Closing Your Community Right: Jessamyn interviewed March 21, 2017 7:58 AM   Subscribe

A podcast where Jessamyn is interviewed by Patrick O'Keefe about the experiences around an online community (mlkshk) closing down and what happens afterwards. There is much on moderating, membership, community issues and service shuttering procedures within, as well as discussion of death/the passing of people, how this impacts on online communities and how moderators and community members deal with it. The page contains many MetaFilter-related links and a link to the transcript.
posted by Wordshore to MetaFilter-Related at 7:58 AM (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Great post! Thank you! Makes me think of other dying places, like MetaChat...:(

18:17 Patrick O’Keefe: ... Or in my case, I like to joke I’ve created 20, 30, 40 online communities just by banning people, where they get mad and they say, “I’m going to create a new community.” I’m like, “Okay. That’s fine. Create your own thing. That’s great. We just can’t do that thing here any longer, because it’s not what we’re about.”

19:05 Jessamyn West: Oh, MetaFilter, so much, so much like that. Yes.

...

25:03 Jessamyn West: ... You know, a lot of the people who applied [to be a Metafilter moderator], their assessment of their own abilities, even on the website, did not jive with the moderators’ assessment of their abilities on the website. In cases, it wasn’t just kind of me thinking one thing and them thinking another thing. It was all the moderators being like, “Wow, that person thinks they’d be good at moderating and we think that person would be terrible at moderating.”


We love each other so, so much!
posted by Melismata at 8:42 AM on March 21


Some of us know we'd suck as moderators.

I also just found out I had a mlkshk account. It's 4 years old, and I was invited by a mefite that share a singular picture. That was the entirety of my usage.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:13 AM on March 21


Nice interview!

I was a very active member of a community (zug.com) that shut down. It was past it's prime when it shuttered, a bunch of users had already splintered off into another community, and my participation was also way down (I had moved over to Metafilter by then) but it was still somewhat active. It was interesting to see the members try to continue somewhat on another site, in that case a Facebook group. Because the format of the forum was different, and not all the users moved over, it just didn't take. I think I was there for a day or two before leaving. I'm still connected with a lot of the users through Facebook, one of them in fact is my BFF IRL, but although the community was a big part of my life... life went on. I'm glad I found my new on-line home.
posted by bondcliff at 9:20 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


We love each other so, so much!

Everyone's got their own skills. You could be a great person and a terrible moderator. You could be a great person and be bad at MetaFilter. Part of working through complicated social issues with a large group of people who you may not know well is realizing that as much as you want to take everyone's statements about themselves at face value, you can't. And you have to find ways of doing that which are respectful and which are appropriately contextually bounded. People here are like my family, it's a different kind of love than the way I love kettle corn.

I really like the way Patrick does the podcasts right there with the transcripts and works in all the links and extra resources. I was happy with how this came out.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:33 AM on March 21 [25 favorites]


I created a mlkshk account just to get access to a Dutch Baby page jessamyn had linked in a Facebook post. She's my only follower. Sorry I never posted anything, j.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:55 AM on March 21


Looking forward to listening! Thanks for your hard work on this Jessamyn.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:57 AM on March 21


Thank you for sharing the show here, Wordshore, and for knowing that I had a MetaFilter account. :)

I'm glad that you, Melismata and bondcliff enjoyed this episode of the show and, once again, thanks for your kind words on our process, jessamyn. I really enjoyed the conversation.
posted by patrickokeefe at 12:05 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]


Very keen, thanks for sharing, and Jessamyn, thanks as always for your great insights.

One of the pull quotes made me smile:
“I like to joke that I’ve created 20, 30, 40 online communities just by banning people, where they get mad and they say, ‘I’m going to create a new community.’ I’m like, ‘Okay. That’s fine. Create your own thing. That’s great. We just can’t do that thing here any longer, because it’s not what we’re about.'” -@patrickokeefe
Which made me wonder, how many spin-offs have been created because of MeFites being banned, and if there were any, how long did they last? Moderation is a hard job, and I imagine it's a constant test to keep professional in the face of ugliness (when there's ugliness).

jessamyn: Everyone's got their own skills. You could be a great person and a terrible moderator. You could be a great person and be bad at MetaFilter.

My short-hand for this sort of thing in a work situation is "being nice doesn't get the job done." It doesn't help anyone to be a grump, but there are times I would totally take a grump who gets the job done over a nice person who is ineffective.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:09 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


Some of us know we'd suck as moderators.

Spare a thought for those of us who, like me, suck at metacognitive skills.
posted by ambrosen at 1:16 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Jessamyn, thank you for the Discardia recommendation. This spoke to me: "But one of the sort of central premises is you can really kind of only hold onto, like, four or five buckets of things in your life and still be able to enjoy each of those things...But when you start adding more and more of those buckets and you can only kind of give everything partial attention, it’s kind of a recipe for stress and unhappiness." That's a useful framing.

Good find, Wordshore--thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:56 PM on March 21 [5 favorites]


Some of us know we'd suck as moderators.

Amen. Never even considered it.

Now RTFT. (reading the friendly transcript.)
posted by Splunge at 4:08 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn, thank you for the Discardia recommendation.

Sure! Dinah is a wonderful person, a librarian and a friend. She's got a twitter and also writes about cocktails.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:33 PM on March 21


The page contains many MetaFilter-related links and a link to the transcript.

This is great - the links are super handy, and I *really* appreciate the transcript. I'm pretty allergic to most podcasts, so being able to read it is very nice. Thanks, Patrick!
posted by Chrysostom at 6:01 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]


Patrick, you will have to get Cortex, Frimble, Eyebrows McGee, Vacapinta, and pb on to complete the set!
posted by ellieBOA at 6:07 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


and I *really* appreciate the transcript

Seconded. Thank you, Patrick!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:13 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


Which made me wonder, how many spin-offs have been created because of MeFites being banned, and if there were any, how long did they last?

Speaking for myself here, from that pull quote, you don't really keep track. At first, you recognize it, you take a look, but you don't really keep tabs on it. Or I don't, and you shouldn't. It's just not healthy. There have been some that I happened to think of later and visited and they were gone. But I'm sure some survived. There was one in particular that was notable because their early discussions really focused on how terrible I was and, I suspect, some of my moderators. But most of it was focused on me. That's by design on my part.

While that might seem like a fun thing to unite people around, the reality is that after a week or two, that gets old, and you have to actually like talking to each other about other topics. You have to actually like the work of managing a community because, if you don't, it'll become unfun really quickly. I always tell people that, if you want to create a community around your passion or hobby, that's great, go for it. But recognize this: The moment you start that community, you have a brand new hobby: Community management. And that hobby will take you away from that original passion and will suck up a good portion of your time.

I don't say that to discourage people. Personally, I feel like many of the best community people in the world got their start that way, but the internet is littered with quickly abandoned communities where the person who started it realized that the actual work of community wasn't for them - they just wanted to talk about their passion with someone else.

Patrick, you will have to get Cortex, Frimble, Eyebrows McGee, Vacapinta, and pb on to complete the set!

Haha, well, I actively maintain a list of potential guests, and Cortex is actually on that list. We try to space out people who are coming from the same company or organization (Matt in November, Jessamyn in March), so that'll be something I look at later this year probably. Of course, just because I invite someone, that doesn't mean they'll actually want to come on! :)

I'm so glad to hear that the transcript and link were useful, Splunge, Chrysostom and MonkeyToes. Thanks for saying so.
posted by patrickokeefe at 6:48 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Chowhound spawned plenty of alternate communities both before and during my tenure as their community manager based on people not liking our site rules. (I have no idea if they've spawned any alternatives since, as I try not to pay attention to Site Talk for my own mental health.)

Some of them were very successful. Some of them were less successful. Some of them were not successful at all. A lot of them eventually ran into the same kinds of moderation issues on their site that drove them off our site, and ended up taking an entirely different view of moderation once they were managing a site than they had when they were just participating on one.

Funny, that.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:48 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


Nthing appreciating the transcripts. I'm allergic to podcasts too.
posted by Melismata at 8:08 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Glancing at this post and the post above it sure was momentarily anxiety-inducing
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:07 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


Enjoyed this podcast a lot, for many of the reasons said by others here (hence it was postworthy) including the value added by having a list of links and a link the transcript, all on the same page as the podcast. Nice style, Patrick.

Another positive attribute was that the interviewee was allowed to go into significant detail, unhindered. Patrick did not interrupt after every 5 seconds of Jessamyn starting to explain something, with a "Yes, but ... me ... my example is ..." as some interviewers are prone to do, and so we got more nuanced content. I wish more podcasts were recorded in this considerate - to both interviewees and listener - manner (am looking at you, video game sector, in particular).
posted by Wordshore at 9:24 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


to complete the set!

I completely failed at giving you the full set! Plus LobsterMitten, restless_nomad, taz, and goodnewsfortheinsane!
posted by ellieBOA at 11:47 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


"I created a mlkshk account just to get access to a Dutch Baby page jessamyn had linked in a Facebook post. She's my only follower. Sorry I never posted anything, j."

The older I get the more obvious it is that my single claim to fame will be having started the Dutch baby craze on MLKSHK.

[here's that same photo at its original home on Flickr since it's my understanding that MLKSHK link won't work a month or so from now and everyone knows that MetaFilter is Forever.]
posted by komara at 9:35 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Is your baby available in stores?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:09 PM on March 23


MetaFilter: it's a different kind of love than the way I love kettle corn

c'mon, somebody had to do it
posted by spinturtle at 7:08 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


This - well this and a short period of downtime - spurred me to raise the conversation at MetaChat on whether it's time to go gentle in that good night. Or at least talk about maybe one day doing that in the future sometime.
posted by Miko at 2:31 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Also I sooo knew Camp MeFi was coming up! Still love the idea, have slightly more capacity...but yeah, this isn't only an online community problem, but such a very real-life organizing problem. As I say at work, "ideas are cheap" (or "ideas are easy.") Thinking of the great idea is not the hard part. And leadership, even when you work hard to distribute it, almost inevitably ends up being unevenly distributed. Patrick O'Keefe nails it when he draws the line to IRL volunteering. In short, humans are human.
posted by Miko at 2:59 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Patrick O'Keefe nails it when he draws the line to IRL volunteering. In short, humans are human.

Thank you for listening, Miko! I think it was jessamyn who made that point, but I am really glad that the show helped inspire some thought as far as how MetaChat might end. That's responsible thinking.

For MetaChat, it may very well be time. I don't know the community. Maybe it isn't time. Perhaps a change of scenery or software would help. But for anyone who listens to this episode and thinks, "perhaps it is time for this community I am a part of to close," please keep this in mind that I wouldn't want our focus on responsible closure to encourage any sort of obsession over or premature focus on the end of any online community.

You have to be careful with discussions like this because if it is not the end, and you don't make that clear, people think the worst and start treating it as if it is, in fact, the end. Yes, communities do close. But there is no hard and fast rule for that. They shouldn't close simply because the number of active members has dropped or because the site went down for awhile. Small communities, even as small as 5-10 active members, can still be beautiful, useful things.

In 1994, Gail Ann Williams, a legend in community who ran The WELL for more than 20 years, wrote down a list of online community building concepts. I'd like to point to the last one:

Collaborate in making a world where the sun rises the next morning.
(There's no reason to push for the kind of climax you'd seek in a novel or movie which then ends. So keep that particular dramatic sense at bay.)


This is wise.

So, yes, write a will. But don't rush to stop living just because you wrote it.

As an aside, I saw that, on MetaChat, chrismear mentioned archiving the site being a big task. I would recommend HTTrack. I have used it to archive good-sized communities, and it worked very well for me.
posted by patrickokeefe at 8:12 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


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