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Are you a "nerd" or a "geek" – Would you accept those terms as compliments if applying them to yourself? If so, then I expect you already read http://slashdot.org - To use their own tag line, Slashdot is "News for nerds".
Although this site could be considered a "portal", that is a secondary function. This is a community news site to beat all community sites; if you are interested in computers, computer suppliers, the Internet, computer games, software, operating systems, science, outer-space and a whole host more subjects in similar veins, then you will find news and discussion here to interest you.
>>> How does it work?
Membership and registration of any kind is optional, any you can read news and write responses anonymously without registering. If you do register, you can still read and write anonymously if you should so desire (if your opinions might be un-popular for example :-) ), but membership gains you the ability to customise what you see and how you see it.
You can choose not to see news based on who "published" it on the site, or based on its subject and topic. The portal aspect of the site involves fairly
discrete "Slashboxes" at the right of the screen, which you can select from a list of topics to see, this feature can also be turned-off completely; There are about 150 slashboxes to choose from, so if you like the site, there will almost certainly be something of interest there.
Topical news articles are posted by the site administrators as they happen (Far more frequently during US open-hours), based on member submissions. Each news article will generally consist of 2 or 3 components:
1) In italic. Text provided by the member who proposed the story.
2) In normal type. Editorial comment and updates.
3) Viewable separately. Extended text belonging to the item.
If the single-paragraph introduction interests you, you can select it for further detail, which involves a view on all of the comments made on this topic by members, and the option to add comments of your own, or reply to existing comments.
>>> Information overload?
Nope... Each message that is posted is rated on its content by selected "Moderators" – Moderators are members who match the system’s profile for "Useful contributors", so anybody can become a moderator for short periods of time; there are measures to reduce abuse of this system (more below)
After moderation, a posting will end up with a score of between –1 (for abusive, uninteresting and inappropriate postings) and 5 (for funny, interesting and informative postings) – As a member, you can set a threshold below which you do not want to see articles. You can also choose the order in which articles are displayed, maximum size of index to be shown, long-article truncation, and much more.
>>> Karma, and self-policing.
So how does the system know how "good" someone is, and whether to make them a moderator? Well each act of moderation and each high-scoring article posted, gains you points called "Karma". Bad postings will lose you points, and after a length of time, some points will time-out.
If you post anonymously (known as an "anonymous coward") you have no karma, so new postings start with a score of zero. If you register and log-in, that increases to 1, and if you have a high enough karma, then your articles are initially elevated to a score of 2.
As mentioned earlier, anyone can become a moderator. This involves reading enough of the posted comments, having enough Karma, posting a reasonable number of comments, and not having been a moderator too recently. If the magic formula is satisfied, then you are allowed to moderate up to 5 postings over a period of 3 days.
Even moderators are not safe though – Through "Meta-Moderation" the community can rate the quality of a previous moderation, and promote or demote the moderator’s chances in the future. All this is done completely anonymously for all parties, and is a remarkably simple process.
At each of these levels of moderation, participation is completely voluntary, so does not need to detract from just getting your fix of techie-news.
Any system trying to be this complete will have problems. There are "Trolls" who intentionally try to disrupt the system with inappropriate articles, but this is only a minor annoyance overall. Just set your reading threshold to "2" to avoid these types.
There is a general anti-Microsoft, pro-Free Software feeling about many of the postings. That is not to say that Microsoft are not represented by the readership, but some petty nit-picking and arguing does go on, and that can detract from the quality of the site somewhat.
>>> Any more?
Well, the site uses software called "slashcode", which is free to all. If you really like the site, but not the content, you could even try doing a site of your own!