Interview: Rob Malda, Founder of Slashdot
by Greg Tingle - 8th April 2003
are the prime aims and objectives of Slashdot?
spread as much lies and misinformation as humanely
possible within the constraints of the modern technology
known as The Internet.
when and why was Slashdot established?
is the most important aspect of the website?
kind of business activities do you guys do, that are
not elaborated on the website?
business activities are essentially advertising and
many visitors and impressions to you get per month?
of visitors. Probably like 50-60 million "Impressions"
the biggest news story you ever covered, and how did
it come about?
really is no "Biggest". We've covered
everything from Mozilla to Columbine to various military
actions. My favourite story was the one where
I proposed to my then-girlfriend-now-wife. So
obviously I think *that* was the biggest one.
the highs and lows in the business?
When the Server is Up. Lows: When the Server
do you delegate different tasks to your team?
email, IRC, and IM.
many staff do you have?
Full-time writers. 3 Full-time programmers.
3 Part-time writers.
the biggest issue you have ever had to deal with?
and Lawsuits. Every few months there is either
a new traffic explosion or a new threat of legal action.
what % of time and effort do you spend on running
the business, as opposed to writing code, or FTPing
spend almost no time doing any of these things.
I manage code development and content creation.
OSDN handles business. I have programmers writing
the code. And really, who FTPs anything any
did you decide you would run a portal for your career,
and in what year did you become profitable (answer
still am not sure if I *have* decided to run a portal
for my career, but so far its a good gig and
I don't plan to quit. I don't run the business,
so you'll have to contact OSDN if you want information
you have any mentors, and if so, who?
you ever "pissed off" another company or
person to the extent that they sued you, and if so,
what was the outcome?
my knowledge, we have never been sued. Many
many many many threats.
much notoriety has SlashDot given you, and are you
famous (or at least well known in the US)...us Aussies
(Australians) don't get all the news and gossip, and
no, we don't all have Kangaroos and Aboriginals in
I've been to Sydney. I love .au. Slashdot
only gives me notoriety when I go to tradeshows or
conferences. Once I was recognized in an electronics
store. Once in a movie theatre. Thats
it in 5 years.
the most impressive technology and code you are aware
of, and what's on the horizon
still waiting for my flying car, but for now I'd settle
for a single handheld device that integrated a PDA,
MP3 Player, Digital Camera, and Gameboy.
you met Bill Gates, and if so, what did you say, and
if not, what would you tell him?
met him. I'd probably just say 'Hi' and shake
is hand. I'm not the huge anti-Microsoft person
that many think I might be. I just don't like
windows and think that they run their business in
a very unfair way. I'll stick to Linux and Macs.
much time and effort, and money, have you put into
the development of Slashdot?
The last 5 and a half years of my life. Plus
however many man hours OSDN pays all our employees
for. A lot. It costs a good chunk of change
to run a website thats serving 2.5 million pages
on those busy days.
your return on investment?
I go to bed proud of what we do, and get up each morning
and do it again. Thats a kind of return
of investment. It's sure not the kind where
me, Hemos, and CowboyNeal buy fighter jets and dogfight
above the skies of Canada in solid gold airplanes.
your business plan changed much over the years, and
have there been any elements that you dropped, which
were not profitable or practical?
never really concerned myself with a business plan.
My goal is simply to run a website that I want to
read. No more, no less. Since hundreds
of thousands of other people seem to agree with my
idea of what makes a good website, I just need to
keep doing it, and hopefully
can make enough bucks to keep it running.
many supporters do you have, and who is the most "powerful"?
have no idea what you're getting at here.
the biggest compliment you have been given?
always appreciate being told we don't suck.
is the best advice you have received?
you have done anything different, in hindsight?
made a few design decisions early in the development
of the Slashdot Moderation System that I would like
to take back. Mainly, the revelation of the
value of 'Karma'. I revealed the value to users
thinking it would be an interesting factoid... instead
it became a scoring system and created all sorts of
horrible waste-of-time game attacks on our system
as users vied for the attention of others at the expense
of discussion quality.
do you do to relax?
Whiskey. Comics. Video Games.
many awards have you achieved, and what ones meant
lost count of our awards years ago. The thing
about web awards is that nobody websites give them
out solely to get linkage from larger, more successful
websites. It's strangely parasitic. We
stopped really caring a long time ago. If the
site giving the award is smaller than us, we don't
really care. I don't know what ones matter,
but any award that gives me a plaque or a trophy is
cool by me. I have a shelf full of shiny pieces
of lucite that looks really impressive. Those
awards are the cool ones ;)
what ways are you controversial?
think we're controversial because we allow a different
sort of distributed discussion to occur than the "Real"
news sites. Everyone is more or less free to
chat about whatever the news of the day is.
Any controversy on Slashdot stems from these unfettered
discussions that happen a thousand times every day.
It's out of control. It's great fun. And
it really does generate interesting content.
are your competitors?
don't really think we have true competition.
There are other sites that post similar news.
There are other sites that have comments and discussion
systems. But we're probably the biggest.
Our discussions are fairly unique to Slashdot itself.
For better or worse ;)
gives you the edge?
have one of the most tech savvy audiences online.
These people aren't afraid to speak the truth.
else you would like our readers to know? (we get many
media types here).
more information visit www.slashdot.org