In 1997 I started For several years, we pioneered news aggregation and on-line communities while exploring our niche of the 'net under the slogan, "News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters." Our work was later expanded upon at countless other more successful sites including Reddit and the Huffington Post.

I left Slashdot last year, took a long time off, and then started work at the Washington Post Co's WaPo Labs… their digital media R&D skunkworks group. I work as their Chief Strategist and Editor-at-Large, contributing what I can to a variety of projects ranging from their Social Reader, to some projects under development. From here I am able to continue to explore my interests in news, journalism, technology, and communities.

Today you can find me on twitter as @cmdrtaco and on Google+ as +Rob Malda where I continue to curate the same sort 'Stuff that Matters' that I was sharing long before Slashdot existed, but without any pressure.

I'll hopefully be answering from 2pm-5pm ET.ho

Comments: 1286 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

CmdrTaco1190 karma

First Post.

exitsaregreen467 karma

-1, offtopic.

Thank you for Slashdot, from a user in the 100,000s.

CmdrTaco305 karma

Thanks to you, from the user with account #1!

clemtiger2011127 karma

User #20190 here. Thanks for slashdot!

CmdrTaco181 karma

User #1 here... thanks for clicking on banner ads!

polite_alpha113 karma

Why aren't you user #0?

CmdrTaco243 karma

Fun Trivia: Anonymous Coward is actually user #666!

orbitalia41 karma

I can remember you (or maybe some of the other Slashdot "founders") coming onto IRC to try to get people to use their new site, I guess if I had signed up for an account right then i'd have been in the low hundreds. I just remember wondering why I would need an "account" to browse a website.. Thanks for the good Slashdot years.

CmdrTaco47 karma

There were no user accounts for the first 9 months... then they... gestated.

vemrion29 karma

I always knew that guy was an asshole. Really prolific too.

CmdrTaco95 karma

In the early days of the site, I actually DID get emails from people who thought he was one person.

Unxmaal75 karma

231 here.

I recall that on the day Slashdot announced user accounts, my friends and I had an extended argument about privacy and sites tracking people.

CmdrTaco156 karma

I seem to recall having that conversation with a hundred people in my inbox that day too. And then 6 months of people freaking out about cookies. Remember when COOKIES were the privacy threat?

nubanx33 karma

At first I laughed at your comment, fondly recalling the days of "junkbuster" proxies and such, and then the reality sank in that I have little control of my privacy while accessing the internet on a smartphone.


CmdrTaco39 karma

All hail Apple.

TheJBW85 karma

<b>Damn it, I don't have any points. Someone mod the parent up.</b>

CmdrTaco72 karma

I always felt that this particular construct was actually kind of beneficia... it was a currency that required slightly more effort... like mod points were dollars, and replies were nickels. Enough replies outweighed the value of mod points anyway.

dbcanuck17 karma

I agree with your approach -- your contributions to the community would in turn reinforce good behaviour and interesting stories. Although here at Reddit it would just turn into an infinite recursion of cat pictures...

Slashdot was the first serious social media site which I visited daily. Slashdot, Altavista, Yahoo -- in that order.

Do you feel that Slashdot, being owned by a software development company and being niche focused, undermined its early lead in this space? Slashdot was THE site on the internet back in the day... I can't help but feel that Reddit is, in many ways, Slashdot 2.0 -- News for Everyone.

CmdrTaco20 karma

I was always afraid that broadening Slashdot to wide subject matter (which is something that Reddit does fairly effectively) would dilute its core. Maybe I was wrong to play so conservatively, but I didn't want to change what was a very quirky community that had been 'News for Nerds' for years already.

I think you're right tho... the later generations of social news aggregators dropped the nerd focus, which made them potentially usable by the entire internet user base. Slashdot was always for a niche.

niqdanger30 karma

There needs to be a lateral vote. For when you want to up and down vote at the same time.

CmdrTaco72 karma

You're thinking far to bi-directionally. I want a vote that sends the comment forward and backwards in TIME.

georgeo298 karma

I found Reddit thanks to /.

CmdrTaco289 karma

So did I :)

Thenextcorner177 karma

CmdrTaco132 karma

Crap- and I thought I was gonna be able to knock off soon!

capnchicken113 karma

Slashdot always gets the news a little bit later than Reddit, but you already knew that. Where slashdot really stands out is its .... *snicker* ... quality ... *snicker* ...editing... BWHAHAHAHAHAA (sorry, just couldn't keep a straight face).

CmdrTaco249 karma

I always felt our role was to be the most curated. To try to be consistent. We might be a few hours behind reddit, but you can read 10 Slashdot stories at a certain quality level, where reddit or digg you would read 100-200 items in the same timeframe... but the quality bare would fluctuate wildly.

Basically, consistency over speed. Which is frankly a fair consideration.

capnchicken62 karma

Its the main reason why I still go there honestly, its definitely a niche worth exploring, and one that will always receive criticism because it revolves around the opinions of editors. But even if /. is or was the best at it on the net, the copy editing and title sensationalizing still left something to be desired. I highly doubt the bean counters thought less sensationalist titles and six sigma quality copy editing was going to reign in the margins though ;)

CmdrTaco134 karma

People love to complain. We hired a copy editor for awhile who corrected every mistake and we had pristine copy for a time. Nobody noticed or cared.

I came to understand that Slashdot was informal. It didn't need to be proper. It was part of the charm that we didn't care about that... but we I fought for the important things... like keeping the Bill Gates Borg icon!

G_N_A_A117 karma

Why did you found the GNAA and can you tell us anything about the inner workings of this incredible organization?

CmdrTaco94 karma

Ok, so I said AMA... but I guess I lied. You can't handle this one.

NickK-104 karma

Hey, before I'm asking away I just wanted to say "Thank you". I'm a long-time (1998?) /. reader, but never bothered to create an account.

  • Can you elaborate on Slashdot's (or your) relationship to Kuro5hin in the early days?

  • Were you guys aware of similar, but other-language projects like the now-defunct

  • How do you feel about /.'s current state and this somewhat annoying (and helpless) trying of its owners to benefit from "the brand"?

Thanks for doing this AMA.

From Heidelberg, Germany:


CmdrTaco107 karma

I was sad because so much of Kuro5hin in the early days was built around hostility towards Slashdot. I had no problem with someone building a competitor- but didn't have to be so venomous. I remember symlink, but not very strongly.

I wish Slashdot the best- I still think that the editorial guys are finding a number of good stories per day. A casual tech person can still use it as a good Cliff Notes of the tech space.

As for the business and branding and all that, there are a number of things that I don't care for, but they are in a hard spot over there, and I think they need to experiment to find the place that works for the business and the site.

I always chose the side of the users.

nuxi106 karma

I always chose the side of the users.

Okay Tron

CmdrTaco71 karma

Badge of Honor ;)

NickK-25 karma

Thank you!

Consequently siding with the users sometimes seems to be "old-fashioned" nowadays. But if it's old-fashioned, so be it. :-)

CmdrTaco72 karma

The Slashdot I built was the brainchild of an idealistic 20 something in the 90s. If those ideals are old fashioned, I'm fine with that.

kindabiglie38 karma

Oh man, Slashdot is 'old fashioned' now?

Man, I feel old. One day I'll be telling my grandkids about reading nerd news on Slashdot, and they'll be all like "What's Slashdot?" and I'll say "It was this place on the Internet where we went to get our news" and they won't be listening anymore because they'll be playing Angry Birds in Quantum Alternate-Realities XVII on their eye embedded computers.

CmdrTaco43 karma

It kinda makes me sad that my kids will never understand Slashdot.

SilentTsunami34 karma

Thank you for Slashdot. I've used it for over a decade now to keep up with tech news & laws.

I'm fine with your 20something self's ideals and what it gave us. Again, many many thanks. :)

CmdrTaco25 karma

I appreciate it.

jimicus103 karma

Have you revised your opinion of the iPod since 2001?

CmdrTaco199 karma

I stand by the fact that the original iPod sucked. Then they fixed it.

mikemol100 karma

Owner, admin of Rosetta Code here.

Thank you oh, so very much. Without that initial surge from Slashdot, I probably would have lost interest within a few weeks (and especially once I found out I wasn't the first). Now, to the best of my knowledge, RC is better-known than any similar site out there, including some which I think have better technical implementations.

Again, thank you.

CmdrTaco59 karma

Glad to help!

Over the years a pretty amazing number of project, business, product leads have thanked me similarly, and it never gets old. From even the earliest days of Slashdot, I realized that I was picking stories that could have impact far beyond what I could have predicted.

It taught me the importance of what I was doing very fast. Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't what made Slashdot special: I knew that I was doing something important, and I took that responsibility seriously.

mikemol26 karma

I think you made a Dreamhost shared server admin cry. And I'd never seen a system with a load average of over 250 before. Thankfully, the guys at Geekalize (now sadly defunct) stepped in and gave me a place to stay for a bit.

Questions 2 and 3:

2) I know you're from West Michigan. What's your favorite local microbrewery?

3) Next time you swing through here, mind if I buy you a beer?

(God, so many more questions! Like, 'which version of D&D to you prefer, and have you tried Pathfinder and GURPS?')

CmdrTaco18 karma

I live in east michigan right now- and the Jolly Pumpkin shared our wall for a year or two. That was super sweet.

Usually when I'm back in west michigan, it's to bring the kids to visit grandmas and grandpas... so I'm probably to busy to drink your beers!

I prefer D&D 3.0 to later versions. I don't care for gurps or 4.0

jjolsen73 karma

Rob, of all the recurring memes that have existed on /. over the years, which do/did you find most irritating? And why?

CmdrTaco233 karma

'First Post' was actually really irritating to me, because there would be a dozen or more of them on many articles. This made the REAL discussion a significant hunk of scroll away to read.

A number of users wrote bots designed to get the First Post, which created a lot of unnecessary load on our servers in an era when we were pretty starved for resources.

We solved that for a few years by writing a script that posted an automatic 'First Post' to stories before readers actually saw it. And then a few minutes later, we would remove the robot created post.

This worked for awhile, but then readers started noticing comments were disappearing, and the system was explicitly designed to never delete a comment... but by then the 'First Post' game had died down, and the moderation system became highly effective at sending them down to Score:-1 almost immediately.

pytechd30 karma

I apologize for my bot. :(

CmdrTaco22 karma

And I apologize for mine.

dc12_3471 karma

When, in your opinion, was slashdot's peak / highest moment?

CmdrTaco197 karma

The day I proposed to my wife on the front page.

SquireCD59 karma

Hi, Mr. Taco!

2 questions --

  • What are Hemos, Kurt 'The Pope', and Cowboy Neil doing these days?
  • Favorite moment at Slashdot?

PS: "Nuke The Moon" was my favorite Geeks in Space episode. You guys should start that back up!


CmdrTaco99 karma

Hemos works at Google.

Kurt the Pope works for Sight Machine (a Machine Vision company I have invested in, also founded by Nate Oostendorp, who I guess was Slashdot's third engineer).

CowboyNeal recently contributed a game review to Slashdot- his first editorial work in several years. I hope to see more of him in the future.

Someone start a Kickstarter to get Geeks in Space back ;)

L0gicallyInsane57 karma

emacs or vi ?

CmdrTaco221 karma


Box-Boy51 karma

Second post!

EDIT: On a more serious note, if you wouldn't mind me asking, first of all, why did you leave /.?

Secondly, did you ever expect it to get so big when creating it?

Finally, what OS is your favourite? (because I suppose I should include at least one tech related question)

CmdrTaco154 karma

Remember that I had run Slashdot for 14 years. I had watched countless corp re-orgs. Numerous executives coming and going. And what felt like a perennial round of layoffs. I had been ready to leave for a few years, but I had a couple of kids and didn't want to be job hunting with a pregnant wife.

A year before i left, several of my friends were let go (including Jeff "Hemos" Bates) in a particularly brutal round of layoffs. For a time, Slashdot had a single engineer (the long suffering Tim Vroom!). I stayed, fearful that new hands would end the site.

But what became clear is that I was ultimately damaged by the last year. I wasn't happy doing the work any more. Management and I had a different vision for what Slashdot was meant to be: I'm not saying that their version of the site was BAD, but it really wasn't the site I had been trying to run for all these years.

I grew increasingly cynical and unhappy. And finally I wasn't able to hide it any more. It was time.

Box-Boy42 karma

Well, I mean, just... fuck.

I don't know if this means anything, but I'm sorry to hear you had to go through that, and I'm truly grateful for all the effort you put into the site.
I may not be the most dedicated reader in the world, but I still can't count the number of hours I've spent on it, or how much I've learned from it, and for that I'd like to say thank you.

CmdrTaco45 karma

I appreciate that so many people appreciated my work. I promise I got more out of it than anyone else. And for a decade, it was really unbelievably wonderful

Hadlockk29 karma

The site's really gone downhill since you left, Rob. I mean, we both know it was on it's way out for a while, but if you let the WaPo guys run /. mini on some spare dev hardware, even if it's slow, I know more than a couple of us would follow you there.

Are you working on any public facing projects right now, or are you doing project management think-tanky stuff these days?

CmdrTaco33 karma

Could probably run the whole thing on a half dozen EC2 nodes now.

If GeekNet offered to sell it to me for $1, I'd consider it... but I imagine they think it is worth far more!

I'm not working on anything directly that you can see. But little bits and pieces of my work is trickling out. I'm sure the Labs guys have their own opinions, but I'd like to think I've had some small influence on the plans for the Washington Post Social Reader for example.

chriscrowley35 karma

Since Slashdot is open sourced in Slashcode, couldn't you start your own brand new Slashdot?

...with blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the site!

CmdrTaco31 karma

Excellent. Lets cut straight to the good stuff!

osilus49 karma

First of all, thanks for creating an awesome site that has consistently been open in my browser for many years now. Now for the question. How do you feel about /. 's current direction down the marketing hype downward spiral, ala slashbi or slashcloud? I imagine it would be like watching your daughter grow up to be a stripper.

CmdrTaco123 karma

She still tells the guys she's just stripping to save for college.

Thenextcorner37 karma

As a proponent of online privacy you posted many stories on /. around the increased data collection by large companies, and what this could mean for consumers or normal people. How do you see a company like Google using the data it collects, and specifically your interest in Google+?

CmdrTaco81 karma

Data is just data. When I ran Slashdot, I logged everything I practically could because without it, I couldn't make informed decisions.

What corporations DO with that data will pretty much define the future of the internet. I don't think people truly understand the implications.

The biggest databases- things like Facebook and Google could be used in so many awful ways. But I collected all the data I possibly could too, and I really tried to impress upon everyone I worked with the RESPONSIBILITY that this data entails. Like, just because you gave me your email address is not permission for me to sell it or spam you.

I hope that the giants play nicely. I want the cool shiny things they make... and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

mayonesa14 karma

It seems to me it would enhance their brand value to be seen as trustworthy. Do you think that will influence them to be better internet citizens with the data they retain?

CmdrTaco19 karma

I think they all know the value of their respective brands. The question is where will they draw the line?

JetAirliner37 karma

I was an avid reader of /. in its early years checking up on it several times a day in Lynx from one of my console windows, at the time I was obsessed with programming, compiling the latest kernels, and all kinds of tech. I've completely fallen away from it all over the last decade and now use a iPad as my only computer.

Any new languages, operating systems, or advancements in hardware you think someone who was into tweaking OS source code, overdriving their own 486 cpu's, and other primitive hacking around could get into as a new hobby?

CmdrTaco50 karma

I'm fearful that the increasingly closed nature of modern hardware will make the world I grew up in fade away. But then again, stuff like the Arduino and Hacker Spaces might prove me all wrong.

I'm going to learn this for myself in the next few years as my sons become old enough to start learning to take stuff apart, and put it back together again... but better.

kgmoome35 karma

Why did you sell /.?

CmdrTaco41 karma

At some point, it became clear that we needed 100x the hardware and bandwidth and many more employees to run things smoothly. The choice was to finance ourselves, or find a company that had infrastructure to help us scale.

phyridean22 karma

Why did you choose the latter over the former? (Selling rather than financing yourselves.)

CmdrTaco52 karma

It seemed easier at the time: Find a company that already had an HR department, already had racks of servers, already had a few hundred megabits of bandwidth and a couple of sysadmins and some ad sales guys.

I was really interested in building SLASHDOT, but I wasn't all that interested in building the support infrastructure necessary to hold it. What did I know about hiring a corp attorney? Ya, know?

PericlesATX33 karma

Question: which BSD distributions, if any, has Netcraft confirmed are dying?

Second question: which type of hot breakfast cereal would you most like to pour over a statue of actress Natalie Portman?

CmdrTaco59 karma

All of the BSDs are the dying.

All of the portmans are gritted.

leshy0131 karma

What do you feel is the biggest threat to user submitted content on the Internet? Companies valuing money over users? People who abuse the system for their own personal gains (either self promoting or just trying to be the class clown), moderators who are undervalued or have infighting, or users who are just insensitive to preserving a culture or a lack of appreciation for a free service. Or sometime else?

CmdrTaco88 karma

Communities tend to cycle: as they grow, commercial interests try to shape it. Reddit might be the exception: they've held closely to a minimalist aesthetic and avoided commercial influence. But their success has rendered the homepage pretty mediocre. THe sub-reddits are where the action is. So to a certain extend, Reddit's greatest success was containing the chaos in one giant swimming pool, and letting the cool kids hide just barely out of site.

GooseSlayer16 karma

What are your favorite subs on Reddit?

CmdrTaco29 karma

I don't subscribe to any of them in particular, but when I constantly see interesting things from IAMA and Science.

dc12_3431 karma

As slashdot went from a pet project to something owned by a corporation, what was the hardest decision you had to make?

CmdrTaco53 karma

Quitting was harder than selling it. I really hoped that i could work there forever. The sale of the site was really structured to make that possible. But 14 years changed me, GeekNet, and Slashdot in unexpected ways.

fiftyacorns30 karma

Did you ever get complaints about the slashdot effect?

CmdrTaco42 karma

Constantly, ranging from legal threats to the more bemused and thankful.

antdude18 karma

Do you still get them? ;)

CmdrTaco45 karma

I actually get fairly frequent complaint emails from Slashdot users either unaware that I left, or indifferent to that minor detail.

antdude17 karma

Heh. Do you still reply? Or do you have an automated e-mail reply/response for those?

CmdrTaco23 karma

I reply to as much email as I possibly can. I don't have any auto replies any more.

gsxr30 karma

How's your wife? I remember the day you proposed.

Do you miss the days of running the site from an alpha in your bedroom?

CmdrTaco51 karma

I hope she's doing well. She's upstairs chasing our kids while I furiously chat with internet strangers.

I truthfully do miss the old days (although the Alpha technically never lived in my bedroom! It was under my desk at my employers... serving double duty as an SMTP/Web Server). I will never again work that hard- from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep. And it was ultimately amazingly satisfying interacting with so many cool people. Many of whom I still see on Google+ +Rob Malda and on twitter @cmdrtaco so join them!

gsxr25 karma

did you just plug google+?

CmdrTaco67 karma

I love G+. And anyone who doubts it should follow me. I share good links, and get interesting discussions. Twitter is just to fragmented for my tastes. It works, but it's just not directed enough.

G+ is largely a ghost town, but I have a few thousand followers that actually have something to say. I'm not Robert Scoble or Justin Bieber, so I get to have meaingful feedback and discussion. I love G+. Seriously.

legacy_of_fail28 karma

Hiya. I'm nobody in particular but I was reading Slashdot over 10 years ago; I just happened to page down through this thread and found the link to the 9/11 story and that really brought home how long i'd been reading.

None of the news sites were working that day and Slashdot became one of the few places I could get any functional news. I had 15-20 people crowded around my desk as I was refreshing Slashdot (and Shacknews) to try and get any new information.

Admittedly I haven't visited in a while, but it was part of my regular timewasting trawl for quite a few years back there. I don't think I read it as early as 97, but I can't have stumbled upon it all that much later, as I was definitely visiting on a regular basis before 9/11. I only discovered Reddit relatively recently.. heh.

Thanks for doing an AMA, and for making a great site. That's all.

CmdrTaco48 karma

I can't overstate how proud I was of the team on 9/11. On some level, that was the day I knew that I had a tech team able to handle the load: I could disappear from the tech side entirely, and the site would still float.

We worked long and hard. We stayed up. I have the irc chat logs somewhere that prove it. I can't speak to the emotional state of the rest of my team, but I was working in a state of shock. No blinking- just stay on target.

Our work that day was one of our shining moments. I think a strong case could be made that it was our shiniest of moments.

ofthe5thkind26 karma

Can you describe for us the moment when you realized that Slashdot was no longer a pet project, but something legitimately successful? What was the moment, and what did it feel like to know that your venture was actually going to, well... work?

CmdrTaco42 karma

There were several moments- very high on the list was a few months in when we ran a poll question asking 'How many shots should Kurt Drink?' (Kurt was our roommate, and eventually the Blockstackers hr/legal guy). The poll had hundreds of votes within a few hours.

niqdanger26 karma

As a long time attendee of many a *nix convention, I was always surprised when they had some 'Slashdot Lounge', which more or less seemed to be +/- you and some others on a couch, chatting, while being watched by any number of gawkers. What truly was the point of that, and did it feel as awkward as it looked to me or was it all a laugh and I missed the point?

CmdrTaco41 karma

It was incredibly awkward, and almost totally meaningless.

To be fair, it was nice to have a place to hang out and read email and chat with a few friends. Conferences are kinda boring otherwise.

Mostly tho, it seemed to me that we did these just to show advertisers that we were legit, and that we had lots of readers.

For me, I got a lot of really good feedback from people. I learned what people like, and what they didn't. When people hate you, they write you angry email. WHen they like you, they don't say anything. So we'd get a lot of honest information from people who just happened to walk by and recognize our logo.

But hells yes, it was awkward. I'm an introvert. After hour 3 I just wanted to hide in a cave.

haydez24 karma

I saw you mention it briefly when someone asked on Google+, but figured I would mention it here. You seem to have migrated to Mac OSX and out of the Linux world. Do you still use any variants of Linux on your desktops/notebooks etc? What would be some improvements needed for Linux to re-grasp a lot of the unix users that moved on to OSX? (yeah yeah unix based etc) I'd presume it's mostly about the scattered UIs.

Slashdot was a pretty big proponent for Linux so of course it's a bit odd to old /.ers. (Woo 5 digit uid checking in!)

CmdrTaco34 karma

I have linux VMs living on EC2 nodes in that glorious clouds. I also have a Linux box living in my 10 year old mame cabinet) which I guess I could replace someday if I cared.

It's the desktop that is hard. Of course, Android and ChromeOS are Linux.

Microsoft didn't kill Linux on the Desktop... Apple did. By building a UNIX desktop good enough to get a sizable percentage of devs to migrate.

I still have my shell prompt. But now it's more about codecs.

cmdtacos24 karma

I would like to formally apologize for any notoriety I've received by accidentally riding on your coat-tails over the years. I started using 'cmdtacos' before I had ever heard of Slashdot and have been mistaken for you on a few occasions. I don't know how to give notoriety back or if there's a form or anything I have to fill out for a transfer so if you know how I'd be more than happy to.

Cordially yours,

cmdtacos, Esq

CmdrTaco34 karma

Man, all this time I thought I was riding YOUR coat tails.

LessThanNate23 karma

What do you think are the strengths of /. vs the strengths of Reddit?

CmdrTaco47 karma

Slashdot lags slower, but maintains a more consistent tone. You can read 25 Slashdot stories and get a good grasp of the world. Or you can read hundreds of Reddit articles, get mostly the same information, but it would require substantially more effort to weed through the noise.

I still have to read 300-500 headlines per day to find the dozen stories I think are worth reading each day. So far, no site has achieved that for me. I live in Google Reader.

antdude17 karma

I noticed Reddit seems to have more problem than /. these days.

CmdrTaco31 karma

It's also a couple orders of magnitude larger, so that would make sense.

idunham19 karma

Rob! All I have to say is thank you for the countless hours i spent on on /. trying to keep up with all tech based problems, and some of the satirical things as well.

So, being the founder of /. why didn't you take the reigns and control the things that you did not approve of?

Do you think you will create a similar web-site and take a different approach?

If there was one thing you could change with /. what would it be?

How do you feel about Google's growth and the direction they're taking the company?

CmdrTaco28 karma

Slashdot was owned by GeekNet, which is a publicly traded company with fiduciary obligations, and a CEO beholden to a board and shareholders. I always made my opinions clear, and worked with them in mind. But I could be over-ruled. I always fought for what I believed in. If anything, I probably fought to hard since it really affected me at a personal level.

I still like the approach of the original Slashdot: no bullshit. honesty. disclosure. personal. I don't see a need to build a website to continue that tradition today... you can follow me on G+ as +Rob Malda and on twitter as @cmdrtaco and on and get the same general stuff from me without all the overhead.

idunham19 karma

I feel you started a great tradition in the IT World. Coffee, Boot up Computer, Open up Slashdot. It is my morning routine. So thank you, and Godspeed, sir!

CmdrTaco23 karma

Speaking of which, my cup has been empty for almost an hour. This shall not stand! This will be the last question I answer until my cup is refilled.

idunham6 karma

Quick! Get this man some coffee! He needs a warm delicious beverage in his hand! We can't lose him!

CmdrTaco13 karma

I'm back. Americano in cup. And an apple gripped in my teeth like I'm a pig ready to be roasted.

earth2318 karma

How's your bit with the Washington Post working out?

CmdrTaco27 karma

It's been really great. I work with a bunch of really smart people, and on interesting problems. And more than just tech, there's a giant newsroom filled with passionate journalists who obsess with so many of the same things that I always did.

barcodez17 karma

Didn't you do a wiki thing before wiki's where a thing, or am I imaging things?

CmdrTaco26 karma

Kinda. was very much a predecessor to the modern wiki. And later, Everything2 did a lot more of interesting experiments... but at its core, I think E1 and E2 was more about bi-directional linking, and Wikis are more about anonymous contribution.

barcodez9 karma

That was it; everything2. Great idea.

CmdrTaco10 karma

It was a really fun experiment. It's still going nicely, but under new management.

jaybonci27 karma

New /excellent/ management, TYVM

CmdrTaco19 karma

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Jaybonci from e2 :)

TheJBW17 karma

  • Do you feel that the editorial approval and the "not everyone is always a mod" model that /. uses/used still has a place in modern news aggregation?

  • What would you do differently, if you could do it all over again?

CmdrTaco25 karma

Yes- in fact I think that element was why it worked as well as it did. Removing the entitlement and predictability made the whole system work.

I made mistakes that I'd tell myself to avoid: There was a load balancer that kept me awake for months that I never should I considered. There were a number of tradeshows I should have just said no to. There's a few legal docs that I should have read more carefully. There were a handful of tech decisions that were made wrong.

I think if I had just one thing, I would tell myself to quit after OMG Ponies. That would have been a great high note to leave on.

EvilPRGuy17 karma

Longtime /. reader and huge fan here.

Do you feel like the spread of the web in the last 20 years, from something just for nerdy computer types, and into the mainstream world has had a negative effect specifically on sites/forums for the truly geeky, like /.? For example, 15 years ago "geek" was an insult that was probably the pre-cursor to a locker room wedgie, where now "geek" has become something cool that even people who aren't remotely geeky refer to themselves as. Is the rise of "Fake Geekiness" having a negative effect on real nerd culture, and making it more difficult for hives of true nerdiness to thrive these days?

CmdrTaco32 karma

Slashdot was news for NERDS. That term still hasn't been as usurped as "Geek" which I think has been pretty devalued.

The thing that made me sad was that Slashdot was meant for a very tiny group of people... unfortunately, that group of people was almost entirely already online in the late 90s. As the internet grew, our user base remained roughly the same!

dc12_3416 karma

Roland Piquepaille - what was your take on him?

CmdrTaco17 karma

Mixed bag. He often found good stories, and I respect that. Sometimes he skirted lines that made me skeptical. But for the most part, I was ok with him.

brbdc15 karma

Do you have any thoughts on how to improve the community relevance factor of comments that both reddit and /. use (i.e. karma and points)?

CmdrTaco27 karma

Yes, but I think they are beyond the scale of this box. I still think the Slashdot system works really well. It has problems (the UX being high up on that list) but if you see a Score:5 comment on Slashdot, it is almost certainly better than a Score:1 comment. And the Score:-1 comments are almost entirely garbage. The system works in real time, and while it does reinforce a certain amount of group-think, I think it mostly works.

kgmoome13 karma

Can you talk about leaving a successful website that your vision helped create. Was it painful, did you want to leave, or were you forced out?

CmdrTaco36 karma

I had to leave. It hurt more than I could ever explain. It ripped my guts to do it. But I wasn't happy any more. I no longer could see a future for the site I wanted to run. And it was eating me up inside. Eventually it ate right through and spilled back out.

My friends knew it. My wife knew it. I'm glad I left before my kids knew it too. I know that not everyone gets to work in a job they love... but nobody should work a job that actually makes them emotionally hurt. And by the end, that was where I was.

I was never able to separate "Slashdot" from "Rob". Quitting was the only way.

I wasn't forced out. I could have stayed. But it would have cost me other things.

the_mighty_skeetadon10 karma

I really wished for the following moderation for the entire time I was a loyal /. user:

(-1, Wrong)

Why didn't you ever implement that? there were so many people that just posted... lies. And there was no moderation category for that!

CmdrTaco24 karma

Jamie McCarthy and I used to regularly dream up expansions for the mod system... that particular label I was always concerned that people would use it subjectively to say "I disagree". It just felt so powerful... if someone is WRONG, you should say WHY.