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Recursion, Ads and the Slashdot Effect

By perdida in Meta
Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:58:28 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

Kuro5hin.org is pretty slow right now, and was inaccessible for several hours today.

This is because michael (jellicle@slashdot.org), a Slashdot editor, linked Rusty's op-ed piece to the front page.

What are the implications of this action, with regards to;

a) the culture of Slashdot

b) the culture of kuro5hin

c) the corporate relationship of both kuro5hin.org and slashdot.org to their ad provider, OSDN

Ah, the Slashdot effect. This phenomenon occurs when you list a website on another website, such as Slashdot, which is so popular that the server of the listed site can't serve up the page to all of the visitors from the popular site. Results of the slashdot effect include slow load times, nonloading pictures, crash'd servers, and a 404 by the site admins who desperately try to avoid being "slashdotted."

Here is an E^2 node about the use of the Slashdot effect as a weapon, such as on sites that you don't like. I think this is a positive variation of the same phenomenon.

There is a fundamental difference between the revenue stream of a pageview based website and a column-inch based dead tree newspaper. With a newspaper, the advertiser pays a different amount based on how large the ad is and where the ad is located in the newspaper. With a pageview based website, everyone is paying for the same ad space at the top of the page. The more popular an entire website is, the more money they bring in and the more the adspace is worth.

Now let's bring OSDN into the picture. OSDN is actually the entity that decides the different rates charged for different websites that it serves ads to. See here for Rusty's original explanation of the agreement with OSDN.

So OSDN can link on the /. front page to Themes.org, k5, or any other site in its ad-stable when there is a hint of a newsworthy reason to do so. This could, theoretically, benefit k5 by generating more revenue per click, if k5 hadn't lost time by slashdotting. But up to the point that k5 was slashdotted, the story about Rusty's article on slashdot generates advertising revenue for OSDN twice. OSDN makes money once when the people read the story on slashdot, and again when they read the article.

Now let's compare this with a newspaper again. Most newspapers get their ads "served" up in two ways: once from a local classified-ad, $-per-word system, and again through local pictorial ads such as those for local criminal defense lawyers, insurance agents, department store and grocery store sales, etc. etc. There is also a third kind of revenue- the owner of newspapers will broker national advertising for companies like Target, Sears, etc. for all of its newspapers. This might afford a higher rate per ad of a certain size if the company that wants to advertise will take a few risks by advertising in, say, the Hoboken Snot-Rag as well as the Indianapolis Popular Daily Slander Sheet.

What Slashdot has been doing on its front page is akin to the editor of a newspaper that is owned by, say, Gannett, writing a front page article raving or telling sensational stories about another newspaper either owned or financed by Gannett.

With a website, this type of cross-reference is even more powerful and thus more tempting. Hyperlinks provide instant gratification to the curious reader, thus making it extremely convenient for the linked website to build up pageviews. Although to my knowledge it is Slashdot editors rather than OSDN that is doing the cross-posting, there are still potential improprieties.

Of course, a server turned into smoldering goo by the slashdot effect probably offsets any revenue gained by this process. Nevertheless, there are some possible editorial improprieties here. At least one site in the OSDN family should say, when linking to another, that "this site is also owned by/gets ad revenue from/etc. OSDN." Conflicts of interest, even when only perceived, aren't any fun.

That said, I think that Rusty should be given some new boxen to replace the one that missed the mark today. You shouldn't be able to slashdot k5!! Let's make k5 strong enough to take a slashdotting and keep on ticking. :))


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Linking to k5 on slashdot was..
o good for k5 8%
o bad for k5 2%
o both good and bad for k5 16%
o Crap. more slashdotters on k5 34%
o unethical but effective 0%
o they shoulda warned k5 10%
o better buy k5 a new server 17%
o reel_life 8%

Votes: 112
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Kuro5hin
o Rusty's op-ed piece
o Here
o E^2
o here
o Themes.org ,
o Also by perdida

Display: Sort:
Recursion, Ads and the Slashdot Effect | 33 comments (32 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
You know.... (4.16 / 6) (#1)
by cp on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:24:20 PM EST

There might be something fishy about those ads for Time Magazine on CNN's website....

warnings (4.16 / 6) (#2)
by wiredog on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:39:40 PM EST

When I submit a story to slashdot or k5 I send a heads up to any sites that it links to, if I think they could be knocked over. Sites like NY Times or Washington Post can handle the slashdot effect, but I would certainly send Rusty a warning. And Jerry Pournelle, if I thought that the slashdot collective would allow a story that mentioned his site to be posted.

btw, and off topic, the story on slashdot was sectioned editorial, and should have been MLP.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.

ah, naive me (none / 0) (#28)
by Kellnerin on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 11:55:36 AM EST

btw, and off topic, the story on slashdot was sectioned editorial, and should have been MLP.

And here I thought all /. did was MLP ...
Somebody go tell Kellnerin it's time for her to change her sig. -johnny
[ Parent ]

Editorial freedom (4.28 / 7) (#4)
by Eimi on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:13:07 PM EST

Actually, the last thing I want is for slashdot (or k5) to start considering stories any differently based on whether they're from "affiliated" sites or not. As far as I'm concerned, OSDN shouldn't (and doesn't) have any say on what any of the member sites post. Slashdot posted a link to a good story on k5 because that's the sort of thing /. does. Do you really want the admins to start asking "Gee, this is a good story, but won't people think we're just aiming for more banner ads for OSDN?"

who says they haven't pre-censored already? (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by perdida on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:20:54 PM EST

For all we know the /. editors have avoided such crossposting already to some degree, or perhaps they've been more likely to crosspost since the ad deal. I am not certain as to how this dynamic manifests itself in editorial choices or whether there is any pressure from OSDN on slashdot editors to cross-post.

Perhaps editors like michael and roblimo would like to discuss their decision process for stuff like this?


The most adequate archive on the Internet.
I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
[ Parent ]
In Defense of Slashdot (4.66 / 15) (#6)
by Signal 11 on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:39:38 PM EST

In defense of slashdot, I'd like to first mention that it was Slashdot who responded first when Kuro5hin was DDoS'd and shut down. Even before the OSDN deal, the Slashdot crew was paying attention to Kuro5hin's stories and culture. On numerous occasions (not all of which have been positive, though), members of the slashdot crew have visited #kuro5hin to discuss both technical and social issues about Kuro5hin. Several of them admire Kuro5hin, both in the technical merits of Scoop and on the management of the site proprietors, namely Rusty and Inoshiro (a full list of contributors can be found in the FAQ.

It's rather odd for me to come to the defense of slashdot, particularily michael (who was responsible for Signal 11 / UID 7608 being killed). Nevertheless, Slashdot is not part of some corporate conspiracy to generate ad revenue. As has been demonstrated many, many times before - the slashdot crew and their marketing department communicate very little. Need I remind anyone of the "Slashdot Cruiser" contest?

So before you jump to conclusions, consider all the facts... and consider that even if Slashdot is owned by OSDN, the people are not. If nothing else can convince you, look at the credentials of Roblimo, who handles most of the administrative side of Slashdot (and hence would be the person involved in any ad revenue conspiracy). 'nuff said.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Hear, hear... (none / 0) (#20)
by minusp on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 11:00:24 AM EST

I don't see how some attention from Slashdot could be considered a problem, hell, I followed a link over from there about two months before the DDoS, and found what *I* considered better articles and commentary, and 99 and 44/100 percent troll-free.

At the DDoS, Slashdot and VA helped out tremendously, IIRC. A couple hours of /.ing is not gonna kill anybody...

Inoshiro does mention elsewhere that Hex does indeed need a playmate... perhaps some constructive ideas re: a financial model that can accomplish what K5 is about, and still stay on line...
Remember, regime change begins at home.
[ Parent ]
The Old Boy Network (3.57 / 7) (#7)
by spacejack on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:44:41 PM EST

was the first thing to come to my mind. I'm pretty new to these web-boards, so the whole thing seems kinda like this little in-crowd of people that know each other, with a periphery of groupies that claim some insider knowledge here & there (provided you think Linux is kewl and Micro$oft sux). And then there are the vast majority of casual users like myself I suppose.

Anyhow, it wasn't so much to do with the Slashdot->K5 linkage, but the michael->rusty link. Sure, they can do whatever they want over at Slashdot. Rusty's article was a good one, well written despite whatever some of its detractors may have said, and generated some ok discussion. It's not my cup o tea as far as subject matter goes, but at least it's better than my articles. My articles suck.

No, what bugged me was this childish Slashdot attitude, this spur of the moment, "hey this cool guy who runs this cool site that was inspired by our site wrote this awesome article and all you guys should read it coz it's SO KOOL!!". That is, k5 has good articles regularly (at least I think so); Rusty's was just one more of them. Are they now gonna link to K5 every time there's a good article here? It stinks of a cult of personality -- the very thing I kinda hoped would never catch on in the tech field (yeah right). I just see it as more evidence that Slashdot represents everything that is bad about computer and internet culture today. That much I'm serious about.

Interesting.. (none / 0) (#13)
by BigZaphod on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:22:07 AM EST

Very insightful comment. You just don't see these on Slashdot anymore. Well, not often, anyway.

At any rate, I know what you're talking about regarding the apparent "Old Boy" network on the web these days. I run a site that grew very quickly and is now one of the biggest BeOS sites there is. While that's cool and everything, the massive increase in traffic and e-mail that success brings makes it harder and harder to NOT fall into the old boy trap. The reason is that there gets to be a point where there's just too darned many people around to communicate with and you naturally fall back to keeping up relations with those whom you've known the longest. The end result is that unfortuantely many now view our site as being part of this old boy network. It's almost impossible for a new site to gain any kind of mindshare simply because us older sites all know each other and, in a way, protect each other's interests. I know from our side, anyway, we always try to be as neutral as possible (never like to burn bridges), but that's just the way it seems to go.

This is why big corporations are sort of scary. They can form a sort of peaceful coexistence which isn't really good for anyone. If competition stops, the system breaks down. That's why monopoly is illegal, after all. But anyway, now that I've had some first hand experience in this odd situation, it makes sense as to why it happens.

Anyway, I agree with what you said, but I don't think it's sinister as much as it is something that just sort of happens as a result of progress. Of course that doesn't make it right. :-)

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
Didn't mean to imply conspiracies (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by spacejack on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:49:06 AM EST

I was more talking about perception. And the generally infantile behaviour of the Slashdot editors. They have a huge community that they manage very, very poorly. They cannot post a story without adding some infuriatingly biased, 2-bit spin to it. This generates a culture of zealots and anti-zealots. Why do they get trolls all day? It's their own fault. It's the kind of community they've engineered. And it's too bad because it still is one of the biggest, most widely read tech/news site out there. Yet they don't even attempt to leave their biases at the door. In other words, you can read our site, but we're always going to put our own spin on the issue, just because, hey, we run the site and we can do that.

This is why I prefer k5. For all I know, Rusty is more of a fanatic than any of the Slashdot editors. But he runs his site in such a way that the community decides how to spin a story. And more often than not, you get intelligent debate happening, as opposed to a lot of noise and "boo" moderations. There are "boo" moderations here too, but they're typically balanced by other moderators with different opinions.

But that's why the link "bothered" me (well it didn't really bother me, but since there's a story on it this is the only angle I found to discuss). It comes off as an Old Boy insider thing to do. People can link to whatever they feel like on k5, but at least anyone can do it. It's more democratic. Slashdot is a dictatorship with a bunch of mob-like boors for subjects.

And I'll say it again, just because I like the sound of it: Slashdot represents everything that is bad about computer and internet culture today. Maybe I should use that as a sig. :)

[ Parent ]
I understand.. (none / 0) (#19)
by BigZaphod on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 10:33:42 AM EST

And I think you are 100% right about this. I remember thinking awhile back about just how much power the Slashdot crew has and how they didn't seem to notice or care. But I think they do notice now and they're not using it for good. Heck, journalists use Slashdot as the source for the opinions of the entire tech community these days and frankly I don't agree with about 95% of the garbage I see getting posted over there. It's just not a good situation for anybody except the editors of Slashdot. K5 is much more in line with what the web and the tech sector should be all about, IMHO.

And yes, that would make a great sig... :-)

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
Plinky-winky! (4.81 / 11) (#8)
by Inoshiro on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:01:11 AM EST

First off, Hex has been an unhappy baby for the past while. The loadaverage seems to always be 6-8. This is because we are getting really lots of hits lately, as we are up to Total users: 15590 Confirmed users: 14196. We are slowly drawing to the point where we need to get a second box just for SQL, and connect the two via 100Mbps dedicated crossover twisted pair. This is not helped by the fact that I'm the closest to Hex -- and I need 8 hours of plane rides to get there. The slashdotting merely exacerbated things.

Second, we've been /.ed before for community articles. Obviously some of our readers like it enough to try to cross polinate the story to the /.ers. Just because OSDN now rents ad space from us, doesn't mean we're suddenly all sinister about it.

[ イノシロ ]
Stupid question time! (5.00 / 3) (#9)
by _Quinn on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:19:26 AM EST

   (I know, it's your favorite time, but please, calm down. :))

   Shouldn't OSDN provide `slop-over' servage for its member sites, given that it (should) /want/ them to be Slashdotted?

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
Except........ (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by Inoshiro on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 06:41:36 PM EST

We're not an OSDN member like the other ones -- they rent ad space from us. All other OSDN listed sites are directly owned by OSDN and run off their own server clusters. We're just Rusty, Inoshiro, perl hackers (panner, hurstdog) who work on Scoop, people who do graphics (Driph) for K5 and Scoop. 3 boxen we own (directly) are involved in it (I've been meaning to write a "Machines of Kuro5hin story to explain better what we're powered by).

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Machines of Kuro5hin (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by CrayDrygu on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 10:38:56 AM EST

(I've been meaning to write a "Machines of Kuro5hin story to explain better what we're powered by)

I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I think this would be a fascinating story. I always love finding out about what goes on behind the scenes, not just in computers, but anything -- radio, TV, newspapers...

So, you've got my vote for that story =)

[ Parent ]

K5/Slash and Breeding Conspiracies (3.75 / 4) (#10)
by lucas on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:55:44 AM EST

It's funny how the K5/Slash communities sometimes share a common sentiment of "reason above all else" and "anti-anything that isn't tangible through measurable results". I'm guilty of it, too, so I'm not condemning it.

With this in mind, it's kinda ironic that they are also notorious for their rumors and blind speculation... conspiracy theories. On Slash, nearly every story has some sort of conspiracy inside it... particularly if the site is Slashdotted and the "story summary" gives a few words less than a complete sentence.

Sometimes I wish people would... well, if something is that bothersome that they would spend 2 hours typing out a 10-paragraph thesis against the article, I wish they would call the person themselves or check out the source somehow.

/. effect (3.75 / 4) (#11)
by danny on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:09:50 AM EST

My web site has been /.ed a few times - two full stories (1, 2) plus a number of my book reviews have run on /. with links back to the full connection. I've never had any trouble with the /. effect, but it probably helps that my site is all static HTML. (I don't think even CNNing or /.ing could take out a static HTML site running on reasonable hardware and with a solid network connection.)

Returning to the theme of the story, though, I don't think most people are likely to read discussions of a story on both K5 and /. - which one they read will depend on where it appears both and which site they follow most regularly.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]

oh, you are danny. cool (none / 0) (#12)
by perdida on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:17:11 AM EST

you have good reviews. I agree on the flat HTML pages. My website will be designed suchly.

The most adequate archive on the Internet.
I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
[ Parent ]
Does OSDN really gain anything? (4.80 / 5) (#14)
by BigStink on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 04:36:49 AM EST

I agree that OSDN has generated more pageviews for itself by linking to a site which is part of its own network. However, I don't believe that there's any sinister motive.

I'm sure that I'm not the only person who's noticed the changing nature of OSDN's banner ads. A few months ago (in the Andover days), a large proportion of Slashdot banners were advertising products and services for non-Andover/VA companies. However, now that the Internet advertising market is falling apart, today's Slashdot and k5 banner ads are largely for the products and services of the VA Linux empire (Sourceforge, ThinkGeek etc.) I doubt that OSDN charge themselves money for pageviews, so they haven't benefitted much by linking to one of their own sites.

Your point about the ethics of linking to sites within one's own network may be valid for other sites, but in the case of OSDN there's probably no great conspiracy.

Ad banner v. editorial space (none / 0) (#22)
by perdida on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:16:59 PM EST

They are most perfectly welcome to sell anything they want in the ad banner space they own and rent out.. the New York Times newspaper hawks the NYTimes website and the NYTimes magazine in its expensive ad space.

However, once one crosses over into editorial space, one should at least notify the Slashdot readership that "yes, this site is sponsored by our owner, OSDN," or something.

When CNN was covering the AOL-Time Warner merger they remarked in every story that T-W was the parent company of CNN. I think a little comment to that effect would suffice..


The most adequate archive on the Internet.
I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
[ Parent ]
Corporations selling services to themselves (none / 0) (#32)
by Steeltoe on Mon Apr 23, 2001 at 01:51:45 PM EST

It is quite common for large corporations to sell services to themselves, so that it will be run in most efficient modus - competitionally. It's a way of distributing management, as surely no human can run the whole beast efficiently at every level. I don't know about this very case though. There's one thing that is a bit disturbing though, do they have to pay taxes? Big corporations shouldn't escape taxing just because they're big. I mean, that would be unfair ;-P

- Steeltoe

[ Parent ]
Caching possible? (4.50 / 4) (#15)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:50:42 AM EST

I wonder if it is possible to use a Slashdot-style cache, where static pages are generated every so often for the default not-logged in view, and it kicks in during traffic spikes?

Then again, this is probably already done. I noticed that my mode was changed to threaded during the /.ing.

The reason why /. doesn't cache. (2.75 / 4) (#25)
by DrEvil on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 07:22:00 PM EST

Excerpted from Slashdot's FAQ:

Slashdot should cache pages to prevent the Slashdot Effect!

Sure, it's a great idea, but it has a lot of implications. For example, commercial sites rely on their banner ads to generate revenue. If I cache one of their pages, this will mess with their statistics, and mess with their banner ads. In other words, this will piss them off.

Of course, most of the time, the commercial sites that actually have income from banner ads easily withstand the Slashdot Effect. So perhaps we could draw the line at sites that don't have ads. They are, after all, much more likely to buckle under the pressure of all those unexpected hits. But what happens if I cache the site, and they update themselves? Once again, I'm transmitting data that I shouldn't be, only this time my cache is out of date!

I could try asking permission, but do you want to wait 6 hours for a cool breaking story while we wait for permission to link someone?

So the quick answer is: "Sure, caching would be neat." It would make things a lot easier when servers go down, but it's a complicated issue that would need to be thought through in great detail before being implemented.

Personally I think there must be a way around this. Who says the cache has to be static? Even if Slashdot updated the cache every minute (or less), it'd be less traffic than what the /. effect would cause. As for ad based sites, well as it says in the FAQ the sites with banners can handle the load anyway.

How about this for a solution? We have robot.txt files for search engines saying what they can and cannot search, well why can't this file (or a cache.txt) file be used? This should solve every issue discussed in the FAQ. I think I might have to write up a Ask Slashdot question for this.

[ Parent ]
Reread original comment. (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by vectro on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:07:51 PM EST

Erhm, methinks you have misunderstood. The original poster was reccomending that Kuro5hin set up a cached static main page that could be served up to non-logged-in posters. Since the page would be static, it would save on CPU time, and make the whole think more reliable.

It's not a bad idea at all, and dosen't require Slashdot to do a thing.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
One important hole in your theory (4.37 / 8) (#16)
by iGrrrl on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:00:05 AM EST

Why, oh why wouldn't it just be possible that Slashdot editor Michael meant what he said -- that he thought Rusty's article deserved widespread dissemination?

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

Sincerity. (none / 0) (#17)
by Alarmist on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:36:25 AM EST

Why, oh why wouldn't it just be possible that Slashdot editor Michael meant what he said -- that he thought Rusty's article deserved widespread dissemination?

Because it's more fun to think that michael's a twit.

Of course it's possible. The Slashdot writeup was brief, even by their standards, and seemed designed merely to provoke people into going to see it. Still, it is within the realm of possibility that michael was sincere. If he was, great. If not, well, he already enjoys the reputation of being a dastardly fellow.

[ Parent ]

E-mail munging (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by Jagged on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 03:35:03 PM EST


remove obvious illegal character in email address
Just call me an annoying ass, but when someone tries to get fancy with address munging but screws it up, I just have to give them a hard time.

What obvious illegal character? According to RFC822 that is a perfectly valid address. Yahoo may not allow the ' character, but that is not common knowledge. If the RFCs say it is valid then it is not illegal in my book.

[ Parent ]
the ' (none / 0) (#30)
by iGrrrl on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 04:53:16 PM EST

Never saw an email address with an apostraphe, and iirc, yahoo won't let you use one. I thought it was obviously illegal.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

An even more delayed response (none / 0) (#33)
by Jagged on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 06:19:05 PM EST

I was in a mood to take your sig as a challenge. I tried to register your displayed address at Yahoo and found out their restrictions.

You are guaranteed to get smart asses like me to point out insignificant things on the Internet.

[ Parent ]
What are the implications of this action? (3.28 / 7) (#21)
by strumco on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 11:36:00 AM EST

For one thing, I'm here - joined up and posting.



welcome! (none / 0) (#23)
by perdida on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:19:40 PM EST

This place is a lot of fun.. you'll see.


The most adequate archive on the Internet.
I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
[ Parent ]
Myself as well - /. led me to find K5 (none / 0) (#31)
by Kasreyn on Mon Apr 23, 2001 at 12:04:13 PM EST


I just signed on with K5 a couple weeks ago. I like getting involved in discussions online via webforums etc. A great way to hone my writing and debating skills, plus I find that on /. and K5 there are things to discuss that most people don't care about or notice.

These sites are a godsend. =)


P.S. Can anyone tell me how to make my sig top printing "<br>" tags?! I coulda sworn I have it set to plaintext mode...
<br>"Intolerant people should be shot." - the best one-sentence troll I have ever seen.<br>

[ Parent ]
Recursion, Ads and the Slashdot Effect | 33 comments (32 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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