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Are they potential Internet hipsters? This morning, Slate launches what it hopes will be a wave of the future feature called Slate Labs.

Yahoo! serves as the exclusive launch sponsor.

The new feature houses the magazine’s interactive features, games, and experiments and will serve as a testing site for new projects in developing stages. The lab has existed all along, but until now has been for employees only. “We’ve got really brilliant readers at Slate, and we look forward to turning some of them into collaborators,” Slate Editor David Plotz told FishbowlDC.

Today, for example, Slate Labs debuts a political forecasting game for the 2010 midterm elections called Lean/Lock. View it here.

Plotz says the idea behind Slate Labs is to “show our experiments – even before they are ready – and invite readers to suggest their own projects or tweak ours.”

But, Plotz insists, they must proceed with caution. After all, they can’t just mindlessly turn their servers over to anyone who wants to play…


More from Plotz:

What precautions must be in place? Our director of technology is smart about striking the right balance between safety and security. At the very least, we’d like readers to suggest ideas that we then take and turn into code.

This has been private just amongst Slate employees until now. Can you talk briefly about that? We’ve had an internal Slate Labs site for some months, as a playpen for [Slate staffer] Chris Wilson and others to mess around in. They have had such a good time in it, and they’ve come up with so many excellent ideas, that it made sense to us to make it a public site too, and invite readers to join in.

What do you hope to accomplish with Slate Labs? We have two goals. First, we want to show off some of our favorite, technologically and visually interesting work. In the last few years, we’ve put a ton of energy into trying to do internet journalism in a new way-emphasizing data visualization, games, interactivity (thanks in large part to a spectacular young staffer, Wilson). We want to show off that work. The second, and more important, goal is to encourage more collaboration with our readers in conceiving, designing, and improving these kinds of interactive projects.