I share now for you 3 "finalists". One of these is a definite favorite (I won't say which one) but with tweaking, I think any of these could be the next Slashdot. That is, unless someone rolls in with something perfect. I believe you have seen all of these before, but I include them now just for discussion purposes. Wes has been poking and prodding at the HTML/CSS under the hood so we can judge on that as well. None of these substantially alter the HTML under the hood, so implementation is relatively simple. We'd have to make variants for the sections, and resolve some layout issues in some of the parts of the site, but thats not to tough. It's possible that we could deploy the winning design next week.
Michael's entry continues to just feel unfinished to me. The curve and shadow effect that he's scooped out of the menu and title looks simply fantastic. I'm not precisely sure what a horizontal ad would look like, and I feel that the titlebars of the articles would look better if they were green. The slashboxes are a little simple for my tastes. In my browser at least, some of the fonts are unreadably small. I think that as it stands, this design simply feels incomplete to me, which is a bummer since it starts out so strongly. It has possibly the most attractive header/menu bar, but the article/slashboxes need work. In fact, of the 3 finalists I post today, I think this one is the least complete. It lacks a number of elements that are critical- login boxes, the message space etc. The abbreviated articles have no punch, and the slashboxes need delineation. This design gets strong response from almost everyone I show it to... but it lacks a number of puzzle pieces. But damn if it doesn't look good.
So there they are, my 3 favorites at 11am. The contest officially closes at the end of the day today. Everyone is welcome to revise their entries, or submit something new, but please understand that my repsonses will be minimal unless your design is something I like as much as the three above. For you folks in the comments, I'd love to see your comments on the actual HTML/CSS above. They each require slightly different amounts of effort for us to actually implement (and as Wes noted, some of them improve upon our HTML anyway, so it would be worth it). Remember this is not a democracy- I'm making the decision here. But I really am reading all the comments and taking everyone's feedback into consideration.
Good luck to everyone who is entering.