I drifted away a long time ago

I just checked and was shocked I remembered my password there.

Wow, good memory, assuming your username, boasting of your new high speed acoustic coupler modem, is any indication of when you registered your account :-)

Turbo button.

Yeah, I recall reading stuff there 'back in the day' and it was pretty cool. I tried to find my old account, but couldn't :-/ I did find a few stories I sent in in 1998.

#1483 here, yo. :) I logged in recently to poke around a bit.

Slashdot was a major inspiration to us as we grew Ars Technica, not to mention a major source of critical traffic and growth in those early years.

Hats off to Rob! I owe you, dude. We all do :-)

Yeah it was slashdot that sent me to the embryonic Ars to find out all about Pentium2 (or was it 3?) architectures, BeOS, and this new-fangled unstable unixy MacOS in beta etc.

Frequent reader of Ars, I don't comment/post much on Civis but enjoy reading the deep dives into updates like Oreo and iOS 11.

Sadly these "deep dives" feels more and more shallow these days. More and more they are about "look and feel" or pixel counting rather than the meat and potatoes.

Frankly these days Ars Technica could just as well be relabeled Apple Technica. The site scuttled their coverage of FOSS and similar under prominent sections, while the Apple stuff keep leaking out from their "infinite loop" section.

These days if it is not Apple related, it gets binned under their generic "gadgets" section.

And this from the site that got me interested in Linux in the first place back when it was black and orange, and housed a multipage introduction to Linux internals.

Yep. I found Ars via a link to a system build guide off of Slashdot oh so very many years ago.


slashdot, ars, anandtech were foundational websites to me growing up - amazing that this was 17+ years ago

You all are doing good work too.

You seem to write almost exclusively CPU and tech articles. Good for you. I wish your co-workers would stick to technology and lay off pushing politics.

[edit] Wow, the moderators couldn't even tell I was complimenting the guy.

I honestly agree that ArsTechnica has lost something since Jon quit (or he quit because the writing was on the door).

And not as much the politics, as the feeling that the site has become more "partisan" in the tech world.

I know right? I don't feel like my opinion was really that controversial.

Ars Technica has been a bittersweet story for years in all of the communities / circles that I hang out at. Some of their articles are great journalism. Others make you pine for "the good old days".

I wish they'd bring back Computer Gaming World. That was the gold standard of computer journalism. You can actually find PDF's of every issue ever released online and if you compare them to today, they used to be so methodical and objective. They didn't read like advertisements and there was no forced-in message about the political climate. You didn't read about Battle Chess and get shamed for liking that the Queen looked pretty.

User #5825 here. Here are a few of my favorites:

The whole anti-Microsoft movement on /. Thy were the evil empire and Google was saintly. It’s funny how times change.

The weather station we sent you in hopes of doing a promotion for our weather equipment site, weathertools.com.

OOG THE CAVEMAN. He was DevOpsBorat at least a decade before Twitter.

The launch of Mac OS X and the launch of the first titanium PowerBook.

That CPU startup that Linus was a part of. Most disappointing build-up ever. LOL

> That CPU startup that Linus was a part of. Most disappointing build-up ever. LOL

Yeah, Transmeta. That whole "stealth mode" startup mystery kept the buzz going.


Re Microsoft the evil empire: it was deserved at the time. But it's nice to see they have a better reputation these days.

My college laptop (Fujitsu Lifebook P-2046) had a Transmeta Crusoe chip, running at 800 mhz. It was slow as molasses, but could easily do 15 hours of battery life (screen on) with the drive-bay and extended batteries, all in a sub-note form factor. It was a perfect note-taking machine (all of my real dev work was done on desktops or via SSH/telnet). Transmeta may have had a short lifespan, but I think they played a big part in jumpstarting Intel's movement to focus on power consumption (remember, this was the Pentium 4 era).

I was still using my Transmeta-based Sony Vaio Picturebook as a router running FreeBSD up through January 2016. Before that in the early 2000s it made a great, extremely portable hacking laptop. The attention Transmeta got on Slashdot was probably instrumental in my buying it.

Slashdot was definitely instrumental to me buying mine. I never would have heard of Transmeta otherwise, and I found out about the Fujitsu through Transmeta's site.

#5648 - We probably signed up the same month!

Whether they know it or not Slashdot inspired a lot of Michigan startup founders. They proved that you didn't have to be in Silicon Valley to found a notable company.

I well remember after reading Slashdot for a few months and then finding out that they were in West Michigan and being absolutely floored.

Fun fact one of Rob's friends who helped found the company is now a professor at Michigan State University:


Kurt is also involved with Sight Machine: http://sightmachine.com/company/#leadership

Slashdot has been a major influence. Everyone (who was someone) read Slashdot. Sergey Brin, for example, was a great fan. To be mentioned on slashdot was a meant instant saturation for a website. Personally, I miss CmdrTaco's wry take on the new of the moment.

> Everyone (who was someone) read Slashdot.

... as well as some of those that would eventually become someone. Like Mark Zuckerberg [0] who co-built an MP3 player that learns your taste [1] in 2003:

> "It looks like they're both college freshmen now. But last year, Adam D'Angelo went to Korea for the IOI contest. Apparently, the other one is a smart guy too. A friend at Exeter said Mark Zuckerberg was a bigshot in math there and had some interesting coding projects of his own. Go figure."

[0] https://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=61425&cid=5774512

[1] https://news.slashdot.org/story/03/04/21/110236/machine-lear...

> I may be paranoid, but I'd prefer not to have anyone, even my own computer, perform data mining on me. - 2003 about MZ mp3AI player

if the guy knew...


Wow, just realized something totally crazy.. Honestly, I ended up where I am today because of Slashdot. In 1999 I wanted to build a Slashdot site but had no idea what I was doing. So I sat down and just learned how all that stuff worked, ran phpSlash for a while, then Slashcode, then Drupal. All the while I kept learning to code and run servers because of my little site. All the while new doors opened, and I kept working and learning... and now 18 years later I'm doing what I do because of your site. I've had a great little career, so many thanks for helping me get here :-)

That makes two of us!

I will echo this. I absolutely knew I was a software engineer pre-Slashdot but it shaped what and where and how I do that. And I also have had a very good run so far. So thank you for that impact on my life.

I did a book review on there, way back when, and I meet Rob and Hemos at the Atlanta Linux Showcase (I guess it was 1997 or 1998) as I took part in the "Loki Hack" (they might have brought food, I don't fully remember.) I don't know how to fully describe it but I was a fresh out of school engineer at IBM, generally introverted and shy, and I somehow felt like I needed "permission" to take part in opensource and the community. Not permission from work, that was actually very very easy, but more like "where do you start" and I didn't want to look like a fool. Someone else was running a project and I had some ideas and had no idea if my ideas meshed with their mission. It's just easy to stand on the sideline and talk about stuff, but you sort of have to take a risk and put yourself out there to take part, and maybe I needed "permission" to do that. The slashhdot guys were particularly down to earth, and laid back and totally welcoming, Hemos even told me that they could probably send me more books to review if I was up to it, just made me feel totally welcome for my fairly trivial contribution. I think it's really easy to turn away newbs with a bad experience and these guys didn't do that. A big website and a business are some neat things to be a part of and to have created, but to be really early members of a new community and to do that well and welcome people and grow it and nurture it is a major accomplishment.

I read a lot of /. back in the day. I even had my 5 minutes of internet fame with the Sony Rootkit fiasco ( https://www.google.com.mx/search?biw=1344&bih=759&q=sony+roo... ) .

However, I stopped going at some point because I felt I was in an "echo chamber". Actually that's how I started visiting Reddit and later Hacker News. I liked HackerNews because it had some contrasting values compared to slashdot, valuing "for profit" software efforts, and having more technically focused comments.

+5 Interesting

Slashdot is where I first encountered both Google ('98 / early '99) and YC (the Summer Founders Program). So pretty valuable personally. Thanks for that :)

I miss the enthusiasm of that community.

Ditto. It almost felt like Google got its nerd cred from being featured on Slashdot multiple times. BitCoin too (waaaay before it was "popular"), and probably Linux itself.

I vaguely remember you posting a link to Chips & Dips on a Linux-related EFNet channel more than 20 years ago. I gave it a look, and it was sort of interesting, but I didn't bookmark it and forgot about it. Then later you announced Slashdot and the new design must have made it stick in my head or something, because I read it multiple times a day for the next 10 or so years. Slashdot was an important source of news and hosted a valuable community during those early days.

My only regret is that I missed out on a two-digit user ID when you added registration, because I figured it probably wouldn't catch on (boy, was I wrong!) and I didn't comment much anyway.

Thanks Rob, and best of luck!

My post literally adds nothing to the thread. I'm just saying hello.

> Everyone (who was someone) read Slashdot

Yeah, they had good concentration of people "who were someone". HN had similar thing going on too; I wonder what's the next one is going to be...

There's not going to be a next one, there's going to be 10.

20 years ago the web was a much smaller place, and a few billion people currently online weren't even aware that the place existed.

Now, the population has exploded and there will be lots of different sites, all good in different ways, to "nurture the next generation of nerds". In different languages, too.

Growth, evolution -- all good.

> There's not going to be a next one, there's going to be 10.

I don't agree. People tent to congregate on online forums that achieved critical mass, and tend to flock where everyone already is. Plenty of slashdot alternatives, including slashdot clones, were already launched across the ages, and they never succeeded attracting the same level of content and same sort of community. Well, except HN which, at least to me, represents a far improvement.

I think there are 2 components to look at articles and comments.

I don't know if it is nostalgia, but I recall preferring /.'s articles from 15ish years ago (compared to what /. and HN have today). Maybe that is a reflection of the news at the time, my age, the communities' interests, or a combination of the above.

With HN, I wish I could filter Valley specific news ("Zucktown, USA"[0] would be a recent example). HN aims for news for both Jobs and Woz types, where I think /. was really focused on just "News for Nerds, stuff that matters." That's all I really wanted.

So in terms of articles, I don't know what to believe. But I know that HN's community is more civil than /.'s, and this is one of the few sites on the web where I read the comment section.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15398430

> To be mentioned on slashdot was a meant instant saturation for a website.

For quite a while, that was even referred to as being 'slashdotted'...

On that note, i seem to recall some physicist's personal web page that got a massive attention on /., Reddit and some other site all in the same day, leading to quite the surprise from the server admin.

Recently, the new of the moment is pretty weird though. In retrospect, the things warranting criticism were easier targets, and there was a lot of low hanging fruit.

These days, a lot of what used to catch some well-deserved flak has been refined and corrected for. The things that deserve criticism lately are a little more obtuse, and it's hard not to sound like a whiny, petulant critic, when everything's not perfect. #firstworldproblems

Thanks cmdrtaco!

Throughout the years, I'd turn to /. to keep up to date on latest shakings and goings ons. I first heard about MythTV there back in the heady days before the home media landscape was bought up and "civilized". I got to see a constant reminders of the failings for the RIAA and so....many....patent troll cases. I remember the crap packt publishing reviews too - basically getting someone to pimp their book. Tons of discussions on cell phones and where the technology was going before Apple did put out the 3g phone and created the walled gardens we have today...then reading about the jailbreaking and what not that was created.

I owe a lot to /. for helping shape me into the slightly jaded but functional developer I am today.

One of my fondest memories was the time we did an Oktoberfest party on the 10th anniversary of /. We were the only party in the state I think.

I remember the endless IBM vs. SCO lawsuit discussions.

heh, now i remind myself that i still have User Friendly in the RSS reader. Anyone know what Illiad is up to these days?

Still posting comics? http://www.userfriendly.org/

My impression is that the page has been doing reruns for years now, ever since he posted that he would be taking time off.

I notice that they have since stopped labeling reruns with a original post date in the upper right corner.

He sometimes takes sabbaticals, and the users of the site will re-post old comics.

I have some real fond memories of reading slashdot before classes in high school. I think my favorite was the day Rob proposed, and I was late to AP chemistry because I was frantically reloading the page to see what happened..

Through it i discovered the EFF, the jargon file, the FSF, and much else (hot grits, anyone?), and I miss that community. I haven't spent any serious time there in about 8 years.

I haven't thought about Natalie Portman covered in hot grits in some years, so thanks for that.

I check the comments from time to time, but i fear the place is crawling with paid shills these days.

You can pretty much safely ignore most things coming from 7-digit UIDs and not have to worry about the shills so much.

Slashdot was one of the main inspirations for Advogato. One clue in support of this is that the codebase was called "mod_virgule". The trust metrics were designed to be a more sophisticated moderation system than what Slashdot did, but in retrospect I'm not sure it actually worked that much better; Advogato never reached a mass audience and to the extent it had higher quality posts it was probably due to a smaller and more focused community.

I still have my slashdot account (number 3148), but rarely use it. I can well imagine the "complicated feelings" that Rob has, and wanted to add my voice to the many saying that Slashdot was an important Internet space.

Slashdot was awesome right up until the point that they forced the redesign on everybody and drove away all the users that made it great. It would be the equivalent of HN forcing autoplay videos and animated banner ads on each page.

A lesson to reflect upon--monetizing is ok when it doesn't kill your userbase. My ID is under 5000 (cue the older ID replies) and I refuse to give them pageviews now.

> Slashdot was awesome right up until the point that they forced the redesign on everybody and drove away all the users that made it great.

The redesign wasn't what killed it. The constant astroturfing and (what I assumed to be) collusion between astroturfers and site maintainers killed it real dead.

> > Slashdot was awesome right up until the point that they forced the redesign on everybody and drove away all the users that made it great.

> The redesign wasn't what killed it. The constant astroturfing and (what I assumed to be) collusion between astroturfers and site maintainers killed it real dead.

Agreed; I remember the day they started advertising the Apple marketing conventions and thought "who put Apple on my Linux site? This isn't 'news for nerds; stuff that matters'". The influx of microsoft apologists and apple shills soon after is what killed it for me, and I had been there for a long time (not since the beginning, but still user 32752; so close to a power of two!).

Still, I'm eternally grateful to Rob Malda. Great community, great moderation system, and a site that was unique. I'll wager we shall not look upon it's like again soon.

No, the redesign made it unusable, with an inscrutable learning curve. The astroturfers then took over once the organic traffic dropped off a cliff.

I recall that the redesign might have been very ugly but didn't increased the learning curve. Yet, the userbase stuck around and pushed for at least a way to get their old slashdot back. Complaining about slashdot's lack of unicode support was a in-joke.

But then the astroturfing problem blew up and in no time killed slashdot. The community tolerated trolls, even the infamous GNAA, but slashdot's industrial-level astroturfing campaigns in what I believe to be collulsion with site maintainers was something that was massively abhorrent.

The redesign changed the filtering and visibility settings and the way they worked. It was virtually impossible to read the way I did prior to the redesign.

Redesign was a contributing factor to what's been coming for a long time. The main problem was that the community had an extremely limited say in moderation of the content.

Puny 5 mod points once every few months is not a way to instill a sense of belonging. Imagine being able to upvote a post or a comment on HN only once a month, and passively watch random stuff of questionable quality float up the rest of the time. That ruined /. for me and I suspect I wasn't alone in that.

> Puny 5 mod points once every few months is not a way to instill a sense of belonging. Imagine being able to upvote a post or a comment on HN only once a month, and passively watch random stuff of questionable quality float up the rest of the time. That ruined /. for me and I suspect I wasn't alone in that.

To be fair, they pretty much invented user moderation, Slashdot was an early experiment with user curated discussions. That they never saw past the 5 mod points is understandable, it was a foundation the site was based on, and seeing past one's foundations can be hard.

They also had to likely balance against malicious users, who were a less small % of the user base than on other sites.

I now regret not making an account earlier (I'm 126xxx). I was totally fine being an Anonymous Coward.

It was only when I realized that having an account still allowed me to post as an AC that I finally made one.

I wish AC was still a thing for popular websites like reddit, HN, etc. Just start off the comment at -1 or something...


Hah, same. I still haven't signed up for an account, but I've been getting a fair bit of my news there since around 1998, before people bragged about UIDs. As a child, I learned a lot about how the grownup world worked, by lurking in their threads.

What really amazes me more than anything though, is how willing some of us are to trust Microsoft all of a sudden. They did damage to the software and web communities that will take us decades to recover from, but with another round of "embrace", we are right back in the old loop. Reminding people of their history is now considered rude; our own communities have been co-opted by the MS PR machine.

Imzy tried that. It went quite poorly.

It's possible that with different moderation, notifications, blocking, and post mechanics this might have been less of a problem. But the site's design and architecture more or less perfectly amplified everything that could possibly go wrong with the concept.

It died in less than a year after going public. I'd anticipated it wouldn't go well, but that it failed that hard and fast surprised me.


Slashdot made a lot of mistakes (amongst the good parts) for the industry to learn from but it doesn't seem like this one was ever heeded, Digg made the same mistake and it's looking like Reddit is going to follow it (the moment the main site looks like the mobile one and the mobile app is they day I'll leave), many sites and products have been ruined by redesigns and over complicating things.

If they don't already, they will probably soon view the mobile app as "the main site" and then it's only a matter of time before the desktop site devolves as you fear.

Same here. I actively refuse to click on any url that goes to slashdot anymore.

I've only been back, by accident, a handful of times when a "short link" actually expanded out to slashdot, and every time, I closed the page as soon as I realized where the shortened url was really headed.

There were several changes over the years, but beta was when I left, but that was really just the straw. The politics was getting too much for me, it was always a factor (remember Katz and the buried commodore64 in Afghanistan)

Sadly nothing really recaptured the spirit of the first few years, and it can't. The internet isn't the Wild West any more, you're not using it over dial up from a box room staring down a CRT, times change, and you can never go home.

For me it was the politics as well. And not even the amount of it, but rather the toxicity of discussions. Not that things were polite in elder days... but they were not so actively hateful.

I still wonder sometimes if it's a shift in the Slashdot audience specifically - seeing how movements like neo-reaction have been springing up in the tech community in the past few years - or it just mirrors the increased polarization in American society (I know Slashdot has international audience - heck, I was a part of it for a long time - but it's definitely US-centric).

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