March 24, 2018

The Slashdot Effect

I read Slashdot every day. It’s one of the best sources for tech news, and it contains many nuggets of useful information and informed commentary. If anything interesting happens in the tech world, Slashdot will discuss it.

Sadly, the treasures of Slashdot are often buried in a vast wasteland of speculation, misinformation, and irrelevant blathering. For example, the commentary on yesterday’s California Supreme Court ruling on the Pavlovich case includes this gem, contributed by an “Anonymous Coward:”

Livid was fully functioning as was DeCSS BEFORE nov 30th 1999.

DMCA does not cover software or hardware created BEFORE the begginning of 2000.

This is a fact.

DMCA will NEVER have any bearing on the original frozen sources of Nov 1999 Livid …

DMCA start date was a few months too late.

Despite its emphatic tone, this posting is just wrong: the relevant portions of the DMCA went into effect in October 1998. There is nothing in the DMCA exempting programs created before 2000 or 1998 or any other date.

In theory, Slashdot’s collective moderation process is supposed to weed out ill-informed postings by downgrading their scores; but in practice that doesn’t happen as often as one would like. The posting I quoted above has the maximum possible moderation score (5). Worse yet, the moderators have given it the label “Informative”. Readers who trust this posting will be ill-informed at best, and at worst may break the law.

(There is a response comment on Slashdot, written by “Guppy06,” pointing out the inaccuracy. This response has moderation score 3, and label “Interesting.” But an “Anonymous Coward,” perhaps the original poster, disputes Guppy06’s conclusion.)

By this point, I have probably provoked enough flamage to destroy several medium-sized cities. So let me say it again: I like Slashdot. I’m glad I can read Slashdot, and I thank its many well-informed participants for making it worth reading, despite its often depressing signal-to-noise ratio.