Who the hell am I?"
Summing up the experience now that he's moved on, Plant said, "I was forged in the fires of Slashdot, I mean as a writer more than everything else." He had moved from a big site to probably the biggest site in the community. But it wasn't quite what you might think. Plant said there is no "ivory tower" to house the Slashdot staff. People who work or write there also visit the site. The line between the inside and outside is often invisible. And they surely did not all drive around in "IPO money limos."
Even while he was with Slashdot, Plant couldn't keep still. He was quickly offered the position of editor in chief at Linux.com, another Andover.Net site.
Plant admits that moving from Slashdot writer to Linux.com editor in chief may not have been the right move. He told me, "Professionally, that job change made the most sense. Physically and emotionally, it was the worse thing I could have ever done."
Profit was the problem. He had a tiny budget with which to pay writers. He tried his best to turn the site into a place where new talent, writers who wanted to come up the same way he did, could get their chance. He said, "My dream for Linux.com was to let volunteers and writers walk on the Emmett trail."
At one point, Plant was forced to let a popular staff member go. He said of that experience, "It's like firing Gandhi. There is just no way to do it." To make matters worse, he had been told that the person's salary would be added to his editorial budget, but only 10 percent of that figure was allotted to him. Add a serious disagreement with management over the ethics of mixing sponsor-submitted content and editorial by volunteer writers, and you had a very unhappy editor in chief. He resigned from Linux.com on Jan. 9. He said about 90 percent of the staff writers left with him.
But Plant is as unsinkable as he is talented and popular. Sooner than seems possible, he has reappeared as editor in chief of his own site: Binary Freedom. Popularity helps; Plant said he had advertisers before the first line of HTML was done.
Plant wants to avoid the problems and mistakes he has seen along the way, such as sites where "one person is very, very talented at doing one thing and manages to do a lot of other things very poorly." So he is the editor in chief, but Chris Campbell is the CEO and Amanda J. Waterman is the CFO. Plant is not the CIO or CTO either. He wants the right people doing the right things.
I asked Plant what makes Binary Freedom different from the other sites he's worked for. He gave me three major distinctions:
- "Number one, we don't link to outside stories.