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Intelligent Machines

Geek Show

Listen closely and you can hear it: the gentle sound of millions of folks nervously scratching their heads wondering just what the heck is going on with the open-source, or “free” software that has suddenly gotten so much attention (see “Programs to the People,” TR January/February 1999). There’s no better source of information, rumor and opinion on this phenomenon than Slashdot, which titles itself: “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.” The creation of 22-year-old Rob Malda- whose nom de Web is “Commander Taco” - Slashdot feels like a geek clubhouse. Malda and others post articles on topics ranging from “the personalities behind Linux” to an essay predicting the arrival of “sexbots” that never have headaches.

The creation of 22-year-old Rob Malda-whose nom de Web is “Commander Taco”-Slashdot feels like a geek clubhouse.Malda and others post articles on topics ranging from “the personalities behind Linux” to an essay predicting the arrival of “sexbots” that never have headaches.

Anti-Microsoft sentiment permeates the site; these people know their code and they’re offended by what many perceive to be bloated, inefficient software.The “Ask Slashdot”part of the site ranges beyond programming, as knowledgeable participants weigh in on quirky questions like,”What is the bandwidth of a nerve?”(Answer: Well, it depends on what you mean by “bandwidth”and “nerve.”)

This story is part of our May/June 1999 Issue
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This is one of those virtual communities you hear so much about. Articles generate a torrent of (mostly) well-informed commentary, much of it signed by “Anonymous Coward”-the epithet Slashdot assigns to contributors unwilling to reveal their names. In one persistent thread, commentators proudly quantify what they call the “Slashdot Effect”: the spike in the hit count experienced by Web pages that Slashdot links to. Look to this site as your technical and cultural guide to a powerful movement that is starting to emerge from the computer underground.

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