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there's a good chance the VideoSift might not have survived without that spark.
December 28, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

The History of VideoSift Part 1 details the founding of a popular video site by a couple of MetaFilter members, Dag Maggot and Sourbrew. MetaFilter and Our Glorious Leader are heavily credited.
posted by lazaruslong to MetaFilter-Related at 6:08 PM (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

"that spark" being heinous, deceptive, knowing self-promotion on the front page of MetaFilter.
posted by carsonb at 7:01 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't know there was any connection between Metafilter and Videosift. I drop in at Videosift all the time.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:03 PM on December 28, 2012


So, is there a statute of limitations on self links? Or is the moral of this story that you can get away with a self-link if it goes undetected long enough and Matthowie mentions your site in his personal blog?
posted by radwolf76 at 7:16 PM on December 28, 2012


I think it's six years old and history at this point. Just my opinion. VideoSift is a daily visit for me personally, and I thought the history was cool, as I didn't know all the connections.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:19 PM on December 28, 2012


This is wack.
posted by dhammond at 7:27 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's pretty shitty. I assume those accounts will be banned?
posted by lalex at 7:37 PM on December 28, 2012


Hahaha this is the most hilarious part.
posted by lalex at 7:40 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lame.
posted by grouse at 7:42 PM on December 28, 2012


Interesting that he goes into the violation and feels a little bad about it but also thinks it was the price of doing business at the time. I don't have an emotional reaction to it, it's not disgusting or anything, and for one I appreciate him copping to it. I guess they should be banned? When I worked for a small media property I was under a lot of pressure to post stuff to the front page or figure out a way around the self-linking rule. I never did, but I understand the desperation of the one-man-show that would lead you to bend the rules.

Do nice guys finish last? Maybe. Follow me on twitter.com to learn more.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:43 PM on December 28, 2012


"that spark" being heinous, deceptive, knowing self-promotion on the front page of MetaFilter.

It's not clear that sourbrew was anything other than a fan when the FPP was made.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:44 PM on December 28, 2012


Just to add some context to this I posted this mefi thread on the 21st of February 2006 at 11:48 am, I first made contact with Dag on the 19th of February 2006 at 10:46 pm because I had linked to VideoSift from my personal blog and he commented on the post to thank me.

That led to a conversation where he agreed to put a button for my blog on his site, and I said I would post his project out of the projects tab and on to the blue. Although it was not strictly a tit for tat scenario for the Metafilter post, we were just agreeing to do a bit of cross promotion between my now defunct blog itenerate surfer and VideoSift through sidebar badges and links, and that I would also post his site onto the Blue.

We had known each other for about 36 hours when we agreed to do this and I made the post to Metafilter. And at the time I had no income from VideoSift, nor do I currently. Although at one point a year or so later I did collect a few hundred monthly in ad revenue for about a year.

Equivocations aside I still feel sleazy about it too, and I am more than a little relieved that it's getting some light shed on it.
posted by sourbrew at 7:44 PM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lalex: I think this might be the most hilarious part of that thread:

They only get noticed when they're kind of sub-par. I think there are probably a few that get through and that's fine if they're good, but the so-so links always out them as spammers.
posted by mathowie

posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:45 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, never mind, needed to keep reading.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:46 PM on December 28, 2012


Personally, I think this is one of the situations where the accounts shouldn't get banned, but the post should be deleted, with the videosift links example.com'ed out. Let Matthowie do the deletion, and give it a longer than normal deletion notice, explaining the no-self link policy, since this is likely going to become the most famous example (getting a lot of views from people who have never heard of MeFi) of a self-link.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:50 PM on December 28, 2012


I disagree. The accounts should be banned for knowingly, blatantly violating the one BIG HUGE RULE that MeFi has. Why should this be different than any other spammer?
posted by lalex at 7:52 PM on December 28, 2012


I disagree. The accounts should be banned for knowingly, blatantly violating the one BIG HUGE RULE that MeFi has. Why should this be different than any other spammer?

Oh man, I'd lose my demonically low user number, I would no longer be the 15th devil. I would however understand completely if that was the verdict.
posted by sourbrew at 7:54 PM on December 28, 2012


lalex: "Why should this be different than any other spammer?"

Because not every self-linker gets auto-banned? (There have been exceptional cases in the past.)

Because if sourbrew's account of the sequence of events is correct, his only real affiliation with Videosift at the time of the post was that Dag had agreed to place a button to his blog on the VideoSift site?

Because sourbrew has made quite a few posts between 2006 and now, demonstrating that unlike a three-comment-and-then-self-link spammer, he can be a contributing member of the community who isn't here just to break the rules?
posted by radwolf76 at 7:58 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Of course, if Matthowie were to whip up a video about how great metafilter is, and self-link that video on VideoSift, and Dag were to let it stand despite the guidelines over there, I think that'd go a long way to balancing out the scales.)
posted by radwolf76 at 8:01 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Of course, if Matt Haughey were to whip up a video about how great metafilter is, and self-link that video on VideoSift, and Dag were to let it stand despite the guidelines over there, I think that'd go a long way to balancing out the scales.)

This please, do this. I may not be on the payroll anymore but I can definitely make sure he gets a featured video slot for a week on the sidebar.

Mostly I just selfishly want to see a shamelessly self promoting Matt Haughey for juxtaposition. The Billy Mays Metafilter never wanted.
posted by sourbrew at 8:03 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


lalex: As far as I know you're allowed asking other (non-family/non-friend) people to post your shit to mefi, which is what seems to have occurred. I think that was even suggested by the mods at one time as an alternative to posting something you or a friend was involved in. If sourbrew really was unaffiliated with the site at that time, then I think it was likely fine depending of course on the whole promotional exchange conversation.

That's all just my completely non-authoritative opinion from a quick glance at the details of course.
posted by ODiV at 8:14 PM on December 28, 2012


This please, do this. I may not be on the payroll anymore but I can definitely make sure he gets a featured video slot for a week on the sidebar.

Wow, you're really gross.
posted by dhammond at 8:19 PM on December 28, 2012


radwolf76: "Because sourbrew has made quite a few posts between 2006 and now"

Not to discount the roughly hundred posts/comments that Dag had made between 2006-2010 (and one post to jobs in 2011) either.

One only has to look at VideoSift's posting guidelines to see that he understands why a prohibition against self-linking is an important and useful tool. Banning either of the parties involved isn't going to make them understand it any deeper.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:33 PM on December 28, 2012


I'd never heard of VideoSift until now, so their self-promotion didn't work! Ha!
posted by desjardins at 9:03 PM on December 28, 2012


As far as I know you're allowed asking other (non-family/non-friend) people to post your shit to mefi, which is what seems to have occurred. I think that was even suggested by the mods at one time as an alternative to posting something you or a friend was involved in. If sourbrew really was unaffiliated with the site at that time, then I think it was likely fine depending of course on the whole promotional exchange conversation.

That's pretty much true - the thinking being that an independent third party will be able to decide if the link is any good without social pressure/hope of gain. The sort-of tit-for-tat thing sourbrew describes does undercut that, of course, but I for one am not going to lunge for the banhammer over a mildly-shady exchange from seven years ago.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:13 PM on December 28, 2012


I'd like to apologise for the hypocritical action. It was mine and I regret it. Metafilter taught me everything I know about running a community and flaunting the rules was a lousy way to repay those lessons. I'll accept any punitive measure the staff and community sees fit to give.
posted by Dag Maggot at 12:14 AM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not sure what's going on exactly because attention span, but if I understand correctly and people have their underpants in knots over something posted seven years ago, I'm going to have to suggest they please remove said underpants and dance wigglystyle with them on their heads, for our amusement.

DO IT.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:30 AM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


look i'm doing it already in my threadbare boxers don't be ashamed
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:35 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I been doin it all day already.
posted by carsonb at 1:44 AM on December 29, 2012


STAY HYDRATED MAN
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:51 AM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Live and let live and lie down.
posted by y2karl at 2:57 AM on December 29, 2012


One only has to look at VideoSift's posting guidelines to see that he understands why a prohibition against self-linking is an important and useful tool. Banning either of the parties involved isn't going to make them understand it any deeper.

This is an interesting comment, as it suggests that the purpose of the prohibition against self-linking, and the banning of those who self-link, is designed to help to teach people about, for want of a better term, Internetiquette: the banning is a teaching tool to help people to understand the undesirability of what they have done. So, if they already know that it's wrong, there is no point in using the teaching tool.

That's sort of like the argument that people who kill in a moment of madness under conditions which are unlikely to reoccur should not be imprisoned, whereas habitual petty criminals should not be released - the likelihood of reoffending being the key element rather than the relative severity of the offense. In this case, it's pretty clear that Sourbrew and Dag Maggot had a relationship before the link was posted. They seem to remember the extent of that relationship differently - Dag Maggot's account suggests a relatively long acquaintanceship, during which Sourbrew was helping with the promotion of content on the site:
The proprietor was a young man known as "Sourbrew" on Metafilter. We exchanged emails and started Google chatting. I was happy to have someone to share my experience with. Someone who understood the language of page views and visits and launching a new web site.

After the initial buzz started to die down, I was worried that the momentum would end. I began to post more videos myself to make sure the content was fresh. There was no "hotness" algorithm on the front page- if a post got 3 votes it made it to the top of the front page. I also made a sockpuppet account so it didn't look like all the posts were from me. I can now exclusively reveal that my sockpuppet from those early weeks was @alowicious.

Sourbrew was based on the US East Coast. He helped to keep videos posted during prime time in the US while I was asleep in Australia. Traffic was getting lower and we started to wonder if VideoSift would have a future. As we were both active members on Metafilter, I asked Sourbrew to post VideoSift content to the Metafilter front page as if it was something he had just discovered. This is a clear violation of Metafilter rules as he was definitely involved in VideoSift by that time and it would be considered a self-post. Here is the post that kick-started VideoSift and set it on the road to become a growing, self-supporting community.
Whereas Sourbrew's account here suggests a much briefer acquaintance - one which began 36 hours before the link post. That may be significant in terms of the extent to which one would see this as collusion between people invested in an enterprise.

Either way, posting in the way it was posted - omitting to mention any involvement - is pretty clearly failing the "smell test", right? The intention is to mislead the reader into seeing this as an impartial link to a site the poster has just discovered.

So, after that you get into "another country, and besides the wench is dead" territory, it seems to me. What is the actual benefit of responding to a promotional post made six years ago? It is presumably unlikely to have much impact either way on whether or not Dag Maggot or Sourbrew themselves make promotional posts in future (assuming this is a one-off, under duress situation - "motivated by a fear of my site disappearing, I took an action I knew to be wrong out of desperation" - as it is represented).

So, what good or goods are achieved by banning the IDs, and presumably also deleting that post, now? I can think of a few, but are they compelling?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:40 AM on December 29, 2012


I for one am not going to lunge for the banhammer over a mildly-shady exchange from seven years ago.

Yeah, this. Basically the reason we are so uptight and dickish about the selflink/friendlink rule is because it's one of the things that we think would degrade the general notion that you are posting here to share cool stuff you find on the web.

In the olden days people self-linked here all the time, then it got out of hand, then the rule was put into place. Occasionally still we delete people's friendslinks without banning them, occasionally we delete something that someone linked to that they have something to do with without banning them. mathowie still has the ability to say "Yeah it's a friends/self-link but it's really totally cool" which he does almost never, but not totally never. Usually we send people "This is your last warning" emails and we rarely if ever have to go back and ban them later.

We're certainly not going to go back seven years and delete posts and ban people for a fence-sitting [though very clearly in the "hey man not cool" catgory] friendslink. I understand why this may not sit okay with people, but it's just not how we roll.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 AM on December 29, 2012


That's sort of like the argument that people who kill in a moment of madness

Equating a self-link to a major crime is really not the right sort of metaphor here. If sourbrew or Dag Maggot do anything remotely self/friends-linkish now, we'll scrutinize them from a "we've already got our eye on you" perspective and that's about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 AM on December 29, 2012


Yeah, there's enforcing the rule and there's scorched earth. This was a shitty thing to do back when it happened, and shouldn't have happened, and I am glad that that's clear to sourbrew and Dag, and they're not crowing pulling the wool over etc.; it feels at this point like a situation where talking about it and why it sucked is the more useful outcome.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:39 AM on December 29, 2012


Agreed - as soon as I looked back over it, I knew that was a poor metaphor in this case - it's the crime passionelle model, which is problematic in all sorts of ways in itself, of course.

A better (although no doubt problematic in other ways) metaphor might be running a red light or speeding to get to a hospital: as Dag Maggot describes it, the action was motivated by unusual duress (a fear that the Videosift site would fail).

The metonymic intent (which was obscured by the choice of metaphor) being to look at the comparative likelihood of the same thing being done again by the same people, rather than the severity of the offence per se.

So, what I've got from this is that self/friendslinkers (taken to mean "people posting a link for personal, professional or social reasons, rather than a disinterested belief that one has found something cool on the Internet") are not treated in absolute terms, but on a continuum, which I am taking to be something like between "invested in the community, under some form of situational pressure, total one-off, situation will never recur" and "no investment in the community, links purely for own (social or financial) advantage until discovered and banned" at the other extreme - that extreme being the hitseeker/SEO spammer, basically.

Then along that continuum are people convinced that their link is so cool that it should be shared even if they are involved in some way, or invested in the community but unaware of the prohibition on self/friendslinking, who might get posts deleted but not be banned, be given warnings etc. That all seems reasonable...
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:39 AM on December 29, 2012


Never heard of videosift, don't care to visit it now.

Metafilter, increasingly, seems to be governed by arbitrary rules and definite cliques.
posted by spitbull at 8:40 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


what I've got from this is that self/friendslinkers... are not treated in absolute terms

MetaFilter has guidelines and few hard and fast rules and even the hard and fast rules may not be universally applied years after the fact.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:47 AM on December 29, 2012


Metafilter,increasingly,seems to be governed by arbitrary rules and definite cliques.

If by "increasingly" you mean "less and less over the last 11 years", I totally agree with you.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:05 AM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


definite cliques

This is an issue of time and apparent good faith after the fact. I don't know sourbrew or Dag at all, and you can see my reasoning directly above for why I don't feel like dropping a nuke on this just to make a show of dropping a nuke. It's not cliquishness in any sense of the word, it's just approaching the site's history with slightly more nuance than shouting BURN IT DOWN at anything problematic.

For what it's worth, I've never agreed with Matt's (rarely expressed and even less rarely manifested) notional soft spot for a Really Cool Self-Link, much as I appreciate that that notion grew out of (and mostly came up during) the early chapters of the site's life when there was initially no self-linking prohibition and the group of People Who Put Neat Content On The Web was much, much smaller and more social. My take is, don't fuckin' self-link. But that's a rule I apply pretty universally and forcefully as it comes up; looking at stuff years back, I'm going to apply some more careful thought to what's achieved and what's useful.

Like, let's talk about the idea of making an example here. Say we sit down right now and ban Dag and sourbrew, delete a years-old post. Who is going to see that? Pretty much the folks reading this thread. It'd be an act for this discussion with essentially zero footprint external to it. Nobody learns anything that they haven't already gotten from the actual discussion here; sourbrew and Dag aren't on some continuing self-promotional spree on the site that needs to be stopped; that doing a little self-promotional bro dance on the front page years ago was a decidedly shitty and not-okay thing to do won't have been expressed any clearer.

So what's the goal? Just prove that by god if we've got an excuse to ban you, we'll ban you just to make the point?

These situations are the weird ones, the edge cases, the rarities. We approach them with thought rather than urgency, we talk about them, we try to ferret out where things were and where they are and make it clear what matters about them. I don't see how a punitive after-the-fact ban in this case matters for anything, and the practical stakes here are very small. And anybody who read this thread and managed to take away as its core lesson that they should self-link on Metafilter is an asshole of the sort we aren't going to reach in the first place and for whom I don't want to have to engage in performative bannings just to communicate clearly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:06 AM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


To me, the fact that expectations and guidelines evolve here is pretty important; expectations for Metafilter today are not the same as they were seven years ago. I'm a little fuzzy on the exact timeline and understanding between sourbrew and Dag Maggot, but Projects was just a couple of months old at that point, and the point was (and is) that you can post things from Projects to Metafilter if you think they are really good. Which is basically what happened? But with more plotting and apparent involvement etc., that doesn't fly at all these days.

So, I don't think the self/friend-linking rules were quite as developed at that point, and I say this because I've definitely posted one or two things in the past that I wouldn't post now because the connection was too close... but it was only a casual mefi friendship connection, and at the time, the rule was don't post your own stuff... but it was okay to ask someone else to post your stuff if they thought it was good enough.

Today, I wouldn't post something from Projects if it was from a friend (ie: we have more than a strictly Metafilter relationship), and especially if we had collaborated on anything, however small, even if that thing had zero to do with their project.

The guidelines have evolved to be more restrictive because some people have gamed or abused the more lenient rules, but that doesn't mean that retroactively punishing everyone who made posts then by exactly the same standards we use now is the reasonable way to go.
posted by taz (staff) at 9:33 AM on December 29, 2012


cortex: "delete a years-old post. Who is going to see that? Pretty much the folks reading this thread."

And the folks who are reading Dag's blogpost over at VideoSift, another community built on the premise of "find cool stuff and post it here, just not your own stuff", where he tells about how the place got started.

That blogpost pretty much says "The No Self Links thing that makes this place great? I got that idea from Metafilter. Oh, and funny story about that, I came dangerously close to breaking that rule with this post that's largely responsible for our early popularity, and it's always made me feel bad." Anyone researching VideoSift's success, or even just generally researching sites that have a no self links policy is likely to come across that blogpost and its link to the offending MeFi post.

Not deleting the post would be a disservice to both communities, I feel, even despite the fact that VideoSift has already gotten all the benefit they were likely to get from it. A well crafted deletion reason could serve both educational and diplomatic purposes. Leave the accounts, but nuke the post.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:35 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would actually be cool if Dag Maggot came clean in the linked post about the fact that what he and sourbrew did was even at-the-time problematic. But again, it's basically making a seven-years-later correction to something that is only problematic because of what we've learned seven years later. As taz says, what they did at the time was legit even though it eventually moved much more clearly into "don't fuckin' do that" territory.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:39 AM on December 29, 2012


jessamyn: "It would actually be cool if Dag Maggot came clean in the linked post about the fact that what he and sourbrew did was even at-the-time problematic."

For what it's worth, that's how I read this part:

I realize this is hypocrisy. I run a community founded on the merits of no self-promotion, yet baked into our site's beginnings is an act of self-promotion and disregard for the rules of a similar community. I regret this. It's rubbed me like a piece of sand over the years. I also think there's a good chance the VideoSift might not have survived without that spark.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:25 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


A. I'm glad this thread exists and we're having this nuanced and detailed conversation on the topic. There are still sites where I've no idea if its a bannable offense or not (usually due to having worked for them at some point or the other, otoh it might imply never posting anything on design again evah).

So... Yay for the moderators of Metafilter and their sharing of their thoughts on how this all works.

and B is a little more personal and close to home today,

"another country, and besides the wench is dead"

Don't. Please don't say this.
posted by infini at 11:22 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are still sites where I've no idea if its a bannable offense or not (usually due to having worked for them at some point or the other, otoh it might imply never posting anything on design again evah).

We are always totally happy to discuss it via contact form - it's one of the more common questions we get, and voting yea or nay on a specific relationship/post is always more pleasant for everyone if it happens before the post goes up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


*popcorn*

This is like watching people debate whether or not the bible bans blended cloth.

The rule is there but what does it really mean after *period of time*?
posted by M Edward at 11:54 AM on December 29, 2012


I apologize, infini - in my youth, I spent a lot of time around theatrical types, who used that particular quote ceaselessly to describe things they didn't see as currently relevant (usually applied to drama with partners or ex-partners, of both genders). But there are a whole bunch of entangled points of privilege tied up in that phrase, which I should have been wary of.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]



Personally I reckon there should be a mechanism to allow users to self link, maybe once a year or something, rather than trying to game the system or whatever. For example, Askme answerers provide a lot of content and pagehits for the site, so maybe its fair to give them something in return ?

Anyway, a seven year old self link from someone that's made something half decent isnt really much to worry about.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2012


Personally I reckon there should be a mechanism to allow users to self link, maybe once a year or something, rather than trying to game the system or whatever.

That's what Projects is for!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:36 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even in hopes that someone will see fit to bring it from one to the other, it's hard to compare the visibility difference between the front page and Projects. Spammers never self-link in Projects.
posted by mintcake! at 1:10 PM on December 29, 2012


Yeah, Projects really is the painless and totally legit path for straight up self-linking. And if it's something that would make sense as a post on the front page, there's a pretty good chance it will in fact end up on the front page. A lot of stuff that goes on Projects wouldn't really make a good post even if it's a neat thing, though, so as a filtering process (vs. granting some kind of mulligan for just self-linkin' away on the front page) it's a really useful part of that process.

Spammers never self-link in Projects.

Oddly enough, we get the occasional successful use of Projects by a likely spammer, in a way that very slightly warms my heart: they sign up, they've got a sketchy vibe, they make a few comments on the blue, and then...they make a Projects post instead of sticking their thing on the front page.

I credit the big box on the posting form for first time posters that says HEY SERIOUSLY WE WILL BAN YOU, CHECK THIS CHECKBOX TO INDICATE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT for those. Doesn't always work, of course, but I feel like we get less front page spam and self-linking these days than we used to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:25 PM on December 29, 2012


Though you still get folks who're like "wheee traffic...." even with the projects and stuff... oh well.


(hugs running order, i know its not really top of mind etc just the combination of words and the contextual relevance... "fornication? etc etc" of the original quote that got me)
posted by infini at 1:57 PM on December 29, 2012


Despite its checkered past on the launch, I'm glad to see Videosift is still going. I'm curious what the rest of the stories are around the founding, those teaser titles sounded pretty good.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


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