Slashdot revamps tech news aggregation site

Slashdot unveiled new tools for user participation in an attempt to benefit from the popularity of social news features

Slashdot.org plans to release a new feature designed to give more participation in the selection of articles to its users, who submit links to stories and comments about them to the site.

Called Firehose, the new interface lets readers see, for the first time, all the news articles that flow into Slashdot for evaluation by the site's editors. Additionally, readers will be able to vote on whether specific articles should or shouldn't be featured on the site.

"Before, if we chose not to post something, it was gone, and no one else saw it again," said Patrick McGarry, Slashdot project manager.

Firehose will contain stories submitted for consideration by readers, as well as the content of automatic feeds. Readers will be able to tweak their Firehose view by filtering the contents using different parameters, and may opt to use Firehose as their main Slashdot interface. They will also be able to share their Firehose views with other users.

However, despite the increased participation for readers, Slashdot editors will still have the last word on which stories are featured on the site's home page, McGarry said. "Anything going to the front page has to be vetted by an editor," he said.

Anyone will be able to see the Firehose repository of submitted articles, but in order to vote on stories, users have to register with Slashdot. Registration is free.

With these changes, Slashdot, which is part of OSTG Inc., is catching up to so-called "social news" features that have made sites like Digg's Digg.com extremely popular.

Digg has increased its popularity significantly in the past year, according to Web measurement statistics from Hitwise. For the week ending Feb. 24, Digg ranked first in Hitwise's IT News and Media category with 10.8 percent of visits to sites in this category, while Slashdot grabbed 22nd place with 0.75 percent. A year earlier, in the week ending Feb. 25, 2006, Digg ranked in sixth place with almost 4 percent of visits, while Slashdot had the 11th spot with 1.33 percent.

Others that have seen Digg take market share away are PC World and Cnet, which ranked first and second, respectively, in this category, in the week ending Feb. 25, 2006. That week, PC World had 9.5 percent of visits, and in the comparable week this year it had fallen to third place with 6.7 percent. Cnet had 9.28 percent and kept its second place in the comparable week this year, albeit with a smaller 6.8 percent share. (PC World is owned by IDG, the parent company of IDG News Service.)

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