Slash Guy [TheJobSupport]
When Reece from PingZine handed me this assignment and told me I was interviewing Rob Malda I pretended to be excited and nodded my head knowingly while he educated me on Rob’s background.
Honestly, I had no clue who Rob was. I guess that’s because I live in my own little Web Hosting and Reality TV world…but then I heard the magic word: SLASHDOT!
Slashdot? Are you kiddin’ me? They are like the GEEKSTAPO of the internet. The holy source for all things techy! (Slashdot never publish my submissions btw…pfft)
Just like Lois Lane I was determined to get to the guts of this story to find out something nobody knows about Rob Malda. There has to be some edge, something I can bring to this story that will have people gasping at my ingenious and crafty interviewing techniques…
I know!! I’ll lure him into a relaxed and welcoming environment and then when he least expects it, I’ll hammer him with a question so volatile, the LP attorneys will question if it is even worth publishing my exploze (yes, that’s right, ex-plo-ze: exploding exposé).
[* innocent look]
Amy: So Rob, hi, how are ya? Nice weather we’re having huh? Love your shoes btw …
Rob: 85 Degrees and Humid as hell. Stupid October. Not going outside. And I’m not wearing shoes: Get a new prescription!
Amy: I’ve been doing a bunch of reading about you and your achievements so I’m thinking we should track back to your teens where it all began..
[Gawd I sound like a therapist]
Were you a Star Wars fan?
Rob: Indeed. I still routinely record them when they air on TV and watch them if they air in high-def. In college my roommate and I watched the entire trilogy every weekend for an entire year.
Amy: You play Dungeons and Dragons? Ummm…why? Did you ever get into WOW or Everquest?
Rob: Yes. We have a bi-weekly D&D campaign. My current char’s name is Bonzer Xylophone, an undead ranger. It’s just an excuse to drink beer and eat cookies. Last week we had fondue. I played a fair bit of EQ and tons of WOW. I have 4 level 70s now actually, although I haven’t logged in for months. I just like games with XP. I like making the numbers go up, and the monsters go splat.
Amy: I was reading in your bio that as a child your mother’s favorite punishment was to take away your keyboard and lock it in her trunk. The story on how you got around that cracked me up (Rob added a keyboard error code check to his autoexec.bat file which launched a BBS making it possible to get the data from a friend’s house). It got me thinking about children online nowadays and the traps and filters we put in place to protect/monitor their online activities. Are we deluding ourselves thinking that by checking their history and adding some filters to Google, blocking MySpace etc we can stop them?
Rob: Absolutely delusional.
[Wow… did he just call me delusional?]
Rob: Kids are smart and every generation is more tech savvy than the last. The truth is that the higher the wall you build, the harder the kid will work to see what is on the other side. Better build a picket fence and just talk to the kid about what’s on the other side of it. Instead we just try to sue everyone who creates something that we might not want a kid to see. It’s sad.
Amy: You were a hyperactive kid. What other trouble did you get yourself into? Come on, spill it.
Rob: Once we started a fire under a bridge near the local high school. It got pretty big and I panicked and so we filled a cardboard box with water from a nearby creek and dragged it back to the burning fire. Most of the water leaked out of the cardboard (not the best vessel for water distribution mind you) and dumped it on the blazing inferno. The steam & smoke that billowed out from under the bridge stopped traffic for as far as the eye could see, right as school was letting out. It was awesome. I was probably 10.
Amy: Your first job was working as a PC tech guy and you mastered Windows and then the heavens opened and an angelic penguin whispered “Linux” in your ear. Tells us how that experience transitioned you into cyberspace.
Rob: Linux came into my life because I was a CS major who was required to do homework on SUN Sparcstations running UNIX. Linux let me work at home. Plus it made internet easy (even on a 14.4k modem) and really showed me why windows was the wrong way to work.
Amy: I happened to “drop” your name to some development guys I know and the conversation went something like this:
Dev Guy: “Sup Ames? You look very beautiful and glamorous today as usual”
Amy: “Oooooh nothing much really, just writing up some questions for ROB MALDA THE CREATOR OF SLASHDOT”
Dev Guy: “Omg omg omg omg! Like totally no way!” (Valley Girl style)
And, after they stopped squealing like chicks they asked me to ask you if you use any open source software on Slashdot and how is it setup?
Rob: Pretty much everything on Slashdot is open source. MySQL. Perl. Apache. Even our own code is all open source and available. It’s set up like software usually is: on hard drives inside computers. We plug those into various plugs on walls, some give us electricity and others give us packets. And all is well.
Amy: Also.. What are some tips & tricks for managing a high-traffic site?
Rob: Cache. Cache. Cache. If you can make it in advance, do it. Most people don’t need any customization, so make the page once and give the next 10,000 people the same page.
Amy: Oh and ASL?
Rob: I don’t know American sign language. I barely speak English.
[Pffft ya newbie]
Amy: You created SlashDot and yes, I wish I had the same idea. Are you uber rich now? Did you sell the site to some massive conglomerate and retire at the age of 21 to your own island?
Rob: I am not uber rich, but I did get to buy my first house at like 23. Still haven’t paid of the mortgage though. And while we did sell to corporate overlords, I’m 31 and still nowhere near retirement or an island.
Amy: Any regrets on selling?
Rob: Like anything, it’s a mixed bag. I like having health insurance and a 401k. But running a media company inside a publicly traded corporation is a unique set of challenges.
Amy: SlashTips – I mentioned earlier nothing I have ever written was published on SlashDot (I guess they don’t appreciate my unique style and humor). What do you look for when approving Slash-missions?
Rob: Maybe you’re just trying to hard.
[Yup that must be it]
Amy: Rob is married to a gorgeous gal named Kathleen and they got married Vegas style. Tell us how you met!
Rob: An old girlfriend and I set her up with a friend of mine, and somehow neither relationship lasted. Worked out well for everyone.
Amy: SlashCats – How many cats do you and Kathleen have Rob? Are you a cat-a-holic?
Rob: In order of age they are Pixel, Dante, Matrix, and Sushi. We could probably stand to have a few die off- but I had 2 and she had 2 and then it was all brady Bunch and we were stuck with a herd. But they are ours and we love them even when they puke strange colored fuzzy objects on the carpet.
Amy: On weekends I love to go to yard sales and buy random junk in the hope that I will make millions with that one treasure… What do you do in your downtime that doesn’t involve plugging something into a power socket?
Rob: Go to movies. Learn to cook. Go to interesting restaurants. Travel. Play Video Games. Watch the season premiere of Heroes.
Amy: For the web hosting freaks, tell us about the server set up when you first started SlashDot and the situation now?
Rob: DEC Alpha Multia/166 running Red Hat plugged into a T1. Now we have a dozen dual cpu webheads, 4 Quad cpu databases, and a few other random helper boxes, and are plugged into an OC3.
Amy: What is the next challenge or project for you, Rob?
Rob: You mean after surviving this interview? Finding shoes… Stop looking at my toes.
[Sheesh… now I’ll be known as the girl with the foot fetish ;)]
Thanks for chatting with me Rob! I had a slashtastic time!