Business Week Online’s article Less Impact from the Slashdot Effect leaps to conclusions about why the Slashdot Effect has weakened over the last 12 months. While I do not necessarily question an overall decline in the percentage of traffic that other tech news sites attribute to Slashdot, I do take issue with what appears to be lazy journalism in citing causes for the decline.
The article asserts that the number of news sites Slashdot is linking to has skyrocketed. And that has reduced the impact Slashdot can make on each individual site’s traffic. I decided to do a little investigating.
For example, compare the number of original stories and links embedded in them on a random day over the last three years. I picked the last Tuesday of February — February 22 2005, February 24 2004 and February 25 2003. BTW: On Slashdot it’s really easy to look at any day in history by using the ?issue=yyyymmdd url parameter. For example, February 22 2005 is http://slashdot.org/index.pl?issue=20050222.
2003: 17 stories on the index page with 38 links
2004: 22 stories on the index page with 48 links
2005: 22 stories on the index page with 51 links
The difference between 2004 and 2005 is nominal where is the “skyrocket”? Three additional links on a given day cannot cause a radical decline in The Slashdot Effect.
The article also suggests that look alike sites are lessening the Slashdot Effect. This means that sites such as geek.com and gizmodo.com are diluting the Slashdot Effect. This is ridiculous. The average number of comments per story on geek.com is less than 25. Compare that to 450 comments per article on Slashdot. The lack of community focus on these competing sites means they are too weak to either generate their own Slashdot Effect or too insignificant to dilute Slashdot’s.
Finally, the article also suggests that the growing number of tech news sites is another reason that the Slashdot Effect is diminishing. I fail to see the logic here. The sheer growth of Slashdot unique visitors and page views negates this theory.
If there is, in fact, a decline in the Slashdot Effect aside from anecdotal evidence, there were no plausible reasons explored in the article. Perhaps, Slashdot has grown beyond its original tech editorial focus and is linking more frequently to sites beyond the conventional high tech list. Perhaps, the proliferation of links to CNET and other tech sites have, over time, caused readers to visit those sites as part of their normal daily reading habits. Perhaps, the visitors to Slashdot are becoming increasingly focused on the community comments themselves rather than the news links. Or perhaps, more and more visitors to Slashdot have already linked to the source from their RSS news and blogs reader.
At a minimum, I would hope that an interested journalist or anthropologist will take a closer look at Slashdot to find out if there is a correlation between its increasing page views and visitors and declining traffic referrals. My sense is that we may be seeing the evolution of this worldwide community and its dynamics, rather than simple advertising-mentality trend lines.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this Weblog post are my own. I am no longer associated with Slashdot, OSTG or VA Software.
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