February 14, 2002 12:30 PM PST

News for Nerds: Will you marry me?

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Forget billboards, skywriting and radio talk shows. On Thursday, the place to propose marriage with maximum prominence became Slashdot.org, the premier Internet nerd discussion forum.

Slashdot co-founder Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda successfully proposed to Kathleen Fent on his own "News for Nerds" site on Valentine's Day morning.

"Kathleen, I wanted to do this in the most potentially embarrassing way possible, and I figured doing it here and now, in front of a quarter of a million strangers, was as good a way as any. I love you more then I can describe within the limits of this tiny little story. We've been together for many years now, and I've known for most of that time that I wanted to spend my life with you," Malda posted. "Enough rambling. Will you marry me?"

Fifteen minutes later came the reply: "Yes," Fent responded. "Dork. You made me cry. :)" Fittingly, she also posted her reply on her own Web site.

Malda said he didn't really consider alternative methods besides proposing on Slashdot. "I just knew," he wrote in an e-mail.

Though a few naysayers posted responses criticizing highly public proposals, the exchange drew an outpouring of support. The volume of postings rivaled that usually reserved for top-ranked news items such as antitrust rulings calling for Microsoft to be split in two. And the site--also known by its Unix command line abbreviation "/."--was responding more slowly than usual.

"/. is attempting to /. itself on this," wrote one reader, referring to the effect Slashdot has on other Web sites when its stories steer readers to them. The resulting surge in traffic has been known to cripple sites. More than 1,200 postings appeared on Slashdot in the five hours after the marriage proposal.

Malda said the proposal hadn't cracked Slashdot's list of most popular stories, but he said it was "closing in on 1,200, which definitely puts it in the top couple percent."

And Fent's Web site was crushed by the load for much of the day.

The Internet, once a novelty, is slowly being integrated into the ordinary course of human affairs, with online dating now an established part of the quest for love.

But the Internet still has the capacity to surprise some. "As a single nerd tear rolls down my eye, it's nice to see other romantics also get what they want on Valentine's Day," one wrote. "This is quite incredibly romantic, in a weird, geeky sort of way," said another.

Most readers responded with their congratulations, but a few couldn't resist a joke. "The beauty of geek marriages," one wrote, "instead of an antiquated ring, he could just buy her something a little more utilitarian, like, say, a Beowulf cluster"--a bunch of Linux computers linked into a collective supercomputer. "Nah, he won't go for anything fancy," another responded, playing with the name of an IBM networking technology, "probably just a token ring."

Slashdot is operated by VA Software, which acquired the site in February 2000.

 

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