MetaFilter's increased public profile April 9, 2016 7:51 AM   Subscribe

In an article published by the Guardian's executive editor for audience today, MetaFilter is mentioned in the same breath as Facebook and Twitter as an example of a website which 'provide[s] spaces for different kinds of communities to gather', despite having only a fraction of the membership and the traffic of those two sites. This is just the most recent example of how MetaFilter seems to me to be enjoying a greater public profile as of late. Is this so (or am I just imagining it)? If so, why? Can the staff or other users shed any light?
posted by Panthalassa to MetaFilter-Related at 7:51 AM (71 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Ooh, that is a nice little name drop, yeah.

I haven't noticed any real major upswing in attention lately, though MetaFilter has come up as a counter-example to e.g. "comments are terrible" stuff here and there in a few places that I've seen in the last few months.

One relatively recent thing was MeFi getting mentioned more explicitly as an example in (at least one of the) talks at the Beyond Comments event a few weeks back; that wasn't any MeFi-driven thing, I just saw nice tweets and shoutouts going by in twitter (and jessamyn was there), but it's possible that's had the site a little more on the brain for some people writing/thinking about community interaction stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


How many comments a day does MetaFilter (all sites) get? The Guardian's consultation says 50,000 to 70,000. How would MetaFilter's approach scale to that volume?

And also, would the mods be thinking of responding to that consultation, because I would love MetaFilter-quality comments across the rest of the web. I understand that the reason this place works is because of many intangible reasons, and that we're not going to be seeing any MetaFilter brand® franchises any time soon, but I think if there are easily shareable lessons from MetaFilter that could be shared with newspapers who are appropriately serious about creating communities (and I think that this is The Guardian's current survival strategy), it would be great if they were getting implemented at globally influential scales.
posted by ambrosen at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2016


I think the lesson to be learned from MeFi has always been to have professional, full-time moderators who are paid a living wage, good at what they do, are responsive to the needs of the community, and who work to facilitate vibrant, inclusive, civil conversations.

Also there's the $5 cover charge and the fact that MeFi does not try to be all things to all people, what with its minimalist design, lack of images, and emphasis on correct grammar and spelling. But mostly it seems to be a matter of having a clear vision of what the site should be like and being willing to put a lot more of the budget toward moderator payroll than almost anywhere else. That's my impression, anyway.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:37 AM on April 9, 2016 [39 favorites]


Metafilter --> civil discourse
small town politics --> democracy

Size matters. If we were to draw from a virtually unlimited readership base there's no way I might gently be chided into rethinking a brainfart: I'd just be another dickhead, and the Blue would be swamped by sub-blue threads populated with various stripes of boogerflickers--this is the essence of troll-baiting. Nothing is inherently wrong with a site that plays out like a fractal pattern (reddit), but the quality and cohesion of conversations in our model suits me better.

Also, a venue with a structure similar to ours might support a population that desires different socio/political flavor, so there's that. A major issue regarding the Guardian is that its interface is the reverse of Metafilter's. They publish to everyone, so the comments come from everyone. Metafilter publishes to MeFites; though anyone can read the posts and comments, only members are allowed to reply. Members who can't comply with the spirit of this site are gently schooled by moderators, or, if they seem intractable, they are blocked from further commenting. I say spirit, because we tend to break "rules" in here sometimes, but we are usually given room to try to justify what we've done--this can happen in a confidential email exchange with mods, or we can stand on a box and defend ourselves in view of the entire membership. I believe a bit of thought shows that the MeFi approach is not workable in a News magazine.

It's heartening to see that what we do in here is noticed by others who'd like to encourage civil discourse. I feel a warm glow--oh, don't let me be smug--that they would like to do as we do, be more like us. I just hope we don't get to be like them.
posted by mule98J at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think a large part of any attention we get is because most of the internet is a steaming cess pool and Metafilter just isn't. But the evil voice in my brain also points out that pretty much every long form article posted on The Guardian ends up here as an FPP fairly soon so of course they notice us.
posted by shelleycat at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also very likely people working in the Graun either lurk or have accounts here. It's not like MeFi is an obscure phpBB forum started in 2010 cut off from google.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


business.com, March 15th:

"Sites like Quora and Ask MetaFilter are places where people often seek serious, thoughtful and well-rounded answers to their burning questions."

Poynter, March 15th:

"Or you can have a community with moderators but also self-regulation. Think Reddit, where up and down votes determine what you see, or Metafilter, one of the most robust conversation sites on the Internet, where moderators routinely delete comments and members pay $5 to be able to post and comment."
posted by Wordshore at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


How many comments a day does MetaFilter (all sites) get? The Guardian's consultation says 50,000 to 70,000.

Yeah, they're dealing with something like an order of magnitude and then some more than we are; we see something more in the realm of a couple thousand a day.

How would MetaFilter's approach scale to that volume?

With a bit of difficulty, though I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility. But it also depends on what the goals are and what the long-term expectations are; it's one thing to apply a different moderation/management approach to an existing community as it exists just to mitigate some outstanding issues, and another to do so with the goal of actively changing that community in some direction over time.

E.g. do you want to just use active moderation to reduce the footprint of your resident noisy jerks, or do you want to change the culture of the place you're managing so that the jerks stop wanting to show up at all?

The more time I've spent doing and paying attention to moderation, the more I've come to believe that while there's a lot of basic lessons and philosophical approaches that can apply broadly to many moderative contexts, there's also a lot of very situation-specific stuff that any plan needs to take into account. Who your target commentariat is. What your actual staffing resources are. What you expect your community members to expect. How much you want them to be participants in steering community culture. How much you can dedicate to helping them do that sort of community policing, and how prepared you are to intercede when that goes sideways. Etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:48 AM on April 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


And also, would the mods be thinking of responding to that consultation, because I would love MetaFilter-quality comments across the rest of the web.

I think all of us are interested in moderation as an art, and I know Jessamyn and Matt have given talks in various places about it over the years. I just gave one myself at the Game Developers' Conference, actually. Consulting would be a pretty major time-suck for any of us, though - I've given some thought to it, and I'd be willing to, say, offer 10-20 hours a week for a month to get a startup set up right and possibly help interview hires, but revamping a major organization's community management strategy is a full-time, six-month-at-least job (for the reasons that cortex just mentioned.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:50 AM on April 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have noticed (seemingly) that mainstream journalists often read here, especially about contentious issues, and days later their articles show up, well thought out, and well read out. Mefi presents broad discussion, without the enervating flame wars, and algorithm-generated deafening roar, that by design, makes discussion futile. Then many just return to the flavor of choice sites, because it is easier to swim down the river than stay on the edge and think it over, or choose another activity altogether. I read around enough to see the discussion here, become rational coverage elsewhere.

No, I can't cite anything at this time. I am not worried about Mefi becoming a newspaper comments section. Figuring out how to have a real, vibrant, comment section that is not governed by endless generated identity/comments bought and paid for; that is a difficult route to create. The use of security apparatus by publications has to be the norm. They have to locate multiple feeds, people who type in a comment, and it turns into twenty all with slightly different syntax. They have to work on filters that locate propaganda outlets, whether they are from certain political entities; money, religious, corporate, or industry. You can bet that operators from big pharma, big chem, big whatever are standing by to bury inconvenient opinion, research, or findings under a pile of blunt force shrieking criticism or dismissal.

Metafilter has done some great work with community consensus and moderation. They have changed noticeably in the last year and a half and life is better around here, because of it.
posted by Oyéah at 11:50 AM on April 9, 2016


I think if there are easily shareable lessons from MetaFilter that could be shared with newspapers who are appropriately serious about creating communities

As cortex said, i was at Beyond Comments and talked to a lot of creative thoughtful people about the strategies for their comments sections but the sticking point is that businesses really want solutions that scale. It's like making the perfectly safe car. You can totally do it but no one wants to pay for it and so everyone's making little adjustments on the dial between "deathtrap" and "perfectly safe" and these decisions are usually financially driven. And comments aren't life-or-death, nearly always. So you have to think about how much time and money you're going to invest in maintaining a good community especially when you have another business to run. And this is the big deal. MeFi is community-as-community for the most part. Newspapers aren't. I know a few people who do comments stuff for newspapers and it's hard work and rarely gets a lot of traction in the upper ranks of stuff.

I'm totally available for hire to do this sort of thing but realistically unless you've got a goal that "better community" can help forward (dealing with racism and sexism is one, providing a safe space for difficult conversations might be another, offering people "what they're paying for" in an elite space) its hard to explain why you might want to hire someone like me.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:51 PM on April 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


and that we're not going to be seeing any MetaFilter brand® franchises

I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:03 PM on April 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


"I'll have the AskMe special."

(It's a mayonnaise-based sandwich that's been left on the counter for 12 hours.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2016 [85 favorites]


it's one thing to apply a different moderation/management approach to an existing community as it exists just to mitigate some outstanding issues, and another to do so with the goal of actively changing that community in some direction over time
And it must be noted that MetaFilter HAS changed and improved over time. (Remember the 'buy zone' era? It's like this was the only place on the web that really learned from something like that.)

and that we're not going to be seeing any MetaFilter brand® franchises
I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.

A nice source of income might be registering places as "Official MetaFilter Meetup Locations" with a little sticker in the front below those for the credit cards accepted (like Dr Pepper here).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2016


I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.

After reading the hygiene threads, I wouldn't.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.

Two unisex bathrooms labeled "Standwipers" and "Sitwipers."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2016 [36 favorites]


"I'll have the FanFare Burger with a side order of Election Thread Fries, and a Hurf Durf Shake"
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've noticed that the Guardian is simply turning off comments for many stories. It seems to be a trend with news outlets: my local daily has turned off online comments. The reason? Too nasty.

I am the social engagement manager for an online news platform. We use Disqus for comments, but nobody is commenting on the articles anymore. The comments are occurring on Facebook.

Since we're a news site committed to freedom of speech we generally try to avoid deleting comments on Facebook, no matter how stupid they are, except for spam or comments that incite violence.

The reason is because on Facebook their comments are linked to the commenter's quasi-public Facebook persona, so their comments just make them look bad.

So I ignore the more odious or plainly stupid commenters. I do engage with trolls (we have a lively pro-Russian/pro-Putin troll section) but I do so by asking them to clarify their arguments, which shuts them down.

And, unlike MetaFilter, as a mod I clearly identify myself, so there is no hiding behind the brand of my employer.
posted by My Dad at 2:08 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


And, unlike MetaFilter, as a mod I clearly identify myself, so there is no hiding behind the brand of my employer.

?
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:20 PM on April 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think he means that there's some sort of "mod" identifier by all comments that he makes.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:24 PM on April 9, 2016


And, unlike MetaFilter, as a mod I clearly identify myself, so there is no hiding behind the brand of my employer.
Are you able to expand on this a bit? Specifically, in what way do MeFi's moderators 'hide'?

I participate in a special-interest forum that uses Disqus to manage comments and it doesn't surprise me that people aren't using it to comment on your articles. The clunkiness of that system combined with, in that specific case, awful (arbitrary, inconsistent, invisible) moderation, really goes a long way to discourage community. Not suggesting your site has awful moderation at all, but the system itself is very much the opposite of a comment system that would help you foster community.
posted by dg at 3:27 PM on April 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


You can't get everything you want at the Metafilter restaurant.
posted by telstar at 3:53 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.

I'd order a plate of beans, but I'd have to think long and hard about what style.

... And possibly some taters on the side.
posted by mordax at 4:23 PM on April 9, 2016 [9 favorites]




> And, unlike MetaFilter, as a mod I clearly identify myself, so there is no hiding behind the brand of my employer.

This is confusing, but I'm thinking maybe this means when you're a moderator for your forum your real-world identity is known, and on MetaFilter you're unknown, only identified as "My Dad"? Or are you trying to say something about MetaFilter's moderators?
posted by Secretariat at 4:33 PM on April 9, 2016


The most popular item is the Hurf Durf Butter Burger, a recipe stolen by this guy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2016


I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.

Can I eat this?
posted by amtho at 5:28 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


  Official MetaFilter Meetup Locations

so, we're an online Rotary Club now?
posted by scruss at 5:35 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


> i was at Beyond Comments and talked to a lot of creative thoughtful people about the strategies for their comments sections but the sticking point is that businesses really want solutions that scale.

This reminds me of something I was wondering about the other day. For a while Derek Powazek's Design for Community was a go-to text for fostering healthy online communities (not to mention being an interesting read in its own right), but the web and what people expect of it have changed a lot over the 15 years since it was published. Is it still considered current and relevant or are there other references serving that purpose now?
posted by ardgedee at 7:13 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: an obscure phpBB forum started in 2010 cut off from google.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:03 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: The T-shirt, MetaFilter: The Coloring Book, MetaFilter: The Lunch Box, MetaFilter: The Breakfast Cereal!
posted by XMLicious at 11:00 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


An official MetaFilter cafe would be pretty amazing.
posted by lunastellasol at 11:06 PM on April 9, 2016


The only fair way to have a MF cafe would be to put it in the geographical center of Mefite locs. Which is where, pb?
posted by telstar at 11:17 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


[/hamburger] on Plate of Beans- $20 (SAIT)
posted by quinndexter at 12:50 AM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


"and who work to facilitate vibrant, inclusive, civil conversations."

Except for the problems when discussing race, sexism, gender/gender identity and trans issues.

Oh and the fighty politics threads.

And, unlike MetaFilter, as a mod I clearly identify myself, so there is no hiding behind the brand of my employer.

That gold fringed jacket is clearly not working as a disguise, cortex.
posted by marienbad at 1:12 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The only fair way to have a MF cafe would be to put it in the geographical center of Mefite locs. Which is where, pb?

Underground, obviously. I suggest we start through a volcano in Iceland and try to retrace the steps of Mathowie Saknussemm.
posted by pracowity at 1:24 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


My sense is that a good number of journalists, particularly broadsheet journalists, tend to be aware of Metafilter. They'll be lurkers rather than commenters, but they'll be monitoring what gets posted and the tone of the conversation and they know the site punches above its weight in terms of discursive impact. Mary Hamilton, author of this piece, is a case in point. She wrote a piece in 2013 using web analytics to show how her boyfriend's blog post, the infamous German toughpad review, went viral largely thanks to a Metafilter post.

In the interests of transparency, yes that was my post, but I am in no way affiliated with either the author or Hamilton. I just saw the link come up randomly on Twitter and thought it was funny.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:53 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


IIRC, there's at least one prominent columnist at the Guardian who is a MeFite and who has commented at times. So we're on their radar.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:17 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


"and who work to facilitate vibrant, inclusive, civil conversations."
Except for the problems when discussing race, sexism, gender/gender identity and trans issues.


That's vibrant, inclusive and civil compared to the rest of the Internet. And for many journalists, conversations in the pre-internet era consisted of Letters to the Editor that they didn't dare publish. It's all relative.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:30 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh crud. Can the staff or others stop it from happening???

This is MY place...where I'm safe from all the troglodytes I know in real life and the people in real life who know that I'm the actual troglodyte .

Can't we keep this safe place our little secret? Pretty pleeeease?
posted by taff at 3:46 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I'm totally available for hire to do this sort of thing but realistically unless you've got a goal that 'better community' can help forward (dealing with racism and sexism is one, providing a safe space for difficult conversations might be another, offering people 'what they're paying for' in an elite space) its hard to explain why you might want to hire someone like me."

Yeah, I think that the crux is carefully thinking about what purpose you're trying to serve with commenting in the first place.

Fifteen years ago, I interviewed for the editor of Slate's commenting/discussion section and, at that time, Slate had been experimenting with integrating the comments and community discussion into their articles. The editor would select some of the best and representative comments and feature them, with commentary and a contribute link, directly at the end of each article, and writers were encouraged to participate in discussion.

Even as they'd been moving in this direction, commenting and discussion on the site had been growing and of course so did all the egregious shit. So what I talked about with the managing editor was how important and interesting was the integration of the readership into the discussion even as those awful, repugnant commenters threatened the whole enterprise. It was crucial to find ways to control this because integrating reader contributions into the magazine would be a disaster to the degree to which this awful stuff makes its way in. But it was worth it because reader involvement creates engagement and loyalty and, also, I pointed out, people are creating worthwhile content free of charge.

I contrasted this against Salon's Table Talk, which had drifted off from Salon almost into its own orbit -- it was mostly disconnected from Salon's content and, consequently, an insular community had formed that saw participation there as a kind of entitlement, even though it was free and consumed quite a bit of resources and had little to do with the rest of the site. That was before syndicated ads and such which arguably would make just getting those eyeballs worth something but, regardless, it was my opinion that that sort of thing was a waste of time and resources and a never-ending headache with essentially no benefit to the online magazine.

As it happened, Slate shortly backed away from that model, changed ownership, and ended up with what pretty much all these sites now have -- a kind of rump commenting system just because people expect comments.

In my opinion, unless a site is institutionally (and its writers individually) engaging with commenters -- that is, if the comments are integrated into the content in a way that adds value to readers beyond just those who like to comment -- then it's at best an annoyance with little worth and at worst a never-ending black hole of resources and a never-ending fountain of shit. Worse, as you write and is absolutely true, dealing with this at scale takes a huge amount of resources -- it's a significant labor cost in addition to its other costs. Not only do large sites not want to do this, they shouldn't do this. Unless they're really getting something from the comments, which basically no one is -- they only have commenting because it's expected. You never see writers engage with commenters anymore (and for good reason, given what comments are like).

I'm not happy to see the web move away from commenting entirely. I think that's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But I would like to see the websites reconsider why they're including commenting and then only doing so where it's implemented and nurtured such that it's organic and actually provides a benefit to the whole site. Or, otherwise, abandon it.

What we mostly see on the web now is in some ways close to the worst of all possible worlds. There's commenting just because it's expected, it's not connected to much of anything, most of the readership who (occasionally, if ever) reads comments is usually repulsed by them, it's the playground of some of the worst examples of human nature, and it takes a lot of time and effort just to keep it from being actively harmful to the website. It's crazy. And yet when commenting works, it can work very well, in many ways. There's a reason why people and writers who are linked in MeFi posts sometimes show up here and participate in the discussion. There's a reason why MetaFilter comments get quoted elsewhere on the web. That's the sort of value that some other websites could be getting from their comments, if they realized that this sort of value is the only reason they should ever have comments in the first place -- if that's not what they want, and they aren't willing to pay for it, they shouldn't have commenting.

"My sense is that a good number of journalists, particularly broadsheet journalists, tend to be aware of Metafilter. They'll be lurkers rather than commenters, but they'll be monitoring what gets posted and the tone of the conversation and they know the site punches above its weight in terms of discursive impact."

I think that's been obvious for a long time, since the mid-aughts. It's what I tell people about MetaFilter -- that it's a relatively small site, but has a large impact because its readership includes a lot of both the web cognoscenti and print journalists. I don't think that MeFi's profile has lately grown above its average over its lifetime -- I think, on balance, it's shrunk. But my sense is that it may have grown again slightly in the last couple of years, after having shrunk for a preceding few years.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:55 AM on April 10, 2016 [15 favorites]


RE: MetaFilter's increased public profile

I actually joined MetaFilter because of a similar mention. There was an interview with Matt on NPR and I was intrigued enough to check it out. And while the site has grown, it's still something that I find myself having to explain when I mention it to different people.
posted by Fizz at 5:16 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


A lot of people who began reading Metafilter many years ago are becoming increasingly influential within important organisations. I know Mary and I'm pretty sure she's read Metafilter for a long time; she wasn't always Executive Editor, Audience at the Guardian, but now she is. When I joined Mefi in 2000, I was 17 and wasn't in charge of jack or shit. Now I run a games company, and I always mention this site as a great example of community-building and moderation when it comes to moderating our own forums.

There must be countless other people in the same situation. Off the top of my head, there's Linda Holmes at NPR, Oliver Burkeman at the Guardian, the guys from Reply All at Gimlet, etc.

Face it guys: Metafilter is the Cabal now!
posted by adrianhon at 5:29 AM on April 10, 2016 [23 favorites]


I feel like I'm seeing more discussion about Internet comments, lately. It's not anything new in terms of what's getting said, particularly, but it seems to be something more people are visibly concerned with. And that, following on the EL thread, could have folks thinking about MeFi more right now.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:31 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Metafilter today isn't what it was some years ago. I reviewed an old thread and was surprised by how casually nasty it was. Since then, the mods have improved, the users have been educated, there's a better culture here, and consequently we all have different expectations and react accordingly. I can't see that this is the sort of thing that could be implemented as a drop-in cultural replacement, even if there weren't the problems of scale and user market that other people have pointed out. It took time here; it would take time there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:02 AM on April 10, 2016 [20 favorites]


My wife writes interesting and thoughtful comments, but she writes them elsewhere on the internet because the very idea of someone silently deleting comments from the thread horrifies her. She would be a great mefite (far better than me) but she has a basic disagreement with how the site is run that precludes her participation.

That's fine; Metafilter can live without her and she can live without it. I'm not suggesting Metafilter change anything. I just think it's a good example of how no comment moderation system can ever be perfect for everyone.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:50 AM on April 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


An official MetaFilter cafe would be pretty amazing.

How hard can it be? We're already having an unofficial MetaFilter cafe over here every day.
posted by Namlit at 7:56 AM on April 10, 2016


I would try out a Metafilter restaurant.

Will there be a bar?
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Will there be a bar?

Yes, watch your head.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:14 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


jonmc: If it'll make you happy, consider yourself barred.
posted by biffa at 8:16 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


:(
posted by jonmc at 8:25 AM on April 10, 2016


unless a site is institutionally (and its writers individually) engaging with commenters

And that can come down to money as well. When I write for anyone with an online presence nowadays I always ask if I'll be expected to participate in the comments section and, if so, whether the pay reflects that (it never does) or, if not, what their moderation practices are. I can't say I'm surprised that most places never get asked this question (participation is either never or always expected depending on the platform) but to me it always shows that comments are an afterthought of trying to work on engagement numbers most of the time.

It's been really interesting watching Medium work on the commenting thing, changing the way comments work and how they display and how people interact with them because they're clearly being mindful of the interactive nature, but they've still got very few tools for dealing with "problem" topics (hide/delete/ban) even though they've got as much money as they need to work the problem.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:26 AM on April 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


When it comes to MeFi's ability to pay the mods I think it's really a unique situation where AskMe was the right content at the right time to work really well with Google AdSense at a time when that was viable at the page view volumes Ask generated. AdSense has changed, Google's search indexing has changed and I don't think it's really a situation for comment-driven revenue that's likely to ever be replicated.

Quora is essentially burning VC money to moderate comments, I'm not sure if, when or how they'll ever turn a profit. I'm sure they have ideas.

But per other comments here, comment quality is a function of being able to pay mods and with all respect to Matt for many years of hard work, it was as much luck as good decision making.
posted by GuyZero at 8:36 AM on April 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


An official MetaFilter cafe would be pretty amazing.

Watch out for the AskMeFi area, though -- that's where the waitstaff throws up their hands and yells "DTMF!"
posted by mr. digits at 10:02 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


... And possibly some taters on the side.

Ah, then Sir will be wanting the private dining area.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:26 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just thought I ought to pop by to say thanks to cortex, jessamyn and restless_nomad for responding to my question at the beginning of this thread. I love how much the mods here care about making this a place for people, and I've learned so much from the space that you've all made.

Your response was what I was expecting, that there's no mental space left after doing the job to work out how to fit it into other very different contexts, and it's very far from a plug and play model, but I'm glad that you do all spend time thinking about how other places could be made like this. Thanks all.
posted by ambrosen at 1:36 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks! If you're really curious about how I personally generalize some of this stuff, you can read the text of my GDC talk here. (The video is so far only available to GDC attendees, but I'm hoping they'll put it up for free like they've said they might.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:12 PM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


I always assumed the NYT heavily moderates because the comments there are above average. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m always surprised when I look and someone is saying something interesting. Few places have that going on.
posted by bongo_x at 11:08 PM on April 10, 2016


No.
posted by vrakatar at 7:40 PM on April 11, 2016


An on re-reading my comment I want to make it more explicit that AskMe essentially funded the entire operation, subsidizing moderated comments on random threads from cat scans to trans rights. Q&A sites have their own weird history with some like amazon askville or yahoo answers being deliberately designed as page view machines, answers.com which tried to balance real answers with display revenue , a few sites that have come and gone and now the VC-backed, hyper-designed quora with its underpants gnome business model.

Note: I don't work here, I just know how web ads work.
posted by GuyZero at 10:14 PM on April 11, 2016


"I'll have the AskMe special."

(It's a mayonnaise-based sandwich that's been left on the counter for 12 hours.)


It's something we made Sunday afternoon and have been eating for lunch and/or dinner all week!
It's seventeen best answers' worth of iterations on the absurd amount of custard we made because of a simple transposition in the tart recipe from last week's question.
It's been in the crock pot for I don't know how long. The crock pot was plugged in, but at some point the power went off we're not sure when.
It won last week's chili cook-off. Took runner-up in subsequent 'Sorest Anus' side bet.
It's Vegan, totally raw, Paleo-enuf, and smells better than it tastes.
It's what we could make with what's left in the pantry after we got back from vacation.
posted by carsonb at 11:22 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


My wife writes interesting and thoughtful comments, but she writes them elsewhere on the internet because the very idea of someone silently deleting comments from the thread horrifies her.

This isn't something that just routinely happens, though. I've never seen a comment deleted - my own or anyone else's - where it wasn't entirely predictable that it would happen (and entirely the fault of myself and/or the other commenters).
posted by Dysk at 1:05 AM on April 12, 2016


have people seen this? is it new? The dark side of Guardian comments.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:00 AM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


That's a great article!

I have to paraphrase because it was a spoken portion, but one of the writers mentioned that YouTube uses algorithms to detect copyrighted material in the videos that are uploaded. Then they postulated that if money motivated comment moderation the same way it does copyright protections there would probably already be an algorithm for detecting shitty, sexist, racist, etcist comments.

It's an interesting idea, but seems to me upon cursory consideration to be way harder to detect malice in human communication than a particular a/v signature . People are so insidious when it comes to being -ists, they use "dog-whistles" and various other plausible deniabilities.
posted by carsonb at 11:29 AM on April 12, 2016


How is a Google algorithm like a too-nice person?
posted by carsonb at 11:31 AM on April 12, 2016


It's racist?

One of the bigger issues for moderation besides setting decent expectations, is the use/mention distinction. Like maybe you don't want people to be able to use gender slurs (as an example near and dear to my heart) but they should be able to talk about them. Determining that line is something that people are decent at and computers are terrible at, so far.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


have people seen this? is it new? The dark side of Guardian comments.
Interesting read - thanks for pointing it out! Towards the end of the article, the activity to decide whether a range of comments should be blocked and compare your decision with what the Guardian decided and why was interesting too.
posted by dg at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2016


Yeah, I've worked on forums that had bad-word filters and they were invariably unhelpful and at worst actively confusing. (Putting "ass" on the filter when your game has an Assassin class, or "bastard" when the bastard sword is a common piece of equipment, does not lead to clear and unambiguous conversation, and has not a damn thing to do with respectful conversation.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:19 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


The best is when you're playing a game where your in-game name is censored in the chat.
posted by ODiV at 4:23 PM on April 12, 2016


I don't know if anyone has mentioned it upthread, but that Emotional Labor thread lead me to see Metafilter mentioned *very* often in my various circles. Until then, I had never once heard MeFi referenced or discussed in the wild. I feel like that thread, and the annotated google document that resulted from it, generated a lot more visibility. I could be way off though.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


oh, i guess maybe everyone else knows this, but that link i mentioned above was posted to the front page here (just before my post, i think, although i hadn't seen it til now).
posted by andrewcooke at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2016


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