by Josh Morse
In this age of overwhelming amounts of information, it often seems near-impossible to follow the latest trends, especially in the fast-paced technology industry. Traditional paper-based media, such as weekly magazines, often report information that has already been superceded by newer developments. Even web-based publications suffer from the limitations of a small team of editors attempting to scrutinize and compile stories from the vast array of sources available to them. Enter Slashdot.
Slashdot (http://www.slashdot.com), the brainchild of Rob Malda (http:// www.cmdrtaco.net ) while he was still an undergraduate at Hope College , experienced an instant explosion in popularity in the late 90’s. Subtitled “News for nerds. Stuff that matters,” Slashdot is unapologetically dedicated to issues that appeal to the community of the computer elite, ranging from reviews of high-tech gadgets and Linux distributions to leaked images of the newest Star Wars movie. What makes Slashdot unique, however, is the model used to gather and publish information.
Slashdot uses a system of blogging (short for we b-logging ) to display the summary of a story, with one or more links to other web articles from which the story was drawn. This frees Slashdot writers from composing long articles, and allows readers to quickly peruse summaries before deciding to read the full article. The most unique element of the Slashdot model, however, is that the readers themselves are the writers. Any Slashdot reader may submit an article summary or review, and a small team of editors sorts through submissions and decides which will be posted to the main site. Furthermore, readers can offer comments on posted articles, lending their technology expertise to an active messageboard. These posts are then rated for content by other users, allowing time-strapped readers to read the posts designated as the most informative. Thus, Slashdot is able to link to new technology news almost as quickly as it is posted on another site, and provide a great variety of additional information for interested readers.
While not everyone will be interested in “News for Nerds,” the impact of the Slashdot model reaches beyond technology experts. The website Wikipedia (http:// www.wikipedia.org ) has harnessed the expertise of the web community to create an online encyclopedia of information, with topics ranging from the French Revolution to more modern entities such as Slashdot itself. More recently, the producers of Wikipedia have expanded into the news arena, harnessing their own international-user base to blog news events from around the world. While Wikinews (http://www.wikinews.org) has no immediate plans to challenge established news outlets, the low cost and wide variety of information available may make the site a viable alternative to established corporate media outlets. If nothing else, it illustrates that the traditional roles of reader and writer are blending into a communal system that makes information fast, far-reaching, and free.
Glasner, Joanna. “Wikipedia Creators Move Into News.” Wired News . Nov 29, 2004 . http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,65819,00.html