We're pleased to announce that changes are coming to the Ask Slashdot section. Ask Slashdot is a place to get your technical questions answered, show off your big brain by helping others, debate products and practices, and occasionally talk directly to companies about their offerings. Over the years, we've posted more than 7700 questions, on everything from workplace relations to home networking to evading censorship from unfriendly regimes. Starting tomorrow, you'll see that some Ask Slashdot questions have their own sponsors; the sponsors don't pick the questions, but experts from each sponsor will stick around for the discussion. Next up: we're making it easier for you to submit questions. Our goal is to make Ask Slashdot your "go-to" place for answers to your pressing nerd questions. So please post your questions, put on your answering hats, and come along for the ride.
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Long-time readers will know that we try not to clutter the front page of Slashdot with much stuff about the site itself; this is a rare exception, but we hope you'll like the reason: we want your opinions. You should see above a link to take a survey about Slashdot, and (just to be heavy handed) here's the direct link. The questions there are simple, but we're going to read the answers carefully. The reminder bar up there will remain active for some time, but this story will scroll down the page like all Slashdot stories. Comments are welcome below; surveys have their limitations, after all, but please don't comment without also giving the survey a visit — if it makes sense, feel free to cut-and-paste any answers from there as comments, too. The engineers who build this site (and the editors, too!) are counting on your honest opinions and hoping for some great ideas; ideas outnumber the hours we have to do things, so we hope you'll make a case for the ways that Slashdot should change (and the ways it shouldn't!).
With CmdrTaco moving on to his temporary retirement home, the Slashdot editors who will continue to poke and prod at reader submissions (the heart and soul of this site: without readers, there'd be nothing to talk about as well as no one to talk about it) would like to offer an extended 'Thank You' to Rob, and offer some thoughts on the years so far, as well as what comes next. (Of late, though, we're lucky to have the growing contributions of Clinton Ebadi, aka Unknown Lamer, who got an oddball start on the Slashdot page a long time back.) Read on for a few words from Samzenpus, timothy, and Soulskill.
After 14 years and over 15,000 stories posted, it's finally time for me to say Good-Bye to Slashdot. I created this place with my best friends in a run down house while still in college. Since then it has grown to be read by more than a million people, and has served Billions and Billions of Pages (yes, in my head I hear the voice). During my tenure I have done my best to keep Slashdot firmly grounded in its origins, but now it's time for someone else to come aboard and find the *future*. Personally I don't have any plans, but if you need to get ahold of me for any reason, you can find me as @cmdrtaco on twitter or Rob Malda on Google+. You could also update my mail address to be malda at cmdrtaco dot net. Hit the link below if you want to read some nostalgic saccharine crap that I need to get out of my system before I sign off for the last time.
A couple of weeks ago I scored a visit to Lucasfilm and half jokingly challenged the Slashdot audience to invite me to other cool places. Two brave Pixar employees took me up on my offer and showed me around for Slashdot T-Shirts. It's an amazing campus. Thanks to Mark Harrison and Ralph Gootee for showing me "0% of the render-farm" and making me wish that I was talented enough to have a place in such an amazing world. Soon I'll have a cool story to post about the crazy work Mark is doing with mind boggling volumes of data, but for now I have a picture of me next to a giant Luxo Lamp. Also thanks to Heidi Parmelee who gave me a Woody doll to give to my son and made me a hero. So now the gauntlet has been doubly thrown: Who out there in Slashdot-land works somewhere super cool and can give me a tour in exchange for a T-Shirt?
Here at Slashdot, we watched as Twitter discourse to just the perfect 140 characters, while showed us that everyone's voice mattered equally when creating the experience. We've taken the next step with SlashTweaks. Within each Slashdot you will be presented with several opportunities to make micro-edits: ranging from factual errors or tonal shifts to simple typos. Since Tweaks are just a single word, there is very little barrier to entry... you have no excuse not to participate. Stories will incorporate the highest rated socially and mathematically guaranteeing the best story possible. Our highest users can start new tweaks on individual words, while everyone else will be rating existing tweaks. Thanks for your participation and patience while we iterate on this, making sure that we are able to stay ahead of the edge of webbovation!
Today we are pleased to announce the launch of the third major re-design in our 13.5 year history, and I don't think it looks half bad. The new theme represents a serious gutting of the underlying HTML and CSS, as well as all-new graphics. There will be many design wiggles, bug squashes, and compatibility glitches that survived testing, so bear with us for a bit. Please direct your bug reports and feedback (good and bad!) to Garrett Woodworth who is currently in charge of such things. Thanks to him, Wes, Vlad, Dean, Phil and Tim, who have each worked hard to get this out the door. Juggling the needs of users, editors, and various business functions is a hard job, and you guys did good.
mjn writes "Game designer and academic Ian Bogost announces Cow Clicker, a Facebook game implementing the mechanics of the Facebook-games genre stripped to their core. You get a cow, which you can click on every six hours. You earn additional clicks if your friends in your pasture also click. You can buy premium cows with 'mooney,' and also use your mooney to buy more clicks. You can buy mooney with real dollars, or earn some free bonus mooney if you spam up your feed with Cow Clicker activity. A satire of Facebook games, but actually as genuine a game as the non-satirical games are. And people actually play it, perhaps confirming Bogost's view that the genre of games is largely just 'brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money,' which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on."
It's been a long time coming, but we're pleased to announce the latest updates to our discussion software. We've been paying a lot of attention to what other websites have been doing in the space, and as we are only too happy to steal good ideas, from now on all Slashdot stories will now be accompanied by a Roulette-style webcam video chat. In testing, we've discovered that Slashdot users are amazingly likely to engage in informative, troll-free discussion when presented with the video image of one of their peers. This new addition to Slashdot nicely rounds out and improves the discussion experience for all users.
This entry represents the 100,000th story posted on Slashdot. Technically this is a bit late since we're missing the first few months of stories from the DB, but there are now 100k items in the story database and I thought that milestone was worthy of sharing with the universe. We've come a long way in the last 12 years, and while the site isn't always exactly what I want it to be, I'm very proud of the work done by our thousands of submitters and by the editors our readers have "affectionately" referred to as "The Slashdot Janitors" for so many years. Special grats to timothy who is just short of his 17,000th story and is far and away the most prolific person here. The hall of fame has a few other bits of trivia.
rapturizer noted the critical news that "Fans of "Star Wars" have a chance to see a free screening of the notoriously bad 'Star Wars Holiday Special' next week in Minneapolis." Nothing brings out the Christmas spirit like watching what may very well be the worst TV ever produced. Sadly however, I'm not sure that this is the worst *Star Wars* merch ever made.
We recently redesigned the Submission Form to make it (hopefully) a little easier for you to shovel news our way. The new system also will allow you to tag your submissions. A reminder that you can participate in rating stories and filtering spam from the recent submissions page. And by bookmarking this convenient bookmarklet you can submit stories from the comfort of whatever web page you are browsing.
This week's code refresh has added a number of really irritating story display bugs that we're working on. But, it also added a number of cool optimizations that should improve performance for a lot of readers. Tap that link below to read a brief description of them, and also a few serious notes about the achievement system we launched last Wednesday.
We've been working hard on the new dynamic Slashdot project (logged in users can enable this by enabling the beta index in their user preferences). I just wanted to quickly mention that there are keybindings on the index. The WASD and VI movement keys do stuff that we like, and the faq has the complete list. Also, if you are using Firefox or have Index2 beta enabled, you can click 'More' in the footer at the end of the page to load the next block of stories in-line without a page refresh. We're experimenting now with page sizes to balance load times against the likelihood that you'll click. More features will be coming soon, but the main thing on our agenda now is optimization. The beta index2 is sloooow and that's gotta change. We're aiming for 2 major optimizations this week (CSS Sprites, and removing an old YUI library) that I'm hoping will put the beta page render time into the "Sane" time frame (which, in case you are wondering, is several seconds faster than that "Insane" time frame we're currently seeing).
Slashdot.org was unreachable for about 75 minutes this evening. Here is the post-mortem from Sourceforge's chief network engineer Uriah Welcome. "What we had was indeed a DoS, however it was not externally originating. At 8:55 PM EST I received a call saying things were horked, at the same time I had also noticed things were not happy. After fighting with our external management servers to login I finally was able to get in and start looking at traffic. What I saw was a massive amount of traffic going across the core switches; by massive I mean 40 Gbit/sec. After further investigation, I was able to eliminate anything outside our network as the cause, as the incoming ports from Savvis showed very little traffic. So I started poking around on the internal switch ports. While I was doing that I kept having timeouts and problems with the core switches. After looking at the logs on each of the core switches they were complaining about being out of CPU, the error message was actually something to do with multicast. As a precautionary measure I rebooted each core just to make sure it wasn't anything silly. After the cores came back online they instantly went back to 100% fabric CPU usage and started shedding connections again. So slowly I started going through all the switch ports on the cores, trying to isolate where the traffic was originating. The problem was all the cabinet switches were showing 10 Gbit/sec of traffic, making it very hard to isolate. Through the process of elimination I was finally able to isolate the problem down to a pair of switches... After shutting the downlink ports to those switches off, the network recovered and everything came back. I fully believe the switches in that cabinet are still sitting there attempting to send 20Gbit/sec of traffic out trying to do something — I just don't know what yet. Luckily we don't have any machines deployed on [that row in that cabinet] yet so no machines are offline. The network came back up around 10:10 PM EST."