I first met Rob Malda about 12 years ago while he was living in what we affectionately called The Geek House. At that time, Rob was just one of a motley crew of nerds who would assemble in the living room every night. They could usually be found sitting in foof chairs bathed in computer screen light. What made Rob different was how passionate he was about a website he made, something called Slashdot. Before I knew it, Slashdot had grown and I was working as user support. A few years later I was posting stories and Slashdot was a geeky household name. In that span Rob changed a lot. His Foof chair morphed into an Aeron, tubes of Pringles became business lunches, and we convinced him to embrace the wonders of natural light. He proposed to his wife and now has two kids. What didn't change in all that time was his passion for making Slashdot a great site. In the FAQ, Rob says that Slashdot is like an omelette: a combination of important news, interesting discussions, and fun stuff. What makes it great is the variety of ingredients. Rob may have started the omelette, but we'll keep it cooking and make it bigger and better with the stuff that matters.
In 1998 or 1999, my housemates Alvin and Dan (both of them Comp-Sci students at UT-Austin, where I'd been a lowly advertising major) pointed out to me a little site called "Slashdot.org." A strange name, and a page that seemed to be nothing but black text over an assault of white and green. It took a minute or two to parse what was going on, but then — Whoah! Smart people were discussing (and arguing about!) Linux, The GIMP, patents, and Neal Stephenson: I was hooked instantly. I've been posting stories to the site since early 2000, and in that role I've gotten to know CmdrTaco a bit. I didn't realize beforehand just how much effort can go into a simple-looking web page, and how hard it is to decide how many people to please at any given time.
Rob — CmdrTaco — has that whole span of time never wavered in his dedication to the site, and to the readers. A small example, but one that has always impressed me given what's at stake: as banner ads have infested the Web, Rob has fought for modesty and sanity rather than some of the intrusive pop-ups, interstitials, autoplaying videos and other discourtesies of modern online advertising. (We'd probably all like it if the site could exist with no ads at all, but in an imperfect world keeping them tolerable rather than obnoxious is a respectable stance, even if it means disappointing some advertisers.) And while we've been through plenty of experiments with user interface elements, new sections, and allocation of the moderator points that make the whole thing go, Rob's also taken a hard line about distracting features that don't speak to the site's core: News For Nerds, Stuff That Matters (and building conversations around those things). It's notable that Slashdot is one place where the marketplace of ideas is encouraged to bloom more than it is at many newspapers' sites, and even our friend "Anonymous Coward" can freely have his say. We like that, though it gets messy sometimes. It's meant a lot of sleepless nights for Rob and his shifting corps of engineers, trying to figure out ways to let readers help algorithmically bat down the trolls and flamebait, and to give some recognition to readers who contribute their insightful or funny comments.
It's very strange to think of reading Slashdot without CmdrTaco in the lead — even when I've disagreed with him on some particular design issue, I've never doubted his sincere belief that the readers come first. Rob isn't being frozen in carbonite, though — despite his claim of "no plans," he's got his own maker-style projects to work on, a few kids to take care of, and probably about 15 years of sleep deprivation to start chipping away at. He promises to remain part of the Slashdot community (he's still user No. 1, after all), and I expect will be a sort of unofficial Editor Emeritus for the foreseeable future. And that's good, because we'll keep working on ways to make the site friendlier and easier to use, but still dedicated to the same News for Nerds.
So, what changes from here on out for You, The Reader? Well, surprisingly little. Rob has always been clear and vociferous in defining what makes a story appropriate for Slashdot, and those standards have become deeply ingrained in the rest of the editorial staff. Slashdot won't be the same for us, but we’ll work hard to make sure the content we run continues to educate, inform, entertain, or some combination thereof. As always, feedback is welcome, and you can head over to /recent to have a direct impact on the submissions process. The engineering team continues to streamline the site’s layout and add useful functionality in order to facilitate what matters most to us: giving you folks a place to read and talk about news that matters to you.