15 years of Metafilter (Blue) in graphics June 29, 2015 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Here is a collection of graphics about the evolution of user engagement (posting, commenting) on the Blue (data from the infodump, 15 June 2015).

"Peak Metafilter" happened in 2011-2012: since then, posting and commenting activity on the Blue has been slowly declining. For instance, there was a notable drop in 2014 relative to 2013, about -13% and -10% in numbers of comments and posts respectively. There was a remarkable surge in July 2014 due to #JulyByWomen but user participation still decreased afterward (Slides 9, 16).
Part of this may be explained by the Google ranking issues of November 2012 but the trend seems to have started earlier, mid-2011. Slide 17 shows that at that time the monthly number of new active users (first comment) started decreasing whereas the monthly number of users who stopped commenting increased: i.e. since then there are not enough new commenting users to replace those who "leave" (stop commenting). Possible explanations may include: lingering Google shenanigans; lesser attractivity of the Blue; competition of more popular venues for commenting (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit etc.). How actually worrying the trend is is debatable: it's about the Blue only (not Ask, Fanfare etc.; possibly Fanfare is "cannibalizing" the Blue); quality != quantity so less comments and posts may mean better comments and posts on average (and less work for mods); it may be unrelated to actual traffic, sign-ups and other money-making metrics; the various fixes to the interface introduced since November 2012 may help to recover traffic and user engagement. In any case, the Blue remains Mefi's flagship, so a downward trend in user participation could be a problem in the long term.
posted by elgilito to MetaFilter-Related at 12:31 PM (483 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

That a cracking pile of datawankery, elgilito, nicely done.

My immediate takeaways:

- would be interesting to see essentially the same analysis for Ask Metafilter, to see how the differences in subsite activity play out

- re: slide 17, where you note "Slide 17 shows that at that time the monthly number of new active users (first comment) started decreasing whereas the monthly number of users who stopped commenting increased", what's your methodology if any for controlling for the tendency of low-frequency commenters to leave their "last" comment simply because they haven't made their next one? That is, you'd expect the hasn't-commented-since-date-x count to rise as you approach x just based on the long period between comment for low-frequency commenters

- re: it may be unrelated to actual traffic, sign-ups and other money-making metrics, I'd say there's a rough analogue here between general traffic/revenue numbers and the user activity measurements you're taking—the site has been correspondingly up and down in terms of traffic and ad revenue across those same periods. We've seen moderate recovery in terms of traffic and revenue inside the last year, which is good news site-wise but also not necessarily to read into the most-recent bit of data over a short partial-year span like what's in the data whether or not there's a corresponding activity increase or not. A more granular look at the last 12 months might be interesting there but of course it's hard to get past noise on the relatively short term in any case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:40 PM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


More generally, I share the sense of "hrm" about the long-term implications of a downward trend in activity, but my concerns there are more on the "long-term" bit; that the site would see some degree retraction as time goes by isn't any more surprising than that it would see growth, and if in part we're seeing fewer new users jumping in in tandem with lowered visibility from search traffic being people to the site, that's frustrating but sort of hitched unavoidably to the whims of Google et al.

To whatever extent that is a factor, I'm hopeful that by the same token things improving mildly this last year will likewise have an effect there.

All that said, the site keeps ticking along, folks keep signing up, and it keeps feeling like Metafilter, which is the main thing I tend to think about. I don't want catastrophic decline of the userbase and community culture here, and I don't want catastrophic growth; we've been fortunate to more or less avoid both over the years, and I'm hopeful we'll continue to even as we see various kinds of ups and downs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:45 PM on June 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


A single user posted 14% of the volume!

And that person was...? Don't keep us in suspense!!
posted by Melismata at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


"There was a remarkable surge in July 2014 due to #JulyByWomen..." OH YEAH.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2015 [24 favorites]


This was neat, thanks! I've used the infodumpster but never dipped into the infodump myself and this was cool to see.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2015


How did you determine when a user "stopped commenting"/"commented for the last time"? Is there a certain period of inactivity required before a post is considered the last one?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2015


*looks at graphs*

Joined: October 25, 2011

Uh, sorry everyone.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:10 PM on June 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


Someone promise to stick with me until the bitter end. I need somebody to favorite all my comments.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:14 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


On the slide where you note time of day - what time zone is that pegged to?
posted by stoneweaver at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2015


Probably pegged to server time, which is Pacific; GMT-8 or -7 depending on daylight saving time. That's what the datestamps are reported by in the Infodump. The curve of the activity graph certainly corresponds to local server time traffic trends that we see on the back end.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:22 PM on June 29, 2015


heh you guys said pegged
posted by item at 1:45 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


For once I was ahead of the curve. If only I'd bought 1000 shares of MEFI way back when.
posted by jquinby at 1:49 PM on June 29, 2015


I love this sort of stuff.

Big thanks for taking the time to create this.
posted by ambient2 at 1:52 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed by the visible effect of JulyByWomen. Both subjectively and objectively awesome.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:55 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, I have an infodump question -- using the infodumpster, I can see stats like from whom I have gotten the most favorites or to whom I have given the most favorites, but is there an easy way for me to calculate favoriting percentages? For example, if Anita favorited Arthur's comments 200 times, which is high, but has favorited over 50,000 things, then she isn't really a fan of Arthur per se, whereas if Matilda only favorited five of Arthur's comments out of a total of ten things she's favorited then she really likes his comments very much. Is there a good way to view who has favorited your stuff as the highest percentage of their favorites?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:01 PM on June 29, 2015


I don't think there's a way to do that with the Infodumpster, no, though those figures could be calculated directly from the raw Infodump data files with a little elbow grease, according to the scheme you lay out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:07 PM on June 29, 2015


I think social media is probably one of the reasons in any decline in engagement. It's way easier to find a community of like-minded people on Facebook than it is on Metafilter.

In my case, I have a lot of friends all over the world who have a deep connection to Japan. They're married to a Japanese spouse, and have bicultural/Third Culture kids, and also have a deep understand of the culture and the language. So we share a lot of interests.

It can be challenging on MetaFilter since obviously not everyone comes from the same experience.

In recent years MetaFilter hasn't been a lot of fun either, since it seems that almost every topic is dangerous. There are threads where I feel like there is just no point in participating because, even though we are all like-minded folks and "allies", if you don't get the subtle nuances *just right* there will be hell to pay. It's a pain in the ass. If you'll forgive the analogy, MetaFilter seems to be evolving into a "subreddit" with its own strict community rules. In fact, MF membership is about the same size as some subreddits.

There are still some fun threads, but MetaFilter has lost a lot of the quirkiness that was so attractive back in 2007 or so when I first interacted with the site.

On the other hand, although I can't speak for women at all, MetaFilter *seems* to be a more tolerant place. But that of course is debatable.
posted by Nevin at 2:25 PM on June 29, 2015 [19 favorites]


In recent years MetaFilter hasn't been a lot of fun either, since it seems that almost every topic is dangerous.

There are consequences to saying things, yes
posted by Greg Nog at 2:37 PM on June 29, 2015 [24 favorites]


> In recent years MetaFilter hasn't been a lot of fun either, since it seems that almost every topic is dangerous.

Way more fun for some of us, and less dangerous. Depends on your answer to "fun for whom" I guess.
posted by rtha at 2:52 PM on June 29, 2015 [33 favorites]


Christ, are we really going to have this same "groupthink / consensus / heckler's veto / silenced all my life" discussion again, in this MeTa that has nothing to do with the topics of any particular posts / comments?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:57 PM on June 29, 2015 [26 favorites]


Please see slide 27: Axes Ground vs Time
posted by griphus at 3:04 PM on June 29, 2015 [63 favorites]


I blame the addition of titles to the front page!
posted by Drinky Die at 3:04 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some answers and some further comments:
- The "last comment" is really the last comment observed as of 15 June 2015. That's why the orange curve in slide 17 does not go beyond 2014: it's irrelevant after that. However, users who stopped commenting in early 2014 are relevant since they have been "inactive" for more than a year (of course they may become active again). It's true that an analysis of the distribution of user activity over time would be interesting (there's a attempt to do that in slide 18 but it's not very useful) but in any case, there's a visible upward trend starting mid 2011 = users who have been inactive for 4 years (and a downward trend for new commenting users). Crossing the streams: bad.
- Time of the day is server time.
- The user who posted 14% of the comment volume in July 2000 was user 588. They posted 231 comments that month, most of them big ones. There is a lot of funky stuff in early Metafilter.
-#JulyByWomen was very successul when it happened: more posts, more comments, more unique active users (and probably more signups, I didn't check). However, the middle-term effect on user engagement does not seem very noticeable as activity resumed its downward trend in August/September. Its effect on content may be quite different though. This would require analyzing tags and post/comment content.
- Slide 19 is puzzling: the relationship between users and comments (% of users vs % of comments) has been constant over the last 10 years. It's Metafilter's magic logarithmic equation.
- I've been wondering whether the underlying engine of Mefi's growth and then slight decline isn't simply US politics: activity grew steadily during the Bush years (after signups open in Nov 2004), and then peaked at the end of the first Obama term. It's not that US politics have become boring since Obama 2 but perhaps there's less to discuss today and some of the things discussed today may be less enticing for a global user base. But that's totally hypothetical: we'd need content analysis to study that. It will be interesting to update some of these graphs early 2017 once the next presidential election is over.
posted by elgilito at 3:15 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Just as I thought. My joining caused a downward spiral.
posted by janey47 at 3:21 PM on June 29, 2015


Well Done! Beautiful scenery on the inevitable decline.
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2015


I haven't been on MeFi for that long, but I've been on the Internet for a pretty long time. Here are some observations.

When I first started surfing the web, I remember how much I relied on aggregator sites like memepool, Slashdot and BoingBoing. That was how you found the cool, funny, smart, geeky, and weird stuff. The barrier to entry for web use back then was relatively high, and the cultural tone was naturally bent toward nerdy things: computers, sci-fi, kitsch, snark. To have a prominent aggregator blog in 2000 was to be a major Internet tastemaker. MetaFilter was born in that landscape.

Then... Google; Facebook; the iPhone; YouTube; Twitter; The Huffington Post; Gawker; BuzzFeed.

Nowadays it's so trivially easy to find and share Internet goodies, that the very industry of goofy Internet link sharing is something we like to complain about. In 1999, it was perhaps a once-a-day treat to get a link to a hilarious GIF. In 2015, you can scroll past a thousand GIFs on Tumblr and be dissatisfied. You can get a hundred news-of-the-weird links on Gawker or Reddit. The role of the Web 1.0 aggregator blog has changed accordingly.

Not to say that we don't still have silly stuff and cat videos on MeFi, but today a site like MeFi adds value via second-order critical analysis of the web's fodder. Not just the hot topics of the day, but the intelligent commentary about those topics. Not just Newsfilter, but more links to longform pieces and extra background reading and context. MetaFilter is kind of becoming MetaMetaFilter (and not in a bad way).

As the editorial voice of a site shifts toward critical commentary, it seems that there will be an inevitable increase in "politics" and "issues" as I think Nevin might be alluding to. I don't think it's because of any particular site ideology; but rather because that type of critical analysis is more interesting than just, here's-a-fun-thing. In 2015, if I want a link to $fun_thing, I can go literally anywhere else on the web. I go to MetaFilter to read about what $fun_thing means. Or to read a perspective on $fun_thing that I wouldn't necessarily find elsewhere (which, by the way, often means a perspective from someone in a historically marginalized group). The result for me has been a huge amount of education and broadening of horizons, particularly on issues typically referred to as "social justice."

That's something I can't imagine getting anywhere else on the web.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 3:30 PM on June 29, 2015 [77 favorites]


I love how the day-of-week statistics demonstrate that we're all hard at work contributing to the Blue!

I wonder: was there a detectable change in the workday-vs-weekend activity ratio when the professional white background was introduced?
posted by Westringia F. at 3:44 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


For example, if Anita favorited Arthur's comments 200 times, which is high, but has favorited over 50,000 things, then she isn't really a fan of Arthur per se, whereas if Matilda only favorited five of Arthur's comments out of a total of ten things she's favorited then she really likes his comments very much.

So, I take it I'm not the only user who occasionally clicks on the profiles of people who have favorited my comments, notices that they have favorited like 50 million comments altogether, and suddenly feels a little less special?
posted by The Gooch at 3:44 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I miss tehloki!
posted by lalex at 3:47 PM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, I take it I'm not the only user who occasionally clicks on the profiles of people who have favorited my comments, notices that they have favorited like 50 million comments altogether, and suddenly feels a little less special?

Nope! If I'm honest, I mostly use the infodumpster if I'm meeting someone new to see which of my comments they had the good taste to favorite (and if they favorited more comments of mine than of my husband's). It means I have a sense of shared interests we might have in case the conversation flags. Talking to people makes me very nervous.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:48 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


overeducated_alligator: "As the editorial voice of a site shifts toward critical commentary, it seems that there will be an inevitable increase in "politics" and "issues" as I think Nevin might be alluding to."

Judging from what I've seen, I'd agree with the latter but disagree with the former (unless you're one of those "everything is political, so I use the word 'politics' to refer to all social justice issues, not stuff-that-relates-to-politicians" folks). My feeling is that MetaFilter has far fewer "political" posts than it did during peak-Newsfilter, but far more "issues" posts.
posted by Bugbread at 3:55 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nice work!
posted by gwint at 4:12 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


today a site like MeFi adds value via second-order critical analysis of the web's fodder. Not just the hot topics of the day, but the intelligent commentary about those topics. Not just Newsfilter, but more links to longform pieces and extra background reading and context.

overeducated_alligator's experience mirrors mine, and I agree with this particular point.

Thanks, elgilito!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:17 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


What the heck was up with the traffic to AskMe dropping in November 2012?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 PM on June 29, 2015


November 2012 was when Google downgraded MetaFilter in their index. mathowie talked about it in article he wrote on Medium: On the Future of MetaFilter. Look for the paragraph that starts, "The money situation changed one day in November 2012..."
posted by pb (staff) at 4:27 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: it keeps feeling like Metafilter
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:40 PM on June 29, 2015


This is amazing and wonderful.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:52 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, I take it I'm not the only user who occasionally clicks on the profiles of people who have favorited my comments, notices that they have favorited like 50 million comments altogether, and suddenly feels a little less special?

That's why my favorites are worth their weight in gold: as of this post I've only favorited 405 times and each and every one of them is like a precious child to me.
posted by item at 6:07 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's why my favorites are worth their weight in gold

Um, favorites don't weigh anything.
posted by el io at 6:11 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Half? HALF of the comments "are written by 6-7% of the active users (about 270 people out of 4000)"? That's staggering.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:26 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Um, favorites don't weigh anything.

What, at one moment they're bookmarks, at the next they're massless particles? MAKE UP YOUR MIND, MR. FEYNMAN
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:28 PM on June 29, 2015 [16 favorites]


I've advocated before for a SuperFave. You only get one, so if you want to SuperFave something you have to remove it from the last thing you SuperFaved first.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:36 PM on June 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am still trying to get my mind around half. So half of the comments on the Blue are made by a pool of 3,730 active users, and the other half is accounted for by 270 active users? That seems...unbalanced.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:54 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some people just post too much even when they have nothing to say.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:57 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nothing at all.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:57 PM on June 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Power laws, man. They show up everywhere. You get a group of people together doing a thing as a large group and don't like specifically require an even quota of activity, you're generally gonna get a relative few very high engagement folks, a bigger chunk of middling engagement folks, and a whole lot of low engagement folks. 1/9/90, long tail, call it what you want.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:59 PM on June 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


I can't tell if this means I should post more or post less.

"There are threads where I feel like there is just no point in participating because, even though we are all like-minded folks and "allies", if you don't get the subtle nuances *just right* there will be hell to pay."

Don't act like your experience is the only experience and I bet it will work out better

Also don't be all " I'm Canadian and I don't know who Alanis is" because it just ticks everyone off.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:01 PM on June 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


What's "Canadian"?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:14 PM on June 29, 2015


Would I have to have a corporeal body to understand this?
posted by Bugbread at 7:15 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I bet most of the people who comment on this post are among the 270!
posted by Glinn at 7:16 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's helpful, cortex, thanks. I guess I'd like to hear what others think about so many active users just not saying much, and whether that ties into a feeling of what's mentioned above ("if you don't get the subtle nuances *just right* there will be hell to pay") or not, shrug, that's just the way these things play out statistically. Because there's also #julybywomen, where participation was actively solicited (and #julybywomen posts were frequently praised with "thank you" or "this is cool"-style comments) and posting increased by quite a bit. Is it possible or even desirable to encourage/recognize participation from the other set of active users who comment less frequently? I am overthinking plates and beans again.

On a possibly-related note, I really appreciate Best of MetaFilter on Facebook as a way to give more users a little bit of recognition. Thank you!
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:17 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


If JulyByWomen is any guide, then yes. Because it was kickass.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:20 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I used the wrong word. MetaFilter is certainly not "dangerous". It's just more of a *prickly* place these days. I sometimes wish that we all understood that the default for 80% of MeFites is that we're commenting with the best intentions, and that we all generally want the same things: equality, equity, respect, safety, acceptance, self-actualization, love. That's what I want. It's a little tiring to have to go through preamble every time one wishes to post in a thread that *may* be controversial. I'm thinking in this case of the John Oliver thread.

Bear in mind that I was musing on why MetaFilter engagement may perhaps be declining. It doesn't matter much to me, since there are other places online to hangout during the day when I want to connect with someone as I work from my home office.

It doesn't matter much to MetaFilter either if engagement declines over time, since the majority of revenue comes from AskMe-hosted ads and community fundraising. So MetaFilter will be fine.

I guess I have some emotional investment because the site has been part of my life for nearly 10 years. I'll keep coming back. But I have noticed I am not commenting as much.
posted by Nevin at 7:20 PM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


It would be very interesting to run this again on other sites and on the domain as a whole. I do think some Blue activity (perhaps not much) has been siphoned off to FanFare. And if we have a robust Ask userbase, we don't have much to worry about financially, although there could be other concerns.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:22 PM on June 29, 2015


I suspect there's a minority of some size who are often only comment on the blue (or the grey... or the green... or the purple ... ) when they have something useful or new to add. I count myself amongst them.

So often someone else has said what I want to say, or has already added the information or links (that I had in mind) that provide more information. So I just issue a silent kudos and move on.
posted by julen at 7:24 PM on June 29, 2015 [16 favorites]


Normally I'd be in disagreement with you, Nevin, but I just basically got called an idiot in that John Oliver thread for saying that I didn't understand two apparently contradictory statements (not disagreeing with them, just saying I didn't understand them since they seemed contradictory). So, yeah, prickly topics are prickly.

But it's not like all MeFi is a minefield. There's still other stuff on the site.
posted by Bugbread at 7:30 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


...and I would say that if people are being driven off by the fightiness of prickly topics...well, honestly, for me that's not a huge loss, because I don't come to MeFi for the fighty topics. If MetaFilter's user population (going back to the original topic of this post) is shrinking because Serious Discussers are leaving, well, that's fine by me. If it's shrinking because Actually I Am A YoYo Manufacturer, And I Can Share Interesting Information About That Cool Video people are leaving, then that sucks. But I don't think you can tell that from the InfoDump, and Cortex doesn't run exit interviews, so this is probably a topic best left for the next Big Angry MeTa Thread.

Also, judging from my Capitalization, I apparently have suddenly become part German.
posted by Bugbread at 7:37 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


...and I would say that if people are being driven off by the fightiness of prickly topics...well, honestly, for me that's not a huge loss, because I don't come to MeFi for the fighty topics.

I don't come for the fighty topics either, but it is a loss to me when smart commenters leave, because it's possible that some of those folks now will not post on the Green about the dishwasher I'm trying to fix, or about the cat I want to name. I'm thinking about one particular member who almost buttoned over strongly-held issue X, and I remember thinking, "Oh, but that person is so good on topic Y! Hope that they don't leave, because Y is really interesting!" That's the loss.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:51 PM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hey, can you guys take the derail about the trans thread elsewhere?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:54 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, let's have a new MeTa about John Oliver's Trans 101 and let this one be about statistics.
posted by uosuaq at 7:59 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


uosuaq: "Yes, let's have a new MeTa about John Oliver's Trans 101 and let this one be about statistics."

Or, better yet, not have any new MeTas, and let this one be about statistics.
posted by Bugbread at 8:10 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Normally I'd be in disagreement with you, Nevin, but I just basically got called an idiot in that John Oliver thread for saying that I didn't understand two apparently contradictory statements

(Just making sure you saw the clarification that the comment in question wasn't directed at you.)
posted by nobody at 8:14 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fascinating work, thanks!

The slide that sticks out the most to me: the one which shows that there are fewer active commenters than there have been for years. I've noticed that. It is what it is.

My subjective feeling: I feel like there are fewer "here is a random weird/interesting thing" posts than there have been in the past. For better and for worse, MeFi seems more focused on issues and current events. It is what it is.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:16 PM on June 29, 2015


This is so interesting.

I guess I'd like to hear what others think about so many active users just not saying much,

Speaking for myself as a 10+ year user, I've noticed that I say less in general because...I've already said so much, and I don't like to repeat myself. There are topics I know a lot about, and I've said a lot about 'em over the years: roots music, history, feminism and especially reproductive rights, nonprofit governance, etc. Even though they continue to come up, I can't really bring myself to rehash my same arguments with fresh vigor. Instead, I like to see what other people make of them. These days, I only chime in if I think there's really something new to add that hasn't already been said - and now that the site is more inclusive, that happens less often. Someone is often saying already whatever it was I'd have said. I'm lurking a whole lot more these days, and when I do speak up and weigh in, unfortunately, it tends to be on some contentious issue, because that is the bleeding edge of site culture and by default tends to be the place that new discussion happens and also the perspective of oldsters may be most useful. So anyway, as one active user, I don't think a decline in my "activity" as measured by actions on the site is representative of my interest as much as change in my own positionality relative to site culture at large.
posted by Miko at 8:19 PM on June 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


That said - these graphs give visible form to the reasons I keep harping on sustainability. I think MeFi isn't going to make it another 10 years unless its value proposition gets a lot sharper -- as others have noted, the context has changed a lot, and "we don't need to think about the future" is headed in only one direction.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ah, thanks nobody!

(Man, that sounds weird)
posted by Bugbread at 8:21 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Slide #18: I'm so proud to be a $5 noob.

Posting month: except for February, MeFi activity totally mirrors the classic arts and culture "season" that has held sway since the 19th century.
posted by Miko at 8:29 PM on June 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


So, I take it I'm not the only user who occasionally clicks on the profiles of people who have favorited my comments, notices that they have favorited like 50 million comments altogether, and suddenly feels a little less special?

I actually really enjoy getting favorites from someone who has like three comments and a bajillion favorites because then it's like they're my secret friend-o
posted by en forme de poire at 9:26 PM on June 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Nice work, elgilito.

I think it's interesting that despite the frequent wringing of hands about the tightened-up moderation, deleted posts by percent is at a ten-year low.

Also I like the # making first post/# making last post graph. I imagine there's no data for when people actually disable accounts. That frequency would be a good stat too. I bet you could pinpoint some particularly fighty MeTas in the noise.
posted by ctmf at 9:37 PM on June 29, 2015


I used to comment and ask questions a lot more. Posted on the blue a couple of times. I still read as/more often than ever, but very rarely comment.

In Ask, I think this is because I rarely consider myself to be adding anything of value. I'll frequently think abotu answering, but often realise that desire comes from an 'I'm so clever, I know the answer' place, and is not necessarily something that will benefit the asked. Usually I move on without commenting.

On the blue, I comment rarely because I see useful discussions often clouded with noise, or derailed by other seemingly innocuous comments, so I avoid commenting unless I think it's something that is especially relevant or needed.

So, for my personal data point, a reduction in comments (I may well have been recorded as someone with a 'last comment') doesn't mean a reduction in interest at all - just a higher personal barrier for what qualifies as worthwhile.
posted by twirlypen at 12:26 AM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


My immediate response:

Why not take heed of that #julybywomen and turn it into #metafilterbywomen?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:22 AM on June 30, 2015


And that person was...? Don't keep us in suspense!!

My guess is:

A famous Portuguese author.

Initials MC.

Do you need any more clues?
posted by asok at 2:17 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been wondering whether the underlying engine of Mefi's growth and then slight decline isn't simply US politics

Alternative / complimentary theory: economic cycles. The economy is getting better since the peak of active-user-ness in 2011 (or at the previous local peak of 2002). People comment when they are not doing other things, like working (I mean actually working, not sitting at a desk and not working, e.g. slide 22). Metafilter has only lived through two economic downturns during its lifetime, and there were a number of other variables at play, so isolating this dynamic is tricky. Prediction: the next crash will bring a rise in the number of active users.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 3:38 AM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


The good news is, we may be able to test that hypothesis very soon. The bad news is, well, sorry Greece.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:41 AM on June 30, 2015


What, at one moment they're bookmarks, at the next they're massless particles?

I thought in a previous metatalk thread, we had established that favorites are the quanta of happiness? So while they indeed lack both mass and charge, they contain a miniscule of amount of good emotion.

What happens is that somebody reads a comment that they like, and as a result they now have a slightly elevated level of happiness. Should this reach a sufficient level as to exceed the activation barrier, a favorite is emitted by the reader and absorbed by the author. This explains both the mechanism by which favorites are generated and the reason why people like to receive them.

Quantum favoriting gets really strange when you analyze what happens when people aren't actually looking at the favorite counts, but that's a whole different subject.
posted by FishBike at 5:40 AM on June 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


Do you need any more clues?
Yes, you do. The answer is upthread, and it's not MC.
posted by beagle at 7:05 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Christ, are we really going to have this same "groupthink / consensus / heckler's veto / silenced all my life" discussion again, in this MeTa that has nothing to do with the topics of any particular posts / comments?
It seems perfectly reasonable to speculate about why we're losing members in a thread about how we're losing members. A better question might be why you (and others) get so defensive at even gentle criticism of moderation policies.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:06 AM on June 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Over time, any social site is going to lose members, for any number of reasons. Also member engagement drops, as some have noted here. [To check that out, it would be interesting to have a slide showing engagement (posts + comments + favoriting) over time by signup year cohort. My guess is that it would show, for each signup year, activity peaking in a year or two and then gradually declining.]

Metafilter's problem is that it is not replacing members who are departing, or whose engagement is decreasing, at the same rate or better. So, it's shrinking. It's a marketing problem. How would you attract more active members to this site? I will get the usual pushback on this, but my sense is that the front page needs to have some graphics to go with the posts, in order to engage casual site visitors and encourage them to return and become members. Hear me out before piling on.

To explain, with an example: I use Flipboard quite a bit on my iPad. There are 4-5 stories presented per flip, most with pictures, some without. Now and then, you get a page with 5 stories and no pictures. I have a tendency to flip right past such a page. I think Flipboard knows this, and tries to make sure there are pictures on every page to grab people. Same thing is true on any major news site. For example if you visit the New York Times home page, what would your reaction be if there are no pictures?

Exactly. But that's what MetaFilter's front page is like, invariably. Plenty of posts would be enriched by having an accompanying picture. And my prediction is that data analysis would show greater engagement (clickthroughs, comments) on such posts.

Adding graphics can be done in a careful, curated way that preserves the integrity of the site. For text-only diehards, it's easy to provide a no-graphics option in the settings. The whole idea can be beta-tested with an opt-in provision before becoming the default.

Or, try something else to add some sizzle. Doing nothing means continuing to lose users at the same rate.
posted by beagle at 7:29 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel myself slowly edging away from Metafilter, maybe I've just got too much Grar going on in my real life to want to deal with it here too.
posted by octothorpe at 7:32 AM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't tell if this means I should post more or post less.

It means we should all only post on Tuesdays at 6 a.m. in June.
posted by chavenet at 8:03 AM on June 30, 2015


Is there a way to measure metafilter decline normalized for declining internet exposure for people sick of the NSA shit? My comments are now almost always very short and very impersonal in comparison to days before when I typed away blissfully unaware of the aggressiveness of the snoops.
posted by bukvich at 8:16 AM on June 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


..and I would say that if people are being driven off by the fightiness of prickly topics...well, honestly, for me that's not a huge loss

Except that the people being driven away are the people these topics are about, and they're sick of being pushed around.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:11 AM on June 30, 2015


Do we have any data about the ages of the userbase? To me, the most dangerous thing about mefi (in terms of keeping an active and engaged userbase) is that it feels "old".

Tumblr and Twitter and Reddit all feel like they've got a higher percentage of young people than mefi does, which means that we might be facing a kind of Opera Problem, where all the youths just don't give a shit about our venerable institution, and the site's doing a slow slide into gradual-but-increasingly-desperate huffing irrelevancy, a bunch of 40-somethings saying "well, mefi is intelligent and relevant and that's why it's the site for me", which is true and all, but meanwhile the teens are off having rainbow parties on Kik on whatever it is they're into these days.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:40 AM on June 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


"Tanya! You've been going to those Tumblrs about extremely specific pornography!"
posted by en forme de poire at 9:53 AM on June 30, 2015


Eh, I'd never have been on Metafilter as a teen not just because of the site tenor but also because of the pay bar. I didn't have a PayPal account, credit card, or any other way to pay for something on the Internet until I was in college, and that was 2008. The bar to having an account is going to keep very young people less likely to come in and sign up. That's a consequence of paid accounts, but not one that makes it worth sacrificing all the benefit of paid accounts. (It is also, fwiw, a barrier for some of the other twenty-somethings I have attempted to recruit, who tend to be broke.)

I mean, I personally prefer Metafilter because it's text heavy and I don't need to wade through piles of gifs and image for the cool discussion, but I'm not the hippest twentysomething out there either. I like longform discussion, and Reddit and Twitter both have a nasty reputation for targeting and abuse by MRA-type people which made them super unattractive for me. There's some really good discussion on all three platforms but it can be irritatingly difficult to find unless you have good networks, and even if you do it's kind of hard to sift through the more banal stuff for the thoughtful discussion stuff. The only place I'm aware of with a similarly easy way to filter to the good conversations is Livejournal/Dreamwidth, and those are a) also pretty quiet and b) just as reliant on having decent connections to find good discussions as the other three platforms.

Initiatives like WomensMarch and JulyByWomen really do help; I definitely shoved the site at several people during WomensMarch and bragged that I thought it was an awesome initiative the site community was doing to offline friends I thought would enjoy the output. That said, a permanent #MetafilterByWomen just sounds exhausting and a way for invested women to get taken for granted by the site.
posted by sciatrix at 9:54 AM on June 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Another contentious MeTa, another attempt by known provocateur Greg Nog to convince the userbase to fund his ill-conceived production of Der Ring des Nibelungen set in a contemporary urban high school.

How long do we have to put up with this, mods?
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Der Ring des Nibelungen set in a contemporary urban high school.

Kötterdämmerung
posted by Greg Nog at 10:00 AM on June 30, 2015 [64 favorites]


greg that was some of your finest work
posted by poffin boffin at 10:02 AM on June 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


Mr. MoonPie: It seems perfectly reasonable to speculate about why we're losing members in a thread about how we're losing members.

I made the second most posts to the Blue of anyone on the site in 2010: 136. The most in 2011: 185. Last year, I made 53. Was not even in the top 20. This year, so far, I've made 46 posts. I doubt I'll crack 100 posts this year. Or be one of the top ten posters.

I am deliberately posting fewer FPPs. It's not for lack of material. Am also commenting a lot less on the Blue.

Still here. Still going. But damn, this place is wearying sometimes.
posted by zarq at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Except that the people being driven away are the people these topics are about, and they're sick of being pushed around.

Sometimes. The people who get mad and leave are usually but not always being pushed around. Those who get banned are usually the ones doing the pushing, though.
posted by zarq at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Slide 17 really is rather disturbing. In the long run, if people leaving their last comment continue to outnumber people leaving their first that means you have a dwindling pool of diehards. That's not good for the simple viability of the site, but it's also not good for the quality of the conversations on the site.
posted by yoink at 10:19 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Still here. Still going. But damn, this place is wearying sometimes.

I think everyone eventually burns out to some degree on Metafilter. And for a lot of different reasons.
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel myself slowly edging away from Metafilter, maybe I've just got too much Grar going on in my real life to want to deal with it here too.

I was one of those 750 active daily users, but decided a few weeks ago that fifteen years of metafilter was probably enough. I still read the links, but I'm done commenting, and I'm increasingly finding myself just skipping the comments entirely. It's just too much of a bummer. Maybe I'll come back some day, but at present I don't feel particularly welcome.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Because the level of discussion tends to be much higher on Metafilter than say, Buzzfeed or Facebook, commenting on the blue (and grey!) can be intimidating sometimes. It's great to read through, but I feel like if I don't have something to say that -really- contributes to the thread, which I don't most of the time, that I should let the major-leaguers play ball while I spectate. I mean, I'm not dumb, but dang, some people on here are so crazy smart and fascinating. And have strong opinions, which I generally lack. And say what I was going to say, but even better somehow. (This is for serious discussy things, not so much the cute/fun/weird posts).

However - AskMeFi is a completely different story. I feel that it's much more approachable and easygoing... I think running the same treatment for the green would have much different results. Maybe not.

Either way, this is interesting, thanks for putting it together! I feel like I've done my part so far -- I evangelize about this part of the web to almost everyone I know, I've bought 2 people gift accounts (mostly lurkers, but they are on here), and I make it rain favorites on a daily basis. (DrinkyDie - I'll volunteer to be your last favoriter.)
posted by Fig at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


which means that we might be facing a kind of Opera Problem

Proposal: homestuck.metafilter.com
posted by shakespeherian at 11:19 AM on June 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I notice a strong correlation between the gradual downturn in activity, and the continued lack of blink functionality in posts and comments.

Regards,
Old school HTML coder

posted by Wordshore at 11:22 AM on June 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


The problem with opera is that it is kind of like theater, but they don’t raise the curtain all the way up. So you only can see feet shuffling about while you hear high pitched wailing and combustion engines.
posted by maxsparber at 11:24 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


brecht.metafilter.com
posted by shakespeherian at 11:28 AM on June 30, 2015


griphus: Another contentious MeTa, another attempt by known provocateur Greg Nog to convince the userbase to fund his ill-conceived production of Der Ring des Nibelungen set in a contemporary urban high school.

Yeah. And like in many productions of the Ring, the best ideas are in Das Rheingold, with the sports stars as the giants Fasolt and Fafner, Nibelheim as a shop class. But the whole Gods as honors students and mortals as standard classes doesn't really go anywhere and doesn't work. A school's myths and legends are not about someone that got a 5 on the calculus AP test!

Plus this really had to happen before Konwitschny did his classroom Lohengrin.
posted by mountmccabe at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


So how does one say, "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" in German?
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on June 30, 2015


How did I not hear about Infodumpster before? This is exactly the kind of detailed data that I somehow like to analyze, and I don't even have to scrape Metafilter's HTML to get it.

What I'd like to do is make a directed graph of users, with edges denoting favorites from one user to another's comment or post, and see if any patterns emerge. (Maybe we'd see clusters of users who favorite each other by topics: a sci-fi cluster, a cat gif cluster, a music cluster...) The dataset is small enough that this could actually be doable.

A more complicated project would be to look at the text of comments (although that would involve HTML scraping) and see how that relates to favorites counts. I expect to see a bimodal distribution, with the most-favorited comments divided into long-form explanations and pithy quips. There might also be a correlation between the number of favorites and the number of links in a post/comment.
posted by Rangi at 11:57 AM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: a dwindling pool of diehards

Kötterdämmerung

Notch another snarf in your belt.
posted by Miko at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


zarq: Still here. Still going. But damn, this place is wearying sometimes.

The worst time for me was a couple of years back when I felt like there was a real backlash against feminism. I just couldn't engage in the way that I used to. It didn't go back full-throttle to the boyzone of the past, but seeing an uptick in the number of misogynistic and sexist comments made me unhappy to spend time here. Thankfully lots of people pushed back. Now I'm here as much as I can, but as I'm in my mid-thirties I don't have quite the same amount of time that I used to even a few years ago (honestly, I think that an older userbase is the most likely explanation for less activity on The Blue).
posted by Kattullus at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Also, my job actually expects me to work now.
posted by Miko at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


s/die/blow/
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:24 PM on June 30, 2015


Kötterdämmerung

orson_welles_clapping.gif
posted by jquinby at 12:38 PM on June 30, 2015


What I'd like to do is make a directed graph of users, with edges denoting favorites from one user to another's comment or post, and see if any patterns emerge.

I would be very interested in looking at this. My prediction: you would not be able to observe jack and you might begin to understand how fundamentally misguided our universal surveillance is which can't foresee a terrorist bomber or a mass murderer or anything really.
posted by bukvich at 12:39 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


FishBike actually did do some work on some of that a few years back—you can find some discussion and numbers starting about here—but giving it a fresh go with some more data could be interesting, especially with a view toward looking at shifts over time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:50 PM on June 30, 2015


My prediction: you would not be able to observe jack and you might begin to understand how fundamentally misguided our universal surveillance is which can't foresee a terrorist bomber or a mass murderer or anything really.

Maybe so. But you can learn surprisingly much just from metadata. And it works for Reddit, although subreddit associations are probably more revealing that user-favorite associations. (Metafilter's tags are the closest thing to subreddits, but they're too ad-hoc to learn much from.)
posted by Rangi at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2015


Has the Paul Revere thing ever been peer-reviewed or replicated?
posted by bukvich at 1:09 PM on June 30, 2015


Has the Paul Revere thing ever been peer-reviewed or replicated?

The data and scripts are available on GitHub, so anyone can check that the article's conclusions are correct. If you're asking whether metadata analysis has been equally successful in uncovering other, modern-day terrorists, such as the NSA's bulk collection of phone metadata, the answer seems to be no.

There could be many reasons for this: the NSA's data is mostly about innocent citizens, not terrorists, whereas the Revere example is focusing on already-suspicious individuals. The NSA is also dealing with orders of magnitude more data, so even limiting it to suspicious persons wouldn't do enough to focus on the revealing subset of metadata. And of course, they might just be unwilling or incompetent to use their data to actually find terrorists, and prefer to just hoard everything on principle.
posted by Rangi at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


What I'd like to do is make a directed graph of users, with edges denoting favorites from one user to another's comment or post, and see if any patterns emerge.

That would be interesting to look at. I tried to do that with the contact network data a few years ago and came up with several graphic representations that were pretty, and none that were informative. There's just too much data to make sense of it all at once, visually. So my feeling is you would have to cut it down to some tractable subset in order to look at it that way, and in so doing, would have to be careful not to filter out the very patterns you're trying to see.
posted by FishBike at 1:41 PM on June 30, 2015


Speaking for myself as a 10+ year user, I've noticed that I say less in general because...I've already said so much, and I don't like to repeat myself.

Yeah, this happens to me a lot these days. Only so many real-life stories to tell, then it's "hey, old man, you bragged about the Iggy Pop thing 7 years ago!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:54 PM on June 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "Except that the people being driven away are the people these topics are about, and they're sick of being pushed around."

I've seen enough "good riddance" comments and "MeFi has become an echo chamber, goodbye" comments that I get the feeling its people on both sides, actually, and that we just remember the people who we miss.
posted by Bugbread at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Okay, infodumpster-divers, is there any way to graph out activity by country? MeFi has always been primarily-US-driven, and traffic slows down when it's night in the US, but last night (US time) nine hours passed between posts. In the old days I get the feeling that the Australian/etc. contingent would post something during the (Aussie) day. Which got me to thinking that while MeFi has always been US-driven, perhaps it has gotten more US-driven over time? Is there any way to confirm or deny that with the Infodump?
posted by Bugbread at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Do we have any data about the ages of the userbase? To me, the most dangerous thing about mefi (in terms of keeping an active and engaged userbase) is that it feels "old".

I was wondering about this too. I joined Metafilter as a teenager, back when dobbs was offering to sponsor memberships. (Do people still do that nowadays?)

It feels like there are less young people on the site - or maybe more that the userbase has aged along with Metafilter with waning interest from the younger demographic.
posted by aielen at 2:58 PM on June 30, 2015


"Except that the people being driven away are the people these topics are about, and they're sick of being pushed around."

I wonder how many people have left or essentially stopped commenting because they're fed up with sanctimonious attention zealots who enjoy being ever so angry and nasty and better than other people.
posted by ambient2 at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


There are a non-zero number of people who have left because they got tired of being the zealots. And I liked those people on some level.

I think it's a bit dangerous to generalize about why people leave anecdotally. There are a lot of reasons.
posted by GuyZero at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was wondering about this too. I joined Metafilter as a teenager, back when dobbs was offering to sponsor memberships. (Do people still do that nowadays?)

Yes. You can buy gift memberships for friends, families, pets....
posted by zarq at 3:32 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many people have left or essentially stopped commenting because they're fed up with sanctimonious attention zealots who enjoy being ever so angry and nasty and better than other people.

I wonder how many times we can bring up this idea in the same thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:59 PM on June 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Just keep bringing it up and it becomes self-fulfilling.
posted by GuyZero at 3:59 PM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


So half of the comments on the Blue are made by a pool of 3,730 active users, and the other half is accounted for by 270 active users? That seems...unbalanced.

Look, we're all just doing our best to keep the site going until stevewoz makes his second comment.

Also, my job actually expects me to work now.

This is why I got "promotes the library to external audiences" written in to my job description. Everybody think about old books for 30 seconds so I don't get in trouble.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:18 PM on June 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


So half of the comments on the Blue are made by a pool of 3,730 active users, and the other half is accounted for by 270 active users? That seems...unbalanced.

Occupy Metafilter! Down with comment inequality! The 50% demand to be heard! ...No, not that 50%, the other 50%.
posted by Rangi at 5:35 PM on June 30, 2015


The number one thing that has lead to a decrease in my comments? The follow thread option. I make so many fewer awful filler comments just because I want to follow a conversation. I've noticed fewer filler comments in general, so I don't think I'm the only one.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:51 PM on June 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Ditto that.
posted by box at 7:07 PM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wonder how many people have left or essentially stopped commenting because they're fed up with sanctimonious attention zealots who enjoy being ever so angry and nasty and better than other people.

I wonder how many times we can bring up this idea in the same thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:59 PM on June 30 [5 favorites +] [!]


Dunno. Much as it's probably a rhetorical question, I'll hazard a guess that we can bring up this idea at least as often as people can bring up the idea that an eyelash width of disagreement = someone being a child of Satan.
posted by ambient2 at 8:02 PM on June 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


(ctrl+f "eyelash width") (ctrl+f "satan") ok so ≥0 times?
posted by en forme de poire at 10:43 PM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Normally I'd be in disagreement with you, Nevin, but I just basically got called an idiot in that John Oliver thread for saying that I didn't understand two apparently contradictory statements (not disagreeing with them, just saying I didn't understand them since they seemed contradictory). So, yeah, prickly topics are prickly.

If this is about my admonition that people "think for a second," that wasn't directed at you at all.
posted by atoxyl at 2:51 AM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Just making sure you saw the clarification that the comment in question wasn't directed at you.)

haha oops yeah you probably saw that/don't mean me at this point
posted by atoxyl at 2:54 AM on July 1, 2015


don't mind me I'm just wandering into MeTa at 3am two days too late
posted by atoxyl at 2:56 AM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


What about other metrics of engagement? Has favoriting declined in a similar way?
posted by Kattullus at 4:31 AM on July 1, 2015


I just saw this. It's great! And I was about to engage in a conversation about some of the stats, when I realized that this conversation isn't fresh any longer. Which is the problem.

As a bunch of people have already pointed out, any attempt to account for the decline of activity has to start with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. There's just too many options. I don't participate here nearly as much as I used to for the simple reason that Metafilter doesn't have badges on my phone for unread comments and favorites. Social media fucking pings me all the time, and like most humans I got conditioned.

Facebook tells me every time I get a like or a mention or a new comment. Metafilter never tells me that I've gotten a response or a new favorite. But Metafilter can't win at that particular game. We could, for instance, incorporate "mentions" where typing @anotherpanacea in a comment would ping me. But we've rejected that for literally a decade! It would suck.

I think a lot about The Well in this context. They had a moment, and now they're sustaining as an almost irrelevant piece of the web where old friends from gen x sometimes hang out. Their members-only model couldn't survive the searchable web. The social web might be doing the same thing to us.

That would suck, too.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:33 AM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Their members-only model couldn't survive the searchable web.

In their favor, it did survive.
posted by Miko at 6:40 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


There still exists a thing called The WELL, it's true. I'm hoping for a bit more than keeping the metafilter.com domain parked.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:45 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The WELL still has a few thousand members. It gets new members from time to time, drawn by the 'elite' nature of the discussion even though it is at a much slower pace. The miracle is just that it does still exist, because they prioritized being a community.

I'm hoping for a bit more than keeping the metafilter.com domain parked.

Obviously I am too, but we don't seem to have any strategy for keeping it alive long-term. I would think we're not that far away from a pretty similar fate, with the exception that the doors are open and people can still opt in with a lower barrier.

MetaChat's fate is discouraging. It's still up and running, though never enhanced or fixed any more. A tiny trickle of people use it to chat. A pace of one post a day is fantastic for that site, and most days there's not a thing. It was always a smaller community, but was quite robust and fast-paced for some time. The largest dagger in its heart was definitely Facebook, which replaced the "chat" function with a much more richly-featured one. Its users have mostly just deserted it, gradually wearing away as other options drew them in. A declining userbase caused a concomitant decline in interesting content, which caused further decline in userbase, in a self-perpetuating sort of entropic cycle.

MetaFilter's strength really has been quality. The 'filter' part. That applies to both members/community and content standards (because the members so largely are the content, by contributing the vast bulk of text in the form of comments and posts). As the web has developed many other strong content filters, the 'filter' part has become weaker, as a service, and the community part has taken a larger role - but of course, with fewer tools than other sites. I think we're destined to downsize here, but any solution that sees MetaFilter around for the long term will also need to prioritize community and content quality, because only the combination of the two things as done here is distinctive.
posted by Miko at 7:18 AM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, MetaChat is probably near the end of its long slow decline. It's pretty easy to chart that by looking at the archive page to see that posts peaked at over 1400 a month in 2006 and have sunk to a new low of 20 last month. Sad, it was a nice place and I feel like I made a lot of friends over there.
posted by octothorpe at 8:01 AM on July 1, 2015


I don't see why further downsizing is destined. In fact I sort of suspect the opposite: some of the natural features of unthreaded conversation are getting worked out here. If there's too much traffic and activity, Metafilte gets unwieldy fast. If there's too little, it can seem dead--except that it provides an opportunity. There are lots of threads where I don't contribute because most of what needs to be said has been said well enough already. So if things slow down, that creates an opening for some less active users to step into the gap.

So I'd guess that we have a kind of equilibrium, and that that's actually okay if we can leverage it. I don't spend any time over at FanFare, but it seems like the kind of growth that works if there's equilibrium of strong community: a new thing to talk about. Include books and I'm there! (And indeed I'd move my regular online book club here, too: we mostly read political theory and histories, a few chapters at a time.)

Metafilter might consider some of the more addictive features of social media as possible "ponies" to increase engagement. (I also loved the SuperFave idea.) This stuff is totally gimmicky but it works: if Metafilte pinged me sometimes (say when a comment or post got more than 12 favorites) I'd engage more. If there was an app that made reading and commenting a bit easier on a phone, I'd engage more. If there was a culture of single-links that I could easily share from my phone, I'd engage more. (This is really where Facebook and Tumblr have triumphed, and Reddit too.)

I'd guess that stuff isn't worth the investment, though, given the actual number of monthly active users who would actually experience it. Which goes back to the idea of there being a Metafilter equilibrium of active users.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:03 AM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Other ideas: make awesome comments and posts easier to link to on social media, in their isolation. It seems paradoxical, but I mostly don't link to Metafilter from Twitter and Facebook because I either don't want to be associated with all of the comments on a great post or because I can't be sure that people will see exactly the comment I'm linking to and not get lost in the surrounding ones.

I don't think it breaks Metafilter to give each comment its own page with a link back to the thread it came from, would it? But maybe it would?

Another possibility: I hated hashtags for a long time, but their time may be upon us. If comment hashtags were easily searchable and viewable, it'd change the site a lot but maybe not for the worse. For instance, the Slack integration of hashtags works relatively unobtrusively, and we know somebody there who could maybe help out....
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:12 AM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Miko: "That said - these graphs give visible form to the reasons I keep harping on sustainability. I think MeFi isn't going to make it another 10 years unless its value proposition gets a lot sharper -- as others have noted, the context has changed a lot, and "we don't need to think about the future" is headed in only one direction."

What are some specific changes you would recommend?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:20 AM on July 1, 2015


that creates an opening for some less active users to step into the gap.

Except that the graphs show that users aren't stepping into the gap in equal numbers, so we don't have equilibrium, we have a downward trend.

What are some specific changes you would recommend?

I've talked about them ad nauseam in other threads. I'd start by designing an inclusive planning process and structure. This isn't going to be happening, though.
posted by Miko at 8:49 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


> or because I can't be sure that people will see exactly the comment I'm linking to and not get lost in the surrounding ones

You can link to the invented-by-pb permalink of the comment, though. Is that still confusing to some people? (Why am I asking, everything is confusing to some people!)

But given the big meTa we had a while back about linking to/quoting people's comments from meFi on spaces that are not meFi and how that is bad, making it easier to do so would likely get a ton of pushback.
posted by rtha at 9:08 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Miko: "I've talked about them ad nauseam in other threads. I'd start by designing an inclusive planning process and structure. "


Well, what I got from your comments in prior threads was you had concerns around giving money to Metafilter and that think there should be a formal management structure related to that. But what I don't think I've seen is (and sorry if you did this, but I missed it) what specifically you think Metafilter could do *as a website* to increase user engagement/user growth/relevance, etc. Rather than the back office stuff, regardless of the concerns you may have there.

I'm not trying to make this your responsibility! It's just that I know you have put some real thought into this, and I'd like to hear some ideas for constructive actions we could take to make sure we continue to engage new users and keep the old ones.

In this thread, I've seen:

* "users/mods should stop being so darned repressive to people who want to be jerks" (which I don't agree with, and also I don't think a return to the Wild West days would help, even if it were desirable)
* "we need to update the design to include graphics" (which I have mixed feelings about)
* "it's inevitable, given the changed nature of the web" (which is true as far as it goes, but doesn't mean we can't still be a vital site).

What ideas do you - or anyone! - have to vitalize Metafilter, while still honoring the ethos of the site?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:10 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just adding the text of a comment to the "favorited by" page would do the trick. There's already a unique page for every comment because if that function. Just pull the text on to it, and boom!
posted by stoneweaver at 9:18 AM on July 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


What ideas do you - or anyone! - have to vitalize Metafilter, while still honoring the ethos of the site?

Celebrity Guest Moderators.

I sure wouldn't mind if my snarky transfat comment was deleted by KKardashian. Wouldn't wash that enter key hand for a week. (is there a way to mount on the wall a comment deletion?)
posted by sammyo at 9:32 AM on July 1, 2015


I don't pretend to have the answers, but I know that an inclusive organizational structure and a well-facilitated process can help generate answers, test and iterate them, implement them and share results. I advocate for a planning structure and process because I know that such organizational improvements can create space for research, careful thinking, the airing of ideas and shared decisionmaking that improves stability and sustainability.

If I ran the circus I would begin by trying to achieve an understanding of what makes people (a) find Metafilter, (b) become a member, (c) contribute, and (d) leave or stay - a more-than-anecdotal understanding. Discussing what this data shows would, I think, reveal the core strengths of MetaFilter and shine a light on the things MetaFilter needs to stay good at, or get better at, to keep all those streams of participation flowing, particularly takeup, while also revealing more about what causes individual participation to fall off. I would be planning for MeFi to operate as a sustainable nonprofit project centering on a community that likes to share and discuss information, not a business that needs to generate new platforms and interaction types to try to stay afloat and, if possible, earn a profit; I would not be trying to figure out a growth strategy, because I think there is no viable growth strategy for something like this in the current media landscape. We're a labor of love, not an outlet.

No point saying more - my general point is that we probably can't identify the solutions from our armchairs as a heterogenous bunch of individuals with our own narrow views on what's wrong and what needs to happen. We'd need a facilitated, focused process to identify solutions, and it would take a lot of community management and hands-on facilitation and communication. I think this is expensive and time-consuming, and I don't think this sits with the culture of MeFi and don't think it'll happen.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


If MeFi goes non-profit, can I be on the board of directors? I have petty grievances to air.
posted by Think_Long at 9:50 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


In this thread, I've seen:

* "users/mods should stop being so darned repressive to people who want to be jerks"


CTRL-F "jerk." Hmmm...no hits except your own comment.

Of course, you haven't seen anyone say "hey, what we need is more people being allowed to be jerks." What you have seen is people saying that Metafilter should allow for a wider range of points of view on some contentious subjects. You're choosing--as many others in the thread have--to redefine "expressing a view that disagrees with my own" as "being a jerk." The fact that Metafilter is in fact drifting steadily towards a general consensus that "expressing views that run counter to the community norm" amounts to "being a jerk"--even when those views are expressed politely and in a spirit of reasonable debate--and should be grounds for the deletion of the offending comment may or may not be part off the reason for the declining participation rate (that would take a much more wide-ranging comparative study to demonstrate; people clearly do dislike hearing views they personally disagree with so perhaps a less xenophobic Metafilter would ultimately be a less popular one, on the other hand one of the reasons moderators dislike contentious threads is that they tend to be fast-moving and draw a lot of comments very rapidly, which suggests that allowing for more dissension might actually draw traffic to the site). I do know that this general trend towards the enforcement of "site-approved positions" on virtually every politically touchy subject imaginable is lowering my own enjoyment of the site and making me think twice about whether I want to continue to engage in discussions here.
posted by yoink at 10:10 AM on July 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


MetaChat's fate is discouraging. It's still up and running, though never enhanced or fixed any more. A tiny trickle of people use it to chat. A pace of one post a day is fantastic for that site, and most days there's not a thing.

I had no idea what you were referring to, since chat.metafilter.com is still plenty active and doesn't have anything you would call "posts", which suggests that the problem may be attributable to a comprehensive lack of promotion. I didn't even remember what you were talking about until I googled it. Further, in an admittedly brief search, I was unable to discover any links or references to www.metachat.org from anywhere on Metafilter, which suggests that the problem is simply that nobody knows it exists.


* "users/mods should stop being so darned repressive to people who want to be jerks" (which I don't agree with, and also I don't think a return to the Wild West days would help, even if it were desirable)

I have no idea what era people have in mind when they say "the wild west days" or "the bad old days" or whatever. Standards of acceptable behavior have certainly gotten a lot more specific over the years, but that has looked to me like a steady, gradual process of accumulation. Metafilter has always been a domain of adults so far as I recall.

This leads me to suspect that I am part of the problem, as far as the people who say these things are concerned. The fact that people make remarks along the lines of "whew, so glad we're not like old-school Metafilter anymore" without appearing to invite any challenge to that sentiment suggests that people in general are aware of whatever this change was and agree with it. That sense is a major part of the reason I don't feel particularly welcome or part of the main stream here anymore. I mean, I really liked old-school Metafilter! There's a reason I've been hanging out here for fifteen years! I don't understand why people rag on something that was a great part of the web and is one of the few pieces of the web that are still running and more or less healthy, and the fact that I don't understand leaves me feeling like cultural norms have drifted sufficiently far as to leave me, still standing basically where I always was, out beyond the pale.

Was there a revolution during some month I was busy with other projects? Or are people just talking about the thing back in 2003 when Metafilter discovered it was mostly left-liberal, and promptly became entirely left-liberal as all the remaining conservatives and libertarians left or got hounded out? Because that was before the site's massive growth, and it's hard to see how the relative newbies making such comments would even remember those days.

It does seem like the political consensus here has converged steadily toward monoculture over the years. I suspect but have no evidence to suggest that this has sharpened, in the last 2-3 years, and as that has happened I feel like the fuzzy halo of acceptability around the consensus viewpoint has shrunk enough that my funky old '90s style libertarian-socialist cyberpunk ideals are no longer included.

Maybe that's an illusion; maybe I'm just older and more certain about what I think. In any case, while I once thought of (and recommended) Metafilter as a general interest site, I would now describe it as a specifically partisan sort of place, and would only recommend it to people who are already well entrenched in progressive politics and activism. You have to be really up with the current thinking and on your game not to have people jump down your throat for getting it wrong, and that just isn't any fun.

Anyway. I guess this is my exit interview, in case my perspective is at all useful for those interested in broadening Metafilter's appeal. I had a really good time here for many years, and despite my general grouchiness about the experiences I've had here over the last year or so, I will always have fond memories of this site and its community. I wish you all well in figuring out how to manage the community and keep it healthy for hopefully many years to come.

[on preview: yes, exactly what yoink just said]
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:18 AM on July 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't understand why people rag on something that was a great part of the web and is one of the few pieces of the web that are still running and more or less healthy

Because the mefi of old was more openly comfortable with various forms of bigotry that many people here found alienating and actively harmful. People have said this over and over again and it doesn't seem to make an impression.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:20 AM on July 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


I had no idea what you were referring to, since chat.metafilter.com is still plenty active

I'm talking about a different site entirely that was started as a spinoff from MetaFilter that allowed aimless chat. It was really popular for a while but has wound down and I think it's a bit of a canary in the coal mine. The big difference was that it was not content-centered, it was chit-chat/socially centered.
posted by Miko at 10:23 AM on July 1, 2015


I have no idea what era people have in mind when they say "the wild west days" or "the bad old days" or whatever.

Basically the time period when it was generally okay that any FPP about a woman would involve her appearance, when (more) open homophobia and transphobia was acceptable, when rape jokes and racist jokes and so on weren't as quickly and cleanly culled (or even acknowledged) as they are now and I mean I can keep going.

If we're pulling rank here, I've been lurking since '03 or '04 and I've watched a straight-up Herculean effort unfold to make this website a better and more inclusive place for people who have to already put up with a lot of shit. And if that makes it harder for people to have shitty viewpoints that used to be tolerated, well, I guess welcome to the other side of the coin of the sort of behavior you miss on this website.
posted by griphus at 10:25 AM on July 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


What ideas do you - or anyone! - have to vitalize Metafilter, while still honoring the ethos of the site?

Not sure to what extend MetaFilter advertizes itself, but it may be worth it to do that, or concentrate more on it. I first came on in 2009, following a link from Time magazine about best of the web that year, but before that I didn't know it existed.
posted by Mooski at 10:27 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not talking about moderator activity, I'm talking about the sort of hairtrigger tone policing that goes on in the comment threads themselves. Inclusive for some, maybe, but exclusive for others. These things are all tradeoffs. Make of it whatever you will. If this is what metafilter wants to be, then great, but I doubt it's helping the site grow.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:30 AM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have no idea what era people have in mind when they say "the wild west days" or "the bad old days" or whatever.

I think the most likely general break point there is circa 2007, which is around when people on the site started having a series of really big, challenging discussions in Metatalk about boyzone issues and casual sexism and misogyny being an ongoing problem in the community. It's also around when moderation stopped being quite as much of the threadbare, Matt (and then also Jess) Doesn't Really Get To Sleep Soundly Ever arrangement and it got to be a little more possible to actually practically address some of those things. And related ideas regarding people being casually or overtly shitty about other social stuff, or even just sort of plain mean and shitty and jerkish in an omnidirectional way. Outright crappy behavior was, in its own weird way, sort of celebrated and treated as cult entertainment on the site in the early days in a way that was honestly pretty fucked up and unhealthy for the community. Goading someone in a bad place into really properly melting down for everyone's gawking amusing was sort of considered normal, or at least a lot more normal than it is now. We used to make a lot more jokes about popping some popcorn instead of just saying "uh, this seems like a bad scene, let's not do this."

And the thing is not that older Metafilter was bad. It was good, it was a place I liked being. But it wasn't good because of those things, it was good despite them. And it was still relatively good about some of that stuff by internet standards of the time. But that shit was a problem, and it was more than skin deep and took a lot of collective effort and involved no small amount of pushback just to make some lasting progress on.

A lot of the defining character of the older, freer days of young Metafilter was people being free to be pretty shitty. In amongst all the good stuff, for sure. But still.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:32 AM on July 1, 2015 [24 favorites]


Advertising is an interesting idea. It sort of seems like the general "how do you find MeFi" standard was relatively passive on this site - we built it, they will come? I found it, like a lot of people, through other people and through shared links on the early stone age web. MeFi occasionally gets mentioned or linked in mainstream media. Other than that?

When I think about media that I'm drawn into today, it's often through shared links on Facebook or Twitter but it's also through ads on websites I already frequent.

Audience building/recruitment is one of the things I think a focused planning process would look at. Figuring out what are the pathways in, what are the pathways in at other roughly-comparable sites, and what pathways could potentially benefit MeFi in growing audience that we are not currently using.

Then, the culture thing comes up. When you get attracted virally, like people attract like people, and that's how we have gotten a website of verbal, beanplating, curiosity-driven, largely middlish-class English speakers. With ads, we'd draw people from different niches and interest sectors, and that would have a moderation and culture impact that might call for stronger/clearer standards that are less an emergent property of user sensibilities.
posted by Miko at 10:43 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: "I was unable to discover any links or references to www.metachat.org from anywhere on Metafilter"

There are over 2400 comments and 180 posts that mention MetaChat. Not sure what you are talking about.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:01 AM on July 1, 2015


Makes sense Cortex, my recollection is that I wasn't very active on Metafilter around then and certainly wasn't paying any attention to metatalk. Not surprising I missed it.

Anyway, I'm not trying to start another argument. Really tired of 'em actually. Just seemed like people who are comfortable within the current consensus culture might not realize how exclusive it can feel to someone on the outside, and as someone who used to be on the inside I thought I might be able to explain that in a way that would be heard. But really, whatever, it's not my problem anymore and I'm not here to argue about the whys and wherefores.

rock steady: never occurred to me to do a search, just looked around in the about page, list of related sites, etc.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:08 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that Metafilter is in fact drifting steadily towards a general consensus that "expressing views that run counter to the community norm" amounts to "being a jerk"--even when those views are expressed politely and in a spirit of reasonable debate

Personally, I think this happens pretty rarely. Most of the time, the people who express views that get them into trouble have either denigrated a large group of people -- such as women, minorities, the poor, sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ folks, religious people, etc -- or said something that reveals a disturbing lack of empathy. People who express themselves politely and in a spirit of reasonable debate rarely get banned. The only one that comes to mind in recent times is Joe Beese/Trurl/Egg Shen. Perhaps 'That Fuzzy Bastard.' Maybe.

The biggest complaint I've had about Metafilter for years and years is that many members of this community often seem incapable of understanding that other groups of people aren't monolithic stereotypes. But that really hasn't changed over time because it's a problem with Western culture, not one that's inherent to metafilter.
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Goading someone in a bad place into really properly melting down for everyone's gawking amusing was sort of considered normal, or at least a lot more normal than it is now. We used to make a lot more jokes about popping some popcorn instead of just saying "uh, this seems like a bad scene, let's not do this."

A positive side-effect of this is MetaTalk callout threads of individual users are rare as hell nowadays.
posted by zarq at 11:12 AM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I do know that this general trend towards the enforcement of "site-approved positions" on virtually every politically touchy subject imaginable is lowering my own enjoyment of the site

Site-approved positions:
Treat female people like people
Treat black people like people
Treat gay people like people
Treat trans people like people
Treat fat people like people
Treat disabled people like people

You may find it possible to extrapolate other site-approved positions from the above list.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:14 AM on July 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


The word "people" looks super weird when you type it that many times.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


There still exists a thing called The WELL, it's true.

The registration page says that you can do a trial for 1 month for $6.50. A hundred dollars for a year.
posted by bukvich at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2015


Treat female people like people
Treat black people like people
Treat gay people like people
Treat trans people like people
Treat fat people like people
Treat disabled people like people

You may find it possible to extrapolate other site-approved positions from the above list.


Sure. And I know it's comfortable and pleasant to tell yourself that what I (and others) really want is to indulge in an orgy of race-hatred, misogyny, homophobia etc. That puts us happily beyond the pale and you don't need to pay any attention to what we're saying. And, of course, you can't refute a sneer.

But speaking as someone who doesn't, at all, want to see "female people" or "black people" or "gay" or "trans people" (et al) treated as anything but "people"--and am entirely happy to see any comment that expresses active hostility to any group of people as a class deleted immediately that still leaves an awful lot of room for comments which get deleted or severely reproved by the community without expressing any such deplorable positions. If the Metafilter consensus is that a particular policy wouldn't be recommended or position held unless the motives were suspect then comments that recommend that policy or defend that position will be treated as highly suspect regardless of whether or not the commenter is expressing any hostile attitudes of any kind.
posted by yoink at 11:36 AM on July 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Just seemed like people who are comfortable within the current consensus culture might not realize how exclusive it can feel to someone on the outside, and as someone who used to be on the inside I thought I might be able to explain that in a way that would be heard.

This makes it seem as though we all woke up one morning and site culture had *hey presto!* changed to something new and everybody's had to scramble to adjust. That's not what happened. Current site culture is, as mentioned by cortex above, based on 8+ years of sometimes intense, often difficult discussion, and the shift has been driven by MeFites rather than imposed by some external force.

It's not surprising that people who perceive that they used to be "on the inside" would be displeased that their previous manner of interaction is no longer accepted without criticism or pushback.
posted by Lexica at 11:40 AM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


People who express themselves politely and in a spirit of reasonable debate rarely get banned.

"Banning" is rare, sure. But you don't need to get comments deleted for nothing more than being deemed "counter to the group consensus" too often to get a pretty strong message about what will and won't be tolerated in terms of stretching the acceptable terms of Metafilter debate. You also don't have to be on the site very long to realize that basically you can be as vituperative and as personal as you like in insulting individual members if they are considered "outsiders" to the consensus, where anyone who is trying to defend an unpopular view will not be allowed even the most fleeting moment of bad temper in response. Look at the crap that, say, Ironmouth has to put up with regularly.

And he's a useful example of just how extraordinarily narrow the band of "acceptable" opinion on Metafilter is. I've rarely, if ever, seen Ironmouth express a political opinion that one wouldn't classify as "left wing" on the US spectrum--and yet the endless vituperation, mocking, personal attacks etc. he gets here make me wonder at his willingness to come back.
posted by yoink at 11:52 AM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Could it be, perhaps, just perhaps, not necessarily the opinion then and rather the person and the way they chose to express it and their reputation and how they go about on the site in general?
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


But you don't need to get comments deleted for nothing more than being deemed "counter to the group consensus" too often to get a pretty strong message about what will and won't be tolerated in terms of stretching the acceptable terms of Metafilter debate.

It's deeply unlikely to be the case that "nothing more" is what's involved in cases where someone ends up having comments deleted on a regular basis. I think there's a fair and obvious argument to be made that it can be harder to argue an unpopular position than a popular one, and the way that plays out in open conversation is complicated and often kind of problematic as a second-order dynamic. But there's also a ton of crappy rhetorical behavior that does get mixed up in all that, and to pretend otherwise makes it impossible to have a useful discussion of those dynamics.

Similarly:

You also don't have to be on the site very long to realize that basically you can be as vituperative and as personal as you like in insulting individual members if they are considered "outsiders" to the consensus, where anyone who is trying to defend an unpopular view will not be allowed even the most fleeting moment of bad temper in response.

ignores the fact that folks who are routinely vituperative, even on the notionally well-liked side of an argument, do in fact get called out on it, by the community and by mods. Again, the balance of these things definitely reflects in part the varying pressure that generally controversial vs. generally well-accepted arguments get, but the reality is a lot muddier than your framing here suggests.

One thing that tends to be inescapable about sides-taking stuff is that people tend routinely to remember the worst behavior of people with home they disagree or of whom they disapprove, and to forgive or forget the worse behavior of those they're on the same page with. And that can be a frustrating contributing factor to discussions themselves, certainly, but it's also a frustrating part of these meta-discussions where claims like the above get brought out with a straight face despite not comporting well with the reality and history of discussion on the site.

Look at the crap that, say, Ironmouth has to put up with regularly.

Ironmouth has along history of digging in hard and tonedeaf on discussions. He's still here, he's still allowed to be here, he's still a smart guy with interesting insights on stuff. But if he is an example of someone who runs into friction on the site "for nothing more than being deemed 'counter to the group consensus'", you need to find a much better example.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:03 PM on July 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


comfortable within the current consensus culture might not realize how exclusive it can feel to someone on the outside

Hm. And yet I don't feel like I'm a member of a "current consensus culture," I feel like an outsider who's very often taking positions that people (sometimes people like yourself) are arguing with and pushing back. Strangely enough.
posted by Miko at 12:04 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


It has been my personal experience that frequently people remember the moments when they feel like an outsider much, much more saliently than they remember the moments when they feel in sync with a community of people. With that in mind, I'm not entirely sure that defining this as an insider/outsider dynamic is really helpful when it comes to understanding site dynamics.

Like Miko, I've often felt like an outsider here too! I'm actually curious now: does anyone feel like an 'insider' or a member of a cultural consensus with respect to Metafilter?
posted by sciatrix at 12:18 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


yoink, Ironmouth isn't a great example, in my opinion, because I think his opinions are actually less of a problem than his behavior. I know I avoid commenting in threads where he's active, not because I necessarily disagree with him on any given topic, but because I seriously dislike his commenting style.

I feel like he doesn't discuss certain topics, such as law, unions, employee rights or law enforcement. Instead, I've mostly seen him stake out a position and then dig in and flood those threads with disagreement. There's little give and take on his part. Which gives me the impression that he doesn't seem all that interested in what other people have to say except when they a) agree with him or b) need to be corrected, in his opinion. This doesn't always happen, and there are times when inflexibility is great and good and appropriate, but does it stifle discussion?

Plus, and this is more of a personal annoyance, I'd really prefer it if he would use a disclaimer when defending cops in metafilter threads, since that's what he does for a living.

None of this is necessarily a problem, per se. I freely admit that it's totally possible that what he's doing is perfectly fine but I'm being ridiculous or overly sensitive and he's simply rubbing me the wrong way. But I suspect the pushback he gets is more because of his behavior than his opinions.
posted by zarq at 12:18 PM on July 1, 2015


I absolutely feel like my views on political and social justice issues pretty well match up with the general zeitgeist here, but I still agree with these recent comments from Rhaomi:
But I've also noticed that in the last 2-3 years such valuable discussions have been soured more and more by the most zealous aspects of the Twitter/Tumblr callout culture -- a kind of zero-tolerance hostility not just towards redpillers, gamergators, casual racists, and other overt enemies, but towards friends and allies that conduct themselves imperfectly. Where polite disagreement and well-meaning cluelessness is equated with bigotry and hate speech, and scorned just as hard. [...]

I worry about the long-term viability of the site if it develops a reputation as an unforgiving minefield of esoteric critical theory and identity politics that's unwelcoming not just for social conservatives but for people who are sympathetic to (or even members of) marginalized groups.
posted by lalex at 12:20 PM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Mars Saxman: "it's hard to see how the relative newbies making such comments would even remember those days."

FWIW, I became a member in August 2001.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:22 PM on July 1, 2015


Like Miko, I've often felt like an outsider here too! I'm actually curious now: does anyone feel like an 'insider' or a member of a cultural consensus with respect to Metafilter?

On abortion, civil rights, racism and some feminist issues, yes.
On politics, sometimes.
On atheism, religion and theism, Judaism, Israel/Palestine, pop culture, circumcision, and quite a few other topics, no. Not at all.
posted by zarq at 12:22 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm actually curious now: does anyone feel like an 'insider' or a member of a cultural consensus with respect to Metafilter?

I think the longer and more active you are on this site the more of a chicken/egg thing this becomes. Like I have no idea how much of my worldview incidentally aligns with MeFi and how much of it is shaped by facts and experiences people (friends!) here relate.

So with many social issues, sure, I definitely feel like I'm part of a general majority opinion that more-or-less aligns with the "treat [marginalized group] like human beings and try to value their insight on their place in the world." On other topics (e.g. atheism/theism) I feel like I definitely picked a side and there's at least a few other sides and they clash but there's no feeling that there's a remote consensus for any of those clashing positions. For a scant few topics (most of which relate to my opinions and experiences with capitalism and socialism/Marxism/communism) I definitely feel like I'm on the outside and standing with some uncomfortable company at that but that's okay.
posted by griphus at 12:37 PM on July 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm the consummate insider, but sadly I'm the only one.

Perhaps part of the issue in drop in FPPs is the fear that many have expressed about making posts. An effort last year to encourage people to post (#JulyByWomen) drove posting to near historic maximums, while commenting returned to the baselines enjoyed in 2011/2012.

#JulyByWomen also appears to be associated with a spike in last comments - users delurking, or people storming off - and a spike in individual users commenting, though not at levels previously enjoyed.

I'd suggest more efforts to encourage people to post (a #FirstPost project) as a way of increasing user engagement. This may backfire, as people perceive posts going badly and are scared off instead.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:41 PM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'd suggest more efforts to encourage people to post (a #FirstPost project) as a way of increasing user engagement.

I think this is a really good idea.
posted by lalex at 12:46 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: #FirstPost project

I like this idea a lot. And if people want tips or encouragement, it would be good to have some experienced posters who'd be open to giving tips and encouragement. I'd be happy to do that.
posted by Kattullus at 12:48 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, too, think this is a good idea and definitely wouldn't mind giving a hand.
posted by griphus at 12:53 PM on July 1, 2015


(Although I can't imagine what anyone would be coming to me for save for I guess reassurance that at least one other person here will enjoy that thirty-second YouTube video of a beagle wearing a hat.

He thinks he's people!)
posted by griphus at 12:58 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love the #FirstPost idea. Happy to lend a hand.

Would also be in favor of expanding the initiative beyond just first time posters.
posted by zarq at 1:00 PM on July 1, 2015


What are your thoughts, zarq?
posted by lalex at 1:05 PM on July 1, 2015


zarq: "Would also be in favor of expanding the initiative beyond just first time posters."

There is a sort of catch phrase on talk radio: First Time Long Time, which is short for "First time caller, but a long time listener." I'd love to see an initiative called "#FirstTimeLongTime to encourage MeFites to make their first post ever or their first post in a long time.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:05 PM on July 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


lalex, I like Rock Steady's suggestion!

I was thinking that this could be an initiative for people who have never posted, or who have only posted once, twice or a handful of times and then gave up and never posted again.

Whatever people wanna do, I'm happy to support. :)
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on July 1, 2015


the fear that many have expressed about making posts.

I am totally in favor of projects that get anybody to post more.

I would say, though, that fear of posting is not new so I don't think it's exactly directly responsible for a decline in posts. There was always fear of posting (and the levies were once quite harsh!)
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Would it be possible to push notification of the project to all users? Dismissable banner or something?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:46 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


When we last talked about organizing a Month to Encourage First- or Second- or Third-time posters, we talked about doing it in the Fall*. I have a calendar reminder for August 20th to post a MeTa about it, but if someone else wants to take initiative and do it sooner/later (especially later since late fall is secret quonsar season, and 97% of my MeFi time is spent in the glorious persuit of quonstacles), that would be awesome, too. I have some notes/early drafts at a FPP I'm happy to share (w/no expectations about their use or utility!).

It's a little trickier since this is an effort that comes from outside the group being encouraged, but I think it is doable.

* This idea was last seriously floated around the time of Women's March, and was initially planned for this summer, but got pushed back during the debate about a different get-out-the-post effort
posted by julen at 3:53 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel awkward doing this, because I don't really do those "Here's what I dislike about MetaFilter" comments much, but if I leave the site, it will be a drifting away, not a Big Red Button thing, so I guess I'll just leave this here for posterity:

I think the problem with the site is a regrettable but unavoidable result of fighting boyzone/racism/etc. Looking back on an old thread recently, I was stunned by 1) how sexist it was, but 2) by how there were female users just going along with the flow. I think I understand that (if you're always being surrounded by that kind of shit, one way to handle it is to just shrug it off or ignore it), but it was still surprising.

When Jessamyn spearheaded efforts to improve the site socially, I was pretty excited. I kinda imagined a future where people of every color and persuasion and trait would engage in discussing mentos & coke or mysterious disappearances or amazing con-men or the technology used to make laserproof paint out of bear hair, without being subject to -phobia or -ogyny. Okay, but how do we get there? You need people who are willing to stand up against racist comments, sexist comments, transphobic comments, etc. Those people, logically, will be people who are very active in taking on these issues. Okay, that makes sense. So activist members work on improving the site's comments, and it works! Of course, constant vigilance and maintenance are necessary, but there's no way you could mistake a 2015 thread for a 2005 thread. So far, so great. Now, what do these people want to talk about? Well, they're activists, they're dedicated to social issues, so, of course, they're interested in social issues. Which means they're going to post serious threads about social issues. And, of course, these are serious threads, so disagreements within them will be serious disagreements.

So it has felt like the site has gotten super serious and angry. And I don't mean "the SJWs are angry" or "the MRAs are angry". I mean everyone is angry. I get angry. MetaFilter isn't a site I visit when I'm stressed and want to relax and have fun, it's a site that I find interesting but which I find find stressful, and which I need to take breaks from to relax and have fun.

Does that mean the good old days were better? No, not really. I'm just disappointed that MeFi turned into an inclusive serious-and-angry place instead of an inclusive fun place.

The other factor is the race-to-complaint thing (this is a totally separate topic from the activism thing, not related to -ism or -ogyny or -phobia, but every topic, including mentos & coke and mysterious disappearances). MetaFilter often doesn't feel like a place where you post cool stuff so that people can talk about it, but a place where you post cool stuff so people can tell you why it actually sucks.

Those two factors are why I haven't referred anyone to MeFi in years.

I mean, I'm still here, so I guess I like the place. But if I trail away, instead of suddenly vanishing, then this is probably why.
posted by Bugbread at 4:50 PM on July 1, 2015 [33 favorites]


I'm just disappointed that MeFi turned into an inclusive serious-and-angry place instead of an inclusive fun place.

I've been feeling kind of the same way, though perhaps not quite so strongly. I also took a look through the links on the front page just yesterday from this point of view, as a sort of double check for confirmation bias, and it seemed like the majority of the posts were actually still more towards the fun end of the spectrum.

What I've been feeling is that the bar is too low for newsfilter/outragefilter sort of posts. I think there's definitely a place for them on this site, but there should be something remarkable about the linked material to make it a good quality post, and I feel like too often there is not. I don't know if the community here in general wishes the bar for those was set higher, it's just my personal wish that it would be.

MetaFilter often doesn't feel like a place where you post cool stuff so that people can talk about it, but a place where you post cool stuff so people can tell you why it actually sucks.

Again, I feel the same way. This recently happened in a post that was a video of someone giving a talk about transporting a steam locomotive. It was disappointing to see that immediately turn into an angry conversation about how the person in the video is actually a terrible person and so on.
posted by FishBike at 5:23 PM on July 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Bugbread: MetaFilter often doesn't feel like a place where you post cool stuff so that people can talk about it, but a place where you post cool stuff so people can tell you why it actually sucks.

I feel that's kinda been the case since I started coming here, way back in 2001. I mean, there's a clusterfuck of a discussion about Frederic Jameson and Neuromancer going on right now. It made me sad to see people rush out to be dismissive, but it's nothing new. I was expecting it since in my experience a number of MeFites feels very comfortable to shit on anything related to the humanities. There are other topics like that, where the site culture tolerates that sort of behavior. I personally think it's a problem, and it certainly isn't welcoming to new users interested in topics which frequently trigger these weird pileons of this sucks.
posted by Kattullus at 5:25 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Noisy Pink Bubbles: "Alternative / complimentary theory: economic cycles. The economy is getting better since the peak of active-user-ness in 2011..."

I agree with this. I was out of work from 2010 to 2012. I spent a lot of time on Metafilter during that time. Now I have a job and an hour+ commute, so I spend a lot less time here.

Bugbread: "I'm just disappointed that MeFi turned into an inclusive serious-and-angry place instead of an inclusive fun place."

I also agree with this. Is Flash Friday even a thing anymore? I enjoy megaposts and thoughtful analysis of deep subjects, but there don't seem to be as many posts dedicated to fun and silliness.

Another thing that I don't think anyone has mentioned is that not every account that stops commenting is someone leaving the site. I did a self-BND for anonymity. My old account hasn't made a comment since 2009 and is now disabled. Others have done BND for their own reasons. There are a lot of "new" users who are obviously "old" users.

Then there are the sock puppets. I'm sure they play hell with any attempt at user data analysis.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:26 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


What, pray tell, is a "sock puppet"?
posted by Treaty of Westphalia at 5:29 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Flash Friday

Unfortunately what would have been a Flash Game five years ago is now an app, so harder to link. There used to be a new clicker game every couple of weeks, not long ago.

What, pray tell, is a "sock puppet"?

Sock puppets on the MeFi wiki.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:31 PM on July 1, 2015


also your name is treaty of westphalia so that was me missing a joke
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:32 PM on July 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


I also agree with Bugbread. I recently decided that I will no longer participate on the Blue or Ask, although I haven't decided yet if I should just disable my account. My downfall was reading MetaTalk. By doing that, I have come to distrust more than a few very active members who show up in threads a lot. And being here feels like work---like threading a needle that gets smaller and more difficult to do after every contentious MeTa. I wish I never read MeTa.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:36 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really feel one of the key points in the success of #JulyByWomen was the overall heightened awareness on MetaFilter through the month that members who had never made posts, or rarely made posts, were actively stepping up their posting contributions because of the specific encouragement of the initiative - perhaps with some level of anxiety on their part - and so members seemed to be much more considered & positive, and less snarky or drive-by, in their commenting behavior.

This was not only individual improvement in how we treated each poster (or each post's topic) but in how we treated our own contributions - being a bit more thoughtful. I noticed quite often that members specifically went out of their way to stop & leave positive comments on posts that they might otherwise not bother to do (specifically to encourage new posters, in large part) and I also noticed comments seemed to have more focus to the topic at hand rather than random chatter. The collective effect, IMO, made MeFi more fun and less of a minefield than it had been in quite some time; it was a nice cycle of more contributions (and more breadth of contributions from a wider range of posters) ---> more positive comments ---> more members encouraged to contribute both posts & comments, and so on.

I have said before that I think the most active users, who feel comfortable contributing here regularly and comfortable making casual off-the-cuff comments, or getting into back-and-forths with other highly-active users, maybe just don't realize (because they themselves are comfortable) how intimidating participating can be for a regular lurker (of which there are obviously way more of than active users - a mostly-silent audience). People keep coming back and reading because of the excellent posts & comments they find, but negativity has an outsized emotional impact and we can all think of threads that seemed to feel dim or toxic by only a couple of snotty comments or a dismissive derail - even if the majority of the participation was fine, we walk away thinking "ugh", so imagine the accretion of all those negative moments resulting in lurkers not wanting to risk getting caught in something like that by speaking up or sharing.

I think the value in a #FirstPost or #FirstTimeLongTime initiative absolutely includes creating an ongoing conscious reminder to be more aware of the effect our contributions have on each other and on lurkers who read but don't usually participate; as well as the inclusivity of actively inviting quieter members to take the floor with a visible effort to keep the negative dismissiveness at bay so they feel good about stepping up. That helps sustain a healthy community that people want to participate more often within & want to recommend to others. #JulyByWomen's quality in posts was amazing & that quality is what we lose if we are not being aware, thoughtful, & inclusive with the members already invested in the site.
posted by flex at 5:38 PM on July 1, 2015 [19 favorites]


oh man I miss Flash Friday

Also jesus that Neuromancer thread. I mean MeFi has never, in my experience, done the intersection of pop culture and lit crit well but, sigh, I wish it wasn't populated with "I don't get it and it sucks" and "you don't get it and you suck" but oh well.
posted by griphus at 5:40 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


More datawankery here: graphs about deleted comments, favourites and tags. In a nutshell:
- Mods work harder to delete comments but the actual percentage of deleted comments remains small
- People favourite comments a lot and it's increasing
- "Social justice" (see PDF for caveats) posts are increasing though actual numbers of SJ posts remain comparatively small. They're quite popular, with a higher comments/post ratio (and comment deletion ratio...) than other categories, as well as much more total favorites. See slide 13, that's pretty impressive: SJ posts (in the limited definition of the study) overtook arts and politics in terms of total comment favorites in 2014.
- Traditionally "political" posts are declining (even comment favorites are down)
- TLDR: the bulk of Metafilter is still made of art/science/tech/history etc. stuff but social justice activity has been growing fast in the past years.
posted by elgilito at 5:47 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Seymour Zamboni: "I wish I never read MeTa."

Yeah. Part of the reason I hesitated about my above comment is that while I can see things I dislike about the site, I have no idea what kind of improvements to make. MetaTalk is another area like that. I have specifically taken breaks from MeTa because it was grinding me down (I read MeFi via RSS, so I unsubscribed from the MeTa RSS). Besides the general nice stuff ("User A and User B got married!", "Thanks, MeFi, for helping me through a hard time in my life") it also has stuff that actively improves the site (JulyByWomen, etc.). So getting rid of it would be bad. But on the other hand, I feel very confident that a disproportionate percentage of the people who leave MeFi (and I'm referring to both drifting away and disabling their accounts) do so as the result of MeTa.
posted by Bugbread at 5:53 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Elgilito, that's awesome. Do you think you could do one in which the social justice category includes the other social justice issues (poverty, class, prisons, etc.) or would the tag identification just be too hard?
posted by Bugbread at 6:00 PM on July 1, 2015


Uh, sorry to be making all these requests: How about total comments, and total comments per category?
Like, "there were 2,000,000 comments in January. There were 1,000 comments in posts in the Giraffe category", that kind of thing. I'm just really curious if trends I'm seeing are actual big trends, or confirmation bias, or actual but tiny trends magnified by confirmation bias.
posted by Bugbread at 6:06 PM on July 1, 2015


- Traditionally "political" posts are declining (even comment favorites are down)

I've thought that was the case for a while now. Thanks for looking at the data. I guess there just isn't much to talk about when American government is in such a pre-election stalemate.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:10 PM on July 1, 2015


I was and continue to be disheartened by the way the community responded to the juneByLGBT metatalk discussion.
If there is an example of a discussion that describes the narrowing of acceptable discourse here on metafilter, that's the one that defines it for me.

The goal, I thought, was to highlight good content brought to the site by a minority within the membership, and descended fairly rapidly into a discussion about how "LGBT" excluded minorities and how do we deal with that and ended up with it just being a very bad idea and the OP of it ended up taking a break because it had devolved into such a crappy mess. Her good intentions just weren't good enough for a select and very vocal set of members.

But it ended with zero result and has definitely diminished my interest in supporting any future initiatives along that line. It has poisoned the well for my participation here. Certainly, being told I was "being an asshole" for pointing out the dynamic didn't help.

By the logic used in that discussion, any initiative for first posters would preclude participation in a #firstpost initiative because it would exclude non-first post members. Which doesn't make a damn bit of sense, but then, neither did that metatalk discussion.
posted by disclaimer at 6:15 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


By the logic used in that discussion, any initiative for first posters would preclude participation in a #firstpost initiative because it would exclude non-first post members.

I would be very surprised if this sentiment is expressed in a thread about a FirstPost initiative.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:00 PM on July 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I doubt the logic used in that thread would be applied to a FirstPost initiative. That thread was a bit of an edge case.
posted by Bugbread at 7:13 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I gotta say, I'm right here in discussion, and it feels weird to be obliquely mentioned like that as a lesson on the consequences of site discussions--and this is not the first time that's happened on MeTa recently. Unless of course you are talking about roomthreeseventeen, who posted the JuneByLGBT thread (as opposed to the second JuneByQueers one I posted) and did not take a break at any point that I'm aware of.

I have a lot of complicated feelings about how the JuneBy discussion went down, but this feels like using me as some kind of rallying cry and I'm not entirely sure I am comfortable with that. It doesn't, for one, seem to me like a good way to figure out how to move forward and build community on this site in a positive way. Mostly, my gut feeling regarding that discussion is that this is a great way to wind up rehashing it, and I am not confident that that's going to happen here in a positive way any time soon.

That said, concurring with Bugbread and Greg Nog that that's a very, very different case from the first time posters month being debated now.
posted by sciatrix at 7:23 PM on July 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


in my experience a number of MeFites feels very comfortable to shit on anything related to the humanities. There are other topics like that, where the site culture tolerates that sort of behavior.

There's been at least one MeTa about that kind of churlish anti-intellectual crap before. But I have to concur that the Neuromancer thread is unfortunately pretty typical; I see no progress whatsoever on this front, and perhaps even a small retrenchment toward the Engineer's Syndrome so prevalent elsewhere on the Internet in the last few years — both in terms of the site culture of aggressively dismissive knee-jerk threadshitting and the absence of any moderation dealing with it. MeFi is pretty much not a place for serious discussion about the humanities, and many or most MeFites don't seem to want it to be. And that is okay in itself as far as it goes, I guess, but it does seem like it pretty well gives the lie to the frequently voiced pretense that this is a universal, topic-neutral site or one where remotely well-informed discussion always takes precedence over dipshit knee-jerk dismissal.
posted by RogerB at 7:29 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


social justice activity has been growing fast in the past years.

Not unrelated: social justice activity in society has been growing fast in the past years. This isn't a MeFi-only phenomenon. We can trace a lot of it to Seattle and to Occupy and to the eventual triumph of critical studies in universities and the milennial boom and a lot of other social-demographic factors that have nothing specific to do with the site; it's the zeitgeist. I mean, we have to evaluate the site in terms of wider cultural conditions, and this is at least as important a shift in social focus as the economic crisis was/is.

there were female users just going along with the flow.

I was one of those users, and I want to say it wasn't great - there was just no choice. We went to "war" with the MetaFilter we had. There was enough I liked about it that I stayed, but I felt increasingly required/emboldened to speak up. I think that was all to the good. I think it would be a mistake to point at the externals of those days and say "look how chill the wimminz were!" (exaggerated for comic effect) because "going along with the flow" was not how it felt to be one of those women at the time, at least to me. "Wading through a ration of crap to try to claim a place here because in general the rest of this site is good" was more like it.
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on July 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


Miko, not sure if you're disagreeing with me or you just quoted me to make a general point, but:

Miko: "I think it would be a mistake to point at the externals of those days and say "look how chill the wimminz were!" "

That's not at all what I meant.

Miko: "it wasn't great - there was just no choice... "Wading through a ration of crap to try to claim a place here because in general the rest of this site is good" was more like it."

That is exactly what I meant. As far as I can tell, we are in complete agreement.
posted by Bugbread at 7:43 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I've been feeling is that the bar is too low for newsfilter/outragefilter sort of posts. I think there's definitely a place for them on this site, but there should be something remarkable about the linked material to make it a good quality post, and I feel like too often there is not. I don't know if the community here in general wishes the bar for those was set higher, it's just my personal wish that it would be.

I agree with this completely and feel like a whole lot of the grar and ill-will on the site stems from those kinds of posts (which then bleeds over into other areas.) I wonder what those posts with the most comments and deletions were about; it would be interesting to look at the most contentious threads to see if they might be borderline news/outragefilter.

Personally, I've reduced my participation because I find all the fighting and meanness really stressful

On preview:

I think it would be a mistake to point at the externals of those days and say "look how chill the wimminz were!" (exaggerated for comic effect) because "going along with the flow" was not how it felt to be one of those women at the time, at least to me.

I think Bugbread was saying that "going with the flow" was simply a coping mechanism for the women caught in the boyzone, not that women were actually cool with it or were actually cooler then.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:45 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oops too slow!
posted by Room 641-A at 7:47 PM on July 1, 2015


Fantastic job, elgilito! Merci!
posted by bru at 7:53 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I believe that. I think that "going with the flow" is just a phrase that implies a casual acquiesence that isn't an accurate representation of what many people were experiencing.

I understand what I think was the larger point, that it wasn't that women were absent from the site earlier, but that they had a lot more overt sexism to contend with.
posted by Miko at 7:55 PM on July 1, 2015


Not unrelated: social justice activity in society has been growing fast in the past years. This isn't a MeFi-only phenomenon. We can trace a lot of it to Seattle and to Occupy and to the eventual triumph of critical studies in universities and the milennial boom and a lot of other social-demographic factors that have nothing specific to do with the site; it's the zeitgeist. I mean, we have to evaluate the site in terms of wider cultural conditions, and this is at least as important a shift in social focus as the economic crisis was/is.

I think there was a big shift in 2007/2008 due to the presidential primaries, too. Having a frontrunner who's a woman and a frontrunner who's Black brought a lot of ugliness, and a lot of pushback against that ugliness, into the mainstream. I think a lot of assumptions supporters had about what Obama could or should accomplish also pushed social justice issues to the forefront in the US.
posted by jaguar at 8:08 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm conflicted. There's part of me that wants to join in saying "everyone's so much more sensitive now!" because it does seem to cause stress when people raise their concerns about identity issues and the like. We are arguing about levels of nuance unimaginable in previous eras. And we are a generalist site and have to calibrate what that means to encourage and maintain the participation of diverse users, including those with more conventional/mainstream views.

But at the same time, it's hard to be super-sympathetic because what feels to some like "the fighting and meanness" is so much less mean to so many people than the site was just a few years ago.

Some of this is about an actual lowering of the bar, a finer gauge for what's a legitimate form of complaint; some of it is just plain a difference in which categories of users have to deal with the unpleasanter side of the interactions. I don't really know where to calibrate that but I can't quite agree that the site was great for 10 years, then suddenly became "fighty." The site was contentious and somewhat oppressive and very tough for a lot of people to participate in before. We're now kind of dealing with resistance that's subtle and hides in corners, and when it flares up in a direct conflict it looks "fighty" to some people, but it's honestly so much less unpleasant/aggressive than it was before, for a lot of us. It's hard to remember how often and regularly people who complained about oppressive rhetoric were told "get a thicker skin" (remember that?) but now people who complain about it are being told that they're the bullies and attackers. I guess I just don't completely buy that that's really okay. It's not that I think the shoe should be on the other foot and we should all gloat about it. I'm just not sure we've really created an environment that's equally hostile in the other direction. There's at least a possibility that this is what fair and mutally respectful interaction kind of looks like.

I'm concerned about MeFi - not least because I'm less interested, too. There are so many great places to get good content now. What I love about this site is what has been the guarantee of informed, interesting conversation among smart people. I see that we're weakening on that core offering, but I don't think it's because folks are asking to be treated with more respect and sensitivity. I think that's a red herring. They're concurrent but the relationship isn't causative in either direction. As we know, people who don't want to wade into MeTas just don't, and they still can participate on Ask and the Blue and get a ton out of the site. If we have a problem, I think it's that (a) a long-in-the-tooth userbase has less new to say and less interest in rehashing conversations, so they do less to keep conversation flowing, and (b) we're not really replacing the departing users in equal or greater numbers.

Of course patience for contention gets less when you're older and have been at this longer and just tire of the same people whingeing about the same things. When you're no longer deriving as great a value from the site experience, that starts to take on more defining import for you. It's motivation-hygeine theory, basically, in a non-monetary form. When your general level of derived satisfaction drops, you look for some source, and it seems like it must be community change. But in fact, it may be that satisfaction is dropping because you've been there/done that with most of what is posted, or because you're finding more interesting content elsewhere. But all you're consciously aware of is the site is irritating me, and interactions you might have overlooked when you were deriving more value now seem to take on an outsized significance as irritants or disappointments.

Just a thought, there. But many IRL communities go through stages that are very similar to this point in MeFi's life.
posted by Miko at 8:11 PM on July 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


But at the same time, it's hard to be super-sympathetic because what feels to some like "the fighting and meanness" is so much less mean to so many people than the site was just a few years ago.

I should have been more specific -- when I mentioned fighting and meanness, I meant the fighting amongst friends and allies. The real turning point for me was the Lena Dunham/child abuse accusation post, and an excellent example of the kind of post that I feel hurts the site, or at least the felling of community. YMMV.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:27 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remember a moderator -- cortex? -- saying we should flag as much stuff as we want. With that (hopefully accurate) recollection, I've flagged lots of what struck me as thin outrage/advocacyFilter posts, but it seems some sufficient combination of the moderators and the community want them.

To me, those sorts of posts suck up lots of the oxygen and good will in the room (site) and some people at their worst are having adverse effects far beyond their numbers.

With learning that 270 people are making half the posts, I was reminded of going to a meet-up in '09, talking with a few people about what someone called super-users (which Josh alluded to the "numbers," 90-9-1 post.

People said things like, "Can you believe how often ... posts comments?" "It's kinda sad that ... comes across as so angry and nasty."

We also talked about seeing those sorts of things on other community-esque sites. I'm a motorsports fan and I see scads of it on racing sites -- when people are sharing thoughts about freakin' cars.

The question seems to be not whether this dynamic plays out on this site, but what gets done in response.

The thought in the conversation six years ago is my thought now: sites suffer when a small number of egotistical jackasses aren't reined in.
posted by ambient2 at 8:32 PM on July 1, 2015


fighting amongst friends and allies.

Still not sure I get it. I think I have disagreed with about 100% of my friends and allies over something or other here. That's what makes horse races.

OTOH, things like talking over what makes an ideal guacamole, like the FPP right now? I can't do it again. Doesn't matter if the President is involved - I can't do it again. That kind of tiredness is what we need new blood to replace. Fortunately on that point it seems like plenty of people are not too burnt to talk guacamole.
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on July 1, 2015


90-9-1

No idea what this refers to. Can you link?

a small number of egotistical jackasses

The other hard part: Your "egotistical jackasses" might be my "favorite people on the site who I always enjoy reading."
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


you're generally gonna get a relative few very high engagement folks, a bigger chunk of middling engagement folks, and a whole lot of low engagement folks. 1/9/90, long tail
posted by twist my arm at 8:39 PM on July 1, 2015


Miko: "I understand what I think was the larger point, that it wasn't that women were absent from the site earlier, but that they had a lot more overt sexism to contend with."

Yeah, by "go with the flow" I meant more like "ignore the misogyny", not "go with the flow" in the "groovy, man, catch that vibe, go with the flow" 70s sense. I probably shouldn't have put that sentence in there, anyway. It wasn't part of my greater point, it was just an aside about how surprised I was to see women commenters in such a shitty sexist thread.

(I have also spent ten minutes now trying to figure out a way to explain this without making another verbal fumble that would give a wrong impression. I settled with "ignore the misogyny", but if that doesn't seem right, substitute the more verbose "comment in such a way that it were as if the misogynist comments in the thread had not existed")
posted by Bugbread at 8:39 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


No worries, bugbread, I think I get it now and that the "ignore" and "verbose" versions both capture what one had to do to take part.

Here's the thing, I get that without contentious threads about how to accord more sensitivity/respect to various users and user categories, the site might feel more comfortable for some.

But do you really think if that kind of thing were just gone from the site but everything else about the way it is now remained the same, the site experience would revert to the way you felt about it in the old days?

Because I think those days are just gone, and those feelings are just the way things felt to us in the past, and that it's not that kind of content that's making the site feel different - it's age, a different internet, a different zeitgeist, a changed userbase, more options, less new ground for us to cover, etc. I don't really buy that it's incusivity that's "ruined" or "changed" the site. Time brings change.
posted by Miko at 8:46 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The infighting and stomping off is statistically meaningless. It's the lack of new signups that is worrisome.

Idea: metafilter holds off on charging for new accounts for 1 month. During that month other users can pay for some % of their eventual 5$ fee. So we'd constantly be noticing and celebrating new members (it could be indicated on the comment in some way). Might make things more friendly for newbies.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:48 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Would also encourage high engagement in new users trying to win free memberships.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:50 PM on July 1, 2015


Would also make drive-by trolling much easier?
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Miko, I'm not talking about simply disagreeing with people. If that Lena Dunham thread doesn't get my point across I'm not sure I can express myself any better. It's okay, I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, I just wanted to make sure I was clear that I was talking about the way we treat each other and not about dealing with MRAs, or how it supposedly was in the "good old days."
posted by Room 641-A at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, not to say it wouldn't work here - willing to try it - but it was one of our strategies at MetaChat when users started declining. We declared one person the "new user welcome" person and had a regular thread to welcome new users and encourage them to post and ask them about themselves. I think it was a nice welcoming gesture, and people seemed to like it, but in the end not as productive as just having a rich, active site that people want to be a part of is.

I agree that the two paths for us are -attract new signups or -intentionally accept downsizing and prioritize community maintenance.
posted by Miko at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


If that Lena Dunham thread doesn't get my point across

I'm not going to read a whole thread to try to understand your point. If there's something in there that you want me to pay attention to specifically, please direct me to it.
posted by Miko at 8:52 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, that's my fault for assuming the thread was as memorable for everyone as it was for me. I don't want to derail, I'll email you later.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:04 PM on July 1, 2015


Miko: "But do you really think if that kind of thing were just gone from the site but everything else about the way it is now remained the same, the site experience would revert to the way you felt about it in the old days?"

If by "that kind of thing" you're talking about contentious MeTa threads, then No. Yes. Maybe.

Like, honestly, back in the day, I thought politicsfilter was here to stay. But it's palpably declining from its peak (and the statistical analysis bears that out). So could MetaFilter ever become an inclusive fun site? Maybe, I don't know. I have a shitty track record for making predictions, and I certainly don't know what could be done to intentionally bring about that change. That's why I said I was hesitant to comment since I don't have any solutions.

But, regarding time, yeah...While I enjoyed MeFi more back then, I wouldn't want MeFi to go back to the way it was, because the current me wouldn't enjoy it. Stuff I could turn a blind eye to back then I can't now. So I'm in a weird position of saying "I liked MeFi better then" but not "I prefer MeFi the way it was back then".

If presented the choice between "angry and inclusive" or "fun and bigoted", the modern me picks "angry and inclusive", but boy would "fun and inclusive" be nice.

(And I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything here, just expressing the way I feel. If you (the general you, not you specifically Miko) disagree, then, cool, we disagree.)

(Yeah, yeah, I've made six comments since stating that I was hesitant to comment...I guess I'm an all-or-nothing commenter)
posted by Bugbread at 9:12 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm not going to read a whole thread to try to understand your point. If there's something in there that you want me to pay attention to specifically, please direct me to it.

I just read most of that thread. Here is my take away. I think there were two mistakes some people who defended Dunham made.

1. They implied criticism was invalid because the incident was an innocent part of a normal childhood because Dunham was 7. This angered people who had experienced abuse from other children when they were young.

2. They implied anybody who criticized Dunham was part of the anti-social justice crowd, which angered people who had other justifiable motivations to criticize her.

We are a site that justifiably gives a little leeway to oppressed people when they have angry reactions because they are dealing with daily pressures that make it hard to stay calm about this stuff. However, when it comes to the point where you can't tell the difference between disagreements on highly complex grey area issues and deliberate attempts to express bigotry or hatred, you can end up hitting vulnerable people with your anger as collateral damage.

I think we should try and lean more towards a call-in rather than call-out culture, because we should see each other as people we want to be members of this community...not enemies. Obviously, that doesn't go for every single case. Like people, some Mefites are just jerks. But, I think we are just tilted a little bit too far in the outrage rather than understanding direction.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:16 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


The decline of StumbleUpon for interesting web stuff didn't help.
posted by JLovebomb at 9:50 PM on July 1, 2015


But it ended with zero result and has definitely diminished my interest in supporting any future initiatives along that line. It has poisoned the well for my participation here. Certainly, being told I was "being an asshole" for pointing out the dynamic didn't help.

I'm pretty glad we had a discussion saying that, hey, a lot of trans people really don't feel welcome here, and those of us who are cis need to learn to be better allies on a day-to-day basis before something like that can be taken as something done in good faith and not another exhausting exercise in cissexism that's likely to make us lose even more trans users than we already have.

That said, this kind of an initiative isn't going to have that kind of response, except possibly from disingenuous concern-trolling people posting in bad faith, and bringing it up like that makes you seem either like one of those disingenuous people or someone who is really clueless/tone deaf.
posted by NoraReed at 9:56 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't even imagine what would make you think that disclaimer is posting in bad faith. This kind of thing is part of the problem.
posted by lalex at 10:09 PM on July 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Assuming good faith is a basic component of having a productive conversation. If you've already decided someone is trolling, the appropriate response is to alert the mods and otherwise ignore. We'll handle it. If you decide to respond, please make a bigger effort to respond as though you're talking to a person of as much human value as yourself who has opinions that differ from yours.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:28 PM on July 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


Thank you, r_n.
posted by lalex at 10:31 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for summarizing the Dunham thread, Drinky Die. I'm appreciating this conversation, as someone who has also stopped coming to MetaFilter when I truly need to relax and started coming only when I have the capacity for some stress. I can't exactly put my finger on it (I just wrote three paragraphs, but ultimately, none quite felt right), so I'm appreciating the exploration here.
posted by salvia at 10:44 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


"I can't even imagine what would make you think that disclaimer is posting in bad faith."

The suspicion comes from a) the two things being absolutely, totally not comparable, and b) disclaimer is grinding an axe.

I agree that accusations of bad faith are counterproductive -- I think there are about a hundred reasons why it's just best to find a different way to respond. But assuming good faith behind disclaimer's comment is very unflattering to disclaimer in a different respect. It's such a invalid and inappropriate comparison that to make it in earnest means that you'd have had to somehow misunderstood the very clear and particular arguments that were made in that thread and to then also be so confused that you thought that a first time post initiative could in any way be comparable. And then to drag in sciatrix as an unwilling poster child for this bogus argument ... I'm very hard-pressed to find any reason for anyone to defend disclaimer from a charge of bad faith as if having written that comment in good faith would be an improvement.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:43 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


perhaps even a small retrenchment toward the Engineer's Syndrome so prevalent elsewhere on the Internet in the last few years

I do feel like I've noticed this also, and not just with respect to the humanities but even in the sciences, and on topics that I don't think of Metafilter as "doing poorly" in general. I thought the biodiversity/extinction thread we had recently was a good example of something that seemed like an interesting but pretty benign topic quickly getting bogged down in weird hostility. I wonder if sentiment analysis on the corpus would reveal anything interesting over the last year or so -- as Miko points out, I could just be noticing interactions like this more because of a general irritation with the site and not vice versa.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:12 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hi. Just got back to the thread. And I'll leave it after this post.
1. I wasn't in any way attempting to bring sciatrix up as an unwilling poster child. Not my intent at all, and sciatrix, I apologize unreservedly.
2. I admit to some tone-deafness about that thread. Not because I am tone-deaf about trans issues (believe me, I'm really not) but because my frustration isn't about trans members here, it was and is about the dynamic in the thread, and I won't go into my explanation about that because it's not relevant.
3. I wasn't axe grinding, nor trolling. If I came off that way to people here, I'm sorry, but that's your interpretation of a nonexistent state of mind on this end of the wire. I am disheartened and disappointed in the metafilter community. Let's leave it at that.
posted by disclaimer at 12:39 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Heh, that Neuromancer-Jameson thread. I've rarely seen so much pride and glee about self-inflicted ignorance as that one on MetaFilter. It didn't break the record of post-to-"LOLsokal pomo obscurity" ratio though, I think that currently stands at second comment in thread.

But I think this is definitely one area where more mod input is not needed. They are stretched thin as it is, and it's better to focus on topics that actually harm people. Let's leave the STEMacist chest thumping parade of stupidity where it is, for the time being. There are more important issues at stake. And I say this as an actual graduate of semiotics and currently a researcher in that very field - truly a waste of space I am, amirite LOL?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:55 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bugbread: Do you think you could do one in which the social justice category includes the other social justice issues (poverty, class, prisons, etc.) or would the tag identification just be too hard?
Tags are indeed fuzzier for other social justice issues. It is certain that the SJ tags used in the study are just a limited subset. I guess that a finer analysis would require manual categorization at some point.

How about total comments, and total comments per category?
I added 2 slides (11 and 12) to the PDF. The data:
2010: 556390 comments: arts 17.1%, science 6.6%, politics 9.2%, SJ/LGBTQ 5.0%
2011: 658251 comments: arts 17.2%, science 6.4%, politics 9.5%, SJ/LGBTQ 4.9%
2012: 641324 comments: arts 18.5%, science 7.7%, politics 13.4%, SJ/LGBTQ 5.6%
2013: 593340 comments: arts 18.7%, science 6.8%, politics 8.6%, SJ/LGBTQ 8.1%
2014: 516670 comments: arts 18.5%, science 5.4%, politics 6.9%, SJ/LGBTQ 9.5%
posted by elgilito at 3:11 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


What I've been feeling is that the bar is too low for newsfilter/outragefilter sort of posts. I think there's definitely a place for them on this site... I don't know if the community here in general wishes the bar for those was set higher...

I do, definitely.

This has been a fabulous post eglito, I would like to thank you for kickstarting such an interesting and (thus far) civil discussion.

I suppose I would be one of the 270, or close to, and like all of us I imagine, I have my own ideas about what has caused/is causing this. I do think it would be folly to ascribe a monocausal reason for these issues in aggregate - though in individual cases of course there may be one cause, even one thread or one comment.

1) Competition. I remember when I first started using ask.me as a resource a couple of years prior to signing up, I was dazzled by the diversity of the questions and the expertise bought to bear on them. I was not a naive browser by that stage, but specialist forums were often in their infancies, and experts often did weigh on ask.me. Nowadays, I might be more inclined to ask my running question on my running forum; my cooking question on chowhound, my photo question on my photo forum. Despite the noise and blah I may get in those places, I will likely get more qualified - if only in raw experience - answers than ask.me these days. I feel like this phenomenon is also at play with mefi. Reddit has undeniably stolen some mefi thunder (and sucked off a lot of bottom-feeders, too), quora, pinterest, etc.

2) Long-time member fatigue. I was never the heaviest of commenters, nor the most long-time, but I weigh in far less than I used to. Either someone has said what I wanted to say better, earlier, the signal-to-noise ratio in a given thread is so high I just can't be bothered; I'm content to read and learn in a thread; or - and some have alluded to this - I'm frankly not game to post a comment in some threads because I think people will be on me for it, even though I pride myself on being conciliatory and fairly moderate (indeed, sometimes I feel moderateness, or equivocism itself is viewed as poisonous by some). It's a range of reasons.

As a subset to 2), something else that bothers me is the rudeness I see between mefites, the aggressively bad faith readings, the tribal opprobrium or acclamation that goes with it. It tires me, it feels juvenile, cliquey, and, well hard work - and that's just reading it!

There are some topics, and some users, that will brook no difference of opinion or ambiguity, however mildly expressed. Someone called out the Lena Dunham thread, I immediately thought of the Dylan Farrrow/Woody Allen thread. I personally think it should have been nuked, but it wasn't, and there were some horrible comments by mefites, to mefites - on both sides of the "argument". It was a topic with a veritable cotillion of unknowns, but black and white won the day. Seeing mefites debase themselves like that really, ugh. And newsfilter threads - though god knows many users love them - seem to be lightning rods for this kind of thing; I almost always avoid them now; it may be cathartic for many, but it's basically an uninformed letters to the editor page, and better suited for chat, to me (or it's own subsite?).

Some of the discussion in the June by LGBTQ proposal felt much the same to me.

I realise this is a tone argument: sue me. Tone matters, it's important. If you can't be respectful to someone, why would they listen to anything you have to say?

I should also flag this is not a "mefi is drowning under a tide of censorship" thing - I'm pro-censorship! I wish there was more of it on the site! And I have little tolerance for the nostalgic comments about the "good old days". They weren't all good.

I should note, these tribal groupings are not always negative. can feel fun, and can be fun, but I think the participants don't reflect on how the inside baseball comes across to new/er users.

I feel like, I wish more mefites would/could recognise that there is room for disagreement on a lot of topics, and that reasonable people, good people can disagree - and disagree in a respectful, stimulating, way. The response is "why should I have to 'be nice' against a torrent of sexism/whateverism?' - but I feel like I've seen really aggressive, insulting pushback against a range of things that are not egregious whateverism. These voices pushing back participate in lots of threads, are very "loud", and I do think they crowd out or intimidate others.
posted by smoke at 3:28 AM on July 2, 2015 [23 favorites]


I just want to jump back in and say, I don't think our navel-gazing and criticism should overlook all the great things Mefi still is, and even better has become.

JulyByWomen remains the zenith of my time as a member; the posts, the quality, the comments, it was all fantastic.

The annual post competitions are also great I think.

Julen and the Quonsmas elves do an amazing job every year and I love reading the stories.

The huge improvements in the way we deal with sexism are fantastic, and I think there have been real improvements with regards to our treatment with other issues as well.

The way the community comes together to help members identifying as in distress, here or in ask.me, is also lovely to behold.
posted by smoke at 3:47 AM on July 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Thanks, elgilito!
posted by Bugbread at 3:52 AM on July 2, 2015


Since the data really doesn't support any claims about the growth of attention to social justice issues harming engagement with the site, why don't we focus on other stuff?

We have the data, we don't need a dozen subjective reports about the perceived effects of a single thread. (Although arguably this data is even more important.)

Is there an ideal number of active users? More than currently? Less? Is there an ideal number of comments and posts? More or less than currently? Was 2011 really better than 2015? What would make 2016 better than 2015?

It seems to me that the big finite resource is moderator attention and time. So the ideal numbers here are basically "whatever can be managed by the number of mods who that number of users support by producing content for advertising and direct subsidies."

There's no reason to want more posts and comments if that means more work for the mods without supplying more revenue. Contrariwise, if growth in the userbase *would* support more revenue, then we should aim for it. So the other data we'd need to collate this with is ad revenue, modulo the great Google Fuck Off.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:59 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


elgilito: People favourite comments a lot and it's increasing

That's very interesting. And how does it break down by users. Is the power law as fully in effect in favorites, and are there fewer users active in giving favorites than there were a few years ago?

I'm starting to wonder if the drop in post/comment activity is a result of more favoriting, i.e. that people contribute by giving favorites, where once they would comment or post more.
posted by Kattullus at 6:28 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think more posts/comments is a goal, but higher quality ones is (and yes, be the change I seek).
posted by Chrysostom at 6:32 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm starting to wonder if the drop in post/comment activity is a result of more favoriting, i.e. that people contribute by giving favorites, where once they would comment or post more.

This is cool. I hope this is true.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:36 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like Miko, I've often felt like an outsider here too! I'm actually curious now: does anyone feel like an 'insider' or a member of a cultural consensus with respect to Metafilter?

Part of the reason why I feel like an outsider on the site is having been on the "wrong side" of an issue and the way some people responded to me. It was pretty much along the lines of "Jesus, I thought you were cool, how could you think something like that" and it's just been generally downhill from there.

Which is a shame, because I still do get that feeling of "Look at this neat thing!!" and make a post and it goes well, but I'm leery of engaging much with the people of the site, because frankly it stung to feel like I was being called the "them" when in an us vs them binary, let alone having that binary exist.

Certainly I've been no angel and have made mistakes, especially in recent years. But before that, I spent time and effort building and running a separate meficlone, PoliticalFilter and then a magazine, MefiMag, so I didn't just drink the Kool-Aid, I was making it. But things have changed, some for better, some not. The site feels more like a complaint/look at this horrible thing platform, which just leaves people simmering with anger, that occasionally explodes.

That said, a permanent #MetafilterByWomen just sounds exhausting and a way for invested women to get taken for granted by the site.

I've just been tagging all my recent posts with "postsbyblackmefites". No fuss, no muss and anyone can do it for whatever group they're a part of. The big plus for me was not having to talk to anyone about it or decide on the "proper" tag or time to do. Just do it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 AM on July 2, 2015 [24 favorites]


According to Alexa metafilter's rank is now 3018 globe & 1026 U.S.

Which as best as I can recall indicates no decline at all. The declines on the graphics may be more indicative of changes in broader web usage than changes in metafilter.
posted by bukvich at 6:49 AM on July 2, 2015


Bukvich, that's for MetaFilter as a whole, not just the Blue. My understanding is that the green now gets more traffic than the blue (maybe I'm wrong about that, though. Anyone know for sure?)
posted by Bugbread at 7:46 AM on July 2, 2015


B. Blatcher: Part of the reason why I feel like an outsider on the site is having been on the "wrong side" of an issue and the way some people responded to me. It was pretty much along the lines of "Jesus, I thought you were cool, how could you think something like that" and it's just been generally downhill from there.

You spent a solid two or three years being rather nasty to me in multiple threads, to the point that a few uninvolved people apparently noticed. At meetups, of their own volition and without my bringing it up, people would ask me why you were acting that way. At least a dozen additional people contacted me via memail, twitter or facebook during the same time frame to ask what your problem was. I suspect this is because you're well-liked and your behavior seemed out of character to them.

I bring this up not to open old wounds or start an argument. I have zero interest in discussing it further. But perhaps it's worth considering that the way we behave towards each other is clearly noticed by others. When prominent users attack one another, that can contribute to a sense that this is not a welcoming place. In retrospect, I regret responding to your provocations, and initiating attacks towards you as well. Not for your sake, but because nastiness doesn't make this a nicer place to be, and it's not something I want to be noticed for either.
posted by zarq at 8:16 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You spent a solid two or three years being rather nasty to me in multiple threads..

I spent a solid two or three years being rather nasty to you specifically because you, out of the blue, began excusing me of talking stances that I was not. You were utterly and completely in the wrong about that and eventually emailed or mefi mailed me to apologize and admit that you were wrong. Your behavior towards me was exactly that of paranoid bully and after the second time, I decided I was done with you and wasn't taking that shit any longer. You, and others, may not like or agree with my attitude towards you at the time, but make no mistake, it was for specific actions on your part. Before that, we were perfectly fine.

That said, I'm over it and happy to put it in the past. But there you go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I try to avoid this sort of thread, usually, because I think they usually just represent nostalgia, rather than any meaningful shifts. But there is one major change I've noticed in Metafilter over the past several years, and it has affected my enjoyment of the site.... It's kind of embarrassing, though. Usually, I try to put my best face forward when I post on Mefi, but here I have to let the mask drop and let all of you see what sort of petty immature gawker I am.

There isn't anywhere near as much off-the-wall bullshit as there used to be. I mean things like the portabello mushroom thread, or whatever the hell sixcolors was, or like when someone wanted to buy (sell?) a car and ended up threatening others with bodily harm, or late-night incomprehensible MeTa threads. The sorts of things that make no sense and you're left scratching your head / shaking your head / chuckling for days afterwards.

All of that stuff is inane, insane drama. I miss it because I miss gawking at it. And I realize that this doesn't speak well of me: that drama usually comes from someone having an extremely bad day or going through some really bad shit we can't see. But all the same: there was a thrill to it, for me. It was like the spice that made the intelligent and mature discussions throughout the rest of the site all the more delectable.

Now, the moderation is just so good, none of that ever happens. There aren't any 8 or 10 hour blocks when no mods are around. There's a MeTa queue to ensure trainwrecks are avoided. We are always, or almost always, mature and intelligent and predictable, nowadays.

It's not like I think anything should really be done about it. And, to an important extent, I'm not even complaining. I am a part of this community because everyone here is so mature and intelligent and insightful, and I thoroughly understand how important the modding is to ensuring that. But, man.... Portabello mushrooms, you know? I miss that kind of excitement.

Now, with all that said...

I just want to jump back in and say, I don't think our navel-gazing and criticism should overlook all the great things Mefi still is, and even better has become.

Here, here. I frikken love Metafilter.
posted by meese at 8:28 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have had you blocked on memail for years, Brandon. If you ever received a memail from me it sure as hell wasn't a blanket apology.

And while I think your other accusations are complete and utter bullshit, I'm also happier putting that in the past than discussing it further.
posted by zarq at 8:29 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have had you blocked on memail for years, Brandon. If you ever received a memail from me it sure as hell wasn't a blanket apology.

Check your sent Mefimail, dated Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm, titled "I Apologize." If you want to unblock me or contact me by email, I can send you what you sent it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


All of that stuff is inane, insane drama. I miss it because I miss gawking at it. And I realize that this doesn't speak well of me: that drama usually comes from someone having an extremely bad day or going through some really bad shit we can't see. But all the same: there was a thrill to it, for me.

I liked it too, and it appealed to the acid side of my soul. Heck, I'm enjoying zarq and Brandon argue with each other right now, and I like both equally.

But, like you, I know that's not me at my best. A lot of us came up during the Wild West years of the web -- and the rest of the web is still, I don't know, Leadville, Colorado, compared to MetaFillter. I was a gunslinger and often find myself reflexively reaching for that old sidearm, and am not happy about the fact.

It's mostly because the Wild West metaphor actually works pretty well, in that the American West long symbolized a sort of expansive freedom and opportunity, but, when you looked closer at it, it was often rather awful, and especially awful for women and minorities, with frequent threats of violence and with extralegal punishments for unproven crimes and range wars and, of course, coyote attacks.

My metaphor might have broken down a little at the end there, but I think I have made my point.
posted by maxsparber at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Embarrassingly, I don't have a record of any emails sent or received via memail prior to Jan 2011. I deleted them when I dumped all my favorites. I never enabled "send to email" until sometime after that point, and I don't have the export file I made back then so they're all gone.

I have zero desire to discuss anything with you privately. So, no.

I'll take your word for it.

But that means that I did apologize, and you then spent two to three years afterward attacking me. My recollection is that you actually only began to do so in earnest after I returned in January 2011.

I suppose the apology wasn't good enough.
posted by zarq at 8:46 AM on July 2, 2015


Heck, I'm enjoying zarq and Brandon argue with each other right now...

We should totally do that, in a humorous way, as a fundraiser for MeFi.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Like one of those Terry Gross interviews Ira Glass things but angrier.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


B. Blatcher: We should totally do that, in a humorous way, as a fundraiser for MeFi.

It's been done. Initial announcement.

No, thank you.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's been done.

and neither handle is active now.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:54 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Water balloons? Filled with wine?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:56 AM on July 2, 2015


Water balloons? Filled with wine?

Go on.
posted by maxsparber at 9:05 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


and neither handle is active now.

Not as a result of that contest. But it is interesting.
posted by zarq at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2015


Has Metafilter become more US-centric over the years? (Not in the sense of overall userbase, but more specifically active users/participants...)
posted by aielen at 9:32 AM on July 2, 2015


I'm frankly not game to post a comment in some threads because I think people will be on me for it, even though I pride myself on being conciliatory and fairly moderate (indeed, sometimes I feel moderateness, or equivocism itself is viewed as poisonous by some). It's a range of reasons.

Yeah, this pretty much sums it up for me. It's not even so much that I feel my opinions are obviously going to be against the grain of the thread but that I see people's angry misreadings of some poor schmuck's comment getting a lot of support. There seem to be a lot more people operating on a hair trigger willing to get mad at people for not performing [some particular commenting behaviour] in an acceptable way. I suppose the site just seems to be more partisan- not in ideology, but in behavior. I certainly have no patience for people being bigots or anti-science or anti-humanities or really, just anti-, but I no longer feel like I can casually comment in a thread without the equivalent of a Berkeley liberal's forty bumper stickers making clear their philosophy to everyone on the road. I feel like I'm more likely to get smacked down by the people I actually agree with, and that is supremely uncomfortable.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:42 AM on July 2, 2015 [28 favorites]


I see people's angry misreadings of some poor schmuck's comment getting a lot of support.

I think a lot of this kind of stuff could be handled by following r_n's suggestion above - treating people as if they're engaging in good faith, and if you think they're engaging in bad faith, message the mods about it and let them be the decider there. What I see is a lot of people deciding for whatever reason that someone is commenting in bad faith - and man, do I want to open a MeTa about what makes good-faith/bad-faith because I think lots of people have differing ideas on that - and then deciding on the basis of that assumption that it is okay to be mean or nasty to that individual, since they're obviously engaging in bad faith and thus Not Part Of The Community.

And that's a problem for a lot of reasons - it's a problem because it's making members of our community feel hurt and angry, which never increases productive conversation; it's a problem because it increases the level of visible nastiness that exists without flags, which then encourages other people unaware of the context to either make nasty comments themselves, or be afraid of other people making nasty comments about them; it turns the discourse into 'Look at this asshole!' instead of commentary on the subject of the FPP itself. It's a lot of bad things, and I literally can think of no reason that assuming someone is operating on bad faith and treating them badly in comments would actually ever improve the site.
posted by corb at 9:59 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


> and man, do I want to open a MeTa about what makes good-faith/bad-faith

We had one that went round and round on that topic in the fall. Round and round in what did not feel like a particularly productive way, but that may have been at least in part because of the initial framing.
posted by rtha at 10:24 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since the data really doesn't support any claims about the growth of attention to social justice issues harming engagement with the site, why don't we focus on other stuff?

Amen. The question at hand is: How do we attract and moreover keep new users?
Should we bother to attract people back to the Blue? Maybe we should just let it die slowly and triple down on Ask? My wife for instance loves ask but only as a resource to read other people's old questions. She rarely bothers to log in but she has an account.

What if we had the option to repost old questions that need updates? Like requesting a rewatch show on Fanfare. Mods could approve a queue of these, the new poster would be allowed a brief note about why they are re-posting, and answers would be open again for a month.

What about removing favorites on Ask and replacing them with Votes for best answer? (same tech different name). Then when the thread closes the one with the most upvotes gets a differently colored background than the poster chosen best answer?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:27 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


What about removing favorites on Ask and replacing them with Votes for best answer? (same tech different name). Then when the thread closes the one with the most upvotes gets a differently colored background than the poster chosen best answer?

Cool idea!
posted by zarq at 10:28 AM on July 2, 2015


The people in this thread: Your issues are not the problem with Metafilter. You are one of the 250 people who post in every dang thread. Give it a rest y'all with the gripes and regripes and get to knocking my terrible suggestions over instead.

Thanks for the analysis elgilito!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:29 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks Zarq!

I think we could stand to gamify Askme by about 20%. Nothing crazy but enough to make it stickier.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:30 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has Metafilter become more US-centric over the years?

Not as far as I can tell, the site's always been entirely US-centred, occasionally to comical effect. "X doesn't exist / is not relevant unless I can discuss how it relates to Random, IL" is almost a trope. Also, "X in US is the pinnacle of morality which must be prescribed to everyone and is the standard for any sensible discussion". That one's less fun.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Pyrogenesis: ""X doesn't exist / is not relevant unless I can discuss how it relates to Random, IL" is almost a trope. "

It's spelled P-E-O-R-I-A, sheesh.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:35 AM on July 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's spelled P-E-O-R-I-A, sheesh.

Heh, I had to look this one up. I was thiiiis close!
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:38 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hence "Will it play in Peoria?": "The question derives from a theme repeated by characters in Horatio Alger, Jr.'s novel Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret, which was first published in 1890. Alger was an immensely popular author in the 19th century, especially with young people, and his books were widely quoted. In the book, a group of actors play in Peoria, occasioning utterances such as "We shall be playing in Peoria" and "We shall play at Peoria" (p. 218, etc.). Appropriated as symbolic of reception by mainstream America, these declarations were alluded to in paraphrase, eventually resulting in the question, "Will it play in Peoria?", with the particular intent it now carries."
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


You may also be thinking of Normal, IL, in the department of "town names that sound like they must be fake."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:40 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


We had one that went round and round on that topic in the fall. Round and round in what did not feel like a particularly productive way, but that may have been at least in part because of the initial framing.

Ugh, yeah, that looks like exactly calculated for nonproductivity. I'd like to see one with more neutral framing that wasn't carrying over pre-existing battles and was just honestly interested in what it meant overall.
posted by corb at 10:45 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


> So it has felt like the site has gotten super serious and angry. ...

The other factor is the race-to-complaint thing .... MetaFilter often doesn't feel like a place where you post cool stuff so that people can talk about it, but a place where you post cool stuff so people can tell you why it actually sucks.


Another old-timer dropping in to agree with Bugbread. I once took a break myself based on this set of issues; obviously I came back, and I've been heartened by wonderful developments like JulyByWomen, but in general I spend less time here and comment less and don't post at all, and I feel like I'm less and less in tune with the site as time goes on. Which is fine and normal; sites change, people burn out. But I thought I'd put in my two cents and suggest people not be so quick with the grar.
posted by languagehat at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


But you are also awesome, languagehat. One of the best commenters.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:13 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's always fun to see stats like this. I don't think new membership trends will reverse unless a new subsite takes off with a new crowd the way AskMe did. AskMe offered something new and valuable beyond discussion (a reliable source of help, satisfaction from helping others.) What could a new subsite offer while operating in the spirit and general format of Metafilter content?
posted by michaelh at 11:17 AM on July 2, 2015


You may also be thinking of Normal, IL, in the department of "town names that sound like they must be fake."

There are also a ton of cities called Intercourse.

My own taste is for the original names of cities. St. Payl, as an example, used to be called Pigseye, and Minneapolis was originally called Albion. Florida's Lake City used to be called Alligator, which is the greatest name ever. And, of course, Los Angeles once went by the much grander name of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula.

My current town of Omaha used to be called Omaha City, which is both a bit of a letdown and sort of a better name anyway.
posted by maxsparber at 11:21 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


What could a new subsite offer while operating in the spirit and general format of Metafilter content?

CHATFILTER.

Not actual chat, but the ability to ask "what is your favorite fictional depiction of an aunt" or "when did you first become aware of Burt Reynolds" and get discussion going from there.

I get why these questions are deleted from Ask, but MAN would I love a MF version where you could pose a discussion question.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:23 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wonder if some of the more chit-chatty type comments have been supplanted by Chat.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:26 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just chatted the hell out of this thread, jeez.
posted by maxsparber at 11:27 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get why these questions are deleted from Ask, but MAN would I love a MF version where you could pose a discussion question.

That used to exist. IT was literally called Chatfilter. It mostly devolved into bitchy snark about things happening on metafilter before it rightly fizzled away.
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 AM on July 2, 2015


I know I a lot of MeFites I follow on Twitter save their stupid noise comments witty yet off-topic bon mots for Twitter instead of here.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:28 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Count me in as someone who would like the newsfilter and outragefilter bar to be set higher. I think it moves this place too far into the liberal outrage favorites zone, which is great for learning and understanding issues, but not really why I come here.

I would also personally like to see site culture move away from topic-based posts with many links in favor of posts on the content of just a single link, but that's my personal bugbear.

I know, I know, be the posts you want to see in the world, but I'm lazy!!!
posted by Think_Long at 11:29 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It mostly devolved into bitchy snark about things happening on metafilter

Okay, I'm thinking more like "What was your worst job interview ever"-type discussions, not just...chat, or discussing the site or each other.

I don't enjoy online chat much, but I love reading long lists of people telling stories about particular subjects.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:32 AM on July 2, 2015


I also took off for about a year, and tend to spend most of my time now on Ask, looking for bird, bug, plant, DIY, and tech questions within my sphere of experience. Like others have said, sources for "interesting stuff to look at or read" have increased pretty dramatically since I joined 8 or so years ago.

For the insider/outsider stuff - it's no great stretch to assume I'm probably wide of the majority of other folks here in terms of culture and religious belief. In fact, it was exasperation (and, frankly, too much emotional investment) over this that had me take the break.

But on the other hand, one of the principle criticisms I hear levied against online communities is that it's very easy to self-select your interactions into an airtight echo chamber. Not really interested in that, either.
posted by jquinby at 11:34 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another old-timer dropping in to agree with Bugbread. I once took a break myself based on this set of issues;

Another (relative) old-timer agreeing. I disabled my account for over 2 years because of this, and the additional thing that Metafilter feels very much like a place where people get silenced. Not by moderators, or by conscious choice. But by the general tenor of conversation. All those instances of topics we "don't do well" and therefore should avoid, or the various ways in which participating in a thread began to feel more like a passive aggressive game where the first person to get passionately invested in the conversation was told they needed to chill out and therefore lost any credibility in the conversation.

These things are all still pretty much true, so I particpate far less than I used to.
posted by shmegegge at 11:34 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is admittedly a daft idea, but we have Ask (where you say "how do I do stuff") and Projects/Music (for when you've done stuff) and Jobs (where you get help to do stuff.) We have "let's do this" blue posts about things like NaNoWriMo and gray projects like monthly post themes.

What about a subsite about making things that combines the features of all of the above?

For example, say someone is going to make a boat and they make a new post announcing their project and what they have so far. They ask a question about wood types, which maybe gets posted to AskMe with a link back to the project-in-progress. They post links to resources they're using (probably not appropriate for a blue post, but might inspire one.) They post text updates and (please?) photos. Eventually they post a finished project which can also appear on Projects if they like with a link back to how it got made, and if it's of general Internet interest, members could promote the project to the blue the normal way. Members could be following along, offering advice as requested and, of course, encouragement the whole time.

The format (post and comments) already exists, the talented and useful members exist, the "maker's movement" thing is hot and interesting to a lot of people, and we'd probably see some cool things people might not have attempted or discovered otherwise.
posted by michaelh at 11:40 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a counterbalance: I lurked from around 2004 until 2011, which I suspect is some kind of a record, or at least somewhere up there. I rarely post, but this has nothing to do with any contentious issues or fighting or intolerance of differing opinions. I see no major failures that makes me hark for the "good old days", for which I was (silently) around. More often than not, the pining for the good old days just makes me go [expletive deleted]. In fact, I think MeFi as it is right now is probably the best it has ever been. I like it very much as it currently is. And I say this as someone who is as privileged as they come and whose only disadvantage(?) in life is being born in Eastern Europe.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:09 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


(I honestly thought my incessant midwestern cheerleading was being made fun of, which, don't worry, I don't mind. :) )
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:27 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, uh, don't know if you mean me, Eyebrows McGee, but if it is then 'midwestern' is not actually a distiction that I can understand in any meaningful sense... US geography for me is roughly "coasts and what they call 'flyover country'". If it's the IL joke above, I didn't even know where it's actually located without the help of Google. I was just typing randomly.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:39 PM on July 2, 2015


Illinois is kind of in the middle, so in "flyover country", but it's the state where Chicago is, if you have a sense of that. Eyebrows lives in a town (Peoria) that's famous as a shorthand for middle America, in the sense of the most average kind of media audience, whose sensibilities media exec's want to pitch their material toward... and your remark about Random, Illinois, lined up with that pretty well, apparently by coincidence.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:44 PM on July 2, 2015


Man, thanks LobsterMitten, there was a lot going over my head right now. :D
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:49 PM on July 2, 2015


Yes, all of that, and I'm a bit of a rambunctious booster for flyover country in general and Peoria in particular, so I get teased about it on MetaFilter. I thought you might be teasing me sideways to avoid offending me, but don't worry either way. I am neither offended if you don't know where Peoria is, nor offended if anybody wants to tease me about my boosterism.

But I strongly reccommend you remedy your "coasts and flyover country"-ism with a vacation to Chicago, it is an undiscovered gem for foreign tourists and everyone I know who's visited Chicago from abroad has been somewhere between pleasantly surprised and gleefully gobsmacked at what a great city it is. It's clean! It's friendly! The arts are world-class! The food is both excellent, and horrifying in portion size and fat content!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:54 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I actually know two people from Normal,IL. It's the home of State Farm insurance.
posted by jonmc at 1:01 PM on July 2, 2015


the flyovers are lovely! you should see our swimming holes! and trees! and nothing but undeveloped land for miles! there's a lot to love about the coasts, but i think i'm a lifer here in the flyovers.
posted by nadawi at 1:07 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I must come to Chicago, there's some sort of a strange draw towards various places in the US in the former Soviet Block, and for some random, probably meaningless reason, I've always had the thought that out of all places in the US I'd probably feel most at home in either Chicago or Seattle. I don't know why that is, it's just meaningless I guess.

I've actually been to Chicago once, but only as a layover. And the one experience I had was that bridge that the planes cross in the airport, which can be seen in many movies. The plane went over that bridge, I was looking outside, and it was like being in a movie. Pretty awesome.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:08 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


i like seattle, i prefer a little bit south in olympia, but you have to have a high tolerance for hippies (which i say lovingly, as i do). i'm in arkansas. no one ever really says they want to come to arkansas, but it's pretty great honestly, in certain pockets.
posted by nadawi at 1:11 PM on July 2, 2015


> But I strongly reccommend you remedy your "coasts and flyover country"-ism with a vacation to Chicago, it is an undiscovered gem for foreign tourists and everyone I know who's visited Chicago from abroad has been somewhere between pleasantly surprised and gleefully gobsmacked at what a great city it is. It's clean! It's friendly! The arts are world-class! The food is both excellent, and horrifying in portion size and fat content!

I can vouch for this. I was especially surprised to find excellent Mexican food!
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


> no one ever really says they want to come to arkansas, but it's pretty great honestly, in certain pockets.

I can vouch for this too! My father's family is from Arkansas, and both my dad and my kid brother went to college in Fayetteville, which is a wonderful place to visit. Go Razorbacks!
posted by languagehat at 1:13 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been to Olympia actually, stayed there for several days. Oyster shots!
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:16 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not nearly as much of an old-timer as languagehat, but I'll chime in and agree that I've slowly pulled back on participating over the past two years due to what feels like a pretty big change in the tenor of discourse here. I was one of the women who argued pretty forcefully for a new flag and new moderation approach for casual sexism in the 2007/2008 threads on metatalk, and I find it really disappointing to hear people wave off concerns about the more contentious tone with a dismissive comment that it's just the sexists who are upset about not being able to be sexist anymore.

Rhaomi pretty much hit it on the head with the comment that we've seen a rise in "call-out culture," with disagreement getting personal pretty early-on in threads. I don't have a problem with open discussion of whether a certain political position or piece of writing or opinion is bigoted (sexist / racist / transphobic / heterosexist), or with people asserting that someone else is flat-out wrong in what they're saying, but it seems to me that the discussion in many threads has moved beyond that to calling other posters bigoted or saying that they must be bigoted to even raise the point they're raising. Once that happens, it seems the conversation pretty quickly becomes heated for those participating--and in my experience chills participation among those who have not yet posted, because many people really don't want to jump into the middle of an angry argument.

The more I've watched this turn in metafilter culture, the more I've become convinced that an absolute stance of assuming good faith on behalf of whoever you choose to engage with is a requirement for having good discussions once you don't personally know everyone in the virtual room. I don't think anyone has an obligation to argue for their own basic humanity (or the "101-level" topics) but I think once you're convinced that someone is a bigot or beyond having a reasonable conversation with, it's better for the site as a whole if you can just flag it or email the mods or close the thread instead of starting a call-out of the person in-thread. The alternative path is not necessarily a problem in a single thread, but multiplied across multiple threads over many months--I think that's a huge part of what is making some people feel like the site has become more angry and less inviting.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:18 PM on July 2, 2015 [33 favorites]


Maybe we could establish an "Assume Good Faith" mantra that appears right above the comment box as a final message of peace for a poster before they reply.

Also, just a thought - the "Everyone needs a hug" note is buried under the live preview box, so any affect it may have is probably completely negated by its placement.
posted by Think_Long at 1:25 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks for giving me a quick 101 on the Dunham thread. I don't read every thread (not even a fraction) and was gone for a long time, and it was wicked long, so I wouldn't have known what the frictions were without the Cliff Notes. Thanks.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you go to Chicago make sure to have some of their famous Tall Pizza
posted by griphus at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


i know they are a real thing but as someone from the desert "swimming hole" just sounds like something made up and ridiculous
posted by NoraReed at 1:45 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seattle is okay only if you never want to drive ever.
posted by corb at 1:47 PM on July 2, 2015


i swear they're real! my brother and i just realized last week that 20+ years ago we had different "hidden" swimming holes in the creek that ran behind our house. neither of us knew the other swimming hole existed. probably harder to traipse around these days with the better tech for monitoring private property, though - there was a fair bit of "cut across the mcclintock's farm and duck under the webster's fence." but there's still lots of them on public land.
posted by nadawi at 1:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


languagehat: I was especially surprised to find excellent Mexican food!

A long time ago I read an article that placed the origins of the generic Mexican restaurant in Chicago. The kind of Mexican restaurant you find replicated all over the world, with very similar menus, even though they're not a chain. That's where it was standardized and then spread to other places from there. But I can't find anything online that supports this memory, so I may have dreamt this. In case you're wondering, reading an article about the origins of a restaurant type is exactly the type of boring that occupies my dreaming mind.
posted by Kattullus at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


as someone from the desert "swimming hole" just sounds like something made up and ridiculous

...and awesome! I was on a tour somewhere Southeast of Dubai once riding camels and driving jeeps on dunes, that included a stop at a swimming hole, just chilling there in some big rocks. Looking at the map, I have no idea where that could have been, but it existed, I swear!
posted by ctmf at 2:40 PM on July 2, 2015


I agree with Potomac Avenue. People have been arguing about the tone of the site for just about as long as I've been around (lurking since 2001 and a member since 2004, plus or minus a BND), and yet the site continued to rise in every possible metric until 2011. It would be one thing if activity were leveling off, but the decline that elgilito details is troubling, and I don't think it's just people being uninviting. It's worth wondering:

1. Does Ask show the same decline, proportionally?
2. What is the nature of the decline? Has the number of active users stayed the same but they are participating less frequently, or has the number of active users declined? Page 16 suggests the latter to me but is not conclusive.
3. Why are there fewer first time commenting users? Harder to answer, but it would be useful to try to answer this question in a rigorous way (rather than anecdotally as elsewhere in this thread). Site culture? Difficulty of signup? Attractiveness of alternative communities?

Frankly these trends are very worrisome and strongly suggest that Metafilter may no longer exist another ten years.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:09 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've commented precisely 0 times on the blue. I barely read it. I read Ask every day and MetaTalk fairly regularly. I joined 2014. I'm 23. Y'all are old. You were adults in 2000 talking about politics. I was 9. My early internet memories are: myspace, shit like neopets and gaiaonline, deviantart, early days of facebook. Now, it's tumblr, twitter, buzzfeed. I think people of my generation (90s kids turning into adults) fundamentally interact with the internet in different ways. Metafilter feels old-fashioned, and entrenched, and has a very specific culture. It's a different way of talking which has a higher cost of entry. I think 100% of the people I know who are my age and into social justice things and politics go to tumblr for that stuff. I can go there and know that almost everyone will have accepted fundamental ideas which seem to be constantly up for debate here. I know the vernacular there. Why would I comment on the blue when people here seem to get caught up in whether some issues should be talked about, how they should be talked about, and who does too much talking about them (this is my impression from reading MetaTalk), when I can go to tumblr and find these issues being discussed with much more passion and... Coherence? Respect? Whatever it is, I feel like people on tumblr share far more fundamental values, in a way which would be described as groupthinky or totalitarian here! For me that makes tumblr feel like a safer space. Tone arguments are unheard of.

On tumblr it is also far easier to get a sense of personality. Selfies everywhere, people's personal and political opinions interspersed with pretty nature photos and fandom stuff. I can find cool stuff, funny stuff, political stuff, social stuff, interesting stuff, all on one place on my tumblr dashboard. The things Metafilter is for I can get in a more enjoyable way somewhere else, is what I'm saying. Tumblr is just more fun than trying to get a sense of who this faceless mass of snarky people identifiable by only usernames are. It's far more appealing to access information, ideas and content on tumblr and reblog things and maybe add some commentary to it, than to get into a prickly debate. Maybe debate is not something as appealing to younger people, I'm not sure. Maybe we just have different reference points and values which tumblr culture caters for.

I mean, I like it here. But 1) the atmosphere is not appealing for me to join in as a commenter and 2) I can understand why membership is not growing: because people my age use the internet in a way that Metafilter simply isn't relevant to. There's just not much of a reason for anyone in the same demographic as me to be here, rather than on tumblr.
posted by mymbleth at 3:43 PM on July 2, 2015 [17 favorites]


mymbleth: "I can understand why membership is not growing: because people my age use the internet in a way that Metafilter simply isn't relevant to."

That's why the young membership isn't growing. But it's not as if we're so old that we're all dying off, causing the population to dwindle. So there's still the question about why the "old" population is also shrinking.
posted by Bugbread at 4:05 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why would I comment on the blue when people here seem to get caught up in whether some issues should be talked about, how they should be talked about, and who does too much talking about them (this is my impression from reading MetaTalk), when I can go to tumblr and find these issues being discussed with much more passion and... Coherence? Respect? Whatever it is, I feel like people on tumblr share far more fundamental values, in a way which would be described as groupthinky or totalitarian here! For me that makes tumblr feel like a safer space. Tone arguments are unheard of.

It's funny how two people can have such different experiences with respect to tumblr. I'm 24, so only a little older than you, but my experiences with tumblr are that it's so hard to build a coherent community and get a sense of personalities unless you have a lot of time to invest in wading through a whole bunch of unrelated images. Plus, since the reblogging system means that you can't comment on anything without sending it to all your followers, conversations frequently get yanked out of context and it's difficult to incorporate many points of view speaking at once. I also find that the reblogging system can lead to really particularly nasty pile-ons because people will circulate an OP which may be problematic very quickly... without necessarily reblogging the apology or clarification from the first person. And whoo boy, tone arguments blow, but so does being held to an absolute standard of perfection at all times. Everything is so public and gets whipped to so many perspectives so very quickly. There's fighting and shouting down and aggression everywhere.

I don't feel safe on tumblr at all. I have one, and I certainly pop in on it sometimes, but it is not where I go to relax. Not doubting your experiences with the platform at all, mind! But tumblr isn't a community, and your experience of it is going to depend on who you follow and who follows you. I know a lot of people like me at my age who are disaffected with tumblr and who don't feel safe having conversations there but who are also into social justice. People who maybe belong to one or more marginalized groups and want a place to hang out and be in an online community and discuss that sometimes, but who want the freedom to fuck up and have people stop shouting if they go "ouch, my bad, sorry didn't mean it." That's pretty much the group of people I wave metafilter at and go "hey. Hey, guys, look at this space. Look!"

YMMV, of course, as with all things. But I really and genuinely do not believe this is inherently a generational thing. I mean, I know for a fact I am not the only early-twenties person here who is generally interested in social justice themes.
posted by sciatrix at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Bugbread: Yes, you're all growing old and infirm and entering the nursing home, ha.

No but as I think someone said upthread I imagine that the "young" way of using the internet has become more common now across all demographics, over the last few years, with how monumental smart phones have become and social media being unavoidable in most spheres. So I imagine "proper adults" are more likely to be moving away from long form, debate type internet usage that to me is what metafilter represents, and over to twitter/tumblr for debate and content sharing. (I kind of think of twitter as a slightly more grownup version of tumblr in terms of purpose and function.)

sciatrix: Very fair, and all things I've also experienced. Personally I avoid enormous reblog trains and keep my dash curated to people who I think have interesting opinions and who aren't out to pick fights/make OTT "call outs"/generally engage in the kind of stuff you describe. It's taken me 5 years of using tumblr to be able to do so in a way which isn't exhausting. So I totally get you.
posted by mymbleth at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's why the young membership isn't growing. But it's not as if we're so old that we're all dying off, causing the population to dwindle. So there's still the question about why the "old" population is also shrinking.

Is the "old" population shrinking at a faster rate than it was previously?
I feel there's a lack of new "young" membership more than a significant dwindling of "old" people... but that could be just my feeling :p
posted by aielen at 4:15 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


sciatrix: "Not doubting your experiences with the platform at all, mind! But tumblr isn't a community, and your experience of it is going to depend on who you follow and who follows you."

Yeah, this is how I always feel when people on MetaFilter complain about Facebook, specifically about all the racism and sexism and transphobia and stuff. I've just had the awesome fortune to have a family that isn't like that, and since my friends aren't like that, either, I don't see any of that on Facebook. I don't doubt MeFites have shitty Facebook experiences, but the way it feels totally varies from person to person.

mymbleth: "I imagine that the "young" way of using the internet has become more common now across all demographics"

Okay, good point. Thanks.
posted by Bugbread at 4:29 PM on July 2, 2015


Potomac Avenue: "Give it a rest y'all with the gripes and regripes and get to knocking my terrible suggestions over instead."

Okay.

Potomac Avenue: "What about removing favorites on Ask and replacing them with Votes for best answer? (same tech different name). Then when the thread closes the one with the most upvotes gets a differently colored background than the poster chosen best answer?"

Damn it, I can't knock that over, that's an excellent idea!
posted by Bugbread at 4:30 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like Eyebrows McGee was just outed as the real-live Leslie Knope and we're inappropriately moving on before properly appreciating that.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thanks for cluing me in about the Lena Dunham thread. I hadn't read it and didn't want to just to figure out what was bad about it, so that was helpful to know.

long form, debate type internet usage

One of the things I liked about MeFi right off the bat is that it's basically an extension of the BBSs and usenet-type discussions of the early 1990s. The fundamental model isn't that different at all; what happens here is an internet communication style even older than people might commonly realize. Threaded linear discussion by multiple community members in response to a post, question, or topic.

I don't think that means it's bad. I think MeFi is MeFi, like The New Yorker is The New Yorker. The New Yorker has kept itself relevant and viable by emphasizing and continuing to invest in the quality of the content. One way it has addressed the changing media consumption patterns of its readership is to leverage its content across various media - it's really easy to link their stuff back and forth from the home site to social media, but they also have authors appear on podcasts, write short additional pieces, add in photo essays, host live discussions, etc. You have to pay money to access their content and be part of their community, and people do, because it's that good. At the same time, as a magazine, it has barely changed its appearance or its editorial philosophy in 90 years. If it became a magazine full of pithy quotes, personal essays and photography, it would tank fast. That's one reason I think any hope for MeFi is going to center around the core experience, which is a place for smart people to not only discover information but to discuss it.

I think there are young people who want to engage in sites where they can read long-form text and respond to it, as well as old people who want to. For me, the question is not how to load MeFi up with images and macros and memes and profile features, but how to enhance its strength. This also means, to me, maybe being content with a smaller audience if it's the right audience, the one that values the site, is engaged by it, and engages with it. That might, in fact, be an older audience - as is true for many media outlets - and that's fine as long as the audience is sustained and sustaining. But a decline in participation probably reflects a declining sense of value from MeFi relative to value derived from other online participation. Or, let's be honest, offline participation, because I can't be the only person who is herself and is watching her friends intentionally unplug more of the time every day to do things in meatspace, clear the head, reduce stress, work on relationships, etc.

Thinking about this idea that things that are considered "debatable" here are widely accepted among younger audiences is intriguing (though it completely depends on the self-curation you do, because god knows there are all kinds of younger people who also coalesce around racist, sexist, jingoistic web content). But I suspect that that's not the real reason people under, say, 30 are less attracted to this site than was true 10 years ago. That comes back to a content issue, too. For one thing, I know that a lot of the 20somethings I spend time around routinely discuss pop culture stuff and memes and events that I have never encountered on MetaFilter. There was a time I could kind of count on MeFi to keep me in tune at least generally with current pop culture, but that's not really true any more. That's because the users that would post it aren't here, they're elsewhere. And they aren't going to come here - or they aren't going to stay, if they do happen to check it out - because they don't see all that much content that interests them. It's a chicken-egg issue. There are only so many cute hip-hop parody parenting videos that a 25-year-old wants to watch. The userbase creates the content it wants, and the type and quality of content tell potential new users whether they want to be here or not.
posted by Miko at 5:26 PM on July 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


Shows how old I am, I had no idea that there were discussions on Tumblr. I thought it was all just blogs of animated gifs. I have an account there that I've never done anything with but even looking at my dashboard there, I don't see any kind of way of interacting with anyone else. I'm obviously missing something.
posted by octothorpe at 5:48 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


> It's far more appealing to access information, ideas and content on tumblr and reblog things and maybe add some commentary to it, than to get into a prickly debate. Maybe debate is not something as appealing to younger people, I'm not sure.

My ancedata: I signed up for Metafilter precisely because it was a cerebral, general, non walled-garden debate forum that had a $5 entry fee to keep out the trolls. And I am a younger (under 30) user, and was referred here by another younger user. All of the sites that supposedly appeal to "young" people don't appeal to me (not to say that I am not on them -- sometimes out of grudging necessity -- or don't enjoy them sometimes, but they're definitely not a destination for me the way MF is). Granted, we may be rare birds in terms of preferences (and both in grad school), but there you have it.

The rest of the internet is inundated with clickbait, gif-heavy, flashy, walled garden content; Metafilter seems to be one of the last refuges of not that. I think it should stay that way. The worst thing that could happen to MF would be to try to imitate Buzzfeed or Tumblr. Then why would MF even need to exist?
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:53 PM on July 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm no oldtimer, and I've never been an especially prolific poster/commenter (and I'm mostly an AskMe user anyway), but I definitely post/comment less frequently than I used to. Mostly for two, maybe related, reasons:

1) I have more people in my meatfilter life with whom I can discuss the stuff I used to only read/hear/talk about on MetaFilter. Social justice stuff, politics stuff, internet-weirdness stuff. Partly it's that my group of friends has shifted a little, but I also think it's the BuzzFeed effect as noted so many times above, and the social-justice-in-the-zeitgeist thing. I used to feel like a fairly well-informed person in my circle of friends, with a lot of that coming from my daily MetaFilter reading; now everyone has heard about all the same things and we can talk about them.

2) I don't feel smart or well-informed enough to be a valuable contributor here on the vast majority of topics. To be fair, it's always been a little bit like that, but I'm especially aware of it now. I'm not saying that it's, like, too hard to learn the right vocabulary or that the discussion has gotten too nuanced—and I'm especially sensitive to the idea that for many MeFites the discussion level remains frustratingly low—but increasingly for me I feel like there's a lot more that I can learn from reading a given discussion than I could possibly add by participating in it...and that my participation will be aggressively questioned if it's not high-value. When I do comment I find myself rewriting and editing and rewriting again—or writing something ridiculously long—in an effort to prove that it's, I don't know, thoughtful and substantive, rather than just saying what I have to say or asking the question I want to ask. I don't feel like this in real life, and I don't think I used to feel that way here, either. Maybe this is a shade of the good faith thing—I really worry that I'll be dismissed for not having thought about something enough.

I'm not suggesting that my lay opinion about something is worth the same as an expert's (and oh boy is MetaFilter full of experts), but. MetaFilter used to feel like a cocktail party to me, at least the way I used it—you could have a longer and more involved conversation if you wanted to, but mostly you were floating around, having interesting exchanges with a big group of people, including some experts, and I learned a lot and it was really fun. Now it feels much more intense and like there's a higher barrier to entering the conversation.

(I want to be super clear that I'm not talking only or even primarily about social justice posts, or feminism posts, or other topics where "the conversation is too hard" is sometimes code for "I hate having to not be a jerk"; I see this as a site culture thing overall).

I wish we had more silly/just interesting posts (that lend themselves to lighter conversations), and also maybe more topic posts (with collected links, on a topic that isn't being discussed on every media outlet everywhere), and fewer news/current event posts. And now I feel like a jerk because I guess I should be the posts I wish to see in the world...
posted by peachfuzz at 6:40 PM on July 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


On the Internet, nobody knows everyone should assume you're basically a teenager.

The demographic information in this thread is blowing my mind.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 6:44 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry: TL;DR I'm an Old and presumed I was discussing Old stuff with fellow Olds.

Happy to be proven wrong.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 6:47 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to add to my comment that I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that the site has outpaced me (or, more likely, that I was always in over my head and I'm just now realizing it). Certainly I still get a lot out of reading discussions on the Blue; I just don't feel like there are many good ways for me to participate any more, so I don't. Which leaves more room for people who know what they're talking about to say stuff I can read with interest, and I embarrass myself less, so win-win I think?
posted by peachfuzz at 7:01 PM on July 2, 2015


No, seriously. You're 24 or younger and have been holding court on Metafilter (of all places) ?! God love you. This is amazing.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 7:16 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


peachfuzz, I think of you as one of our resident experts, though! I've sort of wondered if there might be an age thing here, that as we get older and more experienced, many of us become more aware of our own limits and more circumspect in our participation... and it's sometimes the very people who would be best to hear from who are quickest to scale back.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:16 PM on July 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm 27 and think of myself as a Young, relatively, but that's largely just because I see so many comments from people who are either old or old at heart, because there's just a lot of oh noes "technology is changing"/"the language is changing"/"clearly it is the children who are wrong"ing that happens here. That probably isn't
representative, though,
posted by NoraReed at 8:09 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have more people in my meatfilter life with whom I can discuss the stuff I used to only read/hear/talk about on MetaFilter.

I don't. The last few Fridays have been so full of news: The papal Encyclical! Obergefell! Both days, I had to go to a kids' get-together in the afternoon, and it was painful to me to have to discuss only light, inconsequential things with the other mothers in attendance, because I just wanted to be here, on MeFi, listening to you guys say smart things, and following up the links you offered, and trying to integrate it all. This site's participants have been instrumental in keeping my curiosity alive. I am so, so grateful for the expertise I've seen here--but hearing your stories is as valuable to me. The personal perspectives on historic events are like little folk histories, and they'd make a hell of a compilation. Reading them allows me to tap into something outside of my everyday life, and I learn, and I grow. So thank you, fellow MeFites.

I've always been in over my head here, and I love it. The site is such an enormous resource for talking with new people. On many occasions, I have been able to talk with a stranger more comfortably because I read a little bit about their esoteric interest here. I love the odd posts that reflect posters' interests, because there are minds behind them; labors of love, not clickbait.

I like the snark. And I like the decency. I've seen MeFites apologize with sincerity and graciousness--offer to witness at a wedding--organize fun stuff like Secret Quonsar. The older I get, the more I appreciate kindness. I try to bring my best self to conversation here, and I like it when others do, too. There's no harm in dropping a thank you in a thread; if it feels like it adds nothing to the conversation, it is still a kindness to the OP and offsets the fighting elsewhere. Encouragement on a good post can be a favorite and a positive comment. Which also sets MeFi apart from a lot of other sites, that it's possible to have substantive, human conversation that respects the participants. But maybe that's my Old showing? Or my habit of staying out of contentious threads? MeFi is so good when it's good.

tl; dr... MeFi: It's made of people!
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:21 PM on July 2, 2015 [22 favorites]


MetaFilter: The older I get, the more I appreciate kindness.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:31 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see so many comments from people who are either old or old at heart, because there's just a lot of oh noes "technology is changing"/"the language is changing"/"clearly it is the children who are wrong"ing that happens here. That probably isn't
representative, though,


I'm not to to pick on you here, but this kind of comment seems needlessly antagonistic, dismissive and snarky. Sentiments like that (which reads to me like you feel a whole lot of people here are idiots /don't know what they are talking about /out of touch /hopelessly wrong/don't have a valid opinion or right to one ) make me... Tired. And less inclined to engage, participate. Why would I want to have a conversation with some who dismisses everything I say or feel in a sentence? It's not very good faith.
posted by smoke at 8:37 PM on July 2, 2015 [24 favorites]


I miss Anitanola. I really do.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:42 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sorry: TL;DR I'm an Old and presumed I was discussing Old stuff with fellow Olds.

You aren't using that right, the comment has to be long to TL;DR it. We've all had a discussion here and we think it's best we retire your username and send you off to AOL. There are other folks your age there. You will have so much to talk about!
posted by Drinky Die at 12:31 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just discovered that my last MeTa comment was from 2012, which is quite absurd. Time to remedy this error.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:40 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I dunno if I am an Old. I am old enough to run for US president, though (not gonna).
The variety of ages here has long been one of my favorite things about MeFi, and I hope we can continue to attract the Young. It's a nice lawn! Come play on it!

Speaking of, I might be in to join in a "rare poster" month. I don't post, but I have posted once many moons ago. I don't qualify as a First but I think I might otherwise be the target market.
posted by nat at 1:51 AM on July 3, 2015


I would also like to echo the request made way up in the thread for an easier way to share comments outside Metafilter. If the value of the site is in the thoughtful discussion, it would definitely make sense to highlight this and make it easier to share said discussion with outsiders.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:03 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


daniel_charms: "I would also like to echo the request made way up in the thread for an easier way to share comments outside Metafilter. If the value of the site is in the thoughtful discussion, it would definitely make sense to highlight this and make it easier to share said discussion with outsiders."

Every comment has a timestamp that is a permalink. Your comment (in my time zone) ends with:

posted by daniel_charms at 5:03...

Right-click (or long-press on mobile) on the time and select "copy link address".

Go forth and share that link with the masses on Facebook, Tumbler, etc.

Here's the link to your comment:

http://metatalk.metafilter.com/23743/15-years-of-Metafilter-Blue-in-graphics#1209172
posted by double block and bleed at 4:41 AM on July 3, 2015


Well, yes, that's why the request was for an easier way to share comments.
posted by Bugbread at 4:47 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, I see I missed that key word in his sentence.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:53 AM on July 3, 2015


Ah, sorry to have been snarky about that.
posted by Bugbread at 5:02 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Every comment has a timestamp that is a permalink.

Yeah, I even used one to copy a link to another comment in my comment. Which is pretty easy to do on a desktop computer, but on a mobile device, I would have to copy the link, close the browser, open Facebook, Twitter or whatever, paste the link, type a comment and then modify the preview text. I think this last bit is the most important, as it'd be really nice if the preview showed a snippet of the comment I'm linking to, rather than the beginning of the post text. But I'm not really sure how feasible this idea even is. It sounds like you'd probably have to generate a separate page for the linked comment to share it in this manner.
posted by daniel_charms at 5:32 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


N-thing the request for an easier way to share comments, preferably to a page with just that comment and a link to the thread. I've done it plenty of times, but people do seem to be confused by links halfway down huge threads, and aren't sure where to start reading. It doesn't help that browsers don't reliably scroll to them if the page doesn't load fast enough.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:38 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm over 40 and I don't participate much on the Blue other than reading the links and maybe hitting up comments. The very excellent second paragraph from Peachfuzz explains why. I also don't have all day to refresh a page and defend what I say against MeFi personalities who immediately swoop down onto less-than-perfect comments and leave "witty" (aka caustic/snarky/nasty) responses.

And since it's been made very clear that there are some topics we don't do well (eh, whatever), and that others aren't here to teach/enlighten me (ok, I get that) so over the last few months I've started going to Twitter or Tumblr.
posted by kimberussell at 5:55 AM on July 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


In fact, comment linking by time stamp is so ineffective that daniel_charms linked to the wrong comment, originally, obscuring this point. Here is where I lay it out more clearly .

The model I have in mind here is reddit, where individual comments can be linked to and it generates its own page for them. I don't know that that would generate more engagement, but it would at least multiply the opportunities to link to Metafilter on Twitter and Facebook.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:59 AM on July 3, 2015


A wizard links precisely what he means to.

In other words, yeah, that's the comment that I had in mind, except I couldn't find it, so I linked to the other one, thinking that I had misread/misremembered it somehow. It had very little to do with the ease or difficulty of comment linking.
posted by daniel_charms at 6:10 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not everyone is super keen on easier linking to individual comments offsite. There was a MeTa about this recently, I thought mentioned above, but I couldn't find it. I think those of you advocating for an easier linking feature should look at it.. maybe someone else can find it?
posted by nat at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2015


If there has been a change in Metafilter culture that I've noticed over the past year or so which seems supported by some of the other comments here, it is that there seems to have been a shift from just being a progressive site (which is honestly a large part of what attracts me to Metafilter) into a site where absolute ideological purity is demanded.

I've seen posters get absolutely raked over the coals here for making comments as seemingly innocuous as, "While I am in 100% agreement with the author of this essay about gun control/same sex marriage/abortion rights/transmisogyny/etc., I thought this essay was really poorly written for reasons A,B, and C". It has almost reached the point where I wish the term "Tone Argument" would be barred from the site for some period of time, since the meaning has long since been bastardized on Metafilter from its original useful meaning into, "Saying anything less than laudatory and cheerleading about a piece of writing that supports a worldview I agree with, regardless of quality".

As others have noted, since I first joined Metafilter years ago, there are now many other places online that aggregate content. It is much more common today than when I first joined that by the time something makes its way to Metafilter as an FPP link that I've already seen it passed around multiple times elsewhere. What keeps me coming back to Metafilter is the intelligent discussion about that content that is harder to find in other places. When that quality discussion instead deteriorates into people just loudly announcing that they are FOR or AGAINST some "Very Important Issue", Metafilter loses that distinction and instead just looks much like my Facebook feed, but with an added $5 fee.
posted by The Gooch at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2015 [26 favorites]


Yeah, here's a comment that made me roll my eyes. On the one hand, yes, it's good to remember that. On the other hand, does everything have to be politicized? Can we really not celebrate the pleasures of walking without having a discussion about how walking is easier for white males?
posted by languagehat at 9:21 AM on July 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, nat. I remember that thread. In fact, I argued there that we should articulate a norm of asking permission before quoting MeFites in the mainstream media.

Linking back to Metafilter seems fine to me, though it's rarely done. Also, there may or may not be urgency in doing so: it may well be that we're better off without such links, either because we don't want the additional attention and the users it would bring, or because it begins the dreaded slide to threaded conversation. That, I don't know. But if we want more social media traffic (and at least some features of Metafilter are built to create that) then we may need to make that kind of change.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:30 AM on July 3, 2015


N-thing the request for an easier way to share comments

I would also love this, with the addition that the design of the way that comment page appears on social platforms is also important - to both 'branding' the comment as a MeFi one and giving it a contemporary appearance that isn't a permalink gobbleddygook. Those look like shit on Facebook.

At the same time, I'm still reflecting on the agita that bubbled up in the thread about MeFi comments being quoted in the New York Times. It became clear that some people imagine their comments to be part of a semi-private conversation and feel context is essential. If we're more easily able to link them across all sorts of social platforms, they will inevitably continue to be raised to far wider, out-of-context scrutiny. As I imagine will not surprise anyone, I have no problem with that, but it's something we'd have to be very clear that users understand can happen and will happen, and, not only that, is part of a strategy to increase user engagement and site sustainability.

I see that you are already discussing this. The "norm of asking" thing would, it seems to me, be counterproductive - even inimical - to the "expand engagement" goal. So I'd continue to say to users "assume all comments are public because they de facto are," and create the tools to make comments easier to share - which of course already happens (on so many sites have I seen Ask v. Guess and also my ridiculously overplayed breakup comment), but on a smallish scale. MeFi comments are already linked back to on several Twitter accounts, too. It's already happening, and would be a good thing if it happened more, but in a way more visible, sanctioned, and clearly part of a user agreement. The biggest surprise, to me, of the earlier flap was that people didn't understand what their agreement to contribute here really meant in terms of what could happen to their comments. We'd need to make that clearer.

I mean, if we're serious about reversing the user decline, then the lowest-possible hanging fruit is being more visible in places where people are looking for interchange about information and ideas - social media platforms - and showing that deeper conversation relevant to what they are already looking at and discussing is available here. I mean, that's the thing people deplore about FB and Twitter particularly - the limits to deep conversation. We can add that value. Our discussion content is our greatest value. It makes sense to put the thing we do best in front of the eyes of people who might want more of it. I'd be in favor of creating a nicely designed gadget to post the content, or part of the content, of a comment with a link back to it that could work across the most commonly-used social media platforms. I have a feeling that doing that well could help make the difference between becoming an irrelevant internet backwater and maintaining a spot in the culture as a lively, interesting place to discuss things that appear on the web.
posted by Miko at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gooch, I don't know if it has only been in the last year. The data does show that SJ topics have been on the uptick for a number of years now. I think this accords with a trend in larger society -- since as some have noted here, MF is only the online reflection of IRL (or, perhaps, a "progressive" slice of IRL).
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:52 AM on July 3, 2015


(I guess this is where I could plug my Flagged as Fantastic Twitter account, info. here at Mefi Projects: http://projects.metafilter.com/4458/ - in case anyone wants to follow!)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


You'd actually probably want a mod or other staffer to serve as MeFi's social media manager - cherrypicking the fantastic comments and discussions that people might want to follow, and popping them in relevant spots online, in addition to moderating MeFi's social streams. Just normal PR work for an organization wanting to grow participation.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


...kind of like joseph conrad is fully awesome is already doing so well, but even more.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


(and I'm looking for work, too. Also: I am cheap. Not proud. :)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:45 AM on July 3, 2015


There was a MeTa about this recently, I thought mentioned above, but I couldn't find it.

Thanks, I'll look into it.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:56 AM on July 3, 2015


Am caught up on this thread finally; busy couple of days. Just wanted to share some thoughts on a few of the things mentioned:

- New/infrequent poster month

I think this is a great idea, yeah; I imagine I said as much when it came up earlier this year, but here's me saying it again. Putting together a nice, friendly collection of post advice and having a metatalk thread where folks can talk out ideas and get support/advice would be nice, and feels like something that if it goes well could easily be a recurring thing, every six months or whatever. Would be good to have a metatalk discussion specifically about the idea.

- Chatfilter

Probably not a month goes by where I don't think to myself, "I wonder if there's some way we could do an official chatfilter thing?" I've never come up with an answer that I actually like enough to try and make it a serious conversation with the team, but I totally understand the appeal of the idea. (Folks with long memories know I actually started an unofficial spinoff years and years ago called Big Big Question. Like most unofficial spinoffs it bloomed and wilted pretty quickly; I eventually let the domain lapse.)

So it is, maybe weirdly, not something as far into Are You Kidding Me territory in my own mind as people might suspect. And if there were a really solid, non-disruptive, non-mixed-message-sending way to do a periodic sanctioned chatfilter sort of event on the site, I do agree it'd be a fun thing. People here are fantastic when they're having fun and riffing on stuff. It's one of the things I have always enjoyed a great deal about Metafilter.

This is really just me thinking out loud on my own behalf, so please don't take this as any kind of "this is in the works" representation. I just want to acknowledge in the spirit of talking about ways to think about the site's future that it's not quite the NO, KILL IT WITH FIRE thing in my mind that e.g. our enforcement of Ask Metafilter's guidelines might otherwise suggest.

- Easier linking of single comments

This is something I was, oddly enough, shouting (humorously) at Matt the other day in a Slack channel about him needing to make Slack handle better. You paste a thread with a comment anchor tag into Slack, and you get a preview of...the thread itself. Which isn't surprising default behavior because of the way anchor tags are (and aren't) used by browsers and web tools, but it's conspicuous on Slack because there are other sites for which there's some slickly-dicky integration that's pretty neat. mlkshk.com links, for example, look great in Slack previews.

Not that "make it look good in Slack" represents any kind of priority, but it does speak to the general perception challenge of linking into the middle of a long, text-only thread.

I'm on the record as being a big fan of preserving context, so part of me is disinclined to really pursue a comment-in-isolation view—I have chewed a lot before on some of the downsides that have been mentioned, the idea of misrepresentation by a removal of context being one of the big ones—but at the same time I recognize a degree of conservatism in my take there that I need to try and step back and examine.

One of the realities of quotation out of context is that it doesn't require a handy comment-view method to happen; a bad actor can cut and paste and arrange things however they like right now. So realistically speaking we don't really prevent malicious de- or re-contextualization by saying "just link to the anchor tag".

Is it likely to specifically help engagement with Metafilter to provide a per-comment view? I don't know. Is it likely to specifically satisfy a need/want in the Metafilter community itself as far as how it shares stuff off-site? That's a more important question to me, honestly. Does this make the site better, does it make the site experience for our members and readers better. And, on the more cautious side, what's the cost in terms of UI complexity and navigation and potential confusion from people linking to or from isolated comments, what to do about deleted comments, etc. A lot of little details that creep in.

So, something we can think about. It may be that the use cases for it outweigh the drawbacks, it may not. But it's certainly worth considering.

- Highlighting good content on the site

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, too. I tend to get it in my brain every time a podcast comes around, in particular. Because we have some things we already do, to an extent, on that front: the podcast thread itself is in part an aggregation of links to neat things from the last month, and we have the sidebar and BestOf and some corresponding rebroadcasting of same on e.g. Facebook.

But there's a lot of good stuff on the site, and the methods (or, as much as anything maybe, habits) we have for sharing those are a lot less aggressive and consistent than they could be. Matt started BestOf partly with the intention of countering that, and I think that was a great idea, but I don't feel like that has so far ended up gelling into a very significant new outlet. And in part it's been problematic because it complicated and in a way undercut our existing practices with the sidebar.

There's also some conservatism there: we have always been sort of cautious about what we put out to the world in an official capacity as Something To Look At, because it's one thing to say "huh, this is interesting" to ourselves and another to by selectively rebroadcasting something imply "I'm comfortable telling the world that the exhortation to look at this is representative of Metafilter's values of preferred discussions and of our view of the right balance of personal privacy and consideration of our users vs. site promotional interest".

Which is a mouthful, but what I'm trying to condense into a sentence there is that (a) I think a lot of really interesting, complicated things get said on Metafilter in threads that are nonetheless heated, challenging, and defined in part by site conflicts that are easier for us to parse as members than they are for outside readers, (b) that someone chooses to share a difficult story about their experiences in the public-but-homey-feeling venue of a mefi thread does not mean they're actually comfortable having that unilaterally re-broadcast to a much wider audience, and (c) choosing to highlight content from e.g. highly politically or ideologically charged discussions as What Metafilter's Doing Lately stands a very real chance of sending a more-political-arguments-and-less-fun-interesting-stuff-on-the-web message to the notional larger readership that's pretty at odds with how I think about the balance of the site I love.

And I don't mean any of that as an argument for why we can't or shouldn't highlight more stuff on the site. On the contrary, I think we really should do so, and it's something I want to keep working on in terms of how we do it as a team because I think it's very accomplishable as well. But part of the difficulty is a lot of the things we see highlighted by users as potential sidebar material runs into those concerns above—the moving personal account of sexual assault, the long sharply conveyed political rant, etc.—to a degree that they end up being non-starters. They can be very good comments and also very difficult things to feel comfortable rebroadcasting for a combination of reasons.

But doing a better job of sharing neat stuff would probably then mean just retargeting what we look for, and how, to focus on stuff that doesn't have those problems. And that feels very doable, it's just a change of habit. The sidebar has been pretty quiet the last couple months compared to what it could be, and some of that I'll blame just on what a busy and with Matt's departure somewhat distracted period it's been, but some of it is we're just not going out our way collectively to stick neat stuff up every day or two. And I think the solution to that isn't hard, we just need to do it: lower the bar from "this is amaaaaazing" to simply "hey, this is pretty cool!" along the lines of what the filter for podcast mentions are, and just as a team build more of a daily habit into it.

From there, thinking about how to make that more of an externally facing thing as well kind of follows.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the sidebar; I inferred much of what you say but it's nice to have communication about why it's run the way it is. (Frustrating, too - there's so much great stuff on MetaFilter and the sidebar ticks along at a snail's pace.)

I occasionally make recommendations via Twitter for great comments I think would work on the sidebar; is this useful to you or just noise? I can stop doing that because none of my recs get picked up. I just wanted some public and direct feedback about that, if you could (?). (The tweets are from the flagged as fantastic account, cc'd to @Metafilter with specific sidebar suggestion.)

It's totally understandable why you need to be careful about what you sidebar, at the same time, it could be so much more dynamic and interesting. My two cents; as always, just one person's opinion.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:38 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(I guess another thing you could do is set up a @MetafilterSidebar Twitter account that people can follow, then every time something is added, it gets tweeted out to folks - or is that duplicating what goes out on the @Metafilter account?)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:40 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


How many other people here have read to the bottom of the comments here, only to find themselves with (seemingly) nothing to contribute? It seems like this thread is one of the few instances where I feel compelled to participate, even if my natural instinct is to delete my comment and close the page.

One thing that I love about MetaFilter is the desire here to interrogate ourselves and the community. However, like others have echoed here, those of us who consider themselves outside the 'inner circle' might feel a bit hesitant to frame what the site ought to be. Even as I write this comment, I am probably too cautious in trying to write "for MetaFilter" instead of "to MetaFilter."

I don't want MetaFilter to be a place where what you comment and submit is only what you think MeFi wants to hear. I think this fear may push some participants away from site, perhaps ever so slightly.

This whole thread has been revealing much of the subtext of the site and the way the site has changed over time. I just want to underscore the importance of efforts to encourage new posters and commentators are extremely helpful and I think that focusing on those efforts have been proven to be successful.
posted by Revort at 1:43 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


On Quora* they have a little tag that adds "Not For Reproduction" to the end of certain comments as per the user's request. Maybe there could be a convention here where if you share something relevant but pretty personal that you don't want to be sidebarred/linked off MeFi, you could add DNL (Do Not Link) or DNRB (Do Not ReBlog) to the beginning or the end of the comment?

* not that Quora in general is so hot or anything, I just thought this specific idea was interesting
posted by en forme de poire at 1:43 PM on July 3, 2015


I occasionally make recommendations via Twitter for great comments I think would work on the sidebar; is this useful to you or just noise?

It's not noise exactly but it's likely to get lost in that medium; I use twitter to watch for a lot of stuff and so one or another random tweet is really not going to reliably get through. Tossing a suggestion to the contact form is a much better idea for basically any possible communicating-with-the-mods situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:49 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe there could be a convention here where if you share something relevant but pretty personal that you don't want to be sidebarred/linked off MeFi, you could add DNL (Do Not Link) or DNRB (Do Not ReBlog) to the beginning or the end of the comment?

Creative Commons licensing for comments!

All my comments are CC BY NC SA.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:54 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I apologize if someone has discussed this already, although I searched and couldn't find any references to it in the thread. In several of the graphs, there is point identified as "Nov. 2012: Ask traffic drops overnight". Is there any explanation for what that is or what happened?
posted by A Bad Catholic at 2:03 PM on July 3, 2015


Yep, A Bad Catholic, see here. Google happened, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2015


Cortex, is the slight decline in actively engaged users an issue for the mods? Do you want to see a lot more users posting and commenting, or is this amount about right?

Is there much of a connection between the number of posts and comments and revenue generating traffic? Is more active engagement primarily good, for more content, or primarily bad, for requiring more moderation?

Above you seemed relatively unfazed by these post-peak numbers, which could just be because you've grown used to them, but maybe it's really not that big a deal.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2015


Cortex, is the slight decline in actively engaged users an issue for the mods?

Honestly I, personally, am waiting to see what happens in the upcoming election season before I freak out. It's likely to get busier, maybe full-on ohgodhelpme BUSY. So I'm not worried at this point, no.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:14 PM on July 3, 2015


On the other hand, does everything have to be politicized? Can we really not celebrate the pleasures of walking without having a discussion about how walking is easier for white males?

Plus, as a criticism of privilege, it's ableist in its disregard of accessibility issues.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, here's a comment that made me roll my eyes. On the one hand, yes, it's good to remember that. On the other hand, does everything have to be politicized? Can we really not celebrate the pleasures of walking without having a discussion about how walking is easier for white males?

At the same time, though, I don't think that comment having been posted necessitates any particular kind of follow-up -- either by having a new discussion along those lines or by pre-emptively pushing back on it. Especially with how that particular comment was phrased, which I thought was pretty low-key, I think it's possible to just take it as an observation and not as intending to make the entire rest of the thread center on, in this case, white male privilege. So basically I think it's possible to have the first part of your reaction without the second part necessarily following.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


cortex, I appreciate that you take the time to write out these long behind-the-curtain discussions. It helps transparency to be sure, but it also inspires confidence that someone is actively thinking about these things and not just winging it and crossing their fingers. It brings a tear to my Rickover-trained eye, even if I disagree with you. (Which, I can't actually recall ever happening, but it could, I guess.)
One must create the ability in his staff to generate clear, forceful arguments for opposing viewpoints as well as for their own. Open discussions and disagreements must be encouraged, so that all sides of an issue will be fully explored. Further, important issues should be presented in writing. Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.
posted by ctmf at 2:31 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can understand that activity might increase with an election, but a temporary uptick due to an election or other political event isn't indicative of resilience.

it's really not that big a deal.

Well, it might be if MeFi is developing, as I suspect, a Harley-Davidson problem. It's starting to feel so insular. If an election blip were temporary, and then we continue at the same rate of attrition, we'd be in even worse shape afterward than before, not having retained any of the short-term activity - it could be basically a dead body bounce.
posted by Miko at 2:31 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't want MetaFilter to be a place where what you comment and submit is only what you think MeFi wants to hear.

Thanks for the comments, cortex. I would be interested to hear your thoughts about this sentiment, which has in one form or another been voices by many people in this thread, far beyond the "usual suspects".
posted by smoke at 2:35 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


(c) choosing to highlight content from e.g. highly politically or ideologically charged discussions as What Metafilter's Doing Lately stands a very real chance of sending a more-political-arguments-and-less-fun-interesting-stuff-on-the-web message to the notional larger readership that's pretty at odds with how I think about the balance of the site I love.

I see your worry, but I think that in skilled hands this isn't a worry. I think in the hands of a decently trained PR person, the way of going about this would be to position MetaFilter as a whole as an interesting place for discussions, and make judicious choices about what, when, and where to highlight stuff. It would mean allowing that person a modicum of judgment and control, which I get the sense is scary, but I can't think of a better, more direct, or more efficient way to get more of the kinds of people we want to be active here to find out about the place and become active here. Most users found this site virally in 2002. Why not leverage the same mechanisms, in their new form, in 2015? No longer blogrolling and linked comments on WordPress sites, but Facebook and Twitter. Well handled, of course.

Conservatism is a characteristic of MeFi - I think that, if anything, that's an understatement. But it could conservative itself right into crickets. I hope we see some ideas about injecting energy and increased participation. The sidebar and podcast are great, but promoting ourselves to ourselves isn't doing a lot to make new MeFites.
posted by Miko at 2:37 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


This comment is a bit random; forgive me. But I mentioned above that I come here less for easy fun. Where I go instead, reddit, just exploded with drama. I'm not suggesting we laugh at their troubles or anything. (I know some people read both while some have strong feelings not to.) It just has me reflecting on how we (as people, organizations, and websites) choose certain paths and end up with different challenges as a result of those choices.

I like the idea of highlighting great stuff more. I'll try to flag share-friendly things more often.
posted by salvia at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2015


I can understand that activity might increase with an election, but a temporary uptick due to an election or other political event isn't indicative of resilience.

Sure, but I'm curious to see if we don't end up on a bit of a four-year cycle - 2011-2012 was a US presidential election year, too. My memory of that period was that it was substantially more intense, and I'm a little hesitant to cheer on a major PR push if we're just at the base of a significant upslope, especially since our staffing is not what it was. Like cortex, I feel like there are incremental things that we can do to hopefully reverse the trend that aren't as high-risk as hiring a dedicated PR person to bring in a whole lot of people when our moderation resources are pretty tightly matched to the current workload. I mean, we have to stay ahead of the curve with that, if possible - always having slightly *more* moderation than we need is inefficient - but I'm definitely not sold on a "Metafilter is doomed! We must make drastic changes!" narrative based on this data.

I *am* really interested in the personal stories of what is working for people here and what is not, because it matches in some places (and not necessarily in all of them) with my gut feel for what's been changing outside of the purely mechanical revenue-specific stuff. So thanks to everyone who's been sharing! It's really interesting to process.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:50 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(And relatedly, I was just on a panel this weekend where I talked about, among other things, the joint technological/cultural clash between people who are grounded in Tumbler and/or Twitter as their primary means of discussion and people who are accustomed to more linear, long-form systems. It's a fascinating topic.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:56 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to see if we don't end up on a bit of a four-year cycle

I'm curious too, but I really wish MeFi could bring itself to do some planning rather than sticking a finger into the wind, wondering where the whims of fate will bring us.

-What number of users is ideal for the site at present employment capacity?
-What level of user activity is ideal to shoot for?
-If user activity is falling, what increase in new users would be needed to bring activity back up?
-What would MeFi look like intentionally downsized?
-What would it look like upsized?
-What staffing would be needed to produce a user uptick and to handle increased activity?

I feel like there are incremental things that we can do to hopefully reverse the trend that aren't as high-risk as hiring a dedicated PR person to bring in a whole lot of people when our moderation resources are pretty tightly matched to the current workload

...but if more people joined the site, things like voluntary fundraising would perform better, perhaps allowing more hiring - especially if the fundraising were rationalized a bit (on a predictable cycle, clear targets, etc).

It just seems like people think about a lot of things and angles but resist making (or at least sharing) long-range plans, or that forward-looking visioning processes just don't take place, except reactively. I know a lot of people don't care if the site sort of juggernauts along doing what it will in a fast-changing marketplace-of-eyeballs, but I do, if only because I hope it will remain around and continue being here to do what it does.
posted by Miko at 4:13 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm curious too, but I really wish MeFi could bring itself to do some planning rather than sticking a finger into the wind, wondering where the whims of fate will bring us.

I guess-- what, in your mind, is the goal of MetaFilter?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:46 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


maximising conversations that make me resort to all caps to talk about my enthusiasms
posted by NoraReed at 4:56 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(and do the same for other people)
posted by NoraReed at 4:56 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cortex, is the slight decline in actively engaged users an issue for the mods? Do you want to see a lot more users posting and commenting, or is this amount about right?

The change over the last couple years is not something that I think is itself much of an issue either way from a doing-moderation-work perspective; that is, it's not enough of a change to have a significant impact on how much we have to do on an average day or on how busy the busiest weeks are. An order of magnitude difference would be a different question, but this hasn't been that. Likewise, a moderate increase and return to previous levels wouldn't be a big issue.

Broadly speaking, we have two major modes we can operate the site in: fully-staffed, or under-staffed. What we can expect to do has a lot to do with which one of those we're dealing with.

Where we are now is fully-staffed, if only just so: we have four mods working scheduled, full-time shifts each week plus one mod working part time, which lets us cover the 168 hours in a workweek with a little sliver of wiggle room. Covering all 168 of those hours is the big milestone; that we have someone actively in charge of watching the site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is a big deal. Any given one of those 168 hours may or may not be busy; many of them, especially the US evening and nighttime ones, tend to be fairly quiet on average in terms of the total amount of mod work needing to be done. But every single one of those hours is one where something may need doing, and across the long haul has needed active mod attention.

Vary the active population of the site by 30%, up or down, and nothing profound changes; busier parts of the day will still be busier, quieter parts quieter, and any given hour may or may not be hopping. We'll still be answering the same general volume of emails, seeing the same general number of flags, leaving the same general number of notes. It may be a bit busier or quieter on average but it's not a whole other ballpark.

So in strict "what we can handle" terms, there's not a magic number here. Where it is now is fine; where it was two years ago is fine. That's not the only reason we'd think about it, of course, and if it's a question of being relieved or concerned or neither that activity seems to have dropped off some, I'd put myself at concerned if only specifically because as an indicator of a trend it would have troubling implications for the stability of the community in the long run. I'd rather we keep fairly steady where we are than keep seeing a decline, absolutely.

> I don't want MetaFilter to be a place where what you comment and submit is only what you think MeFi wants to hear.

Thanks for the comments, cortex. I would be interested to hear your thoughts about this sentiment


I agree with it, definitely. I don't expect people to post in threads only because they think they're affirming the expectations and beliefs and opinions of all assembled. I certainly disagree with folks in non-moderation conversations here regularly, and sometimes with the prevailing sentiment of a thread, and that's part of interesting conversation.

Different folks have different thresholds and expectations for this stuff, and I think that's to be expected and healthy in its own way since a variety of opinions even on the meta-level concerns of the site can help us as a community test out and continually nudge where we draw lines on stuff. But I think there's some conflict that comes with those differing expectations, from folks who would more strongly prefer to see sharing and concordance in discussions to folks looking mostly for stimulating exchanges to folks looking for a chance to disagree loudly and aggressively. And that higher-level conflict is a hard thing to sort out.

What I want is for Metafilter to be a place where what you comment and submit is what you think (a) is interesting and (b) adds some value to the site and (c) contributes to this being a place people want to be. And I think there's a wide variety of ways to do that that mostly won't cause headaches, and that people mostly do a pretty good job of finding those ways. Dealing with the rough spots where that doesn't work is the hard part, and part of the value of folks talking about what they don't feel up to dealing with on the site is seeing where maybe group dynamics and mores shifting make some spots rougher than they used to be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:02 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


> At the same time, though, I don't think that comment having been posted necessitates any particular kind of follow-up .... Especially with how that particular comment was phrased, which I thought was pretty low-key, I think it's possible to just take it as an observation and not as intending to make the entire rest of the thread center on, in this case, white male privilege. So basically I think it's possible to have the first part of your reaction without the second part necessarily following.

Well, sure, there's no need for follow-up, but that wasn't really my point. Of course I'm glad the comment was nonconfrontational and didn't derail the thread, and I hope it's clear I wasn't calling out the commenter; it's just that it was so predictable. Of course in a MeFi thread about the pleasures of walking, somebody's going to remind us that privilege plays a role in one's ability to enjoy it. And I just don't see that it's so essential to remind everyone of that. It kind of puts a damper on a fun thread. Again, I'm not criticizing this particular comment or commenter—it's the cumulative weight of all such comments that gets to me.
posted by languagehat at 5:06 PM on July 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


cortex: " I don't expect people to post in threads only because they think they're affirming the expectations and beliefs and opinions of all assembled...What I want is for Metafilter to be a place where what you comment and submit is what you think...contributes to this being a place people want to be."

Yeah, that's a tough one. I'm in the weird position of being in agreement with like 99% or more of the general MetaFilter positions, but even when I'm in overall agreement, I write comments and then end up deleting them because I'm not in 100% agreement and I don't want to start a shitstorm.

Like, let's say some public figure has said A, B, and C, and is being accused of being X-ist because of that. And I agree that A and B are X-ist, and I agree that the public figure is X-ist. But I disagree that C is X-ist. So I'll write up (but not yet post) a comment saying that. I'll add a bunch of stuff to make it clear that I'm in total agreement about A and B. Then I think about how my comment could be misinterpreted and picked apart. Then I rewrite it to be even clearer, and bend over backwards to reiterate that I think that the person is X-ist, and my disagreement about C doesn't affect that. Then I think about how my clarification could be misinterpreted by people who I am in agreement with and picked apart. Then I rewrite it again, and now it's like one of the old-school Ethereal Bligh comments, which I absolutely loved but generally didn't go over so well at MeFi. And then I reach a point where I can't come up with a way to phrase something so that it won't result in a big argument. I'm moving the word "not" around in a sentence to figure out where it goes best, or italicizing certain words, etc. and I realize that I'm just not a good enough writer to preclude my comment starting a big argument with people who I agree with, so I delete the comment without ever hitting the "Post" button.

So, in a sense, I'm sometimes not commenting and not submitting what I think, because I think that my comment would create a fighty atmosphere, which doesn't contribute to this being a place where I want to be.
posted by Bugbread at 5:48 PM on July 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


I appreciate the thoughts, Cortex, but I wonder you're a lot more optimistic than I am. Or maybe we'll see some changes.

To be more concrete than abstract, someone could make an arguably solid post on immigration (not just a link or two) and I'd not be shocked if it got deleted.

If it stayed up, I'd bet my lunch money that any support for tougher immigration laws would get more than a few angry, high-energy responses saying those who support such laws are bigots, anti-Hispanic, cavalier about how privileged they are, etc., etc., etc. (I'd bet at least half my lunch money that I could guess the names of five people who would make comments of that nature.)

All the while it feels like the bar is appreciably lower both for comments and clearly editorializing posts that are consistent with the site's politics. You talked a while back about how some people get called out, days off and such when their views are with the majority. I'm far from the only one, though, who feels like popular-opinion people have had a helluva a lot more latitude with posts, comments and with joining angry mobs.

People who are far more articulate than me and my chest cold have made that point more than a couple times and I can't see a case that we're delusional or making this up. And I couldn't agree more with thoughts that it leaves people consciously or otherwise disinclined to relate thoughts that clash with the popular opinions.

Yeah, this can feel like beating a dead pony, but you've talked about what you want the site to be and it's hard to see how moderators' choices have been consistent with things going in that direction.

Looking forward to better days.
posted by ambient2 at 8:24 PM on July 3, 2015


> To be more concrete than abstract, someone could make an arguably solid post on immigration (not just a link or two) and I'd not be shocked if it got deleted.

If nothing else, your comment made me do a site/tag search and I came across some really good posts I've missed recently, so thanks!
posted by rtha at 9:02 PM on July 3, 2015


>I'm in the weird position of being in agreement with like 99% or more of the general MetaFilter positions, but even when I'm in overall agreement, I write comments and then end up deleting them because I'm not in 100% agreement and I don't want to start a shitstorm.

I do this all the time, and it definitely detracts from my enjoyment of the site. That 1% is enough to start a shitstorm, on almost any possible subject--I've been here long enough to have seen it happen.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:17 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Again, I'm not criticizing this particular comment or commenter—it's the cumulative weight of all such comments that gets to me.

I can understand that, but I guess I feel differently, because I think that comments like that don't particularly detract from my enjoyment of the site. As you suggested earlier, it's not as if those comments are "wrong," either. I have noticed, though, that sometimes comments like that can trigger a disproportionately aggressive backlash, and I do find that response pretty wearying. I'd like there to be some kind of middle ground where comments like that can exist without necessarily re-routing the thread into a high-temperature argument. But I'm not sure what the best way to achieve that is.

Anyway I've had a few margaritas and I have a feeling I don't have a lot more coherent statements left in me for the night, so I'm just going to leave it there.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:10 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd like there to be some kind of middle ground where comments like that can exist without necessarily re-routing the thread into a high-temperature argument. But I'm not sure what the best way to achieve that is.

I think presuming good faith is an excellent step in that direction. If that's apparently hard for someone, I think, practically speaking, some calling out or in or just addressing it, relatively politely, might be wise. Because people have blind spots, and blunder, and lose their cool sometimes*, but really, pretty much everyone here leans in roughly the same political direction, and basically wants to not be a jerk.

*Why no, I'm not at all thinking of my recent participation in another thread on the grey, why do you ask.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:50 AM on July 4, 2015


I'm in the weird position of being in agreement with like 99% or more of the general MetaFilter positions, but even when I'm in overall agreement, I write comments and then end up deleting them because I'm not in 100% agreement and I don't want to start a shitstorm.

Ayup. I am the first to admit that I used to have some... anger issues, let's say, and would take on all comers in disputation, if not with glee, with steely determination, often to the detriment of Metafilter and myself. I'm much mellower and conflict-avoidant these days.

But for all the times in the past when a kerfuffle broke out because of something I said (something I ended up realizing was stupid, or not), there were ten more times when the ensuing contentious back-and-forth would end in reconciliation and hugs and stuff, and for me at least, much learned. These days, on those much-rarer occasions when I do let my alligator mouth overstep my jaybird ass, it rarely seems to end well, and rather than it being a couple or a few individuals working through disagreement in good faith, it increasingly often seems to slide into Us versus Them territory, for whatever values of Us and Them might contextually apply. And one of the things I've always believed is Just Plain Wrong is engaging with someone based on your ideas of whatever group or groups they belong to (which makes me a foreigner par excellence here in Korea, of course) rather than what they have to say. So, more frequently all the time, I just don't bother saying anything, if there is any chance at all of somebody getting their butt in a ruckus about it.

I have some half-baked ideas about why things seem to have gone this way, beyond me just de-assholizing over the years, but I am not superkeen to share them, because, well: see above. I'm just not as up as I used to be for arguing about stuff in text, or in any other medium, to be honest.

All that said, though, things aren't terrible, I don't think, and this discussion has been proof of that, in a way, even with the frank criticisms of the state of the community that people have offered.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I've actually been super-impressed by the lack of vitriol in this thread.
posted by Bugbread at 4:52 AM on July 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, does everything have to be politicized? Can we really not celebrate the pleasures of walking without having a discussion about how walking is easier for white males?

Plus, as a criticism of privilege, it's ableist in its disregard of accessibility issues.


AND! What about humans that have not yet developed the capability to walk? Seems like some insidious ageism here to me.

Furthermore, have you so quickly forgotten about our non-legged animal comrades who only are able to crawl, slither or roll? You're being a bit speciesist, I'm afraid!
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:05 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if that kind of hyperbole is helpful. Apologies if its a joke, if so it's not a great one and worse: it's a "political correctness gone mad!" stereotype I see employed across a staggering array of racial, gender and minority discriminations. The territory has been claimed, and you might not like the company.

Moreover it does kind of illustrate some of the discourse people here aren't so keen on. Sorry to be a stick on the mud, over sensitive no doubt, but everything's been going so well, you know?
posted by smoke at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well, yes, it was a joke, but also an illustration of comments (in the theme of the ones that languagehat brought up before) that can be made in complete sincerity and at the same time contribute very little to the discussion, if not derailing it.

I also don't think "terrible person X made the same kind of joke in a different context" is as open-and-shut a condemnation as you think. Some people that are grinding their axes are more ridiculous than others.

To address a different subject, I think the thread has been going so well because it's grounded in some objective data, rather than some subjective interpretation that people have sharp disagreements over out of the gate. Not sure if that's the entire story, but that helps, at least.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:39 AM on July 4, 2015


I doubt it was aiming for being helpful, merely a bit of humor. Which can be helpful at times though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 AM on July 4, 2015


As a general rule, it would be good not to get into sarcasm and mockery as a way of addressing an issue. It really doesn't work as a productive discussion technique, and just invites more of the same, and more of that turns Metatalk threads into mean, ugly clusterfucks with a lot of anger and people leaving and lingering anger that pops up everywhere.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:53 AM on July 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


Being a good rodeo clown is harder than it looks.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:16 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


that's because there's so much bull being thrown around
posted by pyramid termite at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2015


I swear this is the last set of infographics, but since several people (including Cortex) said they were interested in an analysis of AskMe, here it is, with some extra goodies: 15 years of Metafilter in graphics, now with the Green, part 3.

- A continuation of the tag analysis on the Blue, which confirms the recent shrinking of the active user base, this time within the 4 studied categories. Even the Social justice/LGBTQ user pool seems to be plateauing. It's too early to tell, but perhaps fatigue is kicking in after 7 years of increasing activity on that topic, and the less motivated users are moving on.

- Some clickbait tag stats: Do Mefites prefer (topics about) cats or dogs, women or men, funny or not funny things, the US or the rest of the world? The answers may surprise you (or not).

- A simple analysis of AskMe questions, answers, favorites, and categories (with comparisons with the Blue). It turns out that AskMe activity peaked in 2009-2010, at least one year before the Blue did, and well before the Google Event of November 2012, which doesn't even register on the graphics since user activity on AskMe was already falling. It's been dropping down fast since 2010 for all major metrics: questions, answers, asking users, answering users. That's a 50% drop (except for the answering user pool where the shrinkage is "only" 35%). Basically AskMe activity is now at 2006 level. Answer favorites are plateauing while comment favorites are still rising on the Blue. The percentage of questions with at least one "best answer" is more or less unchanged since 2009 (between 40 and 45%) so at least the quality of answers does not suffer.
There's also a short analysis of AskMe categories, with nothing much interesting to note, except perhaps the popularity of Human relations answers (50% of the favorites!) which is somehow disconnected from the success rate of this type of question (< 40% of HR questions have a "best answer").
posted by elgilito at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


elgilito, you are a wizard. We asked, you answered. Thank you!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:24 PM on July 4, 2015


Mid-2012 seems to be our peak of hilarity.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow...women were always making more posts? Always making more comments? Am I reading that right?
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


[sorry for multiposting, catching up piecemeal]

what, in your mind, is the goal of MetaFilter?

I don't think I'm a bizarre outlier here. The goal of MetaFilter, as I see it, is to continue to be a lot of what it is now - a place for interesting, varied, smart, active discussion among people who opt into a certain set of community mores in order to participate. A place where people post interesting things they find reflected on the internet, and discussion ensues. A place that offers an eddy for rumination, reflection, addition, and contextualization for stuff that appears online. A place where people who don't start out knowing each other can become known entities to one another through a coherent user participation history.

I'm not looking to change the core MeFi experience, but that experience will most definitely change if nothing happens. Because externals will cause it to change, as is true for absolutely every organization on and offline. II would like to see MeFi develop a plan to identify what the key contributors to the essential MeFi membership experience are and then make decisions according to that. Those decisions might include targeted PR and recruiting efforts to reverse the activity declines in such a way that MeFi can at least sustain membership and user activity somewhere in the +/-30% window cortex says is manageable, if not grow membership to some identified goal level that would allow the site to add features or capabilities that we want now, but can't afford or manage.

I'm not advocating for planning in order to try to change MeFi, but because I know from professional experience that not planning at all - just watching trends, or being hopeful - is how places end up closing their doors eventually. Doing everything the same way only works while the external environment remains the same. In this thread we've identified significant changes in the external environment - rise of really easy-to-use, rich-featured social media, rise of social justice thinking and rhetoric, changing demographics and user orientation to internet experience, and so on - but MetaFilter generally has chosen not to do that much to change the way it operates or recruits or supports the community. The idea of adding features/streams - like FanFare - to drive traffic is nice (I like FanFare) but it seems old to me to add gewgaws rather than do the grassroots-level PR and recruiting that, to me, would grow membership of the kind that would continue the way the place feels but with an inflow of people that is steadier. This is the general trend across membership-based organizations IRL and I suspect would hold true here; you grow by finding more of the people who love you, and you do it through interest-based outreach, personal wherever possible.
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


• Questions least likely to get a « best answer » (< 40%) belong to Human relations, Law & Government, Health & Fitness, Work & Money
• Human relations questions are common, get many answers, many favorited answers and many best answers, but their « success rate » is one of the lowest


What's the effect (if any) of so many Human relations, Law & Government, Health & Fitness, Work & Money questions being asked anonymously? Anonymous askers can't assign best answers, right? Does that affect their success rate?
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:02 PM on July 4, 2015


Wow...women were always making more posts? Always making more comments? Am I reading that right?

Nope. There were always more posts tagged with the word "women" than tagged with the word "men." Accordingly, there were also more comments on posts tagged with "women" than comments on posts tagged with "men," and more favorites on comments on such posts.
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:10 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nope. There were always more posts tagged with the word "women" than tagged with the word "men." Accordingly, there were also more comments on posts tagged with "women" than comments on posts tagged with "men," and more favorites on comments on such posts.

I'm guessing the same applies for the "US vs rest of the world" section, yea? That the data reflects posts tagged as "US" vs posts tagged as non-US, and not so much US vs non-US active posters/commenters?
posted by aielen at 10:57 PM on July 4, 2015


Yes, this is just the tags. Same thing with dogs and cats actually. The infodump doesn't contain personal information about the users, fortunately for our privacy.
posted by elgilito at 12:56 AM on July 5, 2015


"Men" and "US" are the defaults, and therefore don't get tagged specifically as such, is my guess. People probably feel the need to add a specific tag if it falls out of the "norm". Even I, living at the other side of the world from US, wouldn't tag a post about something happening there, but I definitely would if I would post something about Estonia.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:58 AM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


yep. the men/women thing seems pretty obviously to be a marked vs unmarked thing.
posted by nadawi at 8:24 AM on July 5, 2015


Interesting.

"Men" and "US" are the defaults, and therefore don't get tagged specifically as such, is my guess.

Really? Like, any post not tagged "Women" is by default assumed to get the tag "men?" That doesn't seem right.

If so, are all posts not tagged "cat" by default "dog?"

?!?
posted by Miko at 8:26 AM on July 5, 2015


That's not what's being said. 'Women' shows as a higher number than 'men' because there are more posts tagged 'women' than there are posts tagged 'men'-- one of the reasons speculated is that because men are assumed to be default (i.e. not special-interests), a great many posts about men or men's issues are not tagged as such, thus the number shows as lower.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, thanks for clarifying. Men are assumed by posters to be a default and so not requring a tag is different from men as a tag is a default.
posted by Miko at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2015


Yes, that's the problem with user-provided tags. The Dogs and cats graph probably shows an actual X vs Y preference, but the other graphs are biased and only meaningful in terms of evolution over the years. A gender-based comparison of Mefi posts would be interesting, but tags won't help there. The significant rise of the women tag only shows that posters are more willing to make posts that they believe to be specifically about women and to tag their posts as such.

Anonymous askers can't assign best answers, right? Does that affect their success rate?
My bad. Indeed, using non-anonymous stats does increase the success rate for Human relations (> 50%). I've revised the stats and added a graph for the percentages of anonymous questions.
posted by elgilito at 9:29 AM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


That little box at the bottom of the page where you write your potential comment is a very weird thing for me in more contentious threads.

In a way, it's a kind of "Thunderdome of Phrasing" where you pit your comment against two different Metafilters as you write it - the one that's there on the page and the discussion at hand, and a virtual one comprised of your memories of all the times things didn't go so well with comments by other people. So you reread the thread, rewrite, rephrase, and try to be clear on what you are not saying. Often this creates a better, clearer, and more constructive comment, or give you pause to hold off on commenting and listen more.

However, that virtual one is filled with all the meanest, angriest, negating, and dismissive comments you ever remember seeing on Metafilter. So you re-examine your comment, reload the page to see how things are going, wrestle with rephrasing again, and maybe delete the whole thing and try a different approach, and as smoke says, it tiring, and often just disappointingly decide it's wiser to not to post the comment at all, even if it is supportive of the topic at hand. It's important to mention that this is about regular comments containing basic questions, perceptions and points of view - not about creating some grand, masterful rebuttal comment to an argument.

I'm proud of the work that's been done here to broaden the scope of voices and topics discussed here, and I've learned a lot from both when things go well and not so well. The thing is, I'm finding that "Thunderdome of Phrasing" experience occurring more often in discussions that aren't all that contentious, or being a factor that makes me much less willing to make my own main page posts, all of which have little or nothing to do with topics that Metafilter 'doesn't do well.'

I may be overthinking things, but that's par for the course I guess when I'm trying to untangle all this and figure out why it feels like this sometimes.
posted by chambers at 10:19 AM on July 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wanted to go back to something cortex wrote about "Highlighting good content on the site," and targeting the different audiences on the site and off the site. Mostly, Best Of can highlight things, like a water cooler, or a distilled version of Metatalk. I think just being aware of the two different audiences is good, and noting when something is accessible to the world at large could be as simple as adding a tag to the post, like "offsite" or something. Perhaps only tweet those posts out.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:03 PM on July 6, 2015


I might not be reading you right but I think part of the problem is that nobody would read Best Of unless they are already a MeFite. It seems to me to grow the participation we need more outreach to widely-trafficked places of interchange, and less "look at our cool stuff on our own sites that mostly only we know about."
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on July 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


This FPP suggests that across the internet, the nature of commenting is changing. Maybe the activity drop (apart from the overnight Google effect on Ask) has less to do with MetaFilter than with that same change.
posted by gingerest at 1:33 AM on July 10, 2015


Oh, I'm certain things are changing here because of wider external changes, but I'm saying that if we don't respond, we'll continue to shrink. I think there is a niche/long tail spot for MeFi but it depends on gathering people here who still do value comments and conversation. In many ways, that piece is about internet alienation - why bother commenting when the comment zone is often an unmoderated, hostile cacophony that's unwelcoming to many viewpoints? Well, what we have here is an alternative to that - a place where the singular voice is still valued.

I think outreach could really help MeFi transition from "a relic of the early internet when everyone was high on the idea they could make comments" to "a refreshing oasis of good discussion in a desert of solipsistic blather."
posted by Miko at 3:01 AM on July 10, 2015


This FPP suggests that across the internet, the nature of commenting is changing.

I'm glad to see this FPP brought over here, because it's an interesting case study in what happened when Autostraddle branched out to Facebook:
Autostraddle readers who began using Facebook as a news feed were, by design, only being made aware of the most controversial or vapid posts we published, as whether or not something shows up in your feed is based on how much Facebook engagement, comments, likes and shares the post garners. We were baffled by readers claiming we had become a site solely for bisexual women when maybe two out of every fifty posts were about bisexual women and we were consistently being asked by bisexual women for more non-monosexual content — until we realized that if you’re only reading AS articles that show up on your Facebook feed, it could very well seem that way.
Also this:
We know in our hearts that this space is different, and that this community is uniquely capable of navigating grey areas and keeping the space accessible to all types of readers, because we’ve seen you do it! Once upon a time, we were all ignorant and naive, unsure of our own identities and patient with one another’s self-discovery. Those of us with this knowledge are now often in the majority, but it’s on us to share — not flaunt — that knowledge. Even if your politics are sound, the way you express those politics to others can end up replicating the very power structures we all want to dismantle, endorsing righteousness and performance above genuine dialogue. We want Autostraddle to keep being a place that invites more commenting, more engagement, more people telling their stories and listening to others.
Go read the post.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:07 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I'd like to do is make a directed graph of users, with edges denoting favorites from one user to another's comment or post, and see if any patterns emerge.

I would be very interested in looking at this. My prediction: you would not be able to observe jack.

Looks like you were right, bukvich. I implemented SimRank and tried running it on the favorites graph, but the outputted similarities between users didn't really make sense. In retrospect, I don't think it's the right algorithm; FishBike's is simpler but better captures the idea of "which users are mutual fans and probably make similar comments?"
posted by Rangi at 11:51 AM on July 10, 2015


I think outreach could really help MeFi transition from "a relic of the early internet when everyone was high on the idea they could make comments" to "a refreshing oasis of good discussion in a desert of solipsistic blather."

I totally agree, Miko, and I have really appreciated your thoughtful commentary throughout this thread. I wonder if this just might be a more productive conversation in its own post. I feel like the persistent framing throughout this thread about how MeFi shrinking must be due to some "echo chamber" thing has poisoned the well as far as talking about the future of the site in this thread; people seem a bit reluctant to admit that the site is shrinking in a bad way because it would provide rhetorical ammunition for this (totally unsubstantiated) idea that the site is shrinking due to ideology. It would be wonderful to have a fresh conversation about how we can keep the flow of smart, thoughtful people heading our direction without overemphasizing growth or compromising site ideals.
posted by dialetheia at 1:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Okay so I have been thinking about the difficulty of linking to comments in threads because it gets confusing (where do you start reading? what context do you need?) and you know what else is hard to figure out how to link to in context? Twitter.

But Twitter has Storify, which is great and makes it really easy to curate a thread of a conversation. I just put together one earlier largely so I could share it with MetaFilter easily in a related thread.

How neat would it be if we could do something like that with MetaFilter? It'd be great for, like, making History Of MetaFilter Memes cultural type stuff, but it'd also be wonderful for being able to curate, say, the hilarious series of foot-stepping jokes in the bad date thread. It's really nice to be able to provide context for stuff in the beginning of a storify so people don't have to read the WHOLE DANG THING in order to get what the comment you're linking to is about.

People could make really neat stuff with this, especially with, like, a curated list of, say, favorite answers to recipe questions on AskMe, stuff like that. It'd be a good way to share MeFi content with non-mefites.
posted by NoraReed at 3:31 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


It would be wonderful to have a fresh conversation about how we can keep the flow of smart, thoughtful people heading our direction without overemphasizing growth or compromising site ideals.

Seconded.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:50 PM on July 10, 2015


It would be wonderful to have a fresh conversation about how we can keep the flow of smart, thoughtful people heading our direction without overemphasizing growth or compromising site ideals

Comments for the commentless.

As posted, several sites (The Verge, mic.com, Vox, naked capitalism) among others have either disallowed comments, or never allowed them. Perhaps an effort could be made to source (excellent) FPPs from these sources and promote MeFi as a platform for comments.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:56 PM on July 10, 2015


As posted, several sites (The Verge, mic.com, Vox, naked capitalism) among others have either disallowed comments, or never allowed them. Perhaps an effort could be made to source (excellent) FPPs from these sources and promote MeFi as a platform for comments.

I'm sure you're a nice person, so this isn't a personal attack.

This is the worst idea ever.
posted by GuyZero at 3:59 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2015


Well, Metafilter is not a platform for comments. Metafilter is a community centered around commenting. Ignoring that leads you to the exact place those sites are in now. We don't want to just be another place for randoms to drop their hot takes on whatever - we have a site culture, continuity of identity, a system designed around the community to make the changes - and only the changes - necessary to keep it a healthy, thriving community. A platform is something else. Reddit has been trying to do both for years, and it's working exactly as well as I'd assume it would.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd like the site to shrink a bit. Feels too big, too bloated. Unfortunately, I think shrinking would decrease revenue and thus screw or shrink the staff here, which I don't want at all.

Hmm.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:27 PM on July 10, 2015


I would like to third NoraReed's excellent suggestion. I frequently want to point friends to an amusing comment or series of exchanges, and something like storify would be awesome for pulling out a thread and making it easier for a casual reader to parse it.
posted by sciatrix at 5:45 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree, that seems like something that could be pretty useful.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:47 PM on July 10, 2015


My feeling on that suggestion is cautious. We've always said that we want to preserve context, and want people to be participating in the same conversation. So, we don't have an easy way to link to a single comment, and we don't have a site-supported way of filtering a thread just by favorites, because people reading that view would have a different sense of the conversation than people who had read the whole thread. For example, I can imagine it would be tempting to put together a storify-equivalent emphasizing the comments one thought were jerky (or whatever) and people relying on that as a summary of the conversation would come into it ready to fight based on someone else's sense of what was going on.

I see why it would be useful for certain threads, and it's good to think about how to make MeFi more accessible to social media sharing with people who don't know the site, but I'm wary about pulling stuff out of threads. (Maybe I'm more wary than I should be, and we can discuss it.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:31 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is just me jawing: I like the, I dunno, idealized best case scenario I can imagine there. Like I can totally get behind the notion of selectively, positively curating specific bits of an interesting Metafilter thread in a way that's more accessible to an audience not prepared to properly wade through a long thread on an otherwise unfamiliar site. As sort of an extension of the previously raised notion of a single-comment view, I feel it.

I also have sort of strong misgivings when I stop thinking about that idealized scenario, is the flip side, and it's a magnification of one of the things that gives me a little pause about even the single-comment idea: there is no clear driving expectation that the result of building a tool for taking something out of context is that people will remove context beneficently. "Let's enable uncharitable griping" is hard to get excited about, looking at it in that light.

I think one big question with the idea of building some storification tool is: what's the need it's serving that exists right now but isn't being served in a DIY sort of way? That is, how often is anybody doing (or seeing others do) a really basic manual excerpting of some key multi-comment bits of a thread, to establish that the main roadblock here is a lack of a built-in tool? What case can be made that the bottleneck, specifically, is a lack of an on-site thread-edit-construction tool, rather than any of the other points of friction involved?

Because that's kind of the proof of a specific need that would be part of the bare minimum justification for the amount of work doing something like this right would require. And as much as the part of my brain that goes "huh, that'd be neat" can appreciate the idea, the part of my brain in that looks at the design and implementation and user education and potential moderation cost of the idea isn't really seeing it at the moment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:56 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I can totally see ways that something like that could be misused, especially if it was possible to pull stuff from multiple threads, and there are concerns regarding how visible people want their comments to be. But I figured that I'd throw that in as something that might be useful, since we were sort of talking about things that might make the site better or more accessible. (Or we were, like, a week and a half ago, and it took until now for this to percolate through my brainpan.)
posted by NoraReed at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2015


Perhaps an effort could be made to source (excellent) FPPs from these sources and promote MeFi as a platform for comments.

Two different reads on this jump out at me, and I'm not sure which you're going for, so I'll just try and talk about both:

1. Aiming to be a proxy comment site/location specifically for commentless sites. That is, making posts with the specific intent of the Metafilter thread being where the reading and commenting-if-only-they-could audience of the source sites go to comment.

That strikes me as problematic for some of the reasons restless_nomad goes into: Mefi as a cohesive community conflicts with Mefi as staging ground for random non-mefites to have, specifically, non-mefite discussions about non-Metafilter stuff. New folks joining the site on an ad hoc basis to discuss something interesting that showed up here is okay as a slow vector of matriculation but we haven't engineered the signup/newbie process (or steered the site culture) to pull in new not-culturally-acclimated people in swaths or with the aim of being more commenting service than coherent community.

2. Aiming, in a general distributed effort, to make posts about good content from sites without comment sections just for the specific mefi-internal benefit of having good discussions about that content because we can.

Which is totally unobjectionable but also just sort of basically what happens already, unless I'm misunderstanding. And I think that goes as much for sites that do as don't have internal comment sections, considering how rare it is that "oh and look at this attached comment on the linked site" is something some says because they want to laud it or expand on it. The difference between a site/article with no comment section and one with a poor one is close to nil, for our purposes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2015


"Comments for the commentless" is sort of what Fanfare's Podcast section is, at least in a subsidiary part to its primary "talk about media with other MeFites" role. ISTR that the Reply All folks pointed there recently as a "we don't have our own forum, but..." option.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:27 PM on July 10, 2015


Ha, yes, I saw that too! Alex Goldman was saying that the other day when someone asked about a forum. Which is neat.

And that's an interesting thing about FanFare in general, but one where I feel like podcasts as new-media-things-on-the-internet are more than anything an exception/distraction from the core structural truth of media discussion: a movie, a TV show, a book doesn't have a comment section the way we think of them. Like, there may be an official site with a forum somewhere, but people don't think of the website for a TV show as what the TV show is they way we think about e.g. Salon or Medium or a given blogger's blog; the thing itself, the locus of attention in most media properties, is some non-weblike audiovisual artifact or set of artifacts that discussion occurs regarding rather than at.

Which I don't mean to put out there as a "yeah but that's different so it doesn't apply" thing; I think it's a good point re: FanFare and certainly I wouldn't want people to think they shouldn't discuss e.g. Hannibal just because there was some more official well-curated discussion forum somewhere; I like FanFare because I like how mefites have a good time discussing media, full stop. I just think it's also worth looking a little bit at what the contrast between that media discussion landscape and the more traditionally mefi-centric web discussion landscape is so we can understand anything we try and focus on on that front.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:39 AM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Flinging stuff at the walls time -- Maybe it's time to give the podcast its own sub-site. Record shorter podcasts more frequently, perhaps take in a sponsor or two (15 seconds at the beginning of a Podcast wouldn't kill me) & focus on it a bit more as an official service of the site? I mean, if podcasts are all the rage, push on it a little harder. Get it out in front of people who aren't already site members, but podcast listeners in general.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:19 AM on July 11, 2015


It'd be a very different podcast at that point, for sure, in terms of both focus and production style. Like, I think I'd be interested to listen to it, and in a nominal sense interested to participate in it because lord knows "get cortex to talk about something he likes" isn't difficult, but at that point we're building a product for folks with no real investment in the site which means I think making much more of a planning & production effort.

In essence, it'd become more of an additional job than a Thing We Do Every Month-ish. It's something that would need literal producing and editing and coordination beyond what we currently do. Producing a shorter, tighter, planned-and-edited podcast would frankly likely be a lot more work than the jovial, sprawling thing we've been making for the last many years.

So I think it'd need to be a ground-up discussion starting from those assumptions. Not a bad or non-starter idea, exactly, but it'd need some serious talking out about the who and the how and so on. And about what the plan from there is to get out it beyond the Metafilter community itself, which has been to date the target (and captive) audience of the podcast we have.

Which also comes more back to the broader idea of Metafilter as something we explicitly try and put in front of people in the world at large vs. just passively let propagate, which I do think is something worth talking and thinking about more.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:45 AM on July 11, 2015


the broader idea of Metafilter as something we explicitly try and put in front of people in the world at large

That's mainly the idea I was aiming at. It does sound like a lot of work, but as the discussion in this thread seems to have generally taken a turn towards how to stem the perceptible decline in participation, finding ways of getting the site out in front of new potential members seems to be a thing that is gonna need some brain muscles applied to it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2015


I think that AskMe might make a good point of outreach, for a couple reasons. First, it is, if not the best, then one of very few top-tier sites on the Internet for what it does. Second, I think it does a good job of showing the benefits of a stricter moderation style (and, as the most strictly-moderated subsite, I think it might be better for new members to just get that out of the way first). Finally, it's a low-stress way to be introduced to the personalities of people in the community.
posted by box at 9:39 AM on July 11, 2015


Here are some statistics as of Sat Jun 27 09:58:20 2015:

66,919 total users
35,640 users who have given or received favorites (53%)
29,578 users are favers
31,634 users are favees
19,445,903 total favorites
8,247,336 unique faver-favee pairs (only 0.65% of the possible pairs, even without the 47% of non-favorite-using users)
average 657 favorites given per user
average 614 favorites received per user
average 2 favorites per faver-favee pair
maximum 83,449 favorites given by one user
maximum 152,490 favorites received by one user
maximum 9,429 favees for one faver
maximum 10,105 favers of one favee

The "average 2 favorites per faver-favee pair" is why I think my user-similarity test failed. Most users have insufficient data, and the ones for whom data exists end up all looking similar to one another (there are no obvious clusters where, say, cat fans and dog fans only favorite each other). In a way that's a good thing: it means Metafilter isn't too cliqueish, at least with regard to how favorites are used.
posted by Rangi at 1:04 PM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Out of all the faver→favee user pairs, 69% of them are joined by 1 favorite, 14% by 2, 6% by 3, and 3% by 4. Only 8% of the pairs are joined by 5 or more favorites. And yet, one user gave a maximum of 8,432 favorites to another. (The second-highest is 1,721, so that's quite an outlier.) None of this has been associated with usernames yet, but I'll probably do that too.)
posted by Rangi at 1:24 PM on July 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Spoiler alert: 8,432 is presumably davey_darling, who made it a personal mission to favorite every dang comment ThePinkSuperhero posted in response to this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Okay, I can see the user IDs now:

83,449 favorites given by Proofs and Refutations
152,490 favorites received by The Whelk (congratulations!)
8,432 favorites given by davey_darling to ThePinkSuperhero (as cortex explained)
9,429 favees for ifjuly (this account is disabled ☹)
10,105 favers of Anonymous (anon account for Ask Metafilter)

I'm still interested in deriving something more from this user data. Just looking at overlap in subreddit subscribers found some revealing clusters, and it's fun to learn about this community and its history. I think if I drop all the connections with fewer than 5 favorites, the dataset will be small enough to visualize directly, and human visual pattern recognition is better at recognizing ad-hoc patterns than algorithms are (at least for now).
posted by Rangi at 8:35 PM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


A slightly different question, but it would probably also be a good idea to look not just at who is favoriting whom, but also which users tend to favorite the same set of people. A distance matrix based on that (based on e.g. Kendall's tau or dot product or something) might be less sparse than just considering which users directly favorite each other, for one thing...
posted by en forme de poire at 4:09 AM on July 12, 2015


Good idea. I might try cosine distance; one of the papers on SimRank compared the two and got more accurate results from SimRank, but their experimental data isn't necessarily the same as mine.

cortex, thanks for explaining that outlier. This is just the kind of weird detail I like to uncover. I have another question, though: there are two user IDs in favoritesdata.txt that don't correspond to anyone in usernames.txt. What's up with that?
posted by Rangi at 2:26 PM on July 12, 2015


We got a request at one point to provide some way to break out casual correspondence of userids with activity in the Infodump; I implemented a munge list as a solution, where folks who opted in would have their userid obscured in the files so that while their site activity can still be analyzed in aggregate, it doesn't trivially map to their account and exists instead as notionally anonymous user.

In practice it's not robust protection, but given that all of the data in question is publicly accessible to begin with it was never going to function as more than an attempt to politely provide a little distance. My request has been that folks doing analysis that produces data corresponding with usernames basically take that munging situation as a hint to elide specific mention of those users in any such results.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:31 PM on July 12, 2015


Oops. Glad I asked. Can you please edit their names out of my post, then?
posted by Rangi at 2:37 PM on July 12, 2015


Duly elided, thanks for being understanding about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:38 PM on July 12, 2015


We've always said that we want to preserve context

Welll...I'm not sure who 'we' is there. There are a lot of comments that have been pulled out of MeFi and gained a life of their own, sans context, because they're fairly self-contained. I also think it's a fair presumption that an interesting comment, with a link that shows it in context, can be an encouragement to discovering and reading the context. Finally, we don't really need to link comments only - we could content ourselves with linking FPPs and questions.

I also really don't think we need a special widget for this. It might be nice, but it sounds like a lot of work for not much more payoff than we'd get from a trusted, smart social media outreach person linking to whole threads or highlighting specific comments. It sounds like just thinking about it is an obstacle to change and a distraction.

I should also add that highlighting threads and comments on social media is something that already goes on, though in a marginal and unofficial way. The MeFites I'm friends with on Facebook post threads every now and then with a brief comment about what was interesting about them. Their network is then hearing about MeFi in the context of a relationship and of a point of interest being promoted to them. I'm proposing just formalizing this function in a way that intersects with communities where we're likely to find people with shared interests. Taking what we already do, as a community, and magnifying it a bit with greater intent and control .

One of the things that's really been frustrating me about MeFi is the incredible conservatism when considering anything new. Nothing we're discussing here is anything that would be deeply challenging to a social media manager with any other type of sensitive content to work with - say, a preschool, or a cancer charity. Every organization needs to make its own special choices, and a PR manager could help post up the issues and think them through in a positive, pragmatic way with not a lot of handwringing and a targeted plan to introduce methods in stages. A talented person who is a member of the community and knows a thing or two about PR could take this project on, get it started with lots of consultation from the mods, and then establish checkpoints at, say, one, three, six weeks - maybe with user input - to see what the effects are. Eventually the reluctance to change anything and to debate the nuances of every tiny shift takes on the feeling of debating whether consomme or canapes should be the first course on the menu of the Titanic. I see many parallels between communities online and the communities I work with offline, and 'change or die' is a legitimate rule for a reason. Take courage, folks. The internet that led most of us to MeFi - blogrolls, crosslinks on Megnut or Kottke - no longer exists. We're just completely silly not to be working with the equivalent - online mechanisms where communities are built - as it exists today.
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Idea for quick targeted survey: Ask the last [20|50|100] new users (a) where they heard about MeFi and (b) what inspired them to sign up.

I don't know what the answers would be but I'd wager they'd be interesting and tell us something we don't know now.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd like the site to shrink a bit. Feels too big, too bloated. Unfortunately, I think shrinking would decrease revenue and thus screw or shrink the staff here, which I don't want at all.

Well, this is definitely another viable option. If the consensus were that MeFi is already the right size, or too big, then planned shrinking would be a fine direction to take. Because there are financial consequences to that, if we wanted to shrink and keep present levels of moderation and staff compensation, it would require rationalizing the financial model in such a way as to support whatever that budget is. That might mean changes in membership fee structure, added structure and clarity around fundraising, such as an annual campaign or additional donation streams, or the development of other revenue streams. But it can be done - organizations undertake planned shrinking all the time if they believe it's what's best for their mission or purpose. As with expansion - key word is "plan."
posted by Miko at 5:15 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Miko: "I see many parallels between communities online and the communities I work with offline, and 'change or die' is a legitimate rule for a reason. Take courage, folks. The internet that led most of us to MeFi - blogrolls, crosslinks on Megnut or Kottke - no longer exists."

I get what you are saying, and for the most part I agree with you 100% on the need for a more structured planning process, but I just wanted to point out that the history of the Internet is littered with the corpses of online communities that have done everything they could to stay as up-to-the-minute as possible. I think there are a variety of reasons that MeFi has persisted as long as it has, and I think resistance to change is one of those reasons. Whatever kind of planning happens going forward, I think it's important not to over-react to what may well prove to be a cyclical phenomenon.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:01 AM on July 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


A cycle that takes up a third of Metafilter's lifetime is indistinguishable from a trend.

Data can be very tempting and give one the illusion of control. So can planning. A/B testing is fine, but the user and usage data is simply too vast and naturally varied to attribute causation. Maybe it's the election cycle, maybe it's Google, maybe it's Facebook, maybe it's the Tokyo stock market and the price of tea in China. We can tell plausible stories for any of these but we should be cautious of all of them. We're prone to over-explain and over-fit.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:25 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


a variety of reasons that MeFi has persisted as long as it has, and I think resistance to change is one of those reasons

I agree, and I can think of many other organizations that also value slow change, hewing to a set of clearly identified core qualities and values, and careful consideration of adaptations, while still undertaking a continuous review of conditions and doing some planning. A healthy organization doesn't adopt the notion that the choice is "change or do nothing, one or the other;" it's change how, in what ways, and how fast.

The extremely modest proposals being floated here don't represent dramatic change, and should be entertained in a serious way. If something about the proposals seems to run counter to MeFi core qualities, the proposals can be modified, and structured in such a way as to allow close oversight and course correction. No one is asking for a radical redesign, for driving off a cliff. I believe it is possible to identify MeFi's strongest attributes and protect those while designing outreach and audience building methods that are true to our character as a community. Or shrinking purposefully, and designing a financial strategy that is also true to our character. The key in both situations is not compromising the essential characteristics of the community, but it can be a mistake to think of any change as a threat. In my experience, organizations who have taken that stance have really suffered and sometimes just gone out of existence as times change.
posted by Miko at 9:04 AM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


> shrinking purposefully

does not seem to me to fall into the category of "extremely modest proposal."
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems really odd for us as users to sit at the bottom of a two week old Metatalk thread filling out the org chart with social media consultants. I don't see any uptake for this idea from the mods, which is not to say that it's a bad idea but that maybe we should focus on what we can do as individuals rather than trying to spend the site's budget.

As a user, I enjoy joseph conrad is fully awesome's twitter feed. But I don't think it's bringing in new users, is it? It's written for insiders, and I enjoy it as an insider.

The mods have said they're not fully convinced of the need for deliberate, member-increasing outreach. I'm not convinced there's a specific strategy that would tend to increase our numbers without increasing our problems: getting a new Mefite up to speed is tough, and lots of people (including many RL friends) are a bad fit. Ten random new users from Twitter are going to yield--what--one or two good Mefites?

Rather than focus on outreach, maybe we should focus on strategies to increase the participation of users who are already here. What can be done to make Metafilter more comfortable? More tolerant? More friendly to lurkers who speak out rarely?

Making the site "stickier" may be easier than recruitment. (This is why most businesses focus on retention and advertising.) Plus, it's in our power--as users--in a way that the other stuff isn't.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to post cool stuff from Mefi that non-mefites might be interested in on r/metafilter, but there are so many grudgewanky ex-mefites determined to use that sub for the stuff that wouldn't be tolerated here that I might do that elsewhere instead. I'm not trying to bring in new members, exactly, just point out cool content here that people might otherwise miss.
posted by NoraReed at 2:45 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


yeah - i've wondered about starting another mefi sub that is specifically modded against hateboners - maybe cool stuff members find but also posting from best of - just to raise the profile a little...and then it's easy to share with reddit folks we might like an easy in into the site in a form they already understand.
posted by nadawi at 4:32 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've thought about that too, or about throwing together a MetaFilter Highlights blog on Twitter. (Or a subdomain of barrl, since it's super easy for me to set that up.)
posted by NoraReed at 4:53 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some well-placed hashtags in a MeFi Highlights on Twitter could bring in some new eyeballs.

does not seem to me to fall into the category of "extremely modest proposal."

It's happening already, though. Hoping for an uptick without doing anything about is basically agreeing to shrink, but in a passive, uncontrolled way. Anyway, I think it is modest to suggest that what businesses irritatingly call "right-sizing" might be good for a niche online community like ours.

Growing, shrinking, staying the same size - none of these are crazy extreme proposals. I'd personally rather see growth than shrinking, but I was responding to someone who mentioned they'd like a smaller site community - it's something you can get, if you want one, and a decision a lot of organizations have made when part of their mission was accomplished or part of their offering was no longer being taken up. Better to have a healthy, active, intentionally smaller but well-managed site than one that is slowly hemorrhaging or confusedly flailing.

maybe we should focus on strategies to increase the participation of users who are already here.

I think we could try some more #firstpost campaigns and get more folks into posting, but I also think we've seen here and in other threads that current members have reduced their contributions for reasons other than not feeling welcome - they're busier, they've already said their piece on repeated topics, they've found other outlets they read more often. Based on my experience managing IRL communities, the problem is attrition and reduced participation, and the solution is not to cattle-prod formerly active people into participating more, but to work to keep the place infused with fresh enthusiasm and new kinds of content. #firstpost projects can do some of that by pulling quieter users out of the woodwork, but I doubt they can do all of that. Can't hurt to try, but if we want to see if it's a strategy that's working, I'd like to see someone analyze participation before and after the projects and how they relate to the long-term trend (not something I know how to do, so I won't volunteer for it). Past campaigns show great short-term upticks but no lasting influence on the overall trend.
posted by Miko at 5:56 AM on July 15, 2015


There are 3 questions to consider here. 1) Making Metafilter more attractive to the rest of the world 2) Making registered users more active 3) Preventing registered users from leaving.

1) We need to know what attracts people to Metafilter. Miko's idea could be simplified by having such a survey added to the existing sign-up form. Variations of "Where did you hear of Metafilter?" and "What brought you to Metafilter?" would give us clues about what happens now. Are people coming from Facebook, word of mouth etc. ? Did they come for AskMe or for conversation on the Blue? Lots of interesting and useful data would come of this after a few months of sign-ups.
A couple of extra ideas:
- One notable thing in the stats is that the comments/post ratio in Metafilter is much higher (40 on average, with a median of about 30) than Reddit's paltry 10 (and probably a much lower median). Metafilter is village-sized, but posts there are on average more engaging than on country-sized Reddit, where most of the posts go straight to the dustbin. That's a real strength (though it won't last if the villagers keep leaving for the big cities out there).
- Beagle's idea of having pictures in FPPs is one that I'd like to see implemented. There are certainly technical and IP issues, but from a clickthrough perspective it seems like a no-brainer. Particulary, it's painful to see posts about visual arts get so little recognition on Mefi (a notion supported by the stats) even though they're making the rounds everywhere else.

2) The stats show that "events" such as #julybywomen are tremendously effective to boost activity, at least on a temporary basis. Concerted actions on that front would be good. More generally, I believe that personal involvement is key to user activity (a survey of the people who first posted/first commented/delurked on July 2014/March 2015 would be interesting). However, Mefi culture tends to discourage this on the Blue since self-linking (and any form of editorializing or get-your-own-blog posts) is banned, except in the comments of course, but even there people tend to be wary about posting stuff they've done. There could be a Mefi version of Reddit's "self" posts, clearly identified as such, either on the Blue or in its own subsite. People like to talk about themselves and to talk about other people, and, unlike cat videos or NYT articles, such content is original and, more often than not, enlightening. This is already done by proxy on the Blue, and there could be a self.metafilter subsite or [self] tag, just like Fanfare became an official alternative to the gazillion "let's discuss Game of Thrones by proxy" posts.

3) There's nothing in the stats that tells us why people are leaving. Anectodal evidence and testimonies, while valuable, don't provide numbers. I've tried without success to identify patterns of user activity but it's a big blur: some people stay consistently in semi-lurk mode, others have periodic bursts of activity, others slowly disappear, other delurk explosively after years of inactivity. There may be some explanations hidden in the stats but that would require much more work and time. The people from Autostraddle linked above explain its own declining (commenting) activity by the rise of Facebook as the go-to commenting platform. They also lament, like some Mefites in this thread, the side effects of the call-out culture in progressive circles ("we also need to talk about commenting culture in general, and how many readers — including our own staff! — have become scared to comment, period"), but whether this is a significant contributor to the decline in commenting activity is not quantified and probably cannot be. So we got external factors (Facebook, generational) that cannot be fixed as well as internal factors (people no longer feeling welcome for whatever reasons, attrition) that are difficult to quantify and address. So we're back to improving 2).
posted by elgilito at 6:32 AM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bunch more catch-up here, I'm gonna grab stuff in bits and pieces instead of writing a book all in one go this time.

Variations of "Where did you hear of Metafilter?" and "What brought you to Metafilter?" would give us clues about what happens now.

Yeah, this is an interesting idea. Something to throw in as a step after signup proper, so it doesn't slow people down on what's already by design a process with a fair amount of reading and friction. And the more general idea of taking a shot at a new site survey for demographics and Why You're Here perspectives is something I've thought about a few times and we may pursue.

I've thought on occasion about adding a little "essay" piece to the signup page, on a sort of related note, potentially in lieu of the five dollar fee since said fee is at this point less about the revenue than it is about the gatekeeping effect. Basically, write something, even something very nominal, about why you want to join Metafilter. I'd be interested to see what people say, and interested to some extent to see how much self-reporting of intentions there would map to the current watching-for-trouble (mostly of the spammy kind) we already do with the information people passively provide via paypal and such.

Though I'm curious if we'd see a trade-off there where some folks would be more likely to complete the signup process sans a fee but other people would be conversely less likely to complete a signup process that put them on the spot to write something, even a wee something. I sort of doubt the balance there would be negative, but then I write that as someone who has zero problem writing about myself at the drop of a hat.

Beagle's idea of having pictures in FPPs is one that I'd like to see implemented.

I feel a great deal of hesitance about explicitly making the front page of the site more graphically busy. I understand the argument that images can sort of pop, but that "pop" comes at an immediate and obvious cost to everything else on the page that's not popping. If the front page were a curatorial portal into the content of the site, that might make sense, but as everybody's-an-equal, post-as-you-like shared space it's much less obvious that that would be a net benefit for the feel of the front page to the community.

That said, the idea could apply well to more outreach-oriented ideas; finding ways to put one or another isolated bit of Metafilter stuff out in front of people using something eye-catching isn't a bad idea. That was part of Matt's basic thinking when he launched Best Of, and though I think we need to (and, recently, actively are) revisiting and rethinking the details of how we approach that, the appeal of the idea is pretty obvious.

There could be a Mefi version of Reddit's "self" posts, clearly identified as such, either on the Blue or in its own subsite.

To be clear, do you mean above and beyond what we have with Projects (and, more domain specific, Music), or more in the spirit of just trying to give that stuff more visibility on the site? (The latter is something I've been thinking about a lot, in the vein of more generally trying to increase cross-subsite and off-site visibility of cool stuff on various parts of Metafilter.)

They also lament, like some Mefites in this thread, the side effects of the call-out culture in progressive circles ... but whether this is a significant contributor to the decline in commenting activity is not quantified and probably cannot be.

Which I agree with on both points, basically; I think we'll have to continue navigating the tricky borders of trying to foster thoughtful, empathetic, and inclusive discussion on the site without letting the most combative or fractious aspects of discussion become dominant, but that that's more of a qualitative issue than something I think we have any way of putting a number on.

More generally, from there, one of the things that has kept coming back to me as I think about Metafilter, my relationship with it as a reader and participant and as mod, and what folks have been saying in here and over the years, is that I really value the sense of fun and wonder and shared learning and exploration that this place can generate. That's something I care about preserving and promoting, and it's one of the things that I think we need to emphasize and encourage as much as anything when we're thinking about the future of the site and about any sort of outreach to new users.

Metafilter can be a very incisive place about deadly serious and difficult things, and I value that and will continue to foster it as well as I can too, but I think it's easy for us (both the mod team, and the userbase) to invest so much energy in the heavy, dark, difficult stuff that we forget to come up for air, and, y'know. Stop and smell the flowers. Say, "hey, this is awesome" every day. Experience some joy and goofiness to offset all the hard stuff out there in the world that'll still be waiting for us to keep working on even if we take a break to bask in a little webbish joie de vivre.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on July 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


For days I've been trying to understand why much of the discussion in this thread has irritated me so badly -- sufficiently that I've written several grouchy comments that I've wisely abandoned.

And I think it's because this worrying about MeFi's decline and strategizing to prevent it are, I strongly intuit, analogous to a desire for MeFi's growth. Which is to say, among the many wise decisions Matt made in his administration of MetaFilter one of the most important was to firmly deny the common assumption that growth is a virtue in its own sake. And that was important because, in fact, the pursuit of growth for growth's sake -- or at least with little thought to what growth can mean -- is more often proven a vice than a virtue.

Online communities usually don't thrive and grow at all. It takes a fortunate combination of circumstances for such communities to be successful -- MetaFilter was fortunate in its inception with regard to who and what and when, and it was later fortunate with AskMe with regard to that era of the web's growth and Google. We're now seeing the end of these fortunate benefits and the surrounding online landscape has changed in ways that are just not very friendly to MetaFilter. MetaFilter has begun its decline and all online communities eventually decline.

I understand the desire to keep MetaFilter as vital as long as possible, I truly do. But it's very easy to fall into a "change or die" reactive mode that trades both vitality and value for the shambling embarrassment of an animated corpse and which, in the end, utterly fails in every respect.

Finding ways to promote and attract interest to MetaFilter as it presently is will not and can not compensate for the forces that have placed it into decline. That can help around the edges, it can eke out a 10% increase in longevity, but MetaFilter grew and thrived on the basis of prevailing internet conditions and this is no longer the case. You cannot compensate for this.

MetaFilter could attempt to transform itself so it's in accordance with those prevailing conditions, but such attempts almost always fail because, metaphorically, that's fighting the last war. That space is already occupied; if MetaFilter transforms to fit that space, it will always be marginal and it will decline, anyway -- but as something other than itself.

I've been active in online communities longer than almost everyone else here. For more than thirty years -- from BBSs and early online services, to Usenet and The WELL, to the web from the mid-90s. I've never been a name, a mover or a shaker, but you can find me in these communities all the way back to 1983. I've seen a lot of beloved communities thrive and then slowly fade away. It can be sad, but it's not a tragedy because high quality and vital online communities continue to form and thrive. And personal associations and friendships -- at least some of them -- always outlive the communities from which they were born.

There's no harm in trying to nurture MetaFilter -- right up until the point that it's destructive to the essential character that we value. And it's very easy to wander into that territory if you're chanting "change or die" and have your eyes fixed on membership numbers and such.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:01 PM on July 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I agree with pretty much everything you have to say there, Ivan, as usual, but I'm not sure about
MetaFilter has begun its decline and all online communities eventually decline.
What I mean is that the first part *may* be true (and may be temporary or permanent, and 'decline' is probably a word worth defining more clearly), and it's generally true that the second part is accurate-ish, historically.

But as long as it has been that online communities of one flavor or another have been around, I think it's still early days in some ways, even decades in. I'm not sure that (as they say in the investment world) past performance is any guarantee of future results, and I suspect here may be ways that online communities that exist today might continue to remain vibrant for longer than we might expect. What that will mean (in terms of time frames and what happens when it's a matter of community founders and leaders dying of old age and stuff, rather than just burnout or implosion or withering or disaster or technical obsolescence or any of the many other ways that communities disappear), I think remains to be seen, but as I've said so many times here over the past nearly-two-decades, I'm keen to see where the experiment leads us.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:29 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


For days I've been trying to understand why much of the discussion in this thread has irritated me

Me too, for similar but slightly different reasons. I've been in several situations where groups have gotten into their heads that they're not good enough as they are, that they must change to be "something else." That kind of collective insecurity and second-guessing led to some very bad decisions and, in one case, nearly destroyed the group. I hear some of that undertone in the conversation above, and that strikes me as far worse than just aiming to be the very best of what we are now.

Some, even most, of the discussion above does very much ask "how can we be the best that we are now?" so I'm not trying to universally reject or mischaracterize the conversation. But I do reject the negativity in ideas like "we're doomed if we don't change," and "the web as we knew it is obsolete and we have to catch up to the new web." I don't think we can say those with certainty. I loved MetaFilter back before the boom of 2011 (or whenever), and I think we could do far worse than settle out at that previous level of engagement. Flash games and advice animals might come and go, but MetaFilter has survived the evolution of the web so far, and I don't buy that there's anything specific to MetaFilter that has put it on some precipice of obsolescence, nor that the current trend represents an inexorable decline. And if we do change to become something utterly unlike what brought many of us to love MetaFilter, well, that's its own form of doom.

I know this comment borders on creating false dichotomies or straw men, and I'm not trying to put words into anyone's mouth, especially after re-reading the comments above and appreciating their nuance, creativity, and flexibility of thinking. I know my paragraph above only touches on the reasons that some are arguing change is needed; it's not a full rebuttal to the thoughtful concerns raised (nor is it intended to be). But I did want to share how some of this was landing with me.

I'd love to see us focus on proposals that help MetaFilter be more of what it currently is -- things we'd not just feel are right for the site but that we'd be excited about seeing happen. And let's do it in a spirit of pride and positivity, not to "keep up with the internet." Let's do it because we're all here; we're great people (well, most of us anyway!) who enjoy having thoughtful conversations; we want to make the site even better for current users; and we want our community to be more visible and available to others who might like to join us.
posted by salvia at 6:34 PM on July 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


And it's very easy to wander into that territory if you're chanting "change or die" and have your eyes fixed on membership numbers and such.

It should be clear that I am not coming from such a shallow place. I've tried to be very clear that I want MetaFilter to continue to offer its central value and stay true to its central character. If we have "begun our decline," what is your counterproposal? That we be content to watch traffic slow and user attrition continue and let it die? That is fine, if it's our collective intention.

However, it's a fallacy that all communities decline and die. In community theory, voluntary-member attrition is an absolute inevitability (even if nothing else changes internally or externally, people die). For that reason, communities do decline -- unless they plan for stability or for growth. Communities die for two reasons: they stop delivering their core value, which cools member attachment, and/or they stop attracting new members to compensate for inevitable member attrition.

Meanwhile, communities that undertake planning for stability and growth can stay relevant for a long time. In the meatspace world, there are hundreds of associations that extend a century or more, despite being subject to the same dynamics (greater abundance of leisure-time choices, political strains). Then there are organizations like mainstream churches, which can be seen as analogous to MeFi in that they are clearly suffering from membership attrition and lack of takeup by younger members, but resist outreach, taking a mostly passive 'they'll come to us' approach. As with many areas involving human behavior, I think there should be more knowledge transfer between real-world community management and online community management. They are not that different because a keyboard mediates them. Even if they are, I loved the discussion above about how the "old media" companies like the NYT and Guardian have expanded their communities enormously through the creative use of online media to interact with their core properties. We're asking how to draw people to a community that interests them, keep them there, and keep them active there. The techniques being suggested in this thread are all proven methods for reviving a community that still has value. (You can't effectively revive a community that no longer has something to offer that people value, but I, and others, seem to believe that we still do).

But let's say you're correct - we're just declining, it's the beginning of the end. In that case, what is the planned strategy for moving through the decline? Should we be looking for a plan to step down moderation, or increase fundraising to maintain moderation levels through to the end? Should we be discouraging, rather than encouraging, strategies that place MetaFilter before a wider audience (like Flagged as Fantastic, or reposts on Facebook?) These are the kinds of right-sizing questions we should be asking if we decide that we're uninterested in either maintenance or growth. But let's ask them because we want to grow smaller or decline, not because decline is inevitable. Maintenance and growth are also extremely viable possibilities, because MetaFilter is an excellent property that retains a great deal of value.
posted by Miko at 6:26 AM on July 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter can be a very incisive place about deadly serious and difficult things, and I value that and will continue to foster it as well as I can too, but I think it's easy for us (both the mod team, and the userbase) to invest so much energy in the heavy, dark, difficult stuff that we forget to come up for air, and, y'know. Stop and smell the flowers. Say, "hey, this is awesome" every day. Experience some joy and goofiness to offset all the hard stuff out there in the world that'll still be waiting for us to keep working on even if we take a break to bask in a little webbish joie de vivre.

This paragraph has really stuck with me. Let's do this. Let's have silly post contests, surreal comments, and just fuck around a whole lot more. Let's not gird for battle and parse management-speak. Let's invent some more catchphrases and fill up the t-shirt stores with our absurdities rather than our profundities. Let's create some image memes.

(Maybe comment threads could have auto-preview for certain, cleared photo and image sites as it does for videos? Or maybe that could be an option for the poster to turn on when they post?)

Of course, since I read cortex's comment, I'd done exactly zero silly things on Metafilter: I participated in two threads and both were serious-nay-academic. So this is very much a work in progress for me.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:55 AM on July 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


anotherpanacea, challenge accepted. :)

(I just posted links to livestreams of baby animals to the Blue.)
posted by zarq at 1:36 PM on July 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Spotted today:
It’s something that all institutions face, whether you’re a library or a museum or an orchestra,” said Athenaeum trustee John W. Everets, a 20-year-member whose family has been a part of the library dating back to the 1840s. “How do you maintain your relevance as the future encroaches?”
posted by Miko at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2015


It might be nice to offer screenshots of selected text/comments, like Medium does, For sharing on Twitter. I thought I'd seen a code repo for this a few months ago, but I can't find it now. I saw a tweet today with a Mefi comment snapshot and a lightbulb came on for its use here.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:15 PM on July 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not to be argumentative, but screenshots of textual stuff, so common all over the place these days, are one of the things about The Way The Kids Are Doing stuff that I totally do not understand (unless the objective is to record things that might later be redacted for some reason, which I guess I get).

It strikes me, in much the same way as URL shorteners do, to deliberately compromise the interlinked-text integrity of the web.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:49 PM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it's linked back to the original, which it usually is IME, it doesn't compromise the interlinked-text integrity of the web at all. What it does is make it easier to put a reasonable-length quote out on Twitter instead of being limited to 118 characters (the Twitter limit minus the link).

The very first link in Pronoiac's comment shows how the linking back would happen. No compromise involved. If anything, it makes more text available more easily.
posted by Lexica at 10:22 PM on July 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


We can agree to disagree on the matter, perhaps.

Fucking Twitter, he muttered to himself.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:54 PM on July 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like that idea. It highlights good stuff and makes it easy to read and share while leading you back to its context. It's nicely formatted.
posted by Miko at 1:50 PM on July 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


So to come back around to a couple things, since I've been doing a lot of passive reading of and thinking about stuff in this thread, Devils Rancher was brainstorming a week and a half ago, above:

Maybe it's time to give the podcast its own sub-site. Record shorter podcasts more frequently, perhaps take in a sponsor or two (15 seconds at the beginning of a Podcast wouldn't kill me) & focus on it a bit more as an official service of the site? I mean, if podcasts are all the rage, push on it a little harder. Get it out in front of people who aren't already site members, but podcast listeners in general.

And as much as I had (an expressed) some concerns about it at the time, some of the idea stuck with me and germinated, and then one thing led to another and hey: we've just launched a new podcast, Out of the Blue, that is precisely a short-form, tightly-edited thing designed to be really accessible to non-Metafilter listeners, vs the current (and still very much ongoing) Best of the Web chatty inside-baseball thing we've been doing for years.

And doing something new from scratch instead of having to modify or compromise the existing podcast content and workflow gets rid of some my concerns—I like the thing we have and don't want to mess with it, and taking this approach sidesteps that concern nicely.

It's very early yet so we're still figuring out the details of how we want to handle it long-term, but my hope is that it will indeed be something that's appealing to not-just-mefites, in a package that's easy for folks to get into.

Related to that, on the more general focusing-on-neat-and-fun-stuff we've talked about, you'll notice that Best Of and the sidebar have been a lot more active the last week; we've talked before about trying to liven those up, but we've recently talked as a team about strategies for shifting our thresholds on what to post and developing a more active daily routine for getting stuff up there, and it's going well.

And doing that just to have that stuff highlighted for folks in the community is reason enough to pursue it, imho, but it's also something we're thinking about in terms of what material and how and where to put out in front of a larger audience, or to use as the basis for some attractive casual interface. That may ultimately just mean continuing to iterate on Best Of and try and spread that around more, but it could take other forms as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:54 PM on July 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Thanks for the update! I'm very excited about the podcast. A terrific experiment (and something I will enjoy anyway!)
posted by Miko at 1:13 PM on July 21, 2015


Whaat? You mean I had a good idea? Now I have to listen to it, don't I? :-)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:17 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


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