Participants in the online tech community site Slashdot are interviewing Pressthink blogger and NYU professor Jay Rosen on the future of citizen journalism. No doubt Jay’s new project — NewAssignment.Net — will be a factor in the conversation.
Slashdot’s been around long enough that it qualifies for greybeard status on the basis of its longevity; their name has spawned the nelogism “slashdotted,” shorthand for a site that’s down or slow from the hammering it’s getting from being linked to on Slashdot’s front page. Slashdot was one of the first widely known sites in the US to use a reputation system to influence which stories appeared on the front page, and which comments in comment threads were considered particularly insightful or funny.
Although I hadn’t thought about it until this moment, Slashdot and NewAssignment face many of the same challenges in creating a self-sustaining and productive community. Unlike Digg or Reddit, Slashdot’s front page is created by a mix of user and editorial input, and back when I was reading it, there was plenty of healthy (read: flamewar) discussion on the role of site founders and superusers like CmdrTaco (Rob Malda). The balance between the “rights” of users to control what stories got prominent play — and how they played out — and the power of Slashdot’s editors — was a frequent topic of debate back when I was a regular reader in 2000 and 2001, and may still be today.
[UPDATE: Seth Finkelstein makes a good point in comments below: it’s Slashdot’s comments, not the front page, that uses the reputation/ranking system. He also mentions the venerable Kuro5in, another site of the same or earlier vintage using user moderation as a core element of the site.]