A controversy has emerged recently over a proposed redesign of the popular technology/science news site, Slashdot.
Established back in the year 1997, Slashdot is among the eldest websites that are still popular. Its content is made of summarized news items, which cover various technology and science related topics. "News for nerds, stuff that matters" - their original motto says it all.
The defining characteristic of Slashdot is its reliance on the community to create content: site users submit stories, vote on submissions, and moderate comments.
With such an overhead, the news are usually published late, and the editors are often not sufficiently informed on the topics they are summarizing. However, the visitors don't mind: they already know the news and they come to Slashdot to read each others' opinions and to participate in discussions. People come to Slashdot for the comments, and not for the stories.
The level of discussion within Slashdot's comment sections is light-years above any typical news site. The community is very well informed, and often includes professionals in fields relevant to the discussed topics. A special meta-moderation system, in which users can promote each others' posts, is used to keep the discussion on track and prevent abuses.
The redesign of Slashdot has been started in late 2013, roughly one year after the ownership of the site has been transferred to Dice Holdings, a job-listing and career company. The redesign started with the introduction of an alternative "beta" website, which functions alongside the original site and mirrors its content.
In the recent days, however, Slashdot has started to randomly redirect one quarter of its user base to the new site. This resulted in a major backlash among the community, since none of the issues with the beta site have been addressed, and its commenting system was still broken. An official announcement was posted, in which one of the editors encouraged the users to submit feedback, and promised that all the problems would be resolved eventually. The readers have, however, latched on to one of his statements, which said:
Recognizing the intent to eventually remove the classic interface in favor of the new version, the community has escalated their backlash. Comments critical of the beta site are being posted in all news items, while their original topics are ignored. Several community members felt insulted by being called "an audience", while they are in fact creators of the Slashdot content. Several strong statements are being posted in all places by various users, including this one:
Between the lines of the announcement, some slashdotters have read an ambition to make the site more "hip", and more popular with casual web users. They believe, that the owners of Slashdot intend to increase the advertisement revenue by changing the site's target audience to a lower common denominator. The "intentionally broken" beta site is meant to be the first step in this transition. A week-long boycott of the site is planned for the next week (February 10 - February 17) in an effort to discourage the site owners from pushing the beta project.
There is already talk among the Slashdot community about a possible exodus. Several destinations are being considered, one of them being the AltSlashdot project.
It is worth noting, that not all Slashdotters are participating in the protest. Some of them are ignoring the boycott posts and using the site normally. However, they appear to be a minority.
We will follow the development of this controversy with interest. It appears to be a classic case of a business changing its goals to ones that are opposite to those of their customers. It might also be a case of executives being so detached from the reality, that they have lost any knowledge of the present state of affairs.