Slashdot is Going out of Style in 2006?

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Okay, since I’m apparently in “2006 doom and gloom” mode here’s another observation that I can re-brand as a 2006 prediction.

2006 will the year in which the once great Slashdot dies.

Unlike the death of Feedster, Slashdot will likely take years to really die. It has a loyal following and momentum. But this is this year in which the services that ultimately replace Slashdot break out and become unstoppable (for a while).

There’s little question that Digg is one of the most likely candidates to take the lead from Slashdot. The numbers seem to bear that out. But what’s more interesting to me is why Slashdot is on its way out.

Community Participation and Judgment

There’s always been a sense of frustration among those who submit news to Slashdot. Sometimes your story is picked and sometimes it isn’t. After a while, you start to wonder why Slashdot’s small group of dictators (err, I mean “editors”) are qualified to decide what’s interesting news.

Haven’t we figured out that the crowd is generally smarter than any one individual in the crowd?

Sites like Digg and Reddit understand that. Even the popular page on del.icio.us provides a more useful insight into the collective mind of a small but active piece of the web. The only difference is that del.icio.us doesn’t facilitate discussion. Both Digg and Reddit allow users to comment on any URL that’s been posted.

For whatever reason, some people still think that Slashdot is a blog. I think of it as a message board in which only a small group of the members have the privileges required to create new posts.

It’s interesting to note that Kuro5hin opened the editorial queue to their users for voting and comments but it never quite took off in the same way. I drifted away from the site a couple years ago, but suspect that it’s a matter of focus. K5 has always placed more of an emphasis on writing, personal stories, and politics rather than what’s hot now, spreading links or memes, and Google worship.

The Generation Gap

Let’s face it. The Slashdot guys are getting old (just as I am!). But the core audience that fuels Slashdot has always been a fairly young crowd. Reading the comments now and then provides a window into who the regular contributors are:

  • male
  • geeks
  • high school or college students or recent graduates
  • I know that’s quite a generalization, but it’s hard to deny that Slashdot would be anything without the core group of young geeks with more time than money. Every year that goes by is another year in the age gap between that group and the Slashdot editors.

    Chad and I were discussing generation gaps in the Internet technologies world recently and decided that generations are roughly 7 years. We both agreed that it’s going to be increasingly hard for Slashdot to stay relevant in the face of younger, more open services like Digg and Reddit.

    Sure, they can find and promote some young new editors to introduce “new blood” into the process. But that’s not the same. It’s still Slashdot. The site has a voice, the community has a reputation, and the entire code base was written to support them. That stuff is hard to change.

    Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

    Visit Jeremy’s blog: Jeremy Zawodny’s blog.

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