Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Interview With Slashdot Founder Rob Malda At Washington Post Labs

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 14, 2013

RobMalda

Jeff Bezos isn't buying WaPo Labs, an incubator established by the Washington Post, which has developed a handful of digital news products such as Trove, Social Reader, and Poll Watch app. It's run by Vijay Ravindran, a former Amazon software engineer. 

It also employs Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, the founder of Slashdot, a popular news site similar to Reddit, Digg, and Hacker News. I liked this interview by Timothy B. Lee at the Washington Post: 

"People ask me why were you successful. The thing I tell them is no bulls**t. I never had to fake what I was doing because this is just what I was doing...I don't understand how reporters for a newspaper can say "now you're in charge of France." That doesn't click with me. I would be terrible at [reporting on] France. I don't know anything about it. "

On building communities...

"The Slashdot system was very much evolved and not designed. One thing I learned is don't spend your entire life playing predictive defense against attacks that will never happen. Real people are very clever. If they choose to attack you they'll attack you in ways you can't predict."

Marketers endlessly talk about engagement...

"Most people are just purely passive consumers, and that's okay. I think a lot of people in this space obsess too much over trying to convert passives into actives. Some people are just wired to be that kind of person. Others aren't. That's okay."

About Reddit and Hacker News...

"The value on reddit now is on the subreddits, not on the main page. Hacker News is wobbling on that space now. If I could just find someone who made a Hacker News digest, with the 10 best items from Hacker News, that would be a really good Slashdot."

On Twitter...

"I think Twitter is fundamentally broken in certain regards. You get a lot of mediocre stuff along with that... I don't feel like I get as good an experience out of Twitter as I got out of a good mailing list and an IRC chat room and Slashdot 15 years ago. It's different, chattier, I get more pictures of what people ate. It doesn't necessarily bring people insight."

What's of interest?

"Bitcoin. Not a lot has been happening on Bitcoin lately.
[I'm interested in Bradley] Manning. I'm not interested in the verdict part... If your only option for leaking government secrets-what did Manning get, 5 counts or something, and Snowden can never come back to the country again-that sets the bounds of what the punishment is for leaking."

Some great insight into the software engineer perspective on politics...

"I'm interested in the technology the government uses to spy on me... That's the stuff that gets to my soft, gooey center.The policy parts, I don't feel like I have a say in that. I don't have a voice there. I know what I want to see happen. But I don't feel like I have a say or a voice so I choose to be interested in the technology and think about where that's going to take us next."

Facebook controls sharing...

"My current project is a redesign of social reader. I'm currently working on re-conceiving the product to have its own soft of natural community and not be wholly dependent on the existence of Facebook to drive it... You need to be involved in every step of the loop, the aggregation of content, the curation of content, the sharing. You need to be involved in every step and originally Facebook was the primary controller of sharing, which meant we were powerless to control our own fate."

You can read all of the interview here.

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