Try to fathom what the following headlines have in common: 'Britney Spears encourages teen girls to dress like hookers', 'Marry me or I'll blow up the grenade', 'Misanthropic b**** calls for mass execution of teenage mothers'. The answer is they all come from the quality news links site Fark.com, which draws on sources such as USA Today and proclaims to be cookie-free, Java-free and content-free. Quick reference tags attached to featured articles include asinine and sappy. To read an article, just click on the icon to the left of the entry then, as the home page advises, rinse. Repeat. Wipe hands on pants. Despite or perhaps because of Fark's crudity and prurience, it habitually attracts a huge amount of traffic - about 350,000 hits a day. Thus, when a small site runs a story which appeals to the twisted minds of Fark readers, the onslaught of traffic will often overwhelm it. The site is then duly proclaimed to be Farked, as in 'we've taken such a hammering that the server's melted - we're Farked'. This ranks as every Web master's worst nightmare. But the one thing that alarms Web masters even more than being Farked is being Slashdotted. The evil stepmother of the Fark phenomenon is slashdot.org - the alternative digital debate forum. 'When Slashdot links a site,' the frequently asked questions area says, 'often a lot of readers will hit the link to read the story or see the purty [sic] pictures. This can easily throw thousands of hits at the site in minutes.' Usually, large professional Web sites have no problem with this, but often a linked site is tiny, used to getting only a few thousand hits a day. When all those Slashdot readers start crashing the party, it can saturate the site completely, causing the site to buckle under the strain. When this happens, the site is said to be Slashdotted or a victim of the Slashdot Effect. The Slashdot forum was the brainchild of computer-science boffin Rob Malda, who made his first postings on the Web site in 1997 at the age of 21. Slashdot caught on in his view because it was 'the right concept at the right time'. Other technology discussion sites were usually about as interesting as a licence agreement or just plain amateur - glorified vanity pages illustrated by a picture of some nerdy guy in a baseball cap desperately hoping that some girl, somewhere, would write to him. Mr Malda, alias Commander Taco, still oversees the site which has become the ultimate geek's grapevine. Readers post about 7,000 comments every day, some of them mordant (Drug, noun: A substance that, injected into a rat, produces a scientific paper), some of them baffling. The Slashdot set love to flaunt their knowledge about the nuances of Linux - the freely available yet arcane operating system with more followers than Falun Gong. Mess with them at your peril. Those who have suffered the hell of being Slashdotted rarely advertise the fact in case they attract yet more traffic: reported victims include The New York Times and Intel. Any company that actively criticises the open-source movement will probably be Slashdotted deliberately and with a vengeance. For example, say a pro-Windows site refers to Linux as 'communist-inspired garbage popular with wackos and deviants' and then the link is published at Slashdot. Instantly, swarms of screaming Slashdotters will descend on the site like harpies, clicking furiously on the link and bringing the server to a grinding halt. To finish the job, members of Slashdot.org often lift particularly reviled articles and post them on illegal mirrors, exacerbating the loss of ad revenue. Saboteurs are then rewarded for plagiarising with Karma - not the mystic's cause-effect framework but the intangible and fuzzy hacker currency in which favours are measured. So, if scmp.com suddenly and mysteriously implodes later today, you will know the reason why. Confused by computer jargon? E-mail email@example.com with your questions.