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We get asked quite a bit about why particular submissions didn't run on Slashdot. Rob (CmdrTaco) gives a concise answer to the question of why a given story didn't run in the Slashdot FAQ -- in fact, go read the FAQ, and then come back here :)

This is a slightly more drawn-out attempt to explain how we look at the submissions which enter the system each day. This document will tell you (roughly) what we look for, so if you'd like to have a submission posted, you may find reading what follows worthwhile.

The closer a submission is to featuring all the "perfect" characteristics, the better the chances are that it will run. While we will sometimes tweak submitters' grammar, spelling and punctuation, attempt to fix broken links, and even edit with brackets and ellipses (in the interest of brevity, clarity and good taste), the nicer a submission starts out, the less tempted we are to hit "delete." Not every Slashdot post is perfect -- but the better they are, the better it is for everyone.

Note: The URLs used as examples in this document do not (I hope) reach any actual sites. They are used strictly to demonstrate the emergency site-not-found features of your browser.

What makes a perfect Slashdot submission?

A perfect Slashdot submission is ...

  • interesting: A major change in laws that affect you, a new hard drive which lowers 10-fold the price-per-megabtye on an affordable drive, a step-by-step description (with diagrams and part numbers) of how you turned your living room wall into a computer-controlled waterfall display including 10,000 LEDs -- these are interesting.

  • informative: New information is better than old, but the real aim is that it be information that most people would not have known prior to reading it. Since most of the stories are the Slashdot main page were contributed by readers who spotted them on some other site, they are by definition not new to everyone. Submissions with links to more than one account of a given event or project are better than those with only one.

  • Clear: That means acronyms you suspect might not be widely shared are spelled out, you use the full names of anyone less famous (in the context of Slashdot) than Linus, Richard and Larry, and give some sort of context for readers who aren't familiar with the specific area you may know quite a bit about. If you refer to an obscure organization or a little-known theory, consider linking to a wikipedia page or other appropriate link.
  • Snappy: Though some things take more than a hundred words to adequately discuss, you'll notice that most stories on the main page aren't much longer than that. If you're interested in writing a feature, a book review, or other longer piece, please contact us via the submissions form.
  • Presented neutrally: This may be the hardest one of all, because everyone has their own opinions, leanings, backgrounds, etc. But avoiding loaded or insullting terms (like "Micro$oft") goes a long way. To the degree possible, let readers draw their own conclusions, or (alternatively) make your own leanings clear either through links or phrasing, again in the interest of letting readers draw their own conclusions.
  • Submitted with appropriate topics: If you take a minute to glance through all the topic categories available, you might find the perfect descriptor. Note that some of the topics are not 100 percent intuitive: "Digital," for instance, isn't about all things involving binary digits, but rather about the now-defunct computer maker by that name. Similarly, "Enlightenment" isn't about Buddhism or philosophy per se, but instead about the desktop environment by that name.
  • Usually based on text and still images: The best submissions link to interesting pages which an user on a low-speed connection and an Open Source browser can enjoy. Supporting the efforts of web designers who create clean, quick-loading pages will make it much easier to get your submission posted. In the last several years, things like YouTube have made video easier to share, and software improvements have made it more likely that any given reader will be able to view videos, but it's still nice to see some written back-up.
  • Labeled with an understandable, concise headline: "Machine Finally Wins MIT's Annual Man-Machine Trials" is one such. Hint: 6-10 words is the magic headline range!

  • Well-linked: A submission with hyperlinks chosen and placed intelligently, to working URLs, is leaps and bounds closer to hitting the front page. By chosen intelligently, I mean that appropriate items are linked to (specific documents are better than vague front pages, for instance), and by placed intelligently I mean that the words which are hyperlinked make sense to identify the items they are linked to. For instance, in this hypothetical snippet:
    "there is a short interview with Snert about his involvement with Impeccable Action Games, which touches also on the creation of his role in the first Arkansas Widget Spitting Tournament,"
    the hyperlinks are around words which form a short but workable description of what those (hypothetical) links would bring up. Hyperlinks should generally be around as few words as still make a nice description, but not so few that the meaning is lost.

    Please don't link words like "this" or (even worse) "here."

  • Grammatically correct: Aim for correct grammar and spelling, but don't fret about it, lest you fret alone. Think meaning and clarity.

For Example

Here's an example of a (totally hypothetical) submission that would be likely to run if (it were not totally hypothetical):
CourageousOne writes: "Thought I'd drop a note about the human-powered computer that my high school's Physics Club conjured up to compete in the upcoming ALSO (Another Loony Science Organization) annual competition in innovative computer systems. With a budget of under $300, we managed to fashion a pedal-powered rig sufficient to power a lightweight laptop for 15 minutes at a stretch with an equal time spent pedaling, and much longer with a solar assist. (The laptop, used, is where most of our budget went, but at least it has 3GB of RAM.) So far this is just a sit-in-place rig, but we hope to take it mobile like Steven Roberts' famous Behemoth, and add webcams linked to Google Earth."

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.