I've been Slashdotted twice and I hope that it happens again. I'm a writer of self-published novels aimed at the kind of people who read Slashdot, and a good portion whatever success I've had selling these books can be attributed directly or indirectly to that one site.
I had heard of the site and surfed it a few times, but I only began to understand its influence at Boston's Geek Pride Festival in April, 2000, when Rob Malda (CmdrTaco) spoke and a giant crowd of people hung on his every word as if he were Jesus come back or something. I had actually met him the night before and given him a copy of my book; I had not known at that time that he was a quasi-deity.
Anyway he gave the book to Hemos, who liked it and gave it a nice review in late May 2000. At that time my site was hosted on a local mom-and-pop ISP, long since gone out out business, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, where I live. I don't know how much traffic that review generated because my ISP didn't have any tracking software available at that time and the little freeware hit-counter that I had installed just panicked. According to it, over the three days of the most intense Slashdot effect I got -200 visitors to my site. (That's negative 200). But the ISP performed admirably, and the site stayed up. I really have no idea how many hits I got, but within 20 hours of my Slashdotting the rank of my book went from 79,000 to 64 on Amazon's list. (It wasn't until a few days later that I realized that it had only taken about 300 sales to thus catapualt me. I had had visions of selling 20,000 copies!). Also I got about 60 emails within a few days of the Slashdot review.
After that Hemos and I began a sometime correspondence by email, and actually met in person a few times (and had one famous miss ). (It was Mr. Hemos who suggested to me that I check out a certain new site called Kuro5hin.). Over lunch I told him that my second novel Cheap Complex Devices was almost ready, and asked him if I could count on a Slashdot review. He said yes, but of course that he could not guarantee that it would be a positive review. At that time I was planning to publish both novels, "Acts" and "Devices," in one upside-down volume. Some while later I finished writing the book and sent him a copy in PDF. I told him that I would really appreciate a review in time for LinuxWorld San Francisco, which was about two months the future at that point. Hemos said that he would probably be able to do it, but that he could not make any promises. So I signed a contract to rent a booth, at great expense, to sell my book at LinuxWorld. And then I drove across the United States of America with a truckload of books.
I went out to Linuxworld, foolishly counting on a Slashdot review to drive thousands of people to my little booth. No review appeared. Sales were good but I had counted on "great." The venture was turning into a disaster. From the floor of LinuxWorld I sent Jeff (Hemos) an urgent note asking if he could post that review? He responded 12 hours later saying, as I recall, that he had other things on his mind than my stupid book. His company was in turmoil, he had just had to tell several friends that they no longer had jobs, he was in Japan while his wife was home with two very young children, and he did not much appreciate my breathing down his neck. His note did not tell me outright that I was being an asshole for pestering him, but in fact I was being an asshole. Such is the power of Slashdot that I had driven 3,000 miles in anticipation of one review and had placed the value of being Slashdoted over that of a friendship. This was not a pleasant realization. The Slashdot effect had become my "one ring." I felt silly and a little ashamed of myself.
Having lost about $1500 on the LinuxWorld venture, I flew back to Massachusetts. I sent several apologies to Hemos for having been such an asshole, for having pestered him and so presumed on our friendship. He did not answer, and I figured that I had really pissed him off beyond repair. And then out of the blue he sent me a note saying that he liked the book and that a review would be posted soon. Almost immediately thereafter I was Slashdotted a second time. Hemo's review was positive but confusing, and a good part of the confusion came from his saying that both books were available in one volume. That had been my plan, but I had changed it.
By the time that this review appeared my site was hosted on a new ISP, which promptly shit the bed. Within 1 hour of the review's going up my site was down due to lack of bandwidth. I was in the middle of contacting my ISP's customer support to buy more emergency bandwidth when I got a call from Dear Wife Betty. Her car had broken down, again, this time in the middle of the intersection of Franklin and Greenwood, about a 1/2 mile walk from our house. She was not in a good mood. "I'm at work," she said. "you go deal with that damn car. I left it sitting in the middle of the street." (The car had conveniently broken down about 1/4 mile from the library where she works.)
So I ran down the street, pushed the car out of the intersection, spent half an hour futzing with the ignition, and got the car started and drove it home. Just when I arrived I got a phone call from youngest daughter, at the soccer field. She was on the mend from a bout of Lyme disease, and Coach was concerned that she was not well. Coach wanted me to come get daughter right away and to call her doctor to make sure she was well enough to play soccer. So I went and got her, and called doctor and took care of all that. About that time my wife asked me if I could bring her car to the library, as she had a meeting of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger for which she was late. So I did that. Then I went home and got in touch with the ISP and arranged for them to increase my bandwidth. By that time the review had scrolled off the page. Many of the Slashdot comments were to the effect of "another wretched loser gets slashdotted and his site goes down. How lame!"
I don't know how many hits that second review generated because I had not yet installed the traffic-watching software provided by my new ISP. I installed it the next day. In any event the effect on sales was less pronounced than that first review two years earlier.
Despite the disappointing results of the second Slashdotting, it's hard to overestimate the value of those Slashdot reviews. It's not only that they led to sales; it's also that they gave me credibility that allowed me to get other reviews, such as one on Salon.com. It was only by virtue of having been Slashdotted that I was able to garner the attention of Salon--and that in turn has opened up lots of other doors. The guys over at that site can link to me any time they want.
One of my Kuro5hin diaries was allegedly memepooled. I found this out when a friend of mine told me about a neat story that he had read from a memepool link and I recognized it as my own. Here again I have no idea how much traffic that link may have generated, but in any event it would have brought the traffic to K5, not to my site. But now google gives ambiguous results, so maybe my friend dreamed it all up.
By the way, can somebody explain mirroring to me? If I knew I were about to be slashdotted and wanted to go about getting my site mirrored, how would I do it?
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