Plastic.com was an internet forum for news and discussion of events and issues. The site was community-driven, with readers moderating discussions, submitting stories, and participating in their selection.
Its motto was 'Recycling the Web in Real Time'.
Plastic closed permanently around February 15, 2011, about a month after its ten-year anniversary.
Plastic was launched in January 2001 under Automatic Media, the web-culture conglomerate that included the pioneering webzines Feed and Suck.com. In following with Automatic's model of small, low-cost boutique websites, there were only 4 members of Plastic's initial staff. When Automatic Media folded in June of that year, several of the editors remained on, working pro bono. Despite heavy server problems and downtime in the months following Automatic's collapse, Carl Steadman, one of Suck's original founders, announced his intentions to buy Plastic, and moved the entire board onto new servers. Since then, Mr. Steadman has served as the primary operator of Plastic.
Plastic.com did not feature any banner or pop-up ads of any kind, and was run entirely on user donations, mostly through online transactions such as PayPal. It used a modified version of the Slash engine, and the site was almost entirely member-driven. As of November 11, 2008, there were 50,218 accounts, with several thousand being active members. Plastic.com once offered email accounts, however, Plastic Mail is no longer supported.
The site's topics included "etcetera", "filmtv", "media", "music", "politics", "scitech", and "work". Topics covered on the board were primarily related to current events. Plastic's content was entirely driven by user-submitted stories. A typical Plastic story selected a topic based around a story found on an external link, with the Plastic user providing a larger context for that article with supporting links and some editorial comment. The stories were often written in a way that frames a discussion for the other readers to post comments within. Readers are invited to post their comments in the stories, which can be moderated by other users. New submissions will appear in the Submissions Queue (subQ), which is visible to all users, and can be voted on by users with 50 "karma" or higher. Each voter can give the sub 0, .5, or 1 points, and high-ranking subs will eventually become full-fledged stories that can be commented upon. In addition to voting on the submissions, users are given a 255 character text field to suggest changes to the story, post helpful links to exterior sites or previous Plastic stories, or suggest alternate headlines for the story itself. One of Plastic's volunteer editors will then properly format the story for running on "the front page".
Karma and moderation
Plastic's moderation system was very similar to the one seen on Slashdot. Commenting plastic members are randomly awarded moderation points which can be given out as they see fit. In any discussion thread, a person with moderation points can mod a post up or down, based upon the content, with a descriptive tag, such as 'compelling', 'scholarly', 'astute', 'disingenuous', 'obnoxious', etc. It costs one point to mod a post up, and two to mod a post down. A given comment can have a score between –1 and 5 inclusive at half point intervals, and Plastic users can set a personal threshold where no comments with a lesser score are displayed. (For example, a person with a score threshold of 1 will not see comments with a score of –1 or 0 but will see all others.) Non-registered users may post, without registering, as an "Anonymous Idiot." Plastic members have the option to block Anonymous Idiot postings. Additionally, Anonymous Idiot posts start with a karma score of 0, below the default mod threshold of 1. Registered Plastic members also have the option to post as Anonymous Idiots, which they may use to make comments which are controversial or offensive without fear of losing karma. This practice is generally looked down upon.
- 0 karma or higher is required to post comments in stories and submit stories to the subQ
- 5 karma or higher is required to post QuickLinks
- 50 karma or higher is required to vote in the subQ
- The members with the highest karma have access to other tools, including the list of all other users in the "Top Karma" group and a list of all members currently logged in. The "Top Karma" page states that this list is limited to the top 250 members, "give or take," but in reality the list contains 566 members as of 12 August 2005. The minimum karma required to be on this list is 120.5. At 120.5, members can see the list of all members currently logged in, and at 121, members have access to the "Top Karma" list. Previously the list showed the karma totals for all members on the list, but at some point this was changed so that karma details are accessible only in "bands"—higher-karma members can see details of all lower scoring members' karma scores, but lower scoring members may see higher rankings only in bands such as +1500, +2500, +5000, etc.
As with the story submission queue, some Plastic members complain that many comments are moderated (especially downmods) based on political motivations, usually to aid liberal posts or downgrade conservative posts. As with most member moderated sites, many downmods are motivated by personal feuds. The moderation system does not encourage these usages, and the top karma bands typically include several self-described conservative members.
A member with at least 5 karma points can also post QuickLinks (a "QL"), which appear on the sidebar. No designated place exists on the site for discussion of these links, but users frequently respond directly to the poster of the QL through private messages. As with comments, Quicklinks can be modded up or down, although the system is different—any registered user with a minimum karma score of 1 can vote a Quicklink up or down. If a link receives at least six more up votes than down votes, the submitter will automatically receive 1.5 karma. If a link is modded down with six more down votes than up votes, the submitter will be docked 1.5 karma and the QL will disappear from the site (but still be available in the archive). QuickLinks are appropriate for breaking news, follow-ups to previously discussed items or humorous stories with little discussion potential.
Plastic used to have an online chat server at irc://chat.plastic.com, port 6667. It also was previously available through a modified CGI:IRC client at http://chat.plastic.com/. The chat server has been inexplicably down for an extended period of time.
- In 2001, Plastic won a Webby award in the category of "Print + Zines", beating out its parent Feed Magazine, as well as Mother Jones Magazine, Nerve, and The Position.com.
- "Plastic's Sunset Approaches". Plastic.com. 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
- Wingfield, Nick (2000-07-09). "Pioneering Webzines join forces". ZD Net. Retrieved 2014-11-21.
- "Webby Awards". Webby Awards. 2001-07-18. Retrieved 2007-10-09.