Ask me something on Slashdot!

By Phil Plait | October 26, 2011 10:46 am

Slashdot is a news aggregator site where contributors submit interesting stories about science, tech, and assorted geekery. It’s one of the oldest and biggest social network sites on teh tubez*, and still one of the best. I go there every day to see what’s buzzing. My own humble (ha!) site is linked from there every now and again as well, and I’m always happy when it is.

Every week or so, Slashdot does an interview with someone online. They open up questions, collect a few, and send them to the interviewee to answer via email. So guess who they just asked to participate?

That’s right! Rory Calhoun! No wait, it was me! They’ve opened up a page where you can leave a question. You don’t have to register to ask a question, but if you like fresh techy news, you should sign up anyway. Feel free to ask anything, though bear in mind I’ll be writing out the answer, so something like "Why is the Universe expanding?" might be more text than I’m willing to write and you’re willing to read.

But, to save you time, here are some answers so you don’t have to ask basic questions:

1) Yes, I’m married.

2) I worked on Hubble for ten years, but now I write about it.

3) No.

4) When I write about not wearing pants most of the time, I’m not kidding.

5) 13.73 +/- .12 billion years.

6) It’s a tough choice, but I’d have to say either Wil Wheaton or George Hrab.

So there you go. I hope that helps. Head on over to Slashdot, see what others have asked, and then leave your own question! And my sincere thanks to Slashdot for asking me to be a part of this. It’s an honor.

I’ll add that questions left in the comments on this very post won’t be part of the Q&A; you have to go to Slashdot and write it there. Thanks!


* In fact, in the olden days of the web, when a site got linked by Slashdot it frequently overloaded the server, jamming it and making site loading very slow. This became known as "getting slashdotted" and it happened to me a few times way back when, before the Hive Overmind Discover Magazine started hosting my blog on a beefy server that can handle the load better.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Cool stuff
MORE ABOUT: Slashdot

Comments (21)

  1. Jeff

    need to be a nerd?

    sorry, I’ve been a prof. for 30 years and although I am one, and I sympathesize with nerddom, even have grown to like them; I really wish ALL types of people went into science and not just them. That long ago I choose a community college instead of university environment, ; because then I could teach and work with students and administrators (who have different backgrounds), not scientists ; versus a university where prof. of science have to work with other nerdy scientists.

    I know stuff like this falls with a BIG THUD on this type of blog; but this is an excellent blog, and I just wanted to present the other side of the story.

  2. AliCali

    Rory Calhoun? Isn’t he the guy who is always standing up and walking around?

  3. “It’s one of the oldest and biggest social network sites on teh tubez*, and still one of the best.”

    Yeah… I’m gonna have to dispute that.

    Slashdot *used* to be a fantastic website. Then the editors realized they could get way more page hits by trolling the userbase. As a result, it’s now awash in poorly written trollbait designed only to enrage and enflame.

    Combine that with a horribly broken moderation system that encourages groupthink and censorship, and a community that dominated by libertarian wackos and open source zealots who like to abuse said moderation system, and it’s become a cesspool of stupidity.

    Honestly, I was one of the last of my friends to cling to my old Slashdot ID. But earlier this year, I finally gave up, after a string of horrible articles hit the front page. I now rely on subreddits, Engadget, Ars Technica, and a number of blogs (like this one) to get my tech/science news fix, and the result is higher quality content that arrives sooners (Slashdot is often very much behind the times… occasionally the editors even post articles that are multiple years old, probably because they couldn’t be bothered to click the link and see what the authorship date was).

    In short: Slashdot is what happens when curators of a community get lazy. It’s like a yard so overgrown with weeds that you’re better off just razing the earth and starting from scratch.

  4. KaoS

    Wait. Slashdot is more than a repository of code that you’ll never use 99% of? If you don’t like the forum, don’t use it. I never have and I’ve been using the site for software I can’t find anywhere else practically forever. Pro’ly going to take me a while to find time to read through all the questions over there. Can’t wait to find time for it.

    Good stuff, Phil.

  5. tacitus

    Man, using Slashdot is behind the times. Isn’t everybody using Twitter for things like this these days?

  6. JJ (the other one)

    Slashdot was already in decline at the start of the last decade and I quit that place as the anti-corporate / pro-conspiracy vibes grew stronger.

    Not that it surprised me, the community was basically founded by 90′s-era internet geeks, so a strong showing of pseudo-libertarians and/or open-source-everything types and the crazy was crystallized by 9/11 and associated issues.

  7. @JJ: Yup, exactly.

    The real irony in the BA working with Slashdot, IMO, is the rampant anti-AGW crowd that trolls the forums. It’s actually one of the reasons I had to get out… the denialist streak in the Slashdot crowd (and particularly the moderators) is really remarkable.

    Slashdot is really a case study in the effect whereby engineers, physicists, etc, knowledgeable in one subject, feel they’re sufficiently brilliant to understand everything. Any time a study is published, the “correlation is not causation” meme pops up. Every time an article supporting AGW comes out, the denialist meme pops up. It’s pretty fascinating, in an incredibly frustrating, hair-pulling sort of way.

  8. Zyggy

    Very cool! I’m a geek and read Slashdot everyday. Not necessarily for the articles that make the front page, but more for the comments ABOUT each story.

    There’s a healthy bit of skepticism (among other things) on their message boards. And the ‘Slashdot public’ rarely, if ever, takes a story at face value. The site is read by a LOT of people (hence the “Slashdot effect” noted after the above story). Generally highly intelligent people, many of which are experts in their fields. Some genuine insight can be gained by reading the comments. Of course, being on the internet, you get all types, but the comment moderation is usually excellent.

    I’m excited to hear (read) the questions they come up with. Be prepared Phil, it may get tough ;-) You’ll likely be answering some very thoughtful questions you’ve never considered.

    Zyg

  9. CraterJoe

    Phil,

    In response to #3′s answer “No”: Really? Why?

  10. tacitus

    In response to #3′s answer “No”: Really? Why?

    Easy…

    Just because.

  11. RJ

    Should do an AMA on reddit.

  12. John Sandlin

    Don’t forget

    8. XYZZY

  13. Nigel Depledge

    @ Doug (4) -
    How many roads must a man walk down?

  14. QuietDesperation

    Woo hoo. Pre-answers are like a blank, unsigned check.

    Time for an episode of Let’s RetCon The Questions! :-)

    1) Do you hate your life?

    Yes, I’m married.

    2) Which space assets did you actively try to sabotage when working as an Evil Astronomer?

    I worked on Hubble for ten years, but now I write about it.

    3) Do you actually believe in AGW?

    No.

    4) What’s up with stuff like “click to engorgenate”?

    When I write about not wearing pants most of the time, I’m not kidding.

    5) How’s it hangin’ and for how long?

    13.73 +/- .12 billion years.

    6) A sniper rife. A high power scope. One bullet. Choose your target.

    It’s a tough choice, but I’d have to say either Wil Wheaton or George Hrab.

  15. QuietDesperation

    I know stuff like this falls with a BIG THUD

    Yep. I gave up on it.

    We get “nerd nerd geek dork nerd geek dork dork dork nerd geek nerd dork” followed by “Huh… how come no one wants to go into math and science anymore?”

  16. Keith Bowden

    I swear I am not an anonymous coward. I fully own up to my cowardice, it never asked for my name!

  17. Nigel Depledge

    @ QD (15) -
    LOL!

  18. Guppy

    @Brett

    I have also been along-time Slashdot reader (UID: 12314), who has noticed recent trends, but believe the sensationalism and intellectual decay on the site occurred without malice or conscious consideration.

    At the same time, I believe the feeling the editors have recently come to realize something is not right with their current direction (with stories asking about the future of the site). I think we’ll continue to see more Slashdot stories of decent quality (such as the current one, which will introduce some younger readers to a high quality science blog).

  19. Guppy

    @Brett

    I have also been along-time Slashdot reader (UID: 12314), who has noticed recent trends, but believe the sensationalism and intellectual decay on the site occurred without malice or conscious consideration.

    At the same time, I believe the feeling the editors have recently come to realize something is not right with their current direction (with stories asking about the future of the site). I think we’ll continue to see more Slashdot stories of decent quality (such as the current one, which will introduce some younger readers to a high quality science blog).

  20. xyzzy

    >>Slashdot was already in decline at the start of the last decade and I quit that place as the
    >> anti-corporate / pro-conspiracy vibes grew stronger.

    lol @anti-corporate what planet are you from? That normally is a good thing.

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