Slashdot, the popular geeky daily tech news and views site acquired along with other Geeknet websites by Dice Holdings this month for $20 million, has been one of the most popular tech-oriented sites since the 90s. In 2012, it racked up about 3.7 million unique visitors a month and gets 5,300 comments a day.

Many online publishers know about the Slashdot effect – if the site posts a story with a URL back to your site, you’ll generally see a significant traffic increase. The science fiction writer Charles Stross extrapolated that to a future time in which people constantly connected to the Internet could be “Slashdotted,” overwhelming their connections, in his 2005 novel, “Accelerando.”

The site pioneered “curated content” long before “curating” became the buzz word it is today.

The uber aggregator

“Slashdot is the uber aggregator,” says Stephen Wellman, Geeknet Media editor-in-chief and vice president.

Wellman oversees all editorial content creation and operations across the company’s industry-leading media properties, including Slashdot, SourceForge, and FreeCode.

Prior to joining Geeknet, Wellman served as senior vice president of Community & Content at Ziff Davis Enterprise (ZDE), where he oversaw editorial for the company’s leading brands, including eWeek, Baseline, CIO Insight, Channel Insider, and the Developer Shed Network.

Wellman was responsible for leading ZDE’s Strategic Content team, crafting and guiding custom content programs from conception to completion for a large number of technology clients including IBM, Dell, Microsoft and others.

Speaking at Digital East

He will join more than 70 speakers and panelists at the upcoming Digital East conference in Herndon, VA, Oct. 2-3, which includes thought-leaders from brands that include AOL, Mashable, Google, The Ladders, IBM, PBS, McAfee, comScore and the Travel Channel, among many others. The TechJournal interviewed a number of speakers participating in the event and you can find links to those stories here.

Wellman tells us that Slashdot is right in the middle of its 15th anniversary. “It’s almost old enough to drive now,” he quips.

He’ll discuss some of the number of anniversary related initiatives at Digital East, as well as about where communities and social media interact, differences between them, synergies, audience retention and attraction, including “How you interface with a community like Slashdot.”

Slashdot, he notes, “Is a highly engaged community” that unlike many others online works from the bottom up rather than from the top down approach.

“It’s where a technologist goes because he wants to find out everything,” says Wellman. Topics include all the traditional ones such as storage, security and cloud computing, but also scifi, super hero movies, politics with a policy slant, career advice, and the ability to ask community members questions (Ask Slashdot).

Successful communities are like an omelet

All successful communities are like an omelet, Wellman says. “If you have too much green pepper, it doesn’t work. Too much cheese doesn’t work. It’s a balancing act.”

So, how does a company interact with Slashdot?

“You have to be authentic, transparent about who you are, honest, genuine. You can’t fake it and you have to be prepared to hear the truth.”

Slashdot once published an article about municipal broadband efforts that linked to a TechJournal article. One of the commenters noted that our story as well as another lacked links to detailed background information on the topic.

While the comment was a bit snarky, as many on the site are, we nevertheless revised all future stories on the topic to include a thorough list of background links. So you can improve your content if you listen to valid criticisms – even if they are not stated in the friendliest terms.

“You’ll find out the truth very fast and that scares people sometimes,” Wellman says.

A real-time lab

“You have to be prepared to listen,” adds Wellman. “You have to be ready to talk about what they say in a genuine manner. A lot of what I see online is attempts by marketers to control the message.”

He mentioned that marketers still need to learn the lessons of the Cluetrain Manifesto  written in 1999 by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. Wikipedia says that its “authors assert that the Internet is unlike the ordinary media used in mass marketing as it enables people to have “human to human” conversations, which have the potential to transform traditional business practices radically.”

“It’s still relevant and we’re still learning those lessons in the world of social media,” Wellman says. “You can engage with genuine communities, and that’s the challenge.”

Do it well, though, and you’ll have “A real-time lab to glean more intelligence about a product or solution set. You’ll get real-time discussion you can mine to find out what influencers and prosumers think and how you can make products better.”

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