Saturday, January 31, 2009

Slashdot - why did the comments become worthless?

Eons ago, maybe eight years back, Slashdot was required reading for geeks. The commentary wasn't bad, the closest thing we had to the primordial pre-spam days of usenet newsgroups or the pre-Internet BYTE discussion forums.

I still read Slashdot, albeit once very few days. The articles are quite good. The commentary, however, is almost worthless.

On the other hand, the tech blogs I follow are terrific. The information flow is very high quality -- as good as anything. Particularly from single-author blogs.

I don't know the entire story about why Slashdot failed -- except I haven't seen significantly better quality discussions anywhere else. Single voices, for me, are better commentary and analysis sources than communities.

One clue might be that the comments I wrote for Slashdot were never very highly rated. Perhaps they were simply uninteresting, but the same fate seemed to apply to all comments not posted within a few hours of a news item. Slashdot effectively rewarded speed over all other measures.

I don't think an unfortunate rating system was the whole story however. I suspect that personal ownership (editorial control, strong identity tie) of one's commentary stream and extended memory will always be a key ingredient of any future system -- including future systems of federated journalism. Blogs allow that, community forums don't.

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